Featured Osteopathic Family Physician:
Gautam J. Desai, DO, FACOFP

Gautam J. Desai, DO, FACOFP, is Professor, Division of Primary Care, at Kansas City University. He has been active in the education of medical students and residents for over 16 years. He is also the Director, Honors Track in Global Medicine at KCU COM.

He is a graduate of Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, and completed his internship and residency in Osteopathic Family Medicine at Riverside Osteopathic Hospital. Afterward, he obtained further training in medical acupuncture.

Dr. Desai serves on numerous committees for the osteopathic profession, including the American Osteopathic Association's Council on CME, and the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiner's Clinical Skills Testing Advisory Committee. He has served the ACOFP as Chair of the Osteopathic Clinical Research Committee, and has been a member of the Procedural Medicine Committee, CEE Subcommittee: In-Service Exam, Osteopathic Principles & Practice Committee, OPP Subcommittee: Print Publications, and Clinical Webinars Committee.

Dr. Desai has over 50 peer reviewed publications on a variety of topics, including peer reviewed publications, textbooks, encyclopedias, and digital publications. He has presented nationally and internationally on a variety of topics related to medical education as well as Osteopathic Manual Medicine. Dr. Desai has been the Principal Investigator on many grants, including the Achieving Diversity in Medicine and Dentistry Grant, the Educational Development for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Grant, to name a few.

He is the Immediate Past President, DOCARE International Board of Trustees, and has led numerous medical missions to Guatemala, C.A., Kenya, as well as the Dominican Republic. He received Ingram’s Magazine Heroes in Healthcare Award in recognition for Medical Missions and Volunteerism in 2015, and in 2012 received the Robert A. Klobnak Award, in recognition of an individual’s outstanding accomplishments within DOCARE International. He was the 2008 Case Author of the Year for COMLEX-USA Level 2 - PE for the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners.

Q: What kind of person makes the best osteopathic family physician?
A good listener. The best osteopathic physicians are excellent observers – they study the patient’s story, body language, and put together many different aspects of the patient’s life which helps to come up with the best treatment plan. Sometimes that plan is just listening to the patient.

Q: What is your best advice for students who are undecided?
Think about which clerkships you enjoyed the most. If you liked more than one, osteopathic family medicine could be for you. This field is intellectually challenging and very rewarding – taking care of generations of a family, watching your younger patients grow up, all of these create a bond with your patient which may be more difficult to do in other fields.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of osteopathic family medicine?
I love the variety of patients. It is never the same job two days in a row. In addition, using OMT is a great way to help people feel better – sometimes a quick treatment does more than medications. In addition, my specialty of osteopathic family medicine permits me to treat all ages and kinds of patients on global health outreach programs.

Q: Why did you go into osteopathic family medicine?
I initially didn’t! I started off with postgraduate training in osteopathic internal medicine, but missed seeing the variety of patients/ages as well as the many procedures which osteopathic family physicians perform, so I changed after a few months (sorry Dr. Cornwell) to an osteopathic family medicine program.

Q: What do you know now in regard to selecting a specialty that you wish you knew when you were an osteopathic medical student?
I think it is still a challenge to select a specialty. When I had to make my selection, the internet was just becoming widely used, so in fact, it may be harder for students to make a choice now, as there is a great deal of information available online which may cause students to second-guess their decision. I wish I had received more formalized guidance from mentors during the second year of osteopathic medical school. If students today are struggling with a decision on their career choice, don’t forget your academic advisor from your COM, or other faculty.

Q: What qualities should students look for in a mentor and what are some red flags for them to avoid?
A quality mentor is one who pays attention to detail – who takes the time to explain the treatment plan to patients and their families to make sure they understand. Another good quality is that they enjoy their job and take time to teach students on the clerkship. A big red flag would be a mentor who treats patients of different race/religion/sexual orientation/socioeconomic class differently than patients who resemble him/her.

Q: What have your mentors taught you?
One great lesson I learned was from a pediatrician (Rick Poston, DO), who taught me the value of building rapport with the patient early in the patient encounter. It doesn’t matter whether it is sports, the weather, where the patient is from, but taking the time to ask (and genuinely listen) to a patient will help create a better interaction. I have also witnessed the kindness of preceptors, who have taught me to always give empathy to patients.

Q: What specific questions should students ask their mentors?
For personal growth, I encourage students to sit down with the preceptor during the first week of the clerkship and have a frank discussion about how they are performing, and whether they are meeting the preceptor’s expectations. If the preceptor would like them to improve, I would suggest asking for specific examples on what exactly to improve. Each mentor has something to offer students, but sometimes it is a matter of sitting down and showing a genuine interest in your own progress to facilitate the preceptor sharing their story.


Published June, 2017