Three Northwest Arkansas doctors in ONE family: Meet the Weathers

weathers doctor group2It’s not uncommon to feel like you’re being treated “like family” when you’re at Mercy, but there are three doctors in Northwest Arkansas who take that “family” thing pretty literally.

Meet Dr. Larry Weathers, Dr. Lance Weathers and Dr. Tiffany Weathers — a father/son/daughter team of specialists at Mercy whose bonds are not only biological but professional, too.

Since it’s so unusual to find three doctors in one family working for the same health provider, today we’re taking a look at the family dynamics in this trio of specialists in Northwest Arkansas.

larry weathers dad graphicWhat is it like to have your kids turn into work colleagues?

It is fun watching them be great physicians!

Did anything in their childhood make you think that your kids might be destined for a career in medicine?

No, other than they were exposed to medicine as little children. They were in the clinic after school and they made rounds with me in hospital on the weekends.

flexibilityWhat’s the one thing you wish more people knew that would help them improve their heart health or keep it healthy long-term?

Medical studies have found that there’s a link between how flexible you are and your risk of heart disease. So stay as flexible as a 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7-year-old child.

lance weathers son graphicHow did your dad’s career influence your decision to go into medicine? What was it about his work that fascinated you?

heart modelI was always with him as a kid. I used to wake up on Saturdays and go sit in his truck while he made rounds.  I spent a lot of time playing with echo machines, heart models, and stethoscopes — probably not normal toys for a kid. :-) I know those experiences probably had to influence my fascination.

What are family dinners like at your house with 3 doctors at the table? Do you “talk shop” or do you leave the medicine at the clinic?

razorback logoMom doesn’t like cell phones or “doctor talk” at the table. We usually talk sports (Razorbacks, of course) or we talk about the grand-kids.

My office is on the same hall as my dad’s office, which is a very unique situation in cardiology. There are not many father and son combinations in this field of medicine.

What would an ideal day at work look like for you?

Make a difference with one person. It’s the starfish approach. But you never know which one it’s going to be!

What new medical advancements in cardiology do you get most excited about?

That’s what drew me to cardiology — the ever-changing technology. And cardiology really does change daily.

tiffany weathers daughter graphicHow did your dad’s career influence your decision to go into medicine? What was it about his work that interested you?

Basically, if I wanted to spend time with my Dad growing up, I went to make rounds or went to the Cath lab with him. I met the families when he would make rounds and I saw that he was making a difference. He has the most amazing work ethic I’ve ever seen, and his bedside manner with patients is so kind and calming.

With a father and a brother in cardiology, what was it about gynecology and obstetrics that drew you into that specialty versus cardiology?

I think that with Cardiology, people either have poor genetics and/or poor habits that cause them to have heart disease. Most of the time when my Dad was called to see them, they were dying. It was difficult for me to cope with people dying everyday. No matter what you do, people die from heart attacks. I have the newborn babyutmost respect for my father and brother. They both have amazing hands in the Cath lab.

Obstetrics and gynecology drew me in because I was able to assist with bringing life into the world. It’s such an amazing honor.

What do you wish more pregnant women understood about pregnancy and/or childbirth?

I wish more women would discuss questions with their doctors and not believe all of the information they see on blogs on the Internet.

pregnancyBeing pregnant is actually a 9-month “adaptation period” where your body is expected to perform and develop another human with major hemodynamic changes. You have an increase in cardiac output, sodium and water retention, leading to blood volume expansion, with reductions in systemic vascular resistance and systemic blood pressure. This enables optimal growth for the fetus and protects the mother from hemorrhage, complications and death.

Young healthy women without any medical problems usually do well. The problem is that there are diseases of pregnancy such as pre-eclammpsia, for example, that we as doctors still don’t fully understand. Pre-eclampsia can happen to anyone and has major complications that can lead to seizures, stroke and ultimately death. It’s also a disease that can happen within the “blink of an eye.”

What are the advantages of having three doctors in the family? Would your other family members say that there are any drawbacks of having three doctors in the family?

It’s an honor to work together at Mercy because we often share patients and we can discuss difficult clinical cases.

It’s also beneficial to have people that understand how difficult it is to practice medicine and try to maintain a healthy work-life balance. We sacrifice a great deal of things for this profession and many times our own families do not come first. This is probably why I don’t know many families that have three physicians who are all currently still practicing medicine.

