Sarah Sams, MD, FAAFP

Why I Love Family Medicine: Caring for Generations of Families

Growing up on a farm in Iowa, I helped a lot with caring for animals and spending much of my time “midwifing.” I originally planned on becoming a veterinarian, but as my focus turned to human medicine I was absolutely sure I would choose OB/GYN because of my experience of delivering babies on the farm.

As I started my third year of medical school, I completed my first rotation in surgery and then moved on to family medicine. I was assigned to a rural practice in Logan, OH, working with Roy Bontrager, MD. From the very first day I stepped into his office, I instantly felt right at home. I saw the relationships that Dr. Bontrager had with his patients, and very quickly started to develop my own. I lived with Dr. Bontrager and his wife throughout the week, and was immediately integrated into their hometown.

When I went to the grocery store, I was recognized and greeted by familiar faces. In the office, I would see a patient and then find out they were the grandparent, uncle, or cousin of a patient I had seen earlier that day or on a previous day. The family histories started to come together, and I realized that I loved knowing and learning more about these people, who soon became more like my family.

Even after all the experience I gained and had enjoyed within family medicine, I still had my mind set on delivering babies. Then one day, during an American Medical Women’s Association meeting, I met Mary Beth Mudd, MD, a family physician who still provided obstetrical care. Soon after that, a lightbulb went off in my head and I knew that was my calling – family medicine including obstetrics. The rest of my medical school rotations confirmed my choice.

With every rotation, I fell more in love with the full spectrum of family medicine; allowing me to deliver babies, do a little bit of surgery, take care of the psychiatric needs of my patients, be challenged by difficult medical conditions, and provide preventative care to kids and adults, all while developing the relationships with the patients that had been so important to me on my first family medicine rotation with Dr. Bontrager.

Over the years, those relationships have become the hallmark of what I love about family medicine. I have taken care of up to five generations of family members. I have delivered babies of babies that I delivered 20 years prior. I have been present with patients as they took their last breaths, surrounded by the ones they loved instead of machines and IVs. I have had the privilege of attending graduations, weddings, birthday parties, and funerals.

Now, I have the privilege of teaching and advancing the next generation of family physicians. I can only hope that there has been a medical student who was “absolutely sure” they were set to be a certain type of physician, but instead found their love for family medicine, just as I did 20 years ago.

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