Member Spotlight – Abbey L. Woods, MD
Member Status: (Active, Resident, Student)
Where are you currently working or attending school?
Working. Opened an independent private practice in the beginning of 2018, Woods Family Medicine.
How long have you been within the OAFP community?
I graduated from OUHSC College of Medicine in 2013, but moved to St. Louis, MO, to complete family medicine residency. I moved back to Oklahoma after graduation and have been here since.
Why did you choose family medicine? What has been the most fulfilling moment of your career or education?
I chose family medicine because I enjoy connecting with patients– building a patient-physician relationship that involves understanding not only the patient’s uniqueness, but also their unique life circumstances. Family medicine is full of variety! No two patient encounters are the same. Never a dull moment!
I also find it extremely rewarding to help patients understand their bodies and work toward their long-term health goals, empowering patients to face a diagnosis or treatment with confidence and a plan.
Opening my private practice has been incredibly rewarding. I am able to spend the time needed with patients so they feel heard. We develop a meaningful and personal treatment plan for all of my patients. We all know prevention of disease is the best. But setting those preventative goals and being a voice of accountability to patients is extremely fulfilling. I honestly believe family medicine physicians are the key to improving the health of all people, especially Oklahomans.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your practice or education?
Insurance barriers. Insurance companies do not keep patients healthy. Insurance plans do not keep patients healthy. A trusting patient-physician relationship where patients are able to come for in-person evaluations and understand their bodies keeps patients healthy. Realizing the barriers to good care are sometimes the patient’s perception of their lack of resources. Insurance deductibles, cost of labs, cost of imaging, cost of medication. If patients perceive it as too expensive, it will not be their priority. As a physician, it’s hard to know what the patient needs for a proper workup and treatment, but feel your hands are tied because overcoming the insurance-imposed barriers to help patients obtain these needs is very time consuming, uncompensated, and a fight that is stacked against you. And many times, if patients call the insurance companies to get help, they are told, “If your doctor would order it correctly, it would be covered better.” But they won’t tell you the modifier they want or the diagnosis codes they consider “correct.” The business of insurance is a game of moving targets that is eroding the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship.
Private practices are also put at a disadvantage from the start. We have a contract with insurance companies. Patients have a contract with insurance companies. But somehow physician offices are required to enforce the contract between patient and insurance company without the ability to even read it. If a service was paid in full to the office, and copays/coinsurance bills were sent from insurance company to patient, then the insurance company would be required to explain the contract and collect balances. The burden would not fall on the physician office. This is still the hardest business aspect for me to wrap my head around. How is this standard?
What is your work life balance like & how do you achieve it?
I chose to open a private practice. It has many challenges including running the business of medicine, which can quickly seep into home life. I have found that if you meet your patients’ needs in the office, rarely do they abuse your contact after hours. Setting upfront boundaries with patients and letting them see me as human helps keep my family time protected. I feel achieving a work-life balance is an ever-changing goal, so I am always adapting the office to work at improving efficiency. This one is always a work in progress.
Who is your biggest role model?
No one is perfect, I have many role models with unique strengths from whom I aspire to learn.
If I have to choose, I choose all of my colleagues. I have a group of female colleagues who impress me daily with their tremendous ability to support lifelong learning, entrepreneurial independence, and motherly nonjudgmental encouragement with a healthy helping of straight-forward truths.
We need to see the mistakes to understand the importance of the victories in life. Having a safe supportive group to embrace this has been amazing.
What is your favorite quote?
“It is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.” I heard this first in high school. To me, this just emphasizes the fact that change is hard. If you believe a change is necessary, expect people to resist. Expect push back. Expect to be told, “No.” or “It can’t be done.” Don’t wait for someone to give you permission to make change.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I have young children. My kids are the light of my life! I love experiencing life with them and through their eyes. So many new skills, challenges to conquer, memories to make. We enjoy finding new recipes to cook, books to read, movies to watch, and living room dance parties. COVID precautions have kept us close to home for the past year, but when they are able and vaccinated, we will catch up with our exploring.
Any advice for residents and students finishing their training or education?
Always consider the filter through which people are speaking. Family physicians view things differently than many sub-specialists. We don’t just see a broken leg. We know that broken leg will keep them from working the new job they love, will limit the exercise that was treating their depression, will limit the budget they used to meal prep or the driving they did to obtain the fresh foods. Even though your patients may have “specialists to take care of everything.” They still absolutely need their family physician.
KNOW YOUR WORTH. Understand the value and hard work you’ve invested in your medical degree. Don’t let anyone undervalue that. If your signature is needed, you’re taking responsibility for that plan or outcome. If a physician’s signature is required, that means the decisions require your medical education and expertise to ensure safety. It is never JUST a signature. Don’t let someone “rent” your license. Is the care they provide worth your license?