Physician's connections with patients and students prove vital to success

Dr. Thomas Wells at work

Physician's connections with patients and students prove vital to success

D r. Thomas Wells, ’90, knows the power of connecting with patients and students. After all, he is a “people” person. From the age of four, he dreamed of becoming a doctor.

In the fifth grade, he wrote a book about becoming a professional football player and going to medical school. Years later, Wells’ professors at Georgia College not only solidified his career choice, but provided a nurturing learning experience for him to draw upon as an internist.

“Now, I’m at a place where I feel I can make a connection with people and develop those life-long relationships that have the potential to change people’s lives,” he said. “That is really appealing to me.”

These interpersonal skills grew at Georgia College. 

Dr. Thomas Wells
Dr. Thomas Wells

“From my studies in biochemistry to microbiology, this experience gave me a solid foundation of knowledge from which to build upon and get through medical school,” Wells said. “The classes I took taught me how to study and be successful in school. You need to learn those study skills. That class structure was very helpful to me.”

The small sizes of his classes maximized Wells’ learning experience.

“I think smaller, more intimate classrooms made it easy to form relationships,” he said. “I can remember being in Dr. Saladin’s classes when it was just me and one other student. It was nice to have a lot of individualized attention. It was one of the things I enjoyed most about Georgia College.”

Dr. Doris Moody, who led the preprofessional program and taught microbiology, was another one of Wells’ favorite professors. She provided him with a great deal of reassurance. 

“As professionals, it’s important that we not be passive bystanders in our community. Georgia College teaches to be active participants in what happens in the world around us.”
– Dr. Thomas Wells

“Her classes were great, but more than that, she was really just a source of encouragement to me,” he said. “As a transfer student, I was trying to fit in. She helped me learn what Georgia College was all about and helped me find my way.”

“My professors spent time reaching out to me,” he said, “and their classes also helped shape me as a self-learner, which prepared me for the rigors of medical school.”

In his profession, Wells sees himself as a physiological medical detective.

“With internal medicine, I work with adults with health and chronic medical conditions,” he said. “There’s a lot of internal activity with the different organs at times and different medications. And this is one place where I can put all those pieces together and collaborate with people to integrate, solve and work through these issues.”

Effective communication is paramount in Wells’ profession as a primary care representative with Piedmont Healthcare system.

For over two years, Wells has been instrumental in coordinating a program in pediatric telepsychiatry for the providers and patients for Piedmont Healthcare in the Athens area.

“Pediatric psychiatry is important, because it reaches an underserved population with behavior health issues that need to be addressed in our pediatric population,” he said.

Over the years, Wells took what he learned from Georgia College about developing relationships in an academic setting. As an assistant professor of medicine with the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University, he’s doing the same with his students. He also has fourth-year medical students rotating through his office for their ambulatory training.

As the regional medical director for Piedmont Healthcare in the Athens area, Wells trains interns to provide value-based care to patients. He hopes his students enjoy their medical career as much as he does.

“I hope they become self-learners,” he said, “and realize being a doctor is a life-long career. It’s something that’s a part of you. Part of the Hippocratic oath is to help train the next generation of physicians.”

As a member of the College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Board, Wells sees the value of community service. Wells stresses to his students they will need to make sacrifices to succeed as a physician—and this includes becoming active participants in their community.

“As professionals, it’s important that we not be passive bystanders in our community,” he said. “Georgia College teaches to be active participants in what happens in the world around us.”

Wells hopes his students and patients take their wellness seriously.

“I hope I help improve their health, but mostly I just want to be a part of their lives,” he said. “I also hope they know that this is a place where they can bring their problems and tell me what’s going on without judgement, and that they know that we’re in this together."