July 29, 2016

Triathlete named 2016 Family Medicine Resident of the Year

Alex Mroszczyk-McDonald, MD, smiling
Alex Mroszczyk-McDonald, MD

For the third year in a row, the California Academy of Family Physicians selected a medical resident from Kaiser Permanente as Family Medicine Resident of the Year.

The award recognizes a resident who demonstrates the finest qualities of family medicine, leadership, mentorship, and advocacy. Previous awardees were Daniel Pio, MD, (2014, Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles) and Aaron Edelstein, MD (2015, Kaiser Permanente San Diego).

This year’s award went to Alex Mroszczyk-McDonald, MD. Dr. McDonald completed his family medicine residency at Kaiser Permanente Fontana Medical Center where he is now pursuing a sports medicine fellowship. He also serves on an advisory group to the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine that will open in 2019 and recently shared why he chose Kaiser Permanente and what makes the training unique.

On his journey to Kaiser Permanente.

It’s a bit unconventional. I took four years off to compete as a professional triathlete after graduating from the University of Vermont College of Medicine in 2008. My internship was at Duke University where my wife completed her child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship, and I matched on a family medicine residency at Fontana where my wife signed on as a psychiatrist and resident faculty member. Sports, exercise physiology and medicine are my passions so it’s great to find ways they overlap.

On choosing a residency at Kaiser Permanente.

What attracted me to Kaiser Permanente was its focus on preventive medicine and the opportunities in an integrated system that allowed me to learn beyond the minimum requirements of residency. I was able to take a health policy elective, serve as a resident delegate to the American Academy of Family Physicians Congress of Delegates, and am now one of several resident advisors to the Kaiser Permanente School of Medicine. My program director didn’t just allow but supported these choices to enrich my education as a doctor and community leader.

On advice for students considering various residency programs.

Medical students have lots to think about but being a doctor is more than getting good grades and finding the best residency. I would argue interpersonal and communication skills and learning to work as a team are just as important. The doctor may be ultimately in charge but humility can go a long way in working as a team. Residency is hard no matter where you do it, and it’s good to find a program that values interpersonal skills, supports and allows you to challenge your own abilities and learning, and has faculty and residents you enjoy because there will be lots of time with them over three years.

On the biggest challenge in medicine today.

A fit man running where there are palm trees in the background
Alex Mroszczyk-McDonald, MD, running in a triathlon.

Focusing on just one challenge — it would be that what most affects our nation’s health has nothing to do with health care. Traditional medicine, the care we get from hospitals and doctors, affects only 10-15 percent of our health. The biggest challenge is the social determinants of health. Our home, neighborhood and community environment, family and social support, and economic stability are all more important. We know a patient with a small budget, limited access to healthy foods and easy access to fast food will have a much harder time controlling their diabetes. And it won’t be easy for them to exercise to lose weight if they live in a neighborhood with no sidewalks, limited green space or parks, or even worse, are concerned about their safety. If we really want to improve the health of our nation, we need to spend far more time and energy to address these problems.

On being involved in leadership and advocacy work.

I’ve served in several roles with the California and American Academy of Family Practice, and their work in areas like introducing medical students to the bright future in family medicine, providing resources to support practicing family physicians, and educating the public on the value of primary care interests me both personally and professionally.

On being a family medicine physician.

In family medicine, the patient-doctor relationship is key. It helps keep health care costs down and when there is a long relationship, everything — patient satisfaction and care, and physician satisfaction and enjoyment — improves.