Featured Osteopathic Family Physician:
Saroj Misra, DO

Dr. Saroj Misra grew up just south of Flint, Michigan, in a family where both parents were doctors. Even though he was exposed to the medical profession at an early age, he never considered a career in medicine until at the end of high school.

It was then that he volunteered a local hospital where he spent some of his time sitting with patients who needed company. At about the same time, he began shadowing his father while he took care of sick patients with serious heart problems.

He says these experiences taught him that medicine was not just about saving lives but also about comforting patients.

He’s now a professional clinical and academic physician currently appointed as the Director of Clinical Clerkship Curriculum for Michigan State University’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.

He has been as a staff physician over the last thirteen years with St. John Providence Health System.

Dr. Misra has served as Program Director for St. John’s Family Medicine Residency as well as Director of Medical Education for the system.

He completed a primary care faculty development fellowship in 2009 through the College of Human Medicine at Michigan State University. In addition, he has served as faculty at the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine for the Primary Care Faculty Development Fellowship as of 2011 with a focus on presentation delivery and medical professionalism.

Dr. Misra currently holds adjunct faculty appointments with Michigan State University Colleges of Human and Osteopathic Medicine, Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences and the College of Osteopathic Medicine at Des Moines University.

Dr. Misra also currently serves on the board of the Michigan Association of Osteopathic Family Physicians and serves as its President-Elect. He is anticipated to assume the presidency for the 2015-2016 cycle.

Dr. Misra has received numerous awards including the ‘Mentor of the Year’ award in 2005 from St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital and ‘America’s Top Family Doctors’ award in 2005 from the Consumer’s Research Council of America. He received the ‘Distinguished Service Award’ from the ACOFP for his work as a residency program inspector in 2013.

In addition, Dr. Misra is in the ‘Mentor Hall of Fame’ for the American Osteopathic Association. In 2013, Dr. Misra was also awarded the ‘Unsung Hero of the AOA’ designation.

He advises that undecided medical students not beat themselves up about not knowing exactly what they want to do. When thinking about specialties, students should follow their passions and pick one where that’s compatible with the life that you want to live on a day-to-day basis.

Dr. Misra has been married for 10 years to his wife, Brandy Misra, and has two daughters, Asha and Nisha, who he says simultaneously manage to astound and outwit him on a daily basis.

Q: What kind of person makes the best osteopathic family physician?
I believe there are a number of different traits that can combine to create an ‘ideal’ osteopathic physician, but the primary traits I have seen tend to be: an encompassing attitude for approaches to medical care that recognizes the value of non-traditional and traditional routes of care; a willingness to acknowledge the role of the mind and spirit in a person’s overall health and return to health and, most importantly, an ability to truly connect with those we care for – to not simply view them as a collection of systems or a set of diseases, but an individual whose care incorporates an ability to communicate and respect them as a person.

Q: What is your best advice for students who are undecided?
I always tell students you need to identify your passion and that is never easy. But thinking about the way a profession will be incorporated into the next 30 years of one’s life (and all the other things an individual hopes to accomplish in that time) is one way to do so. Yet another question to ask is, ‘Can I work seven challenging days in this field and come back excited for the eighth?’ Most importantly, recognize that being undecided is OK! I worry more about the person who has never challenged the idea of what they ‘love’ than the one who isn’t yet sure.

Q: What is your favorite aspect of osteopathic family medicine?
Without a doubt, I love the way I connect with patients – I am there for their good times (like the arrival of a new child, getting to their target weight or blood pressure or blood sugar) and for the bad ones (dealing with mortality – theirs or a loved one’s, illness and challenging life changes). A quote attributed (possibly incorrectly) to Hippocrates is that the role of the physician is ‘To cure sometimes, to treat often, to comfort always’. I love that my role is to always comfort.

Q: Why did you go into osteopathic family medicine?
Osteopathic family medicine was not my initial choice. I started out as an OB/GYN ‘gunner’, even going as far as starting an emphasis internship in the specialty, it was only after coming to realize that I didn’t have ‘passion’ for aspects of the specialty (ironically, this revelation came at about 9 months into my internship) that I acknowledged I would have to find a different field. Family Medicine (a field I was highly dismissive of as a naive student) appealed to me for a number of reasons: wonderful lifestyle balance, the ability to communicate with patients on an intimate and longitudinal basis and opportunities to branch out from traditional medical practice if I ever desired to. These advantages still exist today. Certainly, my choice turned out to be the right one – after completing residency, I have served as faculty and, eventually, Program Director for my own residency program for just under a decade and I feel I couldn’t have made a better choice.

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 wish I had known that medicine would not end up as the ‘be all and end all’ for my life – that to be truly happy, I would need to pursue interests, hobbies and passions outside of medicine. I might have looked more realistically at the challenge of the ‘rockstar’ specialties and recognized that they are never as glamorous and often much more challenging to integrate into one’s whole life than they seem. I wish I’d recognized also what matters the most to me – the ability to make a strong connection with a patient over a lifetime of care – I would have come to Family Medicine much sooner!

Q: What qualities should students look for in a mentor and what are some red flags for them to avoid?
Look for someone who understands that mentoring implies more than just career advice – it is ushering a person into the profession and all that entails, including life balance, professional development and commitment to service for both the specialty they choose and the profession at large. Find people who seem to have traits and backgrounds like your own – they are likely to understand what drives you. Encourage constructive and honest feedback. You learn more from what you do wrong than what you do right. As for red flags, avoid any physician who cannot say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I’m sorry and I’ll work to ensure this doesn’t happen again.’

Q: What have your mentors taught you?
What I identified above – how to balance and prioritize my life and why it is important to serve the profession – also, to be quiet and listen.

Q: What specific questions should students ask their mentors?
What is important to you in terms of your career and how do you balance the rest of your life with it? What do I do well and what can I work to do better?

Published April, 2015