Family physician honored for her work

Dr. Kwanza Devlin wears many hats, all medicinal in nature, and her most recent hat is shaped for an award-winner. Devlin was recently named the 2014 North Dakota Family Physician of the Year at the North Dakota Academy of Family Physicians Foundation annual meeting in Grand Forks.

She has been sharing her love of family medicine by teaching and mentoring residents and students at UND Center for Family Medicine in Minot for the past two years.

Providing the full spectrum of care from birth to death, Devlin sees patients of all ages, does home and nursing home visits, follows her own patients if they go into the hospital and has a thriving clinic practice. She loves “catching babies,” she said.

Devlin also volunteers some evenings at the City & Country Health Clinic and is an instructor for the Advanced Life Support in Obstetrics course. In addition, Devlin manages the Community Medicine rotation for the residency program and has maintained contacts with many community service organizations in Ward County. She is a deputy assistant county coroner for Ward County as well.

Devlin started the Student Health and Risk Prevention Education program, in which residents partner with local schools to provide monthly healthcare-related activities. This also provides the students and the school with a physician contact for questions and support. What’s more, Devlin is fluent in Spanish and takes care of several Spanish-speaking families who would have more difficulty accessing care for their complex issues if she were not their physician.

During the summer of 2011, on the day that the Broadway bridge was reopened after the flood, Devlin arrived in Minot. It was surreal coming here, she said, because she interviewed here in April and she thought North Dakota is gorgeous during that time of year. Devlin grew up in the Philadelphia area and wasn’t so sure about the rural aspect of North Dakota at first.

“I love this environment where people take care of themselves and others, and it’s refreshing,” Devlin said. “It’s like you can be a human being here.” When she has gone back to the Philadelphia area where it’s densely populated, she said it bothers her how people treat each other out there.

“I love my practice and being a physician here,” Devlin added. “I get to be the physician that I want to be. North Dakota has allowed me to enjoy medicine the way I enjoy it and take care of my patients. I can do all of that here.”

According to Devlin, family medicine is the best specialty ever and what medicine should be.

“A family medicine doctor can take care of the entire family and adds richness to their care,” she added. Devlin said she frequently gets updates from her patients about other patients in their family. That enables her to care for patients better and gives a better ability to connect since she knows their background.

“It’s a strength that other areas (of medicine) don’t have. I like connecting with people and I get a taste of everything,” Devlin continued. “I get to do procedures, catch babies, take care of elderly patients. This is really what medicine was meant to be, I think.”

She thinks she’d be bored in other areas of medicine and would feel limited, she added, like she couldn’t take care of the patient as a whole.

“Family medicine just clicked and made perfect sense,” Devlin said. “I love the adventure. I open a door to see a patient and I don’t know what’s behind the door. It could be anything, and that’s just fun. It keeps you on your toes.”

It’s also the most difficult specialty, though, Devlin added, because of the complexity of information and the relationship part of connecting with patients in a meaningful way.

In caring for her patients, Devlin said, she tries to make each encounter special and give the patient her undivided time.

“I might be with a patient for 15 minutes or 115 minutes,” she added. “I try to be sensitive to patients and meet them where they are.”

Being named the 2014 North Dakota Family Physician of the Year came as a complete surprise to Devlin.

“I didn’t even know I was nominated,” she said. One of her colleagues, Dr. Kristina Schlecht, associate director in the Family Medicine Residency program at UND Center for Family Medicine-Minot, nominated Devlin. Devlin’s husband found out that Devlin had won a couple of months before the annual meeting and helped orchestrate the surprise, coming up with a plan for making a trip to Grand Forks and attending the luncheon meeting.

Devlin said she knew the annual meeting was taking place the weekend they were going to Grand Forks but didn’t plan on attending. However, her husband convinced her to attend, and Devlin was surprised to learn that she had won the North Dakota Family Physician of the Year award.

“I would never have guessed that I’d win,” Devlin said. “I don’t feel that much different than my colleagues here.”

Devlin said she owes a lot of thank yous to Dr. Kim Krohn, program director in the Family Medicine Residency program at UND Center for Family Medicine-Minot.

“She sets a positive tone for the whole practice and encourages us to be the physicians we want to be,” she said. “I think she (Krohn) should get the award 10 times over.”

Devlin also said she owes a lot of thank yous to the nurses as well, because they are a big piece of the team.

“Patients have also taught me a lot about how to take care of people,” she added.

(Prairie Profile is a weekly feature profiling interesting people in our region. We welcome suggestions from our readers. Call Regional Editor Eloise Ogden at 857-1944 or Managing Editor Kent Olson at 857-1939. Either can be reached at 1-800-735-3229. You also can send e-mail suggestions to mdnews@minotdailynews.com.)