Chelsea Bowman, MD
R3 Internal Medicine Residency Program
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
I was born on the East Coast in New Hampshire but raised in the San Francisco East Bay. As a result of this cross-country move, I was immediately placed in speech therapy as a child because my east coast accent was taken to be a speech disorder! As a teenager I worked in the office of my family’s construction business where I learned how to organize information and prioritize tasks, skills that have been immensely beneficial during my medical training. I can say one of my best decisions was getting married right before starting medical school, because my husband has been a continual source of support and encouragement throughout my training, not to mention an amazing cook!
What was your path to UCSF and describe your experiences as a resident in our program?
Being raised in Northern California I decided to venture down to LA for undergraduate training at UCLA, but after two years of sitting in traffic I transferred back to UC Berkeley to complete my degree. After my experience of leaving the Bay Area, I was sure I never wanted to do that again! I was lucky that I never had to; I stuck around and attended UCSF for medical school. UCSF has an addicting and electrifying culture because of the passionate people that choose to dedicate their life to improving patient care. I became captivated by this culture and was fortunate enough to match at UCSF for residency training. The best part about being a resident at UCSF is the phenomenal colleagues I get to work with everyday. My co-residents, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, attendings and mentors are dedicated to patients, research, high quality evidence-based medicine and education. Their excitement is contagious and has helped me to become the best physician I can be.
You became increasingly involved in QI work and led successful QI initiatives during medical school and residency. What drew you to this type of work early on?
My initial interest in QI came during my third year of medical school. As it was my first ward experience I was shocked at some of the inconsistencies and inefficiencies that can occur in the hospital. Then while reading “The Checklist Manifesto” By Atul Gawande, an aha-moment connected my current work in the hospital to my previous work experience at my family’s construction business. The book highlights the similarities between the construction of high-rise buildings and our complex health care system. Both industries require high standards, need to ensure high quality, and create safe systems in order to promote public safety. After countless hours making checklists as a teenager working for the family business, the idea of incorporating a similar structure into the messy world of healthcare was intuitive to me.
Some of your work and publications have focused on measuring safety culture attitudes among medical students, residents and faculty. How did you get interested in this area and what have you learned in the process?
During medical school I connected with an amazing mentor, Niraj Sehgal, who helped me find my passion in QI and patient safety. As a medical student, we talked about the differences I perceived in culture on different rotations; in education this is frequently referred to as the “hidden curriculum”. This led to my first project in safety culture and I enjoyed the process, therefore I continued the work into residency. One of the most important lessons that I have learned, which comes from my work and affects how I practice medicine, is the importance of communication. How we communicate with patients, nurses, consultants, students etc. can affect the quality of patient care. I try to consciously remember this every day whether I am on rounds, when I am answering a page at 3AM or when I am leading a family meeting. Creating a positive safety culture takes deliberate thought until hopefully it becomes engrained in the institutions culture.
How do you spend your time away from UCSF?
Time away from UCSF is usually full of family and friends who all live in the area. One of our favorite places to spend time is on the Mendocino coast. However, when my husband chooses an activity we are usually cheering for one of his favorite Bay Area sports teams whether it is the SF Giants, the 49ers or the Golden State Warriors – there always seems to be a sporting event available!
Interviewed Winter 2015