Member of the Month: Zaiba Jetpuri, DO
DFW family doc embodies the concept of physician as teacher
As most professionals in the health care community know, the word “doctor” derives from the Latin docere, which means “to teach.” Our Member of the Month for June is an excellent example of this linguistic connection. As you’ll read in our Q&A interview with Zaiba Jetpuri, DO, teaching and learning occupy much of her time and effort.
When she says she’s “as native to DFW as anyone can get,” she’s not kidding. Born and raised in the DFW area, her deep ties to the community inspired her to continue finding ways to help people from all walks of life. She completed her family medicine residency at UT Southwestern Medical Center and Parkland Hospital, and she received her Certificate in Public Health while completing her residency. She is currently the Assistant Clerkship Director for Family Medicine and an Assistant Professor at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.
Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it? Were you inspired by anyone?
I know it may sound a little cliché but I didn’t choose family medicine. It was who I was, so it chose me. Being the eldest in a large family, I learned really early the importance of sharing, caring, responsibility and taking into account the social factors of everyone else. It was no surprise to my parents when I went into family medicine because I have always been drawn to teaching and serving others, and although I am the first doctor in my family, I would say my inspiration for family medicine really came from my parents.
My father initially emigrated from Pakistan with hopes of pursuing a degree in computer technology but struggled to support himself. Eventually he found work washing dishes in a kitchen. He eventually worked his way up the ladder to become a successful entrepreneur for his own chain of restaurants priding himself in offering great customer service. Working in the family business was a birthright and how I spent most of my time as a child. When I wasn’t helping at the restaurant, or wasn’t teaching a sibling how to do their homework, my mother would take us to volunteer at the local library, mosque, or hospital in Richardson, because giving back to the community was important to her.
Watching my father take risks and learning from my mother to be motivated, I challenged myself and was fortunate enough to get into medical school. Almost overnight, I started getting phone calls for advice from different family members, community members, and neighbors on a variety of medical conditions. I realized very early that if I restricted myself to one specialty, there would always be a group of people I wouldn’t be able to help. I also realized that a lot of what patients need is education about their condition and how to help themselves. Family medicine allows me to bridge my drive to provide good customer service with my passion to teach patients preventative care. I am able to cultivate long term friendships with my patients who constantly challenge and stimulate me to continue to learn, so I never get bored!
How do you make a difference in family medicine and in your community?
I am as native to DFW as anyone can get. I was born, raised, and educated here in Dallas, and now, I live in Richardson with my wonderful husband (who practices neurology in Fort Worth) and family, so this community is really important to me. I completed my Bachelors’ and Masters in Business Administration from the University of Texas at Dallas, and my DO from UNTHSC. After graduating from residency at UT Southwestern in Dallas, I luckily obtained an assistant professor position with my own program, which allows me to see uninsured patients in Parkland and private-pay patients at UT Southwestern. I also volunteer at a charity clinic in a nearby mosque and see patients there regularly as well. In all of these settings, I inculcate my chronic disease patients with the importance of ownership of their health to bring about improvement in their overall outcome.
I am now also the Assistant Clerkship Director for Family Medicine at UT Southwestern and absolutely love what I do! I love having the opportunity to impact medicine by working with our residents and I love sharing the joy of what family medicine is when I meet new medical students. With my first group of residents graduating this coming June (the ones I had recruited when I was a senior resident), there is an immensely gratifying feeling knowing I contributed to making them the family physicians they are today.
What is the most interesting or memorable experience you have had when dealing with a patient?
This is a really tough one to answer because there have been so many. What I would like to say here is it is absolutely imperative for us as family physicians to have a medical home for our patients and look at the “whole picture” when considering a problem. Particularly, as medicine has become so fragmented and regimented with guidelines, it can unfortunately and unintentionally lead to a missed or misdiagnosis. Recently I have had a physician friend who has also become a patient, and while he is not my patient, just seeing the way he has been dealing with a similar circumstance has greatly affected the way I approach medicine. I have learned to be more aware of my patients’ lives when I provide them with any diagnosis (as it may be debilitating to the patient), and I take every patient encounter as an opportunity to grow myself instead of taking it for granted.
How can we attract more medical students to family medicine?
I think the best way to attract more medical students to family medicine is to expose them early to the beauty of this profession. I had shadowed with a family physician during college, which introduced me to this field long before I even applied to medical school. With family medicine being the most recruited specialty, I think it is imperative for us as physicians to allow shadowing in our practices to pre-med high school and college students to foster the spirit of family medicine in their formative years.
It is important for me to be a member of AAFP and TAFP because:
AAFP and TAFP provide excellent networking, resources, and CME that advances family medicine. Being part of a unified system, we can bring change to health care as a whole.
What one sentence of advice would you give a new family physician?
Family medicine is hard, challenging, and frustrating, but also extremely rewarding. When you find yourself having a difficult patient encounter, ask yourself why you went into family medicine. Realize you hold the knowledge to help and advocate for this patient, remind yourself to treat them as you would treat a loved one because they, too, are someone’s loved one, and most importantly, don’t forget to LISTEN to the patient!
What is the best experience you have had throughout your career?
After completing medical school at UNTHSC in Fort Worth, I did residency at UT Southwestern in Dallas and was fortunate enough to train at Parkland, the county hospital in Dallas. Hands down, I would say my training there was the best experience I have had in my career thus far. This was the place I could call home—one where I could serve others and teach. Parkland treats the underserved population of Dallas, so I have seen everything at its worst and most extreme case. Additionally since this residency was part of an academic setting, any unknown, rare, or complicated condition would almost always find its way here. By the time I graduated three years ago, I knew I was ready to practice anywhere since I had survived Parkland.
What goals have you set for your future?
I want to continue to train future family physicians and hopefully start an underserved clinic in the area. I also want to take on more of a leadership position with promoting preventive health care in the community.
If you weren’t a physician what would you be doing with your career right now?
If I wasn’t a physician, I would probably be using my business background to run my own company or restaurant. I would also be spending more time doing community service activities with my own three children (ages 7, 6, and 1) just like my mother did with me. And, of course, I would be teaching.
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.