Episode 73: Dr. Belen Amat (She/Her) of Direct Primary Care of West Michigan - Grand Rapids, MI

Updated: Apr 2

DPC Doctor

Dr. Amat in her white coat
Dr. Belen Amat

Dr. Belen Amat was born and raised in Mexico City, where she studied medicine at the Universidad Panamericana and graduated with honors. She decided to pursue a dual specialty in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at GRMEP in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where she found wonderful people and a great city for her family.

Ever since she was a child, she wanted to be a doctor and help people, especially when they were sick and needed help the most. She put her life-long love of science to work figuring out complex medical issues and preventing illnesses.

After several years of working in large clinics and hospital networks such as Spectrum Health and St. Mary’s, she decided to start her own practice with the idea of reviving the personalized attention she believes is the basis of a quality medical service. Her research into the Direct Primary Care model showed high rates of patient satisfaction and improved medical and wellness outcomes through increased patient access and communication, so she decided to adopt this preventative model of care.

Dr. Amat believes in patient care that is based on a personal relationship between a doctor and a patient, a relationship based in trust and communication. She volunteers for medical mission trips to Honduras and offers service in Spanish for the Spanish-speaking community.

Dr. Amat is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. She is a member of the Michigan State Medical Society (MSMS), the American College of Physicians (ACP), the American Association for Physician Leadership (AAPL), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

She opened Direct Primary Care of West Michigan July 2017.


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Welcome to the podcast

Dr. Amat

thank you for inviting me.

Bellin. It is so wonderful to talk with you today because prior to. This interview Dr. Clutter, Ryan had pointed out that you have run a successful DPC since 2017 and you every day in your practice are proving that DPC is not built for only the people who have more than enough means to, to pay for this access to quality care.

So with that said, I want to take a step back to your training. When you were training in medical school, you had a fifth year requirement to go out into the community and serve in a rural area. Can you tell us about that experience and how has that impacted you and your practice?

And so medical school in Mexico is six years.

So you do two years of basic science. Then you do two years old rotations, just regular rotations. And then one year of internships, if you pretty much the, you're in charge of the patients in the hospital for a whole year, and then you do a rural service. So you're actually done with medical school.

But they will not give you a license until you do this year, rural service. So you go out in my case, cause I was in that private university, we got to choose where to go based on our grades. We could choose where to go. And so that was good because as much as I wanted the rural experience, I did not want to go to that place where they drop you in a helicopter and see you later in your it.

So where I went was about three hours away from Mexico city in the mountains, it was. I was a little scared to go because I am a city girl. I grew up in Mexico city, which is 25 million people in them, all the services, and it's all fancy. And I travel all my life. So I had never lived in this kind of environment.

So when they got time to go, it's super fun because you, the town will give you the clinic. In most places, you live in the clinic in the town. I was saying we actually had a house. The town provided this house for us. As, if they didn't have power, I didn't have power. They didn't have water.

I didn't have water. And we had water once a week. So our cows had a what does that look? The collecting system. So I did have, we could fill it up. And for one week we had that water. But if for some reason there was no power. There, there was no water. So sometimes we didn't have water for a couple of weeks, which is pretty interesting.

You learn, you can live with almost anything except water. The water is the new power who cares. And we didn't have cable. It was just awesome. One of my favorite things to do, and this is obviously nothing to do with medicine, was to sit in my car and listen to the traffic report for Mexico city.

And just look at the mountains. It was just amazing. So for one year you are the town's doctor, then you are under the, the supervision of the government. A guy from the government and who you meet this public health person, not a doctor, but a public health person who you meet once a week. And they, and you just report the numbers to them of what you've seen in the week.

So diabetics pregnant people, they were the control of the pregnant people, all their follow up. And you do pretty much everything in the time when you are at the town's doctor for a whole year, we had, there were two of us, another let's go, let's do that. And me and we had 3,500 patients, let's say that lived in this town.

They're actually two towns, but they were so close together. The clinic was in the middle. So we actually have two towns. And that's what the two of us usually you're by yourself, which is found scary sometimes up in the two weeks with no security. The interesting thing too is you become part of their town.

You are, but in Mexico, the doctor's. The Dr. Wright is the priest and the doctor and whatever you say goes. So that says he was a very rich experience because it takes you out of the comfort zone of, you're double the supervision and then you're in this place that's gorgeous, but you have very little resources, there's no lab.

So you treat patients not knowing what their labs are. You take care of more complicated stuff that you would normally do where you refer people out. There's no referral. You deliver babies, which I so are the city, the closest city was a half hour away. And I would give the pregnant patients, my cell phone in new coli anytime of day and night.

And I would take them to the hospital to deliver the babies. I did not want that experience. I, that's why I met. The main reason is I did not want to be specific. Just get stuck in your head. And there's nothing you can, we didn't have a rescue box with an ambo bag. That's how bare it was by the end of the year.

We spruced up the clinic and make it better, but still you're so used to technology and exclusivity. The hospitals are pretty fancy and all of a sudden you're thrown into this and now you're practicing on your own and you don't have any supervision. You can call, your teachers from med school and ask questions, but it's not like real supervision where you could just say, Hey, can you look at this with me?

None of that.

When you're talking about resources like electricity and water, did you also have. Waxing and waning of resources that you needed to use in your clinic as well, like gloves