February 2019 Members of the Month

Members of the Month:
Jessica Bracks, MD,
and Jessica Ugwu, MD

Tyler family medicine residents work to cover students' health care needs

By Kate Alfano
posted 02.13.19

When Jessica Bracks, MD, and Jessica Ugwu, MD, were family medicine residents at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Tyler, they noticed that many students of nearby Jarvis Christian College — a historical black liberal arts college in Hawkins, Texas — were seeking care in the emergency room for issues that could be better addressed in a clinic setting.

Dr. Bracks
Jessica Bracks, MD

Knowing that UTHSCT had well-established relationships with the student health clinics at both the University of Texas at Tyler and Texas College, they proposed forming a similar partnership with Jarvis Christian College, where UTHSCT providers could staff the JCC health clinic to give students access to same-day appointments, routine lab work, and discounted prices for various testing. Bracks and Ugwu contacted the nurse practitioner in charge of the JCC clinic to learn more: the clinic was in need of many resources, chiefly medications to treat the large population of students with asthma and diabetes. They proposed supplementing the basic funds from the school with discounts and donations from pharmaceutical companies that produce the target medications.

Ugwu (formerly Osizugbo) recently married and moved to Ohio to practice but plans to return to Texas one day. Bracks will complete her final year of residency at UTHSCT in May 2019 and plans to work as a hospitalist and clinician.

Dr. Ugwu
Jessica Ugwu, MD

Why did you choose family medicine?
JB: I chose family medicine when I realized that I could treat the very young, the aged, and apply procedural knowledge I had learned along the way.

JU: It was a tough decision between pediatrics and family medicine for me. I love kids but wanted to be able to perform procedures as well. I committed to family medicine in the end, for which I am very grateful.

What is your favorite aspect of the specialty?
JB: It’s difficult choosing just one! I enjoy family medicine’s flexibility — from inpatient to outpatient or urgent care, we can do it all! Also, I love knowing my patients and their lives. The rapport we develop allows me to help form trust with patients, such that we can discuss everything from rebuilding cars to end-of-life decisions.

JU: I love being the “jack of all trades.” Although it is challenging, I find it very rewarding to be able to understand and explain a wide array of disease processes to my patients.

Who inspired you to become a physician?
JB: My father and the mission work that I became involved in as a teenager led me this way. As on the mission field, I wanted to assist people to succeed in health where they lived, with what they had at hand.

JU: I was inspired to become a physician from my childhood pediatrician, Linda Neely-Shelmire, MD. She was the epitome of intellect, beauty and compassion. She was the first representation of an African-American woman in medicine that I had seen in my life; she gave me hope that one day I could bring that same joy to other children as their doctor.

Tell me about how you identified the health care need at Jarvis Christian College and why you wanted to help.
JU: The health care need at Jarvis Christian College was identified through curiosity and asking questions. As a resident, we would often treat students at Jarvis Christian College through the emergency room. It was from there that Dr. Bracks and I began making inquiries about what resources were available to the students.

What updates can you share about the clinic?
JB: We are still in the process of initiating the medication assistance that we have acquired in the clinic. The nurse who runs the clinic has been instrumental in doing this and has a heart for her students. We are still in the process of completing the proposal for the board of directors such that students will have access to basic medication at no additional cost to them.

How do you envision your career evolving? Your commitment to volunteering?
JB: I will graduate this year and plan to work as both a hospitalist and a clinician. I look forward to increasing my volunteering at local clinics for the underserved, as well.

JU: I plan to always stay committed to volunteering. It is a great opportunity to use the gifts you’ve been given to impact the lives of many. I have various aspirations that are heavy on my heart, both domestically and internationally. Although I am not exactly sure what the future will hold, I trust that with time things will begin to reveal themselves.

What advice do you have for your colleagues and the future generation of family physicians?
JB: Remember that we are called to serve those around us. This includes the clinic, hospital, ERs and even as people with official leadership roles. Be open to new experiences and opportunities. Strive for excellence and keep learning!

JU: I want to encourage people to dream big! One of the sayings at my alma mater is to “dream no small dreams.” I have interacted with so many people who have compartmentalized their aspirations based on what others have told them. The sky is the limit! With hard work, integrity and persistence, you can achieve anything!



TAFP’s Member of the Month program highlights Texas family physicians in TAFP News Now and on the TAFP website. We feature a biography and a Q&A with a different TAFP member each month and his or her unique approach to family medicine. If you know an outstanding family physician colleague who you think should be featured as a Member of the Month or if you’d like to tell your own story, nominate yourself or your colleague by contacting TAFP by email at tafp@tafp.org or by phone at (512) 329-8666. View past Members of the Month here.