#MiFamMed Member of the Month

May 2022

Felix Valbuena, Jr, MD, FAAFP

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

Since I completed family medicine residency at Henry Ford Hospital in 2003, my career path has been very diverse. I've been employed by a hospital system and practiced hospital medicine. I've practiced direct primary care. I've incorporated academic medicine, women's health, obstetrics, integrative medicine, and telemedicine into my family medicine practice.

I am now in my sixth year as chief executive officer of CHASS Center (Community Health and Social Services Center), a federally qualified health center that provides comprehensive, affordable primary care and support services to residents of Southwest Detroit, with a special emphasis on the underserved African-American and Latino population.

I still practice family medicine at CHASS, and I am also academic faculty in the Department of Family Medicine at Henry Ford Hospital.

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

As far back as I can remember, I have always wanted to become a physician to serve others. As I was finishing my bachelor's degree in psychology at the University of Notre Dame, I was not ready to continue studying, so I ended up at CHASS as a social worker. I did that for almost five years before I decided I was ready for med school. I was 27 at the time and had the opportunity to study medicine in Colombia, where my parent are from. I did rotations my whole last year in the states and rounded with Dr. Susan Schooley, a family physician who practices in Detroit and at the time was chair of family medicine at Henry Ford. She and Dr. Carolos Petrozzi have inspired and supported me in my path to becoming a family physician.

The day after I finished residency I came back to CHASS, which I someday hoped to lead. Here I served as staff physician and then chief medical officer. In 2017, I was name CEO when my predecessor and mentor, Ricardo Guzman, LMSW, MPH, retired. Today I still see patients on two half days of clinical time, and I enjoy being able to take care of families; it's true family medicine. I still get to round one week every two months with family medicine residents at Henry Ford. I've learned to keep the balance between patient care at a level that I feel I'm providing the best care possible, but still able to manage the 160 employees and all the different services we provide at the center on a daily basis.

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

The most unique aspect of my practice of medicine has been my ability to care for primarily underserved populations in Detroit, including Latino and African American communities. As a Colombian-American family physician, I am committed to providing culturally proficient healthcare in one's native language. It really makes a difference being able to communicate and understand the background and culture of those that we serve. It is really gratifying to be here at CHASS and help lead the center for the almost 12,000 individuals we take care of every year.

What advice would you give to your student and resident self?

Be persistent and follow your dreams. You can accomplish anything you set your mind on.

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

I am currently focused on growth in healthcare management/leadership.

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 I completed residency in 2003. It is important to belong to the Academy to serve as a role model and resource for developing family physicians.

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

This is very difficult to accomplish, but I try not to take too much work home.

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

I am anxiously waiting for the next seasons of Yellowstone and Ted Lasso.

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

I would choose the ability to fly.

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

I am an avid Notre Dame Football fan (class of '89), I love to travel, and I play the alto saxophone and guitar (I played in a band in high school, college, and medical school).