There are many different approaches to meeting the challenges of family medicine. But for David Bedell, MD, the answer is all about trust and personal interaction.
David Bedell, MD, was inspired at a young age to become a physician because of his father. Early on, he saw how his dad had a great relationship with people and was really liked by everyone, from patients to housekeepers, from nurses to doctors.
“I wanted to have the same experience,” Bedell explains.
By all measures, Bedell, a UI Health Care clinical associate professor of Family Medicine, has succeeded. He’s the medical director at the Riverside Clinic, the primary physician and director of a nursing home in Lone Tree, regularly provides care at the Iowa City Free Medical Clinic—including prenatal care to immigrant, non-English speaking clients from Africa and Central America. He also provides OB and mother/baby care at the hospital, as well as supervises resident physicians in the Family Medicine clinic.
That makes for one busy clinician, but Bedell finds joy in every day.
“I have some patient families that are four generations—that is incredibly rewarding,” he says. “Women who I delivered as babies are now coming in for OB care. Knowing that I’m able to play such a role in their life is really special.”
Putting people at ease
While in medical school at the University of Washington in Seattle, Bedell was given an opportunity to spend two months in Mexico. Later on, in residency, he would often speak some Spanish with patients when the opportunity came up, as it created a connection.
But once, he overheard a patient saying, “He tries to speak Spanish.” The comment led him to rethink the next steps in his career path.
“I decided I really wanted to be fluent in Spanish, so after residency, I went and worked in Central America,” he explains.
He thought he’d be in El Salvador for one year, two years max. Instead he stayed for eight, gaining fluency in Spanish and learning valuable lessons about health care and practicing medicine.
When he came to Iowa City in 1994, he wasn’t sure how his work abroad would be applicable in the United States. Yet, once he arrived, he realized that some of the things he was doing in El Salvador were exactly what he should be doing and teaching here.
Today, he tells students and residents to not only connect with people as patients, but who they are as a person.
“It’s important to be there at 100% for every patient,” Bedell says. “Don’t go in with a judgmental attitude, because that’s not what patients need. They need somebody who will work with them to resolve their problems.”
He also teaches that for people you see frequently enough in family practice, the social interaction may be more important than any change in medicine.
“I think one of the joys of my job is that, a lot of times, it’s like visiting with an old friend,” he says. “People will tell me good and bad things, because as physicians, we’re trusted. I can hear about marital problems, or I can also hear about how retirement’s going, so there’s the personal interaction, which I then slowly work into the medical aspect.”
Being part of UI Health Care has given Bedell opportunities to do a lot of different things and explore his own interests – from immigration physicals, to working with the Spanish-speaking population, to collaborating with people in research, and teaching advanced skills.
His personable and caring clinical care keep patients coming back, building a rapport with the communities he serves, spanning multiple generations.
“A patient asked me if I was going to retire soon, and then she said, ‘Oh, you’re not going to do that. You love it too much. You’re so dedicated – you’ll probably never retire.’ It was very flattering,” says Bedell.
David Bedell, MD, is the recipient of the UI Physicians Clinician of the Year Award. This award is given to a clinician who most embodies those aspects of a truly great patient service provider, including technical skill, humanism to patients and families, collaboration with colleagues, and advocacy.