Physician Features

Volunteer Spotlight: Nathan Prahlow, MD

After completing his residency at Indiana University, Dr. Nathan Prahlow stayed on as faculty and eventually took the role as Residency Program Director for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. We were able to interview him about his journey to PM&R and how he got started volunteering with the ABPMR.

How did you get started with PM&R?

In high school I worked as a student athletic trainer. I enjoyed it but knew I didn’t want to be a trainer forever, so that is what set me on my path to medicine. I went to undergrad at Valparaiso University in Indiana with the goal of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. When I started medical school at Indiana University, we did a 10-week community hospital experience where we spent time in different specialties. Between general and orthopedic surgery, I discovered that I really hated the operating room. I started thinking about other specialties I was interested in and really enjoyed neurology but did not like dealing with seizures. During my second year of med school there was a pizza lunch for PM&R hosted by Dr. Randy Braddom, who would later become my mentor. He starts out by saying PM&R is orthopedics without surgery and neurology without seizures and I thought wow, he is talking directly to me. I looked into PM&R and fell in love with it.

What path did you take after med school and residency?

I did both at Indiana University and stayed on as faculty when I finished. There was an opportunity to do outpatient and EMG’s which is what I wanted to do. My boss, who was the program director and department chair at the time said he planned to step down in about 5-6 years. He sort of hand picked me to be the future program director. Coming from a family of teachers. I have always wanted to do education in medicine, so this opportunity fit perfectly with the direction I wanted to go. I have now been the Residency Program Director for Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Indiana University for the past 12 years.

How did you get started volunteering with the ABPMR?

I started out as an oral board examiner for about 6-7 years. I then learned they were looking for MOC question writers, so I started doing that as well.

What do you enjoy about being a volunteer? What keeps you coming back?

I really enjoy working with other colleagues and peers beyond my residency group and getting a chance to help impact future physicians long term. It’s almost like an extension of being a teacher and a residency director. It’s getting those who have gone through residency out into the field and continuing their education whether that’s through board certification or the maintenance of certification.

Do you have any memorable experiences from volunteering?

Some of my favorite moments are from when we did the oral boards in person. Getting to meet the other examiners, practicing the vignettes, and just supporting each other. It would always be 2-3 long, exhausting days so getting to experience that together and build relationships was really fun. I also enjoy the candidates and seeing someone who was maybe struggling at first really turn it around and show how successful they can be when given a chance.

What is a piece of advice that you would give someone who is considering volunteering?

That you will learn more being a volunteer than you ever thought possible. There’s not a board session I walk away from without learning something, and maybe it’s something I had forgotten over the years. It’s great going over the material, especially the stuff I don’t do every day. It makes me a better teacher.

Originally Published: August 09, 2023