By David Watson, MD

I am a WVU Medicine physician – a neurologist, to be specific. At 43 years old, I am reasonably healthy with a few extra pounds, a mediocre diet, and not enough exercise. Like most physicians, I hated going to see my doctor even though he is a friend, so I didn’t go for regular appointments. It is generally understood that people who work in healthcare are not the best patients. For the most part, I fit that bill.

Dr. David Watson

Recently, I attended a medical conference in Canada, and I developed what I thought to be a bad case of heartburn. I had less severe cases of it before, and I was pretty certain that this was the same thing. But I bet you can see where this is going: I was wrong – way wrong.

Stubbornly, I did not seek care or follow the advice of friends while in Canada. By the time I returned home, I was feeling mostly better. My primary care doctor told me that I needed to get the pain evaluated, so he ordered tests, but I decided to wait – partially a head-in-the-sand approach and because I felt too good to have anything wrong. Eventually, 10 days after the problem started, I headed to the lab to get the tests done. Soon thereafter, my view of the WVU Medicine experience changed dramatically.

I have worked as a neurologist for the WVU Medicine Department of Neurology for eight years. During this time, I have witnessed and participated in a lot of efforts to improve the experience for people who trust their healthcare to us. From improving quality of care and check-in processes, reducing wait times, and better discharge planning to increased quietness at nighttime and overall communication, there really has not been an unturned stone in the efforts to provide the best possible care. However, from the physician side of the bed, I didn’t fully realize the impact of these changes – at least until recently.

Now, I was the patient. My employee badge didn’t matter. My title didn’t matter. Most of the people I met didn’t know me or know that I worked there. I was called Mr. Watson more often than Dr. Watson. I was vulnerable, a little scared, and wearing a hospital gown instead of a white coat (ok, busted – I don’t wear a white coat normally, but you know what I mean).

I’m used to calling the shots on what tests or treatments are needed. Here, I was dependent on others to make those calls. What I experienced, though, was an incredible level of professionalism and proficiency mixed with ultimate compassion. Don’t get me wrong – I still hated being the patient. Nothing was going to make me happy about lying in a hospital bed with IVs or blood draws. But it is easy to see how my experience could have been so much worse. 

So, what’s my take-home message? Don’t ignore your body. Have a doctor. See him or her regularly. You aren’t too young, too healthy, or too smart to get sick. Even in Canada. 

Thankfully, through God’s protection and the talent he has placed within WVU Medicine, I’m doing well. I will always be grateful for the doctors, nurses, fellows, residents, technicians, and other providers who have taken and will continue to take excellent care of me. My appointments are made. Yours should be, too.

Make an appointment: 855-WVU-CARE