This Month's News
Why I Serve: Krystal L. Tomei, MD: "One person can have big impact"
Note: This regular feature profiles a leader in medical education and the AMA. If you know of an AMA-member physician that we should profile, please email us.
Name: Krystal L. Tomei, MD
Specialty: Neurological Surgery
Current position and title: Pediatric neurosurgery fellow at the Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children's Hospital
AMA member since: 2002
What compelled you to get involved in the AMA?
As a medical student, I joined pretty much everything just to gain broad experience. It was during my first AMA meeting in New Orleans, Interim 2002, where I was exposed to hundreds of medical students who had realized how much of an impact one person can make by getting involved in a larger organization. It was inspiring to say the least. I've been hooked since then, knowing that no matter what I do as a single physician with my individual patients, the AMA will allow me to make a long-lasting impact to our health care system for our patients now and in the future.
I developed a particular interest in medical education and have been honored to represent the Resident and Fellow Section to the Council on Medical Education for the past three years. In our lives, medical education is relevant from the time we step into our first lecture hall through the last days of our career, and being a part of shaping that process has been a phenomenal experience.
What are the most important issues today in medical education?
The single most prevailing issue is ensuring our physician workforce is appropriate to meet the health care needs of our country. To achieve an appropriate workforce, however, we must consider many additional factors—student debt, graduate medical education funding and allocation, physician re-entry, maintenance of certification and maintenance of licensure, and preparing medical students to enter an ever-changing field.
If you only had a minute, what advice would you give to a medical student or physician in training?
Never stop learning. What you learn now may be irrelevant in five years—replaced by new research, improved technology, better pharmaceuticals. Always be willing to adapt your practice, learn something new, teach others. It is then that we continue to strive to be the best physicians for our patients.
What advice do you have for aspiring leaders in medicine?
Go for it! My roles in organized medicine, both at the AMA and within neurosurgery, have been some of the most rewarding experiences in my career. And my career is only just beginning. Decide what you are interested in and follow that road. Use every experience as a learning experience to help you become a better leader, a better collaborator and a better listener. The perspectives you gain through leadership will help you as a physician and in life.
How does volunteering as a leader in medicine helped you in your daily work?
I have a completely different perspective on my career thanks to the many opportunities I have been afforded. I no longer consider just my responsibility to my patients, but also those to the general public. When considering what I can do or change in my practice to help my patients, I also consider what system-based changes may impact patients that I won't ever personally know.
We all will get frustrated at some point, feeling that some decisions are out of our control, or handed down by some bureaucracy. What my volunteering has taught me is that I can play a part in shaping those decisions. As I ready myself to embark on my career, I find myself looking at the bigger picture much more frequently. How can I create programs to improve efficiency and communication among providers while eliminating unnecessary testing and duplication of efforts? How can I teach my residents so that they work well now and in the future when things may be vastly different? The experiences I have gained help me to focus on the forest through the trees.