Sweetwater family physician finds joy in connecting with patients
Jennifer Liedtke, MD, is a rural family physician in Sweetwater, a town of 10,000 in west Texas. With several call partners, she provides full-spectrum care for her patients including obstetrics. Liedtke attended Texas A&M University for her undergraduate education, medical degree and family medicine residency. She is a leader in her community, serving as the Nolan County Health Authority, medical director of the Nolan Skilled Nursing Facility, Level 1 Nursery medical director at Rolling Plains Memorial Hospital and Regional Perinatal Advisory co-chair. In the state, she is currently enrolled in the Texas Academy of Family Physicians Leadership Experience; serves as a consultant on the Texas Medical Association Committee on Reproductive, Women’s and Perinatal Health; and is a member of the Physician Workgroup, Texas Maternal Mortality and Morbidity Forum.
Who or what inspired you to become a physician?
When I was in sixth grade I was blessed to volunteer with a physician, “Doc,” who served as the peewee football trainer for my brother’s fifth-grade team. He let me help care for the football team, and I found my love for serving others. Since that day, I haven’t forgotten all the ankles I wrapped and water I served. I truly feel called to serve others. It was during my college years, while working with Lamar McNew, MD, where I found my love of women’s health and delivering babies. After seeing my first delivery with him and the life he held in his hands, I knew that family medicine and full-spectrum care was where I wanted to be.
What gives you the most joy in your day-to-day professional life?
Getting to know and befriending my patients gives me the most joy of my career. I have immense job satisfaction when I am able to diagnose a tough problem, but I have more joy when I am able to share and grow in our relationship, when I am able to practice the art of medicine.
Briefly describe a “peak experience” from your career: interaction with a mentor, memorable patient, etc.
There have been so many, but given that my passion is obstetric care one stands out – a delivery that happened a little over a year ago. The delivery itself was not all that exciting, besides the fact that it happened on my birthday. But, it was all of the steps that led to the delivery. I had been working with the patient for two years on fertility management, and she and her husband had been trying for several prior years to conceive. We tried numerous therapies and, ultimately, she achieved a pregnancy. We both cried with joy together because, finally, she had her baby. Unfortunately, it was an ectopic pregnancy and she lost the tube and ovary in emergency surgery. Knowing our chances of success were marginal with intrauterine insemination (IUI), we decided in vitro fertilization (IVF) was her best option and after several months of working with her specialist, she was expecting again. We were overjoyed. The pregnancy was routine, until her baby girl decided to remain breech. We proceeded with a C-section after a failed external cephalic version. On the day of her surgery, we prayed together and walked through each step of surgery. Upon delivery, she thanked me for working with her for the last three years as she held her perfect angel.
It’s moments like this that make it worth all the paperwork, administrative tasks and emotionally taxing aspects of this career worthwhile. I am pleased to say that at a recent visit, she told me they would try for their second baby soon, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.
What do you enjoy doing outside of medicine?
I spend every moment I am not working with my family. I have a wonderful husband for the last 10 years and three kids: ages 5, 4 and 1. We fill our time with camping, dance, school plays and taking care of our farm. I could not imagine this life without the chaos of balancing my work and family life. It’s is an adventure every day.
What else would Texas family physicians enjoy knowing about your unique “brand” of medicine?
I love rural medicine. I have a full panel of inpatient, outpatient and obstetric patients. What a thrill to get to be part of the only specialty where you can deliver a baby, and then become that newborn’s physician. I encourage family physicians to work to the depths of our training and not be pigeon-holed into being a “referral specialist.”
Written by Kate Alfano and originally published on the Texas Academy of Family Physicians website.