Resident Roundup: Alexa Namba, DO, MPH

Alexa Namba
By Alexa Namba, DO, MPH


”Push! Push! You can do it! You’re so close! Breathe deep! Only one more push!“

Cheering and laughter erupt as the last ping-pong ball shoots out of the balloon, bouncing across the room. This is a CenteringPregnancy® prenatal care group session at the Duke Family Medicine Center, and today we are learning about labor strategies by ”birthing” a ping-pong ball out of an inflated balloon.

During the activity, I look around at this group of expectant mothers and fathers, family members, and health care providers and feel an overwhelming sense of happiness. It is a moment I have felt multiple times since starting residency: the joy and satisfaction of being a family medicine doctor.

It is difficult for me to believe that intern year is almost over. I feel like I just arrived in Durham, nervous and excited to begin my medical career. Overnight, my white coat grew from short to long, the hospital maze became familiar corridors, and introducing myself as a doctor became second nature. As this year comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the physician I have become and the one I aspire to be.

CenteringPregnancy has been a seminal factor in shaping my development as a family physician. Rather then individual prenatal visits, we offer group prenatal care through CenteringPregnancy. Expectant mothers with similar due dates are matched into a group and meet for two-hour educational sessions throughout their pregnancy.

I began leading my first CenteringPregnancy groups at the start of residency. Like myself, these women were nervous and shy their first class. For many, this was their first pregnancy and for others this was their first CenteringPregnancy experience. Over these past nine months, we have discussed various prenatal topics, shared experiences and fears, and learned from one another. Together we have grown, and when I look around, I now see the incredible transformation that has occurred. The timid women I met at our first session have evolved into confident expectant mothers. Couples have solidified their partnership as they evolved into parents. And, through this journey, I have learned so much about what it means to be a family physician.

Building dynamic patient relationships

The best part of my job is the variety of patient care. Everyday, I have the opportunity to care for women and men, babies and the elderly, healthy and ill. New faces have started to become familiar and I have been able to build dynamic patient relationships.

Over the past year, I was surprised to find that my most significant learning has extended far beyond the bounds of textbooks and journals. It is easy to practice medicine when diagnoses and treatments are clearly identifiable and accessible. However, at the borders of our medical knowledge, where there is no one correct choice, where tests have unexpected results, where there is no clear medical explanation, or when treatments are unavailable, these are the moments when I have felt most humbled and challenged.

At these times, I have to remind myself why I was drawn to family medicine: to provide support and high quality care to all patients throughout the continuum of their lives. Often, this is listening to their frustrations, discussing their treatment goals, continuing to search for answers, or affirming their concerns. CenteringPregnancy has allowed me to form incredible bonds with patients and provided me an opportunity to step away from the computer and look past the medical record to see the incredible women in front of me. They have taught me to truly listen when a patient is speaking, to identify patients’ health care goals, and to establish a dialogue between patients and providers.

In the upcoming weeks, I will have the opportunity to deliver the babies of the women I met so many months ago. The journey we started together will take a new turn and highlight the most remarkable aspect of family medicine: the full spectrum of care from prenatal visits to labor and delivery to newborn and pediatric care.

As I look ahead to my future career, I know I will bring this first experience of CenteringPregnancy with me. I eagerly await my chance to welcome these new babies and all my future adventures in family medicine.

CenteringPregnancy® at Duke Family Medicine Center from Duke Community & Family Medicine on Vimeo.

Alexa Namba is a first-year resident with the Duke Family Medicine Residency Program. Email with questions.

Editor’s note: Duke Family Medicine residents guest blog every month. Blogs represent the opinion of the author, not the Duke Family Medicine Residency Program, the Department of Community and Family Medicine or Duke University.