Meet our June member of the month, Emilio A. Russo, MD, FAAFP. Dr. Russo was recently named Department Chair of Family Medicine at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center-New Orleans. In addition to his duties as Department Chair, Dr Russo currently serves as Program Director of the LSU Rural Family Medicine Residency in Bogalusa.
Dr. Russo is a Louisiana native from Acadiana who attended medical school at LSU School of Medicine-New Orleans as an inaugural member of the Rural Scholars Track. From there, he completed his family medicine residency at the Family Medicine Spokane Rural Training Track in the state of Washington.
In addition, Dr. Russo was a National Rural Health Service Corps (NHSC) Scholar. The NHSC scholars program is a federally funded program that offers financial support for educational expenses during educational training. Recipients must commit to practicing in a health professional shortage area upon completion of residency. When asked about his experience as a member of the National Health Service Corps, Dr. Russo states, “This program was in keeping with my vision of practice in resource limited contexts offering me the opportunity to spend 5 years serving in the most vulnerable neighborhoods of post-Katrina New Orleans. This experience helped me further understand health as a function of the places where my patients are born, grow up, learn, work, and live—in other words part of ‘the soul’ of family medicine.”
Building on his experience as a NHSC member post-Katrina, Dr. Russo began to explore the intersection of care for the vulnerable in urban and rural USA and its analogy to resource-limited contexts worldwide. He currently serves as chair of the Committee on International Educational Experience at LSUHSC in New Orleans which serves to develop and optimize health professional educational opportunities across a variety of geographical locations in hopes to develop professionals who are dedicated to equitable health outcomes and cultural humility right here in Louisiana. Dr. Russo states, “Whether as a clinician, an educator, or community leader, family medicine is uniquely tethered not only to the idea that our patients entire lives and context are key to achieving health but to the “generalist” ideals and expertise that drive healthcare in nearly every other country on earth. Accordingly, developing these educational initiatives in global health with a ‘family medicine’ lens represents, in my opinion, a critical leadership opportunity for our specialty, regardless of the learner’s professional discipline.
When asked why Dr. Russo chose family medicine. Dr. Russo states, “I honestly could not have imagined myself as anything but a family physician!!! I love the diversity, the breadth, the relationships, and the complexities. Whether I am in the ICU or Labor and Delivery, family medicine offers me the privilege of being invited into some of our most sacred rites of passage as humans.” Dr. Russo continues, “As family physicians, we have the potential to truly impact the health outcomes of the communities in our state. I would argue that this may be the biggest opportunity for us as a specialty over the next 5 years. To do this, we have to improve collaboration and innovation across communities, healthcare organizations, educational institutions and political alliances. We must invest in primary care. The data is clear—primary care improves measurable outcomes; primary care decreases costs; and in the USA family medicine is primary care!”
Dr. Russo is married to his wife, Sara, and is father of 4 beautiful children--Giovanni, Mia, Liliana, and Luca. Dr. Russo states, “Achieving a work-life balance is for me about being present to the realities of all the relationships around me-- God, self, family, patients, colleagues--and not getting caught up in all the ‘tyrannies of the moment.’ I try to maintain a broader perspective on life, much like my perspective on a patient—a whole, interconnected person not just a series of problems.”
Help us congratulate Dr. Russo on being recognized as our June member of the month!