Temple vascular surgeon William Bohannon, MD, is used to spending mornings with his patients. But lately, the associate professor of surgery at Baylor College of Medicine can be found chatting with the community outside his office – in walking shoes instead of a white coat.
“Rain or shine, we’re walking,” Dr. Bohannon said. “And we’re answering patients’ questions along the way.”
Every third Saturday of every month, Temple Baylor Scott and White physicians like Dr. Bohannon take a walk with their community, discuss health and wellness, and invite patients to get to know their health care team through their local chapter of Walk With a Doc (WWAD).
“Events like Walk With a Doc are important to remind people why we're here, not just in the clinic or in the hospital, but as a part of our communities,” he said. “This program has been a great way for me to learn about the community and be more visible among our patients. I’m so thankful that TMA sponsored this event.”
Founded in 2005 by Ohio cardiologist David Sabgir, MD, WWAD encourages physical activity in people of all ages and aims to reverse the effects of a sedentary lifestyle by encouraging attendees to walk a few miles alongside physicians. By participating, community members are both encouraged to lead healthier lives and spend more time with their local health care team.
The Texas Medical Association has supported its members as walk hosts since 2012 and covers the start-up costs associated with becoming a walk leader for member physicians.
This year, the TMA Foundation is providing $97,500 for 64 Walk with a Doc Texas chapters, allowing TMA member physicians to become walk leaders without incurring any startup costs, which run around $2,300.
Without TMA’s help, Cypress pediatrician, Tiffany Nguyen, DO’s community may not have its event off the ground.
“TMA helps pay for this event. But it goes beyond that. Each year we receive merchandise and T-shirts to distribute to the walkers, courtesy of TMA. It really pays off to have a membership when starting these chapters,” she said.
Dr. Nguyen has participated in WWAD since 2017. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the event allowed the community to socialize safely and to learn how to lead healthier lives while doing so. Since then, the Cypress chapter has grown to include high school and medical students, who learn from community physicians.
“Students help me organize and advertise each event,” Dr. Nguyen said. “There are a lot of high school students who are interested in health, and they want to connect with physicians. While we walk and talk with the community, we also raise the next generation of physicians.”
Dr. Bohannon, who started walking with Temple’s WWAD chapter in 2016, says the two-mile walk allows him to answer questions his patients may not have felt comfortable asking in the office.
“We’re able to talk to our patients in a less clinical environment. This makes all the difference,” Dr. Bohannon said. “Sometimes, a patient who was quiet during their appointment will attend a walk and suddenly ask all the questions they were too afraid to ask before. The walk provides a safe space for people to address their concerns.”
Each walk starts with a five-minute discussion about trending health topics, like mental health, better eating habits, or insomnia. After facilitating an open dialogue for the community, participating physicians can continue the discussion or answer other questions during the walk – at the pace of each participant.
“Every person has different abilities,” Dr. Bohannon said. “Some of our regulars take the lead as soon as the walk starts. Then there's some folks that aren't quite as mobile and need to walk at a slower pace. But that’s the great thing about this program. We tailor it to fit everyone’s needs.”
Want to start your own WWAD chapter? Here are some steps you can take to become a Texas walk leader:
- Fill out a short form on the Walk with a Doc website and receive a guide to getting started. TMA covers the start-up costs associated with becoming a walk leader for member physicians.
- Access support such as marketing materials, liability insurance, and administrative help by calling the TMA Knowledge Center at (800) 880-7955.
- Read through the Mile Markers for Starting Your First Walk guide and other resources for physician walk leaders.
- Brush up on best practices to secure media exposure for your community outreach event.
Not ready to become a leader? Search through Walk with a Doc Texas chapters to attend an upcoming walk.
Walk With a Doc Texas is funded in 2023 by the Texas Medical Association Foundation with general support from TMA Insurance Trust, Prudential, and Baylor Scott & White Health.