Jet-setting Kansas doc stays grounded through patient care

Donna Sweet, MACP.

Donna Sweet, MACP

Occupation: Professor of internal medicine, University of Kansas School of Medicine. Director of internal medicine education at Via Christi Regional Medical Center-St. Francis.

Dr Sweet Everyone deserves a physician who knows them well
Dr. Sweet: “Everyone deserves a physician who knows them well.”

Age: 59

Current Residence: Wichita, Kan.

Hometown: Benton, Kan. I was born at St. Francis, the hospital where I now practice.

Family: Husband George, and three adult stepchildren, Jason, Jenny and Leighton.

Education: MD, University of Kansas School of Medicine. MS, BS in biology, Wichita State University.

Residency: University of Kansas School of Medicine.

Something I wished I'd learned in medical school: That advocacy for your patient is as important as knowing which tests to order and which medicines to prescribe.

First job you ever had: Clinical microbiologist.

I became an internist because: The aspect of medical mystery. Internal medicine is a profession where you really take a problem and try to work through it in the most efficient and best way for the patient. There was a point in my career where I had a very charismatic psychiatry professor, and he almost had me convinced I'd be a good psychiatrist, but I decided I could do psychiatry as part of internal medicine, which I do.

Most rewarding aspect of my job: Taking care of patients and helping them through difficult life situations. It's always nice when you can make them better, but even if you can't, it's rewarding getting them though a significant illness or even a death. I think every person deserves a physician who knows them well. I have patients I picked up when I was a second-year resident, who I've been taking care of since 1981.

Most meaningful professional accomplishment: So far it's achieving the chairmanship of the Board of Regents (in April 2005). In a membership organization, that reflected the trust of my peers.

Future goals: To continue to train young physicians to understand the real joy of medicine and the joy of care, and to not get too fixated on pay and work hours. Also, to work toward a health care system that allows all patients to have access to reasonable coverage.

Personal heroes: Walt McDonald, MACP, who I met when he first became CEO/EVP of the ACP. I admire his work in making ACP and ASIM a unified organization. And then there is Clif Cleveland, MD, who in my mind is the premier internist. He's a thinker, a writer, and has continued to help young people develop the more humanitarian side of medicine.

Pet peeves: When people call me on the weekends and want a prescription, but they don't have a pharmacy number. It's a tiny thing, but it takes up a lot of time.

Favorite way to spend free time: Playing golf with my husband.

Favorite author or poet: I know a lot of people give esoteric answers to this, but I read books that are page-turners and mysteries, and where things come out OK in the end. So I read Patricia Cornwell, Jonathan Kellerman, James Patterson. When I really need an uplift, I save the new Janet Evanovich books.

Books on my night stand: Janet Evanovich's “Plum Lovin’”, and Clif Cleveland's latest, “Healers & Heroes.”

Most meaningful non-medical accomplishment: My marriage of 31 years.

Most surprising thing about me: That I live in Wichita, Kan. People ask me all the time why I stay there. But I love Wichita; they have planes and I can go anywhere I want. I'm the oldest of eight kids and we all still live in a 50-mile radius. Home is home.

If I weren't a physician, I would be: A gourmet chef. I love to cook.

Item you can't live without: I'd have to say, because of the way I try to continue to do medical care along with advocacy and everything else, that it's my BlackBerry. It gives my nurses instant access to me, whether I'm in Vladivostok or Washington, D.C. I can do e-mails and phone calls from anywhere, and that's what I use it for mostly, because I'm not a techno-geek at all.