Keystone Physician - Spring 2016 - 24
It takes some people a lifetime to find their calling.
But Christopher Echterling, MD, the Pennsylvania
Academy of Family Physicians' 2016 Family Physician of the Year, knew when he was a teenager,
thanks to his own family physician.
"I wanted to go into medicine - I don't think many
high school kids known about family medicine," he
said. "My family doc growing up was a family practitioner - he was a great scientist, compassionate,
all those things. And he was also a pillar of medical
staff in the community. I wound up shadowing him
for some time, and that was sort of my impression of
medicine - family medicine."
Family medicine is known for its breadth, which is a
blessing for doctors who love variety like Echterling.
But he admits that it's not always an easy profession.
"Like many things, the best thing about something is
sometimes its most challenging part. The best thing
is its comprehensiveness, knowing about the whole
person - not only the scope, but the longevity," he
said. "Continuity is also sometimes is a challenge.
It's usually extremely rewarding, but sometimes it's
While Echterling has a passion for individual, personalized patient care - particularly for underserved pa-
2016 FAMILY PHYS
OF THE YEAR
CHRISTOPHER ECHTERLING, MD
Echterling says his desire to be a servant to others
also informed his career path.
"My real inclination was to serve people," he said.
"I stayed in family medicine because it was sort of
the specialty that had the best sense of the entire
person and of their challenges."
"I have historically worked with the undserserved,"
he said. "For me, suburban medicine with all insured folks would drive me absolutely crazy. I love
the opportunities where there's no one in that
space, and I like the vast majority of people who
also work in that space."
24 | Keystone Physician | Spring 2016
tient populations - he has a keen eye for the entire
complex health care system. And he sees light at
the end of the tunnel for a specialty that can sometimes be overlooked or undervalued.
"Unfortunately, family medicine is at risk of being
sidelined in terms of visibility. Because we're outpatient-based and throw ourselves into our work,
we're frequently in a position when we're not seen
as spokesmen for medicine," said Echterling. "It's
great for patients, but if no one sees the contributions the family doctors are making, it's a specialty
where people are making a difference and enjoying
it, that's a challenge.