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Giving birth to new research in primary care obstetrics

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Since completing her Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry in 1998, Dr. Sudha Koppula (BSc, MD, MClSc, CCFP) has traveled the world, earned multiple degrees, built a family practice, contributed to numerous publications, and taught and mentored residents. But, most rewarding for her, so far, has been her work in the delivery room of the same Edmonton hospital where she was first welcomed into the world.

“Sometimes when I’m working just a few feet away from where I was born, I feel like I haven’t really gotten that far,” she laughs. “But delivering my patients’ babies and then being able to watch them grow is one of my favourite things about being a family doctor.”

It’s also informed her research interests. Encouraged and influenced by a mentor, a clinician involved in scholarly work in family medicine, she began to look at the opportunities available to her. “He taught me that patient care was of the utmost importance, but that there were also many other possibilities in family medicine that were also important if I was interested in pursuing them.”

Her passion for primary care obstetrics, coupled with her love of writing, led her to pursue her Masters in Clinical Science (MClSc) in family medicine at Western. She focused on primary care obstetrics research, looking at the different models of care that family doctors use to sustain themselves, as well as at faculty development and the future of resident teaching in the area of maternity care.

“We found that many family doctors are creative and innovative and that they have found a good balance between having a set schedule and collaboration. We also found that there is great potential for encouraging current trainees to to become maternity care providers,” she says.

Complementing her clinical work with research proved the ideal way for her to combine her love of arts and sciences. “There are people who always know what they want to do their whole lives. I wasn’t one of those people. Once I began my residency I knew that family medicine was the right choice for me. And the scholarly work has huge parallels to journalism – finding a story, investigation, writing, publication – so it satisfies my early journalistic aspirations.”

In addition to her family practice and her work providing maternity care through MomCare Docs, a maternity care sharing program she also co-founded, Dr. Koppula has held a number of appointments and is currently the Site Director of the Royal Alexandra Family Medicine Centre; Assistant Professor, Director of Faculty Development, and Faculty Coordinator of Integrated Women’s Health in the University of Alberta’s Department of Family Medicine; and an Adjunct Professor in the MClSc Program in Family Medicine at Western. Despite her many commitments, she says making a conscious choice to look at offers as opportunities instead of as barriers has helped her to keep from feeling overwhelmed along the way – a lesson she tries to pass on to her learners as well.

As she looks to the future, Dr. Koppula sees many more opportunities in the field of primary care obstetrics research. “The MClSc program definitely gave me a more well-rounded perspective and has encouraged me to look at things from other lenses as my career continues.”