Attend Therapy Central’s Open House on June 11

Meriter–UnityPoint Health is very excited to announce that our new Therapy Central clinic is complete at 1414 S. Park Street, Madison.

The clinic will start treating patients on May 29. This new facility combines:
• Orthopedic physical and occupational therapy
• Neuro physical, occupational and speech therapy
• Specialty services: hand therapy, pelvic floor therapy, and treatment for lymphedema, balance and falls, concussion, vestibular issues and mobility assessment services.

We invite you to join us on Wednesday, June 11 from 4-6 pm for an open house to tour the new location, meet the therapy staff, enter to win a fitness prize and enjoy refreshments.

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Super Foods for Super Kids Event

Have trouble getting your little one to eat right? Join Meriter–UnityPoint Health dietitians and pediatricians for a kid-friendly afternoon with a super hero twist! You’ll learn about the benefits of adding super foods into your family’s diet, watch a demonstration on how to make a yummy blueberry salsa and get tips for picky eaters. Your kids will have a chance to try some healthy snacks and make super hero crafts.

Register ahead of time, or just stop by the DreamBank, located right on the Capitol Square, during your trip to the Dane County Farmer’s Market on Saturday.

Location: DreamBank (1 North Pinckney)

Date and time: May 31 from 10am-1pm

Cost: Free!

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Dr. Dana Johnson: Get Kids Engaged With the Outdoors

There are several wonderful state parks that are just a short drive from Madison, and some activities you can enjoy at these parks are hiking, fishing, biking, picnicking and canoeing.

Originally published on May 14, 2014, in the Wisconsin State Journal. Dr. Johnson is a pediatrician practicing at the Meriter McKee clinic.

Dear Dr. Johnson: What is the best way to get children active outdoors?

Dear Reader: For most young children, the best way to get them to be active outside is to simply take them there. Some older children may take a bit of coaxing but will often enjoy themselves once there.

I feel that many children (and adults) are nature deprived. So many of our daily activities are done inside and our lives can become so busy that getting outdoors and just playing is not always a high priority. Fresh air and exploring the world around us can be so beneficial to children and adults alike. We also tend to be more physically active when outdoors than indoors.

The National Park Trust has designated May 17, 2014 as “Kids to Parks Day.” “The goal is to engage kids across the country with parks and public lands to promote environmental stewardship and healthy outdoor living.” Thousands of families have already pledged to go to a park on May 17. More information about this event can be found at

If you haven’t already explored them, there are several wonderful state parks that are just a short drive from Madison. Some that my family has explored are Devil’s Lake, Blue Mound and Kettle Moraine. Some activities we have enjoyed at these parks are hiking, fishing, biking, picnicking and canoeing. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources offers the Wisconsin Explorer program where children can complete a booklet while at state parks, forests, trails and recreation areas and earn a patch. Just stop at the ranger station for more information or go to A list of park locations, activities and other information about Wisconsin State Parks can be found at

If you have a bit more time for a drive, the national parks are a great destination. They also offer activities for children to earn patches or badges through the Junior Ranger program. My son has enjoyed filling his National Park passport book with stamps from the various national parks we have visited.

If driving to a state or national park isn’t a possibility for this weekend, don’t forget that in Madison we are fortunate to have many great area parks and lakes. Some offer nature trails. Small children love playing on playground equipment. Older children might enjoy shooting some hoops with a basketball or playing catch.

Don’t forget the sunscreen and bug spray. Also wear appropriate shoes for walking and bring water to keep hydrated. But most importantly, get out and enjoy the great outdoors!

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Mammography Now Offers Extended Hours


For your convenience, we are now offering evening hours for our mammography services at Meriter Monona. Mammography is currently the most effective way to detect breast cancer early – when it is most treatable. In fact, mammograms show changes in the breast up to two years before a woman and her physician can feel them.

Our professional technologists will tailor the mammogram to fit your individual needs. We want to provide you with a positive mammography experience.

Bone density scans are also available at Meriter Monona, you can save time by scheduling your mammogram and bone density scan during the same visit.   

Mammography saves lives, call to schedule your screening mammogram
and bone density scan today (608) 417-6288.

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What does Skin Cancer Look Like?

When outside, apply a sun screen of SPF 30+ every two hours, wear hats and clothing that cover your skin and greatly limit your amount of exposure to the sun during the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

By: Dr. Jeffrey Larson, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, affecting nearly one in five individuals. Sadly, my practice frequently involves reconstructive surgery following the removal of skin cancer.

Treatment of skin cancer begins with you! Once a month, it is important to do a self-exam of your own skin, moles and blemishes. Intuition may tell you to check more often, but checking once a month will make it easier to see if a spot has undergone a change and needs to be examined by your doctor.

The next component of skin cancer treatment and prevention is a regular visit to your primary care provider. Any concerning areas should be shown to them; they will be able to tell you if a mole or skin growth has suspicious characteristics and needs to be evaluated by a dermatologist. In general, you should consider having a skin check by your primary care doctor once a year. If there is a family history of skin cancer or melanoma, or you, personally, have had skin cancer, more frequent checks may be necessary.

There are many different types of skin cancer, some of which can be life-threatening. To protect your health, it is essential to catch skin cancer early. What skin-lesion and mole characteristics should cause concern? The acronym is simple: ABCDE.

