Tochi Iroku-Malize, MD, MPH, MBA, FAAFP, and president-elect of the AAFP, wanted to be a doctor from childhood – her father was a surgeon and her mother was a nurse. While she initially considered surgery as a specialty, the family’s travels around the world opened her eyes to the needs of patients in a wide variety of health care settings and political environments, and she decided family medicine was the area for her.
“It’s my personal mission to care for others, and I’ve always wanted to do it globally,” she says. “Family medicine is part of that. I can see any patient, anytime, anywhere in the world. Family medicine allows me to keep doing what I want to do, one on one.”
In keeping with her focus on caring for others, Iroku-Malize wakes up every morning and thinks, “What positive message do I want to put forward today?”
The answer? You’ll find it on Twitter.
Whatever she tweets, Iroku-Malize says her daily #YouveGotThis message does more than encourage others.
“It helps me start off on the right foot too,” Iroku-Malize says. “Sharing something positive with one person makes such a difference for yourself and that person. I take it one person at a time, one day at a time.”
Depending on the day, Iroku-Malize could be seeing patients at a free clinic, mentoring residents and students, talking with legislators, or a busy combination of these activities and more. Whatever she’s doing, Iroku-Malize believes in listening and learning.
“I strive to learn something new every day,” she says. “When I’m with a patient, I might learn a new word from them. That makes them happy and it makes me happy. It also helps build the patient-doctor relationship; they know, ‘This doctor cares about me.’ Then, they’re more trusting when I give advice. They also may divulge information they otherwise wouldn’t have divulged. And those little nuggets are important for shaping health care.”
As a longtime supporter of the AAFP Foundation, Iroku-Malize says she’s particularly impressed with the Family Medicine Leads Emerging Leader Institute and the Foundation’s global programming.
“When the Foundation took the lead in going to Haiti after the earthquake, the team dealt with clinical, educational, and infrastructure needs,” Iroku-Malize says. “Many looked at the situation and said, ‘There’s no hope. Who’s going to sign up for this?’ But the Foundation went in and did the work.
“Funding is integral to the continuation of the Foundation programs and it makes our communities greater,” she adds. “This is vital work. Whatever your personal mission is, the work of the Foundation touches your life and your mission. Your support is really important – and it creates a ripple globally. When other physicians see what’s possible, they do it too. The work you do and the support you provide is much appreciated.”
Believe it! Follow Iroku-Malize’s lead, and discover how your personal mission fits in at the AAFP Foundation. Who knows how many others will follow you?