Meriter-UnityPoint Health Offers Additional Colon Cancer Screenings

At Meriter-UnityPoint Health, your health is our priority. We know that colon cancer is one of the most preventable, yet least prevented, cancers in the U.S. today. Unfortunately, only 1 in 3 people over the age of 50 are getting their recommended screenings. In order to increase these numbers and ultimately save more lives, Meriter is proud to now offer additional colon cancer screenings, including Cologuard: a new noninvasive option. If you are over the age of 50, please talk with your doctor about what screening option is best for you.

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Healthy Halloween Treats

Patty Larabell, RDN

Halloween is a fun time for kids and families, but it often includes too many sugary treats. There are easy ways to turn a Halloween snack into a fun and healthy treat.

Frankenstein Cups

  • Fill a clear cup with one layer of green grapes
  • Cut a marshmallow in half and push the sticky side into the side of the cup. These will be the eyes
  • Fill the rest of the cup with green grapes
  • Draw a mouth and two eyes on the outside of the cup, making sure the eyes line up with the marshmallows

Witches Brooms

  • Cut a low-fat cheese stick in half and cut long slices into it to look like broom bristles
  • Push a small pretzel stick into the end of the cheese stick

Clementine Pumpkins

  • Peal a clementine
  • Chop a celery into small pieces
  • Stick the celery pieces into the top of the clementine for stems


  • Take  black marker and have your kids draw Jack-o-lantern faces on the peals
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Six Things You Didn’t Know About Hospital Pharmacists

The hospital pharmacist is a great person to inform you about your medications. They know what medications you are taking, why they have been prescribed, and what side effects you might experience.

By: Hanna Knurr, Pharmacy Practice Resident

Did you ever wonder how your nurse knows that he or she is giving you the right medications at the right times and at the right dose? Hospital pharmacists handle all things medication related!

What does a hospital pharmacist do? Many people think that a pharmacist is the person that you visit at the drugstore. That person, an outpatient pharmacist, manages the medications that you take at home. At Meriter-Unity Point Health, hospital pharmacists are an important part of the health care team.

Here are some of the things that hospital pharmacists do:

  1. Pharmacists are medication experts: All pharmacists have college degrees. In pharmacy school, students spend 4 years learning to be experts in medication management. Student pharmacists also spend their last year gaining valuable work experience in different settings, ranging from outpatient pharmacies to hospitals and clinics. After graduation, many pharmacists spend an extra year or two in residency programs, learning advanced skills.
  2. Medication monitoring: In many hospitals, including Meriter-Unity Point Health, pharmacists work on the inpatient floors, and in the inpatient pharmacy. The unit-based pharmacist works closely with doctors, nurses and patients. On many floors, the patient care team conducts daily “rounds”. During rounds, the pharmacist makes recommendations and answers questions about medications for the rounding team. For many medications, the hospital pharmacist helps to choose the correct dose.
  3. Patient Education: The hospital pharmacist is a great person to inform you about your medications. They know what medications you are taking, why they have been prescribed, and what side effects you might experience. The pharmacist can teach you how to safely and effectively take your medications at home. If you have questions about your medications, just ask your nurse if you can speak with the pharmacist.
  4. Making sure that you are getting the right medication for you: Medications are complicated. At Meriter-Unity Point Health, our pharmacists review each patient’s current medications every day. When a doctor prescribes a new medication, your hospital pharmacist will check your medical chart and review your other medications to make sure that the new medication is the best choice for you. For some drugs, doses may change a lot from person to person. For those drugs, your hospital pharmacist can order lab tests to determine if these doses are high enough to be effective, but not too high that you are at risk of side effects. If a pharmacist finds that a medication is not effective or is causing side effects, he or she will contact your doctor to discuss a better option for you.
  5. Helping to keep you safe: Every medication that you receive in the hospital is labeled with your name and double checked by a pharmacist. From the pharmacy medications are sent to your floor, where your nurse can access them and then give them to you. For an extra layer of safety, Meriter-Unity Point Health uses a barcode scanning system to make sure that the medication your nurse gives to you is the one your doctor prescribed. Hospital pharmacists are constantly looking for ways to improve medication safety.
  6. Making sure that you have access to medications at home. Often, a doctor starts a patient on a new medication that will need to be continued when that patient goes home. When money is an issue, the hospital pharmacist can look at insurance information to find out if the drug prescribed is covered. If insurance coverage is an issue, the pharmacist may be able to recommend a less expensive alternative. For patients who might not have any insurance, the hospital pharmacists at Meriter are aware of programs to help patients get the medications that they need. We want you to have access to the medications that you need.At Meriter, we also work closely with our outpatient pharmacy to make sure that you can get your home medications before you leave the hospital. The outpatient pharmacist can even come visit you in your room, bring you your medications, educate about how to take them and what to expect.

