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SEPTEMBER 2016 MEMBER OF THE MONTH


SARAH MCNEIL, MD, FAAFP


Sarah McNeil, MD, is a family physician with Contra Costa Health Services in Martinez, as well as a core faculty member with the Contra Costa Family Medicine Residency Program, where she leads the reproductive health curriculum. She is also medical director of TEACH (Training in Early Abortion for Comprehensive Healthcare), an academic community partnership that helps primary care providers and residencies integrate abortion training into their curricula and practice in order to become leaders in comprehensive reproductive health care. Dr. McNeil is passionate about reproductive health advocacy and has served as the Alameda-Contra Costa delegate to the CAFP, and as a California representative to the AAFP’s National Conference of Constituency Leaders. She completed her undergraduate studies at Hamilton College, medical school at Dartmouth Medical School, and her family medicine residency at Contra Costa Regional Medical Center in Martinez, where she served as chief resident.


Why did you choose family medicine, and what's your favorite aspect of it?

I wanted to provide continuity care, have a variable practice, and take care of reproductive-aged women. I applied to both OB/GYN and Family Medicine residencies, but after a few too many specialists discouraged me and multiple fafmily doctors invited me with open arms, it was clear to me that family doctors were my people. The variety of my schedule—I essentially change jobs every half day—keeps me on my toes and always interested. Mondays I do teaching in the morning and palliative care in the afternoon. Tuesdays I do urgent care clinic and residency admin in the afternoon. Wednesdays I teach at Planned Parenthood and run the Bay Area abortion training program, TEACH. Thursdays I work on labor and delivery at the county hospital. Fridays I teach Family Medicine clinic. On the weekends, I catch up on admin, do contract abortion work, and staff labor and delivery.


What is the most interesting/memorable experience you have had when dealing with a patient?

Too many to count! Dr. Glowa—family doctor and abortion provider—was an inspiration to me in medical school. I witnessed her providing amazing and compassionate continuity care to women at all stages of their reproductive life cycles. Linda Prine and her fellows presented at a STFM conference when I was a second year medical student, “Word choice in the well-woman exam.” The presentation was eye-opening and career-informing.


Who inspired you to pursue family medicine?

Too many to count! Dr. Glowa—family doctor and abortion provider—was an inspiration to me in medical school. I witnessed her providing amazing and compassionate continuity care to women at all stages of their reproductive life cycles. Linda Prine and her fellows presented at a STFM conference when I was a second year medical student, “Word choice in the well-woman exam.” The presentation was eye-opening and career-informing.

What one word or phrase characterizes your style of family medicine?

Patient autonomy.


What is the best experience you have had during your career as a family physician so far?</h4>

Having lots of variety in my work, every day and every week.


It is important for me to be a member of CAFP and AAFP because:

It provides a wonderful community of “my people,” doctors dedicated to improving patient care and healthcare.


What has been your best experience as a CAFP member? Why?

The first year that I brought residents to present the resolutions that we had written together, I was just beaming with pride. That was just such a wonderful experience.


The most important resource I find CAFP offers me is:

The staff. They provide endless support, encouragement and guidance.


How do you make a difference in family medicine and in your community?

I participate. I vote.

 

Tell us about a project in which you are involved and why it is important to you:

Each year, I mentor residents to write resolutions to bring to CAFP and the national forum. My hope is that they will be inspired to become involved.


What are good qualities a family physician should have?

Patience, ability to sit with uncertainty, empathy, commitment to continuous learning, interest in patient stories.


What one sentence of advice would you give to medical students interested in family medicine?

It’s an awesome career that allows so much flexibility! In watching my classmates from med school applying to post-fellowship jobs, I feel so lucky to have had more job offers than I know what to do with, in so many different parts of the country.


How do you spend your free time?

I love to do the typical Bay Area yuppie activities: hiking, road biking, yoga. I make every opportunity to eat meals with good friends.


If you weren’t a doctor what would you be doing with your career?

I used to say dolphin trainer, but after watching some documentaries, that has really fallen out of favor. I would say activist and teacher, but as a family doctor, I am already both of those things.


Tell us something fun or amusing about yourself:

My favorite texture is the matte finish on books.


Tell us briefly about your family:

My parents came from Australia in 1979 and “accidentally” had American daughters. My sister went to grad school in Australia, married a local, and now “accidentally” has an Australian daughter.


Each month, CAFP highlights one outstanding California family physician member who lends their voice, time, talent and resources to strengthen the specialty of family medicine and his or her community. If you would like to share your story or know a family physician colleague who deserves to be recognized for his or her impact or leadership, contact CAFP at 415-345-8667 or cafp@familydocs.org.