Suffolk doctor honored

Published 6:51 pm Saturday, June 3, 2017

An emergency physician in Suffolk recently was formally presented with a white coat as a token of appreciation for leadership in his field.

Dr. Bruce Lo, president of the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians, presents past president Dr. Carl Wentzel with a white coat in the emergency room at Bon Secours Health Center at Harbour View. The honor was a token of appreciation for Wentzel’s leadership.

Dr. Carl Wentzel, an emergency room doctor at Bon Secours Health Center at Harbour View, received the coat from Dr. Bruce Lo, president of the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians.

“It’s really to recognize our past presidents,” Lo said. “It’s a very small percentage of people who are passionate enough to do it on their own time. This is a very small token.”

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Wentzel, 56, was president of the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians from 2008 to 2009.

During that time, he was a leader in a number of facets of emergency medicine, Lo said.

Wentzel helped fight for complete implementation of Virginia’s “prudent layperson” law, which prevents insurance companies from refusing to pay emergency room bills when it turns out the reason for the visit wasn’t actually an emergency.

For example, Lo said, if a person goes to the emergency room with chest pains, but it turns out to be indigestion, the insurance company shouldn’t be allowed to refuse to pay, because the symptoms, to a prudent layperson, resembled a life-threatening condition.

Lo said mental illness and the emergency department’s role as a safety net also came to the forefront during Wentzel’s presidency.

“Emergency rooms are a safety net for mental health,” Wentzel said. “People that don’t have anywhere else to go end up in the emergency department a lot of times. Emergency medicine is the safety net in our health care system.”

Wentzel didn’t always want to go into medicine. He started college at the University of Richmond aiming for a career in business. But a bout of appendicitis in his freshman year turned that around.

“It was a very scary event,” he said. “I had never really been sick before.”

In the midst of his illness, Wentzel was inspired by the health care professionals taking care of him.

“The commitment to helping me feel better really inspired me,” he said. “I just thought that was a neat thing to make other people feel better when they’re so distressed.”

He continued his education at the University of Richmond, entered medical school at Eastern Virginia Medical School and did his residency at University of South Carolina.

Wentzel doesn’t regret his career choice.

“I like the bedside experience of being a doctor,” he said. “I feel medicine is a calling. We do it because we’re here to help people.”

Bob Ramsey, executive director of the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians, said leaders in the college should be honored. There are nearly 1,000 members, and less than 6 percent have taken their time to be leaders in the organization.

“It’s a great group of people,” he said.