#MiFamMed Member of the Month

March 2022

Julie Blaszczak, MD, MEHP

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

I am an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Michigan Medicine, and I practice general outpatient, procedural, and prenatal medicine at the Chelsea Health Center and inpatient medicine at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Hospital. I have particular interests in academic medicine as well as the care of LGBTQIA+ patients in the primary care setting, including initiation and continuation of gender-affirming hormone therapy.

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

I am the first person in medicine in my family, and I did not grow up with a family physician caring for me. When I started medical school, I had no idea what family medicine was. I was going into medical school as an anthropology major with my sights set on caring for the underserved and stigmatized. When I was at the Ypsilanti Health Center during my medical school family medicine rotation, after about two days, I realized that I had found my calling. The family physicians there were some of the smartest, kindest, and most thoughtful physicians I had encountered, and they truly cared about what happened to the patient inside and outside of the clinic room. It was just a plus that I still got to be Sherlock Holmes (one of my favorite literary characters) and diagnose undifferentiated concerns as well as continue to perform a broad spectrum of care.

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

I think two particular areas that have been unique have been my ability to advocate for LGBTQIA+ inclusive and affirming care as well as my additional training in education. I was always interested in LGBTQIA+ advocacy, and during my residency, I took the time to learn more about gender-affirming care and realized the significant need for primary care physicians to become more engaged in gender-affirming care.

In my practice, I initiate and continue gender-affirming hormone therapy as well as provide general primary care to gender diverse patients, and I have made it a professional goal to help future primary care physicians feel confident and competent providing gender-affirming care through my work in education. Provider lack of knowledge is a major barrier to care for LGBTQIA+ people and leads to increased stigmatization, and my hope is to reduce the barriers to care for this population and create more inclusive, safe environments for all patients.

During my Academic Fellowship, my department supported me pursuing a Master of Education in the Health Professions from Johns Hopkins University. This allowed me to develop my skills in areas such as adult learning theory, curriculum development, mentorship, and program development.

What advice would you give to your student self?

I would tell myself that there are always going to be more opportunities to come. You do not need to take every single one at a moment's notice. And if you do consider an opportunity, ask yourself if it brings you joy and/or will bring you closer to the physician and person you want to become.

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

As I progress in my career as a physician and educator, I am working on my mentorship and feedback skills. While I have formal training in these areas through my Master of Education in the Health Professions, I am trying to bring the skills I learned to my day-to-day practice. I would like to be more intentional about my mentorship and figure out how I can best help in the growth and development of mentees and learners. Given the busy life of a family physician, I think it is easy to provide surface-level feedback as a reflex, and I am trying to be intentional about giving genuine, constructive feedback to learners and asking them to give me feedback as well.

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

Being part of the MAFP and AAFP has allowed me to get to know other educators and leaders I may have never met. Whether we are in community or academic medicine, I think it can be easy to be comfortable in our silos, but it has been wonderful to get to know amazing family physicians outside of my community and learn about the wonderful things they accomplish in their communities.

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

There are several great tips I have learned from mentors on how to maintain my wellness as a physician. First and foremost, I think it is incredibly important to set clear boundaries for yourself. Where the boundaries are set is different for each person depending on their particular lived experience, but I find that if boundaries aren't set, it is so easy for work to dominate personal life. Also, I make sure to take the time to genuinely evaluate every opportunity that comes my way and determine if I have the time, interest, and mental and emotional bandwidth to take on another commitment. It continues to be an area of development for me, but I have become much better about saying no. Finally, I think taking the time to reflect on your priorities is always a good thing, wherever you are at in your career. That will drive how you want to spend your time.

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

I am currently enjoying the Unlocking Us and Dare to Lead podcasts by Brene Brown. She has introduced me to a whole new world in regard to leadership, vulnerability, and how to live as our authentic selves.

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

I think I would choose the ability to read and comprehend books in seconds! There are so many books in so many different genres I would love to read.