At Meriter Unity-Point Health, our hospital pharmacists work hard 24 hours a day, every day, to make sure that our patients are getting the most benefit from their medications. There’s always a hospital pharmacist nearby– feel free to ask us about your medications or what we can do for you.

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16 Tips to Keep Your Kids Safe on Halloween

Try to use face paint instead of a mask for the costumes because masks can limit your eyesight when Trick-or-Treating.

By: Dr. Kristin Millin, Pediatrics at Meriter West Washington

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. At my house, we are currently in negotiations with my 9-year-old about whether a Zombie costume is appropriate to wear this year when we are out Trick-or-Treating. As a pediatrician, I am always thinking about safety on any outing with the kids, and here are some ways to help keep all of our children safe this Halloween.


  1. Try to plan for a costume that is bright or reflective. If that isn’t an option, glow sticks that you can make into a necklace or bracelet are $1 a packet at the Dollar Store or Target and work great to find your little goblins at night.
  2. Don’t let costumes hang below a child’s ankle height. This will help prevent falls while walking the neighborhood.
  3. Try to use face paint instead of a mask for the costumes. Masks can limit your eyesight when Trick-or-Treating.


  1. Make sure to pick up anything that a child could trip on when coming to your home. Clear away any lawn decorations that might block a safe entry and exit to your front door.
  2. Restrain pets so they don’t jump at any princesses at your door.
  3. Replace outdoor lights that have burned out bulbs.
  4. Avoid using candles for your pumpkins and instead use battery operated LED candles.
  5. Have small children draw a face on pumpkins instead of having them carve pumpkins.

Trick-or-Treat Time:

  1. A parent or responsible adult should always walk with children while they are trick-or-treating.
  2. Use flashlights or headlamps to light the trail around the neighborhood.
  3. If older children are going alone, plan for designated meeting times at local neighborhood haunts.
  4. Do not go up to a house that does not have a porch light on when trick-or-treating.
  5. Only cross the street at designated intersections.
  6. Carry a cell phone in case of emergency.
  7. Always sort the treats with your children and consider donating your child’s Halloween candy to a local organization that is accepting candy donations. Meriter West Washington Clinic will be accepting candy donations between 9:30-11:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 1 at the 3rd Annual Candy Trade-In Party. The candy will be donated to U.S. troops overseas through Operation Gratitude.
  8. Drive slowly in any neighborhoods during trick-or-treat times as well as exit and enter driveways carefully.
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Sign up for our Running Clinic

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–UnityPoint Health 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: October 29, 2014 at 5:30, 6:00, 6:30 or 7:00 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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Halloween Candy Trade-In Party!

We want your candy … but it’s for a good cause!

Save the date to bring in your extra candy to our 3rd Annual Halloween Candy Trade-In Party on Saturday, November 1, 2014 from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at the West Washington clinic.

Candy will be donated to U.S. Troops overseas through Operation Gratitude. Kids will recieve one prize entry ticket for each pound of candy they bring in.

So far, prizes include:
- 20″ kid’s bike – donated by Pacific Cycle
- 4 tickets to The Christmas Carol at Overture Center – donated by Children’s Theatre of Madison
- Free passes – donated by Pump It Up
- Gift card – donated by CVS
- Family bowling passes – donated by Entercom Communications
- And many, many more great prizes to come …

Already planning to be downtown for the Farmer’s Market or Kids’ in the Rotunda? You’ll be right near our party! Stop in! Free parking is provided to our guests in the ramp under our clinic.

We hope to see you there!

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Why You Should Schedule a Screening Mammogram

Diagnosing a breast cancer early with a screening mammogram helps with treatment options, surgery and an eventual cure.

By: Dr. Susan Toth, General Surgery

You have a spot on your mammogram. You have breast cancer.

No two sentences can strike more fear in a woman than those above. Sometimes that fear prevents a woman from actually getting a mammogram in the first place. Yet we know that diagnosing a breast cancer early with a screening mammogram helps with treatment options, surgery and an eventual cure.

Breast cancer is treatable and curable most of the time, especially when it is small and found early. Sometimes the mammogram will find a cancer so early that it is not even physically noticeable to the woman or her doctor. Most breast cancers will occur after age 50 (postmenopausal) and are not genetically associated. The recommendation is to start mammograms at age 40 and repeat every two years until age 50. Then you should obtain yearly mammograms after that. If there is a strong family history of breast cancer, then it is recommended to start yearly mammograms at age 35.

Some women are afraid of the radiation from a mammogram – but rest assured that a mammogram is now digital and even with extra imaging it has minimal radiation risk.

So, I encourage you to get your mammogram as recommended. An abnormal mammogram, or even a palpable lump, will lead to a biopsy, but most biopsies (>85%) are benign! Whew.

