Member of the Month
Matthew Varallo, DO
Matthew Varallo, DO is a graduate of Western University College of Osteopathic Medicine of the Pacific, and recently completed his residency at Eisenhower Medical Center Family Medicine Residency Program. During his years as a student and resident, Dr. Varallo has been a consistently engaged member, serving on the Medical Student and Resident Affairs Committee, Co-Chairing the Student and Resident Councils, and acting as Resident Co-director on CAFP’s Board of Directors. Congratulations to Dr. Varallo on his recent graduation from residency and to him and his wife for welcoming their first child – Rose Kalyn – into the world. We can’t wait to see what’s next!
Why did you choose family medicine, and what’s your favorite aspect of it?
I chose family medicine because I enjoy connecting with people and a broad scope of practice. Family medicine is fun because you can see patient after patient using a wide variety of skills that you can’t use in other specialties. From treating a head cold to preventing a hospital admission for COPD or heart failure; the days in family medicine bring variety and excitement.
What is the most interesting/memorable experience you have had when dealing with a patient?
I had a 43-year-old male patient who was coming in for increased fatigue. He mentioned he had been healthy all his life with the exception of a “heart murmur” diagnosed when he was a teenager that was never followed up. It turned out that he had mitral valve prolapse and ejection fraction of 20 percent after it was corrected. After a long hospitalization, he was sent home. He was back in my office the next day with new swelling in his feet and atrial fibrillation at a rate of 120. I recommended he return to the hospital and directly admitted him. That night he had an episode of ventricular fibrillation and was quickly resuscitated. Today he is alive and well and is awaiting a heart transplant.
what one word or phrase characterizes your style of family medicine?
The patient always comes first.
what is the best experience you have had during your career as a family physician so far?
I had a patient whom I knew all throughout residency. He did not like doctors, but he liked me. We called each other by first name over the three years we became friends. I looked after his blood pressure, vertigo and alcoholism. At the end of my residency, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 gastric adenocarcinoma. I then provided care to him at his home on hospice. It is hard to watch someone you care for slowly get sicker and sicker, but the friendship is well worth it. Residency ended and I still call him to check in and chat.
It is important for me to be a member of CAFP and AAFP because:
In these times, being a good physician who cares for patients in a clinical setting is not enough. Being active in CAFP and AAFP provides me with the opportunity to be part of the discussion about the shape medicine is taking. Being politically active in the advocacy efforts of CAFP and AAFP enables us to ensure that our patients continue to get access to healthcare.
the most important resource i find cafp offers me is:
Mentors. As a young physician, I can say that the friendships and the mentoring that I have received through the academy has shaped me personally and professionally.
how do you make a difference in family medicine in your community?
I have always wanted to give back to my community after I completed my medical training. I recently moved back to my hometown and became the volunteer team physician for my old high school football team.
What are good qualities a family physician should have?
Compassion, diligence and integrity.
Do you remember your personal statement for medical school? If so, would you like to share an excerpt?
All my experiences have focused my love of people and my desire to be a physician. The reason I want to be a doctor, the reason I want to help people, is because every patient with whom I ever interact is special to someone. That patient is someone’s wife, husband, child, cousin or best friend. It does not matter what they come in for; the bottom line is that they need help and deserve the same compassion and caring that they would receive from someone who loves them. The night I watched a man die, I also watched a doctor rip a family’s heart out and walk away. Given the opportunity, I would be there for the family to console them and ease their pain. Afterwards, I would move on to help the next patient because the next patient is special to someone else.
What one sentence of advice would you give to medical students interested in family medicine?
Family medicine is demanding, difficult and the most rewarding thing I have ever done.
How do you spend your free time?
I enjoy barbecuing and smoking meat. My wife and I enjoy working on our aquarium together as well.
If you weren’t a doctor what would you be doing with your career?
I have no idea because I never wanted to be anything else.
what would your best friend say about you?
He’s my brother.
Tell us briefly about your family:
My wife and I had our first child four months ago and we couldn’t be happier!
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.