Dr. Wendy Ward,
Merced College professor, MD
Fear was etched on the face of the patient in front of me as she clutched her blouse with trembling hands and explained that she had found a lump. When I examined this 35-year-old woman I found that she, in fact, had at least twenty lumps and that she had discovered the first over three years ago.
But she, like many patients, had waited to seek help. So very many patients allow fear of bad news to delay their visit to the doctor, and in so doing they lessen their chances for a positive outcome.
This particular patient had experienced the childhood trauma of seeing her mother die of breast cancer, and so she had waited, and waited, helplessly hoping that the same diagnosis would not find her as well.
As I treated this woman over the next year, her advanced state of disease caused all conventional treatments to fail, allowing the cancerous tissue to spread throughout her body, slowly killing her. All the while history was repeating itself, as her sweet five-year-old daughter was by her side to watch every moment.
When this patient inevitably lost her battle with cancer, her husband lamented that they hadn’t sought help sooner, now understanding that quick help might have saved her life.
But we can only move forward in this life, so instead of dwelling on what might have been, I encouraged him to use this understanding to make positive changes for the future. I told him never to allow his daughter to make the same mistake, never to allow fear to stop her from getting help and staying healthy.
I met that same little girl again years later and she, like many of the students I see now, had pledged to become a nurse. She had decided to learn everything she could about health and disease so that she would know how to proactively combat cancer when it came for her, as it had her grandmother and mother. Ultimately, she also sought to help other women in a way she had not been able to help her mother.
My name is Dr. Wendy Ward, M.D. I am a medical doctor trained in Family Medicine. Family Medicine is a specialty that works with primary care and can treat everyone from birth to the elderly.
I have performed surgical procedures, routine screenings, cancer treatments, and even helped to lead FDA-approved experimental stem cell therapies for people with solid tumor cancers, autoimmune diseases, and neurological disorders. And I am proud to say that I am currently a Professor of Biology, Anatomy and Microbiology at the Merced College Los Banos Campus, teaching pre-health and nursing students.
Many people ask me why I am teaching in Los Banos with the background I have, and the answer is simple: Education leads to better health.
I have seen too many patients throughout my career that let the fear of the unknown prevent them from seeking help when they needed it.
However, there are still other patients who may have proactively sought help, but amongst the abundant medical jargon we hear in clinics and hospitals today, they never had a chance to understand their disease process, preventing them from properly managing their condition.
So many people would benefit from a thorough understanding of both their health and how they can maintain wellness, yet many of our healthcare workers today don’t understand how to relate what they have learned in a textbook to actual human conversation, leaving the patient uninformed and unaware of the sometimes-complicated nature of their health.
Due to this, I endeavor not only to ensure that students know what is in the textbooks, but that they realize what this means in relation to their own bodies and health. Being able to recite a line from a book doesn’t mean you have learned anything—true change comes from actual understanding.
I grew up in a small rural town much like Los Banos, where it was always assumed that we had to go to the “bigger cities” to get quality care. Yet it’s the people here, in the small communities, who need the most help, who deserve the quality care and education that Merced College can provide.
I have made it my mission to ensure that each and every one of the healthcare workers and nurses who pass through my classes not only have the information they need to pass, but are able to bring that information home to their families and friends, ensuring that everyone understands the complex machine that is the human body, and how to keep it running smoothly for as long as possible.
Only through education can we reach everyone, and empower them to live the rich life we all deserve, a life of health and wellness.