Steps to Treating Back Pain

By Craig A. Dopf, M.D., Orthopedic Surgery

Meriter Spine Center Drs. Dopf & Greenberg

Neck and back pain are very common conditions that can negatively impact your quality of life. If left untreated, it can result in a loss of productivity at work, inability to participate in the activities you enjoy and can lead to frustration, anxiety or depression.

Our providers work together to provide the most advanced treatments, to decrease pain, maximize therapies, and improve patients’ function and quality of life. Patients are empowered to become active participants in their care for the best possible treatment outcome. The steps in a typical treatment plan include:
  1. Visit your primary care physician: If you are experiencing low back pain typically your first visit is with your primary care doctor. During this visit your health history will be obtained and a physical exam will be performed.
  2. Physical Therapy and/or Chiropractic Treatments: Typically your primary care doctor will prescribe physical therapy and/or recommend seeing a chiropractor for four to six weeks along with medication to help with the pain.
  3. Diagnostics if pain persists: After the four to six weeks of treatments, if the pain and weakness is still significant, X-rays and possibly a MRI may be ordered.
  4. Nonsurgical treatments: Depending on what the results of the X-rays and MRI, you may be referred for injections to relieve the pain.
  5. Surgery may be an option: If all nonsurgical methods have been tried and were unsuccessful, then surgery may be an option. The most common type of spine surgery is a decompression where pressure is removed from the spinal cord or nerves. If your surgeon is concerned about the spine becoming unstable, a spine fusion surgery may be recommended to stabilize the spine. Occasionally, an artificial disc is recommended if you have a cervical disc herniation.
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Healthy Lunches at School

By Carleen Hanson, Pediatrician

Girl eating lunchWith breakfast being offered at many schools, some children may eat as many meals at school as they do at home during the school year. Ensuring your child eats healthy at school can be a challenge.

Most school age children have two choices when it comes to lunch – either a lunch from home or the lunch provided by the school. Historically, school lunches have a bad rap for being unhealthy. That being said, there are regulations from the USDA that schools need to follow, and these guidelines have been updated in an attempt to make the meals that school provide healthier and more balanced.

School Lunches

The guidelines for lunches are fairly complicated, although in simplified form, school lunches are required to have 5 components – fruits, vegetables, grains, meat (or meat alternative) and milk. There are requirements that not only need to be met daily, but also during the course of a week. What is used to fulfill these requirements is dependent on the school, although there policies regarding this as well. For example, a variety of vegetables need to be offered during the week, including dark green vegetables, red/orange vegetables, legumes and starchy vegetables. Also, while fruit juice will count as a fruit serving, it has to be 100% juice, and no more than half the fruit served can be in juice form.

Packed Lunch

When it comes to lunches from home, there is a wide spectrum of what kids are getting. From my experience, many students who are bringing lunch from home are not eating meals that are more nutritious than school lunches, and in fact, are even less healthy. Researchers found that many lunches from home were most often missing vegetables (only 11% of lunches had them!). Only about 25% of the lunches met three of the five components that school lunches need to include, and they often included extra snacks and desserts.

Making Healthy Lunches

Honestly assess whether you (or your child, if they are helping make their own lunch) are able to pack a variety of healthy foods – essentially, hold yourself to the same standards the schools are being held to. One way our family combats this issue is to use lunch containers with different size compartments. My kids know which kind of food needs to go in each one, and this ensures they get a good variety. Plus it’s very easy for them to follow and be independent with it. I also browse the internet frequently to look for ideas to keep my kids from getting bored – there are tons of ideas out there. If you’re new to packing lunches for your child, it takes a little time and energy at first, but after a while, it does get easier.

When to Skip Packing Lunches or Mix It Up

If you don’t feel that you’re able to consistently provide the variety that is recommended, then school lunches may be the better route for your family. Many schools in the Madison area offer more than one option for lunch, so I encourage parents to review the offerings together with their child to get a sense of what their preferences are, and to help guide their choices. It’s also okay to mix things up and bring a lunch from home some days, and get lunch from school on other days.

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Easy After-School Snacks

Before you know it, school will be back in session, and you’ll have some hungry kids ready for a snack the minute they walk in the door. Dietitian Dena Person recommends the following ideas for healthy treats that your child will actually want to eat.


For Picky Eaters: recipe from

Veggies and dip might not be the most appealing to your little ones, but including vegetables in muffins is an easy way to help them reach their daily recommended servings.


• 1 cup – flour, whole wheat

• 1 cup – flour, all-purpose

• 3/4 teaspoon – baking soda

• 1/2 teaspoon – salt

• 1/4 teaspoon – nutmeg

• 1/4 teaspoon – cinnamon

• 1/2 cup – sugar

• 4 tablespoon – butter, unsalted

• 2 large – egg

• 1 teaspoon – vanilla extract

• 1/2 cup – broccoli, florets

• 1 medium – zucchini

• 1 1/2 medium – carrot

• 1/2 medium – apple

• 1 medium – banana

• 1/8 cup – apple juice

• 1/4 cup – applesauce, unsweetened

• 1/4 cup – yogurt, plain


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. In a medium size bowl, mix together flours, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Set aside.

3. Soften butter.

4. In a mixer or another bowl, mix the sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla. Beat well.

5. In a food processor, combine steamed broccoli, zucchini, apple, banana, apple juice, and applesauce. Pulse until thoroughly mixed.

