#MiFamMed Member of the Month

October 2022

Vijay Singh, MD, MPH, MS, FAAFP

Which practice settings/types have you experienced throughout your career?

I have been in practice for 15 years, having graduated from The Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University in 2002 and completing family residency at the University of California at Los Angeles in 2007, where I served as an academic chief resident.

I earned my master's degree in public health and completed a post-doctoral research fellowship from the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, and a master's degree in health and healthcare research at the University of Michigan.

My areas of practice are family medicine, internal medicine, and hospital medicine. Today I am a clinical associate professor in the Departments of Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, and Family Medicine at the University of Michigan, and have research interest in healthcare identification of and response to intimate partner violence and adolescent dating violence. My research has been supported by grants from the World Health Organization, American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation, Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Foundation, and Michigan Institute for Clinical and Health Research.

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

When I was a kid and had exercise-induced asthma, I wondered why I did not consciously understand what was happening in my airways when I was wheezing. That experience partly sparked my interest in becoming a physician. I remember doing a science project when I was in elementary school, where I described how my albuterol inhaler worked. I also remember my mother staying up with me one long night as I finished that science project.

Back then, and still now, my family has been instrumental in me both becoming and supporting my work as a physician. My parents and sister provided financial and emotional support, and now my wife and children accommodate my periodically long hours at work.

I decided in high school to become a physician as I felt it best combined my interest in biology and helping people. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in biology from Northwestern University, but it was during medical school at Northwestern that I gained enough clinical experience to realize that family medicine best combined my interest in caring for adults and children, with a focus on patient counseling. My clinical practice settings have varied and included outpatient sites at the University of Michigan (UM) Ypsilanti Family Medicine Health Center and VA Ann Arbor general internal medicine clinic, an adult medical observation unit of the UM Department of Emergency Medicine, and currently an inpatient and observation medicine site of the UM Division of Hospital Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine.

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

My interest in family communication, and learning how violence can occur when communication fails, led to my research in healthcare identification and response to intimate partner violence (IPV). My medical school training in the late 1990s was typical of others in the United States, where I received only about 1-hour total training on IPV. This lack of training in IPV led me after medical school to obtain a Master of Public Health degree from Johns Hopkins University, where was I able to learn a public health approach to reducing IPV.

After family medicine residency at University of California at Los Angeles, I completed the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program at the University of Michigan, where I earned a master’s degree in health and healthcare research. The latter program taught me how to collect and analyze quantitative and qualitative data, and since then I have taught over 2,500 trainees and written multiple papers and grants on healthcare identification and response to IPV. As a clinical associate professor at UM Medical School, with joint appointments in the Departments of Internal Medicine, Emergency Medicine, and Family Medicine, my unique vantage point has given me a broad sense of how a health system can conduct IPV screening in multiple different clinical environments.

What advice would you give your student or resident self?

I think my student or resident self would benefit from knowing the importance of reading and learning more about clinical medicine, as family medicine covers such a breadth of knowledge.

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

I am working on being more efficient, mainly when writing manuscripts and grant applications. I am trying to balance perfectionism and thoroughness with brevity and knowing that a peer reviewer has enough information. Related to efficiency, I am working on building internal deadlines to complete writing tasks. I am additionally trying to learn how to best demonstrate communication skills to trainees, through use of motivational interviewing and providing first line psychological support (listening, inquiring, and validating) to patients who have experienced intimate partner violence, substance or alcohol use, chronic pain, or detrimental social determinants of health.

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

I have been a member of MAFP and AAFP since graduating from family medicine residency. AAFP helps me track CME and, through its AFP journal, helps me stay current on clinical information and prepare for board recertification. MAFP provides venues for CME and helps me be aware of the great work done throughout the state of Michigan by other family medicine physicians.

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

One of my most important life events was when I was diagnosed at age 20 with Crohn’s disease. I was still in college, and I experienced an early “mid-life crisis” that made me think about what was important. I realized that being a good doctor and family member were my goals in life. I have tried to maintain that balance since then: how can I be the best clinician-researcher-educator I can be, yet uphold my roles as son, brother, nephew, husband, father, and friend. That balance helps me say no to activities that I know will not further my goals. In my career I have some balance through different work roles: providing clinical care, teaching medical students and resident physicians, and conducting grant-funded research. More directly in my personal life, I maintain wellness by exercising, eating well, and getting adequate rest whenever I am able.

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

Besides listening to news programs from National Public Radio (NPR) or Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), I get the most enjoyment from listening to music. I used to DJ while in college and graduate school, and I try to keep current on hip-hop, jazz, and electronic music.

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

My desired superpower would probably be flying, as I might be able to get to places faster. However, I feel that my parenting twin boys (currently age 6) is a kind of superpower. My actual superpower might be remaining calm when others around me are angry or distressed.

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

In 2020 I was awarded an AAFP Foundation and National Research Network grant called Family Medicine Discovers Rapid Cycle Scientific Discovery and Innovation (FMD RapSDI). FMD RapSDI is a new program to build research capacity in family medicine. It provides salary support, statistical and methodologic assistance, conference travel funds, and reviewer feedback in a two-stage application process. Annual applications are due in August. Program details are here. You may contact me at [email protected] if you have questions about the program.