âLance Taylor and Ian Fitzsimmons, originally The Roundtableâs hosts, were patients of mine as students when I practiced and taught in Tuscaloosa,â says Ricketts, a 1987 graduate of the School of Medicine at UAB. âThey had heard me field health questions from listeners on a Sunday morning program on Alabama Public Radio and asked, âWhy donât you do that on our show?ââ
Tuning Into InformationRicketts saw the JOX segment as a great opportunity to use his UAB training and years of clinical and managerial experience to reach a broad range of people, including some without health insurance or access to care. He opens each segment with a brief discussion of a topical concernâhigh blood pressure or diabetes, for instanceâthat might affect many listeners, and then takes listener calls.
âIâm not paid, so it frees me up as to what I talk about,â says Ricketts, who also earned a dual M.B.A./M.P.H. degree from UAB in 1997, helped to create Tuscaloosaâs University Internal Medicine Group, and continues to serve in the Air Force Reserve. âThe segment and calls are all spontaneous. Usually the Roundtable guys havenât seen the topic Iâm going to talk about. I try to address problems I see in the field and bring that information to the airwaves.â
The show has earned him new patients and even may have helped save a few lives. Follow-up appointments with some callers have led to the discovery of treatable conditions that could have been serious without medical care, Ricketts says.
Putting Creativity Into PracticeThe âDoc on JOXâ has found a few other creative ways to break down barriers between physician and patient. When he opened his Vestavia practice, Ricketts designed the facility to appeal to patients, down to the paint on the exam room walls. âI knew the research on colors that patients consider calming, and for years, I had listened to patients describe what they did and didnât like about doctorsâ offices.â
Ricketts also uses pagers like the ones in restaurants, which tell customers when their table is ready. âIf patients want to come in early and have lunch next door, they can take a beeper, and we will buzz when itâs time for their appointment,â he explains.
Principle InspirationHe may have inventive approaches to interacting with patients, but Ricketts says he is an internist in the time-honored tradition of Tinsley R. Harrison, M.D., one of School of Medicineâs pioneering medical giants. âI keep Dr. Harrisonâs principles framed in my office to remind me daily of what I am doing here and of our goals when it comes to treating patients,â says Ricketts.
His practice and the radio show feed off each other, he says. âThe better job that I do at the office, then the more experienced I becomeâIâve been at this for 23 yearsâand the better my expertise is in knowing whatâs going on with patients and in the community. All of that makes me better when Iâm at the microphone. There, I canât be thinking that I am talking to 100,000 to 200,000 people. During that 30 minutes, I try to concentrate on each caller and his or her question.â
It all boils down to another teaching concept that Tinsley Harrison always stressed, says Ricketts: If you listen to patients, they will tell you whatâs wrong.
This article, written by Jo Lynn Orr, originally appeared in the Winter 2014 edition of UAB Medicine Magazine.