Meriter Health Services Prepares for Future through Strategic Affiliation

Affiliation with UnityPoint Health will offer new efficiencies and resources for Meriter, Physicians Plus and Dane County patients

MADISON, Wis. (October 10, 2013) Meriter Health Services announced today that it has agreed to combine operations through an affiliation agreement in which it will become an affiliate of UnityPoint Health, a nationally recognized, integrated health system headquartered in West Des Moines, IA. The affiliation will allow Meriter to thrive in America’s changing health care environment, while advancing its commitment to high-quality patient care.

“I’m proud and delighted to announce this affiliation with UnityPoint Health,” said MHS Board Chair Virginia Graves. “It’s the best of both worlds for Meriter and Physicians Plus Insurance Corporation. We will remain a locally-run, community health system, while also gaining the benefits of a broader regional system’s services, experience and expertise.

This is good for our patients, members, employees, the regional health care system and the local economy.”

 “Like Meriter, UnityPoint Health has a culture of patient-focused care, community-minded spirit and high-quality, lower-cost health care,” said Jim Woodward, President, Meriter Health Services.   “In the affiliation, UnityPoint Health will provide resources to MHS, supporting and enhancing the services provided to the community, including taking an ownership interest in Physicians Plus and providing clinical practice and management support to Meriter Medical Group.”

The affiliation is pending state and federal regulatory approvals, which is anticipated later this year.

“With its national reputation for excellence in quality health care, Meriter will be an outstanding addition to the UnityPoint Health family,” said Bill Leaver, President and CEO of UnityPoint Health. “We are a good fit together.  UnityPoint Health is a health system of 15 hospitals in 8 regions.  Meriter is a strong regional organization just like our other 8 regional health systems.  We were fortunate to find in Meriter, an integrated health system that could also offer an HMO to our network. We see Physicians Plus growing in strength and geographic market coverage over time.”

Meriter patients and Physicians Plus members can continue to see their doctors and receive care locally, just as before. “Nothing changes for patients and members,” Leaver said. “Meriter and UnityPoint Health hope to build upon current relationships with local health organizations.”

About Meriter Health Services

Meriter Health Services is a nationally recognized health system comprised of Meriter Medical Group, offering primary and specialty care; Meriter Hospital, a nonprofit 448 bed community hospital; and Physicians Plus Insurance Corporation. Meriter is a 2013 recipient of the National Research Corporations’ coveted Innovative Best Practice award, Top Rated Adult Doctors award and Top Rated Pediatric Doctors award. Meriter provides a comprehensive array of patient-focused inpatient and outpatient services to meet the health needs of Dane County. For more information, visit

About UnityPoint Health

UnityPoint Health is one of the nation’s most integrated health systems. Its physician-led team of professionals communicates clearly and effectively to address a patient’s health care in the most appropriate setting: whether that is a clinic, a hospital or services provided within the home. Through relationships with more than 280 physician clinics, 30 hospitals in metropolitan and rural communities and home care services throughout its 8 regions, UnityPoint Health provides care throughout Iowa and in Central and Western Illinois.

UnityPoint Health entities employ more than 24,000 employees, working toward innovative advancements to deliver the Best Outcome for Every Patient Every Time. Each year, through more than 4 million patient visits, UnityPoint Health, UnityPoint Clinic and UnityPoint at Home provide a full range of coordinated care to patients and families. With annual revenues of $2.7 billion, UnityPoint Health is the nation’s 13th largest nonprofit health system and the fourth largest nondenominational health system in America.  UnityPoint Health provides community benefit programs and services to improve the health of people in its communities.


Mike Flaherty
(608) 509-3997

Leah Huibregtse
(608) 516-2256

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Community Resources Can Ease Breastfeeding Challenges

Breastfeeding your baby can be one of the most wonderful, lovely, challenging things a woman ever does. Simply put, breastfeeding is naturally feeding your infant. If nature had its way, a mother would continue to feed her infant, naturally, for as long as she and the infant wanted to. Usually that’s at least a year or more. So why do so many mothers find it difficult to nurse for more than a few months, even a few weeks?

In today’s American society, we find varying degrees of help and support to nurse, especially after leaving the hospital with our newborn. Family members, jobs, even physicians all play a role on when and where we nurse our babies, and for how long we are able to be successful.

In order to maintain and build a milk supply for a growing infant, that infant needs unrestricted access to the breast to nurse whenever he or she is hungry. This allows the infant to determine the supply that he or she needs to be able to grow. However, less and less mothers find themselves able to be with their infant to give them the access to the breast whenever they are hungry. Our society, unlike other countries around the world, doesn’t provide a new mother and her infant the time of support for this most healthy feeding and growing to take place.

In the US, many new mothers find themselves returning to work a few short weeks, or months, after the birth of their infant. And while we are making great strides as a society in helping to support a mother in the work place to pump her milk, every breastfeeding mother will tell you how that’s just not the same as nursing your infant. A mother’s hormones don’t respond the same way to a pump, and many working mothers trying to pump find it difficult to keep up their supply to meet their infants needs.

Publicly we have barriers making it hard for mothers to nurse when outside the home. While laws have now been passed making it illegal to discriminate against a nursing mother and infant, many women still find discomfort breastfeeding openly.

