Find healing at Clark Memorial: Meet the providers of our Wellness Expo

April 30, 2019

We’d like to introduce you to some of our health care providers and services that you can learn more about at our Wellness Expo on May 18, 2019. Learn about all Clark Memorial Health has to offer our community, receive free health screenings, and enjoy a car show by the Wild Side Mustangs.

The Sleep Center brings rest to patients with sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common sleep disorder that director Scott Yates and clinical coordinator Mala Lacaze help treat at the Sleep Center. The continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is still the number one way to treat sleep apnea, and Scott and Mala want people to know how much this treatment has improved in recent years and just how much of a difference it can make in patients’ lives.

“We’re seeing, almost monthly, new masks coming out that are geared to make patients more comfortable,” Scott says. “That’s a big thing. The machines themselves have become much more sensitive and aware of how the patient is doing.

“It’s really important for us to walk people through the process of getting used to the machine. We help them get over any fear and understand it’s going to do something really good for them and not harm them.”

People underestimate how important a good night’s sleep is, Mala adds. “Absolutely any health problem you have, having sleep apnea is going to make it worse because your body never gets a chance to rest. Treatment is life-changing for patients. Most of the time patients may not even realize how exhausted they are until they get a good night’s sleep. They’re not aware of how many other aspects of their life are affected.”

Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) program helps surgical patients heal quickly

“Most patients have to have surgery due to circumstances that are out of their control,” says Jennifer Schmidt, advanced specialty coordinator of the Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) program at Clark Memorial. “This program helps patients get that control back by encouraging them to be an active participant in their health care.”

The practices of ERAS focus on optimizing a patient’s health before surgery in order to improve recovery and help the patient go home sooner. The program has proven to decrease surgical stress, lower risk of complications, and decrease narcotic use.

“Overall, patients going through the ERAS program at Clark are able to go home 34% sooner than comparable patients across the nation,” Jennifer says.

ERAS uses a four-pronged approach for a better surgical experience:

  1. Improved nutrition and decreased fasting before surgery gives the body energy and hydration for the procedure.
  2. Using alternative methods and fewer addictive narcotics for pain control helps patients avoid unwanted side effects of drowsiness, nausea and constipation.
  3. Earlier eating and drinking after surgery help the body heal and regain strength sooner.
  4. Earlier movement out of bed after surgery helps alleviate soreness and prevent blood clots, pneumonia and muscle weakening.

ERAS is currently used on elective (planned) inpatient procedures for general, orthopedic, urology, and vascular cases. But Jennifer hopes to see the program expand.

“Moving forward, the goal is to make ERAS a standard of care for our patients,” she says. “ERAS helps patients be more prepared for surgery, both mentally and physically, so we want everyone to be able to benefit from this program.”

State-of-the-art therapy at the Wound Healing Center

When wounds don't heal or improve on their own in 30 days, the Wound Healing Center clears the path to recovery.

“We help hundreds of patients a year here,” says Mendy McIntosh, program director. “We treat many diabetic foot wounds, venous and arterial ulcers, post-surgical wounds, and soft tissue radionecrosis (or wounds stemming from prior radiation therapy).”

In 2018, the Wound Healing Center opened its hyperbaric oxygen therapy suite, which brought a much-needed service to the community, Mendy says. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy is the administration of 100% oxygen in the pressurized environment of a hyperbaric chamber. The combination of pressure and oxygen significantly increases the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream, which promotes faster wound healing, helps preserve injured tissue, improves control of certain infections, and encourages the growth of new blood vessels.

“Having a chronic wound can be very painful, and going through treatment can be quite depressing,” Mendy says. “But we see patients on a regular basis and get to know them and their families. They become like family to us.”

Intensive Outpatient Therapy brings healing in a group setting

“Behavioral health treatment does not start and end in the hospital,” says licensed clinical social worker Rachel Kolodziej. She leads one of the therapy groups of Clark Memorial’s Intensive Outpatient Therapy (IOP) program, which serves patients with mental health concerns or chemical dependency issues.

Less restrictive than inpatient treatment but properly intensive for lasting recovery, the IOP program centers on group therapy three times a week. Seeing a psychiatrist monthly, learning coping skills, and getting help with medication are supporting aspects of the program.

As leader of the Mental Health group, Rachel offers insight and advocates for patients with depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and anger issues. “I am most passionate about building relationships and alliances with the patients and for the patients to build positive alliances with one another,” she says. “People are able to process their stories while receiving encouragement from others who can relate.”

In recent years, Clark has expanded the IOP program as issues of chemical dependency and mental health have continued to rise in the community. In 2017, four new group meeting rooms were added to the program facilities, and Rachel says the practice is focusing more on including patients’ families and support systems in the recovery process.

“Some people may like the idea of intensive therapy but are hesitant to join a group and share their stories with strangers,” she says. “I often invite people to consider the power of having others understand and for them to understand others. I have experienced group dynamics where members call each other ‘family,’ with some even saying the group became like the family they never had.”