Ibiyonu Lawrence, MD, is a primary care physician at Drexel Medicine. In addition to providing primary care services, Dr. Lawrence specializes in geriatric medicine. She sees patients at Drexel Medicine's Fairmount location and in Center City. Dr. Lawrence is also an assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine.
For those of us who simply know you as Dr. Lawrence, can you tell me about your life before medicine and why you chose to become a doctor?
I was born in Nigeria with a congenital condition called pyloric stenosis, which necessitated surgery at 6 weeks old. My mother kept records of everything that went on and showed them to me when I was of age. When I was about 10 years old, I actually got to meet the surgeons who operated on me. Based on everything, I decided medicine was something I wanted to do. I wanted to help people the way I was helped and that is how I got into medicine.
What brought you to the United States after finishing medical school in Nigeria?
I met my husband during medical school. After graduating, he decided to do an oral surgery fellowship in the United States, so I moved here.
Is that where you finished your medical training as well?
While my husband did his dental school at NYU, I did my residency at St John's Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway. After residency, I did a geriatric fellowship at NYU. I then started working at Kings County/ SUNY Downstate Medical Center as an assistant clinical professor of medicine (hospitalist) and a geriatrician. We eventually moved to New Jersey where I worked at Overlook Medical Center, which is a hospital in Summit, New Jersey.
What attracted you to internal medicine?
Given my personal story as a baby and what initially drew me to medicine, one might think the next logical step in my career would be pediatrics or surgery. While in medical school, I found internal medicine fascinating given the complexity of the cases and the fact that you are dealing with more than one system at a time. It constantly keeps you on your toes regarding reading and being able to formulate a diagnosis and a care plan for the patient.
Besides, I didn't think I was strong enough emotionally to treat sick babies on a daily basis.
What do you like about geriatrics?
Geriatrics is a subspecialty that combines everything. It's similar to internal medicine but it's more specialized. You have to think of diseases that are particular to the elderly, and you have to take an even more multidisciplinary approach to treatment. You have to manage the medical needs, tie them in with the other comorbid conditions as well as the environmental component, which is crucial in the care of the elderly. With the baby boomers, geriatrics is an aspect of medicine that is becoming more and more important in the care of the aging population that we live in today.
What brought you to Drexel Medicine?
I've always loved teaching and when I moved to Central Jersey, I looked for positions in academia. Drexel, being a great institution, met all my needs in terms of career growth and development. It felt like a perfect fit.
How does working with residents help you as a physician?
Residents keep you on your toes and continually challenge you, which makes me a better physician. I look at my residents and see the next generation of doctors, so I feel an obligation to pass the knowledge on to them properly. If the tradition of medicine can't carry on, you're not doing your job as a physician. The look on a resident's face when an interesting case comes up is priceless! They learn, move on and they come back. It is quite fulfilling to see that they are achieving their goals.
How do you like working in the Fairmount neighborhood?
I may be biased, but of all the Drexel practices, I think it's the most diverse. The Fairmount neighborhood is a big mix, and I love that. We see patients from all walks of life and socioeconomic status. We see a wide array of patients, and as physicians we are constantly being challenged with the kinds of cases we see.
What services does the practice at Fairmount offer?
We're an internal medicine practice. We have a great team that includes three geriatricians, a nurse practitioner, three medical assistants, a manager and a front desk person. Our office was the pilot practice for the patient-centered medical home model and we achieved the highest level of recognition. Our patient satisfaction ratings are also among the highest across all Drexel practices.
We have a large geriatric population compared to the other practices. We provide social services, nurse navigators who make sure you get a follow-up appointment as soon as possible after leaving the hospital, behavioral health services, and more. We are also able to coordinate with various nursing agencies to provide home visits to our patients, thereby avoiding a lot of medical reconciliation errors, especially on discharge, as well as providing other services to the patients as needed.
What do you like most about working at Drexel Medicine?
Drexel Medicine gives you room to grow as a physician and helps in the development of your career in whatever direction you choose. They're incredibly supportive and give you the tools you need, be it clinical, research or otherwise. They let you take on your passion projects and they provide as many services as possible as long as they're aligned with Drexel. That has helped me because it's allowed me to do everything I wanted—outpatient, inpatient, teaching, geriatrics and more.
There's also excellent communication between the specialties. It makes referrals and follow-up easier and it provides better patient care. That makes my work as an internist much easier. I know they are in good hands within the Drexel system and will have great follow-up care.