Our thanks to Drs. Larry, Lance and Tiffany Weathers for answering our questions and for their continued service to patients throughout Northwest Arkansas.

To contact Dr. Larry Weathers or Dr. Lance Weathers, call the Cardiology clinic at 479-338-4400. To contact Dr. Tiffany Weathers, call the Women’s Clinic at 479-338-4000. Click HERE to visit the Mercy website.

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Q&A with Pediatrician Dr. Susan Demirel

pediatrician sliderOne of our favorite things to do is pick the brain of a real expert on children’s health. We always learn so much when we do. Here’s a recent question and Susan_Demirel_1154647238answer session we had with a local pediatrician at Mercy  — Dr. Susan Demirel. She offers some valuable insights on which problems concern her most about today’s kids, what to look for when you’re Googling your kid’s symptoms (yes, we do that, too) and some sweet thoughts about the best part of her job as a pediatrician. Read and enjoy.

What’s the most challenging part of being a pediatrician today?

Seeing a child suffering is, by far, the hardest part of my job. The second hardest part is seeing his or her parents suffering through the illness with them. For better or worse, I have a huge sense of empathy that often leads to sleepless nights hurting for the families I work with but also leads to incredible relationships with that family.

What pediatric health problems concern you most about today’s kids?

stethescope-tealPreventable ones. There are so many horrible things in this life we have no control over. However, there are some major health concerns in the pediatric population that we can not only do something about but we can prevent entirely. A few examples are the child who keeps having extreme asthma attacks that are triggered by smoke exposure, safety issues like never leaving your child around any sort of water unsupervised (bathtub and toilet included), and various forms of obesity.

What do you wish more parents understood about keeping their kids healthy?

I wish more parents understood that Antibiotics aren’t the answer to keeping their kids healthy. Sometimes they help – a lot. However, many times antibiotics don’t help at all and can even cause harm if they aren’t needed. For example, Viral upper respiratory tract infections (colds) can be miserable for anyone (and even last up to two weeks!) but not even the strongest antibiotic will do any good if the child has a viral infection and not a bacterial infection.

What are pediatricians and their nurses doing to help decrease the fear that some kids feel about going to the doctor?

Going to the doctor can be really scary – for children and adults alike! There are several things, as pediatricians, we try to do to put the kids at ease. Most of my partners and I don’t wear our white coat because that is often intimidating and scary for young children. We try to stay positive and encouraging all while Doc_McStuffins2being honest with the kids. There are little tricks to the trade to establish good rapport and put them at ease (i.e. a blood pressure cuff is “giving a little hug” to their arm) that we use pretty consistently. While it is often very age appropriate to have some stranger anxiety, we are usually able to become fast friends with the kids which usually helps a lot. Also, I don’t promote a lot of TV watching but Doc McStuffins sure has helped ease many little girls’ fears of the doctor’s office!

As you know, moms get worried and tend to Google their child’s symptoms. In what situations do you advise parents to do their own research and when does that sometimes cause problems?

Having well educated parents who are invested in their child’s health is priceless! However, most clinics have an on call line to call 24/7 if something is really worrying the mother. However, if a mom absolutely must Google, a good generality is to avoid the “.com” websites. Try to stick more with the “.org” or “.gov”. And if you plan on visiting your doctor after Googling, remember that your doctor and nurses have had years of experience and education addressing these issues – things that the internet just can’t offer. That being said, moms also have a sixth sense about their own child if something just doesn’t feel right. So, don’t be afraid to express your concerns and gestalt feeling about the situation when you do go to the doctor.

Is there a good rule-of-thumb for deciding when a child is contagious and when he’s not?

Every infection is a little different. However, typically when the child has not had a fever (without using Motrin or Tylenol) for over 24 hours, are feeling back to themselves and drinking well, it is typically safe to go back to school. However, every infection is a little bit different, so feel free to ask your doctor about specific conditions and their contagiousness.

Are there any current trends that are impacting the way pediatric medicine is practiced today?