So how can we help each other, thereby helping our newborns, to continue to enjoy the benefits of nursing? Connect with whatever help and support you may need! Whether it’s finding a physician who will provide the help and support for nursing you need. Find those community resources, mother-baby groups, play groups and other outlets where you can feel comfortable publicly nursing. Talk to your employer to find a solution for you to express your milk as often as you need to. And most importantly, if you feel you may have to quit, but neither you nor your infant really want to, take advantage of all the sources of advice, help and support to provide the means to do so. Meriter’s Mother-Baby hour, the Breastfeeding Helpline and Outpatient Lactation Clinics are just a few examples of those resources available to you.

Sharon Marshall, BSN, RN, IBCLC
Meriter Lactation Services

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Dr. Dana Johnson: Vaccinations Best Way to Prevent Flu

Featured in the Wisconsin State Journal on October 2, 2013

Dear Dr. Johnson: Do you recommend the flu shot for otherwise healthy school-age children?

Dear Reader: With the fall season here, we are entering cold and flu season, whether we want to admit it or not. Influenza season is October to mid-May, with a peak usually in January or February, although it can vary from year to year. Now is the time to begin taking steps to prevent you and your children from contracting the influenza virus.

Influenza is a respiratory illness with fever, chills, runny nose, cough, sore throat, decreased energy and body aches. Unlike the common cold, influenza symptoms tend to be more severe and often last over a week. Many children with the common cold may miss a day or two of school. Children with influenza often need to be out for an entire week, sometimes more.

Children under 2 years of age, adults over age 65 and those with chronic medical issues (especially lung issues such as asthma) are most likely to suffer from the complications of influenza, which can include bacterial pneumonia, sinus infections, ear infections, dehydration and worsening of underlying health problems.

While small children can have vomiting and diarrhea with influenza, when most people say they have the “stomach flu,” the illness they have is caused by a virus, not influenza.

One of the best ways to decrease your family’s risk of contracting influenza is to have everyone vaccinated. There are two ways to give the vaccine: nasal mist and injection. The injection is approved for age 6 months and up. The nasal vaccine is approved for age 2 to 49 years old. There are some health conditions for which the nasal vaccine is not recommended.

Individuals with egg allergy can receive the flu vaccine. However, if it is a severe egg allergy (more than hives), it is best to discuss with your allergist before receiving the flu vaccination.

While infants under 6 months of age cannot receive the flu vaccine, I recommend all their household members and close contacts do. This limits the risk of the infant coming into contact with someone with influenza.

Some children 8 years old and younger will require two vaccinations a month apart. Your child’s doctor can help you determine if your child needs one or two doses this year.

Some people worry that the influenza vaccine will give them the flu. While it is true that you may experience headache and fever (more common for children under age 2) as well as possible muscle soreness where the shot was given, you cannot get the flu from the vaccine. These symptoms are the effects of the vaccine going into the muscle and your body developing an immune response to the vaccine.

The nose spray can cause a runny nose. It takes about two weeks for antibodies to the flu to develop, so it is possible to contract influenza after the vaccine is given but before immunity has developed.

Most clinics and some pharmacies now have a good supply of flu vaccines, so it is a good time to get you and your family protected. You can find more information about influenza, the vaccination and other ways to keep your family healthy at

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Meriter Wins 3 National Awards

Meriter is proud to announce that it has again been recognized as one of the best patient care providers in the nation at the recent National Research Corporation’s 19th Annual International Patient-Centered Care Symposium in Baltimore.

Meriter received three major awards at the symposium:

  • Innovative Best Practice Award –Meriter Health Services
  • Adult Doctor Rating –Meriter Medical Group
  • Pediatric Doctor Rating –Meriter Medical Group

The Innovative Best Practice Award is based on the innovative use of resources that result in significant improvements in cost, quality, patient satisfaction and safety. This is the second year in a row that Meriter Health Services has received this award.

The Adult Doctor and Pediatric Doctor awards were based on patients’ ratings of their doctors in patient satisfaction surveys conducted April 2012-March 2013. Last year, Meriter Medical Group also won Top Performing Organization for patient satisfaction with pediatricians and Most Improved Organization for an increase in patient satisfaction in adult primary care.

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Help Feed the Hungry This Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving – thousands of reasons to be grateful!

You can easily make a big difference this Thanksgiving. Simply “Like” Meriter on Facebook and we will make a $5 donation to the Goodman Center. We hope to donate up to $2,500 before Thanksgiving, November 28.

For many years, the Goodman Community Center has provided groceries to 2,000 families across Dane County so they, too, can make a traditional Thanksgiving meal to share with their families. They can do this because every year people like you have helped. We hope you’ll help this year by “Liking” Meriter.

Many families will appreciate the gift of a warm holiday meal.

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Dr. Dana Johnson: Hand Washing a Key to Health

Featured in the Wisconsin State Journal on September 18, 2013.

Dear Dr. Johnson: My child seems to get sick every year after a couple weeks of school. Is there anything I can do to prevent this?

Dear Reader: With the start of school, in the pediatrician’s clinic we often begin to see an increase in the number of visits from children who are sick with the common cold and other viruses. Children are again in close contact and sharing all their wonderful germs.

While there is nothing you can do to protect your child or yourself completely from the common cold and other illnesses, there are some steps you and your child can take to help ward them off.

