Achievement in Family Medicine: Student Spotlight

June 12, 2019

Perspectives in Primary Care (formally the Primary Care Review) features perspectives from practitioners and students representing organizations, practices, and institutions across the country and around the world. All opinions expressed in this article are owned by the author(s).


Name: Megan Townsend

HMS graduation year: 2019

Residency: University of Colorado, Denver, CO

What are you most proud of?

There is a strong history of passionate and dedicated students working to advance primary care at Harvard Medical School (HMS), and it was my pleasure at HMS to add to this tradition. The Center itself was created as a response to student demand for more support for primary care students, and I am proud that I helped contribute to building and supporting our primary care student community. As the co-lead for the Center’s Student Leadership Committee, my co-lead Ashley Shaw and I were able to help students organize a gun violence op-ed contest, a photo project on the effects of the opioid epidemic, and a community health trip to Navajo Nation among other activities. When I was a first and second year student, leaders from the Student Leadership Committee mentored me, and I was proud that as a senior student, I was able to help support other students finding their way in primary care fields at HMS.


How were you involved in family medicine at HMS?

One of my very first HMS-sponsored activities was the Family Medicine Skills Workshop sponsored by Dr. Kathe Miller. Dr. Miller, who is now the Director of the HMS Home for Family Medicine, holds this workshop each year for students interested in learning more about family medicine. As a student who came to HMS interested in women’s health, the workshop helped me learn about the multitude of opportunities to work in women’s health within family medicine. As the years went on, the Center for Primary Care and Dr. Miller helped connect me with other students interested in family medicine, and I attended the American Academy of Family Physicians Student and Resident National Conference with HMS students twice during medical school. Aside from formal events, workshops, and clinical experiences, I greatly enjoyed participating in the informal community of mentorship and friendship among students interested in family medicine at Harvard. Whether it was at informal coffees to learn more about residency applications or casual social brunches, I was always inspired by the commitment to advocacy, clinical excellence, and health system innovation present among students interested in family medicine at Harvard.


What are your future plans and how has family medicine influenced your future directions?

I will be starting my residency this summer in family medicine at the University of Colorado on the Denver Health Track. I will do the majority of my outpatient training at the Lowry Health Center, a Federally-Qualified Health Center that takes care of many of Denver’s underserved and refugee patients. I expect my time will be dominated by my clinical responsibilities and learning during the beginning of my residency, but I hope to return to combining my interests in family medicine, advocacy, and health policy when time allows. I was able to complete a Master’s In Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government between my third and fourth years of medical school, and I hope to put those skills to use in the future by participating in local or state government in some capacity. I hope my future will involve practicing full-spectrum family medicine in an underserved environment, and I particularly hope to have a focus on women’s health.

What advice do you have for current HMS students about family medicine or anything else?

Harvard Medical School is home to an incredible community of faculty and academic resources, and there is such a rich history of academic, clinical, and personal excellence among students and faculty. My advice to current students would be to take advantage of the multitude of opportunities available at Harvard in order to carve out your own unique path, even when that path might be a little different than the one most students take. There are many different ways to be an excellent doctor, and it was helpful for me to reflect often on why I was entering medicine and the values that drive that commitment. I would advise students to have the courage to take a non-traditional path or create a non-traditional elective if you need to on your way to creating your own unique HMS experience.


Megan was recently featured in the HMS Talk@12 The Primary Care Revolution. View the recorded talk to learn more about family medicine and student involvement at HMS:


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