Direct Primary Care Doctor
Dr. Christina Gonzalez is a board-certified family physician. She grew up in the Adirondack Mountains area of upstate new york. Then, after earning a BA in Psychology from Gordon College she lived and worked in Boston for a few years, while completing her pre-med classes at Harvard University, before heading off to med school.
While she is far away from where she grew up, she loves the life she’s built in El Dorado (pronounced El Dor-AY-do), KS with her husband, Pablo, and their gaggle of children. When not seeing patients you might find her chasing after her kids, cooking, enjoying time out on the lake, or going on adventures with her husband and kids.
In her interview, Dr. Gonzalez shares about how she never wanted to be a physician and how ended up going to medical school anyways! She then talks about how she trained for residency in a place she never would have considered, based on where she grew up, and how she happened to then transition to entrepreneurship and opening her own DPC in rural El Dorado, KS!
Resources Mentioned by Dr. Gonzalez:
Website: Hope Family Medicine DPC
Phone: (316) 323-4436
So Direct Primary Care to me is a modern approach to old fashioned family medicine. It is breaking down the barriers and things that get in the way of the doctor patient relationships so that we can focus on what really matters for the true health and wellness of our patients, for their families and for our community. I am Dr. Christina Gonzalez of Hope Family Medicine and this is my DPC story.
Welcome to the podcast Dr. Gonzalez.
Thank you. I'm really glad to be here.
You have had such a unique journey because you grew up in New York and along your medical training and your medical journey to opening up your DBC, you've had experiences overseas. So can you please share with the listeners about your journey in medicine that led you to eventually learn about DPC?
Yeah. So the story of how I became a doctor, I think it really intertwines with how I became a direct primary care doctor. Like. Kind of almost one in the same, I can't say doctor and then became DPC or doctor and then became primary care because they really kind of flow together. I could probably take your whole podcast to explain the whole story, but I'll try to be really succinct and tell kind of the highlights.
I actually, when I was really young, I was six years old and I made my first diagnosis. I got out of the bathtub and I said, mom, look, I have Lyme disease. And I had bull's eye rash. And I said, look, I have lung disease, just like you do. So my mom, my dad and I all had Lyme disease growing up. And that kind of was defined our lives a lot because back then they didn't really know how to treat people.
There was a lot of kind of longterm sequella, especially, especially for my mom. And so health and wellness was kind of always in our. Our, um, history. I actually remember writing a journal entry where I said, I would never want to be a doctor who would want to be around sick people all the time. So that kind of went again, not against, but, so I kind of had that in my background, but at the same time, I was really interested in it.
I kind of always had that. If something is broke, I want to be the one to fix it. So I saw problems with how healthcare was when I was a kid and I really wanted to, to do something about it, but I didn't actually want to be a doctor. So growing up, I thought maybe I would do physical therapy. Maybe I would be a psychologist.
I went to college and I had a degree in psychology because I figured whatever. Doing that psychology was an important part of that. And so I graduated from college with a psychology degree and moved to Boston. And when I was in Boston, I went on my, I went on a mission trip with my church and we went to Ethiopia.
And what I will say is this there kind of two big defining, I guess, three things. So when I was in that kind of defined how I. I discovered what my like vocational purpose in life was. I remember learning about Maslow's hierarchy of needs. And I remember learning that physical needs were at the bottom of the pyramid.
If you remember, it's like a pyramid and at the top is self-actualization, but physical needs were at the bottom and I am a Christian. And so my faith was important to me, but I never wanted to be a missionary. I didn't want to be, you know, out there evangelizing sort of thing I wanted to address, I guess I always knew I wanted to like show love rather than tell love if that makes sense.
So Maslow's hierarchy of needs in eighth grade. And then in college, I, there was a quote by, I think it's Frederick Buckner. That was our theme for, we had a. Convocation one year where it said the place that God calls you to is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet. And so I, at that time, I didn't really know what I wanted to do, but I knew it was going to be helping people.