The number one step is good hand washing. This can prevent a child who has just wiped their nose or coughed into their hands from leaving the virus on a toy or a friend’s hand when they next touch it. It can also prevent a child who has picked up a virus from that toy or friend’s hand from introducing it to their body.

The most common ways germs are introduced to the body are when a child touches their eyes, wipes their nose, puts their fingers in their mouth or touches food before they eat it. Children should be taught and encouraged to practice good hand washing whether they are sick or well.

Good washing takes time — roughly 20 seconds, or two rounds of the “Happy Birthday” song. The backs of the hands, between fingers and under nails all should be scrubbed before the soap is rinsed off.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizer is an acceptable substitute when soap and water are not available. It also needs to coat all the surfaces of the hand, not just the palms. Hand sanitizer is not effective against all germs or on visibly dirty hands.

In addition to good hand washing, teach children to cough and sneeze into their elbow or shoulder. This prevents the germs from going onto their hands and subsequently onto anything they touch.

If they don’t cover their cough or sneeze, the germs can go into the air. The germs will then wait for the next lucky child to touch the object they are now on. If a child coughs or sneezes into their hand or a tissue, they should immediately wash their hands before touching anything else.

Ill children should stay home to prevent spreading a virus. While it is not reasonable for all children with the sniffles to stay home, a child who has a fever, significant cough or runny nose or symptoms that would prevent them from fully participating at school should be kept home.

Remember, however, that this alone will not fully prevent the spread of infection. Children are often contagious before they show symptoms of an illness.

To prevent your child from getting the more serious illness of influenza — which can result in prolonged fever, cough, decreased energy and other significant complications — I encourage all children and adults over the age of 6 months to be vaccinated against influenza each year (unless they have medical contraindications). Some children over age 2 can avoid the shot and receive the nasal flu mist instead.

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Dr. Dana Johnson: Language Development

Featured in the Wisconsin State Journal on Sept. 25

Dear Dr. Johnson: My 18 month old doesn’t seem to be talking as much or as clearly as other kids her age. Should I be concerned?

Dear Reader: Language delay occurs in one out of every five children and is the most common developmental delay. While using peers as a guide for developmental milestones can sometimes be helpful, it is not always the best measuring stick.

Especially between the age of 12 and 24 months, there is a wide variation in normal language development. Some 18 month olds have several individual words they use regularly and others are speaking in complete sentences. Both can be normal development. The most important aspect is that a child is developing new words and showing gains in communication skills.

Language development can be divided into three components:

1. Speech. This is marked by the ability to produce sound.

2. Expressive. Can be verbal or nonverbal ways of communicating ideas, desires and feelings.

3. Receptive. This means the ability to understand what is heard and seen.

Some children may show delays in just one area, while others may have delays in multiple areas.

The first step in evaluating your child would be to determine if she is delayed for her age. I recommend talking with her doctor to help you determine this. They may use age-based questionnaires to assess this and other areas of development, including fine motor, gross motor, personal-social and problem-solving.

If you or the physician have concerns after this evaluation, a more detailed evaluation can be completed by a speech therapist or through the federally mandated Birth to 3 Program.

A speech therapy evaluation may be covered by insurance, but subsequent session numbers may be limited as far as coverage is concerned. The Birth to 3 Program (Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) supports families of children with delays or disabilities under the age of 3. Starting at age 3, evaluations can be done through the local school system even before a child enters school.

With the Birth to 3 Program, the initial evaluation is free. Anyone with concerns about a child’s development can refer them to Birth to 3 for an evaluation.

I believe one of the biggest advantages of the program is that the evaluation and services are offered in the child’s home. This allows the child to be in their natural environment to facilitate accurate evaluation of skills and optimization of learning.

To meet eligibility for Birth to 3 services, there needs to be a developmental delay of at least 25 percent in one area of development, a physician-diagnosed condition with a high probability of developmental delay, or an atypical (unusual) development that adversely affects the child’s overall development.

In Wisconsin, we have a Parental Cost Share System in which parents who are determined to be financially able will share in the cost of early intervention services for their child.

Each county in the state administers its own Birth to 3 Program. More information can be found at

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Mindfulness Training Prevents Burnout, Boosts Compassion Among Doctors

This article was featured in The Huffington Post on September 13, 2013.

A growing body of research has shown multiple benefits of mindfulness, including helping smokers quit their habit, improving sleep quality, and even helping students score higher on standardized tests. Now, mindfulness training has been linked with a number of positive outcomes for physicians and their patients.

Mindfulness practice — the cultivation of a focused awareness on the present moment — can improve physicians’ performance by not only preventing burnout, but also by helping them better connect with their patients, according to two small, recent studies in the September/October issue of Annals of Family Medicine.

In the first study, conducted by Dr. Luke Fortney, M.D., of the Meriter Medical Group in Madison, Wisc., and his team, 30 primary care physicians underwent a short mindfulness training course. They were then assessed for job satisfaction, quality of life and compassion for up to nine months after the course.

Compared to physicians who were not trained in mindfulness, participants showed improvements at one day, two months, and nine months after they were trained in the course. The researchers found that at nine months, the physicians were significantly less burnt out and had lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress, compared with doctors who didn’t undergo the training course. They also scored higher on scales measuring compassion.

Mindfulness training programs could be an effective, low-cost way to prevent physician burnout, which can have a number of negative effects on the health care system, the physicians themselves, and patients, researchers said.

