A Heritage of Healing: Meet Locum Tenens Family Medicine Physician, Dr. Paula Waddy
Some kids want to be professional athletes when they grow up. Others want to be pop music stars. But few turn those childhood dreams into reality.
When she was only four years old, Paula Waddy’s mother sat her down and told her that she had two choices for her future.
“Your great-granddaddy wanted a family of doctors and lawyers. Pick one of the two, and dedicate yourself to helping others,” she said.
Without hesitation, young Paula made her choice: She would be a doctor. We can proudly attest that she truly honored her mother’s wishes. For the past 20 years, Dr. Paula S. Waddy has partnered with Interim Physicians to serve patients across the country as a locum tenens family medicine physician.
Medicine is in Dr. Waddy’s blood. Her journey started with a distant relative who was one of the first African American dentists in Montgomery, Alabama. The healing gene was passed down, inspiring the next two generations of physicians.
In addition to physicians in the family, there are dentists and a few lawyers, too! Paula and her sister excelled in math and science; they volunteered with medical affiliates as candy stripers; they learned CPR, working at the university football games; and eventually, they both attended Auburn University and completed the pre-medicine program.
“I’m so proud to be a family medicine physician,” says Dr. Waddy. “You don’t find many African-American families who can say they have three generations of doctors. But we can, and we take a lot of pride in helping others. That healing gene keeps getting passed on, and locums allows me to make even more of an impact!”
Learning about Locums
Once she completed her first job as an attending physician, Dr. Waddy was ready to start her own practice. But first she needed to secure consistent income. Her best friend, a dentist, recommended seeking out a medical journal to see if there were similar contract opportunities for physicians. That’s when Dr. Waddy learned about “locum tenens,” a practice alternative where physicians accept temporary assignments at healthcare facilities that need temporary healthcare coverage. In 2001, she picked up a medical journal, scanned the listings, found an agency named Interim Physicians, and gave them a call. Twenty years later, Dr. Waddy still works locums assignments for us!
“I will always recommend Interim to my colleagues because of their professionalism, organization, and the quality of the assignments,” Dr. Waddy says. “They take a genuine interest in you, and I’ve experienced different assignments that I never even knew were out there or that I could do. Other assignments I’ve had don’t come close to what I’ve done with Interim!”
For the next few years, Dr. Waddy accepted locums assignments around Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC — in addition to running her own practice.
“I’m very fortunate that my parents helped me start my practice. It was always my dream to have my own office, and they made that dream come true. Then I was able to sustain it all by myself. I was a one-stop-shop: the physician, the nurse, the secretary, the manager… and even the custodian,” she laughs.
Practicing locums offered the flexibility to supplement her income and gave Dr. Waddy a chance to learn the business side of healthcare. She could work independently while meeting new people, visiting new places, and experiencing different cultures. In fact, she loved it so much that she started practicing locum tenens full time.
Throughout her locum tenens journey, Dr. Waddy has mainly accepted assignments in private practices, but she has also worked for corporations; federal, state, and local government; colleges; correctional facilities; and a few hospitals directly. Exploring each of these practice environments has enabled her to develop new skills as a physician and cross dozens of states off her travel bucket list.
“I like trying to help people as much as I can. With locums, I feel like I’ve contributed to society by traveling. I’m not stuck in one place caring for a limited group of people. I’m taking care of multiple groups of people across the country.”
Cherishing & Creating
Locum life offers a chance to explore different parts of the country and embrace your passions outside of medicine. Dr. Waddy encourages all physicians to consider the practice alternative (in fact, she convinced her sister to start practicing locums!).
When choosing her next assignment, Dr. Waddy always tries to honor her mother’s profession as an American History teacher, and she takes assignments near historic sites. She loves learning what’s unique to the area and what happened there in the past.
For each state, Dr. Waddy creates a folder of historic sites, boutiques, and antiques (but she always asks the locals for restaurant recommendations). Once, Dr. Waddy discovered a mom-and-pop Italian place that she visited at least three more times during her assignment because it was THAT good.
As an avid collector, Dr. Waddy has picked up plenty of unique pieces by antiquing through Virginia, following their very own “antique trail map.” There is one particular shop in southwest Virginia that she stumbled upon, and to this day, she continues to shop there for antiques. When she returns for assignments, the owners recognize her and give her a warm welcome.
“If I hadn’t done locums, there are a lot of places I would have never seen and relationships I never would have made. You get to see parts of the country where you never thought you could go, and you get to revisit history, cherishing those roots while creating your own new memories. It’s truly special,” Dr. Waddy smiles.
A Personal and Professional Partnership
Her assignments fit so well because Dr. Waddy’s recruiter, Tina Lenihan (at right), has worked hard to get to know who she is on a personal level, and she keeps her preferences in mind when sorting through open opportunities.
“My favorite part about working with Interim is Ms. Lenihan,” says Dr. Waddy. “She listens, she’s supportive, and she really learns who you are so that she can find assignments that match your needs. She genuinely loves her job. I’ve been with her for two decades, and she’s truly become a close friend. Everyone at Interim is wonderful. They believe in me, and I believe in them.”
Interim Physicians isn’t the only support system for Dr. Waddy; her family plays a crucial role in her continued passion and success.
“My mother and father take a lot of pride in my sister and me. We’re both excellent physicians who have worked extraordinarily hard in our profession and our accomplishments. And we would not be where we are today without their love, support, and sacrifices. We get to live our dreams together because most importantly, we’re carrying on a heritage of healing. My great-grandaddy wanted doctors and lawyers in the family. His wish came true. It’s ours now, too, and I hold it close to my heart.”