The Breast Team at Meriter-UnityPoint Health includes screening mammography at Meriter Monona, diagnostic mammogram and possible biopsy as needed at 1 S. Park UW Breast Center radiologists, Meriter Medical Group Surgical Consult as necessary and reconstruction consultation with Reconstructive Plastic Surgery at Meriter Monona. We work closely with the UW Oncologists making the process seamless.

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Learn the Truth About Ebola

ebola infographic

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What to Know About Breast Reconstructive Options

It is important for patients with breast cancer to know that there are reconstructive options available.

By: Dr. Jeffrey Larson, Plastic Surgery

As a plastic surgeon, I have the privilege of treating women who suffer from breast cancer, a potentially life-threatening disease that is becoming all too common. After the general surgeon completes the cancer removal operation, I am tasked with the job of restoring patients with an appearance that is natural. I believe that my best result is the one that patients barely notice because there is such a small difference between their body before and after cancer.

The most important thing to me as a reconstructive surgeon is for patients with breast cancer to know that there are reconstructive options. Even in a country like the United States, less than 50 percent of women are counseled regarding their reconstructive options before undergoing surgery.

Reconstructive options begin for women that are undergoing a “lumpectomy” procedure or a procedure where the cancer is completely removed but the remainder of the breast is left intact. Occasionally, these operations may result in a deformity that can be corrected or improved with reconstructive surgery. Also, many patients are surprised to learn that in cases where the cancer is only on one side, the opposite breast (without cancer) can be reduced or reconstructed in an effort to restore symmetry between the two sides.

For patients who are undergoing a mastectomy for their cancer treatment, the reconstructive options are broad, and even patients who have decided against reconstruction may benefit. As described above, if a patient has their breast removed on one side, a breast reduction on the opposite, non-cancer, side may help patients fit into clothes better and feel less unbalanced after their mastectomy operation.

Patients that pursue reconstruction have options that fall into three categories: using the patient’s own tissue, using breast implants or a combination of both. When patients decide to use their own tissue, it typically comes from the abdomen. The skin, fat and muscle from the abdomen can be used to reconstruct one or both breasts in a procedure called a TRAM flap operation. In recent years, a procedure that spares the muscle and just uses skin and fat, called a DIEP flap operation, has gained in popularity, and it is one we are proud to offer at Meriter Hospital. For patients who pursue reconstruction with breast implants, this reconstruction typically begins by placing an inflatable implant at the time of the mastectomy. Over a period of several weeks after surgery, this implant is inflated in the plastic surgery office, restoring the dimensions of the original breast pocket and creating a space for a permanent implant that is placed in the second stage of reconstruction. Finally, in some patients who cannot have reconstruction using their abdominal tissue, a procedure that combines both the patient’s own tissue and the use of an implant is available where an implant is placed and is covered using skin, fat and muscle from the patient’s back.

It is important to emphasize that there is no reconstructive option that is “better” or “worse.” Every patient is different, and the plastic surgeon helps patients pursue an option that is best suited for her body and the desires she has for her own reconstruction. Similarly, while there are many reconstructive options available, it is also important to recognize that not every option is available for every patient. The patient’s weight, breast size, whether or not they have had radiation therapy and even previous surgical history may have an impact on the type of reconstruction that is best for her. Finally, if a patient has been treated for breast cancer in the past but did not pursue or was not offered reconstruction at the time and has now become interested, she still has options available to pursue after a “delay” in reconstructive treatment. It is as simple as setting up an appointment with a plastic surgeon to discuss these options.

One of the first plastic surgeons in history described our specialty as one that “restores and makes whole.” This goal holds true today, especially in my practice as I have the privilege of treating women who suffer from breast cancer.

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Laura Brown Nominated for PA of the Year

We are pleased to announce that Laura Brown, MS, PA-C, WCC, has been nominated for the 2014 Wisconsin PA of the Year Award.

The PA of the Year award annually honors an outstanding physician assistant who demonstrates excellence in service to patients and the community, promotes awareness of the PA’s role in healthcare to the general public, and bolsters workforce development by educating potential future PAs.

A certified wound care specialist, Laura started the Wound Care Clinic at Meriter – UnityPoint Health, the region’s only comprehensive wound care program led by certified wound care providers. Laura has a proven record of success caring for a vast array of wounds, from simple to very complex.

She is also a critical part of Meriter’s vascular surgery program as a surgical resident trained PA. She cares for patients in the clinic as well as first assisting in surgery. Many of her patients require enhanced circulation to allow their wounds to heal and benefit from her dual training.

An incredible asset to the organization, we are delighted that she has received this well-deserved nomination. The award recipient will be announced on Thursday, October 9, 2014 as part of the annual WAPA Foundation Awards Banquet in celebration of PA Week.