“Burnout negatively affects quality of care with profound personal implications, including suicidal ideation,” the study’s authors noted. “Furthermore, physician attrition due to burnout is both disruptive to continuity of patient care and costly to health care organizations.”

A second study found that patients can benefit significantly from working with mindful physicians. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University conducted observational research on 45 clinicians who completed the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale — a measure used to gauge an individual’s level of mindful awareness while conducting everyday activities — and who cared for more than 400 HIV-positive patients at four HIV specialty clinics. Clinicians who scored higher on the mindfulness scale were more like to engage in patient-centered communication, meaning that the clinician and patient built a greater rapport and spent more time discussing psychosocial issues faced by the patient. The patients of mindful clinicians also reported high overall satisfaction.
“The benefits of mindful practice extend beyond the practitioner to his or her patients,” Breach and the authors of the study concluded. “It is not only that mindful practitioners can listen attentively, but that their patients are empowered to make their voice heard in areas that matter to them.

Mindfulness has been associated with a number of physical and mental health benefits, including lower stress levels, improved cognitive functioning, and a decreased risk of developing various chronic illnesses. Mindfulness meditation has even been shown to boost creativity and empathy.

Mindfulness training programs can have wide-reaching benefits not just in the doctors’ office, but also in the classroom. A recent University of Wisconsin study found that mindfulness programs are effective in reducing stress and burnout among teachers, and a body of research supports the learning benefits of mindfulness for both schoolchildren and college students.

Click here for The Huffington Post article.

Please click here to read another article on mindfulness training that was published in The New York Times.

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Healthy Recipe: Zucchini Muffins

Recommended by Krista Kohls, RD, CD, Meriter Registered Dietitian

Makes: 24 delicious muffins
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: About 30 minutes

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup wheat germ
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3 tsp ground cinnamon
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup natural/unsweetened applesauce
1 cup sugar or honey
3 tsp vanilla extract
3-4 cups grated zucchini
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup dates, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Spray muffin cups with vegetable oil spray or use muffin liners.
2. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
3. Beat eggs, oil, applesauce, vanilla and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture and beat well. Stir in zucchini, nuts and dates until well combined. Use a spoon to distribute the muffin dough equally among the 24 muffin cups.
4. Bake for about 30 minutes or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove muffins from pan and cool completely.

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Free Bra Fittings at the Ladies Night Out Event

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Meriter is hosting a ladies night out event. Enjoy an evening with your friends while learning more about breast cancer prevention and treatment, featuring our mammography services.

Did you know?

  • One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
  • Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women.
  • Each year it is estimated that over 220,000 women in the United States will be diagnosed with breast cancer
  • The American Cancer Society (ACS) recommends a baseline mammogram for all women by age 40

The Good News

  • Approximately 85%-90% of all breast cancers are detectable by mammography, early detection is key

Join us and view the new mammography equipment; meet the Mammogram Technologists; ask questions and enjoy tasty appetizers, desserts and infused water.

Also have a FREE professional bra fitting.

Date and time: Thursday, October 17 from 5-7 pm

Location: Meriter Monona Clinic, 6408 Copps Avenue, Monona

Register for this FREE event


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Pre-existing Diabetes and Pregnancy

Women with pre-existing diabetes (diabetes prior to pregnancy) can have healthy pregnancies and babies. They are no longer discouraged from having children; however, there are important things you need to know to help you have a healthy pregnancy.

First of all, follow general recommendations for healthy pregnancy, healthy diet and exercise, avoid smoking, alcohol and drugs, get appropriate dental care, etc.

Risk for miscarriage and birth defects is highly dependent on your glucose control when you get pregnant. The higher the glucose levels, the higher the risk for miscarriage and birth defects. Meriter Perinatal recommends your a1c be 6.5 or less before you conceive, but it is also important to have glucose control with a minimal amount of extreme high and low glucose levels.

Medication changes may be recommended prior to pregnancy. Some medications given for diabetes and diabetes related conditions cannot be used during pregnancy. Prenatal vitamins and extra folic may be recommended.

Complications of diabetes (if they exist) for the woman (heart, kidney, eye complications, etc.) can worsen during pregnancy. It is important to have all diabetes screenings for complications completed just prior to pregnancy.

Care of a woman with diabetes during pregnancy is more complex due to the many risks. More appointments and tests are required than for an average woman during pregnancy. Most women with diabetes during pregnancy will have at least some care from specialty OB providers. Much of the risk to mother and baby can be reduced to a minimum with proper care prior and during pregnancy. Insulin needs will usually double or triple during the course of pregnancy during a time when normal glucose levels are needed to maintain a healthy pregnancy. Planning ahead for this time of increased focus on diabetes can help lessen the stress and difficulty.

For these reasons, it is suggested that all women use a reliable method to prevent pregnancy until glucose levels are in the recommended range and see qualified health providers to discuss pregnancy prior to becoming pregnant. Women with diabetes should know who they will receive care from if they become pregnant and who to contact if an unplanned pregnancy occurs. Care should be provided immediately to provide assistance with glucose control and address other issues at the earliest opportunity. Continued help from diabetes experts will be needed to help maintain tight control of diabetes throughout the pregnancy. Many other complications can occur if tight control is not maintained including having a large baby, extra amniotic fluid, preterm labor, increased risk of baby needing intensive care at delivery for various reasons, and more. Again, all risks can be greatly reduced if normal glucose levels are maintained throughout the pregnancy.

