James Bath, MD, stands in front of trees for a photo.
James Bath, MD, of the Lurie Center for Autism at MGHfC

On January 1, 2022, James Bath, MD, a family medicine practitioner who has been based primarily at Mystic Healthcare in Medford, Mass., will transition from traditional family medicine to a full-time role caring exclusively for patients with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other neurodevelopmental disabilities at the Lurie Center for Autism. Meet Bath and how his dedication to the unique needs of autism patients and his compassionate approach to care will make a difference for autism patients, families and caregivers.

“We are so pleased to be able to support Dr. Bath’s move to the Lurie Center and his commitment to providing primary care services to these vulnerable patients and their families,” said Lynn Stofer, president of the Mass General Brigham Community Physicians Organization. “This is an important step for the Center, for Dr. Bath and for Mass General Brigham Community Physicians that will enable him and the Center to provide a more integrated, patient-centered care experience in a community setting.”

“For over a decade we have supported the mission of the Lurie Center to provide family centered specialty care services for individuals with autism. After experiencing the benefit of multidisciplinary autism specialists based in one location, families soon began asking us to add ‘autism-friendly’ primary care services at the Center,” said Ronald Kleinman, MD, Physician-in-Chief of MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC). “To now be able to provide primary care services for autistic patients of all ages at the Center will greatly benefit this underserved population.”

MGHfC: How will your role be different with the expansion?

Bath: By moving to a full-time role, this will allow me to wholly dedicate my efforts to support autism patients, families and caregivers. There will be more time to coordinate care, oversee preventative care and manage chronic illnesses. It will also allow our patients to have a continuous point of contact for their primary care needs.

Why is expanding primary care access to young and adults with ASD so important?

Patients with autism have unique set of needs that are not seen commonly in regular medical practice. As a result, a provider might feel overwhelmed with ASD issues, and routine but important preventative care can fall through the cracks. This may leave ASD patients without important vaccines, lab monitoring or screening tests.

Providers who are very familiar with ASD may also be more aware and sensitive to how difficult medical testing is for ASD patients that many of us consider routine. The extra effort can be made to accommodate the behavioral challenges that may come up and make for a more positive experience for the patient, family and caregivers.

What makes the Lurie Center unique in terms of the care it provides?

The Lurie Center for Autism at MGHfC is wholly dedicated to patients with autism. Everyone on staff understands what make ASD patients unique and allows us to offer the best experience possible. The many years of experience of just being focused on autism and ASD patients has created a unique compendium of knowledge and services difficult to find anywhere else. And all this experience is built on unwavering compassion for our patients and families.

What impact will your expanded calendar have on these patients?

I believe it will allow for far more access and flexibility for patients and families who already have very busy schedules.

What led you to specialize in autism?

At the age of 3, my son was diagnosed with autism. We experienced all the fear and uncertainty that all parents feel when their child is diagnosed with a life-changing diagnosis. Over the years, we met wonderful providers, therapists and teachers who offered invaluable advice and support. I thought that I could couple what I have learned as a parent and a primary care provider to offer something unique to patients and families.

What do you anticipate transitioning to full time at the Lurie Center?

I am excited to dedicate my efforts to providing care to patients with autism. We hope to create a warm, comfortable environment for our patients that offers the full complement of primary care.