It was in health care and it was definitely not a doctor. So I just said, well, I need to figure out where that deep need is. So when. After college went to Ethiopia. I've had this moment where I was literally standing on the road, walking from the guest house to the hospital. And it was just like this like, wave of like, this is it like, this is that intersection.
This is where deep gladness and deep hunger meet. This is where, you know, physical needs and emotional needs and spiritual needs. They all come together. It was a really cool place that I was at. They, um, and this kind of where it sorta ties into DPC a little bit, not so much. Financial model of it. But the concept of it is they worked with women and children who had HIV and aids, and that was their kind of identifier.
And they took care of the whole person. They had counseling, they had financial classes, they helped people with small business loans. They did peer to peer counseling. Basically. They just, they initially had started out as an HIV aids organization, but then once part therapy came out and they were able to help people live longer.
They said we really need to just not be a hospice program essentially, but be a program that takes care of these people and it just changed lives. And so I was like, gosh, if I could do this in the United States, not that I didn't want to live in another country, it just kind of was like, well, if I could do this forever, I wound up.
That's what I want to do like it, where, where people recognize that physical needs and psychologic needs were equally important and equally affected each other. So, so that trip was pretty amazing. But what was actually kind of the funny story about it is that on my flight back, I had this true epiphany.
Like I was like, fix, this is what I need to do. And, you know, I guess I'm supposed to be a doctor, even though I never wanted to be, but on my flight back, there was a doctor. I think his name was, I think Dr. Irv for Irving. And he was a doctor from Texas. And in hindsight, I can see he was burnt out. He was like burnt to a crisp, and I remember being on the plane and this was.
What does that back in 2006, 2007, being on the plane, on the flight back, I said, gosh, I'm thinking maybe I want to be a doctor. And he launched into this 10 point, you know, lesson on all the things wrong with health care about, you know, Documentation and insurance and, and administration and all these things that were wrong with healthcare and ended it by saying, and if you want to go help the poor, then you should just be a PA that's good enough.
And I have nothing against PAs. I think there's absolutely can be a role for them, but I hated, I mean, it just like nod at me to the core that he said, you know, if you, if that's what you want to do, you should just go be a PA. And that just felt so wrong because I had thought about being a PA at one point, because I didn't think that I.
I didn't think I was cut out to be a doctor in a lot of ways. And so I was like, well, gosh, I mean, I do want to help the poor and I don't want to be what that guy just said. So I, um, went home and applied to med school and figured I wouldn't get in. And then I did. So that's how I became a doctor. I think maybe that didn't fully answer your question because I totally tangented.
This is another example of how this podcast is really highlighting the individual journeys of these, of DPC physicians all over the country. Because the journey that we all take to get to being a part of the movement is, is absolutely unique for all of us.
And when you talk about. What you saw and what you didn't want to see. And you know, this idea that how could you have expected to sit on doc to sit next to Dr. Irving or Dr. Irv on the plane? It's just, it's, it's pretty crazy how all of that happened. And, and, you know, they, the idea that at the time you were in Ethiopia, you were seeing the transition from them thinking about HIV as a chronic disease, rather than as a life ending disease.
Like we used to, to it's just, you know, it's, it's great that you were in these places at the right time and that you had your epiphany. And so I want to ask now, after you applied to medical school, you thought you weren't going to get in, and then you got in, how did you. Learning about direct primary care as a business model and as, uh, a type of model that you wanted to pursue after residency.
Yeah. So I went to medical school in New York and I found out about this program called via Christi, which is in Wichita, Kansas. And then I, um, I actually met Nick Thompson, um, as a med student and he told me, I said, so what do people do for fun there? And I joke about this with him all the time is that he said, uh, what do people do for fun there?
And he said, well, we have a really nice YMCA. And that was the saddest thing I'd ever. It's like, really? You're going to try to convince me to move to Wichita because of what I'm saying anyway. So, um, I proceeded to try to find a program that was similar to the, uh, Kersey that had that. That kind of cowboy mentality, where you learn how to do everything.