The Meriter Center for Perinatal Care offers pre-pregnancy through postpartum care for women with diabetes. Pre-pregnancy care includes consultation with UW Maternal Fetal Medicine physicians and a Certified Diabetes Educator who is an Advance Practice Nurse, Board Certified in Advanced Diabetes Management. The program provides frequent appointments and the latest strategies to assist women in meeting pre-pregnancy glucose targets necessarily for a healthy start to pregnancy.  

For more information on pre-pregnancy diabetes counseling please visit the following links.

Diabetes Pre-Pregnancy Counseling

CDC-Diabetes and Pregnancy

The Meriter Center for Perinatal Clinic phone number is 608-417-6667 and provider referrals can be faxed to 608-417-6364.


April Eddy, RN, CNS, CDE (APNP)
Diabetes Clinical Nurse Specialist for Perinatal Services

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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 class will provide a combination of lecture and guided exercise instruction and all participants will receive a FREE 1 month membership to Harbor Athletic Club for the duration of the class.

Space is limited to 15 participants, so sign up today and get started on the path to health and happiness.  

Dates:  Thursdays – October 17, October 24, November 7 and November  14th  (No Class on Thursday, October 31 due to Halloween)

Time:  5:30 to 7:00 pm (Night 1 on October 17 will run until 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:  $35

What to Wear:

  • The class will include 30-40 minutes of guided exercise each night so please where loose, comfortable close and athletic shoes. Also bring a water bottle.

Click here to register today

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Flu Vaccination Clinic Schedules

This flu season, Meriter urges you to protect yourself by practicing good hand hygiene, steering clear of those who are already sick, and of course, getting your annual flu vaccination.

Meriter clinics are now offering flu vaccinations to all Meriter primary care patients or individuals who have Physicians Plus insurance. Simply call one of our Meriter clinics for an appointment. See the schedule below for adult vaccination clinic hours. Vaccinations can also be given at office visit appointments previously scheduled.

Please note that flu vaccinations for children require an appointment, which may be made by calling your child’s primary care physician’s office.

Adult Flu Vaccination Clinic Schedule
September 16 through December 13, 2013

Meriter DeForest-Windsor – 608.417.3300
Tuesdays: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Thursdays: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Meriter Deming Way – 608.417.8388
Mondays: 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Tuesdays: 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Meriter Fitchburg – 608.417.8585
Wednesdays: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.
Fridays: 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Meriter McKee – 608.417.8800
Mondays: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. & 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Wednesdays: 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Meriter Middleton – 608.417.3434
Thursdays: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. & 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

Meriter Monona – 608.417.3000
Thursdays: 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Fridays: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Meriter Stoughton – 608.417.8700
Tuesdays: 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Wednesdays: 8:30 to 11:30 a.m.

Meriter West Washington – 608.417.8300
Tuesdays: 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.
Thursdays: 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.

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Dr. Dana Johnson: With Possible Concussions, It’s Better to Sit Out

Featured in the Wisconsin State Journal on September 5, 2013.

Dear Dr. Johnson:
How do I know if my child has a concussion?

Dear Reader: Concussions have been in the news a lot lately. There has been more focus on the long-term effects for professional athletes especially NFL football players. Fortunately, there has also been more focus on younger athletes and concussions. A child or adolescent’s brain is more susceptible to injury as it is still developing.

A concussion is any injury to the brain that disrupts normal brain function. They are typically caused by a blow or jolt to the head. While usually the head is impacted, it doesn’t have to be. A jerking motion that causes the head to come to an abrupt stop can also result in a concussion. The blow also doesn’t have to be to the scalp region. Hits to the face and neck can also result in a concussion.

Concussions cannot be diagnosed just by the type of hit or injury. Two children can suffer very similar blows to the head. One may have a concussion and the other not. Most of the time those that have concussions were not knocked out or unconscious.

There is not an imaging test (X-ray, CT scan, MRI, etc.) that can reliably diagnose a concussion. The diagnosis is based upon the signs and symptoms the person is having.

Common symptoms of a concussion are:

• Headache
• Nausea and/or vomiting
• Dizziness, lightheadness, or balance problems
• Changes in vision (often double or blurry)
• Sensitivity to light and/or sound
• Feeling dazed, stunned, foggy or just “off”
• Difficulty concentrating or remembering
• Confusion
• Forgetfulness
• Difficulty with school work
• Changes in mood – more irritable or emotional
• Drowsiness
• Sleeping more or less

If a concussion is suspected, the individual should be removed from play and should visit a doctor to confirm the diagnosis and determine when it’s safe for an individual to return to activity. All concussions are serious. If a second concussion is suffered before fully recovering from the first, permanent brain damage and even death can occur.

The treatment for concussions is physical and mental rest. Some children need to stay at home from school for a period of time with gradual return. Video games, television and other mentally stimulating activities should also be avoided. Once symptoms have resolved and a doctor has cleared the individual, a stepwise return to physical activity is recommended.

If symptoms recur at any point, activity should be stopped as this is an indication that the brain has not fully healed. A computer based test is sometimes used to further evaluation if mental function has returned to baseline. The most common test used in Madison is the ImPACT test. This test is most valuable if the individual took a baseline test prior to ever having a concussion for comparison.

