Growing up in a small town, Katie Blalock, MD, never imagined she would be giving back to her community and helping take care of the people who knew her from the minute she was born.
Blalock grew up in Navasota, Texas, a small, rural town 20 miles south of Bryan-College Station. Growing up, Blalock always knew she wanted to be a physician.
“I looked up to the doctors who I saw when I was younger, and I really just thought that I wanted to be able to take care of others,” said Blalock, who is a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Medicine and a primary care physician at Texas A&M Health Family Care. “I had a couple of health issues when I was younger, and so I spent lots of time at the doctor’s office, so that’s really what started it. As I became older, I enjoyed seeing the bond between physician and patient. The ability to walk alongside the patient during their journey to health appealed to me.”
There was never a thought in Blalock’s mind she wouldn’t attend Texas A&M for college. Her parents attended Texas A&M, and she started going to Texas A&M football games and sporting events from the time she was a baby.
Blalock ended up not only going to Texas A&M for her undergraduate degree, majoring in biomedical sciences, but also attending Texas A&M for medical school and doing her residency with the Texas A&M Family Medicine Program. Now as a faculty member at the College of Medicine, she has continued to truly live the Aggie spirit throughout her life.
“When I was a senior in high school, I was accepted into the Partnership for Primary Care program at Texas A&M’s medical school, which is guaranteed acceptance into medical school as long as you meet certain criteria and go to a Texas A&M university, which was never in doubt,” Blalock said.
Throughout medical school, Blalock toyed with different specialties, but family medicine really stuck out to her. She liked the idea of being able to care for a wide range of people, and she liked the flexibility of the field.
“We can take care of newborns to residents in nursing homes, perform procedures and provide continuity of care to multiple generations of a family,” Blalock said. “I can work in multiple settings, including clinic, hospital and nursing home and am blessed to be able to do all three. It was my privilege to train at one of the best residencies in the country, the Texas A&M Family Medicine Residency, which provided the tools that allow me to have a successful practice.”
After her residency, Blalock was able to join the Texas A&M Family Residency faculty. What makes her situation unique is her office is located in Navasota, unlike most of the other family physicians in the practice, who are located in Bryan. Blalock gets the opportunity to practice in her hometown, while still being able to teach residents and medical students in the clinic, nursing homes and hospitals.
“It’s pretty special to be able to give back to my community,” Blalock said. “I grew up here, I go to church here and I have served as the choir director at my church throughout college, medical school and residency and continue to serve in that capacity today. I have many patients that have known me since I was born and trust me with their healthcare which is humbling and not something I take for granted.”
Throughout the weekdays, Blalock works at her clinic tending to patients. Every fourth week, she rounds with the residents as the attending on the inpatient medicine service at CHI St. Joseph Health in Bryan. Intermixed with those responsibilities, Blalock sees nursing home patients, where she has a passion for geriatric medicine.
“With the COVID pandemic, I’ve done even more geriatric work via telehealth, because as nursing homes are trying to limit the people going in and out of facilities, I have transitioned to seeing almost all of the nursing home patients for our practice,” Blalock said. “It’s always something different throughout the day and that keeps things interesting. So inpatient, outpatient and geriatrics—those are really my three key areas.”
Blalock’s favorite part about being a physician is the challenges she faces every day, comparing them to a puzzle.
“Many patient encounters are straightforward, with an obvious diagnosis,” Blalock said. “But there are even more whose symptoms are not straightforward. These patients require you to put the pieces together to come up with, number one: a diagnosis, and number two: a solution that works well for the patient, is both challenging and satisfying. I truly enjoy working in multiple settings with patients of different ages and backgrounds which ensures that every day at work is a new day.”
As a woman in medicine, Blalock realizes the importance of equality and diversity in medicine, valuing the importance of making sure patients have physicians and health care providers who they are able to be comfortable around.
“It’s really important that the patients that you take care of can see themselves in their physician which ultimately helps you to relate to your patient,” Blalock said. “If there isn’t trust, then patients will not have faith in there, whether that is taking a medication, or making a change in their habits to improve their health. I achieved my childhood dream of becoming a physician and have returned to the community that helped mold me into the person I am today. I hope that I can inspire other young people from a small town just like mine to chase their dreams as well.”
The College of Medicine’s Annual Celebration of the American Medical Association’s Women in Medicine Month will be held virtually on Sept. 28, 2020, from 6–7 p.m. It is co-hosted by the Women in Medicine student organization and the Student Diversity and Inclusion Committee.