#MiFamMed Member of the Month
Sarah Wilson, MD
Which practice settings/types have you experienced throughout your career?
I have been practicing family medicine for 11 years. For nine of those years, I was a faculty physician at Beaumont Hospital in Troy, a position I started right out of residency, where I cared for patients in clinic and in the hospital, and I taught residents as well. It was so wonderful to build long-lasting relationships with my patients, to see residents blossom from eager interns to accomplished physicians, to learn about the different areas of expertise of my colleagues, to be part of an amazing team, and to make friendships that will last a lifetime.
In 2021, I joined Premier Private Physicians, a four-physician direct primary care/concierge medicine practice in Troy. Here I enjoy caring for patients and their families in such a different way. The relationships I can build and the personal care I can provide my patients in this model has been so refreshing. I can take the time I need to get to know my patients and to care for them unhindered by time, insurance, and reimbursement. I can advocate for their needs with physicians, insurance companies, and within the medical system. I still practice both care in the office and the hospital. I perform procedures, provide stress management training, and have fully embraced my lifestyle medicine training. I also continue serving as an assistant professor at Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine.
What led you to this career, and was your path inspired by anyone?
As a child, I was fascinated by the human body, which led me to anatomy, physiology, and pathology. After time, my desire to help people and use this knowledge led me into the field of medicine. What led me to family medicine was the breadth of the specialty—caring for young and old, both men and women, treating the acutely ill and managing those with chronic disease, helping healthy patients reach their optimal health, being able to work in an office, an urgent care, and the hospital, working with my hands during procedures and injections, and most importantly, building long-term relationships with patients and families.
My passion for treating the whole person—mind, body and spirit—and recognizing the importance of diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management led me to lifestyle medicine. And finally, my desire for “more," for a different way to treat patients, led me to direct primary care.
What has been the most unique aspect/experience of your practice of medicine thus far?
Being present for my patients in their final hours. It is a true honor to have earned the respect of a patient, so much so that they let me into one of the most difficult moments of their life. It is with humility, and hopefully grace, that I have been able to help patients feel at ease and loved during these times. Often the patient is surrounded by loved ones, and I am accepted as a member of the family; at other times, I may be the only one to hold their hand. That life is beautiful, and death can be too, is just one lesson that I have learned from my patients.
What advice would you give to your student and resident self?
It’s all worth it! Your pathway to becoming a physician will be long and will seem grueling at times. There will be many sacrifices you’ll have to make along the way. You may not be at the top of the class anymore—everyone is smart; but, remember we all have strengths and weaknesses. You are going to learn so much! You will meet many teachers along the way—pray for those who are burned out and not so kind, thank those who give their time and wisdom as mentors, and don’t forget that your patients are wonderful teachers, too. You will question your decisions, but that will make you a better physician. You are going to be the healing hands for patients who are suffering. You have the ability to change lives, not just treat disease. You will have to work hard and continue to do so throughout your career. You will love what you do, and in the end, know that the journey was all worth it.
What is one professional skill you're currently working on?
I am continuing to learn and practice motivational interviewing skills. This is a cornerstone of lifestyle medicine. It involves being a good listener, finding discordance between a patient’s goals and current behaviors, and using a motivational process to gently direct the patient into behavior change.
Why is it important for you to be a member of Michigan Academy of Family Physicians and American Academy of Family Physicians?
As a busy physician with a family of my own there never seems to be enough time. MAFP and AAFP work for me to advocate for physicians and patients, to provide education, and to keep me up to date on current events.
How do you achieve work-life balance and maintain your own wellness?
I try my best to take my own lifestyle medicine advice. I work hard to be efficient in my physician duties so that I am not taking busy-work home. I try to exercise regularly and eat healthy foods. I make my husband and children a priority. I try to remind myself that I can only do my best, and that if the laundry has to sit one day, no one will truly suffer. I’m working hard on letting go of “mommy guilt” and taking time for myself. I work to be present in the moment and find appreciation in the small things. I constantly remind myself how absolutely blessed I am.
What book/podcast/Netflix series are you currently enjoying?
I love watching baking competitions! I love to bake in my spare time, so it’s fun to learn new ways to bake and decorate.
If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?
The ability to reverse time. For all those moments that I came up with a great comment after the fact, or said something I regretted; for opportunities to de-escalate arguments at home or have a second chance at breaking bad news to a patient; to rethink decisions I’ve made when under stress (eating leftover cookies from my baking binge the day before); or to really think about a situation within the big picture rather than the heat of the moment.
Is there anything else you would like everyone to know about you?
I’m a normal person. Doctors are often held to a standard of perfection. I make mistakes all the time. Sometimes I snort when I laugh. I like to be lazy from time to time—eat pizza and sweets, and binge shows in my PJs— please don’t judge or make me feel like a hypocrite. I love to live life, be silly, and take time to smell the roses.