We Promised: Educating Ourselves to Create a Healthier Community

This article was written by Dr. Eric Shoemaker for the Fort Wayne Medicine Quarterly.

We are Life-Long Learners. When we decided to become physicians we made an unspoken promise to continue to learn—to do otherwise is to fail our patients. Every time we step into a patient’s exam room we silently promise that we are providing them with the best knowledge we have. While continuing our education can be time consuming, expensive, or inconvenient, it is our duty to do so. It is equally important to expand our knowledge in areas that we may not practice in, or we may not consider “interesting”; however, our interests rarely walk through the door. It is our job to be ready to treat and care for what is presented to us.

But are we learning? The 2023 Allen County Infant Mortality Report indicates that for every 1000 births in Allen County at least 6 babies will not make it to the first birthday. Even more startling, that rate doubles to greater than 15 in black residents. For women surveyed, 34% did not see their family doctor during the pre-conception period and 44% of those surveyed who were currently pregnant or recently gave birth had not seen their family doctor for a checkup in the year prior. While many factors affect these statistics, the impact we have as physicians is critical. We must learn from the data and create a healthier Allen County. We must learn from the data to create a healthier future.

How do we learn from our community? Healthier Moms and Babies (HMB) is a wonderful organization that has worked tirelessly for years to create a healthier Allen County for our moms and babies. This year they have created their Infant and Maternal Mortality Conference to focus on “Advancing Care and Collaboration.” This February, HMB has put together an amazing line-up to help us expand our knowledge in an area where many are undereducated. The keynote speaker, Dr. Lauren Dungy-Poythress, will challenge us on bias in maternal care, discuss substance use screening in pregnant women, and teach us how to prioritize maternal health care. Through this conference we will collaborate with those working hard in our community, in and out of the field of medicine, to learn for our patients.

Is this conference right for me? Yes. This conference is for anyone who has every taken care of a mom or baby. As a family doctor I must learn every day, and I will be attending this conference. My role, particularly as an Osteopathic Family Physician, is to take care of the mind, body, and spirit. Though I am no longer delivering babies I still need to learn how maternal care and infant mortality can affect my patients, now and throughout their life. I work in Southeast Fort Wayne, serving a population for whom maternal and infant care matter most. I will help my patients be healthier and for that, I must continue to learn. I will be there as a medical director, to help bring knowledge back to my organization.

This conference is for family doctors, pediatricians, OBGYNs, psychiatrists, pulmonologist, cardiologist, immunologists. I am a voice for my patients, and you are a voice for my patients regardless of your specialty. This conference is for everyone. This conference is for you!

Be sure to join us and Dr. Shoemaker our Infant and Mortality Conference on Friday, February 23rd! Register here: healthiermomsandbabies.org/conference

This article can be found in the Fort Wayne Medicine Quarterly: https://www.fwms.org/fortwaynemedicinequarterly


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