Christopher Ward is a people person. On or off the job, building relationships is always the most exhilarating part for him — whether he’s bargaining with customers as the previous co-owner of his family’s hobby shop, competing as an amateur chess player or bedside with burn patients.
So, it’s no surprise he takes a few extra minutes to learn more about his patients, their interests and hobbies as Akron Children’s newest physician assistant (PA) in our Paul and Carol David Foundation Burn Institute. In fact, it’s one reason he chose this specialty.
To him, managing a patient’s burn injuries not only requires extensive knowledge in all areas of medicine, but also a huge heart full of compassion as patients go through an unusually long healing process. And, Christopher is just the man for the job.
“I have cried with my patients, both when we were happy and when we were sad,” he said. “I think it helps them knowing that someone else out there is with them not only as a provider, but as a human, too.”
Why did you choose to come to Akron Children’s?
Akron Children’s has a wonderful reputation among both patients and providers. Getting a chance to be a part of this wonderful group of people was just what I hoped for as a newly graduated PA. Working in the burn center is a challenging, but rewarding experience, and I am proud to be a member of Akron Children’s provider group.
Describe your role at Akron Children’s and what you hope to accomplish?
I recently graduated from the University of Mount Union as a PA. I provide care to both patients in the hospital and those in the outpatient burn center here on main campus.
I hope to not only provide excellent care to all my patients, but also to work in community outreach programs and professional education in medicine, burn safety and wound care.
What is your area of expertise and why did you choose it?
PAs have a lot of freedom when it comes to the area of medicine they choose to practice in, but since my first visit to the burn center here at Akron Children’s I knew it was the environment for me.
Managing a patient’s burn injuries requires extensive knowledge in all areas of medicine, while also requiring a huge heart full of compassion as patients go through the healing process. There are few areas of medicine that allow providers to build such strong relationships both with admitted patients and patients we care for in our burn center.
When did you decide to become a provider and why?
My previous career was working as the co-owner at a hobby store with my family. There I loved building relationships with my customers and co-workers. A few years later, I was volunteering in an Emergency Department and saw firsthand what PAs and physicians did when caring for patients. I loved what I saw, so I applied to PA school a few years later here in Ohio and could not be happier with my decision to switch to medicine.
What do you like most about being a provider?
I love working with other healthcare professionals and forming relationships with my patients. Working alongside the staff, nurses, PAs, nurse practitioners and physicians is exhilarating. There are few better feelings than a team working together to take care of patients in our burn center.
I also love spending a few extra minutes with my patients. It gives me a good opportunity to learn more about them outside of their visits to our burn center.
What achievements are you most proud of?
During my PA graduate program, I was selected to be a part of the SCHOLAR Day research presentations at the University of Mount Union. I gave a formal talk on the viability of using an electronic cigarette to help people quit traditional cigarettes. I poured my heart into the research and my presentation, so I was proud of my efforts when the university faculty loved the presentation. One even said it was the best presentation he had seen during a SCHOLAR Day. For anyone curious: electronic cigarettes do not seem to help much with quitting traditional cigarettes.
Another achievement I am enormously proud of was being inducted into Pi Alpha, the National Honor Society for PAs. I took on several leadership positions and projects, while earning my graduate degree because I love doing so. But, to receive the induction was an extremely rewarding experience after all my hard work.
How do you deal with the emotional impact of being a provider?
I am a big supporter of “feeling what you feel” and not trying to shut it out. I frequently form strong connections with my patients, so when things are difficult or they are having a harder time, it affects me, too. I have cried with my patients, both when we were happy and when we were sad, and I think it helps them knowing that someone else out there is with them not only as a provider, but as a human, too.
What excites you most about medicine?
I get excited to know there is always something else to learn. It does not matter if someone is practicing medicine in his first year or in his final years before retirement. There is always something new and exciting to learn about medicine. It is constantly changing and improving, so working in a career that always has more to offer is rewarding and keeps me satisfied.
Who makes up your family, including pets and their names?
My family starts with my wonderful wife, Julia, who truly is my better half. She is such a kind, inspiring and loving person, and I just cannot express how lucky I am to be with such a great person! Together we have our cute baby, Charlotte, who was born last year. She is a true treasure and absolutely the best, happiest little baby. We also have 2 Schnauzers, Lily and Star, that round out our family here in Ohio!
What’s one thing on your bucket list?
I am an amateur chess player who just started learning the game 2 years ago. I would like to participate in a formal tournament one day, but I need to keep practicing before I’m good enough to put up a reasonable fight. I am not afraid of losing games, but I would still like to demonstrate some competence in such a competitive environment before joining a tournament!
What do you do when you aren’t working?
I am always with my wife and daughter when time allows, and we try and get out as much as we can. We love nature walks or going to the park. I also enjoy reading, playing chess, cooking and watching TV with my wife after a long day.
I bike long distances on my touring bike when the weather allows. I hope to take a biking tour from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., where I will get to explore the National Mall and see the capital for the first time.
What are your favorite podcasts, books, movies or TV shows?
For television, I am a huge fan of “The Wire” on HBO and “The Expanse” on Syfy/Amazon. They are both fantastic shows with great reviews, and I try to get my family and friends to watch them when I can.
Recently, I have been reading books about topics I like to think of as “such big lies that everyone believed them.” “Bad Blood” was a recent read of mine. It describes the Theranos blood-testing fraud at a billion-dollar company.
I am currently reading, “No One Would Listen,” which talks about the Bernie Madoff Ponzi Scheme that fell apart in 2008. I love reading both fiction and non-fiction books, so a full list of my favorites would be too long to include!
What’s the last adventure you went on?
In 2018, I got to visit Europe for the first time with my wife. Over 2 weeks, we went to Italy to see the ruins of Pompeii, stayed on Malta near their historical downtown district and traveled to Madrid, where we got to visit the Prado, along with other museums. It was a trip of a lifetime, though I am hoping we can repeat parts of it with our daughter when she is older.