AnnMarie DeFiglio believes in practicing what she preaches. And since she preaches healthy eating and exercising to her patients, she has a long history of setting the example. Shown here in March at the 2013 Shamrock Marathon events in Virginia Beach, she’s almost apologetic about not having finished the full 26.2-mile race. “I usually run the half marathon, just 13 miles,” she says, “because my practice prevents me from devoting the time to train for the full event. Besides, if you look at my shirt, it says ‘running for two.’”
And indeed, this busy physician and her husband are expecting their first child in the summer of 2013. In fact, she had registered to run the full marathon, as she does nearly ever year, before she learned she was pregnant. But one of Dr. DeFiglio’s running friends is also her OB/GYN, and she approved the shorter race. “I knew I’d just have to be careful and run more slowly,” Dr. DeFiglio says – perhaps the real challenge, since she’s accustomed not only to doing full marathons but bike races and triathlons as well.
She’s also accustomed to having patients do them with her. She recalls one young woman she tried to get into running: “I kept urging her, and she kept saying she couldn’t,” Dr. DeFiglio says, “but then I told her I’d do it with her, and we wound up doing a triathlon together.”
Such is the persuasive power and the generous spirit of this young doctor who grew up on the Jersey Shore – or as she’s quick to say, “the real Jersey Shore.” Dr. DeFiglio received her undergraduate degree from Johns Hopkins, and earned her Doctor of Medicine from the University of Medicine and Dentistry-New Jersey Medical School. She completed residencies in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, New York. Since September of 2004, she has practiced with Yorktown Family Medicine, one of the more than 40 offices of Tidewater Physicians Multispecialty Group, a physician-owned group that includes more than one hundred primary care and subspecialty physicians in locations throughout southeastern Virginia.
Dr. DeFiglio is Board-certified in both Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. “It’s a longer program,” she says, of her choice to pursue a double residency in internal medicine and pediatrics. “I wanted to treat babies and children, but I knew I also wanted to do internal medicine.” As a family physician, she does both, although she sees more specialized pediatric patients than most family practitioners. Her patients range in age from birth to their 80s and 90s. “I’ve treated three generations in the same family,” she says. “You become part of their family.”
To serve these patients better, Dr. DeFiglio and the TPMG physicians are exploring the rigorous demands of becoming a patient centered medical home, which means “doing things differently than we did before,” she notes. “It requires more fully utilizing our electronic medical records, and increasing our staff to relieve physicians from doing non-medical work. It involves being more flexible with hours, and when appropriate, handling more patient situations outside the office.” She gives an example: diabetic patients used to have to come into the office once a week to have their numbers read, so their insulin could be adjusted if necessary. Today, these patients can email their numbers to her once a week, and she can make the adjustment. That’s a five minute interaction, rather than a 20-minute office visit. She can then use those 20 minutes to treat someone who actually needs to be physically seen.
This kind of efficiency requires the kind of discipline that comes naturally to Dr. DeFiglio. She not only manages her family practice, she also serves as Chairman of Medicine at Mary Immaculate Hospital, and still does hospital rounds. She’s been honored by the National Committee for Quality Assurance Diabetes Recognition Program three years in a row, and was named a 2012 Top Doc in Pediatrics by US News & World Report.
And throughout her career, she has been heavily involved in volunteer work. She has a long term affiliation with Operation Smile, having traveled to India to offer pediatric care to children both before and after their surgeries. “They have a huge population of babies born with cleft lips,” she says. “We’d screen 600 to 700 kids, and the surgeons did about 300 operations in a two-week period.” Her day didn’t end with pediatric patients, however: her expertise in internal medicine allowed her to work with the adult patients as well, who often suffered hypertension and other serious medical conditions.
Closer to home, she’s advocated for and supports the Lackey Free Clinic, a faith based organization that provides health care to people in the Yorktown, Poquoson, Newport News, Williamsburg-James City County area who can’t afford health care, and don’t have health insurance. She hopes that post-baby, she’ll be able to donate her time to the Clinic as well. In the meantime, last year, she participated in a Dancing With The Stars fundraiser for the local Boys and Girls Clubs, promoting Literacy for Life, very proudly boasting, “We must have raised $80,000 that night!” Naturally, she got her office and many of her patients involved as well.
Dr. DeFiglio knows that with a new baby, her volunteer activities may take a back seat to motherhood and medical practice, but she’s excited about where she sees her profession heading. “It’s getting more into an emphasis on primary prevention of medical problems instead of trying to fix problems,” she says. She’s especially concerned about the prevalence of overweight children, obesity and diabetes. “We’re having 12-year olds with Type 2 diabetes now, so we’ve got to find these kids when they’re six,” she says. “Pediatric obesity is a huge problem: the 25- year old diabetic was probably having problems when a teenager or younger.”
She also knows people don’t always want to hear the prevention message – diet and exercise. She constantly thinks about how to motivate her patients, so she’ll continue to run, bike, swim, dance – whatever it takes to be sure her patients know she practices what she preaches; as she says, “It’s just about setting a good example.”