Davidson and his father, hyperbaric medicine pioneer John D. Davidson, M.D. (R), who retired from active practice at St. Luke’s in 2002
John A. Davidson, M.D. will retire next month after 20 years at St. Luke’s Wound Care and Hyperbaric Medicine Center and 38 years total in medical practice. This month, WCA would like to celebrate his legacy and accomplishments.
After earning a B.S. from Davidson College and an M.S. in Physiology from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, Dr. Davidson graduated from the Chicago Medical School and completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Washington University and St. Luke’s Hospital. Dr. Davidson started his practice in 1980 and specializes in wound care and hyperbaric medicine.
An interesting note: Davidson’s father, hyperbaric medicine pioneer John D. Davidson, M.D., retired in 2002 and was also on staff at St. Luke’s Hospital. He continued to work on research in hyperbaric medicine until 2016 and is now living in Tennessee.
In this Q&A, Dr. John A. Davidson reflects on the wound care industry, hyperbaric medicine, and his plans for retirement.
Q: You’ve been a highly-respected wound care specialist in your community for over 20 years. How did you decide to become a wound care physician?
A: It wasn’t really a decision...it was more by default. I initially started practicing internal medicine, and patients would be referred to us. As one surgeon put it, “I’ve tried everything on this patient except the kitchen sink...and YOU are the kitchen sink!” We had to manage the wounds that were referred to us. In the early 1980s, the authors of wound care books were often physical therapists, and recommended treatments were largely whirlpool therapy, topical oxygen chambers on limbs, and/or heat lamps. We also needed to look at the wounds from the cellular and tissue levels to devise appropriate treatments and dressings. That fit right in with my physiology background and interest in physics.
Q: You have always had a keen interest in hyperbaric medicine. What drew you to hyperbarics?
A: From early on, I’ve been intrigued by hyperbaric medicine because it relies heavily on a practical application of physics and chemistry in order to achieve its goals. For some wounds, hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the treatment of choice, and it works.
Q: In addition to your father, all of your siblings work in the medical field. What are their areas of practice?
A: There are four of us, and I guess you could say that we cover the gamut. In addition to myself, we have a dentist, a cytopathologist with an active outpatient practice, and a veterinarian.
Q: When your father was practicing, and when you started your career in 1980, chronic wounds were being cared for in very different ways. Tell us how things have changed.
A: Since I started specializing in wound care 20 years ago, wound care has progressed from a physical therapy treatment with basic cotton gauze dressings, to specialized treatments focused on what is happening on, in, and around the wound base. Wound care is much more specialized and individualized for each patient.
Q: What is the worst wound you’ve ever encountered, and how did you help the patient?
A: I once saw a patient with radiated tissue wounds of bone, soft tissue and the brain, which failed all standard therapies. It responded ONLY to hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Q: What is your fondest career memory?
A: My fondest memory is what I tell my patients after a wound is closed: “You’re done, go away, social visits only!”
Q: Do you have any advice for new physicians considering wound care as a specialty?
A: They need to understand that chronic wounds are the result of everything else which is wrong: low ejection fraction, low epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), chronic deep vein thrombosis (DVT), radiation damage to tissues, incompetent venous valves, small vessel arterial disease, anemia (reduced oxygen delivery to tissues, iron deficiency), poor lung function, protein malnutrition, low anabolic presence, gravity, immobility, medication side effects, medications which directly inhibit wound healing activity, possibly well-intentioned but incorrect advice on how to care for the wound(s), patient misunderstanding of what and why they need to do what they are instructed to do to care for the wound(s). You will need to address these things and minimize, normalize, remove, change, or boost them all in order to get wounds to heal.
Dressings and potions alone don’t heal wounds. You have to ask why it’s there. If the treatment plan isn’t working, you need to ask, “What am I missing?” In addition, the wound’s requirements change as the wound changes. It’s really all about cell and tissue culture. The culture medium and nutrients are the same, but different, for every wound.
Q: What are your plans for retirement?
A: I plan to spend a lot more time with my newly acquired wife, and with my grandkids. I also plan to expand my activities with our community theater by building sets, and of course, doing more traveling.
Q: Any final thoughts?
A: Successful wound care exemplifies classic internal medicine. It combines high touch with high science.