6. Shred carrots. If you don’t want the shreds in your muffin, combine your carrots with the rest of the fruits and veggies in the food processor.

7. Combine the fruit and veggie puree, carrots (unless you already added them with the puree), and yogurt, into the wet ingredient mixture (sugar/butter/eggs) and beat until mixed. 8. Finally, add the dry ingredients and mix just until combined and wet.

9. In a muffin tin, place muffin papers or spray with cooking spray.

10. Scoop the mixture into a prepared muffin pan. Fill each spot about 3/4 of the way full. 11. For mini muffins: Bake in a 350 oven for 15-20 minutes for mini-muffins

For regular size muffins: Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes.

12. Bake until the tops are slightly brown and a toothpick comes out clean or they bounce back when you touch them with your finger. These freeze great! Put them in a freezer-safe bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

For a Family Activity: Whole Wheat Veggie Pizza

Making a snack is a great time to connect with your kids and an opportunity to teach them about healthy eating.


• ½ tsp Hidden Valley Ranch(R) Seasoning

• ½ C 0% Fat Greek Yogurt

• Whole Wheat Bread

• Cookie Cutters

• 1/4 cup chopped broccoli

• 1/4 cup chopped cauliflower

• 1/4 cup shredded carrots

• 1/3 cup diced cucumbers

• 1/3 cup cheese


Mix the Hidden Valley Ranch(R) with the Greek yogurt. Cut out shapes of bread using a cookie cutter. Spread 1 teaspoon of Ranch mixture onto the pizza shapes and let the kids top with their favorite vegetables. Make sure to press firmly so the veggies stick. Top with some cheese. Enjoy!

For Kids on the Go: Apple Moons

You don’t always have time to make something fancy between school and soccer practice, so these treats are an easy way to give your kid a little extra energy before meal time. Ingredients:

• 2 apples, sliced into wedges

• 1/4 cup peanut butter or sunflower butter

• 1/4 cup sliced nuts, granola, or trail mix your favorite


Coat tops of apple wedges in peanut butter and sprinkle with nuts, granola or trail mix and cinnamon.

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10 Reasons Doctors Talk About the Need for Good Nutrition

Eating well can add to your overall health.  Learn 10 reasons why doctors talk about this need.

10 Reasons Doctors Talk About the Need for Good Nutrition

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Easing Back to School Anxiety

Students taking a test

Ready or not, the new school year is right around the corner!  Parents may be anxious for their kids to get back to school and back into a routine, but the kids may be anxious about going to school.  While some children are comfortable in new situations, others are more anxious.  School anxiety is common, and parents can help alleviate their child’s concerns in a number of different ways.  However, up to 5% of children will develop school avoidance, also known as school refusal or school phobia.  Here are some of the signs to look for and ways to help your child manage both school anxiety and school refusal.

School Anxiety

It is completely normal for children to be nervous, stressed or anxious at the beginning of a new school year, particularly when starting kindergarten or making the transition into middle school or high school.  They might be worried about who they will play with at recess or sit with during lunch.  This type of school anxiety is typically short-lived, resolving within a month of the start of school.  However, up to 13% of children may develop more prolonged anxiety related to school.  Kids with school anxiety may complain of physical symptoms before school or repeatedly ask to visit the school nurse.  Common complaints are headache, stomachache or nausea.  Sometimes these symptoms are made up to try to get out of school.  But other times they’re real, brought on by nerves.  If the child is allowed to stay home or to leave school, the symptoms often disappear quickly but return when it’s time to go to school again.  Elementary school aged children may become overly clingy at school drop-off, experience difficulties sleeping, or exhibit low self-confidence.  As children get older, they may withdraw or appear uninterested, develop eating disorders or experiment with drugs or alcohol.
As a parent, here are some things that might help relieve, or at least improve, the anxiety:
  • Listen to your child’s feelings and worries;
  • Encourage them to focus on the positive aspects of school;
  • Stick to a routine in the mornings and after school;
  • Encourage healthy habits by having a strict bedtime, limiting screen time, and making sure kids are eating a filling, well-balanced breakfast before school;
  • Do not let your child stay home from school which may just reinforce their anxiety; and
  • Make sure their teachers and guidance counselors are aware of the situation as they can help provide extra support and direction.

School Avoidance

School avoidance is when school anxiety escalates to that point that children start refusing to attend school or create reasons why they shouldn’t go.  They may complain of physical symptoms that are vague (headaches, stomachaches, nausea, dizziness) and are typically absent on weekends or holidays.  More concrete symptoms like fever or weight loss are unusual.  These physical symptoms are often the child’s way of communicating their emotional struggles with things like bullying and fear of failure.
In addition to the ideas listed above, here are some guidelines for helping your child with this problem:
  • Talk with your child about why they don’t want to go to school.  Be sympathetic and supportive.  Try to help them work through the problems that are causing their anxieties.
  • Insist on the child attending school and stay firm, particularly in the mornings when they may start to exhibit symptoms.  If they are well enough to be up and about at home, they are well enough to go to school.
  • Discuss the situation with the teachers, counselors and the principal at school.  They can help formulate a plan for return to school and provide support.
  • Help your child develop independence in a setting outside the home through clubs, sports activities, and outings with friends.
If your child’s school avoidance lasts more than a week, they have a fever or weight loss, or if you have any other concerns, your child needs to be seen by their primary care physician (PCP).  Their PCP can help reassure your child, diagnose any possible underlying medical conditions, and also help formulate a return to school plan.
With the support of their parents, teachers, and physician, children can overcome both school anxiety and school refusal.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call your child’s PCP.  Have a safe and happy school year!
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Attend Madison Moms Blog Family Day 8/29

We would like to invite your family to attend the 2nd Annual Madison Moms Blog Family Day at the Meriter Monona clinic, 6408 Copps Avenue on Saturday, August 29th from 10am – noon.

