David Wang
David Wang

The Society of Teachers of Family Medicine (STFM) selected a fourth-year medical student at McGovern Medical School as a recipient of a Student Scholar award in September, recognizing him for his research and potential for a career in academic medicine.

STFM selected David Wang as a 2019 Student Scholar, which provides up to $500 toward expenses to attend the 2019 Conference on Medical Student Education, set to be held Jan. 31 to Feb. 3 in Jacksonville, Fla. The $500 scholarship is also matched with $500 from the Department of Family and Community Medicine.

Wang will present a research poster at the conference, which highlights his research into communication barriers and issues between overweight and obese patients and their physicians. While doctors have a tendency to recommend more exercise to help with their weight, patients are often not entirely sure what that entails. He distributed surveys to both physicians and such patients on what they felt would be feasible goals to achieve, such as doing aerobic exercises for a specific amount of time per week, and analyzed the responses.

“We haven’t found the best way to motivate patients to exercise,” Wang said. “Often times, physicians aren’t necessarily addressing the root cause of why patients don’t exercise.”

One of the questions on the survey focused on what the most common barriers to exercise are, including answers like pain, lack of access to a gym, family obligations, lack of motivation, and other work and environment stressors.

“Without giving patients further instructions, it becomes a major issue,” Wang said.

Wang suggested the use of what he dubbed “prescriptions” for exercise, in which the physician would clearly outline what activity would be best for the patient along with the frequency they should be doing. He compared it to the instructions outlined on prescription pill bottles.

“They are underused by physicians for their patients,” Wang said. “I think that should be a big part of the physician’s job, and it wouldn’t take very much time to do so.”

At the conference, Wang will be able to meet with other attendees, including other Student Scholars and faculty in academia to discuss how they see the field progressing and the best ways to engage students in learning. While he is unsure as to what the future might hold for his career, Wang said he is open to academia and said he also would like to stay in Texas to work with an underserved population.

Wang was nominated for the award by Thomas Northrup, Ph.D., associate professor and coordinator of behavioral science training in the Department of Family and Community Medicine. Northrup said he wasn’t surprised Wang had been chosen and that he was proud of his work.

“I am excited to be able to present my research at the conference,” Wang said. “My hope is that in the future, more students at McGovern Medical School can become involved in primary care and the primary care scholarly concentration as well.”