Focus On Treating The Whole Person

This essay was written for the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine's Integrated Medical School and Family Medicine Residency Program, a transitional fourth year medical school experience that continues into residency.


by Jana Baatenburg

Since the beginning of medical school, my future career choice has never been far from my mind. Over the past three years I have done a lot of thinking about what I am looking for in my future career. As I look ahead to my final year of schooling and to my choice of residencies, I am convinced that a career in family medicine is the perfect fit for me based on this specialty's focus on treating the whole person and fostering relationship with patients, a philosophy that I wholeheartedly share. I also believe that family medicine is the ideal place for me to use my talents and incorporate my interests and passions into a well rounded and fulfilling career. This, combined with my love of Grand Rapids and desire to give back to the people of this city, make me the perfect candidate for the TIP program.

The importance of relationships has been made clear to me throughout my life. Starting with my parent's emphasis on spending time together as a family, both daily and on special occasions, I was shown early on how building strong relationships is essential to growing and maintaining mutual trust, respect and love. This time spent together has kept us close as our family has evolved and grown over time, emphasizing to me the power a firm foundation has in forming strong relationships, knowledge I will take with me into my career. As I strive to become the best physician I am capable of, this awareness has encouraged me to strive for similar strong relationships in my interactions with patients. I believe that only when these trusting connections are formed can a physician truly begin to treat the full person. Addressing every part of a person appeals to me and continues to draw me into the field of medicine that I believe does this best, family medicine.

The love that I have for my family and the encouragement they provide me is part of what appeals to me about the TIP program and the ability it would provide me to stay close to their support. Before beginning medical school I spent two years living away from home in Detroit. This was the first time I lived away from my family and the first time I lived anywhere besides West Michigan. This experience was invaluable in helping me grow and learn who I am; it helped develop independence and molded me into the person I am today. However, once those two years were finished, I joyfully moved back home, because that is what Grand Rapids is to me, it is home. There is excitement in dreaming about moving to new places, exploring new cities, discovering another culture, but in the end I know my roots are in West Michigan and this is where I want to spend my career. The TIP program would bring me one step closure to making this a reality.

Another strong attraction that the TIP program holds for me is the chance it would give me to start gaining hands on experience in the residency clinic before I graduate. This training will benefit me through the entire course of my residency as I seek to learn as much as I can and strive for excellence in my future career.  The mentorship of the residents and the knowledge I will acquire working with them will be an incredible blessing, deepening my desire to participate in this program and develop my skills.

I also wish to enter the field of family medicine because I believe it provides me the best opportunity to use my talents and incorporate my passions into a career that is satisfying and effective. I have always been an excellent listener; my ability to focus on the person I am interacting with and give them my full attention is something that will help me show my patients that they are valuable to me. I want to hear about their daily activities, their families and what is going on in their lives. I don’t want to focus solely on my patients’ medical problems; I want to truly get to know each one as a well-rounded individual. My ability to empathize with others while using these listening skills demonstrates how much I care for each individual. I also know that a career in family medicine involves a great deal of hard work, but this is not something I am afraid of. My past jobs and volunteer positions have helped shape me into an extremely hard and efficient worker which will help me succeed in the future. My strengths in these various areas will be fully put to use as I continue down the path to a career in family medicine.

The breadth of knowledge required to pursue a career in family medicine also strengthens its appeal for me. I have always been curious and enjoy learning about everything. Going into this field will allow me to continue to engage in study on a wide range of subjects and further expand my education on topics that encompass every system of the body. I have never felt the desire to focus my career so specifically on one subject; I am interested in being confronted with a wide variety of problems that will keep my mind sharp while maintaining a broad base of knowledge.

Finally, I wish to pursue a career in family medicine and participate in the TIP program due to the ability this will give me to incorporate my passion for preventative medicine and educating others about healthy living into my career. I truly believe that one of the absolute most important aspects of each individual’s health is his or her diet. Unfortunately, physicians are taught very little on this topic, which I believe is a shortcoming in the medical education system. My strong interest in nutrition and the science of food, how it impacts one’s body and health, has grown over the past several years. As I became more passionate about this topic I began to look for ways to incorporate it into a fulfilling career that combines my interest in medicine with my interest in nutrition. I believe that a career in family medicine will give me the best opportunity to combine these various components of who I am into one package that I can use to serve others.

Although it has taken me several years to recognize what exactly I desire to accomplish and achieve through my future career in medicine, I now know that my belief in the power of forming strong, trustworthy relationships, my love of family and the city of Grand Rapids and my interest in preventative medicine that incorporates my passion for health and nutrition all combine to convince me that a career in family medicine is the perfect choice for me. Being chosen for the TIP program would allow me to pursue this future in the place that I love, surrounded by people that support me with the most preparation possible.


(July 2015)