The practice of medicine is always changing. Currently there have been a lot of changes with documentation requirements, Electronic medical records, insurance reimbursements, and billing and coding changes. However, the foundation of pediatrics has not changed – as the American Academy of Pediatrics states, our mission is to attain optimal physical, mental and social health and well-being for all infants, children, adolescents and young adults

What are the best parts about your work as a pediatrician?

The smiles. And hugs. And little drawings my patients make for me. The kids are and always will be the best part of my job. It is rare that I leave a clinic room not smiling from the sweet child I was just blessed to care for.

Our sincere thanks to Dr. Susan Demirel for answering our questions! Click HERE to read more about the pediatric clinic at Mercy.

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Different Ways to See a Mercy Doc

Mamas, we know how tough it can be to get yourself or a sick kid to a doctor’s appointment, and it’s especially tricky when you need to do it during one of the busiest months of the year. Thankfully, accessibility to doctors and nurses is getting better all the time, thanks in part to the increased use of technology in doctors’ offices.

If you, your husband or one of the kids need to see a doctor pronto, here’s a run-down of some of the different ways you can get a Mercy doctor’s attention in a hurry.

stethescope-tealOption 1: Call the clinic directly. (We all know there are some days of the week and times of the day when phone lines will be busier than usual, so avoid those times if possible.

Option 2: Call the “Doctor Finder” phone line at 1-888-338-3885.  When you call the number, you get access to ALL available doctor schedules. (This method eliminates the need to call several different clinics to see which one can get you an appointment the quickest.)

Option 3: Use the Mercy website to send a message to a scheduler who will then contact you. The perks of this method are that you can do it anytime — including the middle of the night, weekends and holidays, too.

Option 4: Be a walk-in at the Convenient Care clinic. It’s located on Highway 102 (or 14th Street) in Bentonville. It’s open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day of the week. To avoid longer wait times, try to get there before 9 a.m. if possible.

Option 5: Do an E-Visit. This option is available for adults and kids, but it’s only for “non-urgent” medical conditions. The good news is you can do it anywhere you have Internet access.

When you do an E-visit, you just answer a series of online questions about your symptoms and then the doctor recommends a treatment plan. (It costs about the same as a typical office visit co-pay.)

Here’s a list of the kinds of non-urgent conditions that might be addressed with an E-visit.

  • Cough
  • HeartburnMERCY2
  • Back pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache
  • Red eye
  • Sinus issues
  • Urinary problems
  • Vaginal discharge

If you’re on the fence about whether or not what you or your child has is something that requires a doctor’s visit, here’s a good way to figure it out. Call the Nurse On Call number (1-855-530-5300). You’ll be able to talk to a trained, experienced nurse who can help you decide whether or not to go in for a visit or wait a little longer for the problem to resolve on its own.

But… be aware that doctors say that if you or your child has body aches with a fever that’s 101.5, it’s best to see a doctor asap. (If you have an emergency that absolutely can’t and shouldn’t wait, be aware that the new ER department at Mercy’s Bella Vista facility tends to have much shorter waiting times than other ER units. The Bella Vista facility is just a minute off the bypass in Bella Vista so it’s easy to find.)

Here’s hoping that everyone in your family stays healthy this month so that you won’t need any of these options. But if you do, it’s good to know what’s available and the quickest way to get help and get back on your feet.

New Neonatology Unit at Mercy

We were thrilled to hear the news about the new neonatology unit at Mercy Hospital in Rogers. Having specialists and the best medical equipment on hand for babies and moms is a BIG deal. Moms of newborns in Northwest Arkansas shouldn’t need to travel outside the area to find the best care.

mercy-level-ii-neonatal-intensive-care-northwest-arkansas-70751391722352We asked the new neonatologists on staff at Mercy to answer a few questions about this new area of expertise now offered at the hospital.

What is a neonatologist? How is this type of doctor different than a regular pediatrician?

A neonatologist is a physician who specializes in the care of sick or preterm infants or infants born with congenital anomalies. A neonatologist has completed extra training beyond a pediatric residency and focuses only on newborns.

 Do neonatologists work hand-in-hand with pediatricians?

Yes! A baby will often be under the care of a neonatologist while in the NICU but transferred to a pediatrician after he/she has improved and is almost ready to be discharged. A pediatrician also follows babies after they go home from the hospital.

Why did Mercy feel it was important to build a state-of-the-art neonatology department?