For only $5 per family, you can enjoy:

  • Teddy Bear Clinic with the Meriter Physicians | Bring your favorite teddy bear or doll or stuffed animal and a Meriter physician will give it a thorough check-up and bill of health!
  • Maynard Mallard | High fives, hugs & photo ops with Maynard!
  • Funny Faces Face Painting | Get your little ones face painted by some of the best in the biz!
  • Kula Yoga | Kids Yoga will take place from 10:15-10:30, 10:45-11:00 and 11:15-11:30
  • The Seventeenth Radish | They will have a fun activity for kids to participate in!
  • Monona Fire Department | We will have a fire truck (& possibly an ambulance!) for your little one(s) to explore and get their photo taken in!
  • Story Time
  • Games, Obstacles and More!

Yummy Eats!

  • Hy-Vee will be providing build your own Chex Mix!
  • Meriter will be serving up infused water, hummus & pita chips and trail mix!
  • Sassy Cow Creamery will have chocolate milk & samples of their famous ice cream!

There will also be an opportunity to learn more about:

  • Madison Schools & Community Recreation (MSCR)
  • Dane County Engineering for Kids
  • Madison Swim Academy

Register at Madison Moms Blog

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A Map to Summer Fun: Safety Tips

Summer fun can also mean summer risk.  Follow these safety tips to help ensure a happy and healthy summer.

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10 Reasons Why You Need a Primary Care Doctor

Visiting your primary care doctor is an important part of keeping of staying healthy!

10 Reasons Why You Need a Primary Care Doctor

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Pain Relievers May Increase Risk of Heart attack and Stroke

by By Steve Ebert, Pharmacist

Pain Relievers May Increase Risk infographic
The FDA has recently updated a warning that certain pain relievers can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. The warning now includes some over the counter medications. Warning labels on these medications will be updated to include the heart attack and stroke risks.

Drugs Included in Warning

Included are 15 pain relievers, all Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDS), such as over-the counter ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin or generic) and naproxen (Aleve or generic). In addition, prescription drugs such as Celebrex, Cambia and Voltaren have warnings. Acetaminophen (Tylenol or generic) and aspirin are not included in this warning. Also, check your medicine cabinet, as some cold and flu medications may also contain one of the drugs in the warning.

Risks Associated with These Drugs

People without a pre-existing condition who take these drugs have a small, increased risk of a heart attack or stroke. The risk increases if you take these over a longer period of time or in a larger dose. If you have a family history of heart conditions or stroke, you should talk to your health care provider before taking these medications. Patients taking these drugs who have chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness or slurred speech should get care immediately.

What do I do if I’m taking these medications?

Patients with heart disease should talk to their doctor or pharmacist about other options. There are other pain relievers you can take instead. If you do decide to stay on these medications, minimize the risk of these side effects by discussing what the minimum effective dose may be. Reducing the length of time that you take these drugs may also minimize your risk.

Should I stop taking these medications?

Not necessarily. Taking these for occasional use, like a headache, isn’t likely to cause a problem. However, if you have heart disease or any other concerns, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about other options.

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Garden Greek Zucchini Pasta

By: Michelle Miller, dietitian

Featured on NBC15

Looking for a tasty summer recipe to help use some of the fresh veggies ripening in your garden? Look no further than this easy, low-carb pasta alternative.

Servings: about four


  • 2 fresh zucchini                                                                       
  • 10 chopped grape tomatoes
  • ½ cup feta cheese                                                                  
  • Thin slices of red onion (to taste)
  • ½ cup Kalamata olives                                                                       
  • 4 pepperoncini
  • Italian dressing (to taste)
  • Optional: your choice of protein, like grilled chicken or fish


  1. Make the zucchini into long noodles, using a zucchini noodle maker 
  2. Toss with your choice of Italian dressing
  3. Add all other ingredients and garnish with pepperoncini

Bonus option: Make it warm! Sauté the zucchini noodles in olive oil for 3-5 minutes.

Like this recipe? Stop by the Greenbush Garden Bistro in the hospital lobby to try more of Michelle’s recipes.

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Simple Steps to Stop Type 2 Diabetes

by Gretchen A. Diem, PhD, Health Psychology

The prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is on the rise. More than 29 million Americans or 9.3% of the U.S. population have diabetes. In addition to the 29 million who already have diabetes, another 86 million (1 out of 3) American adults, have pre-diabetes, a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for an official diagnosis of Type 2 diabetes. Of those with pre-diabetes, 9 out of 10 do not know that they have prediabetes. Those with pre-diabetes are at increased risk of going on to develop full-blown Type 2 diabetes, if steps are not taken to stop it in its tracks. Although the genes you inherit may influence the development of type 2 diabetes, they are only one piece of the puzzle and they take a back seat to behavioral and lifestyle factors.

