Home Career Advice What it’s like in academic family medicine: Shadowing Dr. Rouhbakhsh

What it’s like in academic family medicine: Shadowing Dr. Rouhbakhsh

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As a medical student, have you ever wondered what it feels like to major in academic family medicine? Meet AMA Member Rambod A. Rouhbakhsh, AMA’s Distinguished Academic Family Physician Specialized “Shadow Me” series, which provides first-hand advice from clinicians about life in their specialties. Check out his vision to help determine if a career in academic family medicine and preventive medicine might be right for you.

The AMA Specialty Guide simplifies the medical student major selection process, highlights major specialties, detailed training information, and provides access to relevant association information. Produced by FREIDA™, the AMA Residency & Fellowship Database®.

Learn more with the AMA about family medicine and preventive medicine.

“Shading” d. Ruhbakhsh

specialty: Family Medicine Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Practice setting: Academic Residency in Family Medicine; Clinical research.

years in practice: 17.

A typical day and week in my practice: My days are divided into secret roles. Monday tutorial days. Tuesdays are hiring and administrative days. Wednesdays are software and enterprise development days. Thursday and Friday are my clinical research days.

My day usually starts with a morning report at 7:30 AM and officially ends at 5 PM Informally, I find that most of my purposeful work is done after hours. Now that I’m in a leadership position, I rarely find quiet time to actually create a working product. As such, I tend to be more productive playing football for my kids when I can sit in my car and work at the computer.

How the year unfolds in my work: When I started my career in Academic Family Medicine, I started as a clinical faculty member, so my work mainly revolved around teaching the residents of the clinic. Now, as the program director, I spend more time doing administrative work, which translates into meetings, hiring new evaluators, and faculty development.

The year for us begins in July when we welcome our new residents. Interns spend most of July in orientation, as we help them transition from medical student to resident. We organize orientation activities, compose introductory lessons, and assist our interns in their new jobs. Also in July, we transferred our new PGY-2 residents to senior residents who take on teaching and supervising responsibilities for new interns.

In August, we began preparing for the recruitment season, which officially begins when we receive ERAS applications in September. We also tend to have awareness talks with our local medical schools in August and September. From early October through December, we interview prospective students and find matches for our residency programme. We receive thousands of applications from medical students, but only provide interviews with 60 applicants. To get to this point, we spend a good portion of September reading requests.

Actual interviews dominate from October to December. In pre-COVID times, these events were more festive with dinners and lunches. Now that it’s virtual, it takes less time, but it’s also less fun. During the fall and winter semesters, we focus on graduates staying at PGY-3 to ensure they meet their requirements and help them find jobs.

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In January, faculty members have more time to meet, and this is when we conduct cumulative assessments of our evaluators and engage in program improvement activities. We usually elect a Chief Resident for the next year during this time. January to March is when we spend extra time on research and academic projects.

Then in March, we got the list of matches. We welcome our incoming residents and begin preparing them for orientation in July. Most of our focus in the spring is our graduating seniors. We organize wellness activities and plan graduation. We also conduct year-end cumulative assessments for residents, faculty, and the program itself in late spring.

Interspersed throughout the academic year, we teach in clinic, hospital, and while teaching. There are also a myriad of committee meetings, opportunities, and issues that emerge. For example, new research collaborations happen frequently because we are literally across the street from the University of Southern Mississippi and across town from William Curry University. These opportunities are exciting, but sometimes they increase our bandwidth.

The most challenging and rewarding aspect academic family Medicine: The teaching is great, especially the education of the residents. These young doctors are at the top of the education hierarchy. They are usually the smartest people I know, and I feel privileged to help them get their training after graduation. These are intelligent and enthusiastic people who approach education with enthusiasm and enthusiasm.

They are also curious enough to challenge and grow my personal fund of knowledge. If there’s something we don’t know collectively, the residents will look it up and come back to teach the whole group. These are high-powered learning machines that can seemingly accomplish just about anything they set their minds to.

