An Interview with Dr. Doug Williamson
How long have you been at APD?
I started at APD a little more than 21 years ago. When I arrived, Bob Mesropian was the president and CEO and hired me with a handshake, and then we figured out a contract after that. I have Dr. Peter Mason to thank for being hired. I got to know Peter when I worked under him as a medical student. After I finished my residency at Dartmouth-Hitchcock in pediatrics, I reached out to him to see if APD would be interested in hiring a pediatrician. He decided to take a chance on me, and the rest is history.
What are some of the unique elements of being part of the team at APD?
The philosophy here is a really important part of the organization. Bob Mesropian set that tone when I first came, which is essentially – if you deliver high-quality care, the rest will follow. There was little focus on the number of patients you needed to see. APD has always been an organization with a personal touch and a focus on individuals and families. Our hope is that we provide a wonderful patient experience and that takes everyone in the building to make that happen.
The easily manageable size and nature of our organization are important ingredients for success. This enables us to be more creative when it comes to delivering care in a better and more efficient fashion. Plus, when it comes to our staff, people are open minded and willing to go with the flow, which makes it more fun.
Team-based care is a critical part of health care today, but personal touch and direct connection is a hallmark of what we do here at APD. Most of the time, when you have a question for your doctor, your doctor is the one who actually calls you back. As doctors in this more intimate setting, we get to know our patients better and they get to know us better. Hopefully, that means patients feel more comfortable when they come into the office and we are able to deliver better health care as a result.
Did you have any mentors when you came and have you found yourself in that role now?
Peter Mason served as a great mentor for me. He may not have been a pediatrician, but he had years of experience, and was willing to help. This was valuable whether we were trying to sort out a confusing case or for me to understand the ins and outs of being a practitioner.
Most recently, I’ve tried to serve as a mentor for Dr. Sam Ogden since he came on board in July. He’s been a wonderful addition and has a compassionate approach to patient care. The other pediatricians in the office (Dr. Laura Greer and Dr. Sheila Feyrer) have also jumped in to help when needed, as have some of the family practice providers. Sam is such a natural in clinic that he’s made it pretty easy on all of us. Hopefully, he’s felt well supported during his first 6 months. I know our patients are very happy with him so far, so I think it’s fair to say that he’s off to a great start.
It sounds like your colleagues have been a very important piece of the puzzle, too?
It’s always been a great group and we’ve grown quite a bit during the time I’ve been here. I was 1 of 6 providers when I started and I was the only pediatrician. Now there are 4 pediatricians and 16 providers. We have a great core of people who are very supportive of one another. That’s really important, whether it comes to taking call, discussing patient care, or just chipping in and helping out in whatever way you can.
You are not the only member of your family in the Upper Valley. How did your family first come here and why did you choose to come back?
My family followed me here. I grew up in Connecticut and I graduated from Dartmouth in 1985. I wanted to be a doctor, but didn’t get into medical school right away. I changed course slightly, and I went to graduate school at Boston University and taught the lab portion of anatomy to nursing students. I was in the PhD program, but always wanted to go to medical school, so I reapplied to Dartmouth Medical School (now Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth). When I was accepted, I left Boston with a Master’s degree and I’ve been in the Upper Valley ever since.
I think for anyone who went to Dartmouth or who has spent time here, there is a magnetic attraction drawing you back to the Upper Valley. It’s a great place to raise a family. For a physician, it’s a safe, comfortable area with plenty of resources, and beautiful areas to enjoy. The area presents a much less hectic pace of life with minimal if any traffic. I think, particularly if you like the outdoors and you want to have a family, there couldn’t be a better place to live.
When I was in my residency here, my parents relocated to the area. My father, Peter, who was a neurologist and was working down at Yale, came up to start an epilepsy surgery program at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. When he arrived here, I was the better-known Williamson, so he was first known as “Doug’s dad”. It didn’t take long before he had his own identity and the tides turned and I was back to being Peter’s son. Later on, my eldest sister, Debbie (Dartmouth ’81), came back to the Upper Valley as well.
Retirement is just around the corner for you. What will that look like?
I love the Upper Valley so I don’t think we’re moving any time soon. I thought about looking at other places in retirement, but my wife and I can’t yet think of another place that we’d rather be. For now, I’ll keep giving my time to various boards. I’m on the board of West Central Behavioral Health and the Geisel School of Medicine in the area, and I sit on our family foundation board as well. I will also keep working as the medical director of the Rx for School Success program, which will continue to support patients in the Multi-Specialty Clinic. Plus, we have always wanted to travel more, so we might spend some longer stretches away from home in various parts of the world. Most people think I’m just going to play golf all the time, which certainly will be part of the equation, but not entirely.