Being Well Blog

“We know you well” means we not only know what it takes to keep you healthy, but that we actually get to know each other. No other group of doctors can do that like we can, because only the North Ottawa Medical Group is made up of doctors employed by North Ottawa Community Health System. We’re your neighbors, fellow parents at the school, coaches to your kids, and as much a part of this community as you are.

We want you to be healthy, and we want you to get to know us a bit better, so this blog will provide you with health and wellness information as well as fun ways to learn about who your home-town Medical Group doctors are. After all, being well is more than just great care. To the North Ottawa Medical Group, it’s also about building genuine personal relationships.

Feel free to browse the information below or choose from one of the categories found in the left margin.

Ask A Doc – Sleep Health

August 18, 2017

Dr. Mehul Patel of NOCHS Center for Sleep Disorder and Pulmonologist at North Ottawa Medical Group answers your questions about sleep health.

Why is sleep important?

Sleep plays an important role in maintaining good health throughout your life. Getting quality sleep is important to protect your mental health, physical health, safety, and also quality of your life. Good sleep is essential for decision making, problem solving, controlling emotions, and paying attention. Sleep deficiency can increase risk of heart disease, obesity, mental disorders, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke, and hypertension. Sleep is also important to support healthy growth and maintaining healthy immune system.

How do I know if I’m getting enough sleep?

Everyone is different. Some people may function well with just five hours of sleep and others may need 10 hours or more. The key is, how do you feel. Do you need an alarm clock to wake up? Do you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning? Are you having trouble concentrating at work or at school? Are you feeling sleepy in meetings, in classrooms, or while driving? If the answers are YES for most of these questions, then you are probably not getting enough sleep.

What can I do if I have trouble sleeping?

Improving overall sleep hygiene can be a good start. Sleep hygiene includes having a regular sleep schedule with a same wake up time, disconnecting electronics 30 minutes prior to going to bed, avoiding late and long daytime naps, and limiting alcohol consumption. You should also avoid large meals, exercise, bright light and also tobacco use at night. Caffeine intake should be avoided eight hours prior to bedtime. However, improving sleep hygiene alone is not sufficient for some people. If you have poor quality of sleep despite improving sleep hygiene, you may need a comprehensive sleep evaluation by a sleep physician. You can schedule an appointment with our Center for Sleep Disorders by calling (616) 847-5342 or click here to learn more.

NOCHS Pediatric Service Line Established

May 12, 2017

North Ottawa Medical Group, a division of NOCHS, is pleased to announce the establishment of its newest practice area, Pediatric Medicine. Cynthia DeMeester, MD, PhD, is returning to her hometown of West Michigan to lead the practice. Dr. DeMeester was recruited from Children’s Hospital of Boston, where she was the Community Neonatal Hospitalist within Southcoast Health System.

She holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, and earned her medical degree and doctorate in molecular biology from UCLA. She completed her residency at the University of Hawaii and is Board Certified in Pediatrics.

She has extensive experience working inside hospitals with inpatients and newborns, as well as in an office-based practice focusing on well child care, developmental assessments and coordinating care for medically complex children. Her office will start seeing patients March 23 and has already begun scheduling appointments at (616) 844-4525. Her practice will be in the Dunewood Medical Building at 1310 Wisconsin St., on the main hospital campus.

She will be joined by Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, Karly Hiser, who will also practice in this office. Karly is also originally from West Michigan but comes to us most recently from Pittsburgh, PA where she served patients as part of Children’s Community Pediatrics, and also worked within Children’s Express Care. Similar to Dr. DeMeester, Karly has extensive experience working on inpatient units – specifically the teaching hospitals of George Washington University and Duke University.

“Beyond their outstanding credentials having experience in inpatient and outpatient care, they are both natives of West Michigan with a love of community health, which makes them the total package for our community,” said Connie Gnegy, North Ottawa Medical Group Executive Director. “We are delighted to welcome them home and into the NOCHS family.”

Ask A Doc – Diana Okuniewski, DO NOMG Women’s Health

May 12, 2017

Question: Should I do breast self-exams? What is breast “self-awareness”?
Breast self-examination is becoming a “hot-topic of discussion” among societies that make our guidelines for medical practice. It is now being said by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists that breast self-exam should be encouraged for patients who are more high risk for breast cancer (patient’s with a strong family history of breast cancer, or genetic abnormalities that may increase their risk of getting cancer) and that breast self-awareness be encouraged for everyone else, but that “self-awareness” could include self-exams. The changing recommendations are because of a lack of literature that supports a decrease in mortality by women that perform regular self-exams. However, most of the expert groups do support breast “self-awareness”. This means that a woman should be familiar with what her breast normally feels and looks like. Every woman’s breasts are different and will have lumps and bumps that are normal. Also, just because your breasts feel dense, does not mean they will look dense on mammogram. If you are comfortable doing a self-breast exam and want to do them, pick the same time every month. Do a thorough check for any changes by using your fingers in a circular motion from your arm pit up to your collar bone and then you can go in circles toward your nipple to check for any abnormal lumps as well as nipple discharge. Anytime nipple discharge is seen, except when breast feeding, or postpartum, you should see your doctor as soon as possible. Breast self-awareness also includes knowing what your skin looks like on your breasts, so be aware of any skin changes, redness, puckering, or rashes.

Question: Why do I hear different opinions about when to get my mammogram and how often?
Each expert group that makes medical guidelines will interpret the literature and new research differently to make their own guidelines by weighing the risks and benefits of the entire population. For example, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, The American College of Radiology and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network still recommend yearly mammograms beginning at age 40. The American College of Physicians recommends mammograms every 1-2 years, individualize screening from age 40-49 based on risk factors, and definitely begin screening at age 50. The American Academy of Family Physicians and the U.S. Preventative Task Force recommends the same, as the College of Physicians, except screening every 2 years. Bottom line is that you should talk to you doctor about your family history to best determine when to begin mammogram screenings and how often.

Question: Do mammograms actually save lives or are they causing more cancer?
Mammograms can save lives! The odds of dying of metastatic breast cancer are one-third of what they were in the 1980s. About 50 percent of this huge decrease is due to screening and early therapies. This suggests that screening mammography both reduces the odds of dying of breast cancer and increases earlier treatment.

Question: What can I do about my breast pain?
Breast pain is usually a benign condition. Cyclical pain, fibrocystic changes and breast cysts are common causes for breast pain. It is uncommon for breast cancer to cause pain. Treatment with analgesics (Ibuprofen and Tylenol) and a supportive brassiere can be helpful for many women with breast pain. Warm compresses can also help. Believe it or not, research studies have shown that increasing caffeine intake increases painful breasts. If you are concerned about breast pain you should call your doctor to have a physical exam and history taken to see if any imaging of your breasts with ultrasound or mammogram will be necessary.