'The sky's the limit': MU resident physician wins award

Thursday, June 16, 2011 | 6:49 p.m. CDT; updated 10:35 p.m. CDT, Thursday, June 16, 2011

COLUMBIA — Karli Echterling Urban, 28, was a leader at MU throughout her undergraduate and medical school years and continues that tradition in her residency today.

Her dedication to family medicine, specifically geriatrics, as a resident physician at the MU School of Medicine caught the attention of the American Academy of Family Physicians. The organization awarded Urban the American Academy of Family Physicians/Bristol-Myers Squibb Award for Excellence in Education.


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This award is given to 10 recipients out of 3,500 family medicine residents in more than 400 programs across the nation.

“It’s just a reassurance of the kind of efforts we make to provide good patient care for people,” Urban said.

Erik Lindbloom, associate director of residency at the School of Medicine, has known Urban for about seven years.

“She first came to our attention as an undergraduate at Mizzou when she was working on the LIFE project,” Lindbloom said.

Urban created the Lasting Intergenerational Fellowship Experience program in 2002 when she was in the Honors College Community Involvement Program at MU.

Her idea was simple: she wanted to create a program involving local middle school students and senior citizens in residential living facilities. She wrote a proposal about her dream idea, and two organizations were interested in it.

Gentry Middle School and South Hampton Place senior living facility participated in the LIFE program.

“It gave a great opportunity for the middle school students to learn from the senior citizens, and the same thing with the senior citizens,” Urban said. “I think it was a great learning experience for both parties involved.”

Urban continued the program until early 2008, but the demands of medical school did not grant her much time to run the program and coordinate all the events. Without her, the program ended. However, many people across the country were interested in the curriculum she had created and worked to start programs elsewhere.

“It was kind of neat; even though I wasn’t able to continue my program, I think that it helped others do similar programs in their community,” Urban said.

During her senior year as an MU undergraduate student, Urban joined the medical school's Geriatrics Interest Group. She was actively involved and served as president from 2006 to 2008.

At that time, Lindbloom was the adviser for the group and worked closely with Urban.

“During her time as president of the Geriatrics Interest Group, the membership and activities in that group just skyrocketed,” Lindbloom said. “We twisted her arm for her to do it an extra year because she was doing such a good job.”

In medical school, Urban was also involved in the Heyssel Senior Teacher Education Partnership Program. The program pairs medical students with seniors living in the community.

Urban explained that much of the time, older residents are very active in the community, which gives medical students a way to become involved and learn about Columbia.

Lindbloom received this same award in 1996, so he understands what Urban can expect in the future.

“It’s one of those awards that you carry with you your whole career,” Lindbloom said. “I still keep in touch with many of the people I met from my year."

Urban’s interest in geriatrics began in her early high school years. She had a close connection with her grandparents, and the church she grew up attending had a large senior population. Urban said these experiences led her to recognize the great qualities the seniors have.

At the time, however, she just knew she had a desire to work with the senior population — she wasn’t sure how to do that or what path to take. As she became interested in medicine, she decided to specialize in geriatric medicine.

“It’s very rare for someone to have such an interest in both the community and in older adults at her young age, and she has maintained that interest through her undergraduate years, her medical school years and now as a resident physician,” Lindbloom said.

Urban's path to family medicine was reinforced by of a strong group of geriatricians in the family medicine department at MU. The opportunity to work with these well-known geriatricians led her to the program. Urban also enjoys the opportunity to have a continuity of care on an outpatient basis.

Urban said she went into medical school knowing it would be hard work but believing she would enjoy it. She said she has enjoyed building relationships with the family medicine faculty and other residents.

“I find that every day I enjoy going to work. It kind of gives a different perspective every day — new patient experiences, new opportunities to learn about treatment options and things like that,” Urban said. “It’s been very fulfilling so far.”

Urban has been selected by faculty and resident peers to be one of four chief residents next year. Lindbloom said it was a natural selection.

Lindbloom and Urban recently co-authored a book chapter with another resident physician on elder abuse. The book, to be published later this year, is an evidence-based geriatric medicine book.

“Elder abuse is increasingly recognized as a major medical and community problem, so it’s natural for (Urban) to have an interest in that topic because she’s so interested in helping older adults in every way,” Lindbloom said.

“(Lindbloom has) been very gracious to let us participate in that, and it’s kind of a fun opportunity to do something that I might not otherwise have an opportunity to do,” Urban said.

After her residency, Urban plans on staying at MU to take part in the Geriatric Medicine Fellowship. After that, she still has to decide which type of geriatric practice she wants to focus on.

Both she and her husband, Michael Urban, are originally from Missouri. Columbia has been the perfect place for the two, with his family in Washington, Mo., and hers in St. Joseph.

“I have a feeling we will end up certainly in Missouri," Urban said.

Lindbloom said that for Urban, “The sky’s the limit.”

“That might sound like a cliché, but she really has tremendous promise as a future leader, both in academics and in the community,” he said. “I could see her as a leader, as a medical school faculty member, as a community leader and even leading national organizations in either primary care or geriatric medicine.”

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