A. Asymmetry – One side of the lesion is not like the other side.
B. Border – The border of the lesion is irregular or poorly defined.
C. Color – There is no certain color that is worse than another. However, if one lesion has multiple colors (shades of tan, black, brown), this may be a reason for concern.
D. Diameter – If the diameter of a lesion is more than 6 mm (or larger than a pencil eraser), this may be a worrisome lesion.
E. Evolving – If you have one mole that looks different from the rest, or appears to have changed, have a doctor look at it.

In the event that skin cancer is diagnosed, there are a variety of treatments that range from topical creams to cryotherapy (“freezing” the lesion with liquid nitrogen) to removing the lesion surgically. The treatment depends on the type of cancer that is diagnosed and where it’s located. A dermatologist will be able to counsel you regarding the best course of action.

In the event that skin cancer is surgically removed and the area is large or in a highly visible location, like the face or neck, reconstruction may be performed by a plastic surgeon. Reconstructive plastic surgery can repair and camouflage skin cancer excision wounds. Each patient and treatment is different. The area may be reconstructed using other tissue around the area (commonly referred to as a local flap) or with skin from somewhere else on the body (a skin graft). More complex reconstructions also exist depending on the needs of the patient. As a plastic surgeon, my goal is to perform a successful reconstruction that matches your native skin as closely as possible.

Of course, no treatment is better than prevention. The leading cause of skin cancer is UV radiation from the sun. When outside, apply a sun screen of SPF 30+ every two hours, wear hats and clothing that cover your skin and greatly limit your amount of exposure to the sun during the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you have a lesion you’re concerned about, call your doctor and have it examined.

Learn more about Meriter Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.
Learn more about the Meriter Dermatology Clinic.

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Tee Up for Men’s Health

​Meriter–UnityPoint Health invites you for an evening of golf analysis and discussion about men’s health. Although you may prefer to avoid the doctor at all costs, we promise this will be a casual opportunity to ask questions and improve your game.

On Thursday, June 26 from 6-8 pm, join us for golf swing analysis, 3 course dinner and entry into a $5,000 putting contest* at Blackhawk Country Club for only $25.

Location: Blackhawk Country Club
Date and time: June 26 from 6-8 pm
Cost: $25


Register today

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Learn About Food Allergy Safety with The BugaBees

Whether you know a child who has food allergies or you want to learn about how to keep them safe, you don’t want to miss two free events presented by local author Amy Recob, of the popular book series The BugaBees: Friends with Food Allergies, and Meriter-UnityPoint Health allergists and dietitians.

Passport to Food Allergy Awareness
Saturday, May 17
Time: 10:00 a.m. – noon
Location: Madison Central Library, 201 W. Mifflin St, Madison, WI 53703

Millions of children around the world are living with food allergies. This free event is for anyone who happens to be, or simply knows, one of them! Siblings, classmates, friends and family will all benefit from a variety of activities including arts and crafts, story time with author Amy Recob and Q&A opportunities with Meriter board-certified allergists.

“I know firsthand that living with a child who has a food allergy can be stressful and overwhelming at times,” says Amy Recob, author. “Having the ability to attend fun and educational events like this one is important. Not only is it a chance for my child to see she’s not alone, it’s also an opportunity for her friends and family to gain valuable information that will ultimately keep her safe and healthy.”

Allergy-Free Snacks with The BugaBees
Saturday, May 24
Time: 10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Location: DreamBank, 1 N. Pinckney St, Madison, WI 53703

You don’t want to miss another special appearance by local author Amy Recob. In her book series, The BugaBees offer an optimistic approach to managing food allergies by focusing on all the things kids can – as opposed to can’t – have. Elaborating on Amy’s whimsical stories, Meriter dietitians and allergists will also help parents learn more about food allergies and teach kids how to make a tasty, peanut-free snack.

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Do You Know the Signs of Stroke?

Stroke is the leading cause of long-term disability and the 4th leading cause of death for adults in the US. Approximately 800,000 strokes occur each year. The good news is up to 80% of strokes are preventable; learn the signs and symptoms of a stroke and act FAST.

F is for facial weakness; the face feels numb or frozen, especially on one side.
A is for arm weakness; the weakness can be particularly noticeable on one side.
S is for speech problems; the person is unable to speak or understand clearly.
T is for time; the faster a stroke victim gets treatment, the less damage is caused to the brain.

Someone having a stroke may also experience dizziness, loss of coordination, difficulty walking, nausea or vomiting, sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes or have a severe headache with no known cause.

“If you experience any of the symptoms listed above, you could be having a transient ischemic attack or TIA, sometimes called a ‘ministroke,’” explains Meriter-UnityPoint Health Neurologist, Ross Levine, MD, FAHA, FAAN. “This is a warning sign that you might have a full stroke. Prompt treatment of a TIA may help prevent a stroke in the future.”

Quick Facts about Stroke
• Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke
• Every 3-4 minutes, someone in the United States dies from a stroke
• Approximately 15% of strokes are preceded by a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA)
• About half of patients who experience a TIA fail to report it to their health care provider

Stop Stroke
Through recognition and management of risk factors and lifestyle changes, up to 80% of strokes can be prevented. Stroke factors that can be controlled include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, tobacco use, alcohol use (drinking more than 2 drinks per day) and obesity/excessive weight.

