By: Jean Johnson for Veins1
“Patients don’t want you just walk up and say ‘Hi, I’m a doctor and I’m going to stick this 15 centimeter biopsy needle into your body,” said Jeremy Weiss, D.O. and medical director of the Portland Endovascular and Interventional Radiology Center. Sunlight glints off Weiss’s diamond-shaped glasses and adds luster to his chestnut brown hair as he walks through the well-appointed suite of offices and procedure rooms at the center.
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| The D.O. title vs the M.D. title
Osteopathic medicine with a Doctor of Osteopathy (D.O.) degree attracts practitioners interested in whole-patient approaches to medicine. D.O.s are also trained to perform osteopathic manipulations on patients.
The 47,000 D.O.s in the United States make up 5 percent of the nation’s physician population.
D.O.s often focus on preventative care.
Both D.O.s and M.D.s have a four year undergraduate degree prior to medical training, spend four years in medical school, complete internships and residencies, and must pass state licensing exams in order to practice.
Both take the MCAT and are subject to a rigorous application process. Historically, D.O. schools are more open to the non-traditional candidate.
D.O.s, like M.D.s, choose to practice in a specialty area of medicine and complete a residency program ranging from 3-7 years. Some D.O.s complete the same residency programs as their M.D. counterparts.
D.O.s perform surgery, deliver children, treat patients, prescribe medications and work in the same settings as M.D.s. D.O.s use the same tools, treatments and medical technologies as M.D.s.
“Traditional radiologists used to sit in the basement of the hospital and read all these X-rays and follow physician orders for tests like mammograms, barium enemas and angiograms,” said Weiss. “The model was one in which interventional radiologists who are fully trained and licensed physicians were technicians instead of clinicians. We’re changing that.”
Interventional Radiology – Shift from Technician to Clinician
“What I realized is that our procedures were becoming more complicated and a compartmentalized approach was not the best way to deliver superior medical care,” said Weiss.
“The older model in which interventional radiologists were partitioned away in their specialty might have flown in the 1980s, but not now. Over the past decade procedures have become far more complicated, and patients want to meet you in an office setting,” he observed. “Our clinic gives us the ability to actually provide that type of longitudinal care. In addition to consults prior to procedures, we also are able to follow patients after their treatments and tests.”
Perhaps because of his D.O. background in whole-patient approaches, Weiss conveys much that is innovative and progressive about the medical profession. [See our side bar for differences between D.O. and M.D. degrees.]
Indeed, upon emerging from a Harvard fellowship in vascular and interventional radiology in 2000, Weiss explained that his goal was an ambitious one. “I wanted to change the face of my profession,” he said.
Weiss adds that the center he established is a step toward that end. “We have one of the few interventional radiology clinics in this country. There really are just a handful of them,” he said. “But they are going to become more common because what’s wonderful about them is that patients can come in and meet with us and learn about procedures. That way we can bond.”
The bonding to which Weiss refers is a plus for both patients and practitioners since not only do patients have a chance to put a face on the name of their interventional radiologist, physicians like Weiss also get an opportunity to identify with their patients. This more personal approach to interventional radiology is what Weiss and his clinic is about.
“In the past we used to send patients back to their primary care physicians after procedures and if there was a problem, those physicians would say, ‘I dunno, I didn’t do the procedure,’” said Weiss. “Now that we follow our patients like a clinician would, those problems are gone. We can see patients afterwards and find out how they’re doing and manage any problems they are encountering. What I do now is much more satisfying than simply working in the interventional radiology department of a hospital and having only detached interaction with patients.”
Interventional Radiology and Traditional Medicine
Part of Weiss’s work revolves around raising patient awareness. “Interventional radiology is a specialty that is still not very visible to many patients. Often they do not understand their options or realize how their care is directed in very subtle ways,” he noted.
Weiss explains that since interventional radiology is a relatively new field and has the capacity to create a “revolution in medicine,” that some traditional surgeons have felt threatened. He adds, though, that he works with numerous progressive physicians in Portland who appreciate the benefits of minimally-invasive approaches to medicine and understand that rather than competing, interventional radiology complements traditional surgery. Certainly, Weiss himself is committed to the end result of his endeavor has to offer patients.
“I have a strong belief in the products and procedures that we offer, and so feel that if we as physicians lay everything down on table, data for data, people will choose the approach that’s right for them,” said Weiss, who goes on to make a case for why he thinks interventional radiology is usually the preferred option.
“The physician is there to aid the body in its ability to take care of itself. The less disruptive that the physician can be and the procedure is, the better off the patient will be. We’re there to augment the body’s own healing system without going in and cutting things out,” he said. “And as the technology gets more advanced, interventional radiologists will be able to use a range of minimally-invasive techniques to do what formerly could only be accomplished by surgeons.”
Portland Endovascular and Interventional Radiology Center goes by the acronym PERC which is a “play on the word percutaneous, or the skin, through which we do all our procedures,” said Weiss. “Already we treat a wide range of problems including varicose veins, uterine fibroids, biliary or liver disease, kidney disease, situations related to the spine and back, aneurysms, peripheral vascular disease, narrowing of the blood vessels of the extremities, carotid neck arteries and arteries to the kidneys"
Along with the breadth of interventional radiology is the low risk of complication and relatively speedy recovery time which accompany minimally-invasive techniques. With these important added benefits, clinics like the one Jeremy Weiss has started could start taking their rightful place in healthcare. And as far as patient choices go, we at Body1 think the more the better.