Dr. Rod Duraski, known as a staunch advocate of patient care and safety as well as a doctor who truly connects with patients on a personal level, has been honored as WellStar West Georgia Medical Center’s 2016 Physician of the Year.
The award, given annually since 2007, recognizes an outstanding physician whose contributions have made a significant impact on patient care, the medical staff and West Georgia Medical Center.
An anonymous selection committee chose this year’s recipient from several blind nominations, and each committee member agreed the 2016 Physician of the Year is “exceptional,” said Jerry Fulks, WGMC president.
“The committee received several nominations for this physician, which describe him as a doctor who is ‘a great communicator among his colleagues, nurses and patients,’ a man of strong faith who has been known to pray with others during difficult times,’ and ‘a pioneer’ of West Georgia Medical Center’s Hospital Medicine program,” Fulks said.
With his wife, Anne, and their two sons, Dr. Duraski moved to LaGrange in 1995 to establish an internal medicine practice. Originally from Columbus, he graduated from Auburn University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine. He interned at St. Louis University Hospital and completed his internal medicine residency at the University of Rochester (New York) School of Medicine.
In late 2012, Dr. Duraski took a “huge leap of faith,” one of his nominators said, when he became the medical staff director of the newly developed Hospitalist program at WGMC. Hospitalists, doctors who specialize in the care of patients in a hospital, are available around the clock to take care of patients and any problems that arise, to explain test findings, and to communicate with patients and families. Upon discharge, patients return to their primary care physician to continue on their road to recovery.
“Some folks in the community were pretty upset when he left his private practice,” said Ralph Duraski, Dr. Duraski’s younger brother and WGMC’s director of pulmonary medicine. “At the time, a few ladies stopped me at a church, and they were devastated. They said, ‘He’s leaving. What are we going to do now?’” Dr. Duraski took a hiatus from practicing medicine to earn a Physicians Executive Master of Business Administration degree from Auburn University in 2013. He then came on board fulltime at WGMC to lead the Hospitalist program. Not only did Dr. Duraski have the daunting task of establishing the Hospitalist program, one nominator said, but he also had to grow his staff and develop policies and procedures.
“He also had to introduce to his colleagues, hospital staff and the entire community the definition of what a hospitalist is what they do,” the nominator wrote. “Before then, no one in LaGrange had heard about this type of doctor and the vital role they play in hospital care.”
He found himself having to reassure a lot of patients who would greet him as he walked into their room with “Who are you? Where’s my doctor? I only want my doctor! Did I mention I only want my doctor?” the nominator wrote. Through his leadership, the Hospitalist program has now expanded to 18 providers on staff who cares for more than 30,000 patients a year.
“While he is an administrator, he is still a true bedside physician,” a nominator wrote. “He connects with his patients on a personal level because they genuinely see that he cares. He passes out his personal business cards to them and instructs them to call him directly if they have questions while in the hospital or after they go home.
“People in the community I live in have told me how much his caring attitude and beside manner meant to them during their hospital stay.”
Past recipients ofWGMC’s Physician of the Year are Drs. James Brennan, Julian Duttera, Sandy Simmons, Richard Ingram, David Martin, Robert Copeland, Ken Horlander, Lay Giesler and Robert Coggins.