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Podcast

Health Wav Hero

Health Wav Podcast, a service of St. Bernards Healthcare in Jonesboro, AR, provides the latest health-related news and discussions for Northeast Arkansas and the surrounding region. Our aim is to expand the St. Bernards mission "to provide Christ-like healing to the community through education, treatment and health services."

TRANSCRIPT: 'Empowering and Encouraging Women' through OB-GYN Care

INTRO - Dr. Whitney Rich

“If you think you need to see a doctor, or if it is time for you to see one of us, it will not be as bad as you think. I tell all of my patients, when you walk in the door, you are in charge. I'm not going to do anything you don't want to do. You can tell me to stop at any point. So we hope that you will come and take care of yourself.”

INTRO MUSIC

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“Welcome to Health Wav. We appreciate you checking us out and hope we can inspire you to take a more active role in living your healthiest life possible. At Health Wav, we believe your health matters because you matter.

“Health Wav is one of many free education services provided by St. Bernards Healthcare as part of its mission to provide Christ-like healing. Founded and now sponsored by the Olivetan Benedictine Sisters, St. Bernards is the largest healthcare system in the eastern half of Arkansas, reaching 23 counties in northeast Arkansas and southeast Missouri. Its flagship hospital, St. Bernards Medical Center, has stood in the heart of Jonesboro for 122 years, housing the only Level III Trauma Center and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in the region. Whatever your stage of life, St. Bernards is ready to serve you. Visit stbernards.info today. That's S-T B-E-R-N-A-R-D-S dot I-N-F-O.

“My name is Mitchell Naill, and I'm your Health Wav host.

"According to psychologists, each day we make thousands of decisions. Many seem inconsequential and we forget them right after we make them.

“What about the decisions that are a little bit bigger? Some undoubtedly weigh on us more whether they involve relationships, family, finances, careers, education, among others. These big decisions involve us making a choice between two or more options, knowing the outcome can have a significant and often long-term impact for ourselves and others.

“You know what I'm talking about. Should I get married? What about children? What do I want to do when I grow up? And how do I get there? Many of us still ask that last one.

“For women, choosing the right doctor can be a big, possibly even a scary decision. Unfortunately, too many women have encountered healthcare professionals who didn't listen to them. They experienced difficult or traumatic realities, or they quite simply have never gone to the doctor amid constant physical and mental changes.

“Women need someone they can trust, an advocate for their bodies and minds if you will. This group of physicians known as Obstetricians and Gynecologists—I struggle with those two words— or OB-GYNs, they serve female patients only from puberty through menopause and beyond. I've recruited one of the seven OB-GYNs to join me from the award winning St. Bernards OB-GYN Associates.

“Dr. Whitney Rich has practiced with St. Bernards for the past two years, joining during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trial by fire, right?”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“Yes. Yes.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“She holds a fellowship with the prestigious American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and she's a native of Tennessee. Dr. Rich, thanks for stopping by.”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“Thanks for having me.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“Dr. Rich, I've kind of been going over some of your material on your website, your press releases, videos, etc., and you have a statement that you went into OB-GYN to ‘empower and encourage women.’ As a doctor, as a woman yourself, even as a wife and a mother, how have you made it your life's work to do that?”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“So, I try to encourage women not to give in to the status quo. You don't have to say, ‘Oh, it's normal,’ for instance, ‘to hurt during my period.’

“‘It's normal to be depressed and be sad and you just have to put up with it.’

“Even, ‘It's normal to hurt during intimate relations.’

“That's not okay. You are allowed to talk about it, and you are allowed to see someone about it and get those problems fixed. You don't have to live with it.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“Let's talk about establishing with an OB-GYN. I know you said you had a positive experience as a teenager with an OB-GYN that led you to pursue medicine. For a young woman, what does that process look like? What can they expect, and how early would you recommend someone come see you?"

Dr. Whitney Rich

“So, the first time a woman should have a pap smear is at the age of 21. However, if they need something before then, such as if they're having any issues like pain, discharge, any problems with their periods, they can come any time for that. They don't necessarily have to get undressed. I tell all of my young patients that right away, like, ‘You don't have to get undressed. It’s fine’

“UNLESS there's a reason, like if we think we need to check something out, or if there's worries of abuse, but usually you don't have to. And a lot of women don't realize that the pap smears now don't start until age 21. Back in the day, when it was our moms’ generations going, everybody started whenever they first had a period. So it's changed now.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“Was there anything behