Member of the Month
George Kent, MD
George Kent, MD is a graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and completed his residency at the Community Hospital of Sonoma County Family Medicine residency in Santa Rosa. He currently serves as Associate Director of Stanford-O’Connor Family Medicine Residency Program and is an Adjunct Clinical Professor at Stanford School of Medicine. Dr. Kent has been an engaged member of CAFP and the Santa Clara Chapter for more than three decades, most recently as a faculty member at the annual Clinical Forum. From a career chock full of fascinating experiences, Dr. Kent shared this tidbit, “I play keyboards and have gigged in clubs for years – I appreciate being part of the local musician community. Once I delivered a baby between sets!”
Why did you choose family medicine?
Like most medical students who ultimately choose the field, I found that I enjoyed every clinical rotation and didn’t want to exclude any subject area from clinical practice. I loved OB, but didn’t want to give up caring for the babies afterwards. I loved the intellectual challenges of internal medicine and the subspecialties. I loved the OR, but decided that I could compromise by learning outpatient surgical procedures. The broad scope of practice can be intimidating to some, but I found it fascinating and I knew that it would be unlikely that I would ever get bored. I dislike boredom more than just about anything!
Were you inspired by anyone to pursue family medicine?
The first person in my life to inspire me was my father, who was an OB/GYN in Kansas City, Missouri – I saw how his patients loved and appreciated him. Quite often, when we were out and about, one of his many patients would shower him with affection. He delivered several thousand babies in his long career. Later on, as an undergraduate at Stanford, struggling with the rigorous pre-med courses, I remember that on a particularly difficult day when I was considering changing my career direction, a friend told me about a clinic in a remote area in Sinaloa, Mexico where volunteers were helping to teach village health workers. I took a year off from school and experienced primary care medicine firsthand – I delivered babies with midwives; treated a variety of conditions with the help of occasional physician volunteers, a good supply of textbooks and donated medicines as resources; traveled by horseback deep into the mountains to immunize children; and basically immersed myself in the role of a volunteer health worker and teacher/learner. The experience was exhilarating and confirmed that family medicine was my calling – I realized that having a broad range of skills would help me provide what most people need, in virtually any setting. Later, as a medical student at Case Western Reserve University, I had good role models and a strong family medicine department to counteract the bias against primary care rampant in most academic settings, and persists today. I liked being part of a “counterculture” movement, knowing that our nation needed more primary care physicians despite the disincentives.
Describe some interesting and memorable experiences with your patients:
So many come to mind – I’ve been doing this for more than 30 years! First and foremost, I’ve developed countless close relationships over the years – that is the most rewarding aspect of being a family physician – being part of the life cycle of families, literally from birth to death – delivering babies and helping to nurture and protect them, helping their parents and grandparents through the challenges life brings. It’s a great honor and privilege to have developed that intimacy with my patients. Additionally, I love working with medical students and residents – teaching them, nurturing them, helping them with their education and professional development has been a highlight of my career. They have taught me as well, and I’m sure that I’m a better doctor because of them. Also, there’s my experience with HIV medicine and the dramatic impact of the AIDS epidemic. After completing my residency in Santa Rosa, I trained as an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control during the mid-80s, when AIDS was considered the epidemic of our time. After joining the faculty of the residency program in San Jose in 1987, I wanted to incorporate HIV medicine in my practice and completed a “mini-residency” at UCSF. I have seen HIV evolve from a fatal disease to a chronic, treatable condition and feel privileged to be part of that history. I learned so much from my patients’ struggles and triumphs – the tragedy of the early years has evolved into hope, but many challenges still face us.
Describe your style of practice:
“Full-scope.” I still do full OB, hospital work, office procedures, women’s health, pediatrics and HIV medicine. I feel fortunate to practice and teach where I can provide full-scope family medicine.
It is important for me to be a member of CAFP and AAFP because:
I appreciate CAFP for its role in protecting and strengthening family medicine in California – CAFP provides high-quality education, political advocacy and support for medical students and residents. I enjoy catching up with my colleagues at the meetings. CAFP and the AAFP advocate for family physicians in ways that other organizations, which are generally dominated by subspecialists, do not.
tell us about a project you are involved in and why it is important to you
For more than 10 years I have helped organize a community health fair to provide medical, dental and vision services to underserved people in the greater San Jose community. It is an interfaith project that hopefully has contributed to promoting peace and coexistence among our diverse communities.
What one sentence of advice would you give to medical students interested in family medicine?
“Follow your passion, listen to your heart and don’t let anyone discourage you!”
If you weren’t a physician. what would you be doing with your career? Tell us something fun/unusual about yourself.
I can honestly say that, to this day, I have no regrets – I still can’t imagine having done anything else! If I weren’t a doctor, however, I would probably have tried to become a professional musician. I play keyboards and have gigged in clubs for years – I appreciate being part of the local musician community. Once I delivered a baby between sets!
Tell us briefly about your family:
My wife is a licensed clinical social worker who is a therapist in a hospital-based behavioral health program. Our children seem to have followed our general career paths – our son is a second-year surgery resident in Boston, and our daughter will be entering a master’s program in occupational therapy later this year.
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.