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Health Care Kent County News

Bayhealth steps into international Walk With a Doc

Katie Tabeling

Walk With a Doc officially kicked off in August, bringing about 40 people to walk around a park and speak with Bayhealth medical staff. | PHOTO COURTESY OF BAYHEALTH

DOVER — Bayhealth doctors are walking with a purpose: to bring the Dover community together through exercise and offer an opportunity to get to know the doctors at the Kent County health care system.

Walk With A Doc, an international organization that aims to make health accessible through a doctor-led walk, launched a Dover chapter this summer. Hospital staff — ranging from doctors, nurses, physical therapists and others — are invited to meet with residents on a 15-minute walk at Brecknock County Park in Camden once a month.

Walk with a Doc was established in 2005 by Ohio cardiologist Dr. David Sabgir, and has spread to hundreds of communities across the world. With 431 chapters in the United States alone, the Dover chapter launched by Bayhealth General Surgery Resident Lindsay Grasso and Bayhealth Undergraduate Medical Education Program Chair Shalini Shah is the first in the First State. 

“One of the biggest barriers out there when talking with patients is ‘white coat syndrome,’ and I believe this will take the fear out of the community. We’re human too, and this puts us all on even ground,” Grasso told the Delaware Business Times.

Grasso was introduced to the Walk With a Doc program when she was a medical student at University of South Carolina Greenville, one of the few medical schools that offer a lifestyle medicine curriculum.

“That’s something I’m passionate about as I’m going into medicine. I think Delaware has a lot of room for improvement, especially after years of being inside from COVID-19. I feel like people have a more sedentary lifestyle now,” she said.

Grasso was working on starting a chapter — “Walk with a Future Doc,” focused on medical students — but the global pandemic paused those plans. But with the backing of Bayhealth, the first walk in Camden park in August brought 40 people out for a casual stroll and conversation.

The structure of Walk a Doc involves a short presentation on a health topic by a doctor. Then the doctor leads the way, with others walking at their own pace. For the first walk, family medicine physician Joseph Rubacky spoke about the importance of physical activity and exercise as we age.

Grasso was surprised and pleased at the excellent turnout for the inaugural Walk With a Doc, crediting Bayhealth’s marketing team for its outreach efforts in local newspapers, billboards, fliers and Facebook advertisements.

While the event is not designed to give specific diagnosis on the go, Walk a Doc does give central Delaware residents a chance to get some face time with medical professionals. Across the country, health care providers are still playing catch-up through its backlog of patients. 

Physician search firm Merritt Hawkins’s 2022 survey of appointment wait times nationwide found that it takes a new patient 26 days to access care. When the firm launched its first study back in 2004, the national average wait time was 21 days.

“A lot of patients we see, especially the more advanced cases, they most likely haven’t seen a doctor in 20 years. When I ask why, they say they never thought it was a problem, or they didn’t know where to go,” Grasso said. “Walk With a Doc can be a great way of just getting that advice on where to go and educating them on why. As for the health providers, we all have connections. If there’s someone who’s having issues, there’s options to get connected to that network.”

Looking to the future, Grasso hopes to connect with similar programs at other health care systems to get Walk With A Doc throughout the state.

The next Walk With A Doc is set for 11 a.m. Sept. 3. For more information,  Bayhealth.org/Classes-and-Events to see a list of all future events.

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