Traveling more than five hours to a doctor’s appointment might feel excessive to most people, but not Dawn Knosher.
“She was having some issues with other providers,” Dr. Raheem Nazeer recalls.
Dr. Nazeer, a rheumatologist for UnityPoint Health – Quad Cities, worked with Knosher years earlier at a practice near Chicago. Since then, Knosher moved to a small town outside of St. Louis, Missouri and Dr. Nazeer moved to Rock Island, Illinois to be closer to family.
“Since my husband and I moved, I had difficulty getting my rheumatoid arthritis (RA) under control and finding a doctor that saw me as a partner in my health. Not, ‘I’m the doctor, you’re the patient, do what I tell you to do’,” Knosher says.
“With RA, I often experience nights of insomnia. I was awake one night and very uncomfortable. God whispered in my ear and said, ‘See where Dr. Nazeer is.’ The next morning, I googled it,” Knosher says.
“When she learned I was in Rock Island, she looked up how far the drive was and decided it was worth coming up, because she had a favorable opinion of me from previous encounters,” Dr. Nazeer says.
After making the five-and-a-half-hour drive, Knosher and her husband were pleasantly surprised to find Dr. Nazeer remembered them.
“Dr. Nazeer recognized me and recalled some of our previous conversations,” Knosher says. “Being a retired educator and school administrator, I know that can either be a good or bad thing to be memorable. I’m hoping it was good, since he told me I was one of his favorite patients.”
Remembering the details of his patients’ lives is a skill Dr. Nazeer practices daily and learned from one of his mentors.
“Every patient has a story to tell, and you need to pay attention to what interests them. My mentor used to start out every visit with, ‘What did you do for fun lately?’ In my notes, I put down where my patient works and what they like to do. Everyone is different. Hearing their story out and replaying it back, trying to make them understand whether you understood their story or not, is a key component of an interaction that goes well,” Dr. Nazeer says.
He added, “Remembering a patient based on something from their personal life sets them apart. Mostly every patient who comes to see me at the rheumatology clinic has a similar issue and uses similar medications. Knowing pieces of their personal lives is what gives me a complete picture of who they are as individuals.”
“For me, it’s amazing he listens, and he accommodates my wishes into plans. Or, he educates why it’s best to go another way. He’s also an advocate for his patients. He felt the medicine I was taking was too expensive, so he called my pharmacy and asked if they could lower the price. He’s patient centered. Dr. Nazeer knows what makes each patient tick,” Knosher says.
It’s not only the stories of the people he cares for that stay with Dr. Nazeer — it’s their resilience. Recalling how flustered he felt coming down with a minor infection, Dr. Nazeer says he’s humbled by how well his patients with chronic, debilitating diseases carry on with their lives.
“You have to be agreeable to getting labs done, being poked and prodded and going to appointments every three months or so. It’s not easy. And yet through it all, they balance everything—work and family—and then deal with their disease. It’s an amazing phenomenon. They’re teaching me more than I’m helping them, I think,” he says.
It’s those kinds of interactions that have shaped the medical professional Dr. Nazeer is today—one who is curious, caring and compassionate. And it’s those qualities that brought Knosher over five hours, by car, to see him.
It’s a relationship she doesn’t think will end anytime soon.
“I’ve seen him two times via telehealth since my first in-person appointment. My husband and I plan to pack up our camper to go back to see him in-person this summer,” Knosher says.