Member of the Month: Tyler King, DO
Family medicine resident running for Laredo City Council
By Samantha White
Tyler King, DO, is a rising third-year resident in family medicine at TIGMER Laredo Family Medicine Residency Program. He and his wife Alejandra have made Laredo their forever home, and they want to be a part of the solution in moving Laredo forward. With the encouragement of many local leaders, King has decided to enter the race for the Laredo City Council this November 2022. Join us in learning more about Dr. King and all he hopes to accomplish for the city of Laredo by checking out his campaign website. If you wish to make a donation to his campaign, you can do so here.
Who or what inspired you to be a family physician?
Many people and experiences led me to pursuing a career as a family physician. Most of my life I actually thought I wanted to be a pediatrician. Children are so full of joy and excitement. With my grandfather being a physician, his influence was also an inspiration in my decision to pursue a career in medicine. While teaching high school history in Donna, Texas with the Teach For America organization, I shadowed a family physician named Dr. Norma Cavazos in Mission, Texas. She was and is a full-scope family physician who does lots of procedures and offers a broad range of services to her patients. She showed me what it means to be a true family doctor. She inspired me to pursue a career in family medicine so I could come back to South Texas and serve in one of the most underserved medical communities in Texas and the country. My favorite thing about family medicine is that I get to see every type of patient, all ages, genders, and organ systems. The sky’s the limit with family medicine!
We know you had a couple of degrees before deciding to pursue medicine, can you briefly describe your educational and career paths?
Ever since graduating high school, I knew I wanted to pursue a career that mixed medicine and policy. While obtaining a bachelor’s degree in political science, I also took the prerequisites for medical school. During college, I was involved in many political campaigns and local politics in Tennessee. By my senior year, I was recruited by Teach For America, a service organization under the AmeriCorps umbrella with the goal of ending educational inequity in the U.S. We believe all children have the right to an excellent education. Out of 50,000 applicants, 5,000 corps members were selected, and I was tasked with going to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas. There, I was a middle school science and high school history teacher for four years.
These were the most transformational and formative years of my adult life. I probably learned more from my students than they ever could have learned from me. During that time I obtained a master’s degree in education. Around the same time, I also met my wife Alejandra who is from Monterrey, Mexico, further solidifying my hopes to stay in South Texas long term. After medical school in Arkansas, we moved to Laredo, Texas to join the team at the family medicine residency program at Laredo Medical Center and Gateway Community Health Center. My wife and daughter are extremely happy here, and we have made Laredo our home permanently. After meeting a lot of great people in Laredo and realizing there is a lot this community still needs to move forward into the 21st century, we have decided to jump into the Laredo City Council race this November.
Did you always intend on running for public office?
My interest in politics goes back to the moment my 6th grade social studies teacher Ms. Thompson left our classroom on September 11, 2001. She came back and frantically tried to explain what happened on that horrific day. When I went home that night I was glued to the TV and watched the news for hours upon hours. This started a lifetime of learning to understand that it matters who governs. Choices have consequences, and if the wrong leaders are in power, a lot can go wrong.
Many say politics is dirty, and some have advised me not to pursue it for that reason. But as Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” If we all stand on the sidelines, we will be left with the corrupt and self-interested leading us. So no, I haven’t always intended to run for public office, but I also have never ruled it out either. My family has always encouraged me to follow my passions, and my heart is in this. I genuinely believe in the importance of advocacy and service for one's community, whether as a physician, a public servant, or both.
What are your practice passions, and what do you hope to accomplish by being on the city council in Laredo?
As a family physician, I hope to have a full-scope family medicine practice, but at my core, preventive medicine and obesity medicine are probably my biggest passions. It’s always been disheartening to treat advanced disease in the hospital, knowing full well most of the suffering could have been prevented. We also have an obesity epidemic in this country and especially in South Texas. In Laredo specifically, 78.2% of males and 72.2% of females are obese. I want to be a part of the solution in preventing this for future generations and helping those currently struggling with obesity find ways to manage this disease. It starts with acknowledging that obesity is a disease, not a character flaw.
As far as being on the city council, I hope to accomplish three main goals: 1. Improve the quality of life for all Laredoans so we can attract and retain our best and brightest; 2. Invest in our water infrastructure to prevent endless boil water notices and broken pipes; and 3. Root out corruption in city hall to make sure we have an ethical city government looking out for the people instead of themselves.
What are your plans for your future career in both medicine and public service?
Right now, we are just trying to bring integrity and service to the Laredo City Council. There is no reason why physicians should not be allowed to get involved in public service. In fact, we should encourage it. The key is to ensure that you don’t cross the line in a way that creates conflicts of interest that lead to unethical behavior. I hope to have a long career in medicine. Public service may be something my wife and I pursue temporarily. We shall see, but ultimately, my wife and daughter will always have veto power. The moment they say no, I’m out.
Why do you choose to be a TAFP member?
Texas is one of the best states in the country to practice family medicine. We have excellent state leadership in the Texas Academy of Family Physicians who advocate fiercely on our behalf, not only for family physicians, but for all physicians. And the demand for primary care in Texas, especially in South Texas, is sky high. Being a part of TAFP is a no brainer.
How do you enjoy spending your time outside of medicine?
Spending time with my wife Alejandra and daughter Sophia is extremely important to me. Alejandra and I are big foodies, so we love trying new restaurants in town. We also try to maintain our health and wellness. We hold each other accountable by keeping track of our gym schedules, and we try our best to eat healthy. We also love to travel and experience new cultures, but of course we have not done that as much since the pandemic began.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (512) 329-8666. View past Members of the Month here.