#MiFamMed Member of the Month

January 2022

Meghana Swamy, MD, MSc

Which practice settings/types are you most interested in for your career?

I am most interested in academic medicine, geriatrics, and dermatology in family medicine.

What led you to this career, and was your path inspired by anyone?

In my training and work, I envision clinical practice not only as commensurate with, but predicated on the quality of a prevalent family medical practice. I am passionate about being a primary care physician who functions as an internist and pediatrician combined, an orchestra conductor with the flair for directing a musical ensemble in its entirety. Family medicine requires contextual analyses of all aspects of a patient’s experience: medical and epidemiological, psychological, familial, and economic. The combination of these elements facilitates an informed interdisciplinary approach to clinical science, as well as patient-centered medical care.

My global experience has fomented my passion for this specialty. My upbringing in India and volunteer work in Zambia, which are countries plagued by a myriad of infectious and non-infectious diseases, put an edge on my perspective that family medicine is a critical “threshold” specialty—in effect, the gatekeeper for medicine. Inspiration by Dr. James Orbinski added to that perspective, as I am learning to look at healthcare at a community level, rather than limiting my understanding to individualized contexts. Residency in primary care solidified my decision to continue to work in an academic setting upon graduation to help the next generation of learners pursue the widest scope of healthcare and set forth on a journey to acquire professional finesse in being the foremost contact of personal and continual care for patients, their families, and communities.

What has been the most unique aspect/experience of your training thus far?

I have completed a Master of Science degree from Boston University's Department of Dermatology, where I also served as the chief trainee. This position honed my competence in balancing my research pursuits with assigned administrative duties. The role of chief trainee enabled me to amass a unique skill set that is essential to work comfortably with both the trainees and professors while organizing the diurnal clinic workflow. As the body’s largest, most visible organ, the skin is a site of local and systemic afflictions, some of which signify states of emergency. Being vigilant about cutaneous manifestations of systemic ailments enhances a clinician’s acumen to formulate algorithms while approaching complex medical disorders.

My clinical training has focused on dermatology and related sciences of cutaneous biology. In subspecialty clinics and inpatient training, I have focused on pediatric and complex medical dermatology and dermatologic oncology. My research addresses manifold areas such as pediatric cutaneous manifestations, hair loss in women, and cutaneous expressions of systemic diseases. I pursued dermatology as my first specialty because it provides an ideal gateway to family medicine.

My background in dermatology has enabled me to manage patients at the outset, with a prudent and decisive approach to complex coordination of treatment. In working at the intersection of family medicine and dermatology, I wish to address gaps in knowledge regarding common comorbid conditions. For example, my current published research elaborates on pediatric acanthosis nigricans cases identified at primary care practices as a precursor of insulin resistance, including analyzing whether labs confirmed the presence of diabetes mellitus. This project encourages primary care physicians to identify early cutaneous signs of pre-diabetes and organize care preemptively through counseling.

What advice would you give to your student self?

To read better books. Books can enlighten our understanding and heighten our appreciation for time that preceded us. A study of history and evolution reminds humankind of the progress made and the problems solved. Books help us appreciate perspectives that are different from what is familiar, rethink our values, and nurture our thoughts in a safe space. They also provide the freedom to reject thoughts and beliefs in the quiet of our minds without compromising another person's freedom of thought and speech.

What is one professional skill you're currently working on?

I am currently working on my networking skills. I believe developing these skills require their share of time and effort; hence, investing in networking from the beginning of residency will, hopefully, enable my efforts to amplify over time to achieve fruitful outcomes in the form of solid professional relationships by the end of residency.

Why is it important for you to be a member of Michigan Academy of Family Physicians and American Academy of Family Physicians?

My health advocacy is predicated on humanitarian ethics and the precepts of social justice. Training in family medicine has intensified my ardor to improve health services for the socioeconomically disadvantaged in Flint, Michigan. I have been working to establish its first Street Medicine project, already underway. The project will deliver primary and preventive health services to the marginalized and unsheltered where they live.

As a resident ambassador for the MAFP, I foster McLaren Flint Family Medicine Residency program’s health-advocacy culture by highlighting family medicine’s contemporary congressional legislative and advocacy challenges to build alignments, which includes mitigating COVID-19’s damages to primary care. In tandem, to nurture the family practice environment in Michigan, I designed a webinar to engage MAFP members and staff liaisons in safeguarding interests of international medical graduates in family medicine via an interactive discussion with a panel of accomplished IMG family physicians. Discussion topics focus on finding mentors, navigating immigration issues, networking, finding fellowships, and applying for jobs, to name a few.

MAFP provides compelling opportunities to identify remediable differences in the burden of disease, provide input and serve as a credible source of information to legislators on policy issues pertinent to family medicine, develop meaningful partnerships, and highlight modalities for advocacy engagement among MAFP members. Being an MAFP member will enable me to make a difference in advancing family medicine to achieve better health and heightened access while bringing down healthcare costs.

How do you achieve work-life balance and maintain your own wellness?

An ergonomic assessment of my workspace helped me make my workspace work for me. A comfortable chair, mini table portable heater, and a large window-facing table make time spent working enjoyable. I make several excel spreadsheets to organize my time according to that day’s work, the month’s work, and long-term goals. OneNote helps me organize tasks per different areas of involvement such as Street Medicine, fellowship goals, upcoming meetings, etc. This helps me to prioritize tasks, “time-box” and manage time wisely. I usually assign tough and high-concentration tasks to the mornings. I always plot personal time into my schedule and try not to work late into the evening, particularly during winter. “Me” time usually includes taking a warm shower, lighting candles, making dinner, watching a Netflix show, shopping online for clothes, going out for dessert, or working out on my elliptical. During weekends, I plan to eat breakfast or brunch with friends and family at a restaurant or explore new cafes.

What book/podcast/Netflix series are you currently enjoying?

I have been watching Midnight Diner: Tokyo Series and The Great British Baking Show. I also watched the new Spiderman Movie, No Way Home at the theater. I am enjoying the GeriPal podcast that I enjoy a great deal, as the conversations on geriatric medicine are very profound and cultivated in every episode.

If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?

Time travel. Imagine traveling a century or two into the future. It would be possible to note technological advancements beyond what the 21st century hosts. Medical advancements and rejigged surgical techniques would be fascinating to learn about. This knowledge, if brought back to current day and time, could help our society in terms of advancement in biomedical and scientific knowledge.

Is there anything else you would like everyone to know about you?

I am very interested in incorporating artificial intelligence and deep learning techniques to medical science and research for clinical decision support, studying neurodiversity, and improving patient-centered medical care.