Age Management Clinician Spotlight:
Meet Patrick Sharp, D.O.
"I’ve always been interested in health and fitness," says Patrick Sharp, D.O. "I started exercising and trying to eat right as teenager. Lifting weights was my hobby. And I knew I wanted to be a doctor, but age management medicine didn’t exist when I was in medical school." Dr. Sharp's father was a pharmacist, and he grew up working in his pharmacy. "I enjoyed it and knew I could do it if I didn’t get into med school," recalls Dr. Sharp. "But I was familiar with osteopathy; there was an osteopathic school in my hometown in Oklahoma."
These influences all came together in Dr. Sharp's education. After graduating from the University of Oklahoma College of Pharmacy, he earned his D.O. degree from the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine, and completed a family practice residency at Oklahoma State University. “Family practice was the closest I could get to what I thought I wanted to do,” says Dr. Sharp. Thus, Dr. Sharp began a 10-year career as a family practitioner, while on staff at several hospital groups: St. Francis Hospital, SouthCrest Hospital and Ardent Health Systems.
One remnant from his teenage years remained, however. "I was in family practice about 10 years. I was 39 years old at the time, and during those 10 years I was taking a health and fitness publication from [champion body builder] Frank Zane, Building the Body Quarterly. In one issue, I saw an article by Dr. Alan Mintz about age management medicine. It was the first time I’d heard of it, and it immediately interested me. I contacted Dr. Mintz, because I wanted to gain knowledge about it."
And gain knowledge about it he did. Dr. Sharp went through Cenegenics training in 2005. "I decided to devote some of the time in my practice to age management medicine," he says now. "Then I wanted to increase the amount of time devoted to it, until finally realized I was doing two full time jobs. So I retired from family practice in 2010, and became a full time Cenegenics affiliate."
The decision to go full time was a matter of necessity. "I implemented what I could in the family practice, but the constrictions of insurance based health care require you to see 40-45 patients a day just to make as much as you did the year before. I couldn’t continue to devote adequate time to my patients in both practices." Making the transition meant taking some risk, Dr. Sharp acknowledges. "In family practice the patients come to you; in age management medicine you have to find the patients. My wife supported me from the beginning. My father was in full support, but my mother wanted to know why I couldn’t just be a 'regular doctor'." Though he attempted to educate those of his "regular" patients who seemed open to new ideas, Dr. Sharp says that out of 3,000 patients he was able to recruit two. "People tend to think their insurance should cover any healthcare," he notes. "When I went full time I had 80 active patients; in three years I have 200 active patients, and that’s a full load."
Having achieved that critical mass, the Sharp Clinic in Tulsa continues to grow. "I’ve recruited another doctor from my old family practice who is now working part time, and I have another former medical school colleague, an ob/gyn, who is also now working part time out of my office," says Dr. Sharp.
Three years on, Dr. Sharp now says, "I would be hard pressed to ever return to insurance based medicine. Nobody from an insurance company is telling me what I can and can’t prescribe. I have more time to spend with patients. I was attached to my former patients, but I keep reading about all the new healthcare requirements, and I am feeling hugely relieved, and fulfilled. Even if I only made the same money it would be a fantastic thing, but family care physiscians are paid about half of what other doctors are."
"My patients now are doing fine; they are absolutely thrilled with the concierge level service. All the patients have my cell phone and email; I communicate with them the same day, but I only have 200 patients, and because what we do is not covered by insurance and we have to charge more, most of the people I work with have had some success in business and understand that they are expected to participate in their own health plan, so they don’t call for just routine things."
"The Age Management Medicine conferences are my main source of ongoing medical education. I'm always looking for new things that have sufficient evidence that we can offer them to my patients. For instance, I've started doing telomere measurement, sending to a lab in Spain that's the only place that does that testing."
"I would say for me, it’s a dream come true. It requires a lot of work and persistence to build a practice like this. You can’t just throw your name in the ring and expect it to happen—you need to devote time to recruiting patients. The people who succeed at it are truly passionate about what we do—preventive health care, exercise, nutrition."
"I feel very fortunate," concludes Dr. Sharp, "fortunate to have come upon this, and that things have worked out to allow me to pursue it."
Return to June 2013 e-Journal