Meriter-UnityPoint Health & UW Health to Expand Partnership


New agreement allows for more coordinated care

UW Health and Meriter-UnityPoint Health have signed a joint operating agreement for obstetrics and neonatal services.

The new agreement, recently approved by the members’ respective boards, went into effect Jan. 1, 2015, strengthening a long tradition of partnership around women’s health.

The joint operating agreement will cover “mother-baby services” with a plan to operate as if a single entity, offering both patients and referring physicians unified access to care and a more seamless experience.

“We value the opportunity to join with Meriter-UnityPoint Health and combine the strengths of UW Health’s academic medicine and patient- and family-centered care within a community hospital and a nationally ranked children’s hospital,” said Jeff Poltawsky, senior vice president of American Family Children’s Hospital. “This will allow us to achieve a future vision for coordinated care of women and infants. In addition to better care, this arrangement helps avoid duplication of services in the community—an important goal as we enhance quality, service and access while becoming more efficient in the delivery of care.”

The partnership will be governed by a 10-member board with equal representation from UW Health and Meriter and includes representation of both independent and UW Health physicians. While each party will maintain complete ownership of its current assets, the new board will monitor quality and service performance, review and approve annual budgets, strategic plans and policies and procedures.

“Under this agreement, Meriter-UnityPoint Health will strengthen maternal and newborn care and also build upon our tradition of partnering with the community to coordinate care around the needs of our patients, truly putting them at the center of all we do,” said Meriter Chief Nursing Officer Pat Grunwald.  “Families will benefit from peace of mind in knowing that they will receive the most technically advanced obstetrical, prenatal and newborn care through the collaborative sharing of top-notch resources in both Meriter and UW’s facilities.”

Meriter has the busiest birthing center in the state and a Level III neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU) that can provide life support to extremely high-risk newborns.  UW Health’s American Family Children’s Hospital opened a 14-bed Level IV NICU in May; it offers a full range of pediatric medical and surgical specialists and can provide care for infants with highly complex conditions.

Meriter and UW Health already partner in providing care in the Meriter Birthing Center and NICU, Center for Perinatal Care, OB/GYN care in Meriter clinics and Generations Fertility Care.

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Preventing Post-Surgical Infections – Steps to a Successful Procedure

Walking or exercising daily before your surgery can help improve your lung function and avoid post-surgical infections.

By: Diane Dohm, Infection Prevention Program

A surgical site infection occurs after surgery in the part of the body where surgery took place. Most patients who have surgery do not develop an infection. However, infections develop in about 1-3 of every 100 persons who have surgery.

What can you do to help prevent surgical infections?
Before your surgery, discuss your medical conditions with your doctor. Health problems such as diabetes, allergies and obesity can affect your outcome:

  • If you smoke, try to quit. Smoking increases your risk of infection as well as pneumonia after surgery.
  • Walk or exercise daily if possible to improve your lung function.
  • Do not shave the area near the surgical site the night before surgery or the morning of surgery. This may also include your legs and under your arms. Shaving can cause skin irritation and small nicks in your skin which may make it easier to develop an infection.
  • Your doctor may test you for Staph, a kind of germ, by swabbing your nose.
  • The night before surgery or the morning of surgery, clean your body and the site of surgery with a special product (soap or wipes) to reduce the number of germs on your body. Your doctor will instruct you on what to use and how to use it. Once you arrive at the hospital, your healthcare providers will clean your skin again.
  • After using the soap or wipes, put on clean, freshly laundered clothing. If possible, place clean sheets on your bed.

After your surgery, there are also things you can do to help prevent infections:

  • All health care providers, family and friends should clean their hands with alcohol gel or soap and water before and after visiting you. If you do not see them do this, it is ok to ask them to clean their hands.
  • Avoid touching your wound. Always clean your hands before and after caring for your wound and changing dressings as instructed by your doctor.
  • Your doctor will provide guidelines for your activity. Deep breathing and increasing your activity as allowed will decrease risk for pneumonia and blood clots.

After discharge from the hospital, follow the instructions given to you by your doctor. If you develop any signs of an infection, such as redness and pain at the surgical site, drainage, or fever, call your doctor.

