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Personal touches make a big difference

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Mary Bowdish had been seeing the same primary care doctor for years, but she rarely felt like anything more than an ordinary patient. And with the office located about 15 miles away in Winston-Salem, visits weren't overly convenient – especially if she was sick at home. So when Novant Health Wallburg Family Medicine opened up not far from her home, Mary thought she’d give it a try.

“When I first saw the sign, I assumed it would be an extension of a big practice – cold and impersonal,” she recalls. “But boy was I wrong. The first time I walked in the door, I was amazed at how attentive, cordial, kind and positive everyone was. They’re so welcoming and so much fun. I was shocked and overjoyed.”

Led by Dawn O’Reilly, PhD, PA-C (pictured on the far left of the photo), Wallburg Family Medicine – which opened in September 2013 – is the first practice to operate under Novant Health’s Lean Footprint model. Dawn serves as the lead clinician and confers daily with Gary Lon Morgan, MD, her supervising physician who works at Friedberg Family Medicine in Winston-Salem.

“It can be very difficult being a brand new practice and being the only provider,” Dawn says of the practice, which also features a registered nurse, certified nurse assistant, office manager and two receptionists/schedulers. “These patients are like my family, and I think about them all the time. I want everyone who walks through the door to know that they’re important and their problems matter.”

Mary has felt that inclusiveness since her very first visit. While reviewing her medical history, Dawn commented on the cholesterol medicine Mary had been taking. Not only was it extremely expensive – roughly $2,400 a year – but it also didn't seem to be effective, at least according to Mary’s blood work, which showed continued high cholesterol readings. Instead, Dawn prescribed a new medication for Mary to try, and even helped her secure a discount card to help pay for the medication.

But that was just the beginning. When Mary kept producing high blood pressure readings, Dawn mentioned that medication might be in order. But Mary was doubtful.

“I told her that I have white coat syndrome, not hypertension, and I didn't want to take medications I didn't need,” Mary recalls. “I asked if she would agree to let me take my blood pressure at home for two or three weeks and bring her back the results. She said, ‘Absolutely!’ My old doctor never would have agreed to that. And guess what – it proved I didn't have high blood pressure!”

Mary has also been extremely impressed at the attentiveness of everyone in the office. From her very first visit, she has always been greeted by name. And when she reaches out to Dawn via MyChart, Mary always gets a prompt, personal response.

“I have communicated with Dawn many times through MyChart, and I always get an answer back from her within 24 hours,” Mary says. “She doesn't delegate this to her staff. Instead, she takes the time herself to answer my questions and thanks me for keeping in touch with her.”

Dawn’s staff also went above and beyond for Mary’s daughter, who lives in Wilmington and was coming home for a visit.

“She wasn't feeling well, so I told her I’d make an appointment for her at the clinic,” Mary says. “But she got stuck in Raleigh and wasn't going to make it before they closed. When I called the practice to let them know, they said, ‘Tell her to be safe, take her time and we'll wait on her.’ I was just astounded. But that’s how they are – Dawn, the nursing staff and receptionists. They’re there because it’s a calling.

“My previous doctor was part of a large facility, and I found that practice to be intimidating,” Mary continues. “But Novant Health Wallburg Family Medicine is the exact opposite. They treat me like a family member and truly care about me. I can’t imagine going anywhere else.”