Resident Roundup: Alexa Mieses, M.D., MPH

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Alexa Mieses, MD, MPH
Alexa Mieses, MD, MPH

There I sat, rattling off my plans for the next one to five years. I was sitting in my program director’s office for an advisement meeting. “Of course, I would like to eventually run for the Board of Directors, but you know I’d probably better think about applying for this other position first in order to get a better understanding of--”

“Why not now?” Dr. Martinez-Bianchi asked.

“Well, you know, like I said before applying for a prominent leadership position like that I’d really like to learn more about ...”

“Why not now?” she repeated.

Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, M.D., FAAFP, is a leader in family medicine, in working to achieve health equity, and (apart from all of the other wonderful things about my residency program) reaffirmed my initial decision to train at Duke Family Medicine. Familiar with my strengths, weakness and accomplishments, she saw that I was ready to assume a particular leadership role in family medicine before I realized it myself.

Family physicians have a unique opportunity to serve as leaders, as our unique ethos and training equips us to improve the lives of entire communities. I have held a leadership role in family medicine since 2013. I started as the president of my school’s family medicine interest group and worked my way up the ranks to, most recently, serving on the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) national Commission on the Health of the Public and Science. I have always tried to learn my way around every rung of the ladder before advancing in leadership. I saw an AAFP Board of Directors position no differently. The resident representative to the board brings the resident perspective to all AAFP Board deliberations, helps orient other resident officers to the AAFP governance and policy, communicates issues of importance to the appropriate AAFP commissions, and coordinates the discussions of the resident delegation at the AAFP Congress of Delegates, among other responsibilities.

However, Dr. Martinez-Bianchi encouraged me to take, what felt to me, like a risk. I quickly realized that no one ever feels completely prepared to take on the next challenge in life. Therefore, I decided to take her advice and run for election to the Board of Directors. Without mentorship, I may have allowed self-doubt to outweigh my ability to further challenge myself.

I’m so glad I took my mentor’s advice, as I was successfully elected by my peers to the AAFP Board of Directors at this year’s annual AAFP National Conference for Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students in Kansas City, Mo. My mentor saw that I was ready for the position before I did, and challenged me to move out of my comfort zone. I will now represent to the board the thoughts and voices of family medicine residents nationwide.

Another great mentor in my life is Irwin Dannis, M.D., a retired internal medicine physician. Frustrated by the dysfunctional status of our health care system, he has spent most of his time since retirement mentoring the next generation of physicians. I am one of those former premedical students.

We met at a networking event hosted by Mentoring in Medicine about 10 years ago. With a calm disposition and unhurried speech, Dr. Dannis began to inquire about my life and upbringing. Whether or not Dr. Dannis saw potential in me is irrelevant. Most importantly, Dr. Dannis took an interest in me; took an interest in my goals, hopes and dreams.

Dr. Dannis provided encouragement during tough times. He provided practical advice about navigating the medical school application process. He served as a cheerleader, confidant, adviser, teacher and role model. He was a source of inspiration, motivating me to pay it forward and mentor those who come after me. Dr. Dannis will leave his mark, his legacy, on our health care system through the hundreds (if not thousands) of students he has guided down the premedical path.

My career as a physician started as a dream, realized by the mentors I’ve met along the way. Neither of my parents went to college. I’m the first person in my family to pursue medicine. It was those who walked this path before me who guided and encouraged me to take risks.

Alexa Mieses is a second-year resident with the Duke Family Medicine Residency Program. Email with questions.
Editor’s note: Duke Family Medicine residents guest blog every month. Blogs represent the opinion of the author, not the Duke Family Medicine Residency Program, the Department of Community and Family Medicine or Duke University.