Who am I? So begins the zero-to-hero blog challenge. Hope you enjoy my monthlong January jumpstart to master blogging basics!
Let’s start with my hyphenated professional identity. I am a physician-writer-educator-advocate. And person.
I am a family physician working two days a week in a federally qualified health center on Chicago’s South Side, and just finished my five year National Health Service Corps stint in October. I went into primary care because I like to keep people healthy, addressing their physical, social and mental health. Bio-psycho-social is the term I learned as I was applying to medical school, and I like it. In primary care, most of the patients present with the same biological and psychological chief complaints—diabetes, obesity, asthma, hypertension, arthritis, depression, anxiety. Frequently, the social issues are the same too. Many of my patients—70% Hispanic, about 30% African American—are uninsured, under the poverty line, renting what may be substandard housing or facing foreclosure, far from family in Mexico, facing violence on the streets of Chicago and increasing drug violence in their home villages. People live difficult lives. These social determinants impact their health. I am grateful for having a social worker and the student group Health Leads in my clinic to help me care for the social needs of the patients. I wish I also had a lawyer in the clinic to help me address the structural determinants of health—the laws that landlords ignore to leave rats in asthmatic patients’ homes, or an unfair justice system that leaves the community distrusting the police.
I practice community medicine in an urban environment. My patients are the family members and neighbors of the medical assistants and patient service representatives who work with me to care for their community. Some have knit me red wool scarves and made dangly gold earrings for me or brought me a bucket of tomatoes from their garden. Others have threatened to kill me if I don’t give them pain medications—or antibiotics. I prescribe yoga with abandon, and teach breathing exercises for patients to manage the stress of living conditions I cannot change in a 15 minute clinic visit. Learning patients’ unique personal stories is what I love most about medicine.
I am also a writer who keeps a personal journal of the world and my experiences in it, modeled after a scientific notebook using the techniques I learned freshman year at Yale: The Scientific Method, 101. I include dates, locations, page numbers, with a table of contents, usually updated on long plane flights during what have sadly become increasingly sporadic travels. As a college student on a study abroad program to study health and development in Senegal West Africa, I learned to write “Field Observation Reports” and “Personal Observation Reports”—descriptions of the world I inhabit and my reactions to it. Perhaps I should add “latent anthropologist” to my list of descriptors.
I am also an educator, the Director of Community Health and Service Learning for the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine. I appreciate the opportunity to introduce students to community health, and have thought deeply about how best to share the issues that are important to me. One goal is to promote student awareness of the social and structural determinants of health. Another is to build the future primary care workforce.
And I am an advocate—for my patients, for societal change, for new laws that might help us to create a health care system that will be healthy, caring, and a system. I join others to advocate together for change. For the past three years, I have written monthly posts for Progress Notes, the blog of the grassroots physician organization Doctors for America. I am increasingly active with other policy groups now too–the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group, the National Physicians Alliance as a Copello Fellow. I am a supporter of the Affordable Care Act, despite its limitations, and want to continue to improve the law to shift the structure of our system to expand affordable, accessible, quality health care to all Americans.
As a college student, I wasn’t sure if I would do medicine, public health, or writing. Today, I find my work incorporating them all. With Prevention Not Prescription, I hope to share my approach to health and healing with more people.
This is my professional self. PreventionRx, my new handle on twitter. RxPrevention, my new gmail name. Claiming squatters rights in the wild West of social media, before I figure out what to do with the land.
I also am and will always remain, Kohar Jones: wife, daughter, sister, friend; Armenian, American, first generation immigrant and descendant of trappers and traders; Coloradoan, New Jerseyite, Yalie, Rhode Islander, Chicagoan; cross country skier, runner, sometime swimmer, yoga dabbler, helmetless biker to work; expert salad-maker, cook who has scorched many a pot; movie lover, book lover, nature lover; made instantly happy with visits to the Lake Shore Path to see the awesome Rothko horizon of sky meeting water over Lake Michigan.