Tags: community , redesigning care

Dr. Ian Huntington and medical assistant Rosie WeekesKraft Fellow Dr. Ian Huntington and medical assistant Rosie Weekes

The Kraft Center Fellows

The Kraft Fellowship in Community Health is a competitive two-year post-residency program dedicated to preparing a new generation of physician-leaders who will lead the development of new models of collaboration between academic medicine and community health centers.

Kraft Fellows are selected on the basis of academic achievement, leadership ability, and demonstrated commitment to caring for underserved patients. Each one of them brings a unique set of experiences and perspectives to the program – and so we thought you might enjoy getting to know each Kraft Fellow a little bit better.

To that end, we are pleased to present this profile of Dr. Ian Huntington, which is the fourth in our Kraft Fellows "Profiles in Compassion" series.

We do hope you like it -- and we hope these profiles offer another window into the remarkable group of young physicians who comprise the Kraft Fellowship in Community Health’s inaugural class.

Meet Dr. Huntington

Ian Huntington pursued a few different interests on his way to medical school.  And, when he eventually landed in community health, he was delighted to find himself in the company of like-minded peers who also brought a wealth of outside experiences to the care they provided for their patients.

“I think a lot of doctors who end up in this field are initially turned off by the medical school rat race,” he explained, adding:  “They’re smart people, but they have other things going on as well.”

Dr. Huntington, who is originally from Seattle, took his first step into new territory when he decided to “come east” for college. He claims he initially got “terrible grades” at Swarthmore College in Philadelphia before eventually settling in to double major in anthropology and biology.

His study abroad experience in Nepal, where he helped rural patients navigate the Katmandu health care system, prompted him to return for a year immediately upon graduation. And once his thoughts turned to medical school, the young Dr. Huntington (to be) made a move to Boston, which offered him an abundance of opportunities to delve into research while he was preparing his medical school applications.

His work on studies related to quality of care at academic hospitals and quality of life among adults with cystic fibrosis gave him good exposure to research practices and various medical specialties. So, by the time he enrolled at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, he knew that he wanted to focus on primary care and he was able to seek out mentors who could help him find or design experiences specifically in community medicine.

It wasn’t until he began his residency in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, however, that Dr. Huntington truly felt at home.

“The program is extremely supportive of residents’ other interests,” he noted. He emphasized: “Academically, it’s outstanding, but people are interested in social justice, as well.”

He had continued to pursue research during his residency, this time on patients who had been successful in managing their diabetes. But Dr. Huntington was also struck by the “social justice curriculum” implemented by the residency program, which had been developed by Dr. Jennifer Brody, a physician at the Boston HealthCare for the Homeless Program who is a current participant in the Kraft Practitioner Program, and which engaged speakers from around Boston and included tours of various community health centers.

In particular, he was intrigued by his observation that community health centers’ strong connections to their communities often rendered them better equipped than the clinic at one of America’s top hospitals to address their patients’ needs. And, largely as a result, Dr. Huntington made the decision to carve out his own path after residency in order to gain deeper experience in community health while also keeping one foot in the academic research world.

He had been recruited for a research-oriented fellowship at Harvard, but was struggling to patch together a combination of clinical and research roles on his own when he heard about the then-brand new Kraft Fellowship in Community Health.

“I thought to myself: ‘If I could design a fellowship, this is exactly what it would look like,’” the young physician recalled thoughtfully.

Dr. Ian Huntington with a patient

Now, almost eighteen months into the program, Dr. Huntington has absolutely no regrets about signing on.

He said that his clinical experience, which is based at Codman Square Health Center in Dorchester, has been “outstanding.” He was pleased when he discovered that he could directly relate his work at the health center to the Masters of Public Health degree he is pursuing at the Harvard School of Public Health, an option that the Kraft Fellowship offers for participants who have not earned this advanced degree already. And he is especially enthusiastic about what he calls Codman Square’s “say yes” ethos and its active embrace of innovation in community health and health care.

For their part, leaders and staff at Codman Square Health Center have been thrilled to welcome Dr. Huntington as part of their team.

“Ian is so comfortable in this environment,” noted Dr. Philip (Chip) Severin, the health center’s Chief Medical Officer and one of Dr. Huntington’s mentors. Indeed, he added, the newly-minted physician distinguished himself early on by his seemingly innate ability to relate to the health center’s socioeconomically and ethnically diverse patients and staff.

Dr. Huntington has been working closely with Dr. Severin and others at Codman Square Health Center to develop pre-visit tools that engage patients in their health care before they show up for their doctor’s appointment. The endeavor serves as the “community health project” that Dr. Huntington is required to complete as part of the Kraft Fellowship. But, Dr. Severin pointed out, it is also addressing a critical health center priority in that it is helping Codman Square continue to “live up” to the recognition for care coordination and patient-centeredness it received from the National Committee for Quality Assurance in 2012, which was awarded at the highest level.

Dr. Huntington is already thinking about ways to expand the pre-visit tools beyond adult primary care to other Codman Square clinical departments. And, looking forward to the end of the Kraft Fellowship, his hoped-for next step is to stay right where he is.

“I love being a primary care doctor,” he explained. “And part of the fun of primary care is building relationships with patients over time.”

Dr. Severin confirmed that his own goal is to retain Dr. Huntington at Codman Square Health Center for as long as possible.

But while Dr. Huntington himself is busy puzzling over how to develop a more robust research enterprise within Codman Square in the years ahead, Dr. Severin is taking a longer view.

“I see Ian excelling in a leadership role at a community health center or quite possibly a larger institution,” he predicted.  “He has the natural abilities to get to wherever he decides he wants to go.”

Read about Kraft Fellows Dr. Joseph Joyner, Dr. Kate Hobbs-Knutson and Dr. Genevieve Daftary.