When the staff at North Florida Medical Center was alerted months in advance that triplets would be delivered at the hospital, a team of medical professionals began working together to prepare for their arrival.
“Medicine is a team sport,” said Dr. Rizwana Fareeduddin, a specialist in maternal fetal medicine who specializes in high-risk pregnancies at the hospital’s women’s center. “We can’t be successful without calling on each other for help.”
The triplets were delivered successfully, and they were transferred immediately to the hospital’s Level II Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
“It was a beautiful thing to watch,” said Julie Samples, North Florida’s assistant chief nursing officer and women’s services director. “Everyone did an amazing job.”
Serving women who need highly sophisticated care is important to the hospital, but the other end of the medical spectrum — patient education — is equally important, Samples explained.
“We want women to be able to take control of their health,” she said. “We want them to ask questions like, ‘I’ve heard about this test. Do I need it?’”
North Florida has progressed steadily in serving women throughout the 25 years that Samples has been there.
“We’ve come a long way from when we started with low-risk OB and some GYN surgery,” she said. “We’ve always had a passion for expanding.”
As women’s services have grown, North Florida has maintained the cooperative spirit of a community hospital.
“The doctors and staff all work together very well,” Fareeduddin said. “We talk all the time because we know true communication is a key for successful patient care.”
High-Tech and High-Touch Care
Dr. Cherylle Hayes illustrates North Florida’s commitment to offering both high-tech and high-touch in medical care.
As a radiation oncologist at the hospital’s Cancer Center, she treats patients with the CyberKnife, a device that delivers radiation precisely to tumors and spares surrounding tissue, reaping the following benefits: Shortening the length of treatments — often to five days instead of the usual six weeks, eliminating scarring of healthy tissue, and reducing the possibility that cancer will recur
Helping people reduce the risk of cancer is also extremely important to Hayes.
Many of her patients are women with breast cancer, so Hayes takes the opportunity to speak with them about their families’ general health.
“Mothers set the pattern for a family’s eating habits,” she said. “I try to educate them about eating well (and) focusing on having plenty of fruits and vegetables.”
“Obesity has become acceptable, but it shouldn’t be,” she said.
“I promote exercise and nutrient dense diets which, not only improve psychological wellbeing, but for cancer patients have been shown to improve quality of life, levels of fatigue and overall outcomes related to survivorship. It improves your chances of living longer and being healthier while decreasing the risk of many chronic diseases, including cancer.”
According to the WellFlorida Council, the obesity rate in Alachua County 60.1 percent, which is alarmingly high.
Hayes speaks regularly at hospital seminars and to community groups.
Advances in technology have tremendous benefits to the health of women, notes gynecologist Dr. Anthony Agrios.
For women eligible for this approach, he uses advanced robotic technology to heal his patients in a better way. For women who experience robotic surgery, it often means less pain, smaller incisions, less time in the hospital and less time away from home and work.
“Some women can go home the same day as their surgery,” Agrios said. “In the past, they may have been hospitalized for two or three weeks.”
Whenever possible, Agrios leaves women’s ovaries intact when performing hysterectomies.
“It’s important to preserve hormone function for a variety of reasons — maintaining sleep, energy, a sense of wellbeing, sexual function and bone health,” he said.
Agrios is proud to help lead the hospital’s robotic surgery program. North Florida Regional has two daVinci robotic systems and has a high volume program where many of the community’s robotic surgery ‘firsts’ were performed. The current trend now is to move toward single-site robotic surgeries, a trend Dr. Agrios champions when appropriate for patients.
“I’ve been passionate about finding new and better ways to improve women’s health for 25 years,” he said.
Advances in surgery help women return to their daily routines quickly, Samples said, adding that, “It’s a gift for them to be able to get back to their role as wives, mothers and daughters.”
North Florida’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program serves women who have had heart attacks or heart surgery.
The Center also helps inform women about heart disease, starting with encouraging them not to ignore warning signs, Samples said.
“Many women are so involved with caring for their family,” she said. “It’s difficult for us to put ourselves over others. When a woman has chest pains, she may put in a load of clothes or go to get groceries so her kids can have lunches Monday.”
