STFM 2020 Talk

Hello, and thank you for allowing me to be present at one remove.  I am deeply honored and grateful to receive the amazing honor STFM has bestowed on me, and truly regret that I cannot be there in person.  I am with you in spirit.

When I joined the UCI Department of Family Medicine in 1978, the specialty of family medicine was still very young, and it rightly considered itself to be revolutionary.  It advocated a different approach to patient care – one that cared for the whole patient, whole families, whole communities, especially those marginalized and neglected by the larger society.  I was also pretty young, so in a way family medicine and I came of age together.  Family Medicine had a huge influence on my professional values and priorities, the way I defined the nature of my work in the world, and even on who I am as a person.  Family Medicine inspired me to be a more socially conscious scholar and I hope a better person.

STFM was always a kind of home for me.  Its annual conferences and regional meetings were where I learned what family medicine was.  The colleagues I met through this organization showed me, a non-physician, how to be a teacher of physicians.  No matter the crazy twists and turns of my career, I was always able to test out my ideas and find support through presenting at STFM. Twenty years ago, when I started to develop my work in medical humanities, STFM provided the space for me to investigate and expand on my embryonic ideas. Like a family, STFM nurtured and encouraged me, while allowing me to spread my wings and explore.

I had the great privilege of developing a relationship of 20 years standing with its flagship journal Family Medicine, and here I was able to first provide a platform for nascent work in medical humanities; and later to help develop an understanding of narrative medicine within the specialty. In both these endeavors, drawing on the family medicine philosophy I absorbed through STFM, I strove to ensure that values of self-awareness, compassion, and social justice were always kept at the forefront.

Although I am not a family physician, I’ve internalized the ideals and commitment of every family doc I’ve known: to care for those in need, to bear witness to those who suffer, to advocate for the vulnerable and oppressed, and to just show up and be present whenever possible. I’m grateful beyond words to have found such a warm and welcoming home in this great specialty and this great organization for over 40 years.