Catherine Scarbrough M.D., MSc, FAAFP

Hometown: Memphis, TN
Education: Union University (BS), University of Sussex, Falmer, UK (MSc), University of Tennessee Health Science Center (MD), University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Fellowship, Faculty Development)
Favorite Sports Team: Memphis Tigers
Favorite Movies: Star Wars, Swiss Family Robinson, Sound of Music
Favorite Music: Sarah Groves, Rich Mullins, The Eagles, Piano Guys, Lady Antebellum
Favorite Books: Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis); Lineage of Grace (Rivers); Patrick Lencioni management books

My career started in international family medicine teaching. There was an exponential learning curve during my first few months overseas. As a physician, I quickly had to learn the various presentations and treatments of infectious diseases I had only previously read about, how to treat premature babies in a NICU with no surfactant or ventilators, and how to deal with the ethical concerns that arise from cultural and societal differences and belief systems. As faculty, we were faced with many obstacles, not unlike those faced in the US – from where will the funding come, where will our residents do rotations, what core curriculum should be required for all of our graduates, and how will we evaluate their progress.

The breadth of teaching in such a place was fraught with difficulties, including taking interns with little to no clinical skills but in three short years, graduating them with not only sound Family Medicine training, but also advanced OB GYN and surgical skills.

Upon my return to the US, I joined a private practice in rural AL. This allowed me to continue to use my inpatient, outpatient, and procedural skills while expanding my practice management knowledge. From there, I moved back into teaching, shifting from university-based to FQHC-based to community-based Family Medicine residency programs.

This variety of settings has allowed me many opportunities to learn and teach both here and abroad. These experiences translate directly to my current role at GRMC. My time overseas and working in underserved US communities underscored the importance of holistic care, which considers biopsychosocial, spiritual, community, and cultural factors that may affect patient care. This worldview leads me to ask residents and students if they have considered deeper aspects of patient care such as if their patients can afford their medicines, whether they have a ride to get that mammogram, or if their patient appears “noncompliant” simply because they are illiterate. My goal is for our residents and students to go forth treating people and not just diseases. I want our next generation of Family Medicine physicians to consider themselves as partners for health with their patients.

Things are very different from my first day – new faces, new places. Yet, there is also so much to be done as we continue to face primary care shortages, changing government regulations, and the need for true innovation in all aspects of teaching medicine. I envision our residents and students as well-prepared to deliver high-quality, well-organized, compassionate and competent health care that allows them to have thriving practices for many years to come.

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