President of the largest CAFP chapter and the county hit the hardest by the pandemic, Dr. George hopes for change as vaccination rises.
With over two thousand members, the California Academy of Family Physicians chapter of Los Angeles is the largest of the organization. The new chapter president, Monique George, MD, is excited about the opportunity and feels the responsibility to keep the chapter growing.
“I'd like to continue to encourage more people to be members and to be involved,” she said. “Sometimes people are members, but they don't always attend the events that we do. So [we plan] to arrange events and encourage people to participate and to provide a range of events that might suit different people. I think these are important goals for me this year.”
Dr. George has been in the CAFP for about eight years, the last five on the executive committee, where she started as assistant secretary-treasurer. Now as president, she wants to broaden their engagement with residents and new graduates.
Vaccination undertaking is on the priority list for the Los Angeles chapter, the county hit the hardest by the pandemic and the first to hit one million cases of Covid-19, according to statistics.
“2020 and 2021 have been really difficult years for many people in LA County,” Dr. George said. “So I think right now equitable COVID vaccine administration, as well as housing and employment are key areas to focus on. And also getting kids back to in-person schooling is very important as well.”
According to her, LA County and the school board district have a timeline to get the kids back to school soon, with the reach of certain goals. The hope is to have them back in person by April.
Dr. George, 34, grew up in New Zealand, where she did med school. In 2011 she came to the United States and completed her family medicine training in California. She’s married and has two girls, a four-year-old and a baby of 20 months.
She found family medicine the best fit for her, as she enjoys being able to take care of most of her patient’s problems, whatever they are. Being able to be with patients over the long term is very meaningful to her, she says.
“I also really like figuring out the different kinds of patients,” she said. “When someone comes in and it's not clear what's going on, and we work through that process to come to a diagnosis and a treatment plan. I like the puzzle of that.”
She likes to get to know her patients really well, connecting with them and seeing them again for a follow-up. Time is the challenge. She loves spending time with her patients and often spends extra time with them when she feels they need her. Recently a patient in her seventies was hospitalized with COVID. After being discharged, she came back a few weeks later for follow-up and recounted how her whole family had COVID and her mother, who was over 100 years old had died while she was in the hospital.
“It was important to me that I was able to be there for her as she talked about the grief of her mother,” Dr. George said.
Her secret to coping with the busyness of life is to try to make the most of where she is at any time.
“When I'm at home, I make the most of my home time,” she said. “And when I'm at work, I try to get as much done as I can in the day so that I can enjoy my time with the kids in the evening. My husband is a stay-at-home dad. That helps me as well.”
Like other chapters in the state, the CAFP Los Angeles is hosting all their events virtually, but Dr. George hopes that soon physicians will be able to spend time in person, as more people are vaccinated.
“I think it will be very important for family physicians to be able to get together in person later in 2021 to connect and be recharged by having that connection with other physicians.”
For now, she tells her colleagues:
“Hang in there. I know that many people have been working very hard due to the COVID pandemic. And it's been tough on family physicians in a variety of ways, but I'm hopeful that as we vaccinate more and more, we'll be able to spend more time in person with each other.”