Timur Durrani, MD, MPH, MBA, a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve, is currently a medical toxicology fellow at UCSF. Dr. Durrani, who specializes in preventive medicine, attended University of California Irvine, where he received a Master of Business Administration with a focus on Health Care administration in June 2008. Prior to that, he received a Medical Doctorate from University of Arizona College of Medicine in 2004, and a Master of Public Health with a focus on Community Oriented Public Health from the University of Arizona, College of Public Health in 2004. Dr. Durrani served a family medicine residency at the University of California Los Angeles from July 2004 – June 2007, followed by a preventive medicine residency at the California Department of Public Health, Los Angeles County Public Health Department, from July 2007 – 2008. He speaks both Persian and Spanish.
Describe a typical day at work.
I just started a fellowship in medical toxicology. It is a great specialty, open to emergency medicine, pediatric and preventive medicine physicians.
We spend our mornings on rounds, seeing and discussing the care of patients who have been poisoned. Our team consists of our attendings, pharmacists, fellows, residents, and medical and pharmacy students. We learn everything from prevention, to the care of critically ill patients.
If you had it to do all over again, would you still become a doctor? (Why or why not? What would you have done instead?)
Yes, definitely. I can’t imagine doing anything else. It has been great thus far. It is a privilege to take care of people, to hear their stories, and to be entrusted with their lives. Very few other professions are afforded such an opportunity.
Why did you choose your specialty?
I started in family medicine, because I wanted to be able to take care of an entire spectrum of health issues. This led me to preventive medicine/public health, which gave me the tools to affect the lives of entire populations. Both specialties are very broad by nature, but both also address the most common health issues that affect our population, so it seems they allow me to have the greatest impact I can.
Did you plan to enter your current specialty prior to med school?
I think so. I knew I wanted to be able to interact with people at the most personal level. I didn’t know which specialty would allow this, but as I went through my different rotations, I found family medicine fit me best. Also, I had a great preceptor in medical school, who I still keep in touch with today.
Now that you’re in your specialty, do you find that it met your expectations?
Definitely. Both family medicine and preventive medicine offer great opportunities. I have a very flexible practice, and the opportunities are endless. I know several family and preventive medicine physicians who work in a variety of practices, from outpatient care, to hospital and emergency care, to healthcare management positions in large corporate entities.
What was your deployment experience in Afghanistan like?
Challenging and rewarding all at the same time. Being of Afghan decent, I am very familiar with the culture, although I grew up in the United States. The Afghan people are very generous. Afghanistan has seen its challenges for the previous three going on four decades. It took a long time for Afghanistan to have such troubles, so I think it will take just as long, if not longer, to get back to where they were 50 years ago! But I am confident it will happen, it just takes time and patience.
Are you satisfied with your income?
What do you like most and least about your specialty?
What I like most about preventive medicine is that it focuses on the health of a population, which I think is great. You can have an impact on a lot of people. Having a clinical background in family medicine helps with understanding the intricate relationships patients have with their healthcare providers.
If you took out educational loans, is paying them back a financial strain?
Not really. I worked part time during medical school, so that helped pay some of my bills. I suggest anyone taking out loans to try and maximize their federal loans and grants. Be wary of private loans, as those seem to have the higher interest. Also, it is important to compare tuition between private and public medical schools; taking out loans for a private school can leave you with very high debt that can be more difficult to pay back later on.
On average: How many hours a week do you work? How many hours do you sleep per night? How many weeks of vacation do you take?
I work about 40 hours a week. I usually sleep about eight hours a night, unless I’m working at night, then I’m up all night. I take about four weeks off per year.
Do you have a family and do you have enough time to spend with them?
Yes and yes.
In your position now, knowing what you do – what would you say to yourself 10 years ago?
Keep doing what you’re doing. It all works out in the end. Most importantly, keep doing what interests you, not what you think will pay better or what someone else pressures you to do; you’ll be much happier in the end.
What information/advice do you wish you had known when you were a premed?
I wish I had considered osteopathic schools. I didn’t really know about them, or what they taught. I have had a lot of osteopathic colleagues who know some great treatments for musculoskeletal ailments that I never learned.
From your perspective, what is the biggest problem in healthcare today?
The fragmentation of healthcare. Things are done to and for patients that even the patients don’t know about or understand. It would be great if every doctor a patient saw had some record of what happened for the patient previously. It would save the patient and the healthcare system a lot of heartache.
From your perspective, what is the biggest problem within your own specialty?
None within my specialty. I would like to see greater collaboration among all the different specialties, however. I think this would be best for our patients.
What impact do mid-level providers have on your day-to-day practice?
Most of my experience with “mid-level” practitioners is with physician assistants, and they have a great impact on our patients. I have worked with many who have had many more years of experience than I, and have taught me a great deal. I think they will only improve the practice of medicine and the health of our patients.
Where do you see your specialty in 10 years?
I see preventive medicine making great inroads into the private healthcare sector, particularly in the role of disease prevention and health promotion for corporations. I think the next frontier on wellness will be focused in the work place through wellness programs, and I see preventive medicine physicians implementing and managing those programs.
What types of outreach/volunteer work do you do, if any? Any international work?
My most recent volunteer experience was in Haiti for two weeks in April. There is great need for improvement in basic health services everywhere, including in our own backyard. I think my future volunteer work will be focused here in the U.S., as there is plenty of opportunity to improve the health of people here.
What’s your favorite TV show?
Currently I’m watching Jazz, A Film by Ken Burns.
How do you spend your free time? Any hobbies?
I spend free time with my family. My free time is usually occupied with some new educational activity such as learning about the history of jazz!