Meet our Docs: Beloved hospitalist Dr. Andy Dunn transitions to Mesa Primary Care
By Kristy Bleizeffer Jul 13, 2015
Growing up in Denver, Dr. Andy Dunn never came to Wyoming except to buy fireworks just over the border. Today, he is one of our most beloved hospitalists, following patients throughout their hospital stays, from the Emergency Room to discharge.
His first daughter was born at Wyoming Medical Center and he and his wife – Mesha Dunn, an attenting physician at UW Family Medicine Residency – are expecting their second child in August.
“There is a lot to be said about Wyoming and Casperites. We like everything but the wind. I like the low-key nature of Wyoming, and I really love the people,” said Dr. Dunn, who first came to Casper in 2008 as a medical student and finished his residency at Wyoming Medical Center in 2009.
This fall, he will transition to a new role in Casper health care – medical director of Mesa Primary Care. He will also see patients, transitioning from the inpatient to outpatient setting. It will give him a chance to develop deeper, more long-term relationships with his patients, while allowing him to help build a practice devoted to trying to keep patients out of the hospital in the first place.
What got you interested in medicine?
I grew up all over, primarily in Denver. I was not interested in medicine at all until college. I played football and baseball in college, and then played a little minor league baseball and got hurt. I went to graduate school and did some college teaching. I was liking science more and more.
While in college, actually, I did an EMT semester and was part of a volunteer fire department EMS team. That was what really pushed me over the edge. When baseball did not work out, this was great.
So you were interested in baseball as a career?
It was a dream. I only went to minor league baseball for like a month. It was still fun to be part of, but I had bad ankles and blew one out.
What it is about medicine that made you decide to make it your career?
Being in that position to really help somebody. This sounds corny, but I love the Norman Rockwell approach. There is a painting where the doctor is listening to a young child’s doll with his stethoscope, and that has always kind of stuck with me. It is kind of a vulnerable position at times. It is a really close position and I feel very fortunate to be in that kind of setting, to help someone when they need it. My mother is a teacher, and she had so much of the same mission to help people. My father as well. As corny as it sounds, I like being able to be involved in people’s lives and community betterment.
How did you come to Casper?
That is a story. Growing up, the only time I ever came up to Wyoming was to get fireworks. I was doing a rotation in Greeley (Colo.) and someone mentioned something about Casper. I applied just to do a rotation as a medical student here. I did four weeks here and loved it. I applied to the residency and the rest is history.
What does a hospitalist do?
Basically, a hospitalist practices primary care in the acute setting. When we see you in the ER, we try to diagnose and treat in the ER and then carry that through the hospital – from the ER to the medical floor, neuro, PCU or surgical – until you get better so we can send you home to a primary care provider.
What I did not understand about a hospitalists role, until I actually started doing it, I did not think you could foster relationships with patients. But that is not true. I have a lot of patients that I see over and over again, or family members, so that has been rewarding. That is one thing I like in the outpatient setting that I did not think was possible in the inpatient setting.
Why are you making the transition to primary care?
My heart has always been in the outpatient setting. My wife was a year behind me in residency, and when I graduated, I did not know what I wanted to do. I really liked Wyoming Medical Center and I really liked the specialists here. The specialists have been amazing to work with. I entered the hospitalist field thinking it would be like a fellowship, learning from the specialists. And I have done that. But my passion has always been outpatient primary care.
Now, I feel I have an amazing opportunity as Casper is growing and Wyoming Medical Center is growing, to have an opportunity to establish a strong niche for the betterment of the community. We’ll focus on better preventative medicine so patients do not have to go to the hospital hopefully. I love treating families: I love kids, I love the grandparents and everything in between. To treat a family is a huge honor and a huge blessing. I am excited.
Why is it important that Mesa Primary Care will be located in West Casper, not only underserved by medical services but also the fastest growing residential area in the city?
Health providers need to be in the community and involved in the community. Education and being available are big components of preventative medicine and in keeping people healthy, keeping people away from the hospitals. Education, managing chronic disease and preventing acute injuries and illnesses is the right thing to do for the community and for patients. Many times, we are behind the eight-ball when we are seeing patients in the hospital.
Providing affordable care also saves the taxation of resources and availability in the hospital. It provides better compliance care as an outpatient. The better job we can do to facilitate healthcare delivery to the patient, vice versa, will save resources and expenditures that no one can cover, and keep them out of the hospitals.
In your mind, what does an ideal system of primary care look like?
There would be clinics for chronic disease – such as a diabetes clinic and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease clinic – but geared to more primary care with specialists involvement as needed. We’d also focus on whole health to not just treat the disease but the person. This involves mental health, physical and occupational therapy, and holistic medicine.
Ideally, a community would be able to access care whenever they needed to, and it would be a total package so to speak; mind, body, spirit. If everything is clicking on all cylinders, then we will keep people out of the hospital. We can provide really strong affordable care with specialists, but orchestrated through the primary care provider.
In planning Mesa Primary Care, we are working with many specialists in the community – Dr. Neff with nephrology, Dr. Hussieno in pulmonary, Dr. Burr in endocrinology and Dr. Penney in neurosurgery. It is such a collaborative effort. That is what has been energizing, the amount of buy-in from so many health providers.
There will be an immediate care, walk-in clinic also at Mesa. When is immediate care appropriate and when you should go to the ER?
Whenever your red flag is up, go to the ER. Chest pain? Emergency room. Numbness and tingling on one side? Emergency room.
All things like respiratory infections, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, broken bones, etc., can be handled in an urgent care setting. We can provide casting, splinting and a lot of other services. Of course, all things that are very serious will be deferred to the ER.
Are you optimistic about the direction that health care is going right now?
No, not at all. The system has been broken for a long time and it is getting worse. That is why I am excited about Casper, and I am excited about the clinic and the people with whom I work. They are open to different clinics and different ideas of medicine. We are just trying to do the right thing for patients in Casper. That is what energizes me now.
The industry is broken now, but how we evolve with it and try and implement change, that is the important thing. I am surrounded with people that feel that way also. They want to change for the better. We are trying to really set the pace. This is an opportunity for improvement, and we would like to lead the way.
With this new role, is Casper somewhere you are looking to stay?
Yes. My wife and I have just bought a house and are renovating it. Our daughter was born here. We hope that future children are born here. We do not see going anywhere else as we love it. Not used to the wind yet, but we love everything else.
What will you miss about inpatient work?
The people at Wyoming Medical Center. The people here are hard-working people and they do a good job. I will miss the medicine to an extent, and having an acute result, seeing things change right away.
Dr. Dunn is board certified in family medicine. He is medical director of Mesa Primary Care and Immediate Care. He is married and is expecting his second child this summer. Call (307) 234-6765 for an appointment.
Medical School: Ross University School of Medicine, Dominica & North Brunswick, N.J.
Residency: University of Wyoming, Casper Wyo., Family Medicine