Family Medicine Residency: Alumni Achievements

Our graduates develop clinical expertise, effective communication, leadership skills, and practical management techniques that allow them to practice medicine in any setting. We have placed our graduates in urban, rural, and suburban practices as well as fellowships and teaching faculty positions across the country. To learn more, read about a few of our featured alumni below:

Jennifer Molokwu - Residency Faculty

Family Medicine Alumni Photo: Jennifer Molokwu

Year of graduation: 2010

Adviser: Michelle Karsten (thanks for all the free lunches)

Why I came to HCMC for residency:
Other than the wonderful weather, I knew instinctively that I was going to get great training. The residents I met at interview were great and the faculty very laid back. The staff is amazing!

Influential/memorable moment in residency:
My patient who had an intrauterine fetal death at 32 weeks. I kept feeling that I had somehow failed her. I went over her chart a million times trying to see if I missed something in her prenatal that could have changed the outcome. At the end of the whole process she came to see me in clinic to thank me for being there with her through the whole process. It blew me away. Greatest thing I learned at HCMC: Being present.

Inspirational person at HCMC:
It has to be Abby. I still hear her in my head when I am counseling patients. (Anything else, anything else, pause, teach back)

What I am proud of that I accomplished in residency:
Meeting and practicing with such awesome people.

Where I practice now or current accomplishments:
Trying hard to do the stuff I admired most about our faculty at HCMC by teaching medical students and residents at Texas Tech University Health Science Center / Paul L. Foster School of Medicine. I also do some clinical research and my first love which is taking care of patients.

What I like to do outside of medicine:
I love to cook and when I really have some down time relax with a mindless book.

How HCMC Family Medicine residency influenced the doctor that I am today:
Taught me to be the physician I am today. It is easy to learn technicalities and guidelines but I learned how to see each individual as a person not as a set of diseases I needed to fix.

What's best thing about Minneapolis or you miss most in Minneapolis?
Did I mention the great weather? Lots of fun things to do, great food and theater, beautiful lakes, awesome fall colors and most of all, the people.

Patrick McGuire - Rural Practice

Year of graduation: 2013

Family Medicine Alumni Photo: Patrick McGuire

Why I came to HCMC for residency
The reason I came to HCMC was two-fold. First, Minneapolis is an amazing and fun city. The people are wonderful, the food is exquisite, and there is a great arts and music scene. It is also a very vital city with everyone biking, running, skating or some other outdoor activity.

Second, the HCMC program offers the chance to work with a very diverse, urban, underserved population that is a major part of the community in Whittier neighborhood, where it is based. This was key for me when I was searching for residency programs.

Influential/memorable moment in residency
I have many fond memories and moments from residency at HCMC. One that obviously sticks out for me was delivering undiagnosed twins. The patient came into L&D ready to deliver and had no prenatal care. She was rushed into a room and promptly delivered a healthy boy. Without going into details, about 2 minutes later she continued to feel uncomfortable, and to the patients and everyone else’s surprise, she then delivered a healthy baby girl. I can only imagine this happening at a hospital that serves the type of community that HCMC serves. Also, the manner that all of the physicians and nurses handled the situation was fantastic, and it continues to remind me the quality of care that HCMC patients receive.

Inspirational person at HCMC
There are many influential people that I met at HCMC. I cannot fairly distinguish one person, so I would like to mention all of HCMC’s primary teaching faculty as role models. The time they spend on teaching and developing the residents is something I will always be grateful for.

What I am proud of that I accomplished in residency
A major source of pride for me in residency was becoming co-Chief Resident with Dr. Shyam Balakrishnan. We had a great class and residents, and working together to try and better the program with everyone is something I will always be proud of.

Where I practice now or current accomplishments
I currently work in an outpatient clinic in Mankato, MN. We have a great team of physicians there and the community is very different from HCMC.

What is my passion?
My passion in medicine is preventative medicine. In primary care, I feel it is our obligation to not only be good clinicians, but to also educate our patients and communities to improve their health and quality of life. The best way we can do this is through prevention.

What I like to do outside of medicine
Things I like to do outside of residency include traveling with Marijo, watching the kids in their sports (hockey, tennis, soccer), or playing hockey or golf myself.

How the HCMC Family Medicine residency influenced the doctor that I am today
HCMC residency has made me a better doctor by teaching me to treat the patient more as a "whole", including considering family, cultural, and social dynamics. This is something that was focused on in our residency, and I definitely feel that it helps us provide our patients with better care.

What's best thing about Minneapolis?
The best thing about Minneapolis is its vitality. The food and music scenes as well are something I will always miss!

Thomas H. Bracken M.D. - Minnesota Family Doctor of the year 2015

Year of Graduation: 1982

Family Medicine Thomas Bracken Photo

Why I came to HCMC: I chose HCMC because I knew I would be able to truly care for patients with a variety of conditions including acute trauma and serious illness; with most residents spending most of their time at HCMC there is an unusual level of support amongst residents of different specialties. I have been precepting at the HCMC Family Medicine Residency since 1984.