Your doctor, nurses, and other healthcare professionals also do many things to prevent infections after surgery. Some of the things they do include:

  • Cleansing their hands and arms with special soaps just prior to surgery.
  • Wearing special hair covers, masks, gowns and gloves during surgery to keep the surgery area clean.
  • Cleansing the skin at the site of surgery with special antiseptics.
  • Antibiotics may be given prior, during, or after surgery as needed.

Working together as a team will help insure a successful recovery.

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Top 5 New Year’s Resolutions

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Visitor Guidelines During the Flu Season

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What You Should Know About Botox and Juvéderm

Before beginning a cosmetic medical treatment, be as specific as you can regarding your own personal goals.

By: Dr. Jeffrey Larson, Plastic Surgery

Botox and Juvéderm are cosmetic medical treatments referred to as “injectables” because both treatments are injected with a needle and syringe in an office setting. Botox works by paralyzing muscles in the face that cause wrinkles, while Juvéderm is a biologic chemical that restores volume to areas of the face that have been affected by aging.

Although these treatments have been demonstrated to be extremely safe when performed by an experienced practitioner, they can have disadvantages, especially when they are used excessively or improperly. With Botox, one of the problems that can be seen on patients who are overtreated is described as a “frozen face.” Because Botox works by paralyzing muscles, if it is overused, it may cause an unnatural, expressionless appearance. Juvéderm works by restoring volume to areas of the face that have lost volume. Overinjection of Juvéderm can lead to an overcorrected appearance and unnatural contours.

The best way to avoid these complications is to prevent them. It is essential to make sure your provider is experienced with the injectable he or she is using. Your provider should be well-trained in cosmetic medicine; these practitioners include plastic surgeons, facial plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and nurses who have specialized training in these areas. Before beginning your treatment, be as specific as you can regarding your own personal goals. Clear communication is key to obtaining the result you are seeking.

If you do have a result that is unsatisfactory, start by contacting the practitioner who performed the service. They will be able to counsel you regarding recovery or improvement. If you are not comfortable with the response, seek an opinion from a different, experienced provider. In some cases, additional injections may be able to correct the problem you are having. In any event, with both Botox and Juvéderm, the effects are temporary and will gradually improve with time. The goal with any injectable treatment is a result that is natural, refreshed, and meets the expectations you have for improvement.

To learn about the non-surgical treatment options offered at Meriter, visit

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Join us at Polar Dash – Jan. 24

It may be cold outside, but winter doesn’t mean healthy living needs to hibernate. We want kids to stay active and healthy all year round. 

Join us for a fun-filled morning at Polar Dash!
• Race around an outdoor course pulling a stuffed bear in a sled
• Enjoy outdoor hula hooping and bean bag toss
• Warm up inside with treats
• Visit the Bear Clinic: Bring your favorite bear (or stuffed animal) from home for a head-to-toe check-up by Meriter doctors.
• Compete in fun games inside!

Polar Dash is free and open to the public. Bring a friend!

Recommended for Kids 12 and under. All are welcome.

Date: Saturday, January 24
Time: 10 am to noon
Location: Meriter Monona, 6408 Copps Avenue
Cost: FREE

Print off the form for a quick and easy registration.

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10 Top Baby Names of 2014

Are you wondering what the top baby names were for 2014 in the Madison area? As the busiest birthing center in the state of Wisconsin, we compiled a list of the most common first names of the more than 3,800 babies born at Meriter Hospital in 2014.

Did your favorite name make the list? Let us know in the comments below!

1. Charlotte
1. Evelyn
1. Isabel/Isabelle
4. Nora
5. Sophia
6. Emma
6. Stella
8. Ava
9. Aubree/Aubrey
9. Harper

1. William
2. Henry
2. Jackson/Jaxson
4. Mason
5. Benjamin
6. Owen
6. Samuel
8. Alexander
9. Dillon/Dylan
9. Michael
9. Miles

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Hot Water Hand Washing and The Five Second Rule

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Meriter – UnityPoint Health Appoints CEO

The Board of Directors of Meriter – UnityPoint Health, with the support of our partners at UnityPoint Health, has named Arthur Nizza, DSW, as President and CEO, effective February 16, 2015.

“We interviewed talented candidates from around the nation and Art was truly the right fit for our patients, our community, our physicians and our employees,” said Virginia Graves, Chair of the Meriter – UnityPoint Health Board of Directors. “We are confident Art will help Meriter thrive in the changing health care world, allowing us to continue our mission of patient-focused, community-minded care for years to come.”

