My Scope of Practice: Destiny Takes a Hand

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Kelsey Bongiovanni

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit”. – Aristotle

  Walter A. Conlan, III, MD, CWSP, didn’t always plan to be a wound care specialist. He first thought he wanted to specialize in psychiatry but eventually chose to focus on physical medicine and rehabilitation while attending Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, PA. Dr. Conlan believed physical medicine would be a better fit because it allowed him to use the biopsychosocial model, which combines components from psychology, neurology, and orthopedics. It was this desire to incorporate more than one academic discipline into his work that helped him on his way to wound care.

  In 1996, Dr. Conlan completed his residency at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, Northwestern University Medical Center and began work at a rehabilitation center, where he started to treat more patients with wounds. Before long, he developed a passion for wound care that changed the course of his life. “After a few years in private practice, I had an epiphany,” he says. “I realized that wound care was just something I was meant to do. It is very multidisciplinary.” With that epiphany, Dr. Conlan jumped head first into the wound care specialty.

  In 2000, he established his own wound care practice and was appointed Medical Director of the Osceola Regional Wound Care Center in Kissimmee, FL. Encouraged by the center’s Program Director, Dot Weir, RN, CWON, CWS, Dr. Conlan made the decision to practice wound care exclusively on a full-time basis. In 2001, he became a Certified Wound Specialist, and in 2011 he became a Certified Wound Specialist Physician, a certification held by only 70 physicians in the US.

  Today, Dr. Conlan is the CEO at Florida Wound Care Doctors, the only medical group in Central Florida to specialize full-time in wound care and hyperbaric medicine. “Our business/patient care model is to provide wound care services over the entire continuum of healthcare, including wound care centers, hospitals, long-term acute care, and skilled nursing facilities,” Dr. Conlan says.

  He may have taken a longer route to settling down in the wound care field, but Dr. Conlan is happy to be there now. “I absolutely love coming to work every day and seeing patients’ wounds heal,” he says. “Most people we see have wounds that are about a month old; we’re a tertiary referral facility. It is extremely rewarding to heal these patients’ wounds in a relatively short period of time. I go home at the end of the day with a great deal of satisfaction, which helps reinforce what I already know to be true: I whole-heartedly love what I do.”

  As if being the CEO of a thriving wound care group wasn’t time consuming enough, Dr. Conlan continues to serve as the Medical Director at Osceola Regional Wound Care Center, as well as at the Wound Healing Center at Orlando Regional Medical Center. He also is President-Elect of the American Board of Wound Management, where he works toward the goal of eventually establishing wound care as a certified specialty with the American Board of Medical Specialties. And that’s not all. He also volunteers at two clinics that serve uninsured and indigent patients — Destiny Shepherd’s Hope Health Center and the Mark Dogoli Medical Center, both in Orlando, FL.

  Over the next few years, things may change for Dr. Conlan as he considers adding home healthcare to his practice and limiting the amount of time he spends in the clinic. “On a more personal level, I would like to assume more of an administrative role within our practice; reducing the number of days at the clinic will allow me to spend more time on strategic planning endeavors,” Dr. Conlan says. Because documentation requirements, patient co-pays, and insurance company reimbursement are constantly changing, Dr. Conlan’s administrative duties are as important as ever for the successful healing of patient’s wounds.

  Dr. Conlan also hopes to become more involved with clinical trials and research. He just finished participating in a study for the negative pressure wound therapy device, SNaP® (Spiracur Inc, Sunnyvale, CA), and will begin working on a clinical trial that uses mesenchymal stem cells to treat diabetic foot ulcers. As a medical advisor for the trial, Dr. Conlan is excited about the tremendous potential this may have for treatment of this type of wound.

  Advancing the wound care specialty is a high priority for Dr. Conlan, which is why he recently started teaching the next generation of doctors. In 2009, he was appointed Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor in Internal Medicine/Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation for the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine Bradenton College of Osteopathic Medicine/School of Pharmacy.

  With all he has managed to accomplish since he entered the wound care field in 2000, it is no surprise that Stephen Covey’s book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, is a fixture on Dr. Conlan’s coffee table. No doubt about it: Dr. Conlan is not only highly effective, but also highly motivated when it comes to his scope of practice.

This article was not subject to the Ostomy Wound Management peer-review process.

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