Dr. Jen Caudle admits that she doesn’t always take her own advice. She preaches the benefits of a good night’s sleep on her biweekly appearances on Philly’s CBS3, but regularly does her own best writing—like an opinion piece for CNN on funding for research into the zika virus—in the middle of the night. She argues that women need to take time for themselves, but often forgets to schedule a 3-hour Say Yes to the Dress marathon (her favorite way to relax) in between weekly lectures at Rowan University, seeing patients four days a week at her medical practice, appearing as a medical expert on both local and international broadcasts, and traveling the country as a speaker on health topics and the consequences of bullying.
Balance isn’t easy to achieve when you wear so many different hats, but Dr. Caudle has never been satisfied with sticking to just one thing. She became a family physician, she says, because she feels the most engaged in her life when juggling multiple projects. It’s something she’s used to. A celebrated cellist, Dr. Caudle spent her junior and senior year of high school at the Walnut Hill School for the Arts in Natick, Massachusetts, before receiving a bachelor’s degree in cultural anthropology and minor in music at Princeton and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from the UMDNJ School of Osteopathic Medicine.
Of course, all of that schooling can add up to a staggering bill. As a sophomore at Princeton, Jen discovered the Miss America Organization when a family friend asked her to show off her cello talents at the Miss Scott County competition, and with student loans and medical school on the horizon, Jen decided she had nothing to lose by vying for a scholarship. It took her two years, but she emerged victorious, eventually winning the coveted spot of Miss Iowa 1999—and enough scholarship money for the rest of her Princeton career.
Dr. Caudle knew that her experience with the Miss America Organization would fund her college education. What she didn’t realize was how much it would shape her as a person, a doctor and a communicator. As Miss Iowa, Jen traveled the state speaking in schools and giving media interviews. That training would prove invaluable when, as a third-year medical student, she realized that she wanted to do something about the dubious health claims shared by news shows.
The Miss America Organization also gave Jen “a whole lot of confidence,” she says. Growing up, she had all the strikes against her—“braces, a jheri curl, and a reputation as the nerd of nerds,” she says. Though she remembers the exact faces of those who teased her as a child, she doesn’t hold any resentment. Instead, she travels the country speaking about bullying from a medical perspective.
“Within the last eight to ten years, there have been a lot of great studies showing the effects of bullying on kids over time,” she says. Children who are bullied tend to perform poorly in school, miss more classes, and have lower self-esteem and higher risk of substance abuse as adults. As a physician, she highlights that bullies themselves tend to be at risk for some of the same health problems.
Although she began by speaking to parents, teachers, and her patients about bullying, she quickly realized that doctors play an invaluable role in creating a bully-proof environment. It is the responsibility of the physician, she says, to ask certain questions during a yearly physical—does anyone tease or make fun of you? Do you pick on other kids? Do you have people to play with on the playground? By asking the right questions, a physician can help develop a multifaceted plan to help a child.
Dr. Caudle continues her relationship with the medical community through The Physician’s Blog, a blog she started where doctors from around the country can communicate with their patients in an informal and inspirational way. She interviews general practitioners and specialists on ReachMD, the nation’s largest learning platform for physicians and other healthcare professionals, and passes on her Miss America lessons to doctors hoping to make themselves more media-friendly.
Today, Jen’s whirlwind career shows no signs of slowing down. Known as America’s Family Doctor, she does appearances ranging from local radio broadcasts to the Dr. Oz Show. She speaks anecdotally and from patient experiences, and discusses topics from when makeup expires to how to stay sane during the holiday season. But Dr. Caudle never forgets her primary objective—connecting with people. She loves being a family doctor because her patients feel like her family.
“I’m the one that knows so many things about people’s lives, besides just their health,” she said. “To have a role in someone’s life like that is a special privilege.”
The Miss America Organization provides quality scholarship assistance to young women across the United States. To get involved or to donate, visit www.MissAmerica.org.