Dr. Watts’ Story: Trust is Good Medicine
Even at about 6 years old, Brook Watts knew she wanted to be a doctor.
She remembers being inspired by an illustrated book about Elizabeth Blackwell – the first American woman to earn a medical degree – she borrowed from a bookmobile that had passed through the Alabama countryside where she spent her youth.
She remembers seeing the effect poverty had on her classmates’ health and how it contributed to the malnutrition, disease and other ailments that swept through rural Madison County in the mid-1970s and early 1980s.
She remembers being interested in the science of medicine but passionate about what it could mean for poor communities like hers in Alabama and the one she now serves at MetroHealth in Greater Cleveland.
Good medicine, she said, is about building relationships – with individuals and the broader community.
“I always wanted to take care of people,” said Dr. Watts, MetroHealth’s Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer, Community & Public Health.
“I’ve always believed in what we call the traditional American Dream, but over and over again, I’ve been reminded that there are barriers that prevent people from reaching that dream and living healthy lives.”
As the COVID-19 pandemic gripped Greater Cleveland, those barriers became more evident than ever.
Dr. Watts and her team soon entrenched themselves in the community – church parking lots, nursing homes, shelters for the unhoused, group homes and the like – to test individuals others had overlooked for COVID-19. As the pandemic evolved, that infrastructure provided the opportunity to administer vaccines to these at-risk communities.
“These are folks who had gotten to know our staff – a staff that finds privilege in serving these populations,” she said. “And the reality is we built tons of relationships. Those relationships are anchored in trust, and we can’t break that trust if we truly want to improve the health of our community.”
Dr. Watts is one of several national health care leaders who will present August 1-3 at the 2021 ABIM Foundation Forum – Pursuing Trust: Striving for Equitable Health Care. Dr. Watts will participate in a panel titled, “Health Care Organization Exemplars in Community Engagement as a Strategy in Building Trust.”
Faces of MetroHealth is an ongoing series of profiles of individuals from all levels of the organization who embody our mission and values. To read the others, click here.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth is leading the way to a healthier you and a healthier community through service, teaching, discovery, and teamwork. Cuyahoga County’s public, safety-net hospital system, MetroHealth meets people where they are, providing care through four hospitals, four emergency departments, and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites. Each day, our 8,000 employees focus on providing our community with equitable health care–through patient-focused research, access to care, and support services–that seeks to eradicate health disparities rooted in systematic barriers. For more information, visit metrohealth.org.