Once an individual has suffered a concussion, they may be more susceptible to another one in the future.

“When in Doubt, Sit Them Out!”

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Meriter Helps Quintuplets Reunite

Meriter hosted a very special family reunion over the weekend as a set of quintuplets met their whole family for the first time.

Local couple Cassie and Frank Vanderwall had five babies at a hospital in Arizona last month. Mom, Cassie stayed in Arizona with the babies and Frank traveled back and forth. As the babies grew stronger, they were transfered to Meriter NICU. Over the weekend, the whole family was reunited at Meriter, including a first meeting with grandparents and great grandparents.

A big THANK YOU to all of our hardworking NICU staff for making the family’s transition back to Madison as smooth as possible and taking excellent care of our tiny patients as they grow stronger each day.

Click here to watch WKOW’s story about how these four girls and one baby boy made their way to Meriter.

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Back-to-School Advice

Dr. Kathryn Cahill of the Meriter West Washington clinic gave back-to-school advice on WKOW’s Wake Up Wisconsin.

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Meriter Patient Beating Diabetes

originally published on

Watch the Fox47 Story

MADISON- Diabetes is a growing problem in the US. More than 25.8 million adults and children are living with diabetes, while more than 7 million of those are undiagnosed.

A local retired cop is one of those living with diabetes while proving you can take control of your health.

Phil little says he’s 74, but you’d never know it looking at him. He’s turned his life around after realizing there wasn’t any choice but to get up and take control of his life. He’s retired UW Police, Chief of Police of Shorewood Hills and a Chief Deputy Coroner position. After learning he was living with diabetes he now spends his days working out.

“I was up to 320 pounds and every time I would walk somewhere, I would have to stop and catch my breath, no fun at all,” said Little.

Phil progressed during 10 years to needing about 300 units of insulin per day.

“Used to be a day of food, if I went to McDonalds, it would be 2 big macs and 2 quarter pounders with cheese, fries, perhaps,” said Little.

Little said he was also a peanut butteraholic, going through a large jar of peanut butter a week

Now, he’s watching what he eats and eating a lot more fruits and vegetables for fillers, cereals, just watching what he eats and learning about portions.

He’s down 66 pounds in just13 months and plans to continue on. Most importantly, he’s turning around his health.

“In the process of losing this weight, I am now off all diabetic medication,” said Little. “So, I’m a diabetic, but it’s controlled by diet.”

Dr. Gerhard Kraske, an internist at Meriter Health said Phil took the right route.

“Alot of people when they first hear the diagnosis, the first thing that comes to mind is shots and insulin and that’s not necessarily so,” said Dr. Kraske.

Dr. Kraske said American Diabetes Association guidelines recommend trying to get the patient to lose weight with the help of a nutritionist.

“I try to tell them this is not a death sentence, this is a wake-up call to a healthier lifestyle. “It entails eating better, watching portion size, exercising, losing weight, we can come to grips with this condition.”

The ADA estimates 79 million people are living with prediabetes. Dr. Kraske sais doctors need to do a better job screening for diabetes.

Dr. Kraske estimates by the time doctors pick up a diabetic, they actually already lived with diabetes for about 10 years.

Little said he was one of those who didn’t know he was living with diabetes, but after all his hard work.he hopes to never go back.

“The penalty of going back is still fresh in my mind from what I experienced, and I don’t think I ever will, but you never know.”

The Diabetes Step-Out Walk is August 25th. It’s not too late to join. Register to walk on a team or as an individual or donate as a virtual walker.

Register at

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Healthy Back-to-School Snacks

Recipes recommended by Dietitian Krista Kohls and featured on WISC-TV.

No-Bake Energy Bites

 Makes about 20-25 balls


  • 1 cup (dry) oatmeal (I used old-fashioned oats)
  • 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter or almond butter or soynut butter
  • 1/2 cup ground flaxseed or wheat germ
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips or cacao nibs or ½ cup craisins or raisins (optional)
  • 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
  • 1 Tbsp. chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract


  1. Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl until thoroughly mixed. Cover and let chill in the refrigerator for half an hour.
  2.  Once chilled, roll into balls of whatever size you would like. (Mine were about 1″ in diameter.) Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.

Compliments of

Roasted Honey Cinnamon Chickpeas

Makes about 4 servings


  • 15-ounce can organic garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  1.  Preheat oven to 375 °F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat silicone mat.
  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas in a colander. Place them on a towel to dry off.
  3. Spread chickpeas on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake for approximately 45 minutes or until crispy. Test one, and if it’s still soft, bake for longer
  4. While the chickpeas are still hot, toss them in a bowl with the oil, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Enjoy as is or for a caramelized effect, place them back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so.
  5. Store leftover chickpeas in an airtight container.

 Compliments of Modern Parents, Messy Kids

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Welcome Dr. David Daiga

The Meriter Medical Group would like to welcome David Daiga, MD to the Meriter Specialty Clinic. He is the third Neurologist on staff, joining Dr. Ross Levine and Dr. Stephanie Rothman.

Dr. Daiga was always drawn to the fields of science and medicine. During his residency, he found that neurology was both interesting and logical. The field blended his love of science and problem solving. Dr. Daiga’s medical specialty encompasses general neurology, including headaches, stroke/TIA, Parkinson’s disease, tremors and other movement disorders, epileptic seizures, multiple sclerosis, memory loss, spinal cord injury, and dizziness. He has a special interest in peripheral neurology, including neuropathy, myopathy, neuromuscular junction disorders (i.e. myasthenia gravis), and motorneuronopathy (i.e. ALS). 