Below are simple steps you can take to head in a healthy direction. Making small changes in lifestyle habits can not only prevent pre-diabetes from becoming diabetes, but can also return blood glucose levels to the normal range. These same changes can also prevent the development of complications if you already have Type 2 diabetes and can ward off many other health problems including heart disease and some cancers.

Know Your Numbers

Many diabetes symptoms are silent, but a simple blood test can reveal whether blood sugar levels put you at risk for the condition. Obtaining regular checks of blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure can also be useful. Having healthy levels of these three indicators significantly reduces your risk of diabetes. If you know that your numbers are high, you can get yourself on track before diabetes sets in and medications may be necessary.

Move More

Inactivity promotes Type 2 diabetes. Every two hours you spend sitting instead of pursuing something more active increases the chances of developing diabetes by 14%. If it’s been a while since you exercised, start by building more movement into your routine by taking the stairs, parking further away, dancing to your favorite songs, or marching in place during TV commercials. Long bouts of rigorous, sweaty exercise are not necessary. Several studies show that walking briskly for a half hour every day reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30%.

Eat Better

Dietary changes can have a big impact on the risk of type 2 diabetes. Studies show that people who eat a variety of food are healthier, live longer, and have a reduced risk of disease, including diabetes. Food variety means including foods such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meat, fish, seafood, nuts and seeds, and dairy products. Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables since they are not only full of vitamins and minerals, but they contain beneficial phytonutrients – which can defend against disease. Read the ingredient list so that you are more aware of what you are putting into your body. Skip the sugary drinks. Choose whole grains and avoid highly processed carbohydrates. Opt for good fats (poly and monounsaturated fats found in liquid vegetable oils, nuts, and seeds) instead of bad fats (trans fats found in many margarines, packaged baked goods, and fast foods and saturated fats found in high fat red meat, butter, and cheese).

Manage Your Weight

Excess weight is a significant contributor to the development Type 2 diabetes. Being obese can make you 20 to 40 times more likely to develop diabetes than someone in a healthy weight range. If you’re carrying excess weight, you might not have to lose as much as you think to make a difference. The Diabetes Prevention Program found that overweight individuals who lose even 5-7% of their total body weight through exercising and healthy eating cut their chances of getting diabetes by 58%. Don’t consume yourself with restrictive dieting. Instead, practice mindful eating and aim for balance, variety, and moderation. Get moving and support Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes on August 23 in Olin Park.

Quit Smoking

Add Type 2 diabetes to the long list of health problems linked with smoking. Smokers are roughly 50% more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers, and heavy smokers have an even higher risk.

Stress Less

Stress has both a direct and indirect effect on blood sugars. When you’re stressed, your body is primed to take action and releases extra glucose into the bloodstream. Stress can also have an indirect effect by detracting from your overall self-care by triggering you to grab fast food, skip your exercise class, drink more, etc. Don’t fret though, relaxation exercises and other stress management techniques can help you control blood sugar levels and set you on a healthier, calmer path. Try taking three deep, slow breaths any time you feel your tension level rising (before answering the phone, starting the car, when waiting in line, or any other activity).

Seek Support

Moving more, eating better, and stressing less is always easier if you have others helping you out, holding you accountable, and cheering you on. Consider joining a group where you can pursue a healthier lifestyle in the company of others with similar goals. Fortunately, Meriter has a variety of programs to help you with making lifestyle changes to improve your health. If you are interested in learning more, check out (link for pathways to good health).

Adjust Your Mindset

It’s not always easy to make changes in health habits; however, you are more likely to be successful if you give yourself permission to focus on small changes. Be realistic with your expectations and remember to focus on one goal or change at a time. Break down your goals into small, manageable steps that are specifically defined. Anything you can do today that was healthier than yesterday is a step in the right direction.

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Meriter Heart & Vascular Wins Platinum

Meriter Heart & Vascular has again been recognized by the American College of Cardiology, receiving the NCDR ACTION Registry–GWTG Platinum Performance Achievement Award for 2015. Meriter Hospital is one of only 319 hospitals nationwide to receive the honor.

The award recognizes our commitment and success in implementing a higher standard of care for heart attack patients and signifies that we have reached an aggressive goal of treating these patients to standard levels of care as outlined by the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association clinical guidelines and recommendations.

Learn more about Meriter – UnityPoint Health’s award-winning Heart & Vascular program at

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Summertime Rashes: Poison Oak, Poison Ivy and Wild Parsnips

By Cate Shookman, nurse practitioner, Meriter ER

Summertime Rashes
During the warm summer months, you might be getting outside to hike or camp. While enjoying these activities you may also come across some plants that can cause rashes, especially May through September.

Common Irritants & Symptoms

  • Poison Oak & Poison Ivy can be found along hiking trails and near camping areas. Both present with similar symptoms. They can causes blisters to appear with redness and swelling of the skin. This helps differentiate from other rashes as redness and itching can be present with just about anything. Symptoms from these plants generally appear in 12-24 hours of exposure.
  • Wild Parsnips are often found in sunny areas along highways and prairies. Encounters with wild parsnips can result in a sunburn type rash, discolored skin and even blisters. Symptoms occur after contaminated skin is exposed to sunlight. Rashes from parsnips will likely appear within 12-24 hours.


