At Christian Hospital, Washington University urologist Arnold Bullock, MD, is a men’s health expert, caring for patients with low testosterone, erectile dysfunction and other urologic conditions. Outside of the clinic, he is an advocate for cancer screening, a public health educator and a mentor to local high schoolers. Bullock’s passion for patient care extends far beyond the hospital through true community practice in North St. Louis County.
Bullock partners with Siteman Cancer Center to promote cancer screenings in the community. From food drives to church events, any safe public gathering can be an opportunity to raise awareness or offer screenings. As a Washington University urologist, Bullock is emphatic about the importance of prostate cancer screening.
“We have excellent tools for prostate screening, and, in some parts of St. Louis, participation in screening is very high,” Bullock says. “The trouble is that there is a disparity in who is getting screened. In North St. Louis City and County, and in rural and low-income zip codes, participation in prostate cancer screening is not what it should be. There is clearly an increased incidence of prostate cancer among black men. The only way to improve this disparity is through community education and grassroots efforts. We know that the community will participate if we bring it to them.”
While prostate cancer screening is an important part of Bullock’s message, he takes the opportunity to share information about other conditions, too. From breast cancer to colon cancer, heart disease and poor nutrition, Bullock shares the health information his community needs most.
“You have to talk about the things that are rampant in the community, that can cause us to have a worse outcome from COVID. These are the things that cause us to have a higher mortality rate,” he says.
Bullock does what he does—talking to men’s groups, presenting at churches and partnering with community organizations—not for a paycheck or recognition, but to help people take a more active role in their health.
“I do it because I hope to educate people in the community about how to be better patients,” Bullock says.
What does it mean to be a better patient? According to Bullock, you can be a better patient by knowing the reason for a doctor’s visit, coming with questions prepared and making sure that those questions are answered by the time you leave.
“When you see a doctor, money changes hands. You wouldn’t pay a plumber who didn’t fix your sink, so why would you go to the doctor and not get your questions answered?” Bullock asks. “So part of my mission is to help people be good patients. Any time I’m in the community, it’s an opportunity to explain what you could be doing to take better care of yourself if you want to be here for a lot longer.”
Paying It Forward
Bullock is also a mentor to local high school students. Each year, North County students with an interest in healthcare professions shadow Bullock, learning more about medicine and the careers they could one day attain. No matter what a student wants to do, Bullock encourages them to graduate college as a first step.
“This is some cool stuff we do, caring for people,” Bullock tells his mentees. “You could do this too: medicine, engineering, radiology, nuclear medicine. There are so many careers you don’t know about yet. Getting an education and some training is a great place to start.”
Whether the student wants to become a surgeon, anesthesiologist, hospital administrator or any other medical professional, the experience of shadowing an expert in the field is transformative.
Bullock knows about the value of this type of experience firsthand. For Bullock, it all started in 10th grade. As a high school sophomore, he enrolled in a mentorship program that paired him with a cardiac surgeon. He had the chance to see what it was like to work in a hospital, which helped him imagine himself as a future surgeon.
“I can imagine today how busy his schedule must have been,” Bullock says of his heart surgeon mentor, “but he still took the time to do it.”
Looking back on his life, Bullock is sure that the experience of shadowing a heart surgeon during high school gave him the motivation and confidence to pursue a career in surgery himself. Spending time with high schoolers now seems like a natural way of paying it forward.
“It’s no sweat off my back to spend time with people who want to learn about medicine,” Bullock says. “I’m happy to have them follow me, and I try to give them some advice on what they could do, regardless of what field they go into. I had the privilege of being surrounded by people who gave me exposure to things and set expectations for me when I was young. That’s what I hope to do for people today.”
Everything that Bullock does in his community is in addition to being an accomplished urologist. In 2019, the Christian Hospital Foundation recognized Bullock as a Physician of the Year. The award is given to a Christian Hospital physician for exemplary compassion and commitment, as well as expert knowledge in innovative technologies and therapies. While Bullock is grateful for the recognition, he considers it a collective achievement for all of Washington University Urology at Christian Hospital.
“This means our group is being recognized for the excellent care we deliver day in and day out,” Bullock told Christian Cares Magazine. “There’s an ease of providing the best care to all of our patients, without regard to any other factors.”
Bullock notes that many of his community efforts are also team endeavors. His involvement in prostate cancer screenings and other cancer programs is a partnership with the Program for the Elimination of Cancer Disparities (PECaD) at Siteman Cancer Center. Partnerships with community organizations, such as the Breakfast Club and the Urban League, have helped Bullock and his partners extend their reach in local communities.
In the past year, Bullock has adapted to COVID-19 challenges by participating in virtual PECaD events and men’s health webinars, as well as answering common men’s health questions online. His mission of reaching people where they are has not changed. Bullock hopes to continue expanding his community practice in the coming years, while also maintaining a busy clinical practice.
“My hope is to reach more patients, more students in schools,” Bullock says. “I hope to show people what they can accomplish. Representation in the community is important. It’s important for students to see the face of an African American physician who grew up in a neighborhood like yours, and this is a doable thing.”