Medical student one of 30 nationwide accepted to competitive leadership institute

Tiffany Tsay.
Tiffany Tsay is part of the newest class of the Family Medicine Leads Emerging Leader Institute, which provides training for promising residents and medical students. (Courtesy photo)

Tiffany Tsay is pursuing a career in family medicine and has long been interested in addressing the needs of America’s growing aging population. After she graduated from Cornell University in 2013, she worked for six years in health care consulting in Northern Virginia, where she focused on aging and disability policy. She returned to school, earning a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University in 2019.

Now Tsay, a student in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, is taking another step toward combining her training and education to serve others through medicine. She is one of 30 scholarship recipients nationwide chosen for a yearlong leadership institute hosted by the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation. The program, the Family Medicine Leads Emerging Leader Institute, identifies and trains family medicine residents and medical students who have shown a historical aptitude and strong leadership potential but have little formal leadership training or experience.

Tsay is enrolled in VCU’s Family Medicine Scholars Training and Admissions Track, a four-year program that supports students who come to medical school seeking to become family physicians.

“I am personally most interested in addressing the needs of the aging population — a demographic that is projected to grow to 20 percent of the population nationwide,” Tsay said. “I believe that keeping older adults healthy and independent in their communities will become an issue of public health for family physicians.”

Tsay, who grew up in Vancouver, Canada, is the second VCU student to be chosen for the Emerging Leaders Institute. The competitive leadership program, now in its sixth year, is funded by family physician donors, and provides a $1,000 scholarship to attend the AAFP National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students and participate in institute programming after the conference.

I believe that keeping older adults healthy and independent in their communities will become an issue of public health for family physicians.

“The program provides mentorship, encouragement and specific skill development to help grow leaders in family medicine,” said Julie Anderson, M.D., president of the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation.

Over the course of one year, scholarship winners will work with a mentor to complete a leadership project related to one of three tracks: policy and public health leadership, personal and practice leadership, or philanthropic and mission-driven leadership. Tsay plans to focus her project on the care of older adults, possibly by “introducing interventions into annual wellness visits or advocating for more older-adult-friendly communities,” she said. At the end of the program, leadership projects will be evaluated and an additional $1,000 award will be given to select recipients, allowing them to present their winning projects at the 2021 national conference. Finally, one Best Leadership Project Award will be named for each of the three tracks, and the recipient will receive an additional $3,000 award for participation in a designated major event related to the track.

“We are incredibly proud that Tiffany was selected for the Emerging Leader Institute,” said Peter F. Buckley, M.D., dean of the VCU School of Medicine. “She’s been a great asset to the [Family Medicine Scholars Training and Admissions Track] program, and her interest and experience in public health and aging populations is inspiring.”

Tsay said she is excited about the opportunity to grow her leadership skills and pursue ways to help older adults live healthier and happier lives.

“Family medicine is a unique specialty that allows physicians to take on multiple roles – whether it is serving as the quarterback for patients as they navigate the complex health care system or advocating for a community’s health through system-level changes,” Tsay said. “I am excited about this opportunity to learn how to combine the clinical knowledge I am learning in medical school with the experience I have gained in public health to improve my future practice and the health of my future patients.”

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