My Kind of Medicine: Real Lives of Practicing Internists: Jon Brndjar, DO, FACP
The best doctors have a little bit of everything: a good bedside manner, a sharp mind, a knack for healing and a gift for precision. Internists have these qualities and more. What sets them apart is felt more than it is defined: an intangible ability to read a patient's body, mind and spirit all at once. Dr. Brndjar has this ability, and his patients are grateful for it.
The Sixth Sense
Dr. Jon Brndjar is an osteopathic physician and a believer in holistic care. The similarity in ideology of both disciplines blends well with his personal approach to medicine, which can be described as straightforward with a good dose of common sense. The secret to his success lies in his ability to get to the root of something quickly and simply.
"Sometimes I’ll have patients come in complaining of chest or abdominal pain and while it is important to take into account their age, other medical problems and other factors, I also ask what has been going on in their lives," he explains. Often times he says these types of common ailments are stem from increased stressors, problems at work or at home. "Asking a patient ‘What’s going on with you right now?’ helps you as a physician establish a timeline."
For Dr. Brndjar, there is nothing particularly extraordinary about the way he practices medicine. To him and other physicians like him it is cut and dry, but with today’s health care environment, his simplicity is refreshing. His ideology and methodology as a physician are guided by an inner compass, something he says he struggled to find. When Dr. Brndjar was finishing college, he found himself at a crossroads, unsure of what he wanted to do with his life. It was down to two choices: medicine or the seminary. His decision reflected the better choice for him intuitively. "I wanted to help people live a better quality of life and being an internist is for me the best way to serve that purpose," he says.
He is able to do that today in a town called Emmaus, just outside of Allentown, PA, where he operates his own private practice, Brndjar Medical Associates. It is a healthy practice that he has been able to build successfully over the years with a little local pull, having completed medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and residency training with a Penn State program at Lehigh Valley Hospital.
The inspiration for his wanting to help people stemmed from his own family doctor growing up. "In the old days, the family doctor treated everything from A to Z and I remember being really impressed by him. I liked his approach to patients, and I liked his knowledge." He also drew inspiration from the people he worked with at a nursing home while in college. "The experience instilled in me a great deal of respect for them—those who do that kind of work."
Dr. Jon Brndjar with his family
Contending with difficult and sometimes painful moments has earned Dr. Brndjar appreciation and recognition from his patients and their families, something he cites as one of his finest achievements. One instance Dr. Brndjar remembers had to do with a patient suffering from congestive heart failure. After three or four hospital stays within two months, the patient decided to decline treatment. "He wanted to go home and just be comfortable," he recalls. The following day, Dr. Brndjar met with the patient and the family—including the patient’s spouse, children and grandchildren—as well as the family minister. He helped them work through the emotions and questions, and the following day, the patient left for home, accompanied by hospice services. He died three days later. At the viewing, the patient’s sister approached Dr. Brndjar and told him how much the patient’s wife and family appreciated what he had done and the time he took. Later, he also received a letter from the patient’s wife echoing the same sentiments. "The biggest reason I love internal medicine is helping families like that one,” he says. “I love taking care of people and their families. It’s very rewarding."
He demonstrates similar generosity toward his colleagues. Currently, he is working with ACP’s Center for Practice Innovation in helping smaller practices identify and improve practice-related issues. "I wanted to become involved," he explains. "As a solo practitioner it’s easy to get too into your own little world—I thought this was a good opportunity to connect with other physicians."
While he dedicates much of his time to others—his patients, their families, his colleagues—he still tries to spend as much time as he can with his own family. He enjoys his time with his four children, Dan, Alexa, Hunter, and Anderson, helping them with schoolwork, watching them in sports or just hanging out with them. He also does volunteer work for the church he attends with his family. His wife Dana has worked as a nurse, which is how he met her in 1996. They were friends for many years before they got married. "Being married to Dana is just plain fun," he says. "She’s bright, intelligent and beautiful and she loves me for me—good points and bad. Not to sound sappy, but I feel lucky and blessed to have her in my life."
As for the future, once again Dr. Brndjar’s instincts point him in the right direction. His plan is to get his master’s degree in business, something he says future internists looking to run their own practice should seriously consider. "I’d encourage students and residents to get additional course work in business because running your own practice is like running a business," he says. "I’ve had to learn it on the fly which has been a challenge."
Something else he thinks they should consider is internal medicine. "What’s exciting about being an internist," he says, "is having challenges every day, always having something new on the horizon." Try as he may to act like a bump on a log, Dr. Brndjar is an example of how internists, today’s unsung heroes, are fast becoming tomorrow’s diamonds in the rough.
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