Member of the Month
Sumana Reddy, MD, FAAFP
Sumana Reddy, MD, FAAFP is a graduate of University of Toronto Faculty of Medicine and completed her residency in family medicine at Natividad Medical Center. She continues to work in the region at Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare. Dr. Reddy is a member of the Monterey-San Benito chapter of CAFP and serves as the District 7 Alternate to the CAFP Board of Directors. She has served as District 7 Director as well. She also is a long-time supporter of the Family Physicians PAC (FP-PAC). “I found 'my calling' only towards the very end of medical school after rotations in community health and family medicine. Every doctor I met on that FM rotation was my ideal of a good communicator and caring physician.”
Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it?
I started out in an MD/PhD program in molecular genetics and moved into family medicine because family doctors are great communicators.
Were you inspired by anyone to pursue family medicine?
I was delivered by an old style family doctor in Bozeman, Montana, Dr. Richard Nollmeyer. He accepted barter or payment plans and many of the graduate students at the University went to him. Having never met him, just knowing how impressed my parents were with his warm manner makes me feel inspired to maintain that spirit.
What is the most interesting/memorable experience you have had when dealing with a patient?
How is it possible to find one memorable patient in 27 years of care? I think of the adrenaline flowing as I managed an eclamptic patient post-partum. I recall catching an initially overlooked toddler in the emergency room whose esophagus had nearly corroded through with a watch battery, just based on her expression. Going through a whole lot of academic and life counseling for teens, interacting over picture books with babies and toddlers, and just being there for many other patients of all ages.
What one word or phrase characterizes your style of family medicine?
What is the best experience you have had during your career as a family physician so far?
Working with my team, staff, and physicians.
It is important for me to be a member of CAFP and AAFP because:
It's how we find a voice.
The most important resource I find CAFP offers me is:
A venue to gather.
What has been your best experience as a CAFP member? Why?
Meeting and sharing challenges.
How do you make a difference in family medicine and in your community?
By seeing patients day after day, in a style that is conscious of the need physicians have to do no harm. I do feel that this is very much harder to fulfil than we might think, and that educating ourselves on drug costs, ways our patients can navigate complex systems most effectively, and how we can best understand the interventions that are most likely to benefit our patients and those that are most likely to cause unneeded problems is a lifelong learning.
What are good qualities a family physician should have?
The ability to filter all that knowledge through common sense. Communication skills that thread the needle between too much information and being directive. Enjoying people.
Do you remember your personal statement for medical school? If so, would you like to share an excerpt?
I do not, but I was on my medical school's Admissions Committee and always marveled that so many personal statements revealed clarity of purpose and the drive toward a specific mission in medicine from a very young age. I barely understood what it was like to be a doctor, knowing no physicians personally, and found 'my calling' only towards the very end of medical school after rotations in community health and family medicine. Every doctor I met on that FM rotation was my ideal of a good communicator and caring physician.
What one sentence of advice would you give to medical students interested in family medicine?
This field is so much more intellectually and emotionally rewarding than you can imagine, but you will have to remind yourself to continue to be inquisitive and questioning to get the most out of your career.
How do you spend your free time?
I am trying to make more time for reading, fiction and non-fiction. I love to knit. I hike often and enjoy cooking. These days I'd rather hang around a great Farmer's Market than just about any other spot.
If you weren’t a doctor what would you be doing with your career?
I think I would be an educator of some other type or be working in public health.
What would your best friend say about you?
That I'm tenacious and idealistic.
Tell us something fun/unusual about yourself.
After medical school in Toronto, I had a gap in which I needed to make some money and, with no retail experience, was hired on the spot to work in a discount store. I folded and arranged clothes for a month, feeling grateful for the opportunity to work at something very different, until I was discovered to have gone to college and it just got too awkward. After that I tried telemarketing and other sales before moving to California and falling in love with the opportunity to learn Spanish and work in a farmworker community. Unrelated: I'm a Gilroy library commissioner.
Tell us briefly about your family:
There are 12 bookshelves in our house. Most every volunteer activity somehow involves books. My son is currently in an MFA program with an interest in generative language/poetry and my daughter has been building bilingual libraries for home daycares. We trade books and discuss them, and I'm grateful to be able to share this passion. My husband travels a lot but has always been supportive of my work.
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. The Member of the Month interviews are conducted by CAFP staff. If you choose to share this article, feel free, but give appropriate source and author information. 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 us at (415) 345-8667 or email.