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Tom's story

March 30, 2022
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Dr. Tom Peteet wears two hats—he’s a physician and an educator. Each of his career paths fed his interest in the other. A former math teacher at an urban middle school, he observed the link between education and healthcare disparities firsthand.

“I noticed two worlds. Some people were getting advanced medical care whenever they needed it, while others couldn’t even get a primary care appointment,” he said.

After a stint working in St. Louis, Missouri, schools after college, Dr. Peteet became passionate about the idea of healthcare as a right, not a privilege. He decided to return home to Massachusetts for medical school at UMass.

Dr. Peteet completed his residency at Boston Medical Center, where he was always in need of more time with his patients. To meet the demands, it was necessary to move through appointments quickly. This made it challenging to dig deeply into complex medical needs or conditions. He also wanted to foster trusting relationships with his patients.

Some of Dr. Peteet’s patients were Commonwealth Care Alliance (CCA) members, which is how he came to know the organization. As he worked with CCA members and their care teams, he appreciated the personalized attention they were shown. Following his residency, he kept an eye on open CCA positions. In 2017, he started as a CCA Primary Care doctor.

Having the flexibility to spend more time with patients is important to Dr. Peteet, who enjoys getting to know the people he treats. He is humbled each time he can connect with a patient and make a difference. The level of care and advocacy he sees from patients and their loved ones is also motivating.

“I see a lot of people who are very sick, and we meet people where they are. We take care of them. The highlight is spending time with people and their families, getting to know them, and acting as a medical and support system they can count on,” he said.

The collaboration at CCA Primary Care is also one of Dr. Peteet’s favorite parts of his job. He values the perspective of the advance practice clinicians and physician assistants on the team and the diverse skill set they bring to treating patients. Nurses with specific expertise in wound care, blood pressure, or ventilators can be key in complex cases.

“It’s nice to be part of a team taking care of someone, and it’s a joy to work with my colleagues. I learn from them, and they learn from me,” he said.

Outside of work, Dr. Peteet is a dad to two young children. He still teaches, as a part-time teacher in the Boston publish schools and an instructor in a physician assistant program run by Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also a former yoga teacher, and one of his goals is to learn how to conduct a yoga class tailored to individuals with disabilities.

Dr. Peteet’s vision for his future at CCA includes offering more educational programming to members.

“One thing we know is education disparities drive healthcare disparities, and vice versa. I imagine we could support people pursuing GED programs or help them enroll in community college classes. That would be very exciting to me,” he said.

Dr. Peteet is a big believer in innovation. He is committed to working at the intersectionality of patient satisfaction and system reform. For example, getting medical supplies to patients quickly has many benefits. In addition to helping the patient, acting quickly saves the healthcare system money.

“In most cases, what’s best for the patient is something that is going to reduce their medical cost, anyway. The most important thing is gaining a deep understanding of our patients’ needs, and I love being measured on the quality of care I provide instead of how much I am able to bill.”

What are healthcare disparities?

When a particular group of people doesn’t have the same kind of access to health care, education, or healthy behaviors, it can cause them to fall behind on all kinds of health measures. We call these healthcare disparities. Disparities in healthcare may occur because of a person’s race, ethnicity, disability, gender, sexual orientation, location, income, and level of education.

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