Meet our Docs: Josh Hansen, D.O., Welcomes patients of all ages at Sage Primary Care
By Kristy Bleizeffer Sep 4, 2019
There’s an adage that Josh Hansen, D.O., tries to remind himself of each day. It’s not a medical philosophy per se, but it describes the type of relationship he wants to build with his patients: “People don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care.”
“For those of us who work as physicians, who have had an immense amount of education and rigorous medical training, it’s important for us to put forth the love and compassion first,” he said. “Then, we can build trust with our patients and explore the nuances of medicine and health together.”
Dr. Hansen is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and is board certified in family medicine. He recently finished a fast-paced and demanding residency in Fort Collins, Colorado, and brings to Casper his wife and four children, ages 2 to 8. He is accepting patients of all ages at Sage Primary Care.
“My ultimate goal is to be a partner in my patients’ health. Both partners need to be putting forth effort and working together, a one-sided partnership is doomed to fail. I will be a cheerleader, a support system, and I am very open to working with people from all walks of life,” he said. In this interview, he talks about the role that a primary care physician plays in the health of a community.
Where did you grow up, and how did you become interested in medicine?
I was born in Provo, Utah, and grew up in Spanish Fork, Utah, just 20 miles away. I became interested in medicine once I started to fall in love with the sciences in high school. I was fascinated by the worlds of chemistry, biology and physics, and I figured that would be a good setup for medicine since I didn’t see myself as a scientist or a researcher.
I took a three-month certified nursing assistant class and I worked in a nursing home while I was in high school. I wanted to see if I liked taking care of people and I wanted to make sure that I could tolerate blood other bodily excrements without serious affect upon my person. I’m pleased to say that during that line of work I didn’t faint or vomit, and most importantly I found that I received great satisfaction from serving my senior citizen patients.
What did you like about caring for patients?
Part of my personality is that I am a people pleaser, so it brought me a lot of satisfaction to see their pain or burdens eased or to help them find more independence day to day. If I feel like I have done a service for someone and I have helped them feel better, then that is how I find my self-worth. I liked listening to my patients’ stories and I liked learning about their lives.
When it came time to choose a specialty, that’s what drove me towards primary care. I wanted to build long-term relationships with people and be able to be part of their life story.
Did you have much experience with the medical community before you chose to pursue this career?
My grandfather multiple heart attacks and strokes. I remember the trauma and fear that shocked our family each time he had a life threatening event. I saw how deeply it shook my dad, a very tough and emotionally guarded man. Blessedly my grandfather pulled through each time tragedy struck and I started to realize the miracles of modern medicine. Thanks to physicians, staff, medicine, and science, my grandfather has had multiple second chances on life, is alive to this day, and it just amazes me.
Do you feel, as a primary care physician, some responsibility to try to prevent similar catastrophic illness in your patients?
I love the preventative nature of primary care. I think there is nothing that replaces it. I remember as a child feeling scared for my grandfather each time he had a heart attack/stroke. I, in turn, certainly didn’t want that to happen to my own father. I didn’t want to be in my dad’s shoes 20 to 30 years down the road, worrying about his first heart attack and stroke. So, if we could somehow prevent this from happening so frequently then more families wouldn’t have to worry about these tragic things, and that really appeals to me as a primary care provider. There are plenty of other things to worry about in life, aside from preventable life threatening illnesses we encounter.
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How do you convince patients to make lifestyle changes they may not want to make?
I guess my approach is twofold: First, I tell them that I am human and what things I am struggling with. They need to know that everybody struggles with their own health, including doctors and nurses. Second, I pick what is most important to me in terms of their health, and then ask what is most important to them. Then we talk about it.
Sometimes, we’ll focus on what is most important to them. Sometimes, we’ll try to focus on their highest risk factors for mortality. You can only focus on one or maybe two things with any patient at one time. You can’t tackle it all at once. Even on a good day, most of us, including myself, walk out of a doctor’s office and feel like a deer in the headlights.
Tell us about your medical training.
I did undergraduate studies at Utah Valley University and earned a bachelor’s in biology. I also took all the prerequisites for medical school. It took me six years to get that degree, but two years of it I was in Russia serving as a missionary for my church.
I then attended Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Parker, Colo., and was accepted to my family medicine residency program in Fort Collins. For a while in medical school, I thought I was going to be a pediatrician because I loved working with kids so much. But then I realized how limiting/focused that would be. I wanted to be a doctor that would help the community as a whole. I didn’t want to just take care of one population.
These goals/ambitions really helped me expand my scope to caring for people, from birth to death. I thought of the possibilities that would open up if I ever wanted to subspecialize, as some family doctors do, down the road. So I went with family practice, and spent three years in Fort Collins. It was a very difficult and rigorous, a program with a bunch of people that were loving and supportive at its head. Fortunately I came out alive and well trained.
What attracted you to Casper?
I am a Rocky Mountain boy. I didn’t want to move too far away. All my family is still in Utah. Wyoming was certainly a possibility on our minds. We thought about Idaho, Utah, and Colorado, but none of the jobs were right and the markets just weren’t good. Then, we were invited here and we thought it was a beautiful town. I was very surprised. I had never been to Casper and was happy to see all the amenities.
The people were as I expected: very nice, welcoming, a great small town feel. I like that you don’t have to drive two hours to get to a restaurant. In short, we are very excited to be here.
What appeals to you about serving a relatively rural population?
Rural communities generally have a need for medical services of all sorts: psychiatric, primary care doctors like myself, specialists. That is the same anywhere you go, and that is why it can be hard to get some specialties and primary care to come.
But I do like that in the population itself, the people seem to be ubiquitously very hard working, accepting, and great citizens of their community. Whether they be farmers, ranchers, or in the oil and gas industry, a lot of my patients work long, hard days and they don’t have time to take care of themselves. And then, when they do come to see me, they are very sick. I admire how strong they are and how they can pull together in times of crisis or trial. And, you always hear about folks helping out their neighbors when things come up.
What are your impressions so far of Casper’s medical community?
I’m definitely still learning, and I plan to make a lot of visits to local clinics and even to the ancillary resources such as behavioral health and various therapy entities. I want to be able to answer my patients questions and point them in the right direction. A PCP (primary care provider) that is embedded in his/her community becomes a huge hub of resource information, not just for medicine but for life and how to connect the dots. I hope to be such a useful and connected physician/PCP soon for my patients.
I was very surprised that Casper has so many specialists and resources in town. Some of the same specialists that I worked with from the Denver area are coming up here. I feel very comfortable coming to a place like Casper knowing that all these resources were still at hand. It was very good because it can be frustrating when you are the primary care doctor juggling so many things and also having to be the cardiologist and nephrologist. So I am very fortunate and blessed to have a core of the main specialties here at had in Casper.
Anything in town you’re anxious to seek out?
I want to hit the rivers and lakes. I like to fish. I want to get my kids outdoors to see if they will fall in love with it. We want to explore Casper Mountain and the surrounding areas. I grew up doing that stuff all the time, whether with the family or as a Boy Scout. I love being outdoors. I love disconnecting a little bit from our electronic age and I think our kids need the same. Now that this crazy training period is over in our lives, we will hopefully get out there and show them how beautiful the world can be.