Dr. Christopher Sonnier earned his medical degree from the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine. He completed residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Virginia Roanoke-Salem Internal Medicine Program and fellowship in Endocrinology & Metabolism at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine. He went on to complete further training with Endocrine Certification in Neck Ultrasound (ECNU) and sub-specializes in thyroid and parathyroid disorders. He is licensed to practice medicine in multiple states, calling Blacksburg, Virginia his home. Currently, Dr. Sonnier practices Endocrinology, Metabolism, & Thyroidology, as a Locums Tenens provider.
Dr. Sonnier was always drawn to science more so than most other disciplines of study such as mathematics or liberal arts subjects. As far back as high school and in his early college years, he found the complexity of the endocrine system to be fascinating. This is what attracted him to this specialty over all others. All of his training from the start of medical school was always directed toward the end result of doing endocrinology.
Define a locum tenens provider compared to a traditional provider.
A locum, or locum tenens, is a physician who temporarily fulfills the duties of another. For example, a locum tenens physician is a physician who works in the place of the regular physician when that physician is absent, or when a hospital or practice is under staffed. These professionals are still governed by their respective regulatory bodies, despite the transient or freelance nature of their positions. Locums provide a ready means for healthcare organizations to fill positions that are temporarily vacant, while they work to fill the position on a permanent basis. Working as a locum allows a physician to gain experience in a variety of work environments.
Why did I decide to transition to locum tenens care model?
As a physician, Dr. Sonnier travels around the country helping take care of patients in a variety of locations. He enjoys seeing different parts of the country and living in these areas for prolonged periods of time. He believes this is the best way to experience things he would otherwise never know about. Also, he travels extensively when not on an assignment as an endocrinologist, so seeing new places and experiencing new people and cultures is an ongoing theme in his life.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Medicine is a very dynamic field that goes through cycles of change, meaning there are always new challenges to overcome. I like meeting these challenges and working to figure out the best way forward in order to ensure my patients receive the care they need. I have even pursued an MBA in healthcare management as a way to better understand the non-clinical side of medical practice and help my patients in an even more meaningful way.
What’s one trend that excites you?
In recent years, there is a shift to telemedicine that is gradually catching on in all areas of care. This will allow for some patients to have home based visits via a secure video connection.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as a medical provider?
I am organized and have a unique way of reviewing medical data in order to find all the key points of a case over many years in a short amount of time. This makes it easier for me to change from one location to another and pick up with the previous care plan.
As a medical provider, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I actually have to keep up with many things on a regular basis in order to maintain the most current knowledge base. In order to do this in the information age when there is 10,000 times more content put out each year, you need to come up with an approach that will avoid missing important updates. I think this is a concept that could be applied to any line of work or even to everyday life as there is new information coming out in all areas these days.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
Investing in online PR management. As things move more towards a cycle of 24/7 online and social media, I felt it was best to officially improve my online presence. I have always said you can’t believe most of what you read online, so my focus was to build my own content and learn how to control this type of platform to keep it relevant over time. That will avoid all the content that seems to pop out from nowhere through sites I know nothing about and have no direct connection.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Ironically, Microsoft Word is a very helpful program. I use it to create and maintain all the content I use in modern Electronic Medical Records (EMR). About once a year I update everything and keep it on a USB drive in order to take it with me everywhere I go. Consistency in how I do things is key to not missing something, so that is why I work to maintain a constant format that I have used for almost 20 years.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Sleep Revolution
In the past 10 years, the area of sleep health has seen more new and critical findings then most other fields of study during the same period of time. There are actually many endocrine conditions that can be tracked back to an underlying sleep disorder, so it is a key contributing factor to other more serious medical conditions. It is a topic that comes up about once a day during my usual clinical work, though it is not something I treat directly it is still something important to be aware of in order to direct patients to the right provider to address the problem.
What are your interests outside of medicine?
Partly I do locums work as a way to see different parts of the country and live there for prolonged periods of time. I travel extensively when not on an assignment, so seeing new places and experiencing new people / cultures is an ongoing theme in my life. Photography is a major part of all my travels and an ongoing hobby. I also enjoy scuba diving, which takes me too many interesting places. I am considering taking up aviation as my next new hobby. Also, I enjoy learning new things outside of the field of medicine, usually something of a historical nature.
What advice would you give your younger self?
The first point would be to avoid excess student financial debt for my education. That is not an easy obstacle for anyone to overcome. The second point would be to start investing for retirement as young as possible. I did not do this and missed out on over 10 years of retirement saving, while I was focused on lowering my student financial debt. It is difficult to make up for those missing years of saving for retirement after the fact, related to how compounding investment returns actually work.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on?
I think the current system of medical care in the US has many flaws that continue to worsen with each passing year. I think there is an imminent collapse coming to the entire system, but not many people agree with me on this point.