Kenneth C. Lau, MD, is a primary care physician at Drexel Medicine. He practices internal medicine in the Fairmount neighborhood of Philadelphia. Dr. Lau is also a faculty member in the Department of Medicine at Drexel University College of Medicine.
Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and what got you interested in medicine?
I grew up close to Philadelphia, just across the river in South Jersey. My father was (and still is) a pharmacist and my mom was a social worker, so I had some exposure to medicine and helping other people through the two of them. I also have a lot of physicians in my family. I think that's initially where my interest in medicine came from. Then, as I went through high school, I did a lot of community service with my mom and I excelled in math and science, so medical school started to seem like a viable option. My love for medicine developed over time as I started working with more patients. Patient interaction is what drives me and what I enjoy so much about medicine.
While you're a new physician at Drexel Medicine, you're not exactly new to Drexel, correct?
No, I'm not new at all to Drexel. I did a seven-year BS/MD program at Drexel University, so I've been here through undergrad, medical school and residency. Now I'm working here as a primary care physician and a faculty member. I've had time to build meaningful relationships with a number of my colleagues, and I know the system well, which I think benefits my patients.
Why did you choose internal medicine?
I started by ruling certain things out as I went through medical school. For instance, I have a great respect for psychiatry and obstetrics, but I knew that was not for me. I realized I wanted more long-term relationships with my patients. I wanted to help guide them through a wide range of medical issues. I chose primary care because I wanted to be the focal point of care, the gateway if you will, to someone's health care. There's such a medley of issues, from cardiac and lung issues to kidney problems. I always felt like I needed to be involved with a little bit of everything, and I realized internal medicine would provide me that opportunity.
What do you like most about working in the Fairmount neighborhood?
I love the community vibe there. There's a lot of diversity in the Fairmount area. There's been a steady increase of young families and young professionals, but there's also a large number of families who have been there for decades. It's a nice community to be a part of and a true melting pot. Because of that, I get to see a variety of medical conditions in a variety of different people from many backgrounds and cultures, and that keeps my job interesting.
What services are offered at the Fairmount location?
We have four internal medicine physicians at our Fairmount office. We also have cardiology and nephrology appointments a few times a week. We emphasize preventative care—trying to catch and prevent disease before it happens rather than simply treat it after. In addition to routine physical exams and immunizations, we provide screenings for diabetes and other kidney-related diseases. Blood pressure control is another focus of ours. We also have a few physicians who specialize in geriatrics. This is a growing area of medicine and we're happy to accommodate older patients.
Are you currently accepting new patients?
Yes, we have appointments available. I'm the new guy at the practice, so chances are that if you call to schedule an appointment, it will be with me.
Aside from routine physical exams and screenings, what are some of the more common reasons patients come to see you?
I think one of the biggest things doctors are seeing, not just in Philadelphia but across the country, is the increased number of patients dealing with obesity. The vast majority of patients I see—young and old—are considered in the overweight-to-obese category. With obesity comes several additional health complications—cardiac issues, pulmonary issues, diabetes, etc.
As a primary care physician, how do you help patients with obesity?
Because obesity has such a wide-range of downstream consequences, treating obesity requires a multidisciplinary approach that includes preventative screenings, nutrition, and exercise. It also often requires working with other subspecialties ranging from endocrinology, cardiology, nephrology, hepatology, bariatric surgery, and the list goes on. As the primary care physician, I coordinate those initiatives.
Perhaps one of the most important things I can do is to establish a rapport with my patients. You have to assess a patient's willingness to make changes to lifelong habits, understand and empathize with how difficult that can be, and discuss the barriers they may encounter. One of the main responsibilities of physicians is to education our patients. By building a relationship with the patient, I'm able to recommend lifestyle changes that are specific to them. The more specific the plan, the more likely it will be followed. I think the best way is to set realistic goals that your patients feel that they can achieve. I hold both myself and them accountable with close follow-up appointments.
What separates Drexel Medicine from other health practices in the city?
There's such a warm, family-like culture at Drexel Medicine. There's a lot of collaboration between the physicians, staff and administration, which certainly benefits the patients. People genuinely want to help each other here. There's a lot of integration and clear communication, and that's one of the many reasons I wanted to stay and work at Drexel.
I also think the size of Drexel works to its advantage. It's a big enough institution to support all the different specialties, but it's small enough where you're able to form close relationships with the people in those specialties. As a primary care physician, I can coordinate care with other physicians that I know. I'm not just sending patients off on their own. I'm sending them to colleagues who I can easily communicate with, who I know and trust, thus allowing for more seamless care.