Lobbyist Robb Watters (right) hooks up his friends and political contacts with referrals and medical services. He is on the board of the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates, and is pictured with CEO Stephen Badger (left) and Dr. John Larsen.
They call him Dr. Watters, even though he's not a doctor.
He's a lobbyist for technology and financial interests, but separate from his day job, Robb Watters has gained a reputation as something of a healer — a modern-day medicine man — among ailing Hill staffers, Members and fellow lobbyists.
He is a volunteer board member of the George Washington University Medical Faculty Associates and stays on call 24/7 to make doctor recommendations and sometimes line up hard-to-get medical appointments for friends and acquaintances on the Hill and off.
"Finding good health care is a daunting task," said Watters, who is managing partner of the Madison Group. "If anyone calls me, if you're in pain, it doesn't matter what time it is, I feel it's my obligation to help them."
There are a lot of ways to win friends and influence people on Capitol Hill. Most lobbyists go the route of raising money for Members or hosting swanky events to honor them. Watters, of course, has done that, too.
But his physician connections and medical savvy have helped win Watters enormous goodwill on the Hill and downtown in a way that perhaps no other K Streeter can. Still, Watters points out, there is a downside to intervening in people's medical care. When they end up dissatisfied, they are happy to give "Dr. Watters" an earful.
Not to mention all the unfortunate symptoms and heartbreaking disease stories he becomes privy to. But mostly, Watters has a trail of happy customers who credit the lobbyist with everything from clearing up their skin to curing their seasonal allergies to saving their lives. The medical faculty associates, likewise, give him glowing reviews for helping them grow the nonprofit practice.
"I have a long list of health problems of a guy in his late 40s," said one Democratic Senate aide, who has followed Watters' physician recommendations. "I was talking about an ailment one day, and he hears me talking and says, 'You should go see so-and-so.' I was like, 'What's your affiliation with GW?' It strikes me as a vocation."
Watters recommended a dermatologist. "She was fantastic," the aide said. He saw other doctors in the practice based on Watters' suggestions. "Frankly, I started calling him Dr. Watters. Not only is he a concierge for GW medical associates, in a previous life he must have been a physician."
This Senate aide originally met Watters through the aide's boss, a Senator. "He occasionally brings some client work in," the aide said. "It's very limited." As for whether the aide feels a debt to Watters: "There's nothing attached."
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