Valerie Faye Briones-Pryor, MD, MHA, FACP, SFHM is Medical Director, Hospital Medicine Service Line at UofL Health/University Louisville Physicians.
Hometown: Louisville, Kentucky
Family: Husband: Matthew Pryor; Son: Brandon Pryor (7yo); Parents: Drs. Voltaire and Fe Briones; Siblings: Norman Briones (deceased), Justin Briones
Hobbies: Running, working out and singing in the choir at church.
Education: High School: Sacred Heart Academy (1993); College: Xavier University – Ohio (1997); Medical School: University of Louisville (2001); Residency: Internal Medicine, Indiana University (2001-04)
Three words my coworkers use to describe me: Patient, thorough and hard-working (I think they mean ‘always-working’).
Three items on my desk: Hand sanitizer, food/coffee and a stethoscope.
Outside the office, you’ll likely find me: At the gym or running outside, or home with my husband and son.
Medical News: Why did you become a doctor?
Valerie Briones-Pryor: Medicine and being a physician has always been my calling. When I was growing up, I admired what my parents did as physicians and how they interacted with patients, with their staff and colleagues. Every time I would look at other fields, my heart always came back to medicine.
MN: Why did you choose this specialty?
VBP: I love the variety in internal medicine and that I get to manage everything, not just one organ system. I especially love hospital medicine as I feel the most at home in the hospital and for the most part, see improvement in the patient’s condition during their course with me.
MN: Describe an average day in the COVID-19 unit at UofL Health – Jewish Hospital?
VBP: From the moment I arrive on the floor, it is go-go-go. It doesn’t matter the number of patients, whether its 7 or 17, I am in constant motion. Since I care for most of the patients on the COVID floor, I check in with the nursing staff to see who needs to be seen first. Then I start seeing patients, donning and doffing my PPE, washing hands between each patient. Once everyone has been seen, then I sit on the unit and chart. Staying on the unit helps me stay in the loop of the patients who may not be doing so well, since COVID patients can deteriorate quickly. It also allows me to talk with specialists whom I’ve consulted, the pharmacist who is reviewing medications, or with other disciplines, such as physical therapy and occupational therapy. I am constantly going over the list of patients with other leaders, such as the care manager, nurse manager and house manager, so they are aware of who is coming and going on the unit. At the end of my time on the unit, I check in again with each of the nurses before I head back to the office to catch up on administrative work.
MN: What are the biggest challenges?
VBP: The biggest challenge on the COVID unit is the isolation that the patients feel being on the unit. As much as we try to make the patient feel better symptomatically, it is difficult when you can see them feeling isolated from their loved ones, especially when many of our COVID patients stay for several days and there are no visitors allowed on the COVID unit. I also see the staff, myself included, then take on this emotional burden of trying to be that surrogate loved one, which leads to our own COVID fatigue and burn out.
MN: What is the one thing you wish patients knew and/or understood about doctors?
VBP: I wish patients knew just how much we advocate for them on a daily basis. Much of what physicians do are behind the scenes, so patients are not aware of how much time we spend working on their cases. I know it may look as if we spend only 10-15 minutes with each patient face to face, but we spend so much more time coordinating care, making arrangements, researching treatment plans all so we can provide our patients the best care.
MN: What’s the best advice you ever received? Who gave it to you?
VBP: My Dad used to tell me and my brothers growing up that we can’t just complain about problems, we must also find solutions to them and be part of the solutions to them. That has always stuck with me, especially when I started doing leadership and administrative roles.
MN: Who are your heroes in healthcare?
VBP: My parents are my main heroes in healthcare. My Dad, who is also an internist, introduced me to hospital medicine early on when he let me round with him in the hospital when I was young. My Mom is a true Wonder Woman. She showed me that you can be a Mom and a physician and be good at both.
MN: How do you go the extra mile, above and beyond your daily tasks to improve patient care, community health or hospital operations?
VBP: I learned early in my career that to make a true difference in patient care, it has to be on a more global level, which is why I became so involved in hospital leadership and take part in many committees, both within the hospital and in the community. To improve care for all patients, physicians must be at the table working side-by-side with administrators and community health leaders. Healthcare, especially providing quality healthcare, is a team effort, therefore it is imperative that physicians work with other healthcare fields in identifying gaps and finding solutions to the issues that affect the care of our patients.
On a more personal level, I do like to get to know my patients, more than just their diagnoses and treatments. I love to hear stories of my patients’ families, the kind of work they do, hobbies they have, etc. It helps personalize the care that I provide them in the hospital, even it’s just by giving them a smile and inquiring how they’re loved ones are doing.