Monday Medical: A decade of healthy articles

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If I may borrow a snappy phrase from a recent anniversary celebration at Yampa Valley Medical Center, cheers to 10 years, Monday Medical!

Yes, it has been a full decade since our first column appeared in the Steamboat Today on Valentine’s Day 2000. The topic, appropriately, was heart health.

It has been my privilege and pleasure to serve as editor and frequent writer of this column, which creates a weekly link between YVMC and the community.

Our goal with Monday Medical always has been to provide accurate, timely and helpful health information. We like to promote healthy habits and encourage prevention of disease.

In raising awareness of serious medical conditions such as cardiac disease, cancer and diabetes, we hope to identify symptoms and medical treatments that may lead to early detection and/or improved quality of life.

Summarizing 10 years of columns is no easy task, but I would like to share some memorable moments from the past decade and thank all the people who have been extremely generous and candid in sharing their health care expertise or stories.

I remember Deb, who spoke movingly about her need for a bone marrow transplant donor because of a rare blood disease. That column spurred a bone marrow registry drive here at YVMC. Deb’s story had a happy ending when she eventually received a lifesaving procedure through the National Bone Marrow Registry.

Pat’s story went straight to my heart. Here was a healthy woman about my age who nonetheless suffered a heart attack. Her tale of her unexpected health challenge and rehab was so compelling that we expanded it into a two-part series.

A phone call from Kathie led to an article about pulmonary hypertension, a serious condition with symptoms that often go unrecognized. Kathie simply wanted to educate the community.

Other favorite columns have publicized health-related events and services. We have supported blood drives, suicide prevention programs, tobacco-cessation resources, organ and tissue donor sign-ups, immunization efforts and the inspirational Bust of Steamboat and Relay for Life fundraisers against cancer.

Producing more than 500 articles has required a true team effort. Many individuals have contributed to the success of this column, notably YVMC Communications Specialist Riley Polumbus and her predecessors, Mindy Fontaine and Heather Rose. Their enthusiasm, ideas and writing skills are much appreciated.

I want to especially recognize Lisa Bankard, who directs our Wellness and Community Education programs. Bankard is instrumental in planning our topics and always has stepped up to research, write or guide content, sometimes on short notice.

We frequently are inspired by national and international health news. For example, we have provided up-to-date information on H1N1 influenza and national patient safety practices.

In 2006, we actually scooped the national media when YVMC pain management specialist Brian Siegel, M.D., explained the dangers of exceeding recommended levels of the pain reliever acetaminophen. Several weeks later, a national warning echoed his advice.

Whenever possible, we tap into the expertise of the medical staff at YVMC, who make themselves available to explain everything from shoulder injuries to magnetic resonance imaging exams.

Physicians and hospital employees have taken us behind the scenes to explain some rarely illuminated processes that greatly benefit patients. Together, we have explored the wonderful worlds of microbiology, nuclear medicine and pathology.

Almost every month, we focus one column on “Taking Care of Me,” our free family health program, interviewing the speaker and previewing the topic.

We hear from readers on a regular basis. It is incredibly satisfying to hear an acquaintance say, “I love your columns, and I always look for your byline.” Bankard, Polumbus and our other writers get similar compliments.

Sometimes a reader will call to ask questions, seek information about treatment or just talk about a Monday Medical article. I remember an emotional discussion with a man whose family member had suffered from psoriasis; he thanked us for writing about this condition.

I don’t even know the identity of our greatest fan, but I treasure the memory of the woman who called several years ago to tell me she has clipped and saved every article in a scrapbook. Her Monday Medical guide to health always is at her fingertips.

Others rely on the hospital’s Web site, www.yvmc.org, to look up past articles. Monday Medical is consistently one of the most popular sections of our site.

This retrospective would be incomplete without a nod of appreciation to the Steamboat Today, whose leaders welcomed the birth of our column 10 years ago and have supported it ever since.

To borrow a phrase from another recent YVMC project, “baby, we’re growing.” I can’t wait to see how Monday Medical continues to develop in our second decade.

Christine McKelvie is public relations director of Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at christine.mckelvie@yvmc.org.

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