John F. Wheary, DO, MBA, FACEP, recently joined the Better Health Advisors team as a Senior Health Advisor. Dr. Wheary is an emergency medicine physician and healthcare leader based in the Lehigh Valley area of Pennsylvania. In addition to his medical degree, Dr. Wheary holds an MBA with an emphasis on healthcare systems management.
As a key member of the BHA team, he brings a strong clinical voice to the work we are doing. He understands and is passionate about the value of health advisory to the patient and the healthcare system. We are excited to have him on board and hope the following Q&A helps you get to know him better.
Q&A with Dr. John Wheary
What inspired you to work in health care?
I have always had an affinity for all things mechanical. I enjoy taking things apart, fixing things, solving problems, and making things better. From our modest blue-collar home in central Pennsylvania, we had a view of a small community hospital and helipad nearby. There was nothing more epic than seeing the Life Flight helicopter team flying patients in and out of the emergency room at all hours of the day or night.
Seeing these teams in action galvanized my vocation to become an emergency medicine physician. I wanted to be the type of physician who was prepared and ready for anything and everything that could occur at any moment. Of all of the disciplines and specialties in healthcare, there is nothing more demanding or enthralling as emergency medicine. I am proud, and thankful, to say that I have been an emergency physician and healthcare leader for 25 years.
The emergency department is designed to be the safety net of our healthcare system. Its universal accessibility highlights many of the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities that exist within the healthcare system. The healthcare landscape has become increasingly complex and difficult to navigate, even for those who are well-versed with the inner workings of the healthcare system. We need to work together to promote the best outcomes for patients and their families.
I am immensely passionate about the mission and work of John Samuels and Better Health Advisors, because patients need a better way to help navigate the healthcare system.
Can you share how you first connected with BHA?
My family engaged John Samuels and BHA many years ago. As our parents aged, my sisters and I were focused on preserving their health and independence as well as their happiness and longevity. My parents were determined to remain together throughout their golden years, and we wanted to make sure they had what they needed in terms of health care — not for a moment in time, but in a year, five years, and ten years.
As their needs continue to grow, they have required more support. John Samuels and his team have helped us understand what resources are available and create a plan that meets their immediate needs while also having the flexibility to adjust when things suddenly and unexpectedly change.
So much of my frustration with the healthcare system has been fueled by years of experience in the emergency department. As I became more passionate about influencing change, I researched Better Health Advisors and John Samuel’s work from a broader perspective. Much of his work is influenced by his previous experience running emergency departments in NYC. With this synergy it was clear that the time was right to become part of John’s team and join Better Health Advisors.
What have you learned from working with BHA?
We can never be too prepared for an unexpected health issue — and there is nothing worse than being unprepared.
A few weeks ago I had to help my dad when he fell out of bed at 2 a.m. I live nearby, so he called me first. As a physician, I should know all about having a game plan when somebody has to go to the emergency department, but at two o'clock in the morning, all I could do was dial 911. I felt somewhat helpless as my father was very ill and my mom was in tears. When the ambulance arrived, I could not remember my father’s medical problems, his medications, or even his birthday. These are simple things that I should know automatically, but I struggled.
Everyone needs a game plan that is kept current and up to date. You cannot always recall things from memory, no matter how well you know somebody. So much of what BHA advises in order to help patients and families navigate the healthcare system is incredibly valuable. Families’ and patients’ needs evolve and change continuously. My parents’ needs are different today than they were three months ago. And my Dad now has a new mountain to climb as he recovers from his recent illness.
"Having an understanding of what's out there, having a game plan, and having the flexibility and the knowledge to be able to adapt to those changes is very challenging and very intimidating for people. This is where BHA’s model is incredibly helpful."
What do you do when you aren’t working?
Outside of spending time with my lovely wife Michelle and daughter Karla, I must say I love motorcycles and guitars. I am very fortunate to have a family that tolerates my hobbies. I love to buy old motorcycles, restore them, and ride them until I find something different. I have a similar approach with guitars… but this is admittedly a much safer hobby. It is incredibly important for everyone to have a hobby or passion that drives them. Life cannot be all about work!
To learn more about Dr. Wheary and the rest of the Better Health Advisors team, read our bios.
If you or a loved one need help accessing great healthcare, reach out to an expert health advisor for support throughout the process.