Alex Kocsik can’t remember the exact moment she decided on a career in healthcare, but by age 13 she knew she would become a doctor. She volunteered as a Candy Striper in high school and simply continued her career path from there. She liked the stepwise trajectory from college to medical school to residency. It gave her a clear goal to work toward at each stage of her education.
Going into medical school, she could see herself choosing any field of medicine but primary care. It seemed generic to her. But in her third year rotation in medical school at Crozer she spent four weeks at ChesPenn’s Upper Darby health center. Alex remembered about that time that “It clicked in an instant. I would go home each day and feel good about the work I did. The days went by faster. I felt that I could make an impact and was connecting with people. What I didn’t realize about myself was that it wasn’t just the medicine – it was the human aspect of medicine that I wanted and family medicine makes that very easy.”
Now, in her first year of residency, Alex is a part of Crozer’s Family Medicine Residency Program and will be spending even more time at our Upper Darby site. Her love of patient-centered care will serve her and her patients well. Alex is keenly aware of the challenges faced by patients living in poverty. She understands that, for example, prescribing a medication or referring her patient to a specialist they can’t afford can be a disservice. Too often, patients are shamed for social determinants of health that are not in their control. Building a relationship based on an understanding of the patient’s needs and limitations is far more likely to result in a better health outcome. Patients begin to unlearn much of their dread of visits where they feel blamed for their poor health.
According to Alex, “There is nothing like connecting with somebody who previous to you was afraid of the medical world, or had negative encounters and getting to introduce them to what good medicine can look like and what patient-centered medicine can look like. I’ve had so many encounters where at the end the patient said ‘Oh that wasn’t so bad’.”
One of her first patient encounters at Upper Darby stands out in Alex’s memory. She saw a mother and daughter who were 80 and 50 respectively. They had multiple comorbidities – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and the mom had some additional chronic illnesses. They were out of all their medications and hadn’t seen a doctor in years. She remembers, “Even as a student I was able to spend some time with them, refer them to the doctors they needed for specialty care, get their prescriptions filled, and reassure them that there was somebody there to help them. At that moment, I knew this was what I wanted to do.”
Alex’s commitment to her patients hasn’t gone unnoticed. Dr. William Warning, Director of the Family Medicine Residency Program made this observation, “Alex has a gift in building strong interpersonal relationships and excellent rapport with patients and families.
She partners with patients to meet them where they are in their medical and personal situation. She is a strong advocate for overall patient wellbeing and works with the patients to incrementally meet their goals.”
The Family Medicine Residency Program is a three-year, progressive training. We’ll check in with Alex each year during her residency and our hope is that when she graduates, she’ll join the ranks of family medicine physicians making a difference in the lives of patients who need their care the most.