Poison oak, poison ivy and wild parsnip rashes are all treated in similar ways.

  • Wash clothes and skin immediately: The oils from poison oak and poison ivy can stay on clothing and your pets for up to a year. Be sure to thoroughly wash your clothes, shoes and pets if you’ve come in contact with an irritant. Try an oatmeal bath for young children as a gentler alternative to soap.
  • Cool compress: Use a wash cloth soaked in cold water to sooth the irritated skin.
  • Apply anti-itch medicine: A cream such as Corticosteroid or Calamine lotion will help reduce itching.

When to seek medical attention

Despite efforts with in-home treatments, it may be necessary to seek out medical attention if:

  • Severe blistering, swelling, or itching occurs;
  • sensitive areas such as the eyes are effected;
  • you’re experiencing a fever;
  • the rash is long lasting or covers a large portion of your skin; or
  • the blisters become infected.

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Top 10 Reasons to Choose a Meriter Doctor for Your Child

  1. We fit into YOUR schedule. Trying to juggle work, school and soccer practice is hard enough. Where exactly does a doctor appointment fit in? We are proud to offer extended hours at most of our clinics so you can make appointments early in the morning or in the evening. We also have a Pediatric After Hours clinic for evening and weekend visits.
  2. Same day appointments. If you’re sick today, you can see us today. Just call and we’ll get you in. There’s no need to wait days or weeks for the care you need if you’re not feeling well.Receptionist
  3. Ready for emergencies. Our 24/7 emergency room has a Pediatric Center with its own private waiting room and is staffed by a care team specially trained to care for children. Plus, current ER wait times are always available on Room
  4. Convenient locations. No matter where you live in Dane County, we have a clinic close to you. Our primary care clinics are located throughout the greater Madison area to be near your home and work.
  5. clinic
  6. Free meet and greets. It’s important you have the right doctor for your little one. That’s why we offer free Meet and Greets so you can have a chance to find a doctor who fits your family before you schedule an at patient visiit
  7. You’ve already trusted us with the BIG moment. Meriter Hospital delivers more babies than any other hospital in Wisconsin, so there’s a good chance your baby was born here. You’ve already trusted us with your child’s biggest life moment so far, so let us partner with you for all the big and small moments to come.Doctor examining patient
  8. Our patients are happy. Need a second opinion? Ask someone who’s visited a Meriter clinic. Our patients rated us highest in the nation for Pediatric Doctor Rating for two consecutive years, according to the National Research with baby
  9. Not just your average doctor. Interested in a doctor who serves double-duty as a lactation consultant to help with breastfeeding? How about one who is certified in travel medicine for your globetrotting family? Need an Olympic caliber athlete who can relate to your active teenager? Our doctors have a unique set of skills and capabilities to meet your needs.find a doctor
  10. Access to Madison’s only 100 Top Hospital. Meriter Hospital is the only 100 Top Hospital in Madison, according to Truven Health Analytics. And if your kiddos need specialized pediatric care, our doctors work closely with the American Family Children’s Hospital to seamlessly coordinate your child’s care.100 Top Hospital - Meriter
  11. We can care for YOU, too. It’s not just about the kids for us. It’s about the whole family! Many of our primary care doctors can treat both you and your child to make sure everyone is healthy and happy.Doctor with patient
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Formula for Good Health: Sleep

By Luke Fortney, MD, Family MedicineSleeping Woman

When the topic of health comes up, we immediately think about exercise and diet, which is usually appropriate. However, even with exercise there is a flip side, so to speak, that is often forgotten. Just as we need to move around physically every day, we also need appropriate down time, rest, relaxation, and sleep. Like most things, getting too much or too little sleep leads to problems, and a balance must be struck. As part of Meriter – UnityPoint Health’s Formula for Good Health, we’re focusing on prevention, including healthy sleep.

Health Consequences of Poor Sleep

An overly busy and stressed life also contribute to poor sleep and our 24/7 “around-the-clock” access to technology and increased or fragmented work schedules are partially to blame for the increased rate of sleep disorders in recent years. Over time, this becomes a very important issue because chronic sleep deprivation, or “sleep insufficiency” contributes to a number of chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, anxiety, osteoporosis, obesity, cancer, and decreased quality of life. Unfortunately, research also shows that insufficient sleep also increases unhealthy choices such as smoking, high-risk alcohol consumption, and being physically inactive.

Productivity Consequences of Poor Sleep

Employers are also beginning to recognize that workers who don’t get enough restorative sleep at night are less productive. Being sleep deprived affects our memory and thinking as demonstrated by one study showing that people who regularly slept less than 5 hours a day performed far worse on thinking-performance tests.

