Member of the Month
Rebecca Bertin, MD
Rebecca Bertin, MD is a graduate of Keck School of Medicine at USC and completed her residency at Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles. She currently practices as a partner of the Southern California Permanente Medical Group and serves as Clinical Faculty and Director of the Community Medicine fellowship for the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Family Medicine Residency Program. Dr. Bertin has been an engaged member of CAFP and the Los Angeles Chapter for just over ten years, and is the current LA Chapter President. On the most important resource CAFP offers her, Dr. Bertin says, “People. The collective energy, wisdom, breadth of experience, and heart of over 8,000 family physicians helps remind me why I chose this work in the first place, and allows me to refocus on the big picture when I start to get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks of the job.”
Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it?
I chose family medicine because of the wide variety of skills and knowledge it affords, the opportunity to build long-term relationships with my patients and the amazing family physicians I met while I was in training. My favorite part of family medicine is the “family” – getting to care for multiple family members across generations, and the support and collaboration I enjoy with my colleagues.
What is the most interesting/memorable experience you have had when dealing with a patient?
One that happened fairly recently was with a man in his 80s whom I had been seeing with his wife every few months over the past few years to check in on how each was managing their list of chronic conditions. One day the man checked in for his appointment, but his wife didn’t. My nurse called him back to check his vitals and asked, “Where’s your wife?” My patient closed his eyes and shook his head. She had died suddenly a few weeks before. When I walked into the room, this man, who had always been fairly quiet and let his wife do most of the talking, lit up and gave me a big hug. “It’s good to see you, doc.” In the couple of visits since then, I’ve been privileged to support this man through his grieving process. It showed me how much trust I can develop with my patients just by developing a routine of checking in.
What one word or phrase characterizes your style of family medicine?
Using the language of Gallup’s StrengthsFinder, I am a Developer. I focus on helping people find the next step forward toward their goal. Whether it’s controlling diabetes, losing weight, quitting smoking or training to become a physician, the goals my patients and trainees have are very big, and can sometimes seem overwhelming. I love helping people break down that lofty goal into the next one or two steps to take.
It is important for me to be a member of CAFP and AAFP because:
It gives me resources and support to continue the work of being a family physician in my community, and it takes my voice to places I can’t always be myself when important decisions are being made.
The most important resource I find CAFP offers me is:
People. The collective energy, wisdom, breadth of experience, and heart of over 8,000 family physicians helps remind me why I chose this work in the first place, and allows me to refocus on the big picture when I start to get bogged down in the day-to-day tasks of the job.
How do you make a difference in family medicine and in your community?
My primary role at work, beyond caring for patients on an individual basis, is as the director of our Community Medicine fellowship and the Community Medicine curriculum for residents. My goal is to connect family physicians with the needs of the community, both through the medical care we provide and community projects we create currently, and in the future by training family physicians who will go out into the community and continue providing this care throughout their careers. I create educational opportunities for the residents to think about health beyond the four walls of the clinic, through experiences in the community as well as didactics. I became interested in teaching as part of my work as a physician because I believe that I can make a bigger difference in the community by training community-minded physicians than I can providing individual patient care myself. It has been exciting to start seeing physicians I trained graduate and go out into the community to provide amazing service and care.
Tell us about a project in which you are involved and why it is important to you:
This academic year, I started a book club in my residency program. It started with a desire to create a space where residents and attending physicians could connect on a personal level, to share stories and experiences of the complicated human aspects of practicing medicine. I wasn’t sure how much interest there would be, but I’ve been blown away by the vulnerability, humor and strength that my colleagues have demonstrated in that space. It has been energizing and inspiring to me to be reminded of the privileges and beauty that come with being a family physician, and to see residents and practicing physicians come together and speak honestly about the challenges they’re facing. I think it is important as doctors to have space to reflect and find encouragement, and I hope to continue finding and creating these spaces throughout my career.
What are good qualities a family physician should have?
Patience, compassion, humor and being comfortable with uncertainty.
What one sentence of advice would you give to medical students interested in family medicine?
Always ask “Why?” Why are we doing that test? Why are we giving that treatment? Why am I choosing to spend my time the way I am? In medicine, and in life, there is rarely a single right answer. If you have a good reason why, then you’re probably on the right track!
How do you spend your free time?
Trying to keep that elusive “work-life” balance and take advantage of the enviable Southern California climate – hiking, going to spin class, visiting the beach on occasion and sitting on the porch drinking iced coffee with a friend.
If you weren’t a doctor what would you be doing with your career?
When I was in college I thought if I could find a way to be a full-time summer camp counselor I’d do that for a while. But, realistically, I’d probably be a teacher.
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.