The NACHC advocacy team is “jazzed” to announce the Outstanding Advocate for April 2016, Dr. David Waters, a pediatrician at Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For over 25 years, Dr. Waters has served as a bilingual physician who provides quality, family-based care that supersedes linguistic or cultural barriers. Dr. Waters has a host of achievements. The first and most important: he’s a doting son who loves his mother. A close second, his recognition as the first ever Community Physician of the Year by the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin on April 8, 2016. Congratulations!
For Dr. Waters, community health is intrinsic. By age three, he knew he wanted to be a doctor. Oddly enough, he has no other doctors in his family. It was something he was destined to do; he wanted to be an advocate for others. Dr. Waters attended University of Wisconsin at Madison for both undergraduate and medical school. After taking Spanish all four years of high school and venturing on a pre-medical school trip to Spain, that reconfirmed his love for the language, Dr. Waters used his bilingual expertise while completing his residency in Portland, Oregon. Spanish literacy was extremely important to providing culturally competent care, especially since he served a large majority of Mexican migrant workers and their families. Following his residency, Dr. Waters worked at two clinics in Portland, until one fateful day, when he returned to Milwaukee for the annual Briggs and Stratton Al’s Run. Following the big event, a friend took him to a Mexican restaurant right across the street from Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers. As it turned out, they were looking for a bilingual pediatrician, and the rest is history.
Dr. Waters has witnessed Sixteenth Street Community Health Centers grow from humble beginnings. When he arrived in 1987, the health center had one site with 6 providers and 40 employees. Today, it boasts 3 sites, 50 providers, and 350 employees. All the while, Dr. Waters says, “Sixteenth Street has stayed true to its mission.” But, what he loves most is the opportunity to be an advocate for others. In his own words, “What keeps me jazzed up, is knowing that I have the ability and the power to help others, it’s my motivation.”
Dr. Waters views advocacy as a compliment to his day to day responsibilities as a health care provider. Through a series of projects, Dr. Waters carries out his advocacy goals to improve the lives of the patients he serves. For example, Dr. Waters began serving a large population of Hmong people in Milwaukee. The Hmong are an ethnic group from the mountain regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. While providing medical care to the Hmong people, he realized the need for more awareness on culturally competent health care. It began with a seminar, which led to a scholarly article entitled Providing Health Care for the Hmong, which was published in the Wisconsin Medical Journal. Dr. Waters is that kind of advocate. If he can foster learning and change without waiting or relying on the decision of legislators and stakeholders –he will do it. Other great examples of Dr. Waters’ patient advocacy are his work in transforming the scope of pediatric HIV care, asthma care, and immunization awareness.
It’s fitting that Dr. Waters was awarded the very first Community Physician of the Year Award, because he’s a change maker and an innovator. It is evident when you speak to Dr. Waters, that he’s been successful in blending his passions with meaningful causes. Since health and wellness are his passions, Dr. Waters uses them to empower communities. Currently, he’s involved with the Variety Children’s Charity Adaptive Bike Program, which provides specially adapted bikes, tricycles and hand cycles for kids who aren’t able to ride a standard two-wheel bike because of physical complications. Other cool projects, he’s a part of include Ciclovia MKE and Bilingual Bike Day, part of the Annual Milwaukee Southside Bicycle Day.
Dr. Waters doesn’t harp on his accolades, published articles, or stellar community service. He is most proud that he works alongside a multitude of people to foster collaboration, advocacy, and community empowerment. Finally, on his role as an advocate for community health, Dr. Waters says, “I’ve gotten out so much more than I’ve put in.”
Check out Dr. Waters at last year’s Ciclovia MKE.