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David W. Anderson, MD, FACP

Helping patients become a partner in their care

Like many of his peers at Morehouse Healthcare (MHC), Dr. David Anderson was drawn to the institution by its commitment to provide culturally-sensitive care to a diverse population. But establishing close relationships with generations of patients is what has kept him at MHC and continues to fuel his enthusiasm for his life’s calling as a physician. “I get to know my patients beyond just their medical conditions,” he said. “This always helps me provide better care and is what I enjoy most about being an MHC doctor.”

An incident with lifetime impact
Being in a position to help others is where Dr. Anderson has wanted to be since childhood. As a young boy, a frightening experience involving his mother’s health provided a glimpse into his future. He said, “When I was 8 years old, my mom got sick one afternoon. She passed out in the corridor of our home in Jamaica and I witnessed it. My next-door neighbor’s son, who was a physician, was visiting, so I ran over and got him, and he helped revive my mom. We got her to the hospital and her life was saved. That experience, more than anything else, motivated me to become a doctor.”

His pursuit of a career in medicine led Dr. Anderson to the U.S., where he earned his medical degree at the State University of New York Health Science Center at Syracuse. He completed his internship and residency in internal medicine at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, NY.

Coming to Morehouse
“Providing care to the underserved is what I wanted to do,” said Dr. Anderson. “And when I saw that focus was a key part of the mission and values of the Morehouse School of Medicine and, by extension, Morehouse Healthcare, I knew where I wanted to be.” For the past 20 years, Dr. Anderson has been an integral part of MHC as well as the School of Medicine, where he is currently chief of the division of general internal medicine and an associate professor of clinical medicine. “Teaching and working with medical students and residents was another reason I wanted to come to the Morehouse School of Medicine,” he said.

Hypertension research
As an internist, Dr. Anderson treats patients with a wide variety of illnesses. One condition he commonly sees in the community is hypertension, which was the subject of a major clinical trial in which Dr. Anderson played a key role. “Several years ago, I participated in the Anti-hypertensive and Lipid-Lowering Treatment to Prevent Heart Attack Trial (ALLHAT) to study anti-hypertensive drugs and treatments. The research originated with the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute out of the National Institutes of Health, and Morehouse was one of the sites that was chosen for the study. I was the principal investigator for this site.”

He said, “We had approximately 50 patients who were in that study, which ran for about seven years. We were able to get useful information on how different blood pressure medications not only reduced blood pressure but also reduced some of the outcomes from high blood pressure. The study also showed how older drugs, such as diuretics, were just as good as, and in some cases even better than, newer drugs in lowering blood pressure and reducing some cardiovascular outcomes such as stroke.”

A family of care
Dr. Anderson notes that while he enjoys many aspects of his profession, the best part of it has always been establishing a rapport with patients. “I really like creating relationships where I get to know what’s going on in their lives beyond their illness,” he said. “In fact, it would be unusual for me to see a patient for just the second time and not know the names of his or her spouse or children. And similarly, they would also know who my kids are as well. It’s like we’re a big family.”

“This familiarity and comfort with one another enables me to provide better treatment. It helps me gain a better understanding of not just a patient’s physical condition, but also of any psycho-social issues that may be a factor in interfering with the outcomes.”

Patient trends
Over the course of 20 years at MHC, it’s not surprising that Dr. Anderson has witnessed many changes at the practice. “One of the more interesting things I’ve seen is the increase in the number of medical problems that our patients have. That’s on the challenging side. On the good side, more of my patients are taking advantage of screenings and preventive measures. More are getting colonoscopies and vaccinations. More women are asking for mammograms and paps than before.” He adds, “Overall there is more awareness that these things are beneficial in not only catching disease early, but in actually preventing certain cancers from developing.”

The MHC patient experience
Dr. Anderson’s personal, welcoming approach to patient care is reflective of the experience provided by MHC doctors in general. “Our patients know that they will be cared for by doctors who are sensitive to their situation. When you listen to some patients talk about their experiences elsewhere, they’ll often say that they weren’t comfortable with their doctors because they weren’t listening to them. They got them in and out, but never took the time to really talk with them and explain things in detail,” he said.

“At MHC, all of my colleagues share the same view on treating patients. We cover for each other, and our patients, to a person, will tell you that they enjoy seeing their doctor here because we take the time to answer their questions and show that we truly care about them. We let them know that they are partners in their treatment.”