Bill Leaver, President and CEO of UnityPoint Health said, “Art’s experience, knowledge of the health care world and business savvy make him an outstanding choice to lead Meriter. We welcome him to the organization and know he will bring Meriter to an even higher level of excellence.”

Nizza is currently the President of MidHudson Regional of Westchester Medical Center in Poughkeepsie, NY where he successfully orchestrated the transition from a standalone entity to the regional hospital of an Academic Medical Center.  His focus has been on building collaborative relationships with community physicians, other local providers and faculty to further patient-centered care.

Prior to MidHudson, Nizza was President and CEO of Stellaris Health Network, a clinically integrated network of community hospitals in a very competitive market near New York City. Nizza has considerable expertise in transitioning organizations to compete on value over market share.

Nizza has held previous executive leadership roles at academic medical centers like Mount Sinai and NYU in New York and his experience includes direct patient care as a social worker and expertise with information technology in clinical practice.  Nizza earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Long Island University and holds masters and doctoral degrees from Adelphi University in social welfare.

Nizza replaces Jim Woodward, who served as Meriter’s President and CEO for eight years. Peter Thoreen and Dr. Geoff Priest have respectfully served as Interim CEO and Interim President since July.

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Symptoms and Triggers of Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Research suggests that individually tailored treatments, such as regular exercise, can be helpful for many people with IBS.

By: Dr. Luke Fortney, Family Medicine at Meriter McKee

Is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) real? Yes! Irritable bowel syndrome (also called spastic colon and sometimes referred to as abdominal migraine) is a complex disorder that affects as many as 20 percent of people at different times of their lives. Although there is no single cause for IBS, it is characterized by abnormal gut contractions and digestion, unbalanced gut bacteria, low-grade chronic inflammation, gut hypersensitivity and disruption of the gut-brain communication.

Common symptoms include chronic abdominal discomfort and altered bowel habits including constipation, diarrhea, bloating, fatigue, and abdominal pain. If you experience any of these symptoms several times each month, you may have IBS. Individuals with IBS report a variety of triggers for their symptoms, but the following are the most common.

  1. Certain foods and beverages: Some sufferers find it helpful to keep a food diary to track how their diet affects their condition. Foods and beverages affect each person differently, but foods that are most likely to cause problems include raw fruit and vegetables, wheat (gluten), sweeteners (real and artificial), caffeine, alcohol, soda, foods high in fat, highly processed foods, fast food, and most dairy.
  2. Medicines or supplements: It’s important to review your drug and supplement regimen with your doctor. Never stop taking a medication without talking to your doctor first. Also keep in mind that many supplements are upsetting to the gut.
  3. Stress in any form: Because IBS is a functional bowel disorder, it can be triggered and worsened by stress and anxiety.

Research suggests that individually tailored treatments such as improved nutrition, regular exercise, stress reduction, health psychology coping skills, and appropriate medications and supplements can be helpful for many people with IBS.

Altering gut flora (bacteria levels) also seems to be helpful. A recent analysis of multiple research studies reported that most probiotic strains appear to improve gas and bloating compared with placebo. Two additional studies concluded that probiotics, in general, improve overall IBS symptoms for most patients.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms generally associated with IBS several times each month, call us! Meriter-UnityPoint Health’s dedicated IBS Program can apply proven techniques to help you successfully manage IBS.

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Core Conditioning: It’s Not Just About the Abs

A strong core increases balance and stability making it easier to do daily activities such as bending down to tie your shoes.

By: Lori Parmenter, Clinical Exercise Physiologist with Women’s HeartCare

Many people compare “core” with their abdominal muscles. However, it is much more than your abs. Traditional stomach crunches or sit-ups target just a few muscles. The core is made up of the many muscles that run up and down the spine — in the front, back, and sides — that help you bend, stand, twist, lift, move and more. Strong core muscles make it easier to do everything from swinging a golf club to getting a glass from the top shelf or bending down to tie your shoes. Weak core muscles leave you susceptible to poor posture, lower back pain and muscle injuries. Weak or inflexible core muscles can impair how well your arms and legs function-and can sap power from many of the moves you make. So, properly building up your core cranks up the power.

