April 2016 Member of the Month
Robin Linscheid Janzen, MD
Originally from Fresno, Dr. Linscheid Janzen’s career in family medicine has taken her from medical school in Kansas to hospitals in Paraguay and Honduras. “Learning about each patient’s cultural background often opens up more possibilities for a more effective healing process,” Dr. Linscheid Janzan told us. “I have developed a type of double vision; one eye is fixed firmly on the appropriate medical attention needed and the other takes in the cultural aspects that are an integral part of the healing process.”
After working internationally, Dr. Linscheid Janzen returned to her native Fresno, where she currently works at Fresno Women’s Medical Group. She also serves as the Vice President of the Central Valley Academy of Family Physicians.
Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it?
I chose family medicine because I love the variety. It allows me the flexibility to learn about and care for a wide range of patients. I also have a particular interest in pediatrics, women’s health and obstetrics, and family medicine allows me to practice in all of these areas.
Were you inspired by anyone to pursue family medicine?
So many great family physicians have inspired me and prompted me to pursue family medicine but four in particular shaped my love for the specialty and encouraged me early on in my studies to pursue family medicine.
Dr. Terry Chappell is a small town doctor in Ohio who I got to know in college because I was friends with his daughter. He showed me how to treat the whole patient and how community and family effect your treatment plan for each individual patient.
I met Dr. Sean Schafer, who used to work with the UCSF Fresno Residency program, in my first year of medical school when I spent a summer doing research with him in family medicine. His kindness, expanse of knowledge and love for the specialty prompted me to look into family medicine.
Dr. Wesley Schmidt, who I worked with in Paraguay between my third and fourth year of medical school, showed me how essential family medicine is around the world. He helped start a family practice residency in Paraguay which allowed doctors to be trained with the right variety of skills to go back to their small towns and take care of the whole person and the whole town.
Dr. Rick Kellerman was my mentor and the family medicine department chair in my third and fourth year of medical school inspired me in so many ways. He encouraged me and two other students to pursue starting a student-run clinic, and now 10 years later that clinic is still serving an underserved population in Wichita, Kansas.
All of these people taught me that family medicine takes a lot of hard work but is incredibly rewarding and allows for so much variety and a sense of joy in what you do.
What is the most interesting/memorable experience you have had when dealing with a patient?
During the year I lived in Paraguay, I ended up working at a hospital in the capital city of Asuncion with their family medicine residency program. Paraguay is a strange mix of cultures and languages and it’s not uncommon to find a blond-haired, blue-eyed German sitting next to an indigenous Guarani. By this time, I was almost fluent in Spanish and even spoke some Guarani. I did not speak much German, however, so when I encountered a German-speaking women ready to go into surgery there was little I could say to her. She was obviously scared and unsure of her surroundings. She grabbed my hand and I walked with her to the operating room and said a prayer in German which is one of the few things I learned to speak in German from my grandparents. She looked at me with relief in her eyes and smiled and relaxed a little. This has always stuck with me because it was such a little thing, and yet to her it was so important.
Learning to connect with patients, even in the smallest ways, can make all the difference in how effective their care is and their healing process. Connecting to patients is why I chose family medicine and it’s why I still enjoy going to work each day.
What one word or phrase characterizes your style of family medicine?
I asked my colleague and she said, “Whole medicine, mind, body and soul, and whole person be it baby or granddaddy, man or women!”
What is the best experience you have had during your career as a family physician?
After my first year in practice my husband and I took a group of pre-med students to Honduras on a service and learning trip.
We set up makeshift clinics in people’s homes, handed out anti-parasitic medications and distributed canned meat to local preschools. Our medical clinic consisted of a patio in someone’s house; in one corner a dentist was pulling teeth, in one corner family doctor, Dr. Esther Yoon, and I saw patients, another corner we set up the pharmacy … in between it all chickens, dogs and cats were weaving their way under our chairs. My husband is an art professor at Fresno Pacific University and while we were there he became our pharmacist! It was an amazing experience to be able to provide some simple health education, nutrition and acute care to people who would never be able to afford to see a doctor.
We had a biology professor with us who helped us organize cooking lessons using the nutrient-rich Chaya plant, which grows everywhere in Honduras. Many Hondurans are poor and have very poor diets consisting of a lot of sugar and junk food, which is cheaper than fresh vegetables. However, everyone has a Chaya plant in their yard. Nutrition is so basic to health and learning to cook in a healthy way with readily available vegetables is something universally helpful around the world.
I enjoy the teaching aspect of being a doctor and not only did I get to teach patients, but it was amazing to see the students learn about what it is like to live in extreme poverty around the world and think about ways we all can help improve a community’s health using resources that are locally available.
It is important for me to be a member of CAFP and AAFP because:
I enjoy staying connected to colleagues and the CME opportunities are always high quality. I also think CAFP and AAFP do such important work in advocating for primary care and family medicine, which is so important to the health of our medical system nationwide.
What has been your best experience as a CAFP member? Why?
I had a wonderful experience last year at the All Member Advocacy Meeting in Sacramento. It was great to hear what legislature is being considered and gave me a head start on some important bills that were passed this last year. I also enjoy the Clinical Forum which is always a great overview of the most current guidelines and updates in medicine.
The most important resource I find CAFP offers me is:
The legislative updates and CME opportunities are important to me and keep me informed on the leading edge of medicine and how to stay involved in public policy.
How do you make a difference in family medicine and in your community?
I am one of a few family doctors in Fresno who still practices obstetrics and delivers babies. I often find myself in a unique position to be an advocate for family medicine since I work closely with a lot of physicians who are not of my specialty. Fresno has an extreme shortage of primary care physicians, and is often a mystery to patients and other doctors what family medicine is all about, and how we are uniquely able to coordinate patient care. Since I went to medical school in Kansas, where the specialty of family medicine was created, I learned a great deal about the history of family medicine. I find that when people hear what all we can offer as a specialty it is what they have been searching for and what has been missing from their care. I am also involved in our local CAFP chapter, and we are continually working on projects to address particular needs in our community related to education, advocacy and service.
Tell us about a project in which you are involved and why it is important to you:
I have just organized our local CAFP chapter meeting on SB128, the End-of-Life Option Act. I am Vice President of the Central Valley Academy of Family Physicians, which allows me to explore a number of issues immediately important to our community. We have so many questions and concerns about how we counsel and respond to patients who might be interested in end-of-life options and dying. We had a phenomenal panel of doctors, an ethicist, and a professor of philosophy who spoke on this topic at the end of January.
Outside of medicine I am involved in a quilting group. We donate our time and materials to make quilts, which we auction off once a year through Mennonite Central Committee. The proceeds and quilts go to help those in need around the world. The group is important to me in a number of ways. It’s a multigenerational group and a tradition that my grandparents and great grandparents learned, and in this way I feel connected to my own heritage. At the end of each year we have some amazing and useful by-products of our time together.
What are good qualities a family physician should have?
A family physician should be a good listener and a fierce advocate. You must be humble and willing to change course, as well as able to improvise to meet each patient’s particular needs.
What one sentence of advice would you give to medical students interested in family medicine?
Family medicine gives you so many possibilities to stretch your mind and meet interesting people and it never gets boring! I have colleagues practicing in Africa fighting Ebola and others working in small towns in Kansas. Each is equally important, but their patient population is vastly different. I love that as a family physician all these types of medical practices are possible.
How do you spend your free time?
I go to a lot of jazz gigs since my husband plays jazz guitar, and is often playing in town. Recently I have become involved in a feminist book club, a fun group of amazing women from all different professions and interests. It helps keep me grounded, because most of the time I am running around with my two toddlers playing dress up, building houses with Legos and shuttling them to gymnastics, school and zoo outings.
If you weren’t a doctor what would you be doing with your career?
If I had not been accepted into medical school, I was going to go to grad school in neuropsychology. I was really interested in the mind/body connection in college and how music in particular affects our brain waves and shapes our emotions. I have always been a big environmentalist and loved digging in the ground so part of me would love to be an organic farmer too!
What would your best friend say about you?
"Wind it up!" I twirl my hair when I'm thinking and they like to joke that that's how I get my brain going.
Tell us something fun/unusual about yourself:
Since I went to the University of Kansas for medical school I became a diehard Jayhawk college basketball fan. Kansans are serious about their college basketball, it's hard not to get sucked in! Rock chalk Jayhawk, go KU!
Tell us briefly about your family:
My husband, Chris Janzen, is an assistant professor of art at Fresno Pacific University and teaches all of their studio art classes, as well as exhibits locally. He also plays jazz guitar in numerous bands in town. We have two daughters, Analia, four, and Nellie, two and a half, a dog Maya, cat Gato (named by my four-year-old) and two chickens.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.