Member of the Month: Dan Sepdham, M.D.
Former military physician advocates for primary care
Dan Sepdham, M.D., went to medical school on a military scholarship and paid back his debt after residency by spending six years in the Air Force as a flight surgeon. After being stationed in Florida and the United Kingdom, Sepdham joined the faculty at the Department of Family and Community Medicine at UT Southwestern, where he has been since 2006. Of his time with the military, Sepdham says, “It was a privilege to serve my country and members of the armed forces and their families.”
Sepdham is currently involved in medical student education at UT Southwestern at all levels, MS1 to MS4. He is also on the admissions committee for the school and enjoys seeing “timid and shy medical students mature into astute, keen clinicians.”
Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it? Were you inspired by anyone?
As a student, I chose family medicine for two reasons. First of all, the discipline seemed to fit my personality. I enjoyed seeing a wide variety of conditions and the opportunity to be the first to try and diagnose presenting symptoms. It’s very satisfying when you nail the diagnosis. Secondly, I enjoyed the long term relationships that family physicians enjoy with their patients. Many patients consider their family physician to be a part of their family – it’s a privilege not to be taken lightly.
If you could change one thing in your field or in health care as a whole what would it be?
If I had all the power in the world, I would make sure the United States had a robust primary care infrastructure where every patient had a medical home and a primary care physician. I would like to see every patient have access to quality primary care to improve the quality of life of every American.
How do you make a difference in family medicine and in your community?
As you can probably tell from the statement above, I continually advocate for the importance of primary care. I especially try to ensure that the medical students I work with understand this importance.
How can we attract more medical students to family medicine?
Truth be told, not every student has a personality well suited to family medicine. That’s okay. Regardless of what specialty a student ends up pursuing, it is important that they understand the overall importance of family medicine and the critical role that we play. For those students inclined towards primary care, we need them to be exposed to family medicine and family physicians as soon as possible in their medical training.
The most important resource I find TAFP offers me is:
I enjoy networking with family physicians from all over the state. We all know the U.S. health care system has significant problems and the solutions will require the leadership and work of family physicians at all levels. I like being a part of this team.
What has the “real world” taught you about being a family physician that medical school didn’t teach you?
Sadly, I have come to understand that politics plays a much more crucial role in medicine than how astute you are as a clinician. As a clinician, you can impact one patient at a time. Whether for good or ill, politicians can impact entire populations.
How do you define leadership?
Leadership is when you care enough about an issue to get involved and try to make a difference however big or small. Leaders care about their people. You can sit on the sidelines and watch the game, but if you want to lead, you have to get out on the field.
Tell us something fun (unrelated to medicine) about yourself.
I enjoy medieval swordsmanship and blacksmithing as hobbies.
If you weren’t a doctor what would you be doing with your career?
I would probably try my hand as an artist blacksmith. I'm not very good, so I would probably be rather poor!
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 e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (512) 329-8666. View past Members of the Month here.