Dr. Daiga’s patients find him to be both easy to work with and easy to understand thanks to his excellent communication skills, use of common terminology and ability to relay information to family members. He takes the time to listen to his patients and explain their condition until they thoroughly understand the diagnosis and treatment options. He cares for his patients both physically and also emotionally. He builds a relationship of open communications with his patients so they can mutually work towards a positive solution.

Please join Meriter in welcoming Dr. Daiga!

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Gallbladder Removal Through the Belly Button

Meriter is proud to announce its entire Meriter Medical Group General Surgery team now offers a single-incision approach to gallbladder surgery. Dr. Susan Toth, Dr. Kenneth Foster and Dr. Daniel Mansfield are the only surgeons offering single-site surgery in the Madison area.

What is single-incision gallbladder surgery? Watch Dr. Toth explain in the video below.

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Donate to the Community Blanket and Diaper Drive

Meriter is pleased to host a Community Blanket and Diaper Drive from August 1–31 in partnership with the UW’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology (OBGYN). The Healthy Women, Healthy Babies Fund actively works with women of all ages and communicate the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Make a Donation
New diapers and new and gently used blankets can be dropped off at the following locations in the Madison area:

Meriter Hospital
Meriter DeForest-Windsor
Meriter McKee
Meriter Monona
UW Hospital and Clinics
UW Health 20 S. Park Clinic
UW Health East Clinic
UW Health East Towne Clinic
UW Health Fitchburg Clinic
UW Health West Clinic
UW Health West Towne Clinic

This year, we are introducing a new opportunity for the community to be able to donate online to the blanket and diaper drive.

Donate online to the blanket and diaper drive

The dollars raised will be used to purchase additional diapers and blankets for:

• South Madison Health and Family Center
• Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation First Breath Program
• March of Dimes

Thank you for supporting the Healthy Women, Healthy Babies Fund.

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Yoga is in Full Bloom

The wholesome benefits of this ancient health practice are found in scientific journals, fitness periodicals and wellness magazines. But the stated advantages are true.

With few exceptions, yoga is healthy for every one of every shape, size and fitness level. Yoga is good for balance, flexibility, strengthening, and stress reduction. It can help with controlling weight, lowering blood pressure, improving sleep and enhancing mood.

Yoga poses encourage the natural range of motion that the body is designed to do.  You move slowly, allowing your body to lead.  Yoga is not a hard-driving, gym-like experience. There is no pushing yourself or comparing what you do with the person on the mat beside you. Yoga is a personal experience. The only expectation is that you move within your own level of comfort. Modifications of the poses allow you to maximize the stretch, enjoy the exercise and leave the session refreshed and re-energized.  Simply put, yoga doesn’t discriminate – it helps everyone to feel vital and rejuvenated.

Meriter offers a variety of yoga classes because we believe that getting healthier and stronger and can begin with only 45 minutes a week.

Below is the list of our current class options. Each yoga program is scheduled as a 4 week class, offered consecutively throughout the year.
Yoga Basics – Wednesdays, 10:30 – 11:15 am, Meriter Wellness Center, 2501 W. Beltline Hwy, Suite 207 (the corner of Todd Drive)

Yoga Basics at Noon – Wednesdays, 11:45 am – 12:30 pm, Meriter Business Center, 2650 Novation Parkway (off Rimrock Road) 

Mom & Baby Yoga – Wednesdays, 10:30 – 11:15 am, Meriter Business Center

Prenatal Yoga – Fridays, 12:00 – 12:45 pm, Meriter Business Center

To register, visit, or call the Women’s Health Education Department at 608.417.8446. These classes are reimbursable through Physicians Plus and Unity.

Tish Lafferty, RN, MSN
Coordinator and Nurse Educator
Women’s Health Education

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Six Reasons to Go Soda Free

As the days get warmer, we often find ourselves reaching for a nice cold beverage.  For many of us, that is often a soda. Did you know that soda is the no. 1 source of added sugar in the American diet? Did you know that drinking just one soda per day means over the course of a year you will have ingested over 35 pounds of sugar? Have you ever considered the effects that drinking soda has on your body? For example:

  1. Dehydration. Because caffeine is a diuretic, it leads to an increase in urine volume. So, when you drink a caffeinated soda to quench your thirst, you will actually become thirstier.
  2. High calories. A can of regular cola contains over 150 calories. Not only are these calories devoid of any nutritional value, but they also deplete your body of vital nutrients
  3. Caffeine addiction. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University state when people don’t get their usual dose of caffeine; they can suffer a range of withdrawal symptoms including headache, fatigue, muscle pain and inability to concentrate.
  4. Acid=Tooth Decay. The amount of acid in soda is enough to wear away at the enamel of your teeth, making them more susceptible to decay. In tests done on the acidity levels of soda, certain ones were found to have pH levels as low as 2.5. To put that into perspective, consider that battery acid has a pH of 1 and pure water has a pH of 7.
  5. Mineral depletion. Colas contain phosphoric acid and caffeine, which drain calcium from the bones. Also, because caffeine increases urine volume, more minerals end up leaving the body before having a chance to be properly absorbed.
  6. Acid reflux. The carbonation can react harshly with the stomach, causing distension. The feeling is painful until the air is released.

