Member of the Month
Kurt Nicewander, MD, FAAFP
Kurt Nicewander, MD, FAAFP is a graduate of Indiana University School of Medicine and completed his residency in one of the first certified three-year family medicine residency programs at Akron City Hospital. A CAFP Life Member with the Ventura Chapter, Dr. Nicewander also is a charter member of the ABFM. He has been in practice for 46 years! “In 1970, as a graduate of one of the first residencies in FM, I never dreamed that by 2018, family medicine would not have reached the acceptance and support it deserves in our country. The most important resource I find CAFP offers me is helping to change the attitude, finally, that we are a specialty here to stay!”
Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it?
When I was young, an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor who treated my ear infection would come to my house late at night to lance and drain my infection. He had been a general practitioner (GP) before switching to ENT. I wanted to be a doctor like him from the age of five years. I enjoyed every aspect of medicine. A GP in my hometown in Indiana talked to me about his practice and he was very happy. My favorite aspect of family medicine is still, and will always remain, the relationships I had with patients and the knowledge I could gain in any of the specialties. I never have had a dull day in all my days of practice!
Were you inspired by anyone to pursue family medicine?
Yes, in addition to the doctor above, I was inspired by my aunt Ruth, who was a nurse, and my mother, who completed one year of nursing school before she had to drop out to take care of her adoptive mother. I also worked in the summer as an extern in a mental hospital and later for a pathologist at his clinical labs and attending a few autopsies in rural Indiana.
What is the most interesting/memorable experience you have had when dealing with a patient?
SO MANY…but I will pick one. An elder patient came to my office with her husband, who she was worried about. After seeing him, I saw her sitting in our lab talking with the nurse. I looked at her from the hallway and said hello, and from a distance I noticed something—she was very pale and she admitted she was tired. My office included our own CBC machine and I ordered a blood count. It was very low, and I turned to my nurse and said, “I bet she has colon cancer.” Within the week she was seen by gastroenterology and surgery and had a colectomy. She was in her 70s at the time but did well for some time after.
What one word or phrase characterizes your style of family medicine?
“Hoof beats in your backyard are probably a HORSE, but it could be a ZEBRA!”
What is the best experience you have had during your career as a family physician so far?
It probably was the AAFP training course that taught me to speak in public, and then becoming the host MD on a segment of a mini-news program on CBS-TV, called StopWatch, which was a local off-shoot of 60 Minutes.
It is important for me to be a member of CAFP and AAFP because:
Family medicine’s role in the U.S. health care system is essential and can only grow and prosper through continued organized efforts to promote and train our specialty.
The most important resource I find CAFP offers me is:
Helping to change the attitude, finally, that WE ARE A SPECIALTY HERE TO STAY.
What has been your best experience as a CAFP member? Why?
In all the other states in which I have practiced and taught, there has never been a comparable effort to explore, promote and discuss our specialty. Why is this my best experience? Because as a graduate of one of the first residencies in family medicine, in 1970, I never dreamed that by 2018, family medicine still would not have reached the acceptance and support it deserves in our country.
What are good qualities a family physician should have?
It helps to be extroverted and personable and to be driven by things other than ego.
Do you remember your personal statement for medical school? If so, would you like to share an excerpt?
“I have wanted to be a doctor since I was 8 years old.” I may have mentioned the doctors who have encouraged me, my mother and aunt. (I do NOT think I mentioned that my mom thought I might be able to buy her a “Pink Cadillac” if I became a doctor.)
What one sentence of advice would you give to medical students interested in family medicine?
It is a wonderful, rewarding choice to make, especially today, because the pay is improving and you can definitely find programs to help pay off expenses. This is especially likely if you agree to serve a needy area for a couple years.
How do you spend your free time?
As a Jazz drummer and in community chorus.
If you weren’t a doctor what would you be doing with your career?
What would your best friend say about you?
Smart and very liberal.
Tell us something fun/unusual about yourself.
For years I used a Donald Duck puppet to talk to children, and almost every kid smiled.
Tell us briefly about your family:
Sister – Art history PhD eligible; Brother – retired as PhD and head of Department of Statistics and Psychology, University of Oklahoma; Mother – Kindergarten teacher; Father – magna cum laude Forestry, Purdue University. Dr. Marie Nicewander may have been related (methadone rx).
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.