Know the Signs
If you or a loved one has symptoms of a stroke, time is critical. Our trained experts in Meriter’s emergency department (ED) are available 24 hours-a-day to care for an emergency.

If you have experienced a stroke, Meriter has a full team of professionals to assist with your recovery including neurologists, rehabilitation medicine physicians and therapy specialists. The team provides a full array of consultative, diagnostic, treatment and case management services for both inpatients and outpatients.

Knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke could save lives, call 911 and don’t delay – time is critical to prevent a stroke.

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Five Things to Know About Mammograms

Talk to your health care provider to determine your screening schedule.

By: Lucinda Prue, Mammography Technologist

Over the last couple of years there has been some misleading information in the media concerning screening mammograms. How old should you be to have a mammogram? How often should you schedule the examination?

Although this is an important conversation to have with your health care provider here are a few facts from a website supported by the American College of Radiology, the Society of Breast Imaging and the American Society of Breast Disease:

  • Mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by nearly 30% since 1990.
  • The 10 year risk for breast cancer in a 40-year-old woman is 1 in 69.
  • Of all the years of life saved by mammography, 40% are for women in their 40’s.
  • ¾ of women diagnosed with breast cancer have no family history of the disease and are not considered at risk.
  • Even for women age 50+, a mammogram every other year could miss up to 30% of breast cancers.

For additional information visit

Annual mammograms can detect breast cancer early – when it is most treatable.
In fact, mammograms show changes in the breast up to two years before a woman or her physician can feel them. Mammograms can also prevent the need for extensive treatment for advanced cancers and improve chances of breast conservation.

Current guidelines from the American College of Radiology, the American Cancer Society and the Society for Breast Imaging recommend that women at average risk for breast cancer receive yearly mammograms starting at age 40 – even if they have no symptoms or family history of breast cancer. Women with a strong family history of breast cancer are at an increased risk for developing the disease and may want to begin screening mammography before age 40.

Talk to your health care provider to determine your screening schedule. Deciding when to stop yearly screening for mature women should also be decided by you and your health care provider.

Meriter offers screening mammography at the Monona Clinic. The technologists who perform the examination are compassionate as well as highly trained professionals. Be assured that your mammogram will be tailored to meet your individual needs providing you with a positive experience.

To schedule your screening mammogram call 608-417-6288.

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Four Ways to Improve Your Health and Wellness

Find a satisfying and enjoyable way to add physical activity to your daily routine such as gardening or playing with your kids.

By: Marta Staple, APNP at Meriter West Washington

Healthy living. Wellness. Good health.

We hear these terms all the time. We wish for good health for one another and for our children.

We strive for our own wellness. We talk about making healthy choices at the grocery store. We hear these terms on the radio, on the television, at home, at work, in the doctor’s office. But what do “health” and “wellness” really mean?

Is it simply the absence of disease that will provide all of us with good health, or is there something more? The World Health Organization (WHO) boldly defined health in 1948, saying that “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” That sounds like a pretty tall order. I mean, “complete physical, mental and social wellbeing…”?

How do you do that? Who has time for that?

But the truth is, it is reasonable to expect health this good, good thing for ourselves! Even busy women, tired women, parenting women, working women; women can achieve health through making health a priority and committing to that priority. You can start on your road to wellness by creating a plan that includes:

  1. Quiet Time. Create time for yourself every day, if only 10 minutes. Turn off the phone, the computer, the TV. Put down the dishes. Hand your responsibilities to someone else for a few minutes. Be quiet, take a walk, think. Calm your mind. Simply creating time for yourself will help you manage your stress and increase your energy.
  2. Well Balanced Eating. It’s hard to know where to start, or to even know if your diet needs help. Use these simple guidelines: make ½ of every meal plant based foods, avoid sugars and processed food, and keep high fat foods as a rare treat instead of a daily item. Maintain a food diary on paper or through a smartphone app, which will keep you accountable to yourself for every last little cookie. Minimize restaurant food. As much as possible, make your own food from whole food ingredients.
  3. Get Active. Find a satisfying and enjoyable way to add physical activity to your daily routine. Remember that gardening, hiking, skiing, kayaking, running, snowshoeing, playing with kids, and long walks with a friend or partner are all forms of exercise that rewards not only your body but your soul. When you enjoy your activity, you are much more likely to stick with it. Make a goal of 30 minutes of activity 5 days a week. Make a goal of getting just a little bit of sweat on your upper lip.
  4. Avoid the Bad. If you smoke, become motivated to quit! Keep your alcohol consumption to moderate amounts, like 1 drink per day with a meal. Find a good bedtime routine and stick to it, so you can get all the rest you need. Dump the relationships that make you feel bad.

These practical ideas might help you think of your own ways to get started on your road to health. On the other hand, these practical ideas might just sound like someone else’s ideas, and not something that fits with your life. Don’t forget that your healthcare provider does not just help keep you free from disease; healthcare providers are also great at helping you create your own individualized plan for health. Meriter offers many great educational programs, mind-body wellness courses, and exercise and diet classes to help you achieve the health goals that are right for you. Talk to your healthcare provider to create a plan that works for you. Make this a priority, because you deserve good health.

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How to Manage Daily Activities While Living with Arthritis

Contrary to popular belief, low to moderate exercise, including stretching and light strengthening, may help improve arthritis pain.