A strong core increases balance and stability. It can help prevent falls and injuries during sports and other activities. A strong, flexible core helps with everything including:

  • Everyday activities—Bending to pick up a package, turning to look behind you or standing in line at a store are just a few of the many everyday actions that depend on your core and you might not think about it until it is too difficult or painful.
  • On-the-job tasks—Jobs that involve lifting, twisting and standing all depend on core muscles. Even sitting at your desk for hours depend on your core. Phone calls, typing and computer use can make your back muscles stiff and sore, especially if you’re not strong enough to practice good posture and aren’t taking sufficient breaks.

To be safe and effective, core muscle strengthening exercises require proper alignment and progression from one type of exercise to another—adjusted to your body and fitness level. Also, consult a clinician before starting any fitness program if you haven’t been physically active, have back problems or some other medical condition.

Exercises for Strengthening Your Core
You can start by learning how to “squeeze in,” gently but firmly tighten the abdominal muscles, squeezing the navel in toward the small of the back. The tailbone should be slightly tucked. Practice holding this position for 10 seconds at a time while breathing normally. Once you get the hang of this, you can start doing some core exercises.

A bridge is a classic core exercise. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Keep your back in a neutral position, not arched and not pressed into the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles. Raise your hips off the floor until your hips are aligned with your knees and shoulders. Hold the position as long as you can without breaking your form.

Exercises that strengthen abdominal and other core muscles should be part of an overall fitness plan that includes regular moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, 30 minutes per day, most days of the week. It is recommended to get 20-30 minutes of strength training two to three times a week, and that is a good time to fit in a few exercises designed to work the core. Having a strong core will not only make you look better by changing your posture, it will help you move better and keep you protected during many of life’s daily activities.

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Meriter – UnityPoint Health Named Top Employer in Madison

Meriter – UnityPoint Health is proud to announce that it has been named the top place to work in Madison by In Business magazine.

Meriter received the magazine’s top score for offering our employees a robust benefits package, continuing education opportunities and community support.

“People who work in health care generally are highly motivated to be of service to others,” said Interim President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Geoff Priest in an interview with the magazine. “And I would say that seems to be true across my whole career, from when I went into health care through today.”

In addition to an interview with Dr. Priest, employees at the Meriter Monona clinic are featured on the cover of the December issue of In Business. Our partners at Turville Bay MRI & Radiation Oncology Center are also featured as a top employer in the issue.

You can read the full article here. Not a Meriter employee? Browse available openings on our career page.

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Thank You to our Heart Walkers!

Thank you to all who participated in the American Heart Association® Heart Walk® on October 18. It was inspiring to see so many Meriter blue shirts despite the frigid temperatures. The totals have come in, and Meriter’s Heart & Vascular team raised just over $4,000, leading Meriter’s contribution total to reach more than $9,000!

It was a great event this year, and we are looking forward to an even bigger presence next year as we continue to support the AHA’s mission of education and advocacy. Thank you to all of our super heroes at Meriter!

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8 Accidents to Avoid This Holiday Season

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How to Avoid Common Prescription Drug Mistakes

Be sure to use two identifiers when picking up your prescriptions to avoid any mistakes.

By: Nick Gnadt, Ambulatory Pharmacy Manager

Medicines have the power to heal and cure, but sometimes mistakes and errors can happen. When not used properly, they can be ineffective or even harmful. Here are some tips for making sure your medications are just what the doctor ordered.

Choose Quality over Convenience
No pharmacy wants to make you wait for your prescriptions, but safely filling your prescription is more than just counting pills. A good pharmacist will not just check the prescriptions you are filling but will also review all of your prescription records to look for interactions, check for other medications that may need filling, and even look for medications that could either be stopped or started to ensure you are only taking medications that make sense for you.

Some pharmacies make guarantees about how quickly they will fill your prescriptions and may sometimes skip these steps to ensure they meet that guarantee. A report from the Institute for Safe Medication Practices found that many pharmacists working in pharmacies with time guarantees reported that pressure to meet these guarantees led to dispensing errors. Make sure you choose a pharmacy that commits to doing the right thing rather than just doing the fastest thing.

Use Two Identifiers When Picking Up Your Prescriptions
While every person is a unique individual, your name may not be. Make sure that your pharmacy checks not just your name but also a second identifier like your address or date of birth. This simple step can ensure that you are getting YOUR medications and not someone else’s.

