Dr. Clements Reflects on the Growth of the NM Family Medicine Residency Program
November 4, 2021 | 1 min. to read
For the past nine years, Deborah S. Clements, MD, family medicine physician and program director for the McGaw Northwestern Family Medicine Residency Program at Lake Forest, has worked to increase the visibility of family medicine and residency programs all across Northwestern Medicine. As a passionate leader and educator, Dr. Clements is known for her visionary work in training future family medicine physicians.
“The ability to impact lives is what drives me; it’s what drives all of us,” says Dr. Clements. “And combining my passion for family medicine and teaching brings me fulfillment every day.” Dr. Clements oversees the training of residents in three programs: Northwestern McGaw Family Medicine Residency at Humboldt Park, Northwestern McGaw Family Medicine Residency Program at Delnor and Northwestern Family Medicine Residency Program at Lake Forest. She is also responsible for family medicine undergraduate medical education at Feinberg School of Medicine.
“Being part of Northwestern Medicine sets this program apart,” says Dr. Clements. “These residents are not just excellent physicians but leaders in their communities, generating new knowledge and transforming medicine as part of an integrated academic health system.” With her guidance, family medicine residents provide care to patients in a variety of demographics, graduating 24 family physicians each year.
Residents can go from delivering a baby to making a house call for an elderly patient, all in the same morning. But when selecting residents to enter the program, one resounding theme remains: the ability to overcome challenges. “We have to help find solutions to our patients’ challenges,” says Dr. Clements. “Essentially, overcoming challenges is the key to what we do as family physicians.”
And life experience, Dr. Clements says, is key to creating empathy and humility for future physicians. She has a unique perspective on this. Although she was interested in medicine from a young age, Dr. Clements did not follow the same career timing others did. Instead, life took her on a different path, and in her early 30’s, she began working toward her medical degree. She was a single mother of three children.
“Running a household gives you a very different set of priorities, so I recognized early in my training that my approach was quite different, too,” says Dr. Clements.
After completing her residency, Dr. Clements served six years as assistant director of the Division of Medical Education at American Academy of Family Physicians. With an affinity for learning and a passion for patient care, she began as an assistant clinical professor and associate program director at University of Kansas Medical Center in 2004, eventually becoming a professor of family medicine and the residency program director.
Seemingly destined for leadership, Dr. Clements embraced challenge when she was approached with an opportunity to join NM in 2012. At the time, the program was in its infancy, with only 24 residents total.
With the right support in place, Dr. Clements and her team have built the Family Medicine Residency Program at Lake Forest over the past eight years. Adding their numbers with those of the program at Humboldt Park and the program at Delnor, Dr. Clements leads a team of 72 family medicine residents, and predicts continued growth for the future.
“It takes a lot of hard work, and our team is dedicated to succeeding for our patients and our communities,” says Dr. Clements.
Dr. Clements’ leadership also expands to a national level. She is past president of the Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors, member of the board of directors of the Association of Departments of Family Medicine and immediate past chair of the Organization of Program Director Associations. She has been appointed chair-designee of the National Resident Matching Program board of directors, a nonprofit organization that matches more than 40,000 fourth-year medical students to U.S. residency programs, and she is known nationally for her contributions to education policy. She was recently recognized with the Illinois Academy of Family Physicians Distinguished Service Award for her lifetime contributions to the specialty. Dr. Clements is also a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha honor medical society. Outside of her work, Dr. Clements takes to the open road on motorcycle rides alongside her husband. They enjoy spending time with family and most recently experienced the planning and celebration of her daughter’s wedding, the youngest of their seven children.
In addition to her role as program director for the McGaw Northwestern Family Medicine Residency Program, Family Medicine physician Deborah S. Clements, MD, is chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine, and the Nancy and Warren Furey Professor of Community Medicine at Feinberg School of Medicine.