June 24, 2017

Sue Whitehurst Doss, FNP

EVMS Internal Medicine

FNP isn’t the only designation that accompanies Sue Doss’ name: her full title includes RNC, MSN and ADM as well.  That wasn’t part of her original plan: when she decided to go into nursing, she didn’t think she’d go beyond getting her initial degree, being the first in her family to graduate from college.

But while she was enrolled in the Nursing Program at Old Dominion University, she realized her love of science and medicine, and her innate desire to help people, were inspiring her to do more.  She practiced for seven years after graduation, both at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and in public health settings in Norfolk and Chesapeake.  “Public health is what I really loved,” Doss says, “meeting the needs of underserved populations.”

Her work in public health allowed for more autonomy, Doss explains, where she could work one-on-one with patients and coach them to better health.  “That’s when I decided I wanted to pursue my Nurse Practitioner degree”.  She enrolled in Old Dominion’s program and earned her NP degree in 1995.

She initially wanted to work in women’s health, with emphasis on caring for women with infectious diseases like HIV, but when a position wasn’t immediately available, she started working in family practice.  “I loved it right away,” Doss says.  And now, as a member of the EVMS Internal Medicine team, she feels she has come full circle, working with infectious disease patients, as well as diabetics, which allows her to put her Advanced Diabetes Management certification to use.  “We see the gamut – diabetes, heart failure, hypertension, arthritis, kidney disease, pulmonary disease – everything that can affect adults with chronic and acute medical needs.”

Doss enjoys the variety, and especially credits the faculty and physicians at EVMS, who can seamlessly collaborate for the benefit of patients.  “We’re lucky to have such brilliant doctors here in the community, who are excellent resources,” she says, “and because of the system’s electronic medical records system, we’re able to provide continuity of care across all departments, for patients with multiple medical issues.  That allows us to get to know these patients and their families, and it is really rewarding when you know they trust you.”

As a Nurse Practitioner, Doss is fascinated by the expanding opportunities her profession provides to educate patients about their health, and she’s adamant about the importance of prevention.  “I feel more and more that a large part of my role as an NP is to help people start doing what they need to do so they don’t get sick in the first place,” she says.  “It’s inspiring when you see a patient who’s lost 12 pounds in less than a month, simply because she gave up soft drinks and starting walking.”

She acknowledges it can be difficult: “Change – no matter whether it’s losing weight, quitting smoking, exercising – is hard.  But it’s amazing what people can do.  And as healthcare providers, we have to always be ready to introduce the subject, and to assure them that we’re here to help them along the way.”

Doss may not have intended to acquire so many letters when she first decided to become a nurse, but today, she says, “I believe we all have a path, and we don’t always know where the path will take us.  But I think we end up where we’re supposed to be.  I know that’s true for me at EVMS.  It’s just what I envisioned years ago: I’m helping patients be healthier, and I’m helping them when they need medical care.”