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WakeMed Women Making a Difference: Theresa Amerson

I love coming to work every morning and being surrounded by a team at WakeMed who has a passion for caring. Whether it is in the clinic caring for our patients or at the leadership table caring for our providers and staff, we are all focused on making the work today a little bit better than it was yesterday – all to benefit our patients. – Theresa Amerson, MD

Dr. Theresa Amerson joined WakeMed in 2011 as a primary care physician, and within two years, at just 33 years old, she was promoted to associate director of Primary Care for the hospital system. After serving in this role for three years, she assumed the role of executive medical director of Primary Care, Urgent Care and Rheumatology in October of 2015.

For Dr. Amerson, being a primary care physician means having a meaningful relationship with patients in order to help them achieve their health care goals.

Patients who are well-informed, engaged and educated have the best success in achieving their health care goals – whether it’s losing weight, recovering from surgery or managing chronic conditions.

Mentoring Future Primary Care Physicians

A former Park Scholar, Dr. Amerson volunteers her time outside of the medical field, mentoring a group of N.C. State Park Scholarship students who have expressed an interest in medicine.

Encouraging medical students to consider practicing primary care is important for a number of reasons – one of them being that the U.S. is currently facing a shortage of primary care doctors.

By giving undergraduate students (such as those in the Park Scholarship program) a chance to volunteer at WakeMed’s downtown primary care practice, students have an opportunity to see what it’s like to be a physician.

Through their work in our practice, these young people will hopefully experience the same joy and satisfaction I feel as a physician, which comes from serving others by bringing health and healing to my community.

Dr. Amerson is also doing her part to encourage current medical students to consider practicing primary care.

I want to show young doctors that despite its challenges, primary care can be a very rewarding career path.


Specialized Treatment for Obese Patients Within Primary Care

In addition to her primary care focus, Dr. Amerson obtained an additional board certification in obesity medicine, a specific area of professional interest for her.

Our practice was looking to incorporate more specialized treatment for obese patients in the primary care arena in a coordinated way with the bariatric surgeons, nutritionists and physical therapists at WakeMed.

The Shared Medical Appointment (SMA) Approach

In 2014, Dr. Amerson created an innovative, medically directed weight loss program, aimed at helping individuals work towards healthier lives. Utilizing a Shared Medical Appointment (SMA) approach, this type of care model provides patients working on weight management goals with prompt access to Dr. Amerson as well as a support team in a familiar, positive and comfortable setting.

Patients transition from a 1:1 appointment with Dr. Amerson to the SMA model, a small-group format that enables her patients to learn more, support one another and also develop a more meaningful relationship with their health care team. Patients have responded so well to this format, that Dr. Amerson is now leading the primary care team in expanding these offerings to patients to include medical weight management SMA’s at other WPP primary care sites over the next few months.

This is an exciting time in medicine. We are at a crossroads in health care, and we have the opportunity to re-imagine how we deliver that care to our patients. 

A Passion for Care

Two of Dr. Amerson’s biggest passions in her work are SMAs/Obesity Management and her team’s Wake Way 2 Excellence (WW2E) Ambulatory Flow Work.

The Wake Way 2 Excellence is a unique process improvement method that will increase patient safety and quality while reducing costs and achieving WakeMed’s 10 aspirational goals.

Through WakeMed and the WW2E journey, Dr. Amerson and her team have felt fully supported via the training and tools they’ve received to help improve ambulatory flow to their practices:

I’ve truly enjoyed learning the WW2E tools over the past two years, and I have a passion for utilizing these tools to make our WPP clinics an even better place to work and receive care. Health care, in general, and primary care, in specific, is changing. Our provider team is trying to care for individual patients and also focus on population health metrics while trying not to ‘burn out’ from the efforts.

Helping our providers successfully navigate this changing landscape is both my biggest challenge and my biggest reward. Assisting with this transformation in the way our providers work, leading to improved patient care and improved provider satisfaction and balance, is incredibly rewarding.

About Theresa Amerson, MD

Dr. Theresa AmersonAmersonTheresa_0004 is a member of the American College of Physicians and the American Society of Bariatric Physicians (now the Obesity Medicine Association).

She is board certified in medical bariatrics and internal medicine. In addition to mentoring, Dr. Amerson has volunteered on the Park Scholarship selection committee for more than 10 years.