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Tackling the Blues

One in 4 adults will experience mental illness in their lifetime. In addition to psychiatrists, primary care providers also have the knowledge and experience to address these concerns.

By: Elizabeth Bothfeld, APNP at Meriter West Washington

At some point in our lives, most of us will be personally affected by our own or a loved one’s mental illness. In fact, 1 in 4 adults will experience mental illness in their lifetime.

Depression and anxiety are common, and tend to go hand in hand.

Many people are reluctant to ask for help or are unsure when to ask for help. The good news is that in addition to psychiatrists, primary care providers have the knowledge and experience to address these concerns and do so on a daily basis.

It is generally understood that anxiety and depression can be caused by psychological factors, biochemical factors or some combination of both. Treatment depends on the underlying cause and may include counseling, medications, exercise and a host of holistic practices.

Here is an example. Grief is the normal human reaction to loss. This may be due to the death of a loved one, divorce or separation from a partner. Mourning and the passage of time are what’s needed for the healing that may take months or sometimes years. But we know that about 25 percent of people will go on to develop what we call a major depression.

So what’s the difference?
Grief involves intense sadness, it is very painful, but it makes sense and does not include a loss of self esteem.

Major depression on the other hand often involves significant sleep disturbance, especially early morning awakening, loss of interest in usual activities, erosion of self esteem, anxiety, agitation or even thoughts of suicide.

What else causes depression and anxiety?
We are still learning but much is known: Family genetics, naturally sad or very stressful events that we don’t bounce back from, biochemical changes and a history of abuse or trauma may all contribute.

We may put off care for months believing that we ought to be able to just buck up and tough it out. Well meaning friends or family may say things to discourage us from taking a medication or seeing a counselor.

When depression takes hold we naturally escalate caffeine use, which at first acts as a mild antidepressant, but when caffeine exceeds 250 mg a day (6 oz coffee =125 mg, caffeinated 12 oz soda 50 mg, Black tea 50 mg ,Energy drink 12 oz 200 mg, choc bar 20mg) or is consumed later in the day it can reduce the amount of time spent in deep restorative sleep and inadvertently worsen depression.

We may unconsciously self medicate with alcohol. Alcohol increases the neurotransmitter Serotonin in our brains and we temporarily feel better, but the net affect is increasing depression.

Be on the look out for these signs of depression and anxiety:
Losing pleasure in simple things, feeling irritable, crying, sleeping more, hardly sleeping at all, or worst of all, believing life is no longer worth living.

If you recognize these signs in yourself or a loved one I hope you will seek help. Every primary care provider at Meriter can help you get started on a path to feeling better. Please don’t wait.

September is National Suicide Awareness Month. Join us on Oct. 5 for NAMI Walks at Olin Turville park.

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How to Remain Injury Free from Falls

By: Roseanne Braslow, Patient Safety Officer, Performance Improvement

Did you know that Wisconsin is a national leader in fall-prevention research and that the state’s Aging and Public Health networks are leaders in providing evidence-based, fall-prevention programs to older citizens? A reduction in disability and death due to falls for older adults is a priority of the State Health Plan, which is known as “Healthiest Wisconsin 2020.” Wisconsin joins the National Council on Aging’s Fall Prevention Day and Month awareness effort to be “Strong Today, Falls-Free Tomorrow.”

Why is this so important? More than one-third of people age 65 and older fall each year, and falls are a leading cause of injury and hospitalization for seniors. Roughly 20-30 percent of people who fall suffer moderate to serious injuries such as head trauma or hip fracture. Even when no injury occurs after a fall, many people become less active and experience reduced mobility due to fear.

As a partner in statewide efforts to help older citizens remain injury free from falls, Meriter — UnityPoint Health supports a community-based approach to fall reduction. The Stepping On Falls Prevention Program will be provided at the Meriter Monona clinic beginning October 2 and runs for seven weeks through November 13. Stepping On empowers older adults to carry out health behaviors that reduce the risk of falls.

At Stepping On classes, seniors learn balance and strength training. The program covers fall prevention both inside the home and while out in the community. It also teaches participants how to remove hazards from the home environment. Participants also learn about the role vision plays in maintaining balance, how to select safe footwear, and they will gain understanding of how medication can contribute to falls.

Classes are highly participatory and provided in an atmosphere of mutual support which helps to build confidence in the ability to manage health behaviors to reduce fall risks. The goal of the program is to assist individuals in maintaining active, fulfilling lives.

You or someone you care about may benefit from this program–your parents, grandparents or neighbors.

More information about this community-based workshop is available by visiting or calling Stephanie Erickson-Brown at (608) 417-8273.

