Transforming Lives with Dr. Bernard Taylor, Urogynecology Carolina Urology Partners (Pelvic Health Institute)
As a urogynecologist, Dr. Bernard Taylor treats patients with urinary incontinence, pelvic pain, and problems arising from childbirth. Dealing with some of life’s most sensitive issues is what makes healing all the more rewarding, he says, for the patient and the physician.
“The impact you have on a patient—to have a patient to be able to enjoy themselves, to have sex, to be who they are,” says Taylor, is well worth tackling the sensitive issues. He shares what some will say to him as they leave his care: “Thank you so much for making me a woman again, for giving me my life.” There are often tears of joy, he adds.
Taylor works in reconstructive pelvic surgery and gynecologic surgery, specialties that brings to his office women from their teens into their nineties. He loves the intellectual challenges posed by science and keeping up with fast-moving changes in treatment. He also welcomes the chance to share with patients his top two health tips: quit smoking and live an active lifestyle. He can’t preach it enough.
A member of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church with his wife and two daughters, Taylor once traveled to Africa on a mission trip to care for patients. Often, he says, at the end of each patient’s painful journey, there is a story to savor. He remembers a ninety-one-year-old woman who had to wear diapers. She couldn’t take vacations with her family because of the long rides. The care and medicine transformed her life, he says, “She traveled with her great-grandchildren to the beach for the first time.” —K. G.
Tightening the Stroke Belt with Dr. Jodi Dodds, Neurology Presbyterian Neurology Center
Dr. Jodi Dodds was headed for a career delivering babies when she became enthralled by the mystery and potential of the brain. Now she’s a vascular neurologist, devoting 70 percent of her practice to helping stroke victims regain their full lives.
In 2010, Dodds moved from Seattle to Charlotte with her husband and two young children, in part to be closer to family in her native South Carolina. She loves when she can sit and talk with stroke victims and their families, even if it means scheduling extra time between appointments. “When a patient has had a stroke and arrives for her neurological evaluation, she wants answers and the opportunity to ask questions without being rushed out the door,” says Dodds. “Stroke is a life-altering event, and these patients are entitled to adequate time with their neurologist.” She rarely misses an opportunity to preach a little, too. This is the Stroke Belt, she notes, because of smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise. Quit, she says over and over—smoking wreaks havoc on the blood supply to the brain.
Stroke victims present some of the most moving cases imaginable: the seventeen-year-old who couldn’t speak or move his right side and is back to nearly 100 percent after medicine and rehabilitation. The forty-eight-year-old woman with whom Dodds took turns writing the letters of words until she could learn to speak again—the patient would write a letter and then she’d write one, until they formed the right word. And the fifty-four year old who couldn’t move any part of his body except his eyes—he had to blink to answer questions.
In a career that is taking root, Dodds is determined to work with each one to fix what she calls “the plumbing of the brain.” —K. G.
Preaching Prevention with Dr. John A. Pasquini, Cardiology Mid Carolina Cardiology
Dr. John A. Pasquini is a preacher of prevention. And while eradicating coronary disease is a good goal to have, he says most people would have to make major life changes to make that happen. “Some people are genetically predisposed, but probably 70 to 80 percent of the disease is caused by poor diet, stress, being overweight, and having high blood pressure.”
The 2011 State of the County Health Report showed that in 2010, 24 percent of Mecklenburg County residents reported no physical exercise in the past month, and 17 percent were smokers. “The numbers are alarming,” says Pasquini. He says that’s why heart disease and stroke are two of the three leading causes of death (cancer is third). “The bottom line to preventing all of it is to work at it from the onset,” he says. “We know from autopsies that hardening of the arteries starts in the teenage years.”
Because of his dedication to prevention, the cardiologist helped craft a wellness program for Charlotte physicians to follow with their patients. He also serves on the advisory board of the HeartBright Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to educate people about healthy lifestyles and to bring preventative cardiology programs to impoverished communities.
When he started practicing medicine twenty-eight years ago, he says heart attack patients spent two weeks in the hospital and were treated with morphine. “Now, if they come in early, they go right into the [catheterization laboratory]. We find the blocked artery, and we can literally reverse the attack,” he says. “It’s been an amazing journey.” —M. B.
