Jean M. Tsigonis, MD
SPS liaison from Alaska
- Member, Alaska Medical Association
- Former president, Alaska Academy of Family Physicians
- AMA member (since 1987)
- Past chair, Alaska State Medical Board
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
Specialty: Family medicine
Q: How did you become interested in serving as an AMA liaison to the SPS?
A: I was asked to serve! I have been a member of the Alaska State Medical Association since 1986 yet had not had the opportunity to serve in any capacity. I was honored to be asked.
As a retired physician, I miss my practice of medicine. Anything to do with medicine still excites me. The timing was perfect. I was in practice for about 38 years, before retiring in 2019. My practice aged along with me. The geriatric population grew as my pediatric practice declined, partly due to giving up my OB practice in 2014. As a member of the local Wellness committee, we had had discussions regarding the aging physician. I see this position as liaison to the AMA-SPS as an opportunity to address the issues which affect the aging physician as well as aging patients.
Q: As a physician leader, why is physician advocacy important to you? How can physicians have a significant impact outside the practice of medicine?
A: Physician advocacy is paramount. I am a family medicine physician, so my lens is through primary care. Long ago, our department of Family Medicine, at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, fought for our privileges. For most of my career, I practiced full spectrum family medicine, including OB, pediatric, newborn, ICU privileges and colonoscopy. With the addition of hospitalists to the medical staff, I stopped doing ICU, but maintained active medical staff status.
I have also served as president of the Alaska Academy of Family Physicians. In that role, I was able to help provide CME opportunities to our members, as well as advocate for our members at the state level. With the pandemic, there was an increase in telemedicine and the practice of medicine crossing state lines, which requires regulation.
As chair of the Alaska State Medical Board, I was able to see the importance of quality care. We as a state board, took the health of our doctors seriously. We want them to be practicing medicine, with a sound mind, emotionally, physically, and psychologically. We have the ability to help restore physicians’ health so they can continue to serve their community.
Q: What are three lessons you have learned through the pandemic?
- Keep your medical staff privileges, you never know when your skills will be needed. Keep up on your CME requirements.
- Teamwork is essential. We must all rise to the level of our capability in order to provide the best, comprehensive care to our community.
- Be flexible and thankful. Everyone is under pressure, so we need to be civil to each other. A healthy workplace enables us to provide quality care to our community and prevent burnout in our staff.
Q: Have your passions for medicine changed?
A: I was born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. I went to the states (lower 48) for college, medical school, and residency. (Stanford University, University of Washington WAMI program, Maine-Dartmouth Family Practice Residency).
In 1981 I was offered a job at the Tanana Valley Clinic, while I was doing an elective in EENT. Dr. Dunlap, a local OB-GYN, owner of TVC, introduced me to two family doctors, who offered me a job on the spot. Basically, started with a handshake.
My first and only job was in my hometown, and I was honored to be able to take care of my friends and family. My goal was to be a full-time doctor, available to my patients, and team player within the Tanana Valley Clinic.
Early in my career, I developed an interest in public and global health, rather than individual care. Following medical school and residency, I had done some overseas travel and experienced the global needs of medicine in Zaire and India, so I hoped for a diverse population in my practice. Fortunately, with many UAF patients, I was able to have that international population. I was blessed to have a fair number of Alaska Natives in my practice, as well. During my career, I have been able to do a few more mission trips to Guyana, Malawi, Indonesia, Kenya, and the Philippines
I obtained my master’s in public health in 2013-2016. I gave up my OB practice at that time, in order to take the tests and write the essays, without the OB call. My thesis was on physician burnout. At the time, I had seen burnout in my teacher population, the nurses, and my fellow doctors. My thesis was to prove that it existed in the local doctor population. As a result of the study, my purpose is to identify, treat and prevent burnout in the future. The pandemic has shown that it is evident in our community, and that it seems to be infectious, in that when you are around a burned-out physician, it begins to affect you as well.
Have information about SPS members doing great work? Email us at [email protected].