Teresa Bau, MD ’14 Promotes Preventative Health Care for Better Outcomes
Dr. Teresa Bau’s experiences as a first-generation medical school graduate serving diverse communities have had a profound impact on the physician she is today. Passionate about access to healthcare and preventative medicine, the Class of 2014 AUC graduate is a hospitalist and medical director of the Weight and Nutrition Center at Baptist Health Medical Center-Conway in Arkansas.
Her family medicine residency training at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences in Pine Bluff equipped her with a broad range of experience, while helping to meet the healthcare needs of the region. About 45 minutes south of Little Rock, Pine Bluff is often the first point of contact before people from rural communities further south come to the city.
“What I wanted from a training program was to connect with some of the more marginalized groups in society that really needed help,” she says. “As part of an unopposed family medicine program, we were doing all the emergency medicine, all the trauma, lots of obstetrics—a little of everything. It was the well-rounded training that I was looking for. Being in that intermediate location between a bigger city and rural America, it was rewarding to see just how much of an impact we were making. There’s a shortage of primary care doctors, outpatient doctors, and those who are able to serve rural communities.”
These experiences helped strengthen Dr. Bau’s dedication to her field. “Family medicine is about taking care of communities,” she says. “This really built the foundation which I’ve been taking forward with my own practice.”
For Better Health Outcomes, Meeting Patients Where They’re At
Dr. Bau’s family background and upbringing—her parents both emigrated to the US from Taiwan—have also been a source of inspiration for her.
“Being a first-generation American whose parents aren’t completely fluent in English, I’m accustomed to explaining medical terminologies and processes in a way that anyone can understand,” she says. “My parents have always valued healthy living, and I’m glad to be able to be that person who can bring information back to my family and help educate. At holiday parties, I can decode medical jargon and help them see the big picture.”
Her patients come from all walks of life, and she strives to make healthy living accessible and relatable to everyone.
“The body doesn’t need to be that complicated. There’s the science of medicine, but then there’s also the art of medicine, relating to people and getting them to understand why health is important,” Dr. Bau says. “A lot of patients I see may not have a high school education level. But if they’re a mechanic or a plumber, for example, I can explain the body’s processes in that context. If you explain health and medicine a way that makes sense to your patient, they’ll be more compliant with their medications, and they’ll take a bigger role in being responsible for their own health.”
Finding Inspiration for Her Career
With an undergraduate degree in neuroscience, as well as coursework in anthropology and linguistics, Dr. Bau has always been drawn to people and relationships while pursuing medicine. She enrolled at AUC and set about learning as much as possible to prepare for her future career. “AUC has such a great program. I learned so much from island to clinicals,” she says. “We had all the resources at our fingertips. I took advantage of reaching out to as many people as I could to get inspiration for what I wanted to do.”
Dr. Bau ultimately found herself drawn to hospital medicine and is now the lead hospitalist managing a group of eight doctors, in addition to being the medical director of the lifestyle clinic. Last year, she became board certified in lifestyle medicine and has been pursuing her passion for promoting more preventative health care systems and optimizing systems to benefit patients.
“The Weight and Nutrition Center is a way to promote preventative health care services in the community. We have lecture events, dietitians, exercise physiologists, mock kitchens, community classes and more,” she says. “It’s taken me several years to think about what kind of impact do I want to leave—you have to figure out what’s going to motivate you. I’ve realized that I want to work on these larger systemic problems and make things better for the community.”
Dr. Bau has also begun a Master of Public Service degree program through the Clinton School in Little Rock. By exploring the interplay between government and nonprofits, her goal to is learn how to benefit the health care system through policy work as well.
Paying It Forward: Advice for Students
Looking back at her time at AUC, Dr. Bau is grateful for everyone who helped her get to where she is today. “The community at AUC went above and beyond, from helping me get settled when moving in to giving me helpful information, so I try to do the same for medical students now,” she says.
Her advice for students? “Find yourself first and be true to yourself,” she says. “If you’re doing this for your parents, if you’re doing it just for the money, you won’t be happy. Reflect on who you are, and the impact you want to make on the world. Let that help guide what you want to do in your life.”