By: Dr. Amy Franta, Orthopedic Surgery

May is National Arthritis Month! Until I hit middle age, I don’t think I truly understood the impact that arthritis has on the millions of Americans who suffer from it. While my aches and pains simply mean a little stiffness in the morning, for many who suffer from arthritis the disabling pain and stiffness make even the simplest daily activities challenging. This month recognizes the importance of diagnosis, new treatments and research for arthritis.

Arthritis is a condition that can affect any joint in the body. It is generally characterized by inflammation within the joints due to the loss of cartilage, the smooth slippery covering at the ends of the bones where two bones meet. This leads to pain and stiffness of the joints. For those suffering from arthritis, it can be challenging to manage the pain and stiffness and lead an active and healthy lifestyle.

Although there is currently no cure for arthritis, there are many options for managing the symptoms. These options can range from making simple changes to your everyday life to joint replacement surgery. Joint replacement surgery is typically considered only after all other options fail.

Here are a few tips for making everyday activities more manageable:

  • Moderate exercise. Contrary to popular belief, low to moderate exercise, including stretching and light strengthening, may help improve arthritis pain
  • Over the counter medications. Prior to starting any medications, even over the counter medications, it is important to talk to your doctor.
  • Warm moist heat including hot showers or warm packs. According to the Arthritis Foundation, heat therapy should be limited to 15 minutes up to three times a day.
  • Ice packs. Ice packs or cold therapy should be limited to 15 minutes up to four times a day.
  • Weight management. Even slight reductions in weight can improve arthritis pain.
  • Walking aids-cane or walker. Assisted devices can relieve the sore joint leading to improvements in pain. Use canes in the hand opposite of the sore joint.
  • Stress reduction and relaxation. Sore joints need rest. Listen to your body when it is time to relax.

Be aware of the symptoms of arthritis, and talk to your doctor about what diagnostic and treatment options might be right for you. Learn more about Meriter’s Orthopedic Program today.

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Network of Support for Opiate Abusers is Needed

This article was originally published on April 23, 2014 in the Wisconsin State Journal.

Regarding recent coverage of heroin use, as addiction medicine physicians at Meriter, we confirm the opiate crisis is not overstated. Opiate abuse is rampant in Dane County.

The cycle of use is well documented: Users begin experimenting with prescription drugs such as oxycodone or Percocet. When they experience withdrawal symptoms and can no longer afford to get prescription drugs, they may progress to using heroin, a cheaper alternative.

Some buy heroin on the streets and stay with snorting. Others start injecting, exposing themselves to diseases. Many miscalculate the amount or develop tolerance — that’s when we see overdoses.

The need for treatment is clear. It works, and real options exist. Addressing underlying mental health and social issues are part of treatment. Unfortunately, shame, stigma, finances and not knowing where to start may keep people from seeking treatment.

Our lack of a social network to care for these individuals leads to a life-long loss of potential. We, as a community, need to become engaged in this issue.

Dr. Andrew Putney, Dr. Ritu Bhatnagar and Dr. John Ewing, addiction medicine physicians at Meriter NewStart

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Grilling Season Recipes from Krista Kohls

Krista Kohls, a Meriter Clinical Dietitian, has several recipes to help you prepare for grilling season. From black bean burgers to turkey burgers, enjoy these healthy alternatives at your next barbecue!

Homemade Black Bean Veggie Burgers
*Courtesy of*

1 (16 ounce) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 green bell pepper, cut into 2 inch pieces
1/2 onion, cut into wedges
3 cloves garlic
1 egg
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon Thai chili sauce or hot sauce
1/2 cup bread crumbs

1. If grilling, preheat an outdoor grill for high heat, and lightly oil a sheet of aluminum foil.
2. In a medium bowl, mash black beans with a fork until thick and pasty.
3. In a food processor, finely chop bell pepper, onion and garlic. Then stir into mashed beans.
4. In a small bowl, stir together egg, chili powder, cumin and chili sauce.
5. Stir the egg mixture into the mashed beans. Mix bread crumbs until the mixture is sticky and holds together. Divide mixture into four patties.
6. If grilling, place patties on foil, and grill about 8 minutes on each side.

Actually Delicious Turkey Burgers
*Courtesy of*

3 pounds ground turkey
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup finely diced onions
2 egg whites, lightly beaten
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. In large bowl, mix ground turkey, seasoned bread crumbs, onion, egg whites, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Form into 12 patties.
2. Cook the patties in a medium skillet over medium heat, turning once, to an internal temperature of 180 degrees F.

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Dispelling Common Myths about Cosmetic Procedures

By: Denise Baker, RN, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

There comes a time in every woman’s life when she looks in the mirror and wonders, “When did that wrinkle get there?” Plenty of us have spent dollars upon dollars on products or procedures that we hope will make us look and feel younger. But with such a wide variety of treatments available, how can you be sure what’s best?

A fear of the unknown prevents many from trying a new procedure. I never imagined I would try Botox, but once I did, I realized it provides me the results I’d been hoping for.

As someone who helps to administer a wide variety of cosmetic procedures every day—and has tried them personally—I’d like to offer some advice and dispel some common misconceptions that might be stopping you from getting a non-surgical cosmetic procedure.

Myth: Non-surgical cosmetic procedures are not as transformative as cosmetic plastic surgery.