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Register for Finding Fitness After 40

Regular exercise is one of the key components to living a happy and healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately developing a consistent routine can be difficult and often time injuries provide an additional barrier to starting or sustaining a successful exercise program.

Meriter in-conjunction with Harbor Athletic club, is excited to offer a new exercise program opportunity for the community. Finding Fitness After 40 is a class designed for adults who have not participated in a regular exercise program in the past, or for individuals that may have stopped exercising due to an injury or health concerns.

The goal of this class is to provide participants with a basic foundation for successful exercise and exposure to alternative modes of exercise through a combination of lecture and guided exercise instruction. In addition, all participants will receive a FREE 1 month membership to Harbor Athletic Club for the duration of the class. Space is limited to 20 participants, so sign up today and get started on the path to health and happiness.

Date: Thursday October 16 through Thursday November 13 (No Class on Thursday 10/30)
Time: 5:50 to 7:30 PM
Location: The class will meet each night at the Meriter Therapy Middleton (behind the Harbor Athletic Club) for the lecture components and then transition over to Harbor Athletic Club for the guided exercise instruction
Parking – please utilize the Meriter Therapy Middleton parking spaces
Cost: $50
What to Wear:
• The class will include 30-40 minutes of guided exercise each night so please where loose, comfortable close and athletic shoes.
• You may want to bring a water bottle and towel

Register for this class

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Five Reasons to Get a Flu Vaccine

By: Dr. Marie Roethlisberger, Family Medicine at Meriter McKee

Did you know that flu activity can begin as early as October and occur as late as May? According to the Centers for Disease Control, the timing of the flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. It is recommended that everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine.

Are you unsure about getting the flu vaccine? Read the five reasons below to help you decide if you should get the flu vaccine this year.

  1. Keeps you from getting sick. The flu vaccine can help keep you from getting sick from influenza. Symptoms of influenza can be quite severe and lead to sick days with loss of work. It sometimes can take weeks to get your stamina back.
  2. Makes the illness milder. The flu vaccine can make the illness much milder if you do get sick with influenza.
  3. Protects others around you. In protecting yourself by getting the vaccine, you also help protect those around you.
  4. Protects people who are at a greater risk of serious illness. The flu vaccine is very important in helping protect people who are at greatest risk of getting seriously ill from influenza. This includes children, pregnant women, those with chronic medical conditions and older adults.
  5. Prevents serious complications. The flu vaccine can help prevent serious influenza complications including hospitalizations and deaths.
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Stepping On Program: Building Confidence and Reducing Falls

Meriter – UnityPoint Health’s Stepping On Program empowers older adults to carry out health behaviors that reduce the risk of falls. This community-based workshop is offered once a week for 7 weeks using adult education and self-efficacy principles. In this small-group setting, older adults will learn balance exercises and develop specific knowledge and skills to prevent falls.

Older adults who are encouraged to join this program are those who:
      – Are at risk of falling
      – Have a fear of falling
      – Who have fallen one or more times

Location: Meriter Monona Clinic

Dates: Thursdays from October 2 to November 13

Time: 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. (October 23 class will be from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.)Cost: $35 per person

Registration: Contact Krista Spiro by phone at (608) 417-8272 or by email at

To learn more, please visit

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Flu Vaccine Available at Meriter Clinics

Flu season is nearly upon us, and we encourage you to schedule your annual flu vaccination today. Anyone 6 months or older should be vaccinated as it’s the number one way to protect yourself from the flu. It’s also a good idea to receive the vaccine now, since the protection you receive from the vaccination will last throughout the entire flu season.

At this time, we are currently scheduling flu vaccination appointments for our patients. Please call us at whichever Meriter clinic location is most convenient for you:

•             Meriter DeForest-Windsor: 608.417.3300

•             Meriter Fitchburg: 608.417.8585

•             Meriter McKee: 608.417.8800

•             Meriter Middleton: 608.417.3434

•             Meriter Monona: 608.417.3000

•             Meriter Stoughton: 608.417.8700

•             Meriter West Washington: 608.417.8300

Although the flu vaccine is the number one form of prevention, here are some other tips for staying healthy this season:

•             Wash your hands often with soap and water or use a hand sanitizer.

•             Cover your cough or sneeze with your upper sleeve. If you use a tissue, throw it away after one use.

•             Use your own drinking cups and straws.

•             Avoid being exposed to people who are sick with flu-like symptoms.

•             Eat nutritious meals, get plenty of rest and do not smoke.

•             Clean commonly touched surfaces frequently (e.g., door knobs, refrigerator handles, telephones, faucets).

•             If you think you have the flu, stay home, get rest, drink plenty of liquids and avoid using alcohol and tobacco. If your symptoms persist or you have underlying health issues, contact your doctor.

