Physiatry is More Than…Physician Moms on the Run

October 9, 2017 | by Meagen Arensdorff

 Who do you picture when you think of a doctor? An old man? A burnt-out young resident? Well, we’re going to change up that perception big-time! Meet a dynamic group of 4 Latina doctors,* who along with a love of medicine, banded together to run in the USA Track & Field Master’s Championships, on July 13-16, 2017 in Baton Rouge, LA. These 4 female physicians aptly named the “Latina Physician Moms,” first met on a Facebook group dedicated to running. After exchanging numerous messages and bonding over a love of the sport; they discovered more than just a mutual interest, forging life-long friendships across the miles that separate them.

We recently connected with Aixa Alvarez, MD (physiatrist and medical director at Metro Methodist Hospital in San Antonio, TX), who shared some background about her fearless friends and how these moms maintain a healthy work/life balance.

It all began in summer 2016 when Dr. Alvarez invited Rhea Johnson, MD, to Omaha, Nebraska, to cheer her on as Dr. Alvarez participated in a triathlon. The 2 friends were not only avid track and field athletes, but also shared a “bucket list” goal of running relays in the USA Track and Field Masters Outdoor Championships. But they needed 2 more runners to complete their team. “We wanted to take it to another level; make it all female doctors,” said Dr. Alvarez. “We quickly set out to recruit 2 other physician friends who had previously run track in high school or college to complete our relay team.”

Enter Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez, MD, a fellow physiatrist whom Dr. Alvarez had met the previous October at the AAPM&R 2016 Annual Assembly in New Orleans, and Ana Lisa Ramirez-Chapman, MD (a Houston-based physician). The group quickly began training—well more like “virtual training”—texting pictures and workout routines, sharing Facebook selfies, and providing feedback on proper form and training plans. All while juggling the demands of a full-time physician, wife…and mother.

“You think we’re wonder women, but it all comes down to time management; no different than anyone else,” said Dr. Alvarez. “I make the most of every minute of every day. If that means running for an hour before picking up the kids (she has two daughters; age 7 and 9), then that’s what I do—I make time!”

This philosophy is shared by all 4 of the Latina Physician Moms. Plus, their profession as physicians makes health a priority not only for themselves and their families, but also for the patients they serve.

I want to be an example to my patients,” said Dr. Alvarez. “I tell them; if they take care of their bodies, then their bodies will take care of them. We share goals, too. My goals as a runner, coupled with their goals as patients to restore function and quality to their lives.”

Restoring function and quality of life is the mission of physiatry, with practitioners like Dr. Alvarez helping to advance the specialty by advocating for her patients with disabilities. “Physiatry is every specialty in a sense,” she explained. “It’s neuro, internal medicine, rehabilitation—in a new view; the view of a physiatrist.

Being a physiatrist is a great fit for Dr. Alvarez as she’d always enjoyed sports medicine, and during hospital rotations as a resident discovered physical medicine and rehabilitation. “It’s about helping people get back to daily activities, not just spending time in the OR.

When asked how she would complete the statement, “Physiatry is More Than?” Dr. Alvarez answered: Gaits and ADLs—it’s life changing! In practice for 8 years, she sees each day as a new adventure and the chance to change the lives of the patients she cares for.

So, you may be asking; what happened at the USTAF Masters? The Latina Physician Moms placed first in their age group and first overall in the 4x800m relay; and first in their age group/second overall in the 4x400m relay. Dr. Alvarez also won 1st place in her age group in Triple Jump and 2nd place in her age group in the Long Jump. Quite an accomplishment indeed! But now that they’ve “got the bug,” the group has set their sights on even greater goals—the 2018 USATF Masters Indoor Championships in Maryland, the USATF Masters Outdoor Championships in Washington, and the World Masters Athletics Championships in Spain.

And there’s nothing that’s going to stop these fearless female physicians! “Follow your heart and do what you love—the rest will come into balance,” concluded Dr. Alvarez. “Balance makes the practice of medicine easier.

Way to go, ladies.  We’re rooting for you!

*Aixa Alvarez, MD (physiatrist; San Antonio, TX); Ana Lisa Ramirez-Chapman, MD (anesthesiologist; Houston, TX); Rhea Johnson, MD (psychiatrist, Bedford Hills, NY); and Monica Verduzco-Gutierrez (physiatrist; Houston, TX).

Physiatry Day 2017

On Friday, October 13th, Physiatrists dedicated 24 hours to celebrate all aspects of the specialty through videos, pictures, and story-telling. Physiatry Day was originated to unify the specialty and to intensify its impact within the health care landscape.

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