The Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine excels at training compassionate, community-minded, patient-centered primary care physicians who treat not just symptoms, but the whole human being. And if you tried to imagine such a doctor, you might come up with someone a lot like Terry Wagner, D.O. (’94), who was named 2016 Family Physician of the Year by the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians.
Wagner, who is partner/president of Hudson Family Practice in Stow, Ohio, readily admits that getting the award was a huge thrill. “It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my career,” he said. “Professionally, this just tops it all.”
What makes the honor especially meaningful to Wagner is that it clearly reflects the appreciation he has earned from his patients. In announcing the award, OAFP noted that a record number of 148 patients nominated him. That kind of acclaim doesn’t happen by accident; Wagner thinks it may stem at least in part from lessons he learned at the Heritage College, about truly connecting with the people he treats.
“We were really taught from the beginning about empathy, about caring for the patient – and our big focus is holistic,” Wagner said. “When that patient comes in the room, I’m looking at that patient physically, emotionally, mentally – because it all wraps together. And I think the patients feel that.”
Drawing from lessons learned at the Heritage College, Wagner works to understand what’s going on in each patient’s life, asking about their personal life, their job and their family. “Maybe their blood pressure was high today,” he said. “Well, maybe their mother died two months ago, and they’re depressed from that, or they just lost their job, or they’ve got an ill child – you’ve got to know all those pieces and how they work in.”
Executive Dean Kenneth Johnson, D.O., called Wagner “an outstanding example of the kind of community-focused, empathic primary care physician that the Heritage College prides itself on training. I congratulate him on what is obviously a well-deserved honor.”
In his undergraduate days at the University of Akron, Wagner thought about going into pediatrics, but by the time he was ready for medical school, family practice was squarely in his sights.
“I always wanted to be the doctor who took care of everybody, took care of the family. So it was really family medicine that drew me in,” he explained. Ohio University’s medical school was always his first choice, “because they have such a strong family medicine push. And that is what really drew me in, because it’s what I wanted to do, and they did it so well.”
Wagner has gone on to become the true family doctor he always aimed to be. “I see everybody,” he said. “I see little infants all the way up to the elderly.”
He maintains a connection to the Heritage College as a preceptor and a mentor. Aaron Cochran, D.O. (’11), now a neurologist in Akron, recalled the impact Wagner had on his medical training. “He was my first clinical rotation, and he made it very easy, very comfortable,” Cochran recalled “He did a lot of teaching. He’s really just a great guy, and he’s someone who has helped me a lot.”
Asked what he gained from the college that helps him most as a family physician, Wagner doesn’t have to think long. Truly working a philosophy of care, he said, makes his job simpler.
“Once that patient gets that level of trust with you, where they know you’re really invested in them, you have such an easier time taking care of that patient,” he explained. “They’re open, they’re honest – they feel that you really care. And I guess that’s one thing – we were taught to care.”