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.
The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.
The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, two-thirds of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.
As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.
Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.
The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.
For more information, visit metrohealth.org.