By Katie Demeria
Dr. Teresa F. Clawson chose a specialty in medical school sometimes referred to as "big city" medicine: neonatology. But when she moved to Winchester Medical Center, she fulfilled her desire to redirect her expertise to the rural community.
Clawson was appointed to the center's Board of Trustees on Dec. 17. She joined the hospital in June of 1996 after completing fellowships at Indiana University School of Medicine and was made the director of the center's newborn nurseries in 1997.
Clawson said her work with the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit has given her a greater appreciation for the importance of including patients in medical decision-making.
"The patient's story is important to hear," she said. "A lot of times there's a disconnect between what is put on paper and what reaches the patient. And there may be a disconnect between what we do and what we think they want."
After leaving Indiana University, Clawson looked into applying to some large, urban hospitals, but chose the medical center so she could have a closer relationship with her patients.
"This is considered a rural hospital, and I was very struck by the caliber of care here," she said. "One of the things that was important to me when I went into medicine was being able to serve the community that I live in."
The neonatology department has been proactive, Clawson said, when including patients and families in health decisions.
"We've been working toward getting the family voice involved," she said.
Clawson said she hopes to apply those principles to the entire hospital through her position on the Board of Trustees, encouraging physicians to consult with patients and their families.
For Clawson, the importance of a stronger relationship with her patients is reflected in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit's annual reunion, in which the families who had children in the unit are encouraged to return.
"It's an amazing thing, because families bring their babies back here every year," Clawson said. "We've even had teenagers show up. Last year we had 800 people attend."
The reunion helps remind individuals in the program of past successes, Clawson added, since many intensive care unit infants return as healthy children.
The Board of Trustees is designed to allow qualified physicians to direct their expertise throughout the entire hospital, according to Valley Health CEO Mark Merrill.
"The board is responsible for the quality of care and safety of the institution," Merrill said. "They make sure that the hospital remains effective."
The process for appointing a new member to the board involves a governance committee identifying potential candidates and taking into account nominees put forward by the physician community.
Twelve members currently sit on the board, Merrill said, which is the minimum number that can do so, while the maximum is 16.
Merrill said Clawson is an excellent clinician and an effective leader.
"She's respected by her peers, she's a strong advocate for the health of the patients and she's been active in the leadership of the medical center," he continued.
Prior responsibilities will prevent Clawson from becoming fully involved in the Board of Trustees until February.
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org