The Class of 2017’s Yeri Park enjoyed her trips to the pediatrician when she was a little girl in Korea.
But after her family moved to the United States when she was in the fourth grade, they didn’t have health insurance. She watched her mother suffer with migraines and wondered why she didn’t go to the doctor.
“A doctor is someone who’ll make you feel better, no matter what, if you’re sick,” she thought. “As I got older I started realizing it wasn’t just the financial barriers, it was the cultural barrier of not being able to speak English to her physician.”
It cemented her ambition to become a doctor who could change the culture and be able to understand her patients.
Now a third-year student in VCU’s School of Medicine, Park has been named a regional coordinator for the American Academy of Family Physicians’ National Family Medicine Interest Group Network. As one of five student coordinators, she will serve as a consultant and resource for student interest groups at medical schools in Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Washington D.C.
“Family Medicine Interest Groups are one of the best ways that medical students learn about the breadth, depth and rewards of family medicine,” said Wanda Filer, M.D., president of the AAFP. “These regional coordinators are key to introducing students not only to family physicians, but also to the opportunities out there for both service and leadership in their communities and their profession.”
As an FMIG regional coordinator, Park provides a role model for fellow students at a time when demand for family physicians is growing.
Park has been an active leader on the MCV Campus as well as in VCU’s Student Family Medicine Association, which received the AAFP Program of Excellence Award. She is a member of fmSTAT – the medical school’s Family Medicine Scholar Training and Admission Track program that’s designed to nurture and develop students interested in careers in family medicine with training in topics such as health policy, community engagement and patient centered medical homes.
In October 2015, the Medical Society of Virginia Foundation honored Park for her work with medically underserved communities with their Salute to Service Award by a Medical Student.
“I find it rewarding being able to serve in the low income communities because everybody is very thankful for the work that we’re doing, and it’s definitely a population that’s high in need,” Park said in an MSV video interview. “Volunteering is something that always brings you back to why you decided to become a doctor.”
Founded in 1947, the AAFP represents 120,900 physicians and medical students nationwide. It is the only medical society devoted solely to primary care. The AAFP established the National FMIG Network to strengthen the on-campus organizations that focus on promoting family medicine as a career. Composed of campus faculty and student FMIG leaders, appointed regional coordinators and an elected national coordinator, the network fosters communication among FMIGs across the country.
“Family medicine is so diverse,” Park said. “I love being able to get to know my patients and being able to coordinate for them to receive the best care, from babies, adults to the elderly. I believe this is one of the most exciting times to be part of family medicine.”