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Join Us for Ladies Night Out – Oct. 1

We invite you to join us for an evening of dinner and inspiring discussion about breast health screening, treatment options and reconstruction in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Meriter-UnityPoint Health offers screening mammography, cancer removal surgery and breast reconstruction surgery by Lucinda Prue, Mammography Technician; Dr. Susan Toth, General Surgeon and Dr. Jeffrey Larson, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon. Routine screening mammograms improve the chances that breast cancer can be diagnosed at an early stage and can be treated successfully. Our expert surgeons will remove the cancer and reconstruct the breast to near normal appearance, size and shape.

Don’t delay your screening mammogram, it’s the first step to detecting and treating breast cancer.

Ladies Night Out
Lussier Family Heritage Center
Wednesday, October 1 at 6pm
Cost: $25

The evening will include a 3 course meal from Bunky’s Cafe paired with wine and discussion about breast health, screening mammography, breast cancer treatment and reconstruction options for $25.

Click here to register you and your friends today

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Meriter – UnityPoint Health Wins National Patient Satisfaction Award

Meriter – UnityPoint Health is proud to announce that it has again been recognized as one of the best patient care providers in the nation at the National Research Corporation’s 20th Annual International Patient-Centered Care Symposium in San Diego over the weekend.

“National Research Corporation congratulates Meriter – UnityPoint Health for their outstanding achievements,” said Helen Hrdy, Senior Vice President of Client Service at National Research. “Implementing improvement processes require an immense amount of time and resources. Winning this award demonstrates that Meriter Medical Group understands what it truly means to define patient-centered care.”

Meriter received its second consecutive Path to Excellence award for Top Pediatric Doctor Rating, with patients rating Meriter doctors highest in the nation based on patient satisfaction surveys conducted April 2013 – March 2014. Meriter is also a past winner of NRC’s Top Rated Adult Doctor and prestigious Innovative Best Practice awards.

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Two New Services Help You Get Back in the Game

Meriter - UnityPoint Health is proud to offer two new orthopedic services led by two expert physicians.

Dr. Emily Exten offers Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Surgery at Meriter Monona for those suffering from a wide range of foot and ankle injuries. If you experience an immediate injury or accident, Dr. Exten also provides Orthopedic Trauma Surgery at the Meriter Specialty Clinic.

Dr. Beth Weinman practices non-surgical Sports Medicine at the Meriter Orthopedics Clinic and focuses on helping her patients recover from an injury and improve their performance.

Whether you are seeking treatment for an injury or you want to improve mobility, Dr. Exten and Dr. Weinman are here to help you turn a setback into a comeback!

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ALS: The Ice Cold Truths

The Center for Perinatal Care recently completed the Ice Bucket Challenge.

By: Dr. Kevin Kapadia, Neurology

You may have seen your favorite celebrity, friend or family member ‘go viral’ with voluntarily dumping an ice cold bucket of water on themselves this summer. While this may seem like they are playing practical jokes on themselves, it has all been for a worthy cause. In the last month alone, the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has helped raise nearly $100 million dollars. ALS became known to the public in the United States in 1939 as ‘Lou Gehrig’s Disease’ when the renowned baseball star announced his affliction with the disease that forced him to retire from the sport and resulted in his death shortly thereafter. Recently, ALS has drawn renewed publicity thanks to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge for charity, spawned from honoring a former college baseball star named Pete Frates who is currently suffering with the disease after being diagnosed at the young age of 27.

What is ALS?
ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that specifically affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord that provide signals to muscles throughout the body. These affected nerve cells degenerate and eventually die out. Without this electrical signal, muscles atrophy. This nerve cell death eventually leads to the inability to initiate and control voluntary muscle movement. The muscle atrophy is exclusive to voluntary muscles such that the cardiac muscle and the smooth muscles of the gut continue to function normally while the skeletal muscles deteriorate.

What are the early signs of ALS?
The earliest symptoms of ALS may involve noticeable muscle loss or weakness in one limb or multiple limbs, speech or swallowing difficulties. ALS is diagnosed through clinical evaluation typically by a neurologist who may use an EMG study (electromyography) to determine evidence of denervation changes of the affected muscles.

How does ALS affect the afflicted?
ALS affects people typically in the middle age of life, with the average age being 55. Those afflicted with ALS vary in the speed of progression of the degenerative changes but ultimately become paralyzed, lose speech and swallowing functions and lose the ability to breathe due to impaired respiratory muscles. Many patients in the advanced stage adapt to the changes by utilizing a gastric tube for feeding and assistive ventilation for respiration. The average lifespan after diagnosis is 2.5 years. Assistive devices such as custom wheelchairs and communication devices due to loss of speech production become essential for patients in the advanced stages of ALS to continue to live and adapt.

