Member of the Month: Edward Strecker
Second-year UTMB medical student shows dedication to family medicine
By Perdita Henry
Medical school is HARD. Well, I could be exaggerating just a tad because I have not attended medical school, but it sounds hard, intense, and full of reminders that you could accidently maim someone. Now that I think of it, it shares some similarities with Navy boot camp. However, one thing is for certain, you must have a specific kind of desire, dedication, and curiosity to pursue medicine. Helping people keep the bodies they have in good condition and identifying the things that ail them are just a part of what family physicians do. Family docs must do those things while fostering a safe place for patients to confide their concerns and seek guidance.
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston medical student, Edward Strecker, has already honed in on what makes a family medicine doctor great: the ability to connect with patients, to understand the role of the physician in the community, and to advocate for marginalized communities. During our conversation, he shared his experience with the Texas Family Medicine Preceptorship Program, how volunteer organizations like Frontera de Salud provided additional medical experience, and the importance of mentors to medical students like himself. He envisions a bright future for himself and the community he’ll one day serve and, if his present is any indication, he’s on the right track.
What led you to medicine?
I’ve always been interested in medicine and have been involved in the medical field since high school. I had the great opportunity to be involved in the Clinical Rotations Program at Plano West High School, Plano, TX. This program allowed me to shadow health care professionals at hospitals and clinics for 300 hours over a two-year period. At the conclusion of the program, I received both a Certified Nursing Assistant certification and a Pharmacy Technician certification.
During this time, I worked with many great physicians, including Dr. Janet Le, a pediatrician in the Plano area, who introduced me to primary care. While in college, I continued to shadow Dr. Le and she has been a great mentor and provided many experiences over the six years prior to medical school.
During undergrad I thought it important to complement my clinical experience, so I expanded my understanding of the future of medical technology as a President’s Scholar at Georgia Tech, majoring in Biomedical Engineering. I graduated from Georgia Tech Summa Cum Laude, but wanted to return to Texas for medical school. I was fortunate to be matched with the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and have been thriving here. At UTMB, I’m on the Rural Track and have been working in family medicine clinics in both urban and rural areas for the past two years. I’m also an officer with Frontera de Salud – a Hispanic health organization here at UTMB – where I plan mission trips and public health fairs in Texas border communities.
Why have you chosen to pursue family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it? Were you inspired by anyone?
Many people along the way have helped me make my decision to pursue Family Medicine. Two of the big physician mentors in my life are Dr. Janet Le and Dr. Adrian Billings.
Dr. Le introduced me to primary care and taught me the difference a primary care physician can make for a patient’s health and happiness. I could see the difference she made in her patient’s lives and I was sold. Her example inspired me to be at the front line of health care in providing for others. Her mentorship began in high school, so she had an early impact on my interest in primary care and eventually family medicine.
Dr. Adrian Billings helped me solidify not just my interest in family medicine, but specifically my passion for rural medicine. He showed me that I could be the old-fashioned town doctor that I had always dreamed of. Even more than that, he treated me like family and showed me I could not only have the career I always wanted, but also the family and community relationship that I had always hoped was possible to achieve. He has been, and continues to be, a great mentor to me and serves as the role model for the physician I want to become.
My favorite aspect of family medicine is the personalized contact I’ll have with my patients through their entire lifetime. I’ll be fortunate enough to get to know them individually and watch them grow. I’ll be able to treat them as a complete person and begin to really understand their strengths and their struggles. This type of interaction and care is why I’m dedicated to family medicine.
What interests you about family medicine?
So many things interest me about family medicine. I’ve always loved the concept of the old-fashioned doctor. My dream since childhood has been to one day become the doctor who makes house calls and provides care for his community.
Throughout the past couple of years, my understanding of what it truly means to be a family physician has grown. I have seen the connection that family physicians have with their patients and the impact that it has on each one. I also really enjoy the challenge of problem solving and in family medicine one sees all types of illnesses and conditions daily. Every day in my clinic will be different and I’ll be on the front line of patient care. I can do all of this while knowing I’m providing for the health of my community.
