At WestSound Home & Garden, we frequently hear about people doing interesting community work. When the idea was presented to highlight local physicians who do work worthy of praise in and out of their communities, we immediately gave it the thumbs up. Although doctors are expected to reach out by the nature of their profession, many are going above and beyond the call of duty.
We asked our readers to nominate physicians who are doing good works behind the scenes and should be in the spotlight. The result is “Doctors Making A Difference,” and we are proud to present the stories of local doctors who’ve impacted others in different ways.
Dr. Toni Terry has been involved with diabetes education at her clinic and in the community, bringing greater awareness to the Kitsap Peninsula about this disease.
As an endocrinologist, she diagnoses and treats hormone imbalances and problems by helping restore the normal hormonal balance. Her focus for endocrinology care is on quality rather than quantity.
“I take a patient-centric approach, with emphasis on patient education and comprehensive endocrine care,” she says.
Her mother, a nurse, influenced Terry’s career choice. She inspired Terry to be compassionate and to value education.
“I knew medicine would allow me to be a lifelong learner and help change people’s lives,” Terry says.
She was attracted to the field of endocrinology because of its complexity. She became fascinated with it in medical school and during residency after realizing that most of her challenging cases were related to this field.
“I always wanted to know more about the endocrine system and am constantly amazed at how diabetes care is evolving for the better,” she says.
Terry especially loves teaching patients how to improve their quality of life by understanding the disease process.
“Patients have the ability to improve their diabetes as long as they have the right tools, and education is imperative to help them succeed,” she says. “It’s very rewarding to see blood sugars improve and hear how much better patients feel.”
Dr. James Bates has been practicing general internal medicine with The Doctors Clinic since 1984.
His career choice was influenced by family tradition — several family members were physicians and dentists. Growing up in that environment, Bates decided at an early age to become a physician.
“I enjoyed the subjects of biology and science and just kept on the path — the very long path,” he says.
His choice of specialty was also influenced by family, as two of his uncles and a brother practiced general internal medicine.
“I did then, and do now, value and appreciate the concept of being aware and taking care of the entire patient in a long-term, ongoing relationship,” Bates says. “Rather than focus on an individual body system, as would a specialist, I look at that system and realize that every other system contributes to, and is affected by, that system as well.”
He enjoys treating the whole person — and finds that both challenging and rewarding.
“I cannot imagine practicing medicine in any other capacity,” he says.
Bates says there are many “best parts” of his job. They include the variety of complex issues and the ability to treat both acute and continuing-care patients. He also enjoys the ongoing education and his role in bringing multiple specialties to patients alongside his colleagues at The Doctors Clinic.
“It’s a great feeling to help a patient find an answer to their problem, to be able to help make them better and to keep them well,” Bates says. “It is a great responsibility and a great honor to deliver this service.”
Bates is thankful for his nurse, Cinda, for “holding this very busy and complicated practice together,” and for his wife, Kathy, “for her patience for the long hours away from home.”
Dr. Peter Lehmann is a second-generation physician who, after years in group practice, decided to become a solo physician in 2015 — going against the grain at a time when many solo physicians are joining large medical groups. He says he was compelled to make a change after growing increasingly unhappy, over the last decade, about a healthcare system that was more focused on complicated billing and increasingly burdensome regulations instead of focusing on patients and physicians.
“I needed to find a way to get back to being the physician I dreamed of in my youth,” he says.
After planning for more than a year, he found the solution in a business model that’s been adopted by others in recent years: charging an affordable, flat monthly fee. And he doesn’t just see patients at the office — he makes house calls, too.
“I once again have the time and freedom to have a pure relationship with my patients that is not influenced by any outside forces,” he says. “I’ve regained a hopeful attitude about medical care in the US. I know that I am part of a grassroots movement set on taking back healthcare and putting patients first again.”
Lehmann knew he would be a doctor at age 11. Growing up listening to his father’s stories gave him a “nostalgic view of what it meant to be a physician.”
“It seemed like a true calling to me, as opposed to ‘choosing a job.’ … I definitely wanted to do something meaningful with my life that would allow me to use my intellect and satisfy my desire to understand how things work,” he says.
He chose family medicine because he loved treating patients of all ages as a medical student, and doing everything from delivering babies to performing surgeries.
“I envisioned that being a family physician was the closest I could come to that idealized physician I had in my mind over the years,” he says.
Lehmann enjoys learning new things every day, even after more than two decades of practicing.
“I like striving to be a part of trying to help patients live happier lives. It’s a lot more difficult than it might seem at first glance,” he says. “I am continually amazed and personally fulfilled by the trust patients place in me, sharing with me some of the deepest and most personal aspects of their lives, and who they are as unique people.”
Dr. Eric Cole has been practicing in Kitsap County since 1999 and is an expert in the most advanced, state-of-the-art techniques in facial enhancement and rejuvenation. He is currently the only fellowship-trained oculofacial plastic and reconstructive surgeon in the West Sound area.
One of his goals is to change the mindset of Kitsap residents that they need to travel to Seattle to receive excellent medical care. He speaks from experience — having practiced on the East Side of Seattle after coming to the Pacific Northwest.
“My wife and I chose to move to the Kitsap Peninsula to raise our three daughters and for the quality of life associated with the area,” he says. “I try to bring the most current procedures, treatments and devices to this area within my specialty.”
Cole became fascinated by the medical field when he was a child. “I was the kid who was bandaging up the pets,” he says.
He thought he would become a veterinarian, but changed his mind in college while doing research in biophysics.
“I was studying with MDs who convinced me my abilities and interest would be a good fit for medical school,” he says.
Cole likes his specialty because of the “seemingly endless diversity of types of procedures and patients it is possible to treat.”
“During medical school, I was drawn to the precision work of oculoplastics. The sensitive and delicate areas of the eyes and face are challenging and fascinating,” he explains. “So many professions strive to leave their mark as a measure of success. In oculofacial plastics, the measure of success is to do your job without leaving obvious marks.”
He says that the most enjoyable part of his job is the ability to provide patients with excellent outcomes for potentially disfiguring medical conditions such as facial injuries and skin cancers.
“You never know a person’s story behind their reason for seeking a procedure. I have been truly moved by some of the people I have served and their courage,” he says.
Being able to restore patients’ confidence and improve their quality of life gives him a deep sense of satisfaction.
“The patient gratitude is amazing,” Cole says.” Practicing in a small community where I run into patients at sporting events, school activities and the grocery store reinforces that the people I get to serve are what makes my work so much more than just a job.”