Idaho Physician Named 2010 Family Physician of the Year

Boise doctor earns national award for providing health care to the poor and underprivileged, locally and globally

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Janelle Davis
Public Relations Strategist
American Academy of Family Physicians
(800) 274-2237 Ext. 6253

BOSTON — The American Academy of Family Physicians today named Karl N. Watts, M.D., the 2010 Family Physician of the Year at the opening ceremony of its Annual Scientific Assembly. The Family Physician of the Year award honors one outstanding American family physician who provides patients with compassionate and comprehensive care, and serves as a role model professionally and personally in his or her community, to other health professionals, and to residents and medical students.

Watts is president and co-founder of Genesis World Mission, a non-denominational Christian organization that works to meet the physical, medical, and spiritual needs of the less fortunate in Boise, Idaho, and around the world. When the only free clinic in the Boise area closed its doors in 2002, Dr. Watts led Genesis to open up the Garden City Community Clinic. He regularly volunteers at the clinic as a family physician along with many other providers. For the past 12 years, Watts has also operated Genesis Medical Center, a private medical practice where he specializes in family and sports medicine.

Watts began his international medical work in 1985 in Ecuador while attending school at the Medical College of Virginia. It was there that he made a life-long commitment to providing health care to those most in need. Since then, Watts has continued to fulfill his medical mission work in other developing nations, and has been involved in outreaches in Kenya, India, Haiti, Honduras, Guatemala and the Philippines. Watts was instrumental in mobilizing resources to establish a 6,800 square-foot medical facility in Kenya that is serving up to 60 patients daily.

In 2001, Watts co-founded Genesis World Mission with an initial focus on addressing the unmet health needs of people in the developing world. However, it wasn’t long before Watts expanded his vision to include the less fortunate people in his own community. When the local medical community came together to tackle the issue of a closing free clinic, Dr. Watts offered Genesis World Mission to open and operate the Garden City Community Clinic.

Located in a federally-designated Medically Underserved Area of Boise, the clinic now provides medical services three days a week and on-site dental services are offered two days per week. In addition, area hospitals and groups have donated laboratory and radiology services. Mental health care, counseling and patient education are also provided free of charge to eligible patients. The clinic accepts only lower-income, uninsured patients and relies on about 200 volunteer health care workers to provide the direct care.

GWM is a nimble organization that is quick to recognize and respond to changing needs, both locally and globally. Established in a warehouse, part of which was converted to medical use space, Genesis originally provided room to receive donated medical supplies and equipment used by various organizations on medical mission trips. A community medical thrift shop operated out of the space for some time, loaning used ambulatory equipment to people. Now the space is focused on administration of its growing programs, and international work has narrowed its focus to sustainable long term human health service projects.

Since its inception, GWM has led or supplied over 20 international medical mission trips. The local clinic provides about 2,800 patient encounters each year.

In 2006, Watts successfully created a web-based referral network for physicians called the Volunteer Physicians Network. The VPN serves to simplify the process of connecting volunteer specialty physicians with patients in need of charity care. The network is currently 211 physicians strong, and has facilitated more than $2.1 million in donated health care services since inception.

With his hands serving the community, Dr. Watts has also become a voice for health care reform. In 2007, Dr. Watts was selected as the only physician member of the Governor’s Select Committee on Health Care. Through work on this committee, Dr Watts has become a strong advocate and promoter of the patient-centered medical home model of care. He is currently leading a team to encourage practice transformation in Idaho. Following his lead, GWM made its first foray into the political arena this year, helping write legislation allowing for the donation of already prescribed drugs by medical facilities that are no longer needed by patients. The state legislation was passed quickly and has resulted in the availability of much needed prescription drugs to be safely re-distributed through charity and community health centers to low-income patients.

Watts further demonstrates his commitment to the community by serving on the Mission Board and Project Haiti Board of Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center and as a member of the Sunrise Rotary Club. Watts has been active in the Idaho High School Activity Association’s Sports Medicine Advisory Board, the Capital Christian Center’s International Mission Committee and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Idaho.

Watts serves as a clinical associate professor for the University of Washington, Department of Family Medicine, is involved with the Family Medicine Residency of Idaho and established its sports medicine fellowship program. He also served as a coalition member of the Healthy Communities Access Program of Ada County.

Watts has received many awards and accolades, including Idaho Family Physician of the Year (2008), Treasure Valley Lions Community Man of the Year (2008), Boise Rotary Foundation’s Bob Gibb Fellowship Award (2006), Ada County Medical Society Physician of the Year (2005), Bob Lebow Community Health Award (2004), Idaho Medical Group Managers Association’s Physician of the Year (2003) and City of Garden City Friend of the City (2003).

Watts completed his family medicine residency at the Family Practice Residency Institute, Boise, and earned his medical degree from the Medical College of Virginia, Richmond. He completed a fellowship in sports medicine at the Idaho Sports Medicine Institute, Boise, and a fellowship in faculty development at the University of Washington, Seattle.

Editor’s Note: To arrange an interview with Dr. Watts please contact Janelle Davis at (800) 274-2237, ext. 5222 or (816) 835-2743. 

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