Non-surgical procedures often address many of the same issues that surgical procedures address. In fact, Juvéderm, for example, can treat facial hollowness more effectively than surgery. Results vary depending on the procedure, but most results last months or years. Some may even last a lifetime. Additionally, non-surgical procedures cost significantly less than surgery, require little to no recovery, and have a very low risk of side effects, which are usually mild and only temporary.

Myth: Botox and Juvéderm work the same way.

While it’s true that both decrease the appearance of wrinkles, dermal filler Juvéderm fills and Botox relaxes. Botox relaxes the muscle that’s creating the wrinkle, diminishing the appearance of lines and creases, while also helping to prevent the development of new wrinkles. Juvéderm is frequently used to fill in wrinkles and restore volume to the folds around the mouth and hollowness under the eyes. In some patients, pairing the two treatments together will provide the best results. Many women will have Juvéderm injected into their lips to give them a fuller pout.

Myth: Botox isn’t safe.

Clinical use of Botox is the result of more than 100 years of studying botulinum toxin type A. Botox is one of the world’s most widely researched medicines, with approximately 2,300 publications in peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals.

When administered by a skilled physician, it is one of the quickest and safest treatments for smoothing wrinkles. The most common side effects after receiving a Botox treatment are minor pain at the injection sight and headaches. Cases with individuals experiencing more serious side effects are extremely rare.

Myth: Botox injections are a painful.

There is very little pain associated with a Botox procedure. You will experience the pricking sensation of the needle, but the procedure is so quick, it’s over before you know it! As someone who doesn’t like needles, I promise you I can hardly feel the injections.

Myth: Botox injections should be administered only to persons above age 40.

I’m 29 and I have wrinkles–everyone is his or her own worst critic. A trained professional will advise you on whether Botox is appropriate for you and what areas of your face or neck would benefit.

The most common areas where Botox is administered are the forehead, between the eyes (known as the glabella), and the outer corners of the eyes to treat “laugh lines” or “crow’s feet.”

Myth: Juvéderm isn’t safe.
Juvéderm is safe for a majority of people. It is made from hyaluronic acid, which is a naturally occurring substance found in all biological organisms, including humans. It is produced without any animal substances and is FDA-approved for use in people of all skin tones and types.

However, Juvéderm is not recommended for use by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, those with a history of multiple or anaphylactic allergic reactions or individuals under the age of 18.

Myth: Dermal fillers wear off after less than a year.

Some fillers can wear off in less than a year. However, JuvédermVoluma gives patients a subtle lift, restoring contour and a more youthful profile for up to 2 years. It is the first injectable gel filler to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for the purpose of increasing fullness and firmness and decreasing sagging and loose skin in the cheek area in patients over the age of 21.

Deciding to get a non-surgical or surgical cosmetic procedure can be nerve-wracking, but it is also exciting and empowering. Learn even more about your options for feeling beautiful and confident by joining my colleagues and me for Ladies’ Night Out at Olbrich Gardens on April 24th at 6 p.m. Everyone who attends will receive 25% off Botox® Cosmetic, Juvéderm® XC, Juvéderm Voluma™ XC, and cosmetic vein care treatments at Meriter!

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Meriter Children’s Center Celebrates The Week of the Young Child

Martha Harrison, manager of MCC, read to the children as part of the week long celebration of The Week of the Young Child.

This week Meriter Children’s Center has been celebrating The Week of the Young Child. This annual celebration is an opportunity to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families.

To celebrate, the children have participated in several activities including chalk the walk, breakfast on the go, beach/bubble party and story time with Martha. The week will end with a 5th Quarter Celebration on Friday, April 11 at 10:45 a.m. Members from the UW Marching Band will lead the kids in a parade to Meriter Hospital horseshoe for the final celebration! If you are at the hospital on Friday, please stop out to the horseshoe area to participate in the exciting event!

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Industry Experts Assess the ACA

In a recent InBusiness article, Dr. Robert Turngren, president of Meriter Medical Group, joined a panel of local industry experts to assess the Affordable Care Act’s long-term impacts.

Click here to read the complete article.

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Seven Ways to Better Manage Your Allergies

Suffering from seasonal allergies? Be sure to avoid allergic triggers to manage your seasonal allergies.

By: Dr. Jeremy Bufford, Allergy/Immunology

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, you may have started to notice a runny nose or itchy eyes. From avoiding allergic triggers to options for preventing and treating symptoms, here are several suggestions to manage your seasonal allergies.

  1. Common misconceptions about allergies. People often assume their nasal and respiratory symptoms are due to the common cold, when, in fact, the symptoms are manifestations of seasonal allergies. Seasonal allergies often bother patients the same time each year and last for several weeks at a time; whereas the common cold should be short-lived and resolve within 7-10 days.
  2. Diagnosing, managing or curing allergies. Allergists can diagnose allergies through skin testing, blood testing or challenge testing. They will discuss avoidance measures with patients, including environmental changes that can be made in and around the home to avoid particular allergens. Allergists will prescribe over-the-counter and/or prescription medications to help control symptoms, but at this point there is no true “cure” for allergies.
  3. Avoid your allergic triggers. This could include avoidance of environmental allergens such as pets, dust mites, molds and pollen, or avoidance of food allergens, stinging insects or drugs.
  4. Prevent or control symptoms during allergy season. In terms of environmental allergies, including seasonal allergies, patients can use OTC and/or prescription medications to prevent or control symptoms during their allergy seasons. These medications include antihistamines, nasal decongestants, nasal steroid sprays and allergy eye drops. Allergy immunotherapy or “allergy shots” can be considered as well.
  5. Presentation of allergy symptoms depends on the type of allergen. The initial symptoms may be mild, moderate or severe and potentially life-threatening. Seasonal and other environmental allergies can present as runny nose, sneezing, nasal congestion; itchy, red, watery eyes; or cough, wheeze and shortness of breath in patients with asthma.
  6. Practice avoidance of indoor allergens at home. If you have seasonal allergens, avoid outdoor exposure in the early morning hours, keep your windows closed, run your air conditioner and don’t hang clothes or bed linens outside to dry.
  7. People and allergens can coexist. As long as people obtain the proper diagnosis, recognize and respect their allergic triggers and practice avoidance measures, people can coexist with allergens. Patients with environmental allergens can avoid triggers and prevent and control symptoms with medications.

