“Pain is tough; and there’s no test for it,” says Dr. Walter Wofford emphatically– which is why, when his patients talk, he listens. Very carefully.
Dr. Wofford knows and understands that his patients are best able to describe the details of their pain – which typically cannot be “seen” by even the most sophisticated imaging technologies available today.
The 31-year-old physician, who practices at Northern Hospital of Surry County’s Pain Management facility in Elkin, welcomes the active participation of his patients in achieving a shared goal of reducing or eliminating their pain, while restoring a productive and positive quality of life.
A specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation, Dr. Wofford treats patients who suffer from pain and/or loss of functional abilities that can result from sports injuries, spinal-cord injuries, brain injuries, stroke, amputation, joint replacements, work or home injuries, as well as drug and narcotic addiction.
His overarching treatment plan is coordinated with the patient’s referring physician; and, as necessary, with the practice’s on-site therapist, who offers psychological counseling for anxiety and depression – a typical byproduct of extended or chronic pain.
“The biggest challenge I face is helping some patients overcome their passivity about their own healthcare,” said Dr. Wofford. When he meets a new patient, he encourages their partnership in designing a treatment plan – one that will prove effective, over time, in helping manage their pain. “In most instances, I ask my patients, ‘What do you expect of me?’ and ‘What are your goals?’”
Once the lines of communication have been opened, Dr. Wofford remains available to guide and encourage his patients so they stay motivated to achieve their personalized goals.
“I remind them that there’s no overnight cure – especially when they’ve been dealing with pain that has lasted for many months or years,” he says.
Dr. Wofford is the newest physician to join the Northern Pain Management practice site in Elkin – which was established 16 years ago (under the name Revival) and remains under the medical leadership of Dr. Emidio Novembre, one of its founding physicians. Today, about 1,900 patients are seen each month at the facility.
After completing his undergraduate studies in philosophy and biomedical sciences at the University of South Florida Honors College, Wofford entered Wake Forest University College of Medicine in 2009.
While a medical student, his interest in his chosen specialty (physical medicine and rehabilitation) was ignited by Dr. David Lacey, a faculty mentor who, according to Wofford, was “super knowledgeable about sports medicine and a really great apostle for rehabilitation.”
Four years later, with his medical degree in hand, the newly minted physician moved west to complete advanced training programs at the University of Kentucky – including a one-year internship, a three-year residency in his specialty field, and a one-year fellowship in anesthesia pain management.
Dr. Wofford then returned to North Carolina, the home state of his MD alma mater, to accept his current fulltime position with Northern Pain Management/Elkin. “The general perception is that Southerners are nicer than folks in other parts of the country; and I tend to agree,” Wofford says with a laugh. “I very much enjoy the people here; and I especially enjoy having seasons — which is wonderful,” adds the native Floridian.
When not taking care of his patients, he enjoys spending time with his wife Ericka (a licensed radiologic technologist) and their 3-year daughter Wren – who, he confesses, “runs our world.”
An avid outdoor cook, who was dubbed a “Grill Master” in Kentucky for perfecting mouth-watering shish-kabobs, Wofford also works to maintain his enviable backyard-grilling skills. He also appreciates “the simple stuff,” he says. “There’s nothing better than a good BLT.”
Northern Hospital of Surry County offers two NC-based Pain Management practice sites: one in Elkin; the other in Mount Airy. The Northern Pain Management/Elkin facility is located at 110 Dutchman Court, Elkin (phone: 336-835-5330); and the Mount Airy facility is located at 708 S. South Street, Suite 400, in Mount Airy (phone: 336-783-8030).