Out of Darkness, and Into the Light
Finding Hope as a DPC Physician
By: Dr. Kirsten Lin, M.D., Family Matters Direct Primary Care
As a young child, I held a deep trust and respect for my pediatrician. Later, these feelings developed into a calling toward a career in medicine. I spent the entirety of my 20’s immersed in education and training, and finally emerged as a “full-fledged” family practice physician at the age of 29. By that time, I had married and was expecting my second child. Out of residency, I was blessed to join a group of physicians who supported me as both a physician and mother by allowing me to work part-time. During those early years of my career and marriage, I had a sense of professional satisfaction and work/life balance.
But as the years went by, the winds of change began to blow. The family practice that I had joined as a newly minted physician was part of a larger health system that had undergone administrative restructuring. Around that time, the Affordable Healthcare Act was passed. Soon, we were being asked to see 25-30 patients a day in order to satisfy the administrators’ demands, paperwork was piling up and seemingly endless, and I was spending all my precious hours at home charting rather than spending time with family (1). At home, I was relying more and more on others to raise my children, and my husband and I would go days without seeing each other. Our home was a wreck, with piles of dishes and laundry left neglected.
Our small group of four physicians tried very persistently to make a change. We spent tens of thousands of dollars on attorneys and even left one health system to join another. At the end of the day, what we discovered was that our American healthcare system is severely flawed (2), and it is nearly impossible to make any positive change from the inside the system. Sadly, patients and physicians became the victims of this flawed system. I watched helplessly as patients were processed like widgets in a factory and my colleagues were experiencing burnout (I have lost 6 colleagues to suicide to date) (3). To say that I was dissatisfied with my career and home life is an understatement. This was a dark period in my life.
It took Dynamic Catholic’s Best Lent Ever to help turn things around for me. It was March 2017, and I saw a catchy slogan in our church bulletin: “don’t give up chocolate for Lent.” I signed up for the daily videos which were based on Matthew Kelly’s book Resisting Happiness. One of the first videos described the feeling of dissatisfaction as a powerful message from God. Matthew Kelly urged his audience not to ignore that feeling. Even the prayer associated with that day’s reflection resonated with me:
“Jesus, I am restless. I know something is missing in my life. Help me to hear what You are trying to tell me.”
I began to pray that prayer daily. Within that same week, I received a call from an old friend from residency telling me about an up-and-coming practice model called Direct Primary Care (4). This was the beginning of what I now recognize to be God guiding me out of the darkness.
Direct Primary Care (DPC) has saved my career and my family. I thank God every day for guiding me in this direction. Now, I am the owner of a medical practice that does not deal with any health insurance companies whatsoever. As a result, I can spend time (sometimes hours) with patients, delivering the care they need. I am able to do home visits for homebound or very ill patients. Recently, I have been able to mobilize a team to administer Covid-19 vaccinations in my community, when no large health system has yet been able to do so. I still work part-time, and I’m also able to integrate my family into the practice. My children love coming to work with me and labeling boxes or shredding papers. Thanks to my restlessness, the perfect timing of Matthew Kelly’s message, and an unexpected phone call from a friend—all orchestrated by God—the balance in my life has been restored.
(2) Catastrophic Care: Why Everything We Think about Health Care is Wrong, by David Goldhill
Meet Dr. Kirsten Lin, MD
Dr. Kirsten Lin was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area and currently lives in the North Hills with her family. She graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, as well as a minor in Human Development and Family Studies. She went on to receive her M.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and then completed her internship and residency in Family Medicine at UPMC St. Margaret Hospital.
Dr. Lin previously practiced medicine in Western PA for 12 years as an employee of large health systems, where she did not feel able to provide the best possible care for her patients. As a result, in October 2017, Dr. Lin opened Family Matters Direct Primary Care (Family Matters DPC) in Hampton Township, where she provides affordable, personalized healthcare without all the red tape.
Dr. Lin is also a regional lecturer and has been featured on various radio programs, educating healthcare workers as well as the general public about Direct Primary Care services and care options.
Mariah Buzza is an employee of the Christ Medicus Foundation and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley in 2018 with a Bachelor of Art degree in Political Science. She is currently pursuing a Master of Science degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from Divine Mercy University and resides in Pittsburgh, PA with her family. Mariah Buzza has been a victim of the sexual abuse crisis within the Catholic Church and uses her story to help others find healing through the teachings of the Church. Much of her writing reflects on why she is still Catholic despite the injustice she and others have suffered at the hands of priests and volunteers.