By Katie Wendover

The words “you can do it” served as a consistent message for those gathered on January 7, 2019, at the NICHD Annual Postbac Course to hear Dr. April Walker speak about a career in family medicine. Dr. Walker trained in a medical degree (MD) program at Howard University and said she knew she wanted to go into family medicine since she was in medical school. Currently, Dr. Walker works as a primary care physician for Unity Health Care and serves as the Regional Director of Medical Education for the A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA). During the workshop, she discussed the day-to-day activities of a primary care physician and why she pursued a career in family medicine.

Primary care physicians (PCPs) at Unity Health Center see an average of 22 patients for 15 minutes each during a work day. This schedule is not the only thing that makes for a demanding workload; as Dr. Walker said, “anything can happen at any moment.” However, the stresses of her job have not diminished Dr. Walker’s love for her profession, as she remarked to the postbac fellow attendees, “I think everyone should do family medicine!”

In a typical day at the clinic, staff at the Unity Health Care center begin their shift with an 8 a.m. huddle. At that time, they complete patient rounds, during which members of the clinical team can talk about concerns they have for certain patients. Afterwards, PCPs see patients until 4 p.m., when they have their last appointments and take care of unfinished work before the clinic switches to its urgent care services at 5 p.m. Among the most common cases at the health center are physical exams, colds, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, asthma, strep throat, and ear infections. When talking about her experiences, Dr. Walker described that one of the benefits to a career in family medicine is the variety of activities one gets to do.

Why pursue a career in family medicine? Working in a community clinic provides vital outreach to people in need of care. The patients seen by Unity Health Care have often been dismissed by other physicians and, as Dr. Walker says, “[we] are the listening ear.” According to Dr. Walker, the rewards of practicing in family medicine include mentoring, saving lives, being a “role model for your community,” or even just receiving a hug and a smile.

It’s a demanding profession, but in return, a primary care physician has flexibility with one’s schedule and roles that extend beyond doctor, into professor, therapist, team leader, director and much more. In the words of Dr. Walker, “you can do it...it’s just about time management.”

Dr. Walker welcomes any questions directed to her email at awalker@unityhealthcare.org and said to be on the lookout for a shadowing program in the area through ATSU-SOMA.