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Gastroenterologist joins Wayne Health's new clinic

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 30, 2012 1:46 PM

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Gastroenterologist Dr. Stewart Futch is the first doctor hired as part of the Wayne Health Medical Clinic, an affiliate of Wayne Health Physicians.

As a child growing up in Virginia, Stewart Futch was a typical boy, scoping out frogs in his backyard.

His mother, a career nurse, always encouraged him to enter medicine.

But perhaps what really sealed his fate was being named "Most Likely to Do Something in Science or Medicine" in third grade.

"I always had an interest in science," he admits, recalling the class vote that prompted the award, a dissecting kit and a microscope. "I went home and dissected frogs ... I would take sugar and salt and food coloring, look at the different colors under a microscope.

"I always knew that was something I was going to do."

The self-professed "lifetime student" earned a master's degree in microbiology and immunology from the Medical College of Virginia before graduating from Eastern Virginia Medical School and going on to complete specialized fellowship training in gastroenterology, earning the title of chief fellow in his final year.

Dr. Futch is the first physician hired as part of Wayne Health Medical Clinic, an affiliate of Wayne Health Physicians. While his practice is currently at 1506 Wayne Memorial Drive, he will eventually be housed with other physicians also recruited to the area, in a proposed medical office to be constructed near the hospital.

He primarily works with patients who suffer from digestive issues including acid reflux, ulcers, hepatitis, cirrhosis, Crohn's disease, colitis and digestive cancers.

But after being a student himself for more than 20 years, he also fashions himself as an educator.

"I'm trying to spend some of my time teaching my patients what they can do and take an active role in managing their illness as well," he said. "I think when patients understand why they're on a medicine and what they're doing that's making them worse, they take a little more active role in their care and they get to be a better patient."

Physicians don't always have the luxury of spending much time with each patient, but Dr. Futch says it's an invaluable part of the process.

"When I was reading the biography of William Osler (Canadian teacher and scholar of the natural history of diseases), he said, 'If you listen to the patients long enough they'll probably tell you exactly what's wrong with them. Talk to the patients. You learn a lot about what's going on.'"

In the few short months he has set up his local practice, the doctor said it has gotten very busy very fast. In addition to handling appointments and referrals of patients with acute and chronic illnesses, he also has a packed schedule of procedures he does at the hospital.

"We also do clinical nutrition, counseling patients on dietary things," he said.

The divorced father of two sons -- one attending UNC-Chapel Hill, the other in high school in New Bern -- said he is enjoying his new role as a Wayne County doctor.

"Since I have been an employee of the hospital and Wayne Memorial's commitment to taking care of patients in the community, it's been wonderful," he said. "The hospital has been very supportive, the community has been very open to me."