Caitlin Foxley, MD, followed a nontraditional path to medicine. While attending Colorado State University in Fort Collins, she took a course in economics to fill her schedule. She enjoyed economics so much, she majored in it.
One year into a graduate program, however, she decided the business world wasn’t for her. She left school and went to work for the American Heart Association to do fundraising and health education, and there she found her calling.
Inspired by the association’s emphasis on disease prevention and the passion displayed by the physician volunteers, she decided medicine could be a good fit for her. She began taking courses part time each semester for a couple of years until she fulfilled all of her prerequisites, then applied to medical school.
Today, Dr. Foxley is medical director of Inpatient Management Inc.’s hospitalist program at Nebraska Medical Center Hospitals, a 680-bed tertiary-care center and Level 1 trauma center in Omaha. “I’d always liked science when I was younger, and it was always a strong point for me,” she says. “But working with the American Heart Association is really what sparked my interest in medicine.”
Question: How did your work with the AHA guide you into medicine?
Answer: I liked the message of prevention of diseases. Even then, in the late 1980s, they were looking at evidence-based medicine. It made sense to me. It seemed like a good way to make a difference. I thought, “This is something I could do and enjoy.”
Q: When did you make the change?
A: I had to do a few undergrad prerequisites, since economics didn’t really prepare me for medical school. I took one class per semester for a couple years while working for the heart association, then applied to medical school.
Q: After medical school, you spent five years in traditional internal-medicine practice. Did you consider going directly into hospital medicine?
A: When I got out of residency (in 2001), there really weren’t many opportunities for hospitalists in Nebraska. It was something I knew I’d like, but it wasn’t available.
Q: You made the switch in 2006. What prompted the move?
A: I was really frustrated doing traditional outpatient medicine. It was becoming increasingly difficult to provide the quality of care I wanted to give my patients. I was seeing people with complex medical problems, and I was having to do it in 15-minute increments.
Somebody I knew from the medical community had formed a hospitalist group, so I started working with him. It’s been a great career move, and it’s something I really love.
Q: What did you enjoy most about the hospital setting?
A: Everything. I like the challenge of seeing patients who are more complicated than those in the office. If I want to spend a half-hour or hour with a patient, I have that opportunity. I like the immediacy of the results, and I like being able to talk to consultants in the hospital to help formulate a diagnosis and a plan. All of that provides for better care.
Q: You assumed your current position in 2008. Did you always envision yourself moving into a leadership role?