Posted on: February 27, 2020
Adam Wasserman, MD is a family medicine physician with Gettysburg Family Practice. He also serves as a hospitalist and emergency department physician at WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital. Dr. Wasserman is the recipient of the Pennsylvania Medical Society’s (PAMED) Everyday Hero Award for January 2020.
Dr. Wasserman grew up in Philadelphia but found a new home in the small, close-knit town of Gettysburg. Now, after almost 30 years working at Gettysburg Family Practice, he says he couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
He began to gravitate toward becoming a doctor at an early age. His father owned his own pharmacy. In those days, Dr. Wasserman says, it wasn’t uncommon for his father to receive late-night telephone calls from patients who needed prescriptions filled after being discharged from the emergency room.
When Dr. Wasserman was a high school student, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. He was impressed with the care she received from her doctors, and that experience solidified his decision to choose medicine.
After graduating with a psychology degree from Johns Hopkins University, he went on to attend medical school at the University of Virginia. It was soon clear that family medicine was the right choice for him.
“In school, I liked everything,” Dr. Wasserman says. He enjoyed treating patients of all ages and different conditions and was comfortable working in both hospital and outpatient settings.
The family medicine department at his school was a good one. The doctor in charge of the department was a very welcoming, experienced physician who ran his own practice, Dr. Wasserman recalls.
During his medical school years and continuing into his residency at Shadyside Hospital in Pittsburgh, he found plenty of inspiration from mentors who taught him how important it was to treat patients well and with empathy.
The HIV/AIDS crisis epidemic was at its peak in the U.S. while Dr. Wasserman was in training. There were still many unknowns concerning the condition at the time, and that uncertainty generated fear among some members of the public. He remembers working with one infectious disease doctor who made it a point of emphasis to shake the hands of his HIV/AIDS patients and offer kindness and care.
Dr. Wasserman says one of the major lessons he learned from his time in training was a simple one: “Be appreciative that your patients chose you.” It’s the same advice he would offer to a young physician just starting out. “It can’t just be a job,” Dr. Wasserman says. “You really owe something to your patients.”
That concern and appreciation for his patients is what continues to drive Dr. Wasserman’s work as a physician. His colleagues at Gettysburg Family Practice, which he joined just out of residency in 1991, describe him as selfless and dedicated to the practice of medicine.
Dr. Wasserman believes that living and working in a rural area has afforded him opportunities he may never have had in an urban environment. In addition to his outpatient work at the practice, he also works at WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital as an emergency department physician and as a hospitalist.
“Here, I can still do ER work, have ICU privileges, do rounds in the hospital – It’s wonderful,” Dr. Wasserman says. He enjoys inpatient care and believes working in the hospital helps him keep up a different skillset.
For nearly 20 years, Dr. Wasserman was the Gettysburg High School team doctor on hand for events like football games and wrestling tournaments. When he first started as a team physician, many of his patients were playing sports at the high school. And, as a lifelong sports fan and as an athlete himself, it was the perfect role for him.
Although he no longer serves as a physician at games, he is still part of a group of doctors that help with sports physicals for the school system.
He still maintains a busy schedule with his work at the hospital and the practice. The kindness and appreciation from his patients – and the teamwork and support of his colleagues – keep him motivated every day. “It’s the people that keep me going,” he says.