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GME Family Medicine Faculty

As we enter recovery phases from the COVID19 pandemic in an era of continued awareness of social justice, our 2021 graduates may be completing residency but their work is just beginning.  For the next few decades, they will fight to grow a health care system that centers comprehensive, continuous, connected, coordinated primary care that is affordable and accessible to all while delivered in a way that sustains their professional and personal joy.  They will be the ones to celebrate the heterogenicity of family practice in a way that preserves its scope.  They will be the ones to demand personal pronouns as a component of the electronic health record and to abolish inappropriate use of race or ethnicity in clinical decision tools.  They will be the ones to bring dignity to treatment of substance use disorders and every manner of diversity to their pipeline of future colleagues.  They will be the ones to normalize use of telemedicine, team-based care and population health. 

Our own program seeks to continually be an ally in these endeavors.  Our clinic staff are engaged with Missouri Hospital Association and Alive & Well to transform our practice into one that deploys trauma-informed care.  Our faculty and residents are partnered with Society for Teachers of Family Medicine to pilot its Substance Use Disorder and Medication Assisted Therapy curriculum.  Our clinic quality improvement projects continue to address vaccine hesitancy.

Our physicians and staff devote individual energy to similar endeavors.  I am proud of our PGY1s and faculty who participated in AAFP’s 2021 Family Medicine Advocacy Summit to advocate for critical health policy issues, including reducing barriers to telemedicine access for patients.  I am proud of our residency coordinator, Ms. Shelton, who sits with Mercy’s Diversity Advancement Council.  I am proud of our faculty eager to resume medical volunteerism this year both locally and globally in South and Central America.  I am proud of our current resident scholarly work in centering care of LGBTQIA patients in the St. Louis community, reducing barriers to care for immigrants and refugees to our metropolitan area and uplifting resources to address needs uncovered by social determinant of health inquiry.

I hope you discern Mercy Family Medicine to be a good fit for your personal residency needs but, whether you do or do not, I welcome you to the specialty of Family Medicine and look forward to recognizing you as a future colleague.

Dr. Cole

Program Info & Resources

Family Medicine  Faculty

In addition to their diverse clinical interests, our faculty are proud of their diverse heritages.  Our  multi-generational faculty include first and second generation Americans and first-in-family physicians.

Each resident is paired with a core faculty advisor on the basis of not only clinical interests but preferred communication and personality style, ensuring a mentor who can connect with them during the three years of training.

Department Chairman

Name: Grant Hoekzema, MD
Medical School: Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis (’92)
Undergrad: Calvin College (’88)
Hometown: I spent my younger years growing up in Seattle and then the Washington D.C. metro area, and still have family in both those locations, but have lived in St. Louis for 32 years now and consider it home.
Hobbies/Passions: I love most sports but particularly soccer. Our family is passionate Liverpool fans and eager to get on board with St. Louis City SC! We also love the outdoors and traveling, with a definite affinity for our national parks and East Africa. Our family of five kids and our daughter-in-law and one grand-daughter and large extended families give us great joy.
Why Family Medicine: Family is the most rewarding and intellectually challenging specialty I could imagine, and the breadth of knowledge needed, and variety of relationships forged were what drew me to it. Despite having no Family Medicine department or clerkship at medical school, I became committed to family medicine as a career through the influence of the local FMIG and a summer spent as a US Public Health Service - Health promotion/Disease prevention Scholar. I have been actively involved at a national level with Family Medicine Residency training as a board member of the Association of Family Medicine Residency Directors from 2009-2011, then serving as President-elect, President and past-President of the AFMRD in 2011-14. I also served as Chair of the Council of Academic Family Medicine in 2013-2014 and was the AFMRD representative for the steering committee of Family Medicine for America’s Health. I was a representative to the ACGME Milestones 2.0 task force for Family Medicine. I currently sit on the In-Training Examination Review Committee for the American Board of Family Medicine and was selected to join the ACGME Review Committee for Family Medicine in July 2016, where since July 2020, I now serve as Chair. 

Program Director

Name: Sarah Cole, DO
Medical School: AT Still University/Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine
Undergrad: Truman State University (though it was called Northeast Missouri State University when I attended!)
Hometown: St. Louis
Hobbies/Passions: Hiking, back-packing, camping, archery, long-distance swimming
Why Family Medicine: I grew up as a patient of Mercy Family Medicine so for me the specialty of Family Medicine epitomizes what a doctor is supposed to do.  On various rotations in medical school, subspecialists would note pathology or concerns outside their area of expertise and respond with, “Well, you’d better see your family doctor about that.”  And they were right!  We should all see our personal family doctors about the majority of our health concerns.  I didn’t want to be limited in the breadth of pathology to which I’d be familiar.

Associate Program Director

Name: Stefanie White, MD
Medical School: St Louis University School of Medicine
Undergrad: Truman State University
Hometown: St. Charles, MO
Hobbies/Passions: In medicine: women's health and obstetrics, NaProTechnology, breastfeeding medicine, quality improvement, teaching and mentoring. Outside of work: reading, singing, cooking, hiking and camping, spending time with family and friends especially my husband and son.
Why Family Medicine: Like most family doctors, I fell in love with the people. We are truly privileged to get to develop long-term relationships with patients and to earn their trust. I also love the variety and am comfortable being a "jack-of-all-trades" and a lifelong learner. My favorite part of family medicine is getting to take care of pregnant women, who becomes the mother-baby dyad, and often then the whole family joins the practice. 

