Physician Provider Stories

National Physicians Week: Recognizing and honoring our essential healthcare professionals

Diverse group of smiling physicians

Healthcare professionals are an essential and integral part of our society. Through research, education, diagnosis, treatment, and healing, physicians devote their professional lives to elevating the health and well-being of both individuals and communities. There are many reasons physicians love what they do, as varied and unique as the practitioners themselves. To mark National Physicians Week, Weatherby sat down with several physicians who shared their perspectives on the field and what they love about practicing medicine.

Bridging gaps, caring for communities

Emergency medicine specialist Dr. Katherine Altieri practices both full time and locums in Arizona. She felt drawn to medicine as her purpose in life.

“What I enjoy is that I’m doing what I feel I’ve been put on this earth to do: practice medicine and help people,” says Dr. Altieri. “The big picture is to help people, and I think medicine is one of the best ways of doing that. It can have a huge impact on not just the patient but their families. Even simple medical care — it doesn’t always have to be dramatic — can really make a difference in people’s lives.”

Dr. Altieri is passionate about delivering care to indigenous and border communities and helping bridge gaps in access and understanding.

“The places I’ve gone to work are underserved or border communities where cultural differences and language barriers exist,” says Dr. Altieri. “It’s important to ensure sound communication and translation. I always want to put patients first in whatever they want. I want to understand their practices and beliefs. There is actually a medicine man who has been my patient a few times and he’s really cool. We blend those two together — what they do and what I do.”

Lifelong learning, training the next generation of leaders

Dr. Theodore Ning, a urologist based in Colorado, was 50 years old when he decided to leave private practice.

“I was commuting to Vietnam twice a year and really enjoying learning a whole new frontier of projects and problems, figuring out how to solve them, and dealing with different governments. It was an exciting time for my wife and me,” says Dr. Ning. “I realized at a particular point I was enjoying what I was doing in Vietnam more than I was enjoying what I was doing in practice. That wasn’t saying the practice was bad, but this other door opened, and I realized I actually had more skills in the area of being a sociologist than I did as a urologist.”

“My wife and I have learned over time how to go into communities and identify what is working, what their strengths are, and then building on those strengths to create programs that are seen by the community as their own,” says Dr. Ning. “It’s really about coaching and seeing problems not from the Western perspective but from a villager’s perspective. That’s the skill of being a sociologist, you’re really paying attention to the needs of the community not as you perceive them but as they perceive them themselves.”

Dr Theodore Ning portrait

In addition to his humanitarian efforts, Dr. Ning is also a clinical professor, helping to train the next generation of leaders in medicine.

“I train residents and I love that area of medicine,” says Dr. Ning. “The residents keep me sharp. I love working with them because they are always improving my thinking. I especially enjoy being in a clinical setting with residents. When you’re in the operating room, you only have a little amount of time that you can get in the head of the resident; they’re busy watching their hands trying to get a case done.

“Teaching moments come between patients where in a clinic you’re really able to see many more problems. Urology is a medical surgical specialty. We do as much medicine as we do surgery. Most people think we just do surgery only, but really the office practice is one of the reasons I like the specialty.”

Delivering emergency care in times of need

Pulmonologist and critical care physician Dr. Jenny Martino loves a challenge. She knew she wanted to take her medical training to areas of greatest need, so she applied and was accepted to Doctors Without Borders.

“I love critical care; I love international work; and I love challenges,” says Dr. Martino. “My first real international project with Doctors Without Borders was in Afghanistan at a trauma center. I helped in the intensive care unit where there was a lot of action, a lot of excitement. I like the challenge of working with limited resources.”

When COVID prevented international travel, Dr. Martino came back to the U.S. and sought out the areas most critically impacted in the early days of the pandemic.

“For the first time ever, there was a disaster in the U.S. that needed my pulmonary and critical care skills,” says Dr. Martino. “I started researching which areas needed the most help. I like challenges and kind of the worst of the worst. Elmhurst Hospital in Queens was at the center of it. Elmhurst really needed help and they needed ICU doctors. I knew they took care of a poorer patient population and served a lot of immigrant communities — this has always interested me. I kind of felt like, ‘I’m perfect for here. How do I get in and help?’”

Dr. Martino says she believes her critical care and international work has made her a better physician.

“I think it makes me a better critical care doctor to do international work. And it makes me a better international doctor to do American work,” says Dr. Martino. “I love the variety and realizing how much you can gain from patient exams. You don’t always need all the fancy stuff we have all the time. I like to see that people are super grateful. You have certain patients you’ll always remember. Practicing in other countries and settings reminds me of why I became a doctor.”

This National Physicians Week — and always — we recognize and commend the women and men who commit to “do no harm” and devote their lives to improving the lives of the patients they serve.

About the author

Allison Riley

Allison Riley is a public relations professional with more than 10 years experience in healthcare and corporate communications. She lives in New York City with her better half and two wonderful daughters. She and her girls are currently contending for world’s slowest recorded stair climb to a fifth-floor apartment, and she enjoys writing so she can just finish her sentence already.