Jocelyn Morin, who recently completed her residency at Ohio State University, has joined the staff at Community Memorial Hospital. She is practicing family medicine at CMH’s Family Health Center in Cazenovia.
By Patricia J. Malin
A.: It feels pretty amazing to have arrived at this point. I have my ideal job as an outpatient family doctor. I love my work and I have strong support from my team at Community Memorial. The village of Cazenovia is a beautiful place to live and raise a family. A nice bonus is that my husband also has his dream job as a tenure track professor at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, so it would be accurate to say we’re putting roots down here. I plan to practice in this area for a long time, and I’m very excited about building relationships with my patients and the community.
Q.: As a medical student, what were some of your memorable experiences in Africa with the Peace Corps and later in Vietnam?
A.: I actually went into Peace Corps service after completing my bachelor’s degree at Dartmouth College, Hanover, N.H. I hadn’t started any medical training. My primary assignment was teaching at a high school in Malawi, where I lived for two years.
I enjoyed my time there so much, I signed up for another nine-month service in Lesotho teaching chemistry at a nursing college. Much later, I spent a month in Vietnam as a medical student, studying tropical medicine at a teaching hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.
I benefited immeasurably from my experiences. I’d say my service in Malawi was the most formative, although I did meet my husband in Lesotho. He was also a Peace Corps volunteer, and was recruited to teach physics at the same nursing college as me.
Vietnam expanded my clinical experiences, allowed me to share skills and training with other providers, and offered a contrasting example of health care delivery to what we have in the U.S.
Malawi taught me about service, community, resilience, and patience. So many people welcomed me and took me under their wing. One anecdote I often tell happened within my first month in the country. During training, I lived with a host family in a mud hut with a thatched roof. I had a water filter that I filled up to the brim before leaving for language lessons. When I returned, I realized I’d left the spigot wide open on my filter. All that freshly filtered water had drained out and melted the floor!
I ran to my Amayi (house mother) and apologized. She laughed, told me not to worry and sure enough, after the water dried and a little fresh mud was applied, the floor was level and solid once again. This was a recurring theme throughout my service; I was often ignorant of many skills even Malawian children take for granted.
Fortunately, my community was always willing to help teach me. That’s how I learned how to plant maize, cut grass with a machete, and identify wild-growing African spinach.
Q.: What did you learn there that translates to your practice in Central New York?
A.: I think the teaching experience translates well. Doctors have to be able to teach their staff, their patients, and even themselves. I also developed my communication skills by getting important information to people even with a language barrier or different culture. I think I also learned to find common ground and empathize with people from different circumstances.
Q.: When you returned home, did you have a new appreciation for the U.S. health care system?
A.: I feel lucky that I live in the U.S. where we have resources, medical providers, technology and money to spend on technology and research.
In other places that I lived, there are fewer doctors, fewer trained staff, and infrastructure difficulties such as poor road conditions and no electricity that make it difficult or even impossible to use technology the way we would.
However, one thing I admired greatly about health care in the other places is the innovation and creative solutions they find to help patients. While I lived in Africa, I had a chance to work with local government health clinics and the organization Partners In Health at its sites in Malawi and Lesotho.
Both countries have been combating maternal child mortality and an HIV/AIDS epidemic that is staggering. When I lived in Lesotho, HIV prevalence was estimated to be about 40 percent of the population.
In both countries, ordinary villagers are trained to help their communities. These health care workers would pass along information about programs such as childhood vaccination blitzes; assist pregnant patients to come to central locations for their labor so if complications arose, they could be transported to a hospital; and do tasks like deliver and monitor use of antiretroviral therapy for HIV.
I think wherever you go in the world, you’ll find people who care about others and are determined to combat illness and suffering.
Q.: What prompted you to study medicine?
A.: I’m the first in my family to go into medicine. My mother was a math teacher and my father was a computer engineer, but they were very supportive when I told them I wanted to be a doctor. Actually, I see medicine as a perfect combination of two of my passions: service and science. From a very young age, I was fascinated by biology, disease and human physiology. My undergraduate major was biochemistry. I’ve also been very involved in research through college, medical school and residency, but I realized I wouldn’t be satisfied only with research.
I wanted to have meaningful personal connections and feel like I was serving the people around me in my work. My life experiences, starting with ill family members and friends, service in the Peace Corps, and later on volunteering for the homeless and at free clinics called me to medicine and family medicine in particular to help people.
Q.: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
A.: There are a lot of challenges in being a doctor, but I view this as a positive thing. Challenges allow for growth, and I feel satisfied when I can solve a problem or overcome a difficulty. One particular challenge that comes to mind is keeping up with the sheer volume of new medical research that comes out every day.
My strategy for this has been to establish a study schedule where I review brief abstracts of research studies, read journals published for family physicians, and do in-depth research on topics relevant to the patients I am scheduled to see.
Q.: What is the most positive aspect of your job?
A.: The relationships I form with my patients and my team. I think the doctor-patient relationship is the most important thing in medicine. I aim to get to know my patients and understand their background and community so we can tailor medicine to their specific needs.
I value trust and mutual respect, and I want my patients to be empowered with the information to make their own decisions. I see myself in different roles: as a coach motivating patients to take charge of their health, as a liaison who coordinates patient care between specialists, and as an advocate for health in the community.
Q.: What are the latest advances and trends in family medicine?
A.: Family medicine is a field that is constantly developing and changing. Some of the latest trends include patient-centered medical homes, preventive health care and quality improvement. Patient-centered medical homes are a model of care for all situations — acute, chronic and preventive — where a patient’s primary care physician coordinates a health care team — including specialists, nutritionists, pharmacists, social workers, etc.) that focuses on the patient’s whole health and improves access to care.
Preventive health is focused on disease prevention rather than treatment and is the reason you may hear about smoking cessation, vaccinations, cancer screening, diet, and exercise when you come to the doctor’s office. It allows a chance to intervene early in a disease process, hopefully avoiding a poor outcome for a patient.
Quality improvement is a systematic process that doctors can use to identify problems in delivery of care and engineer solutions. An example would be a project I did as a resident, looking at the prescription of medications that could cause birth defects to women who could become pregnant. I found that roughly 20 percent of our female patients were at risk since they were on an unsafe medication for pregnancy.
Our residency then had an opportunity to improve patient safety by changing the way doctors would prescribe medications, counsel about medication risks, and discuss family planning with our patients.
All these trends hopefully focus health care on outcomes that are most important, improving function and quality of life and reducing morbidity and mortality for patients.
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in biochemistry (2005-2008); medical degree, The Ohio State University College of Medicine (2011-15)
Residency training: Ohio State University
Family: Husband Tim Morin, assistant professor, Department of Environmental Resources Engineering, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse; 10-month-old son, Elliott Morin
Hobbies: Family activities, spending time outdoors, playing music, exotic travel