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Senior Associate Consultant, Department of Family Medicine
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Mayo ClinicVIEW PROFILE
Christopher Boswell, M.D., is only a year past training but feels right at home teaching medical students and family medicine residents and practicing full-spectrum family medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. His patients stand to benefit from his unique experience on the other side of the exam table — he battled cancer during medical school.
In the first year of medical school I considered many specialties and participated in research in sleep medicine but was introduced to family medicine during a selective. I rotated with former Mayo Clinic School of Medicine student Jeff Polzin, M.D. (MED ’78, FM ’81), and his colleagues in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. He practiced full-spectrum family medicine and recently retired. I returned to rotate with him again during my second year, and I was hooked.
I wanted the opportunity to provide continuity care and develop relationships from birth to death — to know the patient’s whole family. I wanted to practice full-spectrum family medicine — outpatient, inpatient, obstetrics and procedures. Mayo Clinic allows me to do that while accessing vast resources and opportunities to learn from world experts.
We didn’t initially plan to stay in the Midwest. My wife is from Colorado, and I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, but we established roots here and love the community. We’ve developed a core group of colleagues and friends — our “Rochester family” — and started our family here. Our daughter, Savannah, is 2 years old.
I was diagnosed with testicular cancer that had spread to my abdominal lymph nodes during my third year of medical school. I unexpectedly found out firsthand what the Mayo Clinic patient experience was like. I had four rounds of chemotherapy and two surgeries and kept on track in my training. I’m extremely thankful for the treatment I received at Mayo, and grateful to the medical school faculty and deans for their support. I’ve been in the position of sitting in the waiting room before surgery or chemotherapy, so that often helps me anticipate patients’ questions and concerns.
The most tangible day-to-day difference is having the majority of nights and weekends back. But now the buck stops with me — my clinical decisions aren’t consistently double-checked in real time. However, Mayo Clinic’s Family Medicine Residency Program prepared me very well to manage a panel of patients comprehensively. There’s never a time when you don’t feel you have support or a colleague to reach out to. I can pick up the phone and talk to an integrated community specialist or radiologist or whomever.
Other physicians I perceive as feeling somewhat burned out have practiced 20 years and have patient panel sizes that are mismatched — they’re always playing catch up. That can lead to feelings of burnout and inadequacy. My transition from training to staff has been very well cared for by our department’s leadership.
I teach patient interviewing and physical exam skills to first- and second-year medical students, supervise the Family Medicine and Newborn Nursery Inpatient teaching services, and train residents in procedures in the Employee and Community Health procedure clinic. The procedure clinic offers ultrasound-guided joint injections, minor dermatologic surgeries, no-needle no-scalpel vasectomy, gynecology/contraceptive procedures and newborn circumcision.
I get a sense of accomplishment from helping others learn, especially complicated material. At Mayo the learners are already superb. You’re helping them become even better. I’m surprised by the immediate respect I get from students and the eagerness they bring. I introduce myself as having recently finished residency, but my relative lack of experience is not reflected in their attitude. They’re very receptive to my attempts to get to know them and teach them.
I want to expand my role in education over time. Eventually I’d love to be a core faculty member in the Family Medicine Residency Program or more involved in my faculty role in the medical school.
I enjoy spending time with my wife and daughter and our two Golden Retrievers. We’re involved in our church, especially the music program, and we love to travel to see our families and explore new parts of the world.
See past New Chapter stories here.