Sleep Strategies Graphic

Sleep Strategies

There are some good strategies that can help. Finding balance in one’s life is a good starting point. Whenever possible, it is best to start with things that we have immediate control over. For most of us, it appears that getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night is best. Here are some suggestions to help you get adequate sleep:

  • Wear Socks: During colder weather, try wearing socks to bed, which has been shown to speed up how quickly you fall asleep.
  • Shut the curtains: Keep the bedroom as dark as possible to help boost your own natural melatonin levels.
  • Turn off electronics: Keep electronic devices away from your head and pillow. Research shows that electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from even the smallest electronic devices can disrupt REM and non-REM sleep, as well as inhibit melatonin secretion by the pineal gland.
  • Turn on the fan: Use white noise such as a fan or air purifier to create a soothing atmosphere and block out disruptive noises.
  • Turn down the temp: Keep the room cool-er (not too warm or cold!).
  • Exercise: Exercise regularly, with more vigorous exercise happening earlier in the day, and more restorative exercise (e.g. yoga, walking etc.) in the evening.
  • Limit Naps: Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes or less to avoid disrupting your circadian rhythms and sleep cycle.
  • Get outdoors: Get sunlight as early in your day as possible to help stimulate serotonin levels for increased alertness and wakefulness.
  • Limit Alcohol: Avoid excessive alcohol intake, which initially makes us sleepy, but over time interferes with sleep.
  • Limit Sleep Aids: Avoid taking sleep aids every night, especially benzodiazepine medications which are now known to block deep stages of sleep over time, and have an association with dementia if used daily for years.

If you’re still having problems falling asleep, talk with your doctor if you have ongoing or other concerns.

Sleeping by the Numbers

  • According to CDC, and estimated 50-70 million Americans have sleep problems.
  • We’ve been getting less sleep every year since 1985.
  • 23% of us report difficulty falling or staying asleep due thinking too much about something while lying in bed.
  • 35% of US adults get less than 7 hours of sleep a night
  • More than 30% get less than 6 hours a night (young kids and teenagers typically need 10 or more hours of sleep a night).
  • A 2010 study found that those of us who routinely slept less than 6 hours a night had a 21% higher risk of sudden death, with all other factors being controlled for.
  • Another study found that middle-aged and older adults who got less than 6 hours of sleep a night over time were 4 times more likely to suffer a stroke, even though they were not overweight and had no family history or stroke!
  • A 2012 review study found that lack of sleep increases the hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin and decreases the hunger-suppressing hormone leptin.
  • The Department of Transportation estimates that drowsy driving accounts for over 40,000 non-fatal and fatal motor vehicle injuries per year in total.
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Meriter – UnityPoint Health Recognized as ‘Most Wired’

Meriter - UnityPoint Health was recognized for the fifth year in a row as one of the nation’s “Most Wired” by Hospitals & Health Networks magazine. Meriter, who received this year’s award as part of the UnityPoint Health system, received the honor for its ability to leverage information technology to improve care.

“Everything we do aims to coordinate care across multiple settings so that our patients can be as engaged as possible during their wellness journey,” said Arthur Nizza, DSW, President and CEO of Meriter – UnityPoint Health. “This recognition is a testament of our dedication to using the latest technologies and tools to care for our patients where and when they need us, whether that’s in our clinics or on the go.”

The 2015 Most Wired™ survey and benchmarking study, in partnership with CHIME and sponsored by VMware, is a leading industry barometer measuring information technology (IT) use and adoption among hospitals nationwide. The survey of more than 741 participants, representing more than 2,213 hospitals, examined how organizations are leveraging IT to improve performance for value-based healthcare in the areas of infrastructure, business and administrative management, quality and safety, and clinical integration.

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Head Lice: Prevention and Treatment

girl scratching headBy Dr. Nicole Baumann-Blackmore, Pediatric Hospital Medicine

Most parents worry about their children getting head lice during the school year.  The majority of cases of head lice are acquired outside of school, however.  I found myself thinking more about it earlier this summer as I watched kids on my son’s baseball team passing around the same batting helmet.  I voiced my concerns to my husband who then proceeded to tell the story of when his entire little league team got head lice for precisely that reason.

If you are like me, you are probably itchy just thinking about it.  However, it is important to remember that lice are really just a nuisance.  A few months ago the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published updated guidelines for the treatment and prevention of head lice.  The big theme of the guidelines is encouraging the removal of the stigma surrounding head lice (they are not a sign of disease or poor hygiene) and encouraging schools to abandon their “no nit” policies.  It has yet to be determined how schools in our area will adjust their policies, if at all, based on these updated recommendations.

Treatment: Treatment should start with over-the-counter (OTC) medications that contain 1% permethrin or pyrethins.  The package instructions should be followed exactly for best results, then the nits should be removed and the wet hair should be combed thoroughly.  The treatment should be reapplied on Day 9 and again on Day 18 if lice or nits are still present.

Some areas of the country have a known high incidence of resistance to OTC treatments.  Patients in those areas or patients who still have lice despite use of the OTC products should talk to their primary care provider about the possibility of trying a prescription medication.

Treating the family and your home: When a family member has been identified as having head lice, all other household members should be checked.  Bedding, recently worn clothing and frequently loved stuffed animals should be washed thoroughly in hot water.  Stuffed animals can also be stored in an air tight bag for at least 3 days if they are unable to be washed or dry cleaned.  Hair brushes, combs and accessories should be soaked in rubbing alcohol or medicated shampoo for at least 1 hour, or simply throw them away.

Prevention: Preventing all cases of head lice is not possible but know that lice do not have wings and spread mainly through direct head-to-head contact or by sharing of personal items such as combs, brushes and hats.  Teach your children not to share such objects.  Needless to say, after my son’s baseball practice, we went to the sporting goods store and bought him his own helmet!