Academic family medicine is very rewarding, not only because it involves teaching, but because academic family medicine can be located in community hospitals, giving you greater flexibility to live where you want to. For example, if I wanted to do academic neurosurgery or cardiology, I would be at one medical school in Mississippi in Jackson.

Family medicine community residency programs are the largest portion of academic family medicine. I’m really grateful for that because it allows me to live in an amazing place like Hattiesburg and not necessarily in an urban area. Teaching is great fun, and I would encourage anyone who enjoys it to consider academic family medicine.

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How life in academic family medicine has been affected by the global pandemic: Some of the societal impacts of the pandemic have actually helped us. The ability to conduct virtual interviews with applicants to our program allowed us to attract more people and gave us the opportunity to conduct more interviews in a way that is less time intensive and less expensive.

For example, we interviewed a woman from Ohio last year who I’m pretty sure wouldn’t have traveled to Mississippi for the interview. And it ended up being a match on our show, which was pretty cool for us. Also, we are now seasoned telemedicine practitioners, and it is here to stay. Finally, it has forced us to become the best professional epidemiologists, virologists, and hygienists.

How does my lifestyle match or differ from what I imagined: My life today is very different from my days as a clinical doctor. The hours are roughly the same, but the pace is different. My work is more cognitively challenging in academics, but less intense. When I was in the clinic every day, I felt very motivated which is essential for me to be an effective physician. I don’t feel that much now. As a clinician, I felt like a runner. Now, I feel like a marathon runner—especially during the days of heavy meetings.

In addition, I conduct clinical research and conduct clinical trials three half days a week. As the principal investigator, I supervise the sub-investigators, review charts, and see trial patients. We have several trials going on, including the COVID-19 vaccine trials, the meningococcal vaccine trial, the high blood pressure drug trial, the diabetes drug trial, and the pediatric migraine trial. Keeping all protocols straight can be challenging, but it’s not as intense as a typical family medicine clinic day.

Books every medical student interested in family medicine should read:

  • Checklist statement And Death: medicine and what ultimately matters, Both are written by Atul Gawande, MD, MPH. Checklist statement It is a practical and well-researched guide to reducing medical errors and improving quality. being deadly It’s also a well-researched record of how we die in the United States and how people really want to die when they face it. I found it insightful and moving.
  • stone cut Written by Abraham Verghese, MD, is just a wonderful piece of fiction. There are many works of fiction that I love, but I recommend this book to emphasize how you can be an accomplished physician and still produce beautiful creative work in an entirely unrelated field.

Online resource students interested in family medicine should: My first recommendation is UpToDate. It is the most comprehensive reference source that I know of. I also suggest students subscribe to get frequent news delivered to their inbox regularly. Favorite is New England Journal of Medicine‘s ‘Journal WatchAndAMA’s “Morning Rounds Daily,” and the American Academy of Family Medicine’s “Smart Summary of Family Medicine.”

Quick insights I would give to students considering family medicine: Family medicine’s gift – and damn it to some extent – is its flexibility and breadth. It can be hard to feel that you haven’t mastered one aspect of a major. However, it is an evergreen challenge and offers tremendous opportunities. It led me to preventive and occupational medicine and eventually to academic family medicine. Family medicine is like pluripotent stem cells – they have unlimited potential.

In family medicine, you can become whatever you want to become. It gives you enough background to discover your passion, which can sometimes be a true specialist and you have your hand at everything all the time. In this way, this major is very rewarding because it gives you the most tools to take care of the largest group of people in the most practical way.

When the pandemic broke out, my background in family medicine allowed me to delve deeper into the study of COVID-19. Again, it’s this type of training that allows you to walk these paths with relative ease because you are extensively trained.

Mantra or song to describe life in family medicine: Early in my career, I had to say “Hustlin” by Rick Ross. Now, in my middle age, I can’t think of a song. But I have a logo. I try to remind myself of the wisdom of impermanence: everything changes.



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