By Jordan Wong, DO
2022–23 ACOFP Resident Governor
I want to start this story with its moral: Seize opportunities as they present themselves to you, because you never know where they may lead.
Believe it or not, I never wanted to be a family physician—well, at least not at first. I wanted to be a surgeon. I wanted a life of cutting and everyone knew it. As I look back, my life fundamentally changed starting with a chance encounter—a class-wide forwarded email from Peter Zajac, DO, FACOFP, calling for peer review interns for ACOFP’s bi-monthly journal, Osteopathic Family Physician (OFP). As a newly minted OMS-I, I was eager to make my mark, so I answered the email. I met with Dr. Zajac later that month and we spent the better part of an hour talking about his role at the journal, the application process and osteopathic family medicine.
I left this meeting eager to submit my application, but my sights were still set on surgery. Sometime after submitting my application, I received notice that I had been selected for that year’s batch of interns—the unknown start to a wonderful career in family medicine. For any medical students reading this, I highly recommend this internship because it allows you to appreciate the intricacies of the peer review process—the bedrock of evidence-based medicine.
Over time, Dr. Zajac took an interest in me and became a mentor, somebody who was invested in my success. We ended up co-authoring a paper together, and I attribute much of my success today to the interest he took in an OMS-I who had no interest in family medicine.
As my year of internship came to an end at OFP, I found myself eager for more. I emailed Belinda Bombei, then managing editor, for opportunities to contribute. To my surprise came an appointment as a student member to the ACOFP Editorial Committee—my introduction to the greater organization at large. As I progressed through medical school, my desire to become a surgeon waned, particularly as I experienced the breadth of family medicine while on rotations in rural Kentucky.
It is interesting that there are some people who know you better than you know yourself. One person who comes to mind is Dana Shaffer, DO, FACOFP dist., who would never fail to ask me, “Are you sure that you don’t want to become a family doctor?” I remember those interactions fondly, because—many times—I would have probably said some version of “maybe,” not knowing the person I would become today.
When it became time to enter the match cycle, I—like many others—had a choice: What would I be most happy doing for the rest of my life? For me, that was family medicine. I chose family medicine (or perhaps family medicine chose me) because I saw myself as the physician who wanted to guide patients through their lives. I wanted to be knowledgeable on not only the intricacies of their care, but also who they were as a person and to others.
As a resident, I resolved to make a difference, to be a leader and to contribute to the profession that I had grown to love. I found an opportunity to make a difference by serving on the ACOFP Task Force on Racism and Health. As a multi-racial American, it was important for me to contribute to the monumental task of advocating for a more just and equitable America. The physicians on this task force (now advisory group), championed by then-President Nicole Bixler, DO, MBA, FACOFP, are a stunning example of the good that osteopathic family physicians can provide. I highly recommend that everyone contribute.
Throughout my time as a resident, I have listened to and read the concerns of other residents nationwide. Among these concerns was a central feeling of voicelessness. It was disheartening that so many resident physicians—the future of our profession—felt like nothing more than cogs in a machine and that their concerns fell on deaf ears. When the call for ACOFP Resident Council applications came across my inbox, I knew this was my opportunity to speak up for residents, and I immediately applied.
Through the Resident Council, I met a group of like-minded residents who wanted to make a difference. The Resident Council worked diligently over the following year laying the groundwork for those to come. I am most proud of the resolution we passed at the Congress of Delegates concerning Early Entry Initial Certification, because now, as Resident Governor, I get to work on implementing the goals of the resolution. This shows that the process works, and resident voices can be heard.
As my term on the Resident Council came to an end, I felt that I didn’t achieve my goal to be a champion for resident physicians. I needed to do more. When the call for Resident Governor applications was released, I knew this was what I needed to do. When ACOFP Past President Duane Koehler, DO, FACOFP dist., informed me that I had been chosen for Resident Governor, I felt joy and disbelief; it has been the defining moment of my career thus far. While the work is far from complete, I feel encouraged by the support I have received from the Board of Governors and ACOFP at large. Over the next year, in conjunction with the Resident Council, I hope to create a pipeline from our resident members to the Board so that their voices can continue to be heard.
I want to finish my story much like it started—with its moral. Always seize opportunities as they present themselves to you, because you never know where they may lead. Lastly, a word of advice to my fellow resident members: In order for our voices to be heard, we must get involved.