Head Lice Prevention and treatment

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Walk to Stop Diabetes


Join us as we work together to raise awareness and create a healthier community

Take steps toward a healthier future and find a cure for diabetes by participating in and supporting the American Diabetes Association’s Step Out: Walk to Stop Diabetes. Beginning at Olin Park, enjoy a one or three mile walk along John Nolan Drive with breathtaking views of the Capitol, Lake Monona and Monona Bay! Invite family and friends, and arrive early to enjoy breakfast and entertainment before the walk begins.

For more information and to register, please visit

Date: Sunday, August 23, 2015
Location: Olin Park, Madison
Check-In Start: 8:30 a.m.
Walk Start: 10:00 a.m.

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Top 12 Reasons to Choose Meriter Hospital

1. 100 Top Hospital. Only one hospital in Madison was named a 100 Top Hospital by Truven Health Analytics in 2015: Meriter Hospital.

100 Top Hospital2. More babies than anyone else. We are proud to welcome more babies than any other hospital in Wisconsin. And, we also offer specialized care for high-risk pregnancies in our Center for Perinatal Care and advanced care for infants in our state-of-the-art Newborn Intensive Care Unit. mom and baby

3. We specialize in matters of the heart. Our heart team is among the best in the nation, combining cutting-edge technology with compassionate care. Meriter was the only Madison hospital named High Performing for heart failure care by US News and World Report’s 2015 rankings.

4. Academic-caliber medicine in a community setting. You don’t have to choose between the highest level of care and a comforting location. We offer both without view untrasound

5. The food is great. We grow many herbs and veggies onsite to bring you healthy, local food options. Stop by on Wednesday afternoons in the summer to visit a farmer’s market at the hospital entrance and grab a hot (or iced) coffee at Dr. Joe Coffee Clinic.

farmer's market

6. What the community needs. We are proud to be Madison’s only community health system and the only place offering needed community services, like Dane County’s only Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program, the region’s only Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Hospital and a homeless outreach medicine program.

7. We give you options. Your choice is important to us. We partner with a variety of local health providers, including UW Health, Turville Bay MRI and Radiation Oncology Center and many independent practices to coordinate care around you. Plus, we accept most commercial insurance.

Turville Bay Staff

From left to right: Dr. Michelle Mackay, Dr. June Kim, Dr. Jessica Rooney, and Dr. James Richardson - Radiation Oncologists at Turville Bay MRI & Radiation Oncology Center

8. You can’t beat the view. No one wants to be hospitalized, but if you have to be, you can’t beat the view of beautiful downtown Madison, Lake Monona and Lake Wingra.

Madison skyline
9. Ready 24/7. Our topnotch ER team is available 24/7 and current ER wait times are posted on Plus, we offer a Pediatric After Hours clinic in the evenings and on weekends, and most of our primary care clinics have extended hours so you can get care on your schedule.
Meriter Hospital Emergency Room

10. Let us handle the parking. We are proud to offer valet parking at the main entrance to make it easier for you and your visiting loved ones throughout your stay with us.

Meriter Hospital Entrance

11. We come to you. If you don’t live in the Madison area but still need expert care, we can come to you. Many of our specialists travel throughout the region to bring expert care where you need it most.

doctor with patient

12. Dedicated nursing staff. Our nurses work hard to take care of you and make your staff as comfortable as possible. We are very proud that Meriter nurses are getting noticed by their peers for compassionate, community-focused care by Madison Magazine’s Top Nurses 2014.

Nurse Comforts Patient

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Join our Couch to 5K or 5K to 10K Program

Have you ever thought of running a 5K but don’t know how to train for it? Meriter–UnityPoint Health invites you to join our Couch to 5K Running Club. The Couch to 5K is a plan developed to help beginners get into running or take your current training and enhance it

Couch to 5K works because it starts with a mix of running and walking, to gradually build up your fitness and stamina. It creates realistic expectations and makes the challenge feel achievable right from the start.

For Session 2 there are several options:

  • Couch to 5K designed for those that haven’t been running but want to start
  • 5K to 10K for those that can currently run/walk 5K (3.1 miles) and want to increase their distance to a 10K (6.2 miles)
  • 5K walkers we encourage anyone to join us and walk the 5K

The best part of the Meriter’s Couch to 5K program is that it is FREE! In addition, if you attend

6 of the 9 sessions you will also receive a FREE entry for the Zoo Run Run on Sunday, September 27 at 9:00 a.m.

Dates and Times: Every Tuesday from July 28 – September 22 at 5:45 pm
Outside of Meriter Hospital – near the corner of Brooks and Mounds Streets
Free at the Meriter Hospital parking lot
What to wear
: comfortable workout clothes and supportive running shoes
What to bring:
water bottle, running watch and car key storage

Register today

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Healthy Swimming: Share the Fun, not the Germs

by Katelyn Harms, MPH, CIC, Infection Prevention

Girl Swimmer

Summer is the perfect time to enjoy fun in the water.  If you are planning a visit to the pool, water park, hot tub, splash pad or spray park, there are ways to be safe and healthy.

Tips for Pool Time

If you’re at the pool for the day, build in a break for kids and adults at least every hour.  Be sure to:
  • Take kids on bathroom breaks;
  • Check diapers and change them away from the pool, in a bathroom or diaper changing area, to keep germs away from the pool ;
  • Reapply sunscreen frequently; and
  • Drink plenty of fluids.

