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Family Medicine (2005)VIEW PROFILE
Katheryn Norris, D.O. (FM ’05), is a physician at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic at Grandview Medical-Dental Clinic. She’s also the residency director of the Sollus Northwest Family Medicine Residency Program and the 2016 Washington Osteopathic Medical Association’s Physician of the Year. As a physician, residency director, mentor, spouse and mother, Dr. Norris shares her thoughts on her career, her time at Mayo and what makes a great mentor.
I completed my undergraduate degree in Tacoma, Washington and really wanted to experience a different part of the United States afterward. So I looked at medical schools in the Midwest and ended up choosing the first osteopathic medical school, Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri. The timing was quite serendipitous because my husband was getting his Master’s degree at Truman State University which is also in Kirksville. So we both attended graduate school in the same town at the same time.
When it came time to apply to a residency program, I started looking at places that would suit my style and the training I wanted, either an ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education) accredited or AOA (American Osteopathic Association) accredited residency. I ended up going to Mayo Clinic in Phoenix where I learned a ton. What I really appreciated was the emphasis on teaching. Being given an hour or hour-and-a-half with each patient was a luxury, allowing me to obtain a lot of information about their history. I also appreciated Mayo’s emphasis on education and interweaving patient care with clinical case work. Because education was clearly a priority, the patients appreciated the extra time we took to understand their cases. It was a really supportive environment.
I liked the idea of taking care of a person throughout their lifetime. While I was initially attracted to pediatrics because I like kids, I also wanted to keep taking care of them after they turned 18. Establishing continuity of care with a whole family and generation of families was why I chose family medicine over pediatrics.
It’s very rewarding to take care of families, treat people throughout the years and walk through life with them. I really enjoy seeing people and their kids grow up and go off to college. And later, it’s incredibly rewarding being able to walk with someone at the end of their life or enter hospice and help support their family. I think the honor of having people let you into their lives like that is very moving.
“Great mentors are available and present. It’s about helping a mentee when they are struggling, knowing the right words to say, and pointing them in the right direction. That said, you can’t project your goals onto them. They have to want the goals for themselves.”
There are three things that I believe make someone a good mentor. The first is being a good, professional physician and modeling it to others. It’s not just knowing the nuts and bolts of medicine but also relating to staff and connecting with patients. Secondly, sharing both your successes and failures; transparency is very important. Lastly, great mentors are available and present. It’s about helping a mentee when they are struggling, knowing the right words to say and pointing them in the right direction. That said, you can’t project your goals onto them. They have to want the goals for themselves.
Study hard. Do well on your license exams. Remember why you went into medicine. But most importantly, show up and be interested. If you really want to shine, go the extra mile. Get there an hour early. Stay an hour late. It’s all about helping people and taking care of patients. It isn’t about you but what you do to help others.
Juggling my career and my family. I had a student ask me once, “How do you do it? How do you balance your career and family? ”Honestly, I didn’t think that was unique because it is just where I am in life; it is my reality. My advice to that student was to have a very supportive partner. I would have never made it without my husband’s support. Remember, you can have it all but it won’t all be at the same time and it won’t all be in the same proportion. There are going to be sacrificed but, remember, they are temporary; that is what gets me through.
See past New Chapter stories here.