If you follow the career progression that brings Dr. Lee Silkman to Lompoc Valley Medical Center: Physician Services, you should begin at a small clinic in Honduras. It was there that the University of Vermont environmental sciences major had her first exposure to working one-on-one in a healthcare setting.
She was in Honduras to work on environmental health quality assessments, but volunteered at the clinic to assist with infant health check-ups and infectious disease consults.
“It was my first experience working with people,” she recalls. “It had all been environmental before that. I enjoyed the interaction and being able to help. It made me think I might enjoy medical school.”
There was a slight detour before med school, however – a Master’s degree in public health from the Boston University School of Public Health.
She kept hearing the same thing from instructors – if you want to make big impacts in health care and have the ability to foster change, medical school is the path to take. So medical school it was — the native of a small town of 8,000 people in Maine was accepted to the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine in Netherland Antilles and was conferred as a doctor of medicine in 2011. Family Medicine residency and practices in Maine followed, until she and her husband, Dr. James Trettin, decided to live in Gore, New Zealand, practicing in a remote rural setting for a year.
Two small sons, and a desire to be near James’ family, led them to seek positions at LVMC.
“We hoped to work in the same area,” she explained. “We tried for that. It’s been good. Everyone’s been very welcoming and nice.”
Dr. Silkman practices family medicine and has also been seeing a number of pediatric patients since her arrival.
“I like family medicine because you really get to know your patients,” she says. “You can stay with them from childhood all the way to adulthood. And you take care of families, so you know the parents, siblings. You know the grandparents. It’s nice to have that connection. Continuity of care is so important in healthcare. Being able to provide that to my patients is something I feel very strongly about.”
She wants her patients to feel like that she is listening and that they are able to easily access care.
“I’m trying to break down those barriers that when they leave the office, it’s done,” she says. “It doesn’t have to be like that. We’re always here and we can always be helpful. It’s not just one office visit and that’s it. Lots of healthcare is a work in progress.”
As a family physician, Dr. Silkman is a strong proponent of preventative healthcare services.
“I do believe in that,” she says. “If you keep yourself healthy when you’re younger, then you stay healthy later on in life. We see that over and over. Staying up with that is important for your overall health.”