Patient education plays a big part at the center, said Rhonda Gardner, a registered nurse who is the center’s director.
“After a cardiac event, many people become depressed and suffer anxiety,” she said. “They’re afraid to do anything. We let them know that they need to rebuild their strength and that the monitoring protects their safety.”
As patients progress, staff encourages them to walk for a minimum of 15 to 20 minutes every day at a pace that elevates the heart rate.
“As care providers, we encourage women to be proactive in their recovery progress,” Gardner said. “A woman who is a cardiac patient has to be willing to help herself by exercising, even if she doesn’t naturally like to. And all women – cardiac patients or not – need to begin to think less about how we fix problems and more about how we can prevent them.”
North Florida’s focus on women and wellness is important in light of North Central Florida’s poor health statistics, Samples said.
Women and Wellness Initiative
North Florida Regional Medical Center provides educational programs for women throughout the year.
In continuing its longstanding commitment to women’s health, North Florida Regional Medical Center has launched a new program it calls Women and Wellness. Women and Wellness is based on research into the biggest healthcare challenges for women in our community. Each month, the program tackles one of these challenges with the goal of increase awareness and understanding and inspiring women to do all they can do to be as healthy as possible. Information about how to join Women and Wellness and receive a free gift is online at www.womenandwellness.com.
Women Talk: Three local women share their viewpoints on health and wellness.
Being a younger woman has presented some unique challenges for me in our health care system. I can remember quite a few times where I did not feel that my health concerns were taken as seriously as they should have been. Times where I expressed concerns and the providers would say, “You’re young, so you don’t need to worry about that now.” I understand the importance of preventing health problems rather than having to treat them, so I have always asked a lot of questions at the doctor’s as well as shared any and all concerns.
When I found out that breast cancer ran in my immediate family, I spoke with my doctor about getting a mammogram. My doctor thought that 27 was too young and that being exposed to the radiation would not be good at this point in my life. Though I understood his point of view, I truly believed that it was my right to take that risk, and I ended up having to see three other doctors until one finally agreed and expressed how critical it was to get a mammogram considering my risk factors regardless of age. That experience will always remind me how important it is for women to take their health into their own hands and not to hesitate to get a second or even third opinion, even if it’s just for your own peace of mind. I say all of this because a second opinion saved my mother’s life.
Like many middle-aged women, I am concerned about health care costs, relaxed quality of health care and access to specialized care. I have learned from a serious back injury requiring surgery that I must move from a passive health-related existence to a more proactive preventative approach. I have instituted my own “total body plan” to affect and enrich my life to achieve greater results. My total body plan has taught me the importance of living a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle includes both mental and physical exercise. The brain is like a computer. Input equals output. The input of good, uplifting thoughts equals good, positive results. Inputting negative, stinking-thinking thoughts equals bad, terrible results. Each day, no matter how bad it is, I am thankful and positive. The other half of my total body plan consists of great sleep, eating right and exercise. This is especially important for women reaching post-menopause. An annual history and physical establishes healthy base-line data.
Wellness, in post-menopausal females, requires periodic monitoring. My total body plan answers rising medical costs with an age-old cliché: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Although I live a very busy lifestyle, staying mentally and physically active keeps me healthier, happier and more positive. Women-focused care is important to me, and knowing that I can find local physicians who provide top-notch care is essential.
Most of my health care needs the last few years have focused around maternal care. North Florida Women’s Physicians group was amazing for my prenatal, delivery and postpartum care with both of my pregnancies. Someone was available 24 hours a day for questions and concerns. The delivery team was so gracious to allow me to voice my desires for delivery and do their very best to support me in bringing healthy babies into the world.
The key to balancing my health is to make it a priority and to make healthy decisions more frequently than I make unhealthy choices. My husband and I take turns with the children so that we can make it to the gym a few days a week, and we enjoy staying active with family walks and bike rides. A busy lifestyle means planning healthy meals ahead of time, always having healthy snacks available and eating chocolate in moderation.