Physician Spotlight: Interview with Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA

Obesity medicine physician scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School

Apr 19, 2021 · Dox Spotlight

The Physician Spotlight is an interview series highlighting prominent members of the Doximity network. Each interview sheds light on the unique challenges physicians face in medicine today and how Doximity’s tools and technology are helping doctors solve these issues. This week, we interviewed Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, MPA, FAAP, FACP, FAHA, FTOS, obesity medicine physician scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Q: How did you first learn about Doximity?
A: I originally found out about Doximity through some of my colleagues who told me that there was a social network specifically geared towards physicians. I quickly wanted to see what it was all about. I became an active member on the platform and the rest is history!

Q: What do you enjoy most about the Doximity network?
A: Doximity is a safe space for those of us who are actively practicing medicine in the United States. There's a sense of equity on the platform where every member is able to express and demonstrate their strengths on the platform.

As a physician who is involved in organized medicine in multiple specialties– I'm an internist, a pediatrician, an obesity medicine physician, and a scientist– I work across different domains and it's nice to collaborate with colleagues. I also use the Doximity platform to connect with any physician anywhere that's practicing in the United States. Sometimes you need to ask questions regarding patients, or sometimes you want to connect on research collaboration. For example, very recently I was trying to speak with an oncologist in the Atlanta area and I couldn't find their information very easily online. I went on Doximity and within literally 10 seconds, I was able to locate the physician, add them as a colleague, and get in touch with them directly without any stressors.

To me, Doximity is really a one-stop-shop to get in touch with physicians around the country who are engaged and involved in every facet of medicine.

Q: Do you use Doximity Dialer for patient visits?
A: Yes! I actually use Doximity Dialer almost every single day of the year, multiple times. And there are a few key features of Dialer that I think makes it ideal for clinicians. First of all, if you are trying to contact a patient to communicate with them about recent test results, or maybe you just want to connect with them about a new medication you've prescribed, you can go onto Doximity’s app and click on the Dialer feature to call them in a HIPAA secure way. You can also adjust the CallerID to display your office phone number. That way, wherever you’re working, your patients can recognize it’s you calling them while also protecting your personal cell number.

A more recent development is the added video component. I often have patients who have a really challenging time signing onto our internal platform. With Dialer, all they have to do is check their text message, click a link, and they appear on my screen instantly. I find this particularly useful for my patients that may be more advanced in age or who are from lower socioeconomic status and may have challenges getting a stable or more stable internet connection.

Q: Do you have any recent patient stories using Dialer that you’d like to share?
A: I have many, but I can give one from today. This morning, I had a female patient who was 76 years old and she was trying to sign onto our internal system for a telemedicine visit. When she finally did get into the system, she had no sound. She was waving at me trying to get my attention. I tried to help her, hoping she could read my lips to tell her that “I'm going to call you on another platform.” That platform was Doximity Dialer. Within a couple of minutes, I had called her, she clicked the link, and we were live for the telemedicine appointment. She was able to easily click the link and we could conduct her entire telehealth visit without any issues. She was very pleased and we said it was so much less stressful than trying to log onto the system. So that was a very recent example that happened this morning.

Q: That’s great to hear! What kind of feedback overall are you hearing from patients when you conduct telehealth visits using Doximity Dialer?
A: Overall, I hear that Dialer is just quick and easy. Patients don't have to do much work. They literally wait for us (the physician) to contact them and they either just press a button if they're doing a video call, or just answer the telephone like normal if they're doing a phone visit. There's significantly less stress. There are even physicians that I work with who have chosen to exclusively use the Doximity Dialer, even though we have a robust (and very expensive) system internally. And the reason why they choose to utilize Doximity exclusively is that there's less stress. There's less wait, there's less time to connect and it just really makes things a whole lot easier. Understand that we are all in a really tough and stressful time– we're in the middle of a pandemic. So it’s important for us to do whatever we can to reduce stress for our patients. And I think Dialer is really one of those things that have helped tremendously.

Q: How has the pandemic impacted your practice?
A: If I look at how I practiced pre-pandemic versus now, there are some significant differences. I had been one of the earlier adopters of telemedicine and had been trying to convince my hospital that we need to be doing more telemedicine. And what I found was that there was some resistance. I was told that there wouldn't be many opportunities to utilize telemedicine and that our patients wouldn't be interested in seeing their physician in a virtual way. Since the pandemic, it has been very interesting because we had converted exclusively to a telemedicine model for all appointments that were non-COVID related.

So as someone who was already acclimated to doing telemedicine to go exclusively to telemedicine really proved the point that I had been trying to make years ago–– which is that patients will continue to access our care and may even find it easier to access because they're not trying to travel into downtown Boston, find parking, etc. and they're able to get back to their daily lives. Even though it’s been over a year since the pandemic and things are starting to open up again, I still exclusively see my patients via telemedicine.

Q: What do you think the future holds for telemedicine?
A: I can definitively say with significant confidence that telemedicine is here to stay. I think that the only potential barrier that we'll face with regards to telemedicine is how well it is reimbursed. But in terms of the benefits – overall, there is reduced wait time and patients don’t have to worry about commuting to the office. For example, some of my patients may live near Martha's vineyard. To come to see me in person, it takes a whole day for them to catch the ferry into Boston, then have to wait to see me, then they need to catch the ferry back out. So all in all, it could take 24 hours just to see me for 30 minutes. They don't have to do that anymore. And they're still able to get quality care and we can still make adjustments to their medication. There's so much that can be done with telemedicine.

Q: Why did you decide to pursue a career in obesity medicine?
A: I think that I was always concerned about disparities that we were seeing with regards to the disease of obesity, particularly how it impacts the black community.
I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia and a very large percentage of the population in Atlanta is black. I saw that obesity was widespread, but it seemed to have a greater impact on communities of color, particularly the black community. Part of why I sought out to become an expert in this field – completing a three-year fellowship in this space, and becoming a physician scientist in this space–– is that there's so much we have to learn. Obesity and the diseases that come with it affect so many people. In fact, 42.4% of U.S. adults, at least based upon 2018 data have this disease of obesity and about 18.5% of children in the United States have obesity.

I was very interested in how I could help people get to be their healthiest selves. And obesity medicine is I think one of the only fields where I can actually remove diagnoses from a patient's chart when I treat their disease. I may be able to get rid of their sleep apnea, and their diabetes, and their heart disease– the list goes on. So it’s very gratifying to remove diagnoses. Where else do you do that?

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