Do your eyes get red and itchy after being in a pool?

Here’s why: Pool chemicals are added to water to kill germs, but they don’t always work right away.  When pee, poop, sweat, and dirt rinse off our bodies and into the pool water, the chemicals break down these things instead of killing germs. This uses up the chemicals’ power, which means there’s less to kill germs. Follow the 4 easy steps to help ensure that pool chemicals are working to kill germs.
  1. Shower before you get in the water.
  2. Don’t swallow the water.
  3. Don’t pee or poop in the water
  4. Stay out of the water if you have diarrhea.
To learn more, see CDC.
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Signs and Symptoms of Swimmer’s ear

By Dr. Nicole Baumann-Blackmore, Pediatric Hospital Medicine

doctor examining earThis upcoming holiday weekend is sure to be filled with fun in the sun.  For many families this includes a trip to the swimming pool or lake.  But the fun stops when someone starts complaining of ear pain.  Swimmer’s ear, also known as otitis externa, is a very common medical problem resulting in an estimated 2.4 million health care visits in the United States each year.  It is more common in children but can affect people of all ages.  Let’s review the causes, treatments and methods of prevention of swimmer’s ear so that you and your family can enjoy the water without the worry.

Causes: Swimmer’s ear is caused by water sitting in the external ear canal.  This wetness can lead to the growth of bacteria which then causes drainage, redness, swelling and pain.

Symptoms: Typically the pain is made worse by movement of the outer ear and may be severe.  A doctor will be able to diagnose swimmer’s ear based on history and physical exam.  A history of swimming (or any activity in which water gets into the ears) a few days prior to the development of symptoms, along with pain with movement of the ear, swelling and irritation of the ear canal, and drainage of pus seen with an otoscope are all consistent with a diagnosis of swimmer’s ear.

Treatment: Treatment is generally with antibiotic drops that are placed directly into the ear canal.  If the swelling of the ear canal is severe, a wick may need to be placed in order to keep the ear canal open and effectively deliver the antibiotic drops to the affected area.  With proper treatment, most infections clear up in 7-10 days.

Difference Between Swimmer’s Ear and Infections: Many people ask about the difference between swimmer’s ear and the classic “ear infection”.  An ear infection, also known as acute otitis media, is an infection of the middle ear space or the space in the ear that is directly behind the ear drum.  This type of infection is more common in young children and often develops after an upper respiratory infection.  Because the middle ear space is in contact with the ear drum, the ear drum is often red and bulging when the doctor looks into the ear with an otoscope and the middle ear space is often filled with pus.  This type of infection often requires treatment with systemic antibiotics, typically given by mouth, unless the child has ear tubes that have been surgically placed.

Prevention: For people who have had swimmer’s ear or seem to be prone to getting it, there are many effective ways to prevent the infection from recurring.  The goal is to dry the ear canal while also keeping the skin of the ear canal intact.  Avoid using a cotton swab to clean or dry the ear canal as that can damage the skin of the ear canal making it easier for bacteria to enter and infect the skin.  Instead, use a towel to gently dry the ear canal.  Using a hair dryer on cool and the lowest setting and holding it several inches from the ear can also help to dry any excess water.  For people who have an intact ear drum (meaning there is no hole present in the ear drum) instilling a few drops of a mixture of ½ rubbing alcohol and ½ white vinegar can help dry the ear canal.  Wearing ear plugs during swimming is a great way to prevent water from entering the ear canal in the first place.

Need more info? If you think you or a family member might have swimmer’s ear, contact your health care provider to discuss treatment options and further prevention methods.  Have a happy and healthy holiday weekend!

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Healthy 4th Of July Grilling Recipe

Chinese Chicken Salad Dressing and Marinade

Dietitian Krista Kohls makes healthy grilling options on NBC15

featured on NBC15
This makes about 1 cup of salad dressing or enough marinade for 4-6 chicken breasts. It can also be used as a dipping sauce or salad dressing.

  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons less sodium soy sauce
  • ½ tsp honey
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp peeled, grated fresh ginger
  • ½ Tablespoon sesame seeds
  • ¼ cup smooth peanut butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Stir all ingredients together and whisk until smooth. If using as a marinade, reserve about ¼-1/2 of it for a dipping sauce. Pour the marinade over the chicken or vegetables and marinate for 2-4 hours or overnight. As a salad dressing this will keep for about a week in the fridge.

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Creating a Safe Sleep Environment for Infants

 Follow these simple tips to create a safe sleeping environment for your baby.

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Register for our Running Clinic

The racing season is in full swing now which is exactly when those nagging injuries tend to creep up.  If you are experiencing pain or injury that is limiting your running or just have questions about your running form sign up now for an appointment at the Meriter Sports Medicine Running clinic.  You will meet one on one with one of our sports medicine therapists who will screen your flexibility, strength, and running mechanics and help you establish a program to improve any limitations.  In addition we will have access to our video analysis system to help identify problem areas within your running mechanics.

Date and Times: July 9, 2015 from 5:30 – 7:30 PM
Location: Middleton Therapy Clinic
Cost: $35
Attire: Wear running clothes and have running shoes with you

Space is limited so sign up today.

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