Residency Coordinator

Name: Breanna Shelton, BS
Graduate School: Lindenwood University
Hometown: Belleville, IL
Hobbies/Passions: My two daughters keep me very busy, but thankfully they enjoy a lot of the same things I do! We love to hike in new places, run free in the sun, and create interesting pancake combinations every Saturday morning. I am currently working toward my MA – Professional Counseling at Lindenwood University which takes up even more time, but when I am not doing those things I love to explore the city.  St. Louis is an amazing place for biergartens, wineries, sporting events and live music! It’s pretty hard to be bored around here!
Why Mercy: When I graduated with my BS – Healthcare Management, I knew Mercy was exactly where I wanted to be. I had many professors that were Mercy employees and all had wonderful things to say about their time here. During each interview I had for potential roles I was increasingly impressed with how long everyone had been with Mercy – 10 years, 20 years, 40 years! Any place that kept an employee happy that long was where I wanted to be! Mercy’s dedication to employee satisfaction, work/life balance, and well-being is nothing short of stellar.  I couldn’t be happier with Mercy as a whole, and Mercy Family Medicine in particular. 

Teaching Faculty

The faculty of the Family Medicine Residency Program includes 9 family physicians, three clinical pharmacists and one behavioral scientist. In addition, the size and scope of the Medical Center enable residents to learn from a variety of faculty from other outstanding departments.

Name: Peter Danis, MD
Medical School: St Louis University
Undergrad: Georgetown University
Hometown: St Louis
Hobbies/Passion: Practice Management and Quality Improvement.  Coaching and mentoring students and residents in the office.  Medical mission work in El Salvador.  Helping women with gynecologic and reproductive issues with NaProTECHNOLOGY.
When not working, I enjoy spending time with my wife, gardening, tennis, being a grandfather, and growing in my spiritual faith.
Why Family Medicine: Everyone thought that I was going to be a pediatrician, but I loved the rest of the family too much to limit myself to just the kids!

Name: Serin Phruttitum M.D.
Medical School: University of Missouri-Kansas City
Undergrad: University of Missouri-Kansas City
Hometown: Jesup, Iowa
Hobbies/Passions: I enjoy spending time with my family – hiking, golfing, playing tennis, traveling, and exploring various St. Louis cuisines. My wife, two sons, two cats, and a pet turtle keep me happy and grounded during this COVID-19 pandemic. I am a big Kansas City Chiefs and Iowa Hawkeyes fan. During my free time, I spend many hours watching movies in my giant home theater and listening to jazz music on my ridiculously large stereo system.
Why Family Medicine: I spent my early childhood in Thailand and then in a small town in Iowa where my father served as both the town family doctor and general surgeon. Growing up in a medical family, I was expected to pursue a medical career, so naturally I gravitated toward engineering. Fortunately, I was accepted to a combined BA/MD 6-year medical school during my senior year of high school and grudgingly, I accepted this career path. I chose family medicine over general surgery when I realized that I can help heal the whole person/family rather than performing a quick "cure" of a disease process as a surgeon. Due to my two years of general surgery training prior to transitioning to family medicine, I acquired skills to perform and teach many types of clinic based surgical procedures. I really value the opportunity to use all my family medicine/surgical training to provide comprehensive obstetrics care, pediatric care, and adult medical care.  It is great to be a family medicine specialist to provide care for ALL instead of being a partialist (specialist).

Name: Elizabeth Verna, DO
Medical School: New York College of Osteopathic Medicine
Undergrad: Hartwick College
Hometown: Syracuse, NY
Hobbies/passions: spending time with family and friends. Travelling and learning about new cultures.
Why Family Medicine: I love the diversity of patients and opportunities in family medicine. My interests include women’s health, pediatrics and hospital medicine and family medicine allows me to incorporate all of these into my practice.   

Name: Christian Verry, MD, CAQSM
Medical School: University of MO-Columbia
Undergrad: University of MO-Columbia
Hometown: I'd LOVE to claim VT. But I am St Louis grown - just finely aged in VT.
Hobbies/Passions: Medicine is a definite passion, both primary care and sports medicine. Cycling is both, and at times (often) borders on a pathologic obsession. Laughing at/with my 3 boys is another great one and the mooning thing isn't far from the truth (which is to say, it is the truth). Finally, trying not to embarrass my wife who now carries my surname and is most definitely the wiser, kindler, more giving and forgiving 1/2 of this duo.
Why Family Medicine? I decided early in my education Family Medicine was what I wanted to do. I returned to medical school after working as a physical therapist in an outpatient clinic for two years. I intended to be an orthopedic surgeon, but quickly realized I did not like the OR, and did not have the demeanor of a surgeon. I was fortunate to spend time with the faculty who directed the primary care sports medicine fellowship where I went to medical school. I loved working alongside them. They did everything I loved: bread and butter medicine, esoteric medicine, and lots of sports medicine/orthopedics. I loved the procedures as well. They were kind enough to let me tag along whenever my schedule allowed, and I was quickly hooked. I have never regretted my decision to pursue Family Medicine, and primary care sports medicine, and am very proud of how our profession serves and improves the health of our local community. 

Name: Lauren Wilfling, DO
Medical School: Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences (KCUMB)
Undergrad: Truman State University
Hometown: St Louis, MO
Hobbies/Passions: Traveling, baking, skiing, paddle boarding, organizing things, and spending time with my two young children, Gretchen and Grant, and my husband, Todd. 
Why Family Medicine: I’ve always found great pleasure in being able to care and advocate for people of all ages and health conditions and maintain relationships that improve overall health. My clinical passion is Women’s Health, particularly maternal and child health, so Family Medicine allows me the unique opportunity to care for both mother and child as they go through pregnancy, delivery, postpartum, and Well Care together. I also love the variety in my days, with a melting pot of inpatient and outpatient care, it’s never the same day twice! 

Clinical Pharmacy Faculty

Behavioral Sciences

Margaret Lemp, Psy.D.