Kimberly_Thornton_1922272426

Dr. Kimberly Thornton

Many preterm and sick newborns will spend extended lengths of time in the hospital. This can be challenging and stressful for families, especially if their newborn needs to be transported and cared for at another facility, hours away. Mercy recognized the need for our families to have their newborn infants cared for close to home. This way the family can be present and participate in the care of their infants and still have other family members nearby for support during such a stressful time.

Who are the new doctors who have joined the hospital as part of the new neonatology unit?

Kimberly Thornton, MD and Wayne Stillick, MD (pictured on the right)

Wayne_Stillick_1457344285

Dr. Wayne Stillick

If you’re healthy and have an uncomplicated pregnancy, is it still important to choose a hospital with a good neonatology unit? Why?

Yes! Pregnancy and the birth of a child is a delicate and serious condition for both the mother and baby. An emergency or unexpected complication is always a possibility, and it’s important to have the appropriate means available to care for both mother and baby should an unplanned event occur. It should also be reassuring for the patient and family to know that they are prepared for anything.

Our thanks to Dr. Thornton and Dr. Stillick for answering our questions! Click HERE to read more about the new neonatology unit on the Mercy website.

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Healthy Mama: Breast Cancer News

Breast cancer is something moms must always stay up-to-speed on, so we did a question and answer session with Dr. James Irwin of Mercy Health. Dr. Irwin is a board certified surgeon who did his Master’s thesis on cancer research. He is also the son of a breast cancer survivor who underwent bilateral mastectomies during her fight against the disease.

Recent reports have confused me about how often I should get a mammogram. What’s the current recommendation on how frequently I should have this test?

Certainly the reports are confusing and differ depending on where you look. I follow the recommendations from the American Cancer Society, which are yearly mammograms starting at the age of 40 and continual as long as the woman is in good overall health. These are also the recommendations that are supported by the American College of Surgeons.

What is dense breast tissue and how does it affect screenings for breast cancer?

Dense breast tissue is normal breast tissue that can contain more connective tissue or breast ducts and lobules. There are many things that can influence the presence of dense breast tissue. A few of these are age, genetics, hormone use, and which phase of menses a woman is in. Dense breast tissue can make screening mammography more difficult. Therefore, it is felt that mammography may be best performed within the first two weeks after menses (monthly cycle) has started. In women who have dense breasts, supplemental screening techniques, such as whole breast ultrasound, may be used for better detection.

self examI panic anytime I feel anything in my breast tissue, which makes me want to avoid doing the self-exams. Are some lumps or bumps normal in healthy breasts?

Most lumps and bumps in the breast are usually normal and can come and go in response to the natural hormones in a woman’s body. The only advice I can give on self-exams is get instruction on how to do a proper self-exam. Know how your breasts feel and recognize changes that occur in your normal cycle. By knowing how your own breasts feel on a regular basis, you are more able to detect possible harmful changes.

What are the latest advancements in the detection and treatment of breast cancer?

Detection techniques have been improved with the age of digital, high-definition mammography. The use of MRI has also allowed for better detection in high risk women and in women who are already diagnosed with breast cancer. Computer-aided detection (CAD) can be used on digital mammography. The use of genetics and hormone testing on tumors are advancements in treatment that allow for targeted therapy as well as calculation of risk of recurrence.

I have a friend who hasn’t had a mammogram because she says that breast cancer doesn’t “run in her family.” Is there always a hereditary link with this disease?

No. Less than 10% of all breast cancers are related to an inherited genetic mutation. Therefore the vast majority of breast cancers are related to non-inherited factors. My advice is tell your friend to go get her mammogram.

Over the years, how has the prognosis changed for a woman with breast cancer who has detected the disease early?

Over the years, the incidence of breast cancer has increased. This has been because of the increased screening for breast cancer. Yet while the numbers have increased, the amount of breast cancers we are finding at earlier stages has increased. And prognosis for a woman with early stage disjames irwinease is almost always going to be much better than finding breast cancer at a more advanced stage. Also, as we come to know this disease better through research, we are able to better tailor our treatments to the needs of individual women.

Our thanks to Dr. Irwin for taking time out of a very busy schedule to answer our questions. For more information on breast cancer, mammograms and other women’s health issues, visit the Mercy website or schedule an appointment with your physician.

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