Member of the Month: Sam Mathis, MD
AAFP Board member focuses more on teaching than healing
By Samantha White
After completing medical school and a fellowship both at the University of Texas Medical Branch, Sam Mathis, MD, returned to UTMB where he is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine. Mathis is very active in organized medicine, currently serving as the new physician member of AAFP’s Board of Directors, president of the Galveston County Medical Society, and as the Young Physician Section representative to the Texas Medical Association’s Board of Trustees.
Can you briefly describe your career path?
I attended UTMB for medical school, Memorial Family Medicine in Sugar Land for residency, and then back to UTMB for a fellowship in integrative medicine. I now work as an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at UTMB with my primary focus being medical student education. As to what the future holds, I’m not sure. I love where I’m at and what I do, but am always open to what life throws at me.
Who or what inspired you to become a family physician?
There were three people who played a big role in my decision to become a family physician. One was my grandfather. He worked as a full scope family physician for years. I remember going to his office at a young age and love hearing stories of what he went through as a family doc during that time. Two other big influences were my family medicine preceptors during third year. Dr. Hanan Hussein and Dr. Tricia Elliott were instrumental in cementing the idea that I wanted to care for the whole person throughout their whole life. Dr. Elliott especially showed me how family physicians are such powerful advocates for their patients on a state and national level.
What are your practice passions?
I often tell patients that my job is to be a teacher, not a healer. This mindset has been a big part of my entire career so far. I love teaching my patients, students, residents, and generally anyone who will listen. The other practice passion I have is in my acupuncture clinic. I have been practicing acupuncture for the past five years now and love the help it gives for pain and a whole host of medical issues.
Why do you choose to be a TAFP/AAFP member?
One of the main reasons I’m involved with the local, state, and national academy is because of the connections I have formed with amazing family physicians around the state and country. I have made some amazing friends throughout the years and love getting to learn more about the different ways our members practice. Having that shared sense of community and purpose is so important for me. Coming to TAFP meetings feels more like a family reunion to me than it does an education conference. That’s why I stay involved with the Academy.
What led you to get so involved with organized medicine?
I believe we are stronger together. That has led me to get involved with organized medicine. Physicians are the only group who speak out for their patient population more than they do their own personal interest. This is why legislators listen when we speak up. We are the voice for so many who are forgotten or hurting. It is so humbling for me to see the work I’m involved with at TAFP and AAFP, as well as the Texas Medical Association and the American Medical Association play out on the local and national level. The policies and stances we make in these organizations impact the decisions made by legislators in the state and federal levels. For example, I’ve met with legislative aides for our Texas Senators a few times this year regarding the importance of access for mental health services for Texans, and especially for our pediatric patients. Congress is now considering bills that would affect the access and availability for mental health services for these populations. If these bills pass, I’d like to believe we had a small part in that.
What do you enjoy doing outside of medicine?
My favorite pastime is spending time with my wife, Gabby, and daughter, Amelia. I enjoy playing piano, though lately I always have an extra pair of hands to “help.” I enjoy reading. My favorite genre is science fiction, but I’ve mostly been reading nonfiction financial or resiliency books recently. Travel is another joy, but that’s been mostly on hold for the past few years. I relish the idea of going to a new place and fully immersing myself in the people and the culture. I also enjoy camping. There’s just something soothing about being out in nature with a campfire. Hey, that sounds like a great title for a lecture “Campfires and Cigars: Nature, Connection, and the Path to Resiliency.”
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 email@example.com or by phone at (512) 329-8666. View past Members of the Month here.