Ann Orchard Brotzman, DO, MS, FACP, discusses practicing general internal medicine and forming close relationships with her patients


Ann Orchard Brotzman, DO, MS, FACP
Staff Physician and Wellness Representative for Internal Medicine
Lehigh Valley Hospital Network, Bethlehem, PA

Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Philadelphia, PA

St. Luke's University Hospital Network, Bethlehem, PA

What is your current position?

Staff Physician and Wellness Representative for Internal Medicine, Lehigh Valley Hospital Network, Bethlehem, PA.

Where did you attend medical school and postgrad training?

I attended Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Philadelphia, PA. After graduation, I completed a rotating internship at Allentown Osteopathic Medical Center (now St. Luke's University Hospital Network) in Allentown, PA. My internal medicine training was completed at St. Luke's University Hospital Network in Bethlehem, PA. I completed my master's in 2022 in medical informatics at The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Edinburg, TX.

Why did you choose to become a physician?

As a young child, I was interested in science, math, and assisting others. Higher education was financially difficult. My parents had not completed high school, and I was the youngest of seven. College was a goal with many challenges. In a conversation with a classmate in my first year of college, he told me that he was going to medical school, and I should go too. I agreed, changed my major, and the plan was forged. In our senior year, he was killed in a car accident. I kept my promise to attend medical school, and I credit him with changing my life's path. During my first year of college, my mother became quite ill and was hospitalized for many months. I was frustrated that I did not understand what was happening. Having an interest in science, my family looked to me for information, but I had limited understanding. The experience made me want to be more knowledgeable and be able to assist families in understanding the disease process. So, after seeing medicine affect our family directly and being encouraged by people around me, my path was set to study medicine.

What field of internal medicine did you select and why?

I am practicing general internal medicine. I chose internal medicine because of the flexibility it lends to young physicians. It can open the doors to multiple specialties and allows in-depth knowledge of medicine. I have practiced outpatient general internal medicine because it allowed me to form close relationships with my patients and provided flexibility early in my career to raise my family. I live in the community that I serve. My patients know my family, and I know theirs. I joke that I have looked at as many rashes and glucose logs in the dairy department of the local grocery store as I have in the office. Aging with my patients provides a perspective that few can share. I appreciate the different aspects of life and being able to assist people as they navigate their journey.

Please describe a typical day in your practice.

In my office, there are seven clinicians. Our staff is very dedicated. We start our day by collaborating and anticipating the needs of patients on the schedule as well as determining where there is flexibility in the schedule. Prior to the start of the day, precharting is completed and quality metrics and lab results are reviewed. There is a mix of annual exams, Medicare wellness exams, acute visits, and follow-up visits as well as new patients.

What are some of your special interests professionally?

After more than 25 years of practice, I have developed a strong interest in wellness and clinician well-being. I believe that wellness and informatics are closely linked. After seeing some of my colleagues falter due to burnout and having a son who is following in my footsteps, I feel strongly about well-being. After having a better understanding of well-being and factors that affect burnout, I pursued my master's degree in informatics to better understand how data can be used to modulate some of those factors.

What are your interests and hobbies outside of medicine?

I am an empty nester with pets. We travel to visit with family on a regular basis. I have three children in three states so there is always something to explore. Escape rooms are a frequent challenge. Exploring the outdoors with our dogs is a regular habit as well as frequent beach trips to Outer Banks, NC. Community service and volunteering has been a long-time interest.

What advice would you like to share with medical students, or what do you wish someone would have told you while you were in medical school?

My advice to medical students would be to put the time in now—during training. Stay late, show up early, and always stick around at night. The hospital is a different animal at night, and you can learn a lot just by being there. There is not time “later” to learn because everyone will expect you to know what to do.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My greatest achievement in life must be my children. Raising children has been my most challenging job as well as my most rewarding. It makes me proud to see them pursue their passions, rise to challenges, and become citizens who give back to the world. It is also humbling to realize that as they become adults, they have watched your every move—good, bad, or otherwise.

Who is your hero of fiction?

Guy Montag, the protagonist in Fahrenheit 451, would be my choice as a fictional hero because of his ability to change course, and ultimately do the right thing, even though everyone around him disagrees. He has faith in his profession but quickly sees the error of the prevailing societal views. His flawed, human response to the dilemma as well as his ability to survive and be part of the rebuilding makes him a hero to me. He does a full 180 and changes direction with the knowledge of the errors of the past.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I would have to name Molly Pitcher as that historical figure. We were both born in New Jersey. True to form, Molly did not give up, rose to challenges, and did much with the little she was given. According to legend, Mary Ludwig (aka Molly Pitcher) assisted in battle during the Revolutionary War by providing the soldiers pitchers of water from a nearby spring to cool their cannons. When her husband was not able to continue to fight, she manned the cannon until colonists won the battle. The story of Molly Pitcher has stayed with me since grade school. She navigated challenges and continued to fight for what was right, no matter what—it's a powerful message.

What is your motto?

Everything happens for a reason. This is our family motto. It has helped us navigate the good times and the challenges in our lives. Like many families, we have faced multiple challenges in the last few years. By seeing these challenges as an opportunity to view things from a different perspective or appreciate things more acutely, it becomes clear that there is a purpose in everything.

Back to the January 2024 issue of ACP IMpact

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