David Weidig, MD, was there at the beginning. He was one of the first internal medicine-trained physicians to adopt hospital-based practice. He was one of the first to proudly call himself a hospitalist. And, he was one of the first hospitalists to adapt and prosper as a hospitalist group director.
He graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1987, completed medical school at Northwestern University in Chicago in 1991, and trained at Cleveland Clinic and Mercy Hospital in San Diego before taking a position with a “traditional” practice in 1995. It wasn’t long before the gravitational forces of hospital medicine pulled him in. He joined a hospitalist group a year later and assumed his first leadership position in 1998, as director of hospital medicine at Pacific Medical Group in Seattle.
“Hospital medicine was a new concept at the time,” he says. “There were only a few of us in the entire city.”
In 2007, he returned to the Midwest, to the HM group at Aurora Health Care, based in Milwaukee, Wis. As system director of hospital medicine at Aurora, he managed academic and community programs throughout the state, many of which are affiliated with his alma mater. When he joined Aurora, it was made up of one HM group and six full-time physicians. Today, it boasts 13 programs and more than 150 providers.
After eight years at Aurora, Dr. Weidig recently joined Tacoma, Wash.-based Sound Physicians. He will serve as director of their Evergreen Region.
During his two decades as a hospitalist, Dr. Weidig has seen massive changes in both the field of hospital medicine and healthcare. He’s witnessed firsthand the growth in the field, the shift to value and performance in healthcare, and the challenges faced by HM groups large and small, urban and rural, academic and community.
“We have had successes and failures, and we have learned from our efforts,” he says, adding that his biggest professional reward is “having built a large hospital medicine system, along with the camaraderie and respect for the people who I worked with to do it.”
Dr. Weidig is a longtime SHM member, serving as the SHM Northwest Chapter president from 2005-2007, and currently as a member of SHM’s Multisite Hospitalist Leader Subcommittee. He also is one of seven new members of Team Hospitalist, the volunteer editorial board for The Hospitalist. We chatted with him recently about his interests in hospital medicine and beyond.
Question: Why did you choose a career in medicine?
Answer: Being able to help someone during a serious time of need was a strong initial draw. I was also fascinated by physiology in my undergrad studies, which fit well with the study of medicine.
Q: Was there a single moment you knew “I can do this hospital medicine thing?”
Answer: Honestly, I was a bit put off by the way medical school was taught and some of the attitudes I encountered. It was a much different feel than my undergrad experience, in biochemistry, which I very much enjoyed. I believe it was my fourth-year rotations where I hit a milestone, and a significant increase in confidence about caring for a patient.
Q: What do you like most about working as a hospitalist?
A: I enjoy the acute intervention to rapidly [hopefully] effect an improvement in the patient’s symptoms. I also enjoy the systematic, best-practice approach that the field has developed.
Q: What do you dislike most?
Q: What’s the best advice you ever received?
A: Focus and respond with thoughtfulness and empathy. Do not react with emotion.
Q: Did you have a mentor during training or early career? If so, who was the mentor, and what were the most important lessons you learned from him/her?
A: I had a biochemistry instructor in undergrad who was an all-around high quality individual. I had a great deal of respect for how he treated and interacted with others. I have always tried to emulate it.
Q: What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in HM in your career?
A: I started in the infancy of the field, so everything has changed. Acceptance and understanding of a team-based inpatient approach is possibly one of the biggest.
Q: What’s the biggest change you would like to see in HM?
A: Further understanding and promotion of the benefits of focused management of the inpatient population, as well as the benefits of more intensive transitional care after hospitalization.
Q: Why is it important for you, as a hospitalist group leader, to continue seeing patients?
A: To stay in touch with what patients experience.
Q: What aspect of patient care is most rewarding?
A: An acutely ill patient who responds well to medical intervention and within hours to days is feeling dramatically better.
Q: What aspect of teaching medicine in the 21st century is most difficult? And what is most enjoyable?
A: Most difficult is managing the time to teach around other duties of the day. Most rewarding is teaching the concept of not just medicine, but team organization and leadership within the hospital setting.
Q: What is your biggest professional reward?
A: Having built a large hospital medicine system, along with the camaraderie and respect for the people who I worked with to do it.
Q: What SHM event or meeting has made the most lasting impression on you?
A: I always feel that the annual Society of Hospital Medicine meeting has an amazing wealth of knowledge and experience to gain from.
Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
A: Hopefully, working with quality outcomes and patient experience on a large scale.
Q: If you weren’t a doctor, what would you be doing right now?
A: Likely something in the area of biochemistry/genetics.
Q: When you aren’t working, what is important to you?
A: Family, friends, music, travel.
Q: PC or tablet?
Q: What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
A: Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. It’s very deep and insightful in how we react to situations and make decisions. There are factors that have major effects on decisions that we can be completely unaware of unless we are cognizant of them. It significantly changed my approach to many situations and also applies well to the decision-making process in medicine.
Q: Apple or Android?