Influential moment and inspirational person: I had the privilege of having Dr. Harley Racer as a staff preceptor during residency and then teaching alongside him for another 25 years after graduation. He taught all of us to look beyond the disease to the entire person, and then beyond the person to the family, and even beyond that to the community. His spirit remains in the many faculty that follow his example at HCMC's Family Medicine Residency.

What I am proud of: I am proud to work at two institutions that value persons, at any level of employment or illness, more than economic goals or statistics; HCMC and Mille Lacs Health System.

Where I practice now: I am now VP of Medical Affairs, but mostly just a regular Family Physician, at Mille Lacs Health System in Onamia, Minnesota. We have managed to survive the difficulties of rural medicine and stay independent of the larger systems that are gobbling up many rural practices. We have grown from two clinics to five, and offer the full spectrum of Family Medicine to an over 400 square mile area.

What I do outside medicine: The best thing I do is enjoy my three grandkids, who are even more fun than my four daughters. I go twice a year to Haiti to help staff our Mille Lacs Health System rural health project, "Santo Clinic" ; I am busy with music at our church; enjoy wilderness canoeing in Canada.

What is best about Minneapolis: Of course, my three grandkids. I also enjoy the jazz clubs, Guthrie Theater, and the fantastic restaurants on Eat Street right by Whittier Clinic.

Rachael Rapacz - Urban Practice

Year of graduation: 2007

Family Medicine Alumni Photo: Rachel Rapacz

Why I came to HCMC for residency training
I fell in love with HCMC during my rotations and it was the best place to serve underserved populations in MN. Both residents and staff were encouraged to follow their passions and I could see that play out in practice. When I wanted to design a rotation that would allow me to work with direct entry midwives the answer was not, "We've never done *that* before..." it was outright enthusiasm and "We can make that your community medicine elective! Let's start planning it!" Docs at HCMC are passionate about teaching and serving everyone the best they can, and that is why they chose HCMC. I wanted to learn from those passionate, inspiring people.

I also wanted to be the best mother I could, including continuing to pump breastmilk for my baby, and HCMC was the only residency that enthusiastically supported that.

Influential moment in residency
I remember a very hard night, with seven admissions, a patient in the process of dying of liver failure on the med unit, and a baby going into gram negative sepsis on the peds unit and needing urgent surgery. We worked as a team to get the admissions done while working on the crises at hand, and it was the hardest night of my residency. The baby survived after we called in the surgery team for a stat surgery, another resident and I were able to midwife the dying woman and her family through her last moments later that morning. Everything got done that needed to get done, as hard as it was. It was the first time I felt like a real doctor. I remember my father, a family med/ER doc, saying, "I can go now. I feel like you are the doctor I have always wanted you to become." Two weeks later he died of a heart attack, but I know he was proud of me and felt I was ready to take his place.

Inspirational person at HCMC
There are so many. I was able to connect with Dr. Potts over enthusiasm about procedures. I was able to connect with Dr. Sroka about midwifery model prenatal and birth care. I was able to connect with Dr. Newman and Dr. Erickson about the power of the language we use, and they encouraged me to seek out training in clinical hypnosis. The sports medicine team's enthusiasm about body mechanics and PT were catching, even to someone like me that was not generally attracted to things having to do with sports. Dr. Parker inspired me to look further into evidence based alternative medicine modalities. Because everyone at HCMC came from a different place and was encouraged to follow their passions, they had so much to teach and were enthusiastic about teaching it. You can find a mentor for almost anything you want to learn at HCMC.

An accomplishment I am proud of:
I am proud that I was able to continue to be a good mom to my kids while working hard in residency. I am proud that I didn't step back from learning more advanced procedures like paracentesis, vasectomies, joint injections, minor surgeries, arterial blood gases, and central lines, and that I continue to perform many of those advanced procedures in my present practice. I am your go-to girl for outpatient procedures in my clinic. I feel very prepared working in outpatient ERs as well as clinics. I have even found ways to continue to do house calls when they are needed. I have become the doc I wanted to become, while still being the mom I always wanted to be.

Where I practice now
I currently practice at HCMC's Brooklyn Park clinic. My practice is full-scope family medicine, including pediatrics, internal medicine, procedures such as joint injections, biopsies and vasectomies, and attending labors and births like a midwife, doing massage, water therapy, hypnosis, and physiologic positioning for labor and birth.

What is my passion?
I could not give up anything, which is why Family Medicine is a good fit for me! I particularly love pregnancy and birth work, lactation, diabetes management, preventative care, hypnosis, lots of procedures, serving underserved populations, and speaking Spanish. I get all of that and more at my current clinic. HCMC has been a good match for both my residency and practice over the years.

What I like to do outside of medicine
I am passionate about my family. I love playing and exploring the world with my kids and we have done homeschooling trips, homeschooling projects, costuming, raising chickens and rabbits, learning musical instruments, you name it. Throughout residency I owe a large debt to my partner Eddie and my residency family for supporting that connection. Other friends at other residencies were not as successful at maintaining that strong family connection through the intense residency years. HCMC prioritized it.

