Life’s about where you’re going, and more importantly, who you’re going with. At every stage of your journey, go with the healthcare partner who understands the road you travel. Whether that person is a family medicine physician, pediatrician, internist, nurse practitioner or physician assistant, he or she has your best interests at heart, cheering you on toward better health – a better life.
A family affair
For many people, a family practice physician provides convenient comprehensive care for everyone in the family. The Ceman family of Menasha has known Dr. Richard Klamm of ThedaCare Physicians Neenah-East as their family doctor for almost 30 years. Dr. Klamm saw Kathy through her pregnancy with her youngest child, Tim, now 28. Kathy was so impressed with Dr. Klamm’s care she brought the other three children to him. Kathy’s husband, Joe, also joined the family roster as Dr. Klamm’s patient.
“I thought, ‘This is the way to go,’” Kathy recalled of her decision for the family to see the same doctor. “He knew my medical history, and all my kids. It was easy to go to one doctor instead of several. Plus, he gave us personal attention when Michael had asthma. He educated us about that condition.” Today, as adults, all the Ceman kids still see Dr. Klamm – Sean is 37, Jessica is 35, Michael is 32 and Tim is 28. Jessica’s husband, Mark Thiel, and all three of their children also see Dr. Klamm.
“My needs have changed as I have aged,” Kathy said. “Dr. Klamm has seen me through breast cancer, two knee surgeries and other surgeries. I had a hard time with the anesthesia after the first knee surgery. Because he knew me and understood me, he recommended a different approach to the anesthesia for the second surgery, and I came out of that so much better.”
“I learn about my patients,” said Dr. Klamm. “I build relationships over time. It’s wonderful to know a whole family. Who’s babysitting? Who cooks? Who’s managing the family routine? Because I know a family, I can make specific suggestions to, or share information with, the right person. The chances for a positive change increase.”
Dr. Eric Smiltneek of ThedaCare Physicians-Oshkosh shares Dr. Klamm’s approach. “When I know a whole family, I can see where the needs are, and how they can be met,” he said. “People don’t live in vacuums. If a child has asthma and the parents smoke, I can address that connection. At ThedaCare, I have access to specialists, diabetes educators, behavioral health, smoking cessation and more. I encourage whole families to go to diabetes education. If I can get a husband and wife into a friendly competition around their cholesterol numbers, chances are both will do better.”
Some family practice doctors offer obstetric care. Dr. Klamm delivered babies for years – he estimates he delivered a couple thousand – and only recently gave up that special, and demanding, part of his practice. Dr. Smiltneek continues to find obstetrics an exciting part of his practice, as he helps families navigate a pregnancy, labor and delivery. (To find a family doctor who delivers babies, visit www.thedacare.org/babydoctors.)
Joy Bouschele of Oshkosh started seeing Dr. Smiltneek when she was pregnant with her first son, Alex, now 2, and she and her two children see him regularly. “I saw a family doctor growing up,” she said. “I like it. I can schedule the two kids together, and I feel comfortable asking him any question. He takes care of it right then and there. He referred us to a pediatric urologist after Alex’s birth, as he was born with a special condition. It went smoothly because of ThedaCare’s partnership with Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.”
For children, primary care means comprehensive, overall health care with easy access. That kind of care is offered by both family doctors and pediatricians.
“Kids are all we do,” said Dr. Luke Tremble of ThedaCare Physicians Appleton-Pediatrics. “Our training is 100 percent related to children, so we have a comprehensive background about children’s health and well-being. We engage parents at every stage of a child’s development and partner with them for their child’s health.”
A key concern for children is their growth pattern. Are they maturing appropriately? Are they hitting developmental milestones? Are they thriving? Pediatricians watch closely to guide and advise parents during all the phases of a child’s life, into the sometimes rocky teen years.
“I’m always asking myself, ‘Is this child thriving in every way?’” said Dr. Tremble. “It’s important to understand their family to make that assessment, and to recommend changes to improve nutrition, safety, sleep patterns, emotional support, risky behaviors – especially as they become teenagers – and all the other facets of life that help a child thrive.”
Adults only, please
For some people, a doctor of internal medicine is the best choice for primary care. With expertise in older bodies and lifestyles, internists help people age 16 and older stay well, or get well. “We tend to see people as they age,” said Dr. Keith Duncan of ThedaCare Physicians Internal Medicine in Neenah. “Adults who have complex or multi-system diseases benefit from our holistic approach to their lives, and our expertise in medication management.”
Like all primary care physicians, internists spend time with each patient to get to know them and to understand their whole life perspective. This is particularly important for patients with several diseases, as the right health care makes a difference in achieving the best quality of life possible.
It’s important to find a doctor you feel comfortable with – you’re likely to share more, and share more honestly, about yourself, your health and your lifestyle if you can relate to your doctor. “When patients trust a doctor, they often talk about things that are hard to talk about. I respect that, and it allows me to help them more effectively,” said Dr. Duncan.
Dr. Duncan’s approach applies to all primary care doctors. Whatever your age or stage in life, find the doctor who will be your health advocate. On the road of life, you’ll be healthier – and happier.
To find a primary care provider, visit www.thedacare.org/findadoctor.