Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Center 2023 Physician of the Year, Dr. Paul Braithwaite: “Work hard, be kind, be grateful.”

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Family has always been very important to Dr. Paul Braithwaite. He has fond memories of growing up in a small town in Utah. In fact, his mother still lives in the same house today.

“I can’t overstate the influence my mom and dad have had on my life,” he says. “My mom got a paper route for my brother and me when I was ten years old. My brother was eight. It was priceless to learn how important work is at such an early age. I had that job until I was 18 years old and graduated from high school. I’m one of those odd people who actually enjoys working. I think it’s due in large part to what my parents and my grandpa have instilled in me.”

Braithwaite’s grandfather had a heart transplant when Braithwaite was a freshman in college.

“We were very close, and I was with him all the time,” he recalls. “I enjoyed taking him to his cardiology appointments. His heart transplant motivated me to pursue a career in medicine.”

An Air Force scholarship led Braithwaite to medical school in Kirksville, Missouri. He completed his residency in anesthesiology at the Air Force hospital in San Antonio, Texas. A deployment to Iraq made a lifelong impact.

“It was difficult to be away from my family, but it was also one of the best experiences of my life,” says Braithwaite. “I was assigned to work in the ICU at the Balad Air Base field hospital, about 50 miles north of Baghdad. We had a 24-bed ICU, and we were the hub for the transport of injured American service members who needed to go to Germany, then on to the U.S., for higher levels of medical care.”

As fate would have it, years later, Braithwaite had the opportunity to work again with two fellow anesthesiologists – one from his deployment in Iraq, and one from his residency in San Antonio – at Yavapai Regional.

Braithwaite’s philosophy, when it comes to patient care, stems from his deep desire to help others.

“When I was in residency, it became clear to me that people don’t come to the hospital to have anesthesia. But anesthesia is a necessary part of surgery,” he explains. “It taught me that my job is all about service. We are offering a service to our patient and the surgeon. Having surgery is stressful enough. I’m there to help our patients feel more comfortable.”

“In fact, at Yavapai Regional, everyone – the pre-op nurses, the nurses and techs in the O.R., the surgeons, the nurses in the recovery room – has the same goal: to serve our patients.”

It’s this service-first, compassionate approach that earned Dr. Paul Braithwaite the 2023 Physician of the Year award at Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Center. The award has special meaning because nominations are made by fellow staff and employees.

“It was a surprise and a great honor,” says Braithwaite. “Knowing that this award comes from my colleagues makes me appreciate it even more.”

Not one to bask in the limelight, Braithwaite says, “Staff will now stand up and clap when I enter the room,” he smiles. “They’ll tell our patients that they’re talking to the Physician of the Year. I just joke that all they’re doing is setting up unrealistic expectations.”

During the nominating process, comments from Braithwaite’s colleagues were heartfelt. One person wrote, “He brings consistent patience, courtesy, and calm to pretty much every situation. He is also passionate about caring for our patients and community, supporting the wellbeing of his fellow medical staff members, and working to make Yavapai Regional a better place to both practice and receive care.”

Braithwaite deflects, “All I really want to do is help things run more smoothly.”

Braithwaite’s involvement at Yavapai Regional extends far beyond the operating room. He serves on the Yavapai Regional Medical Center Foundation Board of Directors and is the Medical Staff Secretary/Treasurer of the Medical Executive Committee. He also serves on the Wellness Committee, helping to make systemic improvements and organize events promoting physician wellness and cohesion, with the goal of reducing burnout. Braithwaite is especially proud of the committee’s work in organizing a Physician Peer Support program, with help from Dignity Health’s divisional organizational psychologist.

“I like being involved because I think that’s the only way to really contribute and make a difference,” he states. “I feel very fortunate to be exposed to, and learn from, such a broad group of people across the organization.”

Braithwaite says that his parents instilled a simple, yet lifelong message, “Work hard, be kind, and be grateful.” He now shares the same message with his own family.

“I’ve been married to my wonderful wife Staci for 29 years,” he states proudly. “We have five children and one grandson.”

Staci has the same giving nature as her husband.

“She’s always looking for ways to help. She volunteers with a lot of things – even making dinner for people who are sick, or who have new babies. She’s the mom who is always there, helping out with the different things our kids are involved in.”

An important part of the Physician of the Year designation is a $500 donation made by Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Center to the physician’s charity of choice. Braithwaite and his wife have chosen the Prescott Unified School District Educational Foundation.

“All of our kids attended PUSD schools,” explains Braithwaite. “My mom was a teacher, and our daughter is a teacher. Teachers do so much for our kids. We truly appreciate them.”

From his very early years, through school, military service, career, family, and beyond, Dr. Paul Braithwaite leaves a sense of calm and caring everywhere he goes. It’s this compassionate approach to life that brings him the 2023 Physician of the Year award.

A colleague sums it up for many at Yavapai Regional, “Dr. Braithwaite is a genuinely kind person. He takes pride in his work and has compassion and respect for his patients and for others.”

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