Treating the Spectrum with Dr. Patricia K. Roddey, Dermatology Mecklenburg Medical Group-SouthPark
For the last six years, Dr. Patricia K. Roddey has spent one Friday each May in eighth grade—speaking to middle-school students at Charlotte Country Day School. “They invite me to speak just before the kids leave on their annual beach trip,” says Roddey. “I cover skin cancer, acne, and even STDs, but the parents always come up and thank me for making the kids realize the importance of sunscreen.”
Practicing in Charlotte for fifteen years, Roddey says melanoma is one of the few cancers on the rise—and it’s showing up in younger and younger patients. She thinks it’s due to the increased use of tanning beds. There is good news, though. The mother of three says new tools in the field help catch melanomas earlier, and she credits the new technology with saving several of her patients’ lives. “It magnifies lesions on the skin and reveals details that I can’t pick up with my eyes,” she says. “That’s helped me pick up six I might not have with the naked eye.” And that’s only part of the reason she got into the skin business. “I like the fact that I get to see both genders—all ages—and it ranges from cancer to infectious disease to autoimmune disease,” she says. “I go from a baby with a birth mark to an eighty-five-year-old man with potential melanoma to a teen with really bad acne to a woman who wants Botox for the first time.”
While 90 percent of her practice is medical, she says she does do some Botox. “Fillers can stall the need for a face lift in some cases,” she says. The biggest question from her patients: “They always ask how I got such good skin,” she says. And her answer is always the same: sunscreen. —M. B.
Fighting the Food Addiction with Dr. Oscar S. Brann Gastroenterology Mecklenburg Medical Group-Museum
Dr. Oscar S. Brann once told an obese patient facing a liver transplant that it wasn’t too late for her to see her grandchildren grow up—if she started eating less. “We still have an opportunity,” he likes to say.
Brann practices medicine amid a growing national crisis. A gastroenterologist and hepatologist with a focus on liver disease, he dispenses care, counsel, and compassion to patients dealing with the impact of being overweight or obese.
“The new addiction is food,” he says. “Food has become a drug.”
After practicing medicine for twenty years in the U.S. Navy, Brann moved to Charlotte with his family eight years ago. He estimates that 60 percent of his patients are overweight or obese. But he’s far from the only doctor dealing with the obesity epidemic in Mecklenburg County. The 2011 State of the County Health Report revealed that in 2010, 64 percent of Mecklenburg County adults were overweight or obese, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecasts that 42 percent of U.S. adults will be obese by 2030. Heart disease, cancer, liver transplants—and more—are the end results.
Brann, an avid runner, says genetics can play a role. But over the past twenty-five to thirty years, he says, the fattening of the nation has more to do with growing meal portions plus a lack of exercise. He likes to share this saying from an Iranian patient: “Eat a good breakfast, share your lunch with a friend, and give your dinner to your enemy.” —K. G.
Building Rapport with Dr. Stuart Garner Pulmonary Medicine Presbyterian Pulmonary and Critical Care
Dr. Stuart Garner remembers the last time he tried to light up. It was fifteen years ago. He was at a holiday party and a friend offered him a cigar. Then his son pounced. “Before I could light up, the cigar got snatched out of my mouth,” he says with a smile in his voice. The pulmonary physician gets serious, though, after explaining that lung cancer accounts for more deaths than any other cancer. “Avoid all forms of tobacco. It’s the number one thing anyone can do,” he says. “We’re seeing an epidemic of lung cancer, particularly in women. It kills more people than breast, colon, or ovarian cancer combined.”
Garner sees it all, not only at his practice, but during middle-of-the-night rotations in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. “That’s the scariest part of the job,” he says, remembering a particularly trying situation: “The H1N1 epidemic created a challenge for the staff in the ICU. We were using a special ventilator called an oscillator, which was on shortage nationally due to increased demand related to the epidemic. While appropriate care was provided, there were times when the shortage required us to use alternative options for treatment. We were required to think critically about how to manage the shortage and how to triage patients based on the severity of their conditions.”
And while some doctors can come across as stringent, Garner prides himself on compliments on his bedside manner. “It’s all about finding the right rapport with patients,” he says, especially with ones who blame themselves for their conditions. But Garner’s patients are getting more help than ever before thanks to what he calls an explosion of scientific knowledge in the last five years. “We know more about what makes people sick and how to care for them,” he says. “There’s never been an effective early screening for lung cancer that has had any impact on survival,” but quickly adds that the technology is almost there. “We’re using CT scans as navigational programs to help map out the lung and see lesions when they’re smaller,” he says. “That means trying to diagnose tumors at an earlier stage than ever before.” —M. B.