Tucker, a University of Louisville family medicine resident, recently was recognized as one of the top family medicine residents in the United States when the American Academy of Family Physicians gave her one of 10 Bristol-Myers Squibb Awards for Excellence in Graduate Medical Education.

Put into perspective, there are about 455 family medicine residency programs in the country, and more than 3,000 graduates a year, said Kathryn Schat, family medicine physician and Tucker’s faculty adviser.

The award goes to resident physicians who are tops in their classes with demonstrated leadership ability, community involvement, social commitment, and exemplary patient care and interpersonal relationships.

It “is definitely an honor, privilege and a wonderful surprise,” Tucker said of the award. “I was proud to represent University of Louisville Family Medicine at the award breakfast during the AAFP meeting in Orlando, Fla. Receiving this award reminds me of things yet to come as I set out to embark a new phase of my career as a physician in the community.”

For Tucker, the honor is an auspicious start to her third – perhaps fourth – career, depending on how you count them.

First, the Arkansas native received three music degrees from UofL (two bachelors and one masters) and had a career playing French horn and teaching music in the classroom. Then Tucker went back to school, got a BS in biology, biochemistry/organic chemistry from Western Kentucky University, and went back to the classroom as a chemistry lab teacher. From there, she worked for five years in a pharmacology and toxicology lab at the Health Sciences Center and taught middle school science at the same time. Medical school followed that.

There are more connections along the way than it might seem.

“Music was always a part of my life growing up. It taught me discipline, concentration and perseverance….However I have always been just as fascinated with medicine and the impact that a physician, more so, family physician, can make on a person or their family’s life,” she explained.

And even as Tucker studied French horn and music education at UofL, she maintained an interest in medicine.

“The one thing I did know was that I never had to choose just one interest, only one interest at time,” she said.

“Alison is somewhat non-traditional as a resident but more and more of our residents have a rich background these days. (She) brings a developed professionalism to residency. She is dedicated to excellence … and is not afraid of hard work. She always has a can-do attitude,” Schat said.

Tucker freely admits that her career has taken a unique path.

“I know I am not your typical college-to-med-school-to-resident, but I love every minute of what I am doing. I feel almost guilty telling people how much I love what I am doing!” 

“I have truly enjoyed and grown from the academic challenges that family medicine offers me,” she said. “I see the many challenges I encounter as opportunities to improve the care I give patients. Since my venture into the field of medicine, I have found that, while not every day is perfect, I truly love the work that I do and excitedly look forward to learning every aspect possible as I complete my family medicine residency training.”

When she completes her residency in June, Tucker plans to stay in Louisville to practice family medicine. But even as she embarks on her latest career, she will continue to be an educator. This time, she said, her students will be her patients.