What is next for ALS research and possible treatment?
There is no currently known cure or prevention for ALS. One medication, riluzole, is used for modest slowing of the disease process. Research has made progress in identifying some genetic factors that can be seen in families with multiple family members with ALS. More information is known about the pathophysiology of the disease but it remains unclear what causes ALS. Clinical trials of possible treatment drugs and stem cell therapies are ongoing. It is the hope through organizations like the ALS Association that more insight into the disease process will grow and therapies remain possible on the horizon.

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How to Manage Fall Allergies

Mold is another autumnal trigger that can grow on fallen leaves, on rotting wood and in compost piles.

By: Dr. Jeremy Bufford, Allergy & Immunology

Ready to say goodbye to seasonal allergies now that spring and summer have passed? Not so fast. Unfortunately for many people, the approaching autumn doesn’t mean relief from sneezing. Instead, it marks a new array of allergy triggers.

The biggest trigger for late summer and fall allergies is ragweed. More than 36 million Americans are allergic to ragweed pollen and many often suffer from allergies until the first frost. Just one ragweed plant can produce up to a billion pollen grains in one season. There are several other varieties of weeds that pollinate in the fall, as well.

Mold Is Another Autumnal Trigger
Mold can grow on fallen leaves, on rotting wood and in compost piles. Mold can also grow indoors in areas that are moist, such as bathrooms. Pet dander and dust mites are other allergens that can cause year-round flare-ups.

Whether your allergies are caused by ragweed or another allergen, symptoms typically include watery eyes, congestion, nasal discharge, and an itchy throat and nose. Some people with severe allergies may also contend with chronic sinusitis, headaches, and asthma attacks.
To determine which allergen is causing your symptoms, talk with your doctor. A skin test can often identify the source.

Finding Relief
While there is no cure for allergies, here are some tips to help control your symptoms:

  • Remain indoors when pollen counts are at their highest. Ragweed pollens are usually highest in the morning, but to check your area, visit the National Allergy Bureau.
  • Keep windows and doors closed and use an air conditioner with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter.
  • Avoid doing yard work or wear a mask to prevent pollen and mold from reaching your nasal passages.
  • If your child has allergies, schedule an appointment with the school nurse and teachers to discuss his or her triggers.
  • Try using over-the-counter medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, and saline nasal sprays to control your symptoms. A nasal steroid spray is now offered over-the-counter, as well. If these offer no relief, call your doctor.
  • Consider pursuing allergy shots through the Meriter-UnityPoint Health Allergy and Immunology Clinic.

Meriter now offers allergy/immunology services at several clinic sites, Meriter DeForest-Windsor, Meriter Monona, Meriter Deming Way in Middleton (through September 24th), and Meriter McKee (starting September 29th). Please call (608) 417-3000 for an appointment or visit for more information.

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Dr. Kevin Kapadia Joins Our Neurology Team

Dr. Kevin Kapadia, Neurologist

Meriter – UnityPoint Health welcomes neurologist Kevin Kapadia, MD, to the Meriter Specialty Clinic, located on the main floor of Meriter Hospital. He has a genuine interest in his patients’ health and wellbeing, and provides them the tools to manage their chronic illness or recover fully if possible.

Dr. Kapadia wants his patients to know he believes in a team effort when it comes to managing neurologic diseases. He spends as much time as possible with them and ensures they understand everything about the disease process taking place. Through sharing and explanation, decisions are made together about a patients’ care. Dr. Kapadia enjoys treating neurological disorders such as epilepsy, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, and neuromuscular disorders.

To learn more about our neurology services or how to reduce your risk of stroke, visit

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How to Get an A+ in Healthy Back to School Lunches

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the lunch should have a fruit, a vegetable, two servings of grain, two ounces of meat or beans, a serving of dairy and a smidge of healthy fat.

By: Krista Kohls, MS, RDN, CD

It’s hard to believe but it’s already time to start thinking about back to school and that means finding food to stuff in the lunch box or brown bag for school lunches. Kids’ lunches are an important part of their day at school as they provide energy to help them function, focus and learn. Kids’ lunches should provide about 1/3 of their nutrition for the entire day. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the meal should have a fruit, a vegetable, two servings of grain, two ounces of meat or beans, a serving of dairy and a smidge of healthy fat.

Some kids are fine with a sandwich for lunch 190 days of the year; however, there are many kids that need a variety to stay interested and to keep them away from the a la carte line. Here are a couple tips to keep your kids interested in a home-packed meal.

First, get your kids involved in making their lunch for school. Have your kids pick-out healthy items at the grocery store to include in lunches or have kids actually pack their own lunch in the morning. Keep in mind that kids do not need special food (i.e. fruit snacks, chips, special crackers or cookies or kid specific yogurt). They should be eating the same healthful food as adults.

