Lucy Guerra, MD, on Patient Care

It’s in Dr. Lucy Guerra’s genes to be completely drawn in to the team-based patient care offered at USF Health. Her own Latino heritage includes a close-knit family that is involved in nearly every aspect of life, including each other’s health.

Knowing she is living true to who she is, she practices team-based medicine every day, putting her patients first, reinforcing the concept to medical students and residents she teaches, and watching the students, in turn, practice it as they provide free care to the local underserved community at the BRIDGE Clinic.

Dr. Guerra wears multiple hats in her career as a physician. She is associate professor, director of the Division of General Internal Medicine in the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, co-faculty mentor for the BRIDGE Clinic, and associate director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program.

She doesn’t see them as multiple roles, but as one job, she said, a testament to her preference for working at an academic medical center.

“We all need to change our concept of what medical care is and to think of it as having evolved to a very patient-centric model,” Dr. Guerra said. “It’s more about working as a team to provide the best care and realizing the patient is part of that team. It’s a trend we call value-based care. When patients come to a place like USF Health, they’re going to always meet with the physician and other health care providers – a nurse practitioner, social worker, pharmacist or physician assistant – and it’s always going to include medical students and residents because we are an academic teaching institution.”

But an academic medical center is more than patient care and Dr. Guerra is emphatic in her efforts to incorporate USF Health’s other missions into her world.

“Our other missions – research and teaching—are equally important to patient care because you really can’t do one well without the other,” she said. “If we don’t have the research component then we can’t find better drug therapies and better behavioral therapies to treat patients. And sometimes I think this needs to be emphasized more because patients don’t necessarily realize that. The research part is very ethereal – you just don’t see it in action. Patients think of research as being done in the lab. But when you’re coming here, to an academic institution, you have the opportunity to participate in research studies and get involved. If patients realize they can participate in some kind of research study that will make a difference for the next generation of patients that come after them then wow, what a contribution they’ve made to medicine, as well to the future of their own grandchildren.”

For the teaching mission, Dr. Guerra said that, beyond the science of medicine, she tries to remind her students and residents why they chose medicine as a career.

“People who are learning and in a learning environment sometimes get caught up, just like I did, in studying or trying to get good grades or trying to pass, and you have to keep reminding them why they chose this profession,” she said. “For a physician, a nurse or anyone working in health care, it really needs to be a commitment. You’re making a commitment to somebody else – the patient. If you can ground a student in that, then they’re going to be the better health care provider for it.”


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