What keeps you going during medical school when things are hectic?
While I have enjoyed medical school so far, from time to time things get busy and hectic. I find that three things keep me going and keep my drive alive.
First, my faith has been a great anchor for me, as I believe that I will be serving God in my future profession as a family physician in a rural community. I feel that I was called to serve an underserved community and that after all the great experiences and opportunities I’ve had, I need to use my time and talents to serve others.
Second, my parents have always supported me 100 percent of the time. They are the reason I’m where I am and who I am today. When I’m stressed or discouraged, I can always count on them to support me and help me accomplish my dream.
Finally, I close my eyes and envision the community I’ll be serving and the people I’ll be helping. This vision of my future keeps me focused and makes me work hard to make it a reality.
What was your experience rotating in the Texas Family Medicine Preceptorship Program and what did it teach you about the art of practicing medicine?
I had a wonderful experience rotating in the Texas Family Medicine Preceptorship Program. I was matched with Dr. Billings, who I shadowed and worked at his clinics in Alpine, Marfa, and Presidio. I got to scrub in on Cesarean Sections and perform rounds in the local hospital. We went on house calls, taught sexual education at the local schools, and went to a bi-national Health Conference.
I got to see that rural doctors do much more than I ever could have imagined. They are so vital to their communities and do their best to serve it in any way possible. I realized being a rural physician was much more than seeing patients. It’s about serving the community’s needs and being there for your patients in-and-out of the clinic. It was truly amazing to see the difference Dr. Billings made in his community and it makes me want to work harder so that I can serve my future community as well.
In addition to all of this, Dr. Billings treated me like a member of his family. I had lunch with him at his home with his family almost every day, went to baseball games with them, and went to church service each week. He understood my interest in rural family medicine and gave me the opportunity to fully experience rural medicine and the life of the rural physician.
He allowed me to see what my dream looks like up close; it’s everything I could have imagined. He’s still a mentor to me and I plan to rotate in Alpine again in the future. Hopefully I’ll get to do a public health education project out there on a future rotation as well.
What are your future goals when you go into practice?
My goal is to set up a clinic in a rural underserved community in Texas. This clinic will provide health care to the community at large and will also perform outreach events in the areas of health education, thereby filling the role of a community health center. I don’t want to be reactionary to diseases, I want to prevent those that I can.
I envision a clinic that will provide complete care to the community – from their initial visit to the clinic, to being to admitted and treated at a nearby hospital – I want to be there for them. l also want to provide obstetrics care. In addition to all of this, I want to make house calls so that I can help provide care and support to those who need it the most.
What is it about rural medicine that inspires you?
Rural family medicine has always been inspiring to me for three major reasons. First, I want to be part of a community. My experience in Alpine, showed me firsthand how a rural physician integrates with the community. It’s vital for a physician to be a member of the community and provide a unique physician-patient relationship inside and outside of the clinic.
Second, I want to have the advanced level of continuity care that allows me to treat multiple generations of my patients’ families as they grow over time.
Finally, I’m inspired to oversee care for the health and wellbeing of an entire community. Rural physicians oversee their clinic, monitor outbreaks of disease, provide healthcare education, and mentor future health care professionals in the community. To do these things, I must be the best rural physician I can be.
How do you think we can attract more medical students to family medicine?
The key to attracting more medical students to family medicine is mentorship. Having great mentors in primary care, like Dr. Billings and Dr. Le, helped me understand the purpose and role of a family physician. They helped me understand the important relationship primary care physicians have with their patients. Without their mentorship and guidance, I would not have as deep an understanding of or the dedicated commitment to family medicine. If more students could experience relationships like those I have been fortunate enough to have, I think they’ll be able to appreciate and understand how family physicians really can change lives.
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.