Dr. John Witt has always enjoyed international travel and experiencing new cultures, especially when opportunities exist to share ideas and resources in the practice of medicine. Building on past visits to China and recent developments in stroke care, he was thrilled by a recent opportunity to visit and collaborate with a large Chinese medical center.
John Witt, MD is a Neurologist and Medical Director of the Stroke Program at TriStar Skyline Medical Center, where he has been adding significant value for almost two years. Working at Tennessee’s first comprehensive stroke center allows Dr. Witt to practice in an advanced care environment, a leading institution in the clinical neurosciences. As Dr. Witt explains, “There were two main factors in my decision to take the position at TriStar Skyline. First was the opportunity to grow and develop an existing comprehensive stroke center, extending the scope and efficiency of Skyline’s leadership in the neurosciences. Second was the flexibility of the work schedule that allows me to pursue international healthcare and teaching opportunities in communities outside of our TriStar region.” A collaborative approach at TriStar Skyline allows innovation of newer, safer, and more effective ways to treat patients needing complex neurological, neurosurgical, and neurorehabilitative care.
In the United States, heart disease is the number one cause of death and stroke is ranked fifth, whereas in China, stroke is the leading cause of death. Dr. Witt was intrigued by this difference, so when invited to visit Haikou People’s Hospital, a 1700 bed affiliate of Xiang Ya Medical School of Central South University in the city of Haikou, Hainan Province, PRC, he knew he wanted to contribute. According to Dr. Witt, “In many ways, stroke care in China is similar to that in the United States, and the hospital I visited has developed a number of innovative programs that could be beneficial to hospitals here at home. Yet there are also distinct differences compared to the U.S., including access to emergency care, financial and insurance resources, integration of Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine, and approaches to rehabilitation. In addition to sharing thoughts on clinical cases, I spent time with Chinese department leaders discussing strategies for reducing thrombolytic and endovascular treatment delay and enhancing community education. Skyline has been a frontrunner among HCA facilities in the rapid delivery of stroke care, so it makes sense to share what we’ve learned with other facilities having similar goals, and to bring new ideas home to TriStar. China has challenges in delivering preventive care and optimizing access to their growing base of technology. In some respects, these problems are universal across the globe, and the solutions implemented in the United States will not always be best in other cultural settings.” One program Dr. Witt particularly supports is China’s new interest in training physicians for General Practice. Known more commonly as Family Medicine in the U.S., generalists are a new breed of physician in China where residency programs are just getting started. Dr. Witt had the opportunity to teach and demonstrate principles of neurology to residents in Haikou’s general practice training program, a role he fulfills periodically for resident physicians here in the United States.
Since visiting China, Dr. Witt returned to TriStar Skyline invigorated and grateful for the colleagues and resources his own hospital offers to the Nashville community. A veteran of healthcare delivery and education projects in Central America, Africa, East Asia, and the Balkans, Dr. Witt always appreciates the opportunity to see how other nations address common problems of injury and disease, and to consider illness from cross-cultural perspectives. Dr. Witt says, “I have tremendous respect for the work being done by Chinese physicians and health institutions to advance the science and practice of neurology. By working together and sharing our experiences, we help each other to take better care of our patients.”
Dr. Witt studied medicine at the University of Chicago-Pritzker School of Medicine and completed his neurology residency at Washington University in St. Louis, followed by an electromyography fellowship with Mayo Clinic. He is board certified in neurology, vascular neurology, and electrodiagnostic medicine. During his visit to Haikou People’s Hospital, Dr. Witt was honored with a five-year appointment as visiting professor and encouraged to return periodically to support training efforts in both family medicine and clinical neurosciences