|J. Wesley Thompson, PA-C, MHS, DFAAPA, AAHIVS
Rosedale Infectious Diseases
Huntersville, North Carolina
After receiving a Masters in Health and his Physician Assistant degree from Duke University’s Physician Assistant program, J. Wesley Thompson started out in primary care and recalls treating his first HIV patient in 1987. He shifted professional focus to specializing in Infectious Diseases in 1999. Says Thompson, “As an out gay man, HIV positive patients gravitated towards me. I was initially leery of taking on HIV patients because of my own fears and biases. Very quickly, I realized this was my mission field.” Thompson recalls days in the dusk of the twentieth century when HIV/AIDS patients were thought of as “modern day lepers.” Thompson embraced this community and they embraced him.
Today, Thompson is in practice at Rosedale Infectious Diseases, the largest HIV private practice in the Carolinas with over 2,300 patients. Of his
practice at Rosedale, Thompson says, “We provide care to the LGBT community and are members of the Charlotte Transgender Health Group.”Located in a suburb of Charlotte, North Carolina, Rosedale’s faculty is comprised of Thompson, Frederick Cruickshank, MD, and a staff of 13 care providers. They have LabCorps in house and have a 340B mail order pharmacy. Rosedale is also a clinical site for multiple HIV medication clinical trials. Their payer mix is about 15 percent Medicaid, 15 percent Medicare, 15 percent Ryan White, and the rest are privately-insured patients. Their mix is 55 percent male, 40 percent female, and 5 percent transgender. They see 30 to 35 patients per day. Says Thompson of his patients’ average age, “The average age of our patients in 2000 was 32 and today the average is 47.”
“I don’t parent my patients, I partner with them and together we work out adherence and any other issues or challenges that arise,” says Thompson, “When I see in a patient’s eyes the return of hope, when I see their self-worth resurrected; these assuage any obstacles I could mention or even remember.” Thompson explains to his patients that having HIV is not the result of something they did wrong. Thompson doesn’t believe in a guilt trip approach to practicing medicine. “Trusting someone is not wrong. Making a mistake or having poor judgment is human,” Thompson tells his patients. He emphasizes that if his patients stress out their immune systems with guilt or self-deprecating thoughts, it can be more harmful than HIV itself.
Thompson points out how incredible it is to take care of patients with a virus that was a death sentence in 1982 and now has become a chronic medical condition that does not appreciably shorten one’s life. Says Thompson, “I have gone from holding my patient’s hands and going to funerals to now attending weddings and baby showers. One can choose to believe there are no miracles in this life or one can choose to believe there are miracles every day. What we have done in the field of HIV/AIDS care is nothing less than miraculous to me.” In practice, Thompson makes use of Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), and Treatment as Prevention (TasP).
In addition to serving as Co-Chair of AAHIVM’s Southeast Chapter, spanning eight states in the US, Thompson is active with local AIDS Service Organizations and the Quality Control Committee for Ryan White. He lectures locally and nationally in hopes of inspiring patients and motivating providers. He is writing a book about life in clinic with the humorous and life-changing twists that occur. As for why he is an AAHIVM Member, Thompson says, “Joining AAHIVM seemed to be a natural fit with my vision for care for my patients and as a part of my mission and vocation.”
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