If you have concerns about allergies or allergic disorders, please arrange to see an allergist for an appropriate work-up, definitive diagnosis and avoidance recommendations. Learn more about Meriter’s allergists and immunologists.

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Meriter Launches Interactive Experience for JointCare Program

Meriter Health Services announced today a new experience for their JointCare program, allowing total joint replacement surgery patients to access and interact with their care plans online.

The interactive care plan, designed by Madison-based Wellbe, is fully integrated with all aspects Meriter’s existing patient program — pre-admissions testing, JointCare class, and physical therapy — to create a single, streamlined experience. The new program is offered to all hip or knee replacement patients at no extra charge.

“The program helps us engage with patients in a new, innovative way, empowering them to be educated and involved in their care,” said Phil Swain, Director of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at Meriter. “From pre-operative preparation to post-operative rehabilitation, the program will provide patients with the information they need to achieve the best possible outcome.”

A patient’s online care plan is accessible 24 hours a day via the web on any device. Meriter Hospital staff enroll patients when they are scheduled for surgery, and the program guides patients step-by-step through preparation, hospital stay and recovery from surgery. Everything patients need to know, do, and keep track of is conveniently provided to them at just the right time.

Enrolled patients get convenient online access to all the information they need right when they need it along the journey of care, including:
• Checklists and reminders to make the surgical journey less stressful
• Convenient access to important educational materials regarding total joint replacement
• Informative videos, including follow-along exercises
• Ability to do planning and complete forms online to simplify paperwork
• Surveys to provide the surgeon and orthopedic team with important feedback
• Updates delivered to family members as patients progress through the program

“Guided patient engagement throughout the care cycle can help improve outcomes, reduce risks of setbacks, and speed up recovery,” said James Dias, CEO of Wellbe. “We are excited that our friends, families and neighbors in Dane County will be able to benefit from the use of this new tool.”

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Dr. Dana Johnson: Many Choices for a Safe Night’s Sleep

A trip to the baby store will quickly show you there are numerous options available for infant sleep locations. Some are recommended and some are not.

Originally published on March 27, 2014, in the Wisconsin State JournalDr. Johnson is a pediatrician practicing at the Meriter McKee clinic.

Dear Dr. Johnson: I am expecting and trying to plan where my baby will sleep. What is your recommendation?

Dear Reader: A trip to the baby store will quickly show you there are numerous options available for infant sleep locations. Some are recommended and some are not.

The first step is to determine what room or rooms where your baby will sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends room-sharing where infants sleep in the same room as their parents until 6 months of age. The advantage of this is that it is easier to respond to a newborn’s needs during the night when in the same room. Studies also show a reduction in SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). Babies should, however, have their own area for sleep outside the parents’ bed.

I have found that most parents know if room sharing is a good option for their family and when it is time to transition their infant to his own room.

In the infant’s room, most parents find a crib to be the best sleep location. Some basic safety components are to make sure the crib slats are no more than 23/8 inches apart and that the mattress fits snugly with less than 2 finger widths gap around the edge. Avoid bumper pads and drop side cribs. If using an older crib, check the Consumer Product Safety Commission website at to ensure it has not been recalled.

If you have a large master bedroom, a crib may fit in your room and be a good option there as well. Many people choose smaller beds for the baby, however, when room sharing. Some of these options include a bassinet, a bassinet with a drop side, or a pack ’n play (some with a bassinet option).

When comparing these various options, the AAP recommends babies sleep on a firm, flat surface to reduce SIDS. I have found it advantageous to be able to have my babies close to the bed so I can touch them without getting out of bed. Sometimes a gentle touch, rocking side to side or replacing a pacifier is all an infant needs to be soothed back to sleep. If I don’t have to leave the comfort of my own bed, even better. Having them close can also benefit breast feeding and overall bonding.

It is not recommended that babies sleep in swings, car seats, bouncy seats or other places where they are in an inclined, sitting position.

You may find that a combination of sleep locations works best. Some babies will nap in their crib in their own room and sleep in a bassinet in their parents’ room overnight. No matter which option you choose for your baby, make sure the mattress and sheets are snug-fitting, there are no heavy blankets or stuffed animals in the bed, and your baby always sleeps on his back until he can roll onto his stomach on his own.

