Evan Bischoff, OMS-III, interviews 2022–23 ACOFP Immediate Past President Nicole Bixler, DO, MBA, FACOFP, about her family medicine journey, her advice for students, what she hopes to see students accomplish within ACOFP and lessons for future female osteopathic family physicians and leaders.
Where do you go to college, medical school and residency?
I attended Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, for my bachelor of science in biology and competed as a member of the women’s gymnastics team. I then went to medical school in Philadelphia at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and earned my MBA in health administration from St. Joseph’s University during a five-year dual degree program. I stayed in the Philadelphia area to complete my residency in family medicine at Frankford Hospitals, as part of the Jefferson Health System.
Where do you live and practice now?
I have lived in Land O’Lakes, Florida, for the past 15 years while practicing approximately 30 minutes away in Spring Hill, Florida, at Immediate Medicare & Family Doctor of Spring Hill.
What are your hobbies or interests?
Since completing my term as president of ACOFP, I have been mostly focused on my family, so right now, a lot of my free time is spent on the pool deck watching my 10-year-old swim. I recently became a certified stroke & turn official, as well as chair of the Parent Committee, so I am all in as a proud Florida Elite Warrior mom.
Next to that the only thing that comes close, is my love for the Dave Matthews Band! My husband and I (and now my daughter too) travel to multiple cities a year for their concerts. I just attended my 37th concert in West Palm Beach and am looking forward to Riviera Maya, Mexico, in February.
What drew you to family medicine?
I was drawn to family medicine once I completed my first outpatient family medicine rotation in my third year of medical school. I was fortunate to have a fantastic preceptor—Benjamin Blank, DO—who showed me that the connections made with patients were truly unique and the variety made it exciting and challenging every day. I loved being able to do procedures, have meaningful conversations with patients, see patients of all ages and develop lifelong connections with families.
Since you come from a clinical background, what advice would you give to students to improve their clinical skills?
Take advantage of every opportunity! I teach medical students that besides what I can teach them in my patient encounters, I encourage them to work with my medical assistants to do venipunctures, vaccinations, EKGs and wound care. These are all additional touchpoints with patients and procedures.
Being a good clinician starts with being able to communicate with patients; a thorough history is imperative in guiding you in the right direction to care for the patient. The more patient encounters you have—no matter what it is for—will improve your confidence and history taking skills.
What are your goals for students and/or ACOFP?
My overall goal has always been to encourage more students to consider the field of family medicine. I feel strongly that family medicine is both challenging and rewarding and should never be held as a “lower level” specialty. Family doctors have the ability to diversify their practices and careers in so many ways and to be quite successful at doing so; the message just needs to be heard by our students. I know this will remain a focus for ACOFP and look to our student leaders to help us spread the word.
What would you like to see from the student chapters or student members this year/next year?
I think continued enthusiasm as we evolve from the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been hard to do everything virtually, so it is exciting to see our extended family again at conventions and events. I think the best connections are made in person and when you can share your excitement for family medicine in person, it makes a difference. So, keep doing the good work at your campuses, engaging with students and your communities. Look for opportunities to interact with family medicine leaders in your state and nationally, so we can collectively spread the energy that is osteopathic family medicine!
What lessons would you to impart on to the future female leaders of ACOFP?
First and foremost, remember that you belong in leadership positions because you earned it on your merit and not your gender. That being said, I still believe that women can be treated differently than their male counterparts when in similar positions and situations. It just means you need to be more prepared, more eloquent, more ambitious, more thought provoking and more “you.” Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that women often have a higher emotional intelligence, more empathy, more collegiality and the ability to encourage teamwork. Use all your strengths and your “female-ness” to set you apart, instead of trying to just fit in with what are the perceived expected norms of the past. My favorite quote is “She believed she could, so she did.”
ACOFP is a community of current and future family physicians that champions osteopathic principles and supports its members by providing resources such as education, networking and advocacy, while putting patients first.
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