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Information About

Alumni Interview

 Bruce Clemons, M.D.

Bruce Clemons, M.D.

General Internist, Ivy Internal Medicine
Charlottesville, Virginia

What is your hometown?

Iowa City. I am currently living in Charlottesville, Virginia, and I am a General Internist at Ivy Internal Medicine. I am an admitting physician at Martha Jefferson Hospital and am a Consulting Physician with the University of Virginia Health System.

How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

Both my parents were in the healthcare field and I always enjoyed science in school. I really became interested in pursuing medicine in college; my Human Physiology teacher instilled in me a fascination with understanding the human body and its normal and abnormal function.

What interested you to pursue a career in medicine?

After Human Physiology, I continued along the path of the human biological sciences and actually thought about a career in teaching. However, I began to realize that I could pursue a career in medicine and have a very broad spectrum of professional opportunities. I could care for individual patients, do medical research and also teach.

Is there a faculty member or mentor at Iowa who helped shape your career?

In my pre-clinical years I would praise Dr. William Erkonen in Radiology and Kathy Andersen in Anatomy for their enthusiasm to teach and to provide encouragement and individual attention. During my clinical years, Dr. William Nauseef stands out as a great teacher and a dedicated clinician.

How or why did you choose the UI to attend medical school?

Being from Iowa City, it seemed like a logical choice. Iowa was the only medical school I applied to and I got accepted and then decided to defer enrollment for one year. Once I started medical school, it was great to be in Iowa City because I had my family here and I was able to go to the Hawkeye football and basketball games. Even though I am now in Virginia, I still bleed black and gold and always will.

Please describe your professional goals/interests.

My biggest interest is primary care Internal Medicine. I am employed by Martha Jefferson Hospital in Charlottesville, Virginia and we are currently in the process of building a new, state-of-the-art hospital. I am on a committee that is trying to find ways to make the hospital accessible and user-friendly for both patients and physicians. I try to focus on access to care and customer service for patients.

Please highlight your major career achievements, awards, discoveries, etc.?

I was in the Navy Health Professionals Scholarship program through medical school and was commissioned after graduation. I went to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland for internship and residency in Internal Medicine. I was asked by Admiral John Eisold to come to the US Capitol as an Internist and I spent the next four years serving under him at the Office of the Attending Physician at the Capitol. This was a fascinating job and I had a very rich but hectic four years before separating from the Navy as a Lieutenant Commander.

At the Capitol, our office provided primary care medicine for the House, Senate and Supreme Court, as well as acute and emergency care to visitors and staff. After September 11, 2001, our job changed dramatically. In mid October, Washington DC became the site of the biggest bioterrorist act in the history of the United States. Our office responded to the Anthrax victims in the office of Senator Tom Daschle and we spent the next 6 months working closely with the CDC, US Public Health Service and the military to develop a treatment plan for the victims and a plan to prevent and manage any future attacks. For our work, we received the Public Health Service Crisis Response Service Award, the Public Health Service Outstanding Unit Citation and I was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. Becoming a lead physician on bioterrorism response was not something I had planned for but it certainly introduced me to many fascinating people and situations.

Another aspect of our job was to provide medical support to Congressmen and Senators when they traveled overseas. Among some of my more memorable experiences was the opportunity to meet with the deposed king of Afghanistan in late September 2001, a trip to Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan with Senator Tom Daschle in early 2002 where we met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and a trip to US Central Command in the Persian Gulf shortly before US forces secured Baghdad.

What kinds of professional opportunities or advantages did attending the University of Iowa provide?

Iowa is a nationally recognized medical school and hospital. The emphasis on primary care and family medicine instilled in me a desire to help fill the need for primary care physicians.

What are some of your outside interests?

Right now, my family and children get most of my attention. However I still find time to regularly play tennis and to try to explore the historical areas around Virginia.

Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?

Attention to patient needs and providing customer service. I feel that primary care physicians need to be advocates for patients who are trying to navigate the health system.

If you could change one thing about the world (or the world of medicine), what would it be?

I feel that we really need to work to make health care more affordable. Right now, we are struggling with a lot of issues; expensive new technology, new drugs, expensive insurance, increasing life span of the population etc. I have found that physicians tend to be very poor advocates for their own profession when it comes to these types of issues. My hope is that, as a profession, we can change that.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in your field since you were a medical student?

The advent of computerized record keeping. I have all my references on a handheld computer and I will hopefully be transitioning to an electronic medical record. My hope is that this will make all aspects of care more efficient but it definitely will take time and some big growing pains are in store.

What one piece of advice you would give to today's medical students?

Remember to listen. In talking to patients about medical care, this is one of the most frequent complaints that I hear. Patients often will seek a new physician because of a true or perceived impression that their current physician just doesn’t listen to them. You can be the best clinician in the world but you will lose a lot of patients and a lot of respect if you fail to listen to the patient.

University of Iowa President David Skorton has named academic year 2005-2006 as the "Year of Public Engagement." In what ways are you engaged with the greater public?

As I mentioned above, I am engaged in a committee that is trying to make the new Martha Jefferson Hospital one of the best in the country. Allowing the public to have easy and efficient access to the hospital is an area where we are focusing a lot of our energy.

I also have various periods allotted during the year in which pre-med and medical students from the University of Virginia can come and shadow me during the day.


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