Dr. Audra Ford Promotes Communication as Key to Patient Outcomes
To bring about real change in patient lifestyles, physicians need to provide them with more than just a diagnosis, according to Ross School of Medicine alumna Audra Ford, MD ’05. They have to establish a relationship and start communicating.
During every office visit, Ford, a family practice physician at the Center for Primary Care in Augusta, GA, spends time walking her patients through their conditions and explaining about preventative health measures.
“Teaching patients about their bodies and diseases is very important,” she stressed. “When you do, they become empowered to create important lifestyle changes that can impact disease progression. This is especially true for diseases where diet and exercise play a crucial role, such as diabetes.”
She noted that while not all patients will commit to making changes in their lives, they still deserve to have the information.
“Some people are going to do whatever they want no matter what,” she said. “But when someone is motivated to change it can make a big difference, not only in their own life, but also in the lives of their loved ones—especially when there are children involved.”
In 2010, Ford was voted one of Augusta’s most outstanding young professionals in the Augusta Metro Chamber of Commerce’s “Top 10 in 10,” which she described as an “unexpected honor.” Later that same year, she was diagnosed with a rare clotting disorder that was nearly fatal and quickly learned what it was like to go from being a care provider to being a patient.
“Being a conscious patient in the intensive care unit was especially difficult because I knew I was walking a very thin, tight rope,” she explained. “I had been focused on personalized patient care before that event, but afterwards I redoubled my efforts. I found I was able to empathize more with my patients who were nervous before certain procedures, and I found it very important to reassure them that they were going to be well taken care of.”
The first physician in her family, Ford felt called to the medical field from a very young age. After receiving her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Alabama, she started looking into medical schools. She received a letter from Ross University, and decided to apply.
“I had a great experience at Ross,” she said. “I was very involved as a student and was SGA [Student Government Association] president for two consecutive semesters. Being a Ross student, we tended to have more of a ‘go-getter’ mentality. We had a real sense of community since we were all focused on the same thing, and we knew we needed to make our strides count every step of the way.”
Still a go-getter at heart, Ford is looking forward to the future and hopes to become a medical director one day. She is also considering doing some political work related to patient advocacy.
“Becoming a physician is challenging, but if it’s in your heart you need to find a way to do it,” she said. “People may try to discourage you along the way, but don’t listen to them. Just keep moving forward toward your goal and you’ll get there.”