Participate in Show and Tell
Every time you pick up your medications, have your pharmacist show you the pills and tell you their names and what they are for. Seeing the pills before you leave the pharmacy gives you a chance to identify any that look different. Many generic medications come in different shapes and sizes so changes may not be a problem, but looking at them before you leave the pharmacy lets the pharmacist double check the stock bottle if there is any question about it being the right medicine.

Use Trustworthy Sources on the Internet
The Internet has given us access to information that we never had before, but not all of it is completely accurate. When looking up information on medicines, make sure you have a trustworthy site. For instance, MedlinePlus is a good site that is maintained by the National Institutes of Health. It has information on medicines, natural products, and even education on diseases. is another good site with more tips on how to avoid medication errors.

Keep Drug Information in Context
When looking up medication information on your own, remember that your pharmacist, doctors and other members of your health care team are available if you have questions or concerns. Most medicines have long lists of possible side effects that make the drugs sound scary. With extensive education in biology, physiology and chemistry, your pharmacist can help give you the background information to put the warnings in context. Oftentimes, the side effects are very rare and you can take steps to help reduce the risk of experiencing them.

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10 Healthy Thanksgiving Meal Alternatives

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Six Ways to Manage Stress Around the Holidays

The holidays are usually a time when everyone is focused on gift giving for families and friends; however, it is also a great time to consider giving to others.

By: Dr. Gretchen Diem, Health Psychology

Although holidays are supposed to be a joyful time, they can also feel overwhelming and stressful. There is often a dizzying array of demands – parties, shopping, baking, cleaning, family get-togethers, to name just a few and not enough time to do it all. For some, the holidays are especially hard as they are reminded that they are alone or of loved ones who are gone.

Here are some ideas that may ring true for you this year as you try to embrace all that the season has to offer.

  1. Have realistic expectations. No holiday celebration is ever perfect and it doesn’t have to be just like last year. As life changes and families grow, traditions and rituals often shift as well. Choose a few to hold onto, and be open to creating new ones.
  2. Keep things in perspective. Try to view inevitable mishaps as opportunities to find humor, and demonstrate flexibility and resilience. Burning the cookies, arriving late to a party, or coming down with a winter cold will not ruin the holidays. Instead it might just create a notable family memory.
  3. Honor your feelings. Just as it is a season of celebrating the many gifts in our lives, the holidays also can be a time that calls to mind what pains us. Remember that many people struggle with some loneliness or loss. Giving yourself and others some grace can make it easier to be present in the moment and to not be overwhelmed with the full spectrum of emotions that life has to offer.
  4. Give to those in need. The holidays are usually a time when everyone is focused on gift giving for families and friends; however, it is also a great time to consider giving to others. Helping those less fortunate is a wonderful way to teach children about the value of helping others and has the added benefit of making the “giver” feel good too.
  5. Do less. As hard as it is, give yourself permission to say no to requests that are going to add to your level of stress. You cannot be present for yourself or others if you feel resentful or over-burdened. Ask yourself, is this really necessary? Will this bring me or my family more joy or will it just add more pressure. Prioritize activities that are most meaningful.
  6. Focus on what really matters. The barrage of holiday advertising can make us overlook the true meaning of the season. The holidays are a time to reconnect with people we care about, give thanks, and celebrate. Take time to reflect on all the people, experiences, and things we have in our lives for which to be grateful. This can really shift our perspectives in a positive way.

Take time to stop, breath, reflect and enjoy – here’s to a wonderful holiday season and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

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How Can You Become Tobacco-Free?

The Great American Smokeout is an opportunity to commit to a tobacco-free life, and enjoy the rewards of accomplishing something you may not have thought possible.

By: Dr. Luke Fortney, Family Medicine

When someone mentions the Great American Smokeout on November 20, do you feel inspired, annoyed, anxious, guilty or something else? If truth be told, many people who smoke have mixed emotions about smoking and quitting. The whole point of the Great American Smokeout isn’t to set unrealistic expectations. Quite the opposite! Here at Meriter – UnityPoint Health, we encourage you to look at this day as the starting point toward optimal wellbeing for the long-run.

