#MiFamMed Member of the Month

February 2022

Glenn V. Dregansky, DO, FAAFP

Which practice settings/types have you experience during your career?

I have been an employed physician and practiced independently. I have also practiced in a federally qualified health center, academic medicine, emergency medicine/urgent care, rural medicine, and geriatrics. I most recently added addiction medicine.

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

I've wanted to be a family physician, specifically a rural country doctor, since I was 14 years old. I was inspired by my wife's (girlfriend at the time) Uncle Joe, who was a rural country doc doing full-service family medicine. I have never regretted the decision but I never envisioned the path or trajectory of my career. I thought I would practice in one place for 50 years and they'd bury me out back. Obviously, my career didn't follow that path.

I've also been inspired by the people I've met and worked with through Michigan Academy of Family Physicians. I've found my colleagues in the Academy to be some of the best and brightest minds in medicine who advocate for and serve their patients every day without accolades or fanfare. I'm inspired by the meaningful, impactful care rendered in many offices and clinics across the state.

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

Those who know me, know I love to tell stories from my career. There have been so many wonderful things I've experienced and had the privilege do in nearly four decades of family medicine.

I trained in the Army and served overseas, caring for soldiers and their families far from home in some truly unusual environments. I've been chief of busy emergency rooms as a full-time emergency physician. I've cared for multiple generations of families in solo practice and as an employed physician. One time grandma came in for an interval visit and told me she was concerned about her granddaughter. The granddaughter had a soccer physical the next week and I was able to have the beer and boys talk with her because of what her grandmother told me. I've attended weddings, baptisms, funerals. and had the role of trusted advisor on many occasions. I had the wonderful experience of spending a month in the jungle of Papua New Guinea twice, practicing the most rural medicine imaginable.

Everywhere I've gone, I've found certain things to be true. People want compassionate, competent healthcare rendered by physicians they can come to know and trust. I now get to tell my stories to the many residents I've trained for the last eight years. Empathy and humanity are fundamental to our specialty and I'm proud to see it in the young physicians I get to train and mentor.

I've been paid in cookies and chickens, have bartered with farmers and business owners, and have become part of the family. There have been cases where I was at the right place and the right time to save a life and there have been lives I've helped change and mold without ever seeing the final result. Through all this, I've had great fun, raised a family, and have been given the extraordinary gift of making a difference.

What advice would you give to your student self?

Life is short. I spent so much time and energy getting places, that I didn't always enjoy the trip. If I knew then what I know now, I would cultivate more peer relationships, spend more time with my kids as they grew up, and pay attention to the little things. Looking back, many of the little things were actually big things.

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

I recently decided to challenge the board certification exam in addiction medicine. Now I find myself with another specialty in my late 60s. I'm currently expanding my knowledge in addiction medicine and will transition to an addiction medicine practice when I leave my position at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine's family medicine residency next summer. I hope to make an impact on the disease of addiction in my community.

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

In advocacy work we say, "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu." I have spent years serving on the MAFP Advocacy Committee and then served as chair. And now I am president-elect of the MAFP Board of Directors. I've testified in both the Michigan House and Senate and have met with many policymakers. Being part of a professional society amplifies my voice to get the attention of policymakers.

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?

I have been practicing family medicine for nearly 40 years. During that long of time, the pendulum swings back and forth. When I was young and trying to save the world, I had poor life-work balance in that I worked too much. However, as my son once said, "Old one, you were at way too many parent-teacher conferences." It's a matter of making what is most important the thing you spend most time and energy on. Now, I'm much more intentional in my commitments and spend time keeping my head on straight.

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

My wife and I love All Creatures Great and Small on Masterpiece Theater, as we actually met James Herriot in 1986. I will confess that I'm addicted to romance novels. I started reading Nora Roberts while on break during medical school as a means to escape medicine and have never stopped. We're also currently listening to Diana Galbaldon's book, Let the Bees Know that I am Gone, in the Outlander series.

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

The ability to forgive.

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

I'm a story teller at heart. I guess that comes from living an interesting life. I've had so many wonderful experiences in medicine, I love to pass that on through stories. I also firmly believe we must know our history to avoid the mistakes of the past.