And have you considered what ingredients are in your soda?

  • Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO). Mountain Dew, Fresca and other citrus-flavored soda contain BVO which has been banned in over 100 countries, but not in the US. Studies show that BVO, which is a flame retardant, can cause damage to the heart and other muscles, liver damage, neurological conditions, memory loss, skin lesions and more.
  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup. Many sodas are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, a heart harming, man-made compound derived mainly from genetically engineered corn.  Long term effects of high-fructose corn syrup and genetically engineered foods are just starting to be known.
  • Artificial sweeteners. Many people opt for diet sodas to cut out the calories, but some research shows the sweeteners may cause additional harm, such as cancer, while others dispute any risk. The jury is still out.

Consider pledging to reduce or eliminate soda from your daily choices this summer. Try pledging with your family or coworkers for added support.  Track your soda consumption for the next month on a calendar.  Write your goal on the calendar related to reducing or eliminating soda, just remember to be specific: only 1 soda per day/week/month, no soda or reduce consumption by half each week. Put the calendar somewhere you will see it often to remind yourself to choose your beverages wisely.  Each time you have a soda, mark the calendar. If you indulge in a soda, don’t give up, but be mindful of what triggered your choice or got you off track.

Plan ahead to make sure you have plenty of non-soda beverages on hand at home, on the road and at work. Try to keep a refillable water bottle close by at all times to remind you to keep swigging! Here are some simple beverages to keep on hand for soda substitutes:

  • Infused water-spice up your plain tap water with fruits, herbs and veggies! Try pairing watermelon and basil, or lemon, mint and cucumber, the possibilities are endless.
  • Juice or vinegar spritzers-Try mixing 1 part 100% fruit juice or fruit vinegar with 3 parts seltzer water for an easy homemade soda!
  • Infused iced teas-for variety, try different teas: green, black, white and add slices of lemon or orange for an added kick!
  • Milk and milk alternatives-try almond or coconut milk for a light, refreshing treat

Cheers to your health and wellness!

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Dr. Dana Johnson: Road Trips

Published in the Wisconsin State Journal on July 25, 2013

Dear Dr. Johnson: My family is planning a road trip for later this summer. What can I do to make it more enjoyable for my 3-year-old and myself?

Dear Reader: Many families choose to travel during the summer, whether to explore new places, visit family or return to the annual vacation spot. With my son’s closest grandparents being a 10-hour drive away, we have gone on long road trips since he was an infant. I have learned a few tips and tricks over the years.

Safety should always be first. Children need to be in age-appropriate car seats and buckled in at all times. If they need to come out of the car seat for any reason, it’s time for a stop at a rest area, gas station or restaurant.

All older children, adolescents and adults should use seat belts. The driver should be well-rested and distractions should be limited.

Have realistic expectations for children. If your toddler has never been in a car for more than 20 minutes, a 12-hour car ride may not be the best first road trip. A shorter trip might be more ideal.

It is best to have two or more adults when traveling with young children — one adult to drive and the other to entertain and meet the child’s needs.

Expect to take breaks. Whether a year old or 10 years old, children need breaks from the car and opportunities to stretch their legs. The younger my son was, the longer the trip took due to the number and length of pit stops.

A good rule of thumb is one stop every two hours. We have become very familiar with most of the rest areas between Madison and my parents’ home. Tree tag is a favorite way for all of us to exercise our travel-weary bodies (the trees are “safe”). We took a football on our most recent trip and played a modified version of two-hand-touch football.

If possible, bring some healthy snacks. A day of eating nothing but fast food can make the body feel even worse.

Bring entertainment — coloring books, books to read, toys, activities and movies. Whether it’s on a portable DVD player or a tablet loaded with movies, a film can keep some children entertained for a couple of hours.

Remember the road games you played as a kid or look for a few ideas online. Point out interesting sights along the way. A young child may find cows along the road entertaining. We’ve counted semi trucks, played the alphabet game (find each letter of the alphabet on signs), looked for license plates from various states and numerous other games.

Expect to have some complaining or crying from smaller children and to hear “are we there yet?” from older children. If crossing multiple states, you can talk with older children about the order of states you will go through so they can gauge how close you are getting to your destination. You could also do this with large cities. If your child is particularly interested, giving them a map so they can follow the route may be entertaining.

Traveling with children can be challenging but also fun. I hope you have a safe and enjoyable trip!

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Meriter Named Most Wired 2013

For the third consecutive year, Meriter is proud to announce it’s been named “Most Wired” by Hospitals & Health Networks magazine (H&HN).

The magazine partners with the American Hospital Association, the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), AT&T, and McKesson to review hospitals between January and March of each year regarding their health IT initiatives.  Hospitals are evaluated in four categories: infrastructure, business & administrative management, clinical quality & safety and clinical integration.

More than 1,700 hospitals were surveyed, but less than 300 were recognized for successfully planning and implementing information technology. Additional honors were given to 25 small, rural hospitals, as well as 25 hospitals in the most improved category.

This award is a tribute to Meriter’s hard-working IT leaders and staff, along with our engaged clinical staff and physicians who adopt technology to improve the delivery of care.  We will continue our efforts as a system to improve the services we provide our patients through the thoughtful and appropriate use of health IT.

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