According to WIPHL (Wisconsin Initiative to Promote Healthy Lifestyles), 40% of all deaths in Wisconsin every year are directly attributed to tobacco and alcohol. That’s a big number and a lot of unfortunate and unnecessary loss. However, it’s never too late to turn things around. This November, we encourage you to use the Great American Smokeout as a day to start thinking about, preparing for, and making plans for tobacco cessation at a time that is best for your schedule and your life.

The Great American Smokeout is just the starting point for you to become tobacco-free. Rather than quit cold-turkey on November 20th, we encourage you to begin preparing for a tobacco-free life. There are many ways to do this, and many tools to support you. Perhaps the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line or using OTC nicotine replacement will help you stay on track. You may even be drawn to our flagship Mindfulness Training for Smokers (MTS) class, which is a once-a-week, 7-weeks-long, group program combining medications and training in mindfulness to help manage cravings, withdrawl symptoms, smoking triggers, and stress. Whatever approach you choose, we will be here for you every step of the way, which also includes our monthly smoking cessation check-in group.

How does mindfulness help us break free from addiction? First of all, mindfulness is a psychology technique and practice that means paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and without judgment. It provides us with a whole new skill set for dealing with triggers, urges, strong emotions, and stressors – whatever leads us to smoke. At the same time, it helps retrain certain dopamine mediated neuro-pathways so that cravings aren’t nearly as intense as they may have been during previous quit attempts. Learning to practice mindfulness in meaningful, everyday, and practical ways teaches us to pay attention to our experience so that we are able to thoughtfully respond to circumstances rather than automatically react. This awareness provides a pause or break in old habitual patterns, creating a chance to decide not to reach for that cigarette or chew.

If you’re having a hard time deciding where to start, we can help! This isn’t about trying the same old approach over and over again. The Great American Smokeout can serve as an opportunity for you to 1) begin thinking about, 2) prepare for and 3) empower yourself to finally be free of tobacco. We encourage you to take this opportunity to commit to a tobacco-free life, and most importantly enjoy the rewards of accomplishing something you may not have thought possible.

Give us a call at 608-417-7848 (QUIT). Together, we’ll help you come up with a plan for your success. What’s your starting point?

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10 Common Medical Conditions in Veterans

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Healthy Comfort Food Recipes

By: Michelle Miller, Manager of Greenbush Garden Bistro

Fall and winter are all about comfort foods for most of us, so I have included some healthy alternatives to our everyday idea of what comfort food is. Now, these recipes will require slightly more prep time, but the benefits are worth it! The first one I will share with you is a twist on lasagna and pasta dishes.

I love using zucchini as a noodle base, and I love my Vegetti (the tool used to make thin spaghetti noodles). Here is one of my favorite recipes for zucchini lasagna; of course you can add/remove veggies as you wish.

Zucchini Veggie Lasagna
2 large zucchini
1 tablespoon salt
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon fresh garlic
1 onion, diced
1 cup tomato paste
1 (16 ounce) can tomato sauce
1/4 cup red wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
Hot water as needed
1 egg
1 (15 ounce) container low-fat ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 (16 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
8 ounces grated Parmesan cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease a deep 9×13 inch baking pan.
  2. Slice zucchini lengthwise into very thin slices. Sprinkle slices lightly with salt; set aside to drain in a colander. This prevents the dish from getting too much liquid.
  3. To prepare the meat sauce, cook and stir ground beef and black pepper in a large skillet over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Add in green pepper, garlic and onion; cook and stir until meat is no longer pink. Stir in tomato paste, tomato sauce, wine, basil, and oregano, adding a small amount of hot water if sauce is too thick. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer sauce for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Meanwhile, stir egg, ricotta and parsley together in a bowl until well combined.
  5. To assemble lasagna, spread 1/2 of the meat sauce into the bottom of prepared pan. Then layer 1/2 the zucchini slices, 1/2 the ricotta mixture, all of the spinach, followed by all of the mushrooms, then 1/2 the mozzarella cheese. Repeat by layering the remaining meat sauce, zucchini slices, ricotta mixture, and mozzarella. Spread Parmesan cheese evenly over the top; cover with foil.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil; raise oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) and bake an additional 15 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Another favorite of mine is a basic zucchini noodle topped with marinara sauce, Alfredo sauce or any other sauce you would like to incorporate. This can be topped with meat or strictly veggies. This recipe is very flexible! It can be served warm or cold. My favorite is sautéed lightly and then topped with a sauce of your choice. I would add feta cheese and chicken with this pesto zucchini recipe! Yum!

