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Chief Residents

Taylor Becker portraitTaylor Becker, MD
Central Michigan University

My search for “the why” behind everything in life was the true indication that I would end up being an Internal Medicine Resident. As a child in rural Minnesota, I spent my time outside, learning about plants and animals. When my siblings watched Spongebob, I was studying nature documentaries. While my classmates enjoyed pottery and woodworking classes in high school, I was taking AP biology, chemistry, and anatomy courses. When thinking about my career plans, I told my parents I loved learning about how the human body worked; so biology professor seemed the perfect fit. My father responded, “what about being a doctor?” I laughed at the prospect initially, overwhelmed with feelings of inadequacy. “Me? A doctor?” I shakily responded. And here we are.

If you had told me 10 years ago, I would be an Internal Medicine physician at one of the best programs in the country, I would have had the same response that met my father’s suggestion so many years prior. Iowa was never on my radar – “isn’t it just corn?” was my response to my mother who urged I submit application. (Take note - all good things in my life were first mentioned by my parents.) On interview day, everyone sought to know who I was, not just my test scores or academic standing. At the end of the day, I sent a text to my family that read – “This is it!”

As the Chief Resident of Education, I hope to focus my efforts on improving the way we teach residents. I also hope to be a source of comfort, encouragement, and mentorship for any resident, the way so many previous chiefs provided this for me as a struggling resident. My other areas of specific interests include Ultrasound Training, RRT/Code Blue simulation and dealing with loss/bad outcomes. At the end of chief year, I plan on completing a fellowship in Pulmonary-Critical Care Medicine.

In my free time, I enjoy fly fishing for trout, weightlifting, gardening, and spending time with my husband and 100lb German Shepherd. We also recently fell in love with camping and hiking; I find solitude in the woods.

Alex Garza portraitAlex Garza, MD
University of Iowa

I was exposed to medicine at a young age while growing up in La Crosse, Wisconsin. My mother is a pediatrician, now retired. I spent a lot of time in her outpatient clinic, playing with various medical models and running from nurses trying to administer the annual influenza vaccine. I was inspired by my mother’s compassion for her patients. She gave her time and physical resources selflessly to support others.

I spent my undergraduate years at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, where I studied mathematics and pre-medical studies. There I was inspired to care for underserved populations after participating in medical mission trips to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. I carried the desire to serve the poor and marginalized into the Carver College of Medicine where I also volunteered at the University of Iowa Mobile Clinic. Working with rural Latino populations, I was able to give back to my community. Throughout medical school, I learned that patient interactions were most valuable to me. After completing a sub-internship in internal medicine, I knew I had found my specialty.

While on the interview trail as a fourth-year medical student, I remember being welcomed by Dr. Katie Harris. I will never forget how she sat on one of the tables of Bean Conference Room and talked to the other applicants and me as if we were long-lost friends, having a conversation. The warmth of that interaction was refreshing in a process that is usually overwhelming and stressful. I knew she was sincere when she talked about the residency program being like a family. I chose to stay at Iowa for residency because I knew I would be supported and that the program would help me to achieve my career goals.

When I reflect on the past 3 years of residency, I have grown so much as both a physician and a human being. I am fortunate to call Iowa home. As chief resident, I will continue to promote connectedness within the program and uphold our high standards for education and patient care.

Outside of work I enjoy resistance weight training, reading for pleasure, and spending time outdoors. Following this year, I plan to pursue a fellowship in gastroenterology and hepatology.

Reed Johnson portraitReed Johnson, MD
University of Iowa

I was born at the University of Iowa, and I grew up in the Iowa City area. I attended Luther College, where I studied biology, chemistry, and computer science. Then I returned to Iowa City for medical school at the Carver College of Medicine.

I first became interested in internal medicine during a “Stump the Program Director” talk led by then-chief residents Josiah Zubairu and Sheena CarlLee, who presented a fascinating case of abdominal pain that culminated in the diagnosis of polyarteritis nodosa. I loved the way they were able to break the case down and connect the patient’s signs and symptoms to pathophysiology. They then connected that pathophysiology to diagnostic reasoning. As a third-year medical student on my core year internal medicine rotation, my senior resident was future chief resident Jennifer Langstengel, who demonstrated a love for bedside teaching. And finally, as a fourth-year medical student, I was an internal medicine sub-intern under future chief resident Yana Zemkova, who modeled the compassionate bedside manner of an outstanding physician.

For residency, I was ecstatic to be able to stay at the University of Iowa because I knew I would be attending a program that provides the training necessary to become a fantastic clinician and educator within a program culture that emphasizes collegiality and belonging.

During my chief year, I look forward to ushering in the next class of outstanding University of Iowa Internal Medicine residents and helping to give the current residents the skills necessary to reach their full potential as clinicians and educators, like the previous chief residents did for me during my training. After my chief year, I look forward to working in primary care at an academic institution so that I can continue to work with residents and medical students.

Kathy Zhang portraitKathie Zhang, MD
University of Arizona

I am a lifelong Arizonan! I was born and raised in Phoenix, AZ. The furthest I ever left home was about 100 miles south to go to medical school in Tucson, AZ. So, when I told my friends and family I was moving to Iowa for residency, they weren’t quite sure how to react! They especially had reservations about the weather (why would anyone want to be a reverse-snowbird?). But ever since my interview day, I knew that Iowa was a special place and exactly where I wanted to go for my internal medicine residency training. 

During my three years here, I have learned so much, from the simple lessons (how to defrost my windshield), to the more challenging ones (delivering medical care during a global pandemic). All along the way, I have felt incredibly supported by my program leadership, support staff, and colleagues, who have become like a second family to me. In particular, I have enjoyed exploring activities with my “Y-week crew” (co-residents on the same clinic rotation schedule)—ice skating, carving pumpkins, or even throwing hatchets. 

I applied to be a chief resident because I wanted to give back to this amazing program. During my year as Chief Resident in Quality and Safety (CRQS), I hope to help encourage resident interest and engagement in quality improvement and patient safety. I believe that strong training in these areas is an asset to any resident, no matter what their chosen field. Following this year, I plan to pursue a fellowship in Clinical Nephrology in an academic setting, with a focus in outreach and quality improvement.