November Physician of the Month: Michael Wert

Dr Michael Wert

Michael Wert, MD, didn’t set out to be a physician.

“Nobody in my family was a doctor—it wasn’t something I ever considered growing up or even in college,” says Wert, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area. “But now, I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else. This job is so fulfilling and is the perfect career path for me.”

Wert is a pulmonary-critical care physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and the director of the Lung Cancer Screening Clinic at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James).

Get to know the OSUCCC – James Physician of the Month for November, which is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

An open mind leads to Ohio State

Wert attended Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA., where he majored in business and chemistry and pitched for the baseball team. After graduation, Wert moved on to the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, where he cast a wide net while deciding on a specialty.

“I had no idea which area of medicine—which field—I’d go into. I went into every rotation with an open mind,” Wert says. “I liked working with kids and adults and eventually decided to do a combined internal medicine and a pediatric residency, basically kicking the can down the road in terms of picking a specialty.”

That can eventually stopped rolling at pulmonary and critical care medicine, and he completed a fellowship at The Ohio State University, where he accepted a faculty position at the Wexner Medical Center and the OSUCCC – James staff in July 2018.

“I love that every day is different”

In a sense, Wert has several different jobs at Ohio State, including his work in the intensive care unit, where he cares for patients with a wide range of life-threatening problems.

“In this setting, we see patients who are incredibly sick, and there’s an inherent satisfaction in helping them get better, as well as in the interactions you have with them and their families,” he says.

In his pulmonary clinic, Wert sees patients with lung ailments and diseases such as emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bronchitis and lung cancer. Smoking is the leading cause of these diseases.

“In the clinic, you get to develop long-term relations with your patients, and that’s very rewarding,” Wert says. “In many cases, they sort of rely on you as their primary care physician and call you about a lot of different problems they have.”

In some cases, where lung cancer is a possibility, Wert orders biopsies and often performs them himself in order to determine if masses are cancerous.

“I don’t like giving bad news over the phone, so I always schedule an appointment in my office a couple days after a biopsy,” he says.

In recent years, research that has led to advanced tumor sequencing and the development of targeted therapy and immunotherapy has changed the way in which lung biopsies are performed.

"Now, we make sure to get as much tissue as possible so our pathologists can test for specific mutations and tailor the patient’s treatment to their specific markers,” Wert says, adding that pathologists are often right there during lung biopsies and can have results within a few hours.

Saving lives through screening

In the OSUCCC – James Lung Cancer Screening Clinic, Wert and his colleagues spread the word about the importance of screenings for at-risk patients. These include men and women who are 55 to 77 and have smoked at least two packs per day for 15 years, or one pack per day for 30 years, as well as ex-smokers with similar smoking histories who have quit within the past 15 years.

“There are so many benefits to catching it early,” Wert says. “In some cases, it can be treated and cured with just surgery, and the patient may not even need chemotherapy.”

Wert is still pitching and playing baseball in a local 35-and-older league. He recently ran his first marathon, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon. “My goal was to finish in under four hours and I made it by about seven minutes,” Wert says.

Click here for more information on the OSUCCC – James Lung Cancer Screening Clinic.
Or call: 614-293-5066 or 800-293-5066.