Published July 19, 2013
Andrew B. Symons, MD, associate professor of family medicine, has won the 2013 Family Doctor of the Year award from the New York State Academy of Family Physicians (NYSAFP) for ensuring quality of care in family medicine.
“Dr. Symons is an outstanding family physician and the academy recognizes his commitment as both a clinician and educator,” says Philip Kaplan, MD, NYSAFP immediate past president.
Symons, who is also vice chair for medical student education, teaches early clinical education, professionalism and care for patients with disabilities. He has a strong commitment to medical education, which is one of his main areas of research expertise.
“What makes Dr. Symons such a fantastic family physician is his passion to inspire others to excel in this important field,” says Kaplan.
Throughout his career, Symons has mentored dozens of medical students and residents. His mentees know him as an enthusiastic educator who provides valuable instruction and supervision.
Jennifer Yerke, MD, now a first-year resident in the family medicine residency training program, was a student in UB’s medical degree program. She has known Symons since her first year as a medical student and says he has been influential throughout her medical training.
“He consistently gave me professional and personal feedback to help me become a more rounded doctor,” she says. “He is always willing to teach.”
Ilya Rabkin, MD, a 2013 graduate who worked with Symons on several occasions, agrees: Symons is passionate about educating his students. “During my rotation with Dr. Symons, he was very eager to teach,” says Rabkin. “We saw patients together, and I helped perform minor skin procedures,” he explains. “He let me get more and more involved when he saw I was getting comfortable with the tools and the steps of each individual procedure.”
When Rabkin was trying to decide on a specialty, he knew he could turn to Symons for guidance. “I met with Dr. Symons to discuss a career as a family physician,” he says. “He was welcoming and did not pressure me to go into his own field. He was very open about what it meant to be a primary care practitioner.”
Symons also helped Rabkin with a research project, which Rabkin presented as a poster at various conferences.
Rabkin, who is now a resident at VCU-Fairfax Family Medicine in Virginia, says he knows that the knowledge he gleaned from Symons will stay with him throughout his career.
Symons, who specializes in the full spectrum of family medicine, is as dedicated to treating patients as he is to teaching. He constantly strives to improve the quality of care in family medicine and maintains genuine personal relationships with each of his patients, says Raymond Ebarb, MD, NYSAFP president.
The personal stories Symons recounts and his interactions with patients make it clear to his students that he is a compassionate practitioner. “On the wards he is very thorough and kind to our patients,” Yerke says, and adds that Symons epitomizes the type of physician she hopes to be.
“As I finished medical school and began residency, he helped me learn to use the skills I had to be a better and more compassionate physician,” she adds.
Students report never feeling uncomfortable for asking questions, according to Yerke. “This has helped me feel less intimidated in admitting my faults and admitting when I need help,” she says. “Overall, it has made me a better care provider to my patients.”
NYSAFP, a chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians, promotes family practice to patients and the general public and encourages young people to pursue careers in family medicine. The chapter represents 4,300 physicians, residents and students in family medicine across New York state.
The academy has developed programs for the development of residents and young family physicians. Many of today’s leaders in family medicine are products of the numerous initiatives that NYSAFP has created and promoted.
Symons was president of the Erie County NYSAFP chapter from 2008-2012 and currently serves as a director on the NYSAFP board. He accepted the Family Doctor of the Year award in June.