(Republished from the UNC Health Care and UNC School of Medicine Newsroom)
Jennifer Flythe, MD, always wanted to be a doctor, dating back to her days as a three-year old playing with a Fisher Price doctor’s kit. Her inspiration was her grandfather, a physician in High Point. He cultivated Flythe’s love of medicine throughout childhood. He had a hospital pathologist make her slides for her microscope. One day, he brought her a cow’s heart and helped her dissect it on the kitchen table. At a third-grade science fair she ran an experiment to test the effect of chocolate on blood pressure.
Now, as an assistant professor of medicine at the UNC School of Medicine, she focuses on hemodialysis patient care and research, advanced kidney disease patient care, patient-centered outcomes research, and epidemiology. For her work in the division of nephrology, she’s earned the 2018 James W. Woods Junior Faculty Award, which is given annually to an outstanding young clinical faculty member.
Below is an interview Flythe conducted with our colleagues in the department of medicine.
What brought you to UNC Medical Center?
I was born and raised in North Carolina and remained in the state through medical school. I then zigzagged the country for my medical training with stops in the Pacific Northwest and New England. Coming “home” to UNC Medical Center has been fantastic. For me, UNC offers the best for both my professional life and my personal life. I live just a mile and a half away from my sister and her family, and our daughters are the same age. I have the honor of going to work every day with outstanding, committed colleagues and then coming home to spend time with my family.
Where are you from?
I grew up in High Point, NC. My parents still live there.
How did you choose your specialty?
I had wonderful nephrology role models in residency. They were smart, caring and humble and provided phenomenal patient care and teaching. I always had an interest in health policy so nephrology, specifically dialysis, was a great fit.
What do you find most rewarding about your work?
I am fortunate to divide my time between research and clinical work. Having the opportunity to turn individual clinical observations into population-level research endeavors is very rewarding.
What are some of the new developments in your field of specialty?
Like many fields, nephrology has become increasingly focused on the patient experience. It is heartening to see the infusion of patient-centricity into the conception and design of all types of research – spanning from the bench to bedside – as well as into health care delivery.
Is there a particular achievement (professional or personal) that has been most gratifying to you?
I am not sure I would say it is an achievement, but I would have to say my daughter. She brings tremendous balance to my life and inspires me to be a better person.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
One of my Boston mentors told me that every day is a job interview. I try to approach all tasks and interactions with this in mind. Some days I do better than others.
If you weren’t a physician, what would you like to be doing?
That is a hard one. I would probably be an attorney. I love crafting a good argument.
What hobbies do you enjoy?
I enjoy spending time with my husband and daughter. My daughter loves any and all sports, and I love watching her. I exercise almost every morning – I love running, weight lifting, and interval training. It clears my mind.
Do you have a favorite quote or life motto?
I have always been a big fan of Ralph Waldo Emerson (my daughter’s namesake, in fact). One of my favorite quotations is a classic but speaks to a trait that I believe is essential in medicine, research and life – resiliency. “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”