Secondly, think variety and color. Kids like food that looks appealing and will catch their eye. Here are some options to mix up the everyday brown bag lunch:

  • Grilled chicken breast strips or hummus, sliced red pepper, lettuce/spinach and low-fat cheese in whole-wheat pita, a piece of fresh fruit and a carton of low-fat milk.
  • Canned wild salmon or tuna with whole grain crackers (like Tricuits) with low-fat mayo, a bunch of fresh grapes, and a carton of low-fat yogurt.
  • Quick lunchbox pasta salad (whole wheat pasta, black beans or chicken, veggies, Italian dressing with low-fat cheese), fruit kabobs, and a carton of low-fat milk or cottage cheese.
  • 10-12 Whole wheat crackers, 2 Tbsp peanut butter, sunflower seed butter, soy nut butter or avocado, celery sticks, apple or berries, lowfat/nonfat yogurt.
  • Whole wheat tortilla with peanut butter, sunflower seed butter, or soy nut butter spread on it, wrapped around a banana, cherry tomatoes and/or cucumber slices with hummus, and a carton of low fat milk.
  • Kebobs with pieces of low fat meat, cheese, cherry tomatoes, pineapple, almonds on the side and a low-fat yogurt.
  • And don’t forget about a beverage. Water should always be #1. Second would be low-fat or fat-free milk. If consuming juices try to choose 100% fruit juice – keeping in mind that juice has the same calories per ounce as soda. The whole fruit (i.e. an apple or orange) is always better than juice (apple juice or orange juice). If packing a water bottle, freeze it and put it in your child’s lunch box to keep foods cold. Otherwise, a cold pack works well.

Visit Laptop Lunches to find options for kids and adult lunches.

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10 Tips for Returning to Work After Having a Baby

One way to manage your return to work is by exploring the possibility of going back part-time, job sharing or doing some work from home.

By: Kris Fedenia, RN, Lactation Consultant

Many new moms are returning to work in the early weeks after the birth of their baby. It can be challenging and exhausting without some support and planning. Here are some ideas to help you reduce stress and manage your return to work.

  1. If possible, extend your maternity leave. Explore possibilities for going back part-time, job sharing or doing some of your work from home.
  2. Take good care of yourself during your maternity leave – rest, sleep, eat well and enjoy your new baby. This is a special time for you to get to know each other.
  3. When planning your return date, ease into your first weeks by returning mid or late week. Consider shortening your days if possible.
  4. Choose a caregiver for your baby who will respect your wishes when caring for your baby, keep you informed daily and will allow you to drop-in anytime. You may also wish to schedule a couple of trial runs to day care before your official return to work.
  5. If you are breastfeeding, you can continue to provide breast milk for you baby when you return to work. A few weeks before your return, start pumping breast milk once or twice a day in the morning, between feedings. You may not collect much in the beginning, but pumping will signal your body to produce more milk. You will then be able to collect and freeze some back-up feedings to give to your caregiver.
  6. When planning to pump at work, talk with your supervisor ahead of time. Agree on a private area to pump and plan to take 3 breaks during the day to pump. Federal law requires employers with more than 50 employees to allow moms to pump or feed their babies in a place other than a bathroom for the first year after baby’s birth.
  7. Once back to work, nurse your baby exclusively when you are together. Save pumping for when you are away. Your baby will keep your milk supply higher than a pump. Feed frequently, as often as baby needs. Remember that any amount of breast milk you provide for your baby is wonderful!
  8. Try to simplify your life by enlisting support from your partner, family or friends.
  9. Try to lower your expectations for household cleanliness and accomplishing other tasks.
  10. The first year with your new baby passes quickly. Allow yourself time to enjoy your new family!
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Now Offering Rheumatology Services

Dr. Christine D. Sharkey, Rheumatologist

If you are experiencing pain and inflammation due to a rheumatological condition, you may feel at a loss knowing where to turn for help. Meriter-UnityPoint Health is pleased to announce we offer rheumatology services at two convenient locations: Meriter Deming Way and Meriter Monona. Rheumatologist Christine D. Sharkey, MD will diagnose, treat and manage a variety of diseases that affect your joints, muscles and bones.

A rheumatologist is a board-certified internist who is qualified by additional training and experience to treat numerous rheumatological conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, scleroderma, inflammatory myopathies, vasculitis, arthritis related to other conditions, connective tissue disease related interstitial lung disease, osteoarthritis, complicated gout and other disorders of the immune system.

Dr. Sharkey enjoys building long-term relationships to help you adapt to your diagnosis. She will listen attentively to your concerns and provide you with the best treatment options and tools to manage your chronic condition. Please join Meriter in welcoming Dr. Sharkey!

Call Meriter Deming Way (608) 417-8388 or Meriter Monona at (608) 417-6175 to schedule an appointment today.

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