The skills she learned before medical school have helped her share her medical knowledge far beyond the exam room in countless health segments for television and the internet.
“In the office, I speak to one or two people, maybe a family, at a time,” she said. “But when you go on TV, especially national TV, you could be speaking to potentially hundreds of thousands of people or even more than that. It’s been literally like a dream come true.”
Caudle, a daughter of teachers, worked multiple jobs as a student at Princeton University but needed more money to pay for college. A self-described cello-playing nerd, Caudle had no experience in pageants before throwing her tiara into the ring in 1999. She emerged as Miss Iowa and competed in the Miss America pageant. She said the experience earned her not only scholarship money and public speaking experience but also confidence and connections.
She spent a year working as a spokesperson for her home state as well as for her platform of music education. She took another year off from school to work behind the scenes as a program coordinator for VH1’s Save the Music Foundation, raising millions of dollars for public school programs.
Along the way, Caudle was making connections with producers and reporters and wondering how she could combine her passion for health care with her interest in media. She took the first steps down that path as an intern for the ABC News Medical Unit during residency.
“I tell everyone I can about that program because it’s a great experience,” she said. “ABC has residents from all over the country. They’ve been doing this for years.”
Caudle, an associate professor and clerkship director in the Department of Family Medicine at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in New Jersey, spent five years doing frequent health segments for the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia. By 2013 she was being called on by CNN, Fox News, the “Today” Show, Dr. Oz, Rachael Ray and others.
Caudle, who serves as a spokesperson for Rowan, now has dedicated time for media duties built into her schedule. Earlier in her career, however, she often made herself available at night and on weekends and holidays for work that is usually unpaid.
“I would purposely be at home so that I could be on a ton of networks while everyone else was on vacation,” she said. “It was a way that I was able to get experience. I did it because I loved it.”
In recent months, Caudle has reached regional and national TV audiences to talk about topics like safe disposal of medications, women’s health issues and nutrition. At the same time, she’s regularly posting health tips for roughly 1 million social media followers, often related to topics in the news cycle like dementia and skin care.
“I’ve done a lot of TV, but during the pandemic I started making my own content and my own videos,” she said. “I had never done that before. Some of my videos started going viral into the millions. It really taught me the power of social media.”
Caudle said the broad scope of family medicine makes family docs ideally suited to speak on a wide range of health topics, whether it be a disease outbreak like Zika, a global crisis like COVID-19, new clinical guidelines or basic health tips.
“We can talk about anything because we do a little bit of everything,” she said, “and with that comes a lot of opportunity.”
But that doesn’t just mean opportunities to talk to reporters. Caudle will be the mainstage speaker July 27 during the National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students in Kansas City, Mo. She said she plans to highlight the array of career opportunities the specialty presents.
“What spoke to me about family medicine is the fact that you can do so many things,” she said. “You may have faculty that do mostly inpatient care. We’ve got sports medicine doctors who cover teams. We’ve got some who specialize in house calls. There’s so much flexibility.”
House calls represent some of Caudle’s earliest memories of family medicine. Her family physician would come to her childhood home in Davenport, Iowa, when her brother was struggling with severe asthma.
“He had this old school doctor bag, and he would come over in the middle of the night,” she said. “It seemed like he was a magician because whatever he did made my brother better. I’ll never forget those times.”
Caudle said she was interested in multiple specialties as a medical student, but she enjoyed the mix of well and ill patients in primary care, and she also liked the continuity.
“I loved the ER, but I had a hard time not knowing what happened to patients when they left,” she said. “I would think about these people, and I realized I need to know what happened next. We go through things with people, whether it’s a divorce, losing a job, getting a job, the birth of baby or the death of a family member. We’re on this journey with people, and I don’t think there’s any greater gift.”