Volunteer Spotlight: Kevin Fitzpatrick, MD
Since 2011, Dr. Fitzpatrick has worked as a private practice physiatrist with Mount Vernon Rehabilitation Associates in Northern Virginia. His primary role is in the outpatient setting, mostly doing EMG (Electromyography), a test that's used to diagnose disorders of nerves and/or muscles. He also does inpatient consultations and spends his weekends covering inpatient rehabilitation services.
Dr. Fitzpatrick began volunteering with the ABPMR in 2020 as an oral examiner for the Part II Examination, and he also serves as an item writer for the Part I Examination. We sat down with him to learn about his journey to becoming a PM&R physician and how he got involved in volunteering.
Tell us about your path to medical school and residency?
I attended medical school at Drexel University on an army scholarship, sort of like ROTC, but for medical school. It's a program called Health Profession Scholarship program where medical students get scholarships to attend medical school, and in exchange we pay back time to the military after graduation.
After I graduated, I did my residency in PM&R at Walter Reed. It used to be called the Army Medical Center and now it's called the Military Medical Center in Washington, DC. Once I finished residency there, I owed 4 years of payback time to the army. I got stationed at Walter Reed, the same place I did my residency, but in my first year I was sent to Iraq for six months. I returned, finished my payback time and then through connections and my work at Walter Reed, I received an opportunity to join the team at Mount Vernon Rehabilitation Associates.
How did you get started in PM&R?
For me, it was really finding a mentor. Once I found someone that I could see myself trying to emulate and someone who I really wanted to learn more about and what he could teach me, I could see myself having similar interests and a similar practice. Once I found my mentor that really spoke to me and inspired me, it was an easy choice from there.
Was there another specialty you were considering besides PM&R?
In college, before I went to medical school I had done some volunteer work at a hospital and was exposed to physiatry that way. So when I got to medical school I knew that I was interested in it, but figured I would have other interests too. The only other specialty I considered was Family Medicine. However, once I got into my clinical rotations and got to spend time with physiatrists it just seemed like a good fit for me.
How did you get started in volunteering for the ABPMR?
I'm trying to remember exactly how it happened, but I think some friendships that I made through volunteering with both AAPMR and AANEM told me about their work with ABPMR and at one point submitted my name as a volunteer and I was contacted. It seemed really interesting the stuff they were doing and having taken the boards on the other side it seemed like a good way to give back, stay involved and develop relationships.
How has volunteering been beneficial or useful in your career?
It's something I maybe would not have anticipated before I started. But the further I have gotten into my career, the more subspecialized you tend to become. You see similar things over and over and get really good at the things you do a lot, but you might have less exposure to other areas of PM&R. Getting involved in the board and question writing and getting to interact with young physiatrists really allows me to spend time with other topics. I think continuing to expose yourself to other areas of the field and diagnosis I might not see a lot is really helpful in my practice.
What is a memorable experience you have had through volunteering?
Each time I have done the oral exams, there has been one or two candidates who have really just blown me away. I was so impressed with how professional, knowledgeable, and how well they are able to communicate. I love being able to pick [fellow physiatrists’] brains about how they run their practice or interact with patients. Just being able to hear how they do things and learning from them is what really sticks with me.
Anything else you'd like to share about your time volunteering with the ABPMR?
I think at first, I was a little bit intimidated, especially going into the oral examination part of it. But it is something that I have come to enjoy. I enjoy seeing the young physiatrists, meeting them, and hearing about the cool things they're doing. Even if I am exhausted at the end of the day, I am always glad that I have done it and it has been worthwhile.