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Fifteen Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy

By: Sara Babcock, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Center for Perinatal Care

During your first visit, your provider will ask you many questions to help guide pregnancy management. You will discuss the time of your last menstrual period and ultrasounds for the pregnancy. It is important to have accurate dating for the pregnancy, so an early ultrasound can help determine your due date; however, a baby’s due date is only an estimate. In fact, women don’t usually deliver exactly on their due dates. Most babies are born between 38 and 42 weeks after the first day of a woman’s last period. Your provider will also discuss many important things for you to consider during your pregnancy. These may include:

1. Take a prenatal vitamin. They can be prescribed by your practitioner or you can buy them over the counter, and you should ensure it contains 0.4 mg of folic acid.
2. Avoid chemicals that could possibly harm your baby. This would include avoiding fumes often associated with paint and wall paper.
3. See your dentist before you get pregnant and brush your teeth daily.
4. Stop drinking alcohol, smoking and using street drugs. Smoking, drinking alcohol and using street drugs can cause many problems during pregnancy for a woman and her baby, such as premature birth, birth defects and infant death
5. Get help for violence. Violence can lead to injury and death among women at any stage of life, including during pregnancy. The number of violent deaths experienced by women tells only part of the story. Many more survive violence and are left with lifelong physical and emotional scars.
6. Stop changing cat litter.
7. Rest when you can—nap!
8. Weight gain recommendations.
9. Review the signs of premature labor and warnings signs for when to call.
10. Take a childbirth class. Sign up early to ensure you get the class and dates that you want.
11. Take a breastfeeding class to help prepare you for breastfeeding.
12. Write a birth plan. Develop a plant to help you clarify what you want or need for your birth experience. Share this with your practitioners and those you have invited to your birth.
13. Have film and cameras ready!
14. Practice relaxation whenever you can. Try for at least once a day.
15. Do pelvic tilts to help with late pregnancy back pain. It will help relieve your pain and even encourage the baby to assume a good birth position.

Taking Medicine during Pregnancy
There may come a time during your pregnancy when you’re feeling under the weather and aren’t sure if you can take your regular over-the-counter (OTC) medication. Some medications are safe to take during pregnancy, but other medications are not or effects on your baby may not be known.

When you meet with your provider, ask what medications you can take and what medications to find alternatives. Generally, you should not take any OTC medication while pregnant unless it is necessary.

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How to Choose Your Obstetrician

There are several types of health care providers who can care for your needs during pregnancy and childbirth. Be sure to explore your options and evaluate what is most important to you before making a decision.

By: Sara Babcock, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Center for Perinatal Care

If you’ve decided to have a baby, the most important thing you can do is take good care of yourself!

When planning for a pregnancy it is always a good idea to have a preconception health visit with your provider. Together, you will review your current health and discuss certain aspects that may impact you or your baby’s health. This visit can help ensure that you are physically ready for pregnancy and that your baby will be as healthy as possible.

Once you are pregnant, see your provider as soon as possible to begin getting prenatal care. Choosing who will help care for you during your pregnancy, labor and delivery is very important. There are several types of health care providers who can care for your needs during pregnancy and childbirth. Be sure to explore your options and evaluate what is most important to you before making a decision.

Some obstetric health care providers to consider include:

Obstetrician-Gynecologist (OB/GYN): A medical doctor who is specially trained to provide medical and surgical care to women, OB/GYNs spend four years after medical school in a residency program studying pregnancy, reproduction and female medical and surgical problems. To verify the credentials of an obstetrician, contact the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Specialists who mainly provide pregnancy care are obstetricians while gynecologists primarily provide female reproductive system care.

Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs): Specially trained, licensed professionals experienced in providing obstetric and newborn care, CNMs provide comprehensive, family-centered maternity care from the first prenatal visit through labor, delivery and after the birth of your baby. Midwives are registered nurses who have earned their master’s degree in nursing, with a strong emphasis on clinical training in midwifery. Midwives work with obstetricians who are always available to assist if complications occur during pregnancy, labor or delivery.

Family practitioner (FP): A medical doctor who specializes in the health care of all family members. FPs provide normal OB/GYN care but will refer high-risk pregnancies and other problems to an OB/GYN. All family practitioners are trained to perform cesarean births in an emergency and also to assist other specialists in doing the procedure.

Perinatologist: Also called maternal-fetal medicine specialists, a perinatologist is an obstetrician who specializes in the care of women who may face special problems during pregnancy. These include young women under age 18 and women over age 35; women with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and sexually transmitted diseases; women with inherited (genetic) disorders; and women who have had problems with previous pregnancies. Perinatologists manage high-risk pregnancies, preconception counseling and sophisticated prenatal diagnosis and treatment.

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Meriter Receives Recognition from Salvation Army

L to R: Tobi Cawthra, Community Relations Manager; Jim Woodward, President and CEO of Meriter Health Services; Chris Ziemba, Development Manager at The Salvation Army

Meriter is pleased to receive recognition from the Salvation Army for its involvement in the Red Kettle campaign. Meriter staff participated by ringing bells at several locations.

The Salvation Army has been an excellent partner to Meriter in the development of the Helping Educate and Link the Homeless program, developed by Meriter hospitalist and current Chief-of-Staff, Dr. Cate Ranheim. The Salvation Army also is the home base for another non-profit organization supported by Meriter, the Madison Dental Initiative. The Madison Dental Initiative provides free dental care to those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

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The Truth about Colonoscopies

By: Dr. Gary Griglione, Gastroenterology

Each year, March is recognized as Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer in the United States and the second leading cause of cancer-related death that affects both men and women, behind lung cancer. But it doesn’t have to be this way; educating the public about the importance of screening for the disease can save lives.

