Peter Hoenig, MD, a primary care physician, has been in practice at Lincoln Physicians for 25 years. Dr. Hoenig is aware of the broad impact that primary care practice has on the health of a community. Having grown up in Emerson’s service area, he appreciates the increasing ethnic, religious and sexual diversity of the community. He has two siblings on the Emerson medical staff: Stephen Hoenig, MD, a vascular surgeon, and Sandra Meyerson, MD, a pediatrician.
Describe your practice at Lincoln Physicians.
I see a broad range of patients, including teenagers and 100-plus-year-olds. Friends, family and many wonderful people from the local and extended communities are my patients. It’s a great mix. Our patients appreciate that Lincoln Physicians is a well-established group of internal medicine specialists, embedded in the community, with a close association to Emerson Hospital and Partners HealthCare.
What attracted you to becoming a primary care physician?
Primary care physicians have a strong influence on their patients and on public health. Multiple studies have shown that, as the number of primary care physicians increases in a community, mortality decreases, health is improved and health care cost decreases. That appeals to me — being part of that. A big part of what we do is counsel patients to avoid unhealthy habits and direct them to a healthy lifestyle.
We also prioritize being readily available to offer examination and testing for diagnosis and treatment of disease. If a patient is sick or needy, our intention is to see them on the day they call. Primary care is also a lot about tertiary prevention — preventing the complications of existing disease, such as checking for adverse reactions to medications and watching closely to prevent the progression of disease.
Has practice changed much given the increases in conditions such as obesity, diabetes and depression?
We’ve always had patients with those conditions. Yes, there has been an increased prevalence, and we have adjusted the care. We now have mental health liaisons from Emerson who follow up with our patients, and we have psychotherapists on site. It used to be a doctor sitting alone in the office. We also have excellent physical and occupational therapists, dietitians, social workers and nurses participating in patient care. We work as a team.
How have things changed for the better?
During my years as a physician, there has been a transformation of illness as in no prior generation. Advances in the laboratory and radiology have markedly improved our diagnostic and treatment capabilities. Vaccines have almost completely rid the earth of polio, diphtheria, rubella, smallpox and measles — all major killers that used to take out hundreds of thousands of people. And there is a revolution underway in treating cancer with immunotherapy and genomics. It’s been exciting to be a part of all this. Of course, I worry about global travel increasing the risk of a pandemic on the scale of the 1918 flu pandemic, as well as the health challenges that occur due to global warming.
Do you have any specific clinical interests?
I spend a half-day a week at Emerson’s Center for Advanced Wound Care. It is an award-winning, top-tier facility, and I have enjoyed being a part of it. Wound care depends a great deal on good nursing care, and we have a stellar group of nurses, who are able to heal the most challenging wounds.
I also volunteer at the MetroWest Free Medical Program at Congregation Beth El in Sudbury. Despite Massachusetts having the highest percentage of citizens with health insurance, there are about 3-4 percent — about a quarter of a million people — who don’t have insurance for one reason or another. They are recent immigrants or aren’t able to navigate the system or just lost their job and, with it, their insurance. When I arrive at the clinic, there are usually 40-50 people waiting to be seen by the large group of volunteer health care workers.