November 23, 2020, 1:37 pm David Mitchell -- After graduating from the University of Nevada, Reno, with honors and a degree in Spanish and Italian in 2006, Thomas Greenwood, D.O., didn’t take a gap year before medical school.
He took nearly a decade.
Greenwood worked as a tax preparer, firefighter, youth program leader, tutor, caregiver and handyman before beginning his medical education at Pacific Northwest University in Yakima, Wash., in 2015.
“Any job I ever had that was just focused on one thing, I would get bored after a short period of time,” said Greenwood, a second-year resident at the Central Washington Family Medicine Residency in Yakima. “Being a family physician, I can do a little bit of everything.”
At one point, Greenwood spent more than two years living with friends on a 50-acre property where they raised their own rabbits, chickens and goats. It was during that time that he started pondering medical school.
“When I was 12, I had a mole removed from my head and there was a pretty big ‘ick’ factor that turned me off medicine,” he said with a chuckle. “One day I was in the woods dressing a deer, and I thought, ‘I was afraid of that procedure and squeamish as a kid, and here I am doing something just as gross.’”
Greenwood also worked seasonally as a handyman on a family friend’s 1,000-acre nut farm, which had multiple homes, buildings and gardens, for several years.
“There were lots of repairs,” said Greenwood who learned to fix things related to roofing, plumbing, masonry, tiling, stucco, framing, drywall and painting. “Every day looked a little different. It’s great now that I own a house; I never have to hire anyone for repairs.”
Greenwood had considered training to become a chiropractor or a massage therapist. Understanding the value of a broad skillset eventually drew him to osteopathic medicine and primary care.
“I just finished an OB rotation, and I loved it,” he said. “I considered internal medicine, but I was afraid I’d miss out on taking care of kids and doing OB. Family physicians do everything, and that’s what I enjoy.”
The handyman experience reinforced his interest – and ability – in finding solutions. It didn’t take Greenwood long to employ his penchant for problem-solving as an intern. When he arrived, his residency program was using an antiquated inpatient tracking system for sign-out and billing.
“The system that we had was over 15 years old and had not been supported for 10 years,” he said. “It would often crash and at times drop patient billing charges randomly from the list.”
Greenwood and fellow resident Joshua Johnson, D.O., researched potential replacements and identified their best option based on cost and flexibility. Their choice offered the patient-tracking feature the residency needed, but its billing feature was new. With the approval of program director Brandon Isaacs, D.O., Greenwood arranged for the Central Washington residency to be the beta test site.
“I was the go-between for the residency and the company,” said Greenwood, whose role included communicating with staff from care coordination, billing and utilization management, and providing feedback to the vendor. “I had meetings with every one of these groups and asked, ‘How can we make this work for you?’ I wanted to avoid a top-down approach where people say, ‘Here’s a change we’re making. Here you go.’ I’ve been on the receiving end of that. We were able to make something that really works for our organization.”
Greenwood said the new system has improved efficiency and user satisfaction. For his efforts, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education honored him with the David C. Leach Award, which recognizes “residents and fellows who have fostered innovation and improvement in their programs.”
“When I see something not working well, I ask, ‘Can we do something different?’” said Greenwood, who will turn 38 next month. “I’ve got 101 ideas. Maybe only one of them will work, but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming.”
The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education recently announced its award recipients for 2021. Here are the honorees from family medicine residency programs:
The Parker J. Palmer Courage to Teach Award
Steven Brown, M.D., University of Arizona College of Medicine Phoenix Family Medicine Residency
The David C. Leach Award
Thomas Greenwood, D.O.; Central Washington Family Medicine Residency, Yakima
Matthew Martin, M.D.; Saint Joseph Hospital Family Medicine Residency, Denver
The Debra L. Dooley GME Program Coordinator Excellence Award
Jennifer Wilson, B.A., C-TAGME; University of Vermont Medical Center, Burlington