The purpose of a colonoscopy is to ensure you’re healthy and stay healthy. Talk with your doctor today to learn more about colonoscopies and find out whether one is right for you.

Below are a few things you need to know about colonoscopies.

1. Colonoscopies can PREVENT colon cancer.
Colonoscopies allow a physician to examine the inside of your large intestine (colon). We’re looking for small growths of tissue on the wall of your colon, called polyps. Most of these polyps are precancerous in nature and, when left to grow, will turn into cancer. Finding these polyps during a colonoscopy allows us to remove them before they can become cancerous.

2. Colonoscopies can DETECT colon cancer while it’s still in an early stage.
Polyps left to grow develop into cancer over time. Individuals most often do not experience any symptoms until the cancer is large. Unfortunately by that time, the cancer may not be curable. Some common symptoms of colon cancer include blood in or on the stool, stomach pain, alteration in bowel habits, aches or cramps that do not go away, and unexplained weight loss. If you have colon cancer, a colonoscopy is the best way to find it in an early stage, making it easier to remove and hopefully cure.

3. You should schedule a colonoscopy if you are age 50 or older, or at an increased risk for the disease.
Although the disease can occur at any age, the majority of individuals diagnosed are over the age of 50. A healthy adult should first get screened soon after his or her 50th birthday and approximately every 10 years after that, until the age of 75. Some individuals may need a colonoscopy at a younger age or more frequently (every 3-5 years), including those with certain gastrointestinal conditions, those with a family history of colon cancer or polyps, or those who were found to have polyps on prior colonoscopy. The disease affects men and women equally.

4. They’re just not that bad.
Colonoscopies save lives. Still, many people avoid them for as long as possible – or entirely. I can promise you, most of my patients tell me that their colonoscopy wasn’t that big of a deal.

  • The day before the procedure, you will need to completely empty your colon. Historically, that involved drinking practically gallons of sometimes rotten-egg-tasting fluids. This is not the case anymore. In fact, at Meriter, standard procedure involves mixing flavorless Miralax into a low-volume (approximately half the amount used in the past) clear liquid of your choice, like Gatorade or fruit juice.
  • The actual procedure takes typically 30 minutes or less. Many people sleep through their exam and have no memory of the actual test at all.
  • When you’re done with the procedure, you will likely feel a little sleepy, groggy or confused. After a friend or family member drives you home, you will spend the rest of your day relaxing.
  • Even following a polyp removal and biopsy, you should feel only minor discomfort after the exam. Because we insufflate air into your colon to allow us to see during the exam, many people experience some slight cramping due to residual gas. This generally lasts just a few hours.
  • The great news is if no abnormal growths or polyps are found, you will not need another colonoscopy for 10 years.

The purpose of a colonoscopy is to ensure you’re healthy and stay healthy. There is a lot of hype, but the procedure isn’t nearly as bad as many might have heard or expect. I encourage you to talk with your doctor to learn more about colonoscopies and find out whether one is right for you.

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Best Tips for Flying with Your Children

Make sure that each child has an activity bag for the flight. It can include items such as books, washable markers, a blank composition notebook and a favorite stuffed animal.

By: Dr. Kristin Millin, Pediatrics

Wisconsin in the winter makes all of us question why we have chosen to live in the Midwest.  My survival tool is to think about vacations in warmer climates.  I love to fly in an airplane, but flying in an airplane with small children brings on other emotions.  I have learned over the years that there are several survival skills that help when flying with children.

Make sure that each child has an activity bag for the flight.  I always pack washable markers, a blank composition notebook, 1-2 books, a favorite small stuffed animal, and not infrequently scotch tape or painters tape.  Kids love tape and even if they stick the tape all over the seat in front of them, it won’t stain and it is easily removable.  We always check into the airline we are traveling with 24 hours earlier from our home computer as well as print our boarding passes from home.  This saves time waiting in the check-in line and if you are not checking luggage, you just have to go through security.  Make sure to follow the Transportation Security Advisor guidelines on what you can and cannot bring for carry- on items (see website below).  There is quite a lot of variability on what is required by the TSA so checking ahead can save having your child’s favorite bug catcher thrown away as you start your vacation (happened to my son 2 years ago).

You can bring a stroller all the way to the gate of your airplane and in busy airports is it much safer to keep your child restrained at least part of the time.  We also bring our own water bottles and after we have gone through security with the empty bottles, we can fill them at the water fountains (many airports, including Chicago O’Hare, have stations to fill water bottles for free).

As one last tip, although airlines will allow families with small children to board first, I recommend waiting to board the plane.  As soon as a toddler has to stay in a small space, havoc begins.

I love to travel and spend   time with my family.  Making some small changes to keep us mentally and physically healthier during our travel experience is even better.

Websites to check out for traveling with children:

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Allergy and Pediatrics Groups Achieve Best in the Nation

We are proud to announce that our patients have rated the Allergy and Meriter DeForest-Windsor clinic pediatrics groups Best in the Nation (on National Research Corporation’s Fourth Quarter 2013 Survey) for being able to get an appointment as soon as they needed and getting answers to their medical questions the same day. We thank our patients for their loyalty!

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