How did HCMC influence the doc I am today?
I am a firm believer in the adage that the way you practice medicine in residency will be, for better or for worse, the way you continue to practice medicine in your own practice. As family medicine residents, we were encouraged to follow our passions, and learn anything we set our minds to. Nothing was out of reach. We also were trained from the start to work creatively with folks who came from different social, financial and cultural contexts, and that no matter how good and evidence-based your treatment might look, it would not be the right treatment for your patient if it did not fit them and their context. We were taught to see patients as whole people, and part of their family constellation and community. It made us better doctors, and those of us that graduated from HCMC continue to practice in this way. I think back to my first year out of residency when I was doing outstate ER locum tenens work after the birth of my last child. There was nothing that an ER could throw at me that I had not seen multiple times and knew how to manage well from my time at HCMC. I think of filling out my clinical privileges card for my current clinic and being able to check off almost every box on the skills list. I have worked in urban and suburban and very rural settings. I have worked in ERs with lots of ortho procedures and ERs with lots of trauma. I have worked urgent care and family medicine clinic and L&D. I have done home visits and phone consultations and written clinical protocols for a birth center. None of it felt out of my comfort zone. That says a lot about a residency.

Best thing about Minneapolis?
There is so much! It has so many excellent museums and theaters, more parks than almost any large city in the USA, bike paths everywhere, an expanding public transit system, and is a few hours away from forests and lakes. It is one of the most diverse midwestern cities and has one of the highest standards of living in the US. It's a great place to raise a family or just enjoy free time as a single adult.

Shyam Balakrishnan - Fellowship

Year of graduation: 2013

Family Medicine Alumni Photo: Shyam Blakrishnan

Why I came to HCMC for residency:
HCMC was exactly the medical center I wanted to start my residency training due to its distinguished reputation, patient outcomes, patient safety, diverse patient population, and quality of care. I wanted to be a part of a medical center that consistently strives to put patients first, above all else. It is exciting to work with great faculty who foster the medical center’s mission and strive to bring HCMC to the next level as a trauma center. My vision undoubtedly aligned with that of HCMC’s and hence, the choice was easy.

Influential/memorable moment in residency:
While looking back at my unforgettable years at HCMC, one particular moment comes into mind instantaneously: the Family Medicine Clinic relocation to Whittier Clinic. Our 2013 class was the last residency group that had the privilege to work at both the Family Medicine Clinic as well as Whittier Clinic. I remember that morning when my colleagues and I walked into Whittier Clinic for the first time. It was such a lovely feeling! We were all enthused to move to Whittier Clinic, which would be the new face of the Family Medicine Clinic.

Inspirational person at HCMC:
The most inspirational person at HCMC during my residency training has to be Dr. David Councilman. He is truly a remarkable man. Dr. Councilman is humble and so caring for his patients. He is an excellent teacher and mentor. He made my residency experience at HCMC educational and exciting. I am grateful for having the opportunity to work with such a talented professional.

What I am proud of that I accomplished in residency:
My proudest accomplishment during my residency at HCMC has to be my Chief Year. Being selected and serving as a Chief Resident was such an exhilarating experience. I was able to work with the program leadership. During this experience I was able to better understand what it takes to be a leader and a team player. My chief year served as a rewarding and humbling experience that has shaped me into being a versatile physician.

Where I practice now:
I am currently pursing a Geriatrics Fellowship at the University of Virginia (UVa) Health System.

What is my passion/what I like to do outside of medicine:
Balancing my medical career and personal life is a priority for me. During the weekends, I spend time with my wife relaxing in our apartment and going out around town. We enjoy trying new cuisines and visiting lakes and museums around the area. I value fitness and maintaining a healthy lifestyle so when I have spare time, I go to the gym. Also, weather permitting, I enjoy running outdoors. When time permits apart from my active profession, I take pleasure in cooking, traveling, and learning about different cultures.

How the HCMC Family Medicine residency prepared me for real world medicine:
The HCMC Family Medicine residency definitely prepared me for real world medicine. The residency program encompassed a multitude of patients. I was able to work with patients with various degrees of complexities. In addition, patients came from diverse backgrounds and underserved areas. Another beneficial aspect of the residency program at HCMC was the exposure to the EHR. I am fortunate to have gained experience in the EPIC system since it is the same system utilized in my current employment at UVa. Another valuable experience during the Family Medicine residency was being able to work in interdisciplinary teams, which allowed me to grow my knowledge base.

What’s the best thing about Minneapolis?
When I visited Minneapolis for the first time, the thing that caught my eye was the beautiful lakes including Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet. I enjoy the outdoors and the vibrant downtown energy. There was never a dull moment in Minneapolis. My wife and I enjoyed the various ethnic dining experiences in Minneapolis and shopping at the Mall of America.