Meet Lori Caloia, MD, medical director at the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness.
Hobbies: gardening, reading (historical fiction is my favorite) and running. I have completed two marathons, four half marathons and to0 many 5K and 10K races to remember!
Education: BS Biochemistry-University of Detroit Mercy; MD-Michigan State University College of Human Medicine; Public Health Leadership Certificate-Eastern Virginia Medical School; Currently completing my MPH at Kent State University (I will be finished August 2020!)
Three items on my desk: Sticky notes, picture of my son and hand sanitizer.
Three items in my office: My son’s artwork, plants (gotta have some green and oxygen!) and a coffee maker.
Three words coworkers use to describe me: Determined (persistent), learner and responsible.
Outside the office, you’ll likely find me: At my son’s practice or sporting event or sitting at my kitchen table doing homework (or reading a book when I’m not in classes)!
My favorite vacation spot: Any National Park. I am always awed by the beauty of nature and how fresh air can rejuvenate me! I went to Rocky Mountain National Park this summer.
Unwind after a long day: Go for a run or sit on my screened in porch and listen to the noises of the outdoors!
Medical News: Why did you become a doctor?
Lori Caloia, MD: I was not someone who knew from a young age she wanted to be a doctor. I entered college undecided and was able to do some career exploration as a part of an undergraduate program for undecided freshman.
After a few key courses like physiology and biochemistry, I realized I enjoyed learning about complicated systems and putting the puzzle pieces together to solve problems.
After doing some undergraduate basic science research, I realized I needed more human interaction! I started volunteering at the Detroit Children’s Hospital, a local Hospice and working as a podiatry assistant during college. These experiences started me down the path to become a doctor.
MN: Why did you choose this specialty?
LC: I embrace each person as an individual who is influenced by their biological, psychological, social and spiritual environments. Family medicine embodies this viewpoint.
As a resident, one of my attending physicians used to say, “Family physicians have a ringside seat to the Circus of Life.” This statement took me aback at first. I was horrified because I felt like life should be considered more elegant or sacred than a “circus.”
Through time I think he meant that life can be chaotic, odd, unusual, and that the experiences of others are often very different than we might imagine they would want for themselves. As a family physician, I have come to know the privilege of this statement of the “ringside seat” in the context of sharing the full complement of life with others.
I have shared in the agony of a young woman experiencing fetal demise. I have been witness to the birth of a new babies, and watched those tiny infants grow into a young adults. I have helped college students struggling to find their place in their own life and conquer the anxiety and depression that coexist with these struggles. I have been able to help my patients struggling through addiction, marital conflict and parental dementia. I have been able to help someone come to peace with a terminal diagnosis and comforted their family in their last days and hours, and after they died. I have held a patient’s hand as they passed on from this world.
I don’t know that there is the privilege of witnessing the miracle of the human experience as profoundly as you do as a family physician.
MN: Is it different than what you thought? How?
LC: I was surprised at how much mental healthcare and social work was required of a family physician and primary care team. I was also disappointed that primary care is not more of a focus in the U.S. healthcare system.
I see the role of a primary care physician as evaluating the whole patient, developing an evidence-based, patient-centered comprehensive health plan that can be executed over time. This is difficult to accomplish in the 15 to 30 minutes allotted for a typical primary care appointment, particularly with patients who have complex social problems, such as homelessness, food insecurity and transportation challenges.
I am hopeful that as we continue to push for value-based care models, primary care teams can be better supported in this endeavor.
MN: What is the biggest misconception about your field?
LC: Unfortunately, when I was in training, family medicine was not a highly respected specialty, and this attitude still exists today and is perpetuated in medical school training. What I have learned is that family medicine requires both a depth and breadth of knowledge that is not found in any other specialty.
MN: What is the one thing you wish patients knew about doctors?
LC: One thing I didn’t realize before attending medical school is that doctors are just normal people. We are not super-geniuses that require only three hours of sleep every night and can survive on caffeine alone. We have feelings and families and a life outside of the clinic or hospital. It is apparent with the current state of burnout in medicine that we need to care for ourselves as much as we invest in caring for our patients!
MN: What’s one thing your colleagues would be surprised to learn about you?
LC: When I was in medical school, I loved surgery. All my fourth-year elective rotations were in surgical specialties. I’m not sure what changed my mind, but I am eternally grateful to the little voice in my head that said, “Maybe this isn’t what you need to do for the rest of your life!”
MN: What’s the best advice you ever received? Who gave it to you?
LC: When I was growing up, our family did not have a lot of money, but my parents did invest a lot of their time in my life, encouraged me to get an education and were always supportive of me. My dad always said I could do whatever I put my mind to, and that advice still surfaces whenever I get discouraged or face a serious challenge.
MN: Who are your heroes in healthcare?
LC: Now that I work in public health, I see that my public health colleagues are some of the unrecognized heroes in healthcare. They are the ones trying to prevent healthcare from being necessary!
MN: How do you go the extra mile, above and beyond their daily tasks to improve patient care, community health or hospital operations?
LC: I have always considered the “Golden Rule” in treating my patients and try to treat each person I see as I would want someone to treat me or one of my own family members. I have often found that “seeing” someone and treating them with respect and caring is more important than any medical intervention I can provide.