Thomas Manser wasn’t anticipating a career in medicine when he enrolled at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor to study chemical engineering. He’d never envisioned himself as a physician, although he was always interested in becoming a scientist. But while he was an undergraduate, he had the opportunity to do some volunteer work at the walk-in clinic in nearby St. Joseph’s Hospital and recalls, “I found that I really enjoyed it. I liked the work itself, and of course, I enjoyed the scientific aspects of medicine.” He started going to the clinic one evening a week, doing basic tasks like checking patients in and taking their blood pressure.
He found he admired the physicians who were working at St. Joseph’s, and soon began looking at them as role models. “These were guys I wanted to be like,” Dr. Manser remembers, “some of whom have gone on to be real leaders in the area of internal medicine.” And ever practical, he found himself drawn to the flexibility of medicine in terms of finding a good job in an appealing location. “Medicine seemed more portable than chemical engineering,” he says. “As a physician, I knew I could potentially go anywhere – I couldn’t think of any place in the country that didn’t need doctors.”
And in the long run, internal medicine may not differ that much from chemical engineering, at least philosophically. Chemical engineers must apply a knowledge of chemistry in addition to other engineering disciplines – and are sometimes referred to as ‘universal engineers’ because their scientific and technical mastery is so broad. Similarly, the internist is trained to deal with any problem an adult patient brings, and, according to the American College of Physicians, specifically trained to solve puzzling diagnostic problems and handle severe chronic illnesses and situations where several different illnesses may strike at the same time.
Dr. Manser earned his medical degree from Michigan State University, followed by an internship in internal medicine at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, and a residency at EVMS. He liked the variety of opportunities within medicine. “When you start out as a doctor, you can take care of all kinds of people,” he explains, and “there are other roles as well, administrative roles, roles as teachers – all of which is a significant part of what I do today.”
Indeed, today Dr. Manser not only maintains a robust practice as a member of the Internal Medicine-Primary Care group at EVMS, he’s also the Oscar Edwards Distinguished Professor of Internal Medicine at the Medical School. He also serves as an administrator as well – Chief of the General Medicine Division, a position he describes as “helping recruit new faculty, making sure the schedule works out and coordinating things in the office practice.”
Part of that coordination involves working with sixteen very busy physicians, six of whom are hospitalists – internal medicine physicians who practice only inpatient medicine. That number will soon grow to nine, in order to accommodate the increasing need. As Chief of General Internal Medicine, Dr. Manser also has indirect responsibility for a number of important EVMS programs staffed by his faculty members, including the sickle cell clinic, two residency programs and the outpatient clinics that care for indigent care patients. “It’s part of our mission to care for these individuals,” he says. “So we are routinely seeing patients from the very well off to those with no virtually no resources whatever.” He’s quick to add, “I like that. I like having a spectrum of patients. We like being able to care for people of all socioeconomic levels, all genders, all races, etc.” It’s not as burdensome as it might seem, he says, because, “In our group, we all work together – we’ve got a very democratic group.”
It makes for a full and diverse schedule, which includes hospital rounds as well. “Those of us who are not hospitalists still rotate periodically seeing inpatients,” he explains, “so in one month, I may have a weekend in the hospital, and the next month, I’ll be there every morning, but still maintain outpatient responsibilities as well.”
It’s an exhausting schedule, but you wouldn’t know it from the way Dr. Manser chooses to spend his rare leisure time. He’s been an avid road cyclist for more than a decade, and this spring, he’s participating in the 65-mile Tour de Cure, a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Associates – part of the Strelitz Diabetes Center Team. He’ll be riding with his partner, Dr. Mark Flemmer, under the banner of team captain Dr. Joseph Aloi.
Dr. Manser has received several honors throughout his career: he has been named a Top Doc by Hampton Roads Magazine and also US News and World Report. He was named Outstanding Faculty Member by the EVMS Combined Family Medicine/Internal Medicine Residency Program in 2003. He was chosen to serve as the American College of Physicians Virginia Chapter representative for the 1999 Leadership Day on Capitol Hill. He received the Golden Flea Award and the Sir William Osler Award, both presented by EVMS internal medicine residents and students to outstanding attending physicians.
But if you ask him which honors he has cherished the most, he will very likely begin the list with the Manser Fund for Excellence in Internal Medicine, a fund established by grateful patients at EVMS whose lives and families he’s touched.