Auguste H. Fortin VI, MD, MPH, is an internist who provides primary care to patients who range in age from teenagers to the elderly. He cares for a range of problems, including asthma, depression, diabetes, emphysema, and hypertension.
Dr. Fortin became a doctor because he wanted to be of service to people. “It sounds hokey, but the first merit badge I earned as a Boy Scout was First Aid. I was an emergency medical technician in high school, and I helped pay for college by working on an ambulance in Boston,” he says.
As a physician, he has pursued additional training in such areas as doctor/patient communication, and he puts a strong emphasis on listening for a patient’s underlying story; and on the influence of spirituality and mindfulness on health. He defines mindfulness as the art of paying attention on purpose to everyday events and experiences. Mindfulness practices for better health can include abdominal breathing techniques and muscle relaxation, and they have been shown in several studies to help reverse heart disease, for example, and help patients manage the stress that can lead to diabetes and other diseases.
“If a patient isn't interested in mindfulness, I don't push it by any means, but a growing number of patients would like to have more control over their symptoms,” Dr. Fortin says.
A professor of general medicine at Yale School of Medicine, Dr. Fortin also teaches medical students the value of better doctor/patient communication and holistic approaches to care.
“The reality is that most patients who have psychosocial problems such as anxiety and depression don't go to see a psychiatrist; they go to a primary care doctor. So, we need to be able to manage those conditions,” he says. “It’s partly about recognizing that patients aren't just their diseases. Rather, patients are human beings who happen to have a disease. We need to be aware that the ways a disease can play out in a person depend, to a large degree, on who that person is, what their life experiences are, and how they cope with their stresses.”