Simple Pesto Zucchini Noodles
Yield: 2 large bowls

2 large zucchini
Drizzle olive oil
1 carrot, shredded
Handful of your favorite mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons  Basil Pesto (recipe below)
A pinch of sea salt
A pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Using a spiralizer, vegetable peeler or vegetti, cut zucchini into angel hair-like pasta and place in a bowl. Drizzle with a very small amount of olive oil, add carrot and mushrooms, and toss with Basil Pesto (homemade recipe is included). Season with sea salt and black pepper and serve.

Basil Pesto Recipe
1/2 cups pine nuts
1/2 cup fresh basil
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon olive oil

In a food processor, combine pine nuts, basil, garlic, and sea salt. While mixing, drizzle olive oil into the food processor. Add more oil as needed to blend into a creamy paste. Season with additional sea salt as needed.

I love zucchini noodles for the sheer fact that it feels like comfort food and tastes like it too, but you reap the benefits of veggies in the cold and almost snowy weather when most of us slow down on our consumption. Once you make the noodles you can do a variety of different dishes with them. The dishes included are my personal favorites! Happy Cooking!

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Meriter-UnityPoint Health Wins 2014 eHealthcare Leadership Awards

Meriter-UnityPoint Health is proud to announce that is has again been honored with three national eHealthcare Leadership Awards, presented by eHealthcare Strategy & Trends.

Meriter received the 2014 Silver eHealthcare Leadership Award for Best Doctor Directory, the 2014 Silver eHealthcare Leadership Award for Best Intranet and Meriter Foundation was awarded the Distinction award for Best Overall Internet Site.

Meriter’s physician directory conveniently allows patients the option to meet a Meriter physician online by viewing a physician’s photo, video and medical philosophy. Patients also have the option of conveniently requesting an appointment online with a Meriter physician.

Meriter’s intranet site was judge based on the organization’s use of internal networking to enhance employee productivity and satisfaction as well as reducing administrative costs.

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Eating to Improve Overall Health and Diabetes Control

Having a plan and writing a grocery list can save you time, stress and a lot of extra trips to the store.

By: Gena Van Kirk, Registered Dietitian/Diabetes Educator

When it comes to healthy eating, nourishing the body is the main concern. Our bodies require a certain quantity of nutrients to work at their best. This is largely about getting a well-balanced diet. We need to make sure we are bringing in enough energy, vitamins and minerals to meet our needs, but not so much that we exceed our needs. If we can accomplish this, we can also improve our diabetes outcomes. By eating healthy and maintaining a healthy weight, it is possible to slow down or reverse the progression of pre-diabetes to diabetes and to decrease complications related to diabetes.

What does eating healthy look like?

We can start by looking at our plates to see which foods we are choosing and what portion sizes we are consuming. The most recent guidelines suggest that we envision our plate as being divided up into four sections or quarters. One quarter of the plate should include a lean meat or protein food, and usually this food portion should be the size of a deck of playing cards. The second section of the plate should contain a starchy food or whole grain product such as a potato, noodles, rice or other bread product and take up the space equal to a computer mouse. The other half of the plate should consist of one cup of vegetables as well as a piece of fruit about the size of a tennis ball. In addition to this, you should incorporate 1 cup of low fat milk or yogurt. Remember, if you are adding any fats such as oil, butter or margarine to your plate, limit it to 1-2 teaspoons per meal. Eating in this fashion can assist in weight management and help to stabilize blood glucose (sugar) levels. It can also assist in heart disease prevention, which is of significance as people with diabetes have two times the risk of heart disease. Elevated blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels increase the risk of heart disease, so it is helpful to monitor your sugar, sodium and fat intake in the diet.

Making Healthier Choices

When choosing your meat or protein for the meal, be mindful of fats. If you can remove any visible fat from the meat before cooking it, do so. Also, if you are able to use a cooking method such as baking, broiling or boiling, you can decrease the amount of added fat to the product. Watch out for processed meats such as bologna or sausage and pickled meats such as herring because these meat choices tend to be higher in salt. Healthier meat choices include white meat chicken or turkey without the skin, round or loin cuts of beef or pork and fish.

When choosing your starch or grain for the meal, try to include dried beans (such as pinto, navy, garbanzo and kidney) and “whole” grains at least half of the time in order to incorporate fiber into the diet. Some whole grain choices would include low sugar whole grain cereals, whole wheat bread, brown rice, instant oatmeal, popcorn (be mindful of the added butter and salt), whole grain crackers and whole grain chips.

With your fruits and vegetables, the most important things to remember are to include a good variety of colors in the diet (in order to incorporate a larger number of vitamins and minerals in the diet) and to eat the whole fruit more often than choosing fruit juice. This will help to improve your fiber intake in the diet. Also, if you can choose fresh or frozen vegetables rather than canned vegetables, you will be decreasing the sodium content in your diet. Foods from the milk and yogurt group should be fat free (skim) or low fat (1%) for heart health. When you need to add a small amount of fat to your meal, lean towards heart healthy oils such as olive oil and canola oil, choose tub margarines rather than stick margarine, and limit butter and cream.

How do we make sure healthy food choices get to our plate?

I would contend that a good plan and regular shopping trips are the most important parts of the process. Set aside some time to plan your meals each week. You might want to start with just a few days. It may seem like a lot of work at first, but having a plan and writing a grocery list can save you time, stress and a lot of extra trips to the store. A good tip is to shop on the edge or perimeter of the grocery store. This area typically contains your breads, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meats. Stick to your grocery list when venturing down the aisles of the grocery store as many of these foods tend to be low in nutrition. Try to avoid shopping when you are hungry as you might be tempted by a less healthy food.

There may be other times when it is difficult to make healthy food choices. A few examples would be snacking and dining out. Why not make it easy to find healthy snack foods in your kitchen? For example, when you get home from work or school, put some fresh carrots, grapes or pretzels out on the counter instead of a bag of chips. It can be helpful to prepare these items ahead of time, maybe on the weekend or on a day off. When dining out, ask if meats can be grilled rather than fried and request sauces and dressings on the side. Remember to choose fruit, salad or other vegetables as side items, rather than French fries. Order a salad or soup to start and then share an entrée. Save money, and lots of calories, by skipping or sharing a dessert.

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Help Feed the Hungry This Thanksgiving

For many years, the Goodman Community Center has provided groceries to families across Dane County so that they can also make a traditional Thanksgiving meal. This year, they hope to feed over 2,500 families.

You can easily make a big difference this year through supporting the Goodman Community Center by “liking” Meriter-UnityPoint Health on Facebook! For every “like,” we will make a $5 donation to the Goodman Community Center, and we will donate up to $2,500 before Thanksgiving. We hope you will help this year!

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Attend Family Night Out – Dance Party

With the cold of winter upon us, enjoy a FREE night filled with ways to stay active indoors. Just because we are spending more time inside doesn’t mean you can’t find fun activities to keep you healthy. Join us for:
• Dancing
• Games
• Face painting
• Balloon artist
• Snacks and infused water
• Register to win prizes
• Learn more about Madison Moms Blog

Location: Meriter DeForest-Windsor
                  4200 Savannah Drive, DeForest
                  (near the intersection of Hwys. 19 & 51)

Date: Tuesday, November 25 from 5:30-7:30pm

This event is open to the community and the drawings are free, without any obligation.

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Manage the Holidays Mindfully


Learning mindfulness skills can help you focus on what's important this holiday season.

Are you feeling daunted by the thought of the upcoming holidays? If so, you’re not alone. This season, choose to give yourself the gift of respite while developing skills that can take you from frantic and overwhelmed to mindful and stress-free.

Our 4-class Manage the Holidays Mindfully  program encourages you to stay in the moment amidst the hustle and bustle of gift shopping, decorating and family get-togethers. In a relaxing atmosphere, you will learn how to use mindfulness as a tool to change the way you cope with holiday demands. The great thing is that no previous mindfulness experience is needed!

Each class will focus on a different holiday-related topic:

  • Managing Expectations
  • Time Management
  • Relationship Issues
  • Holiday Eating

Weekly on Tuesdays, Nov. 11, Nov. 18, Dec. 2 and Dec. 9 (No class will be held Nov. 25)
Time: 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Location: Meriter McKee Clinic

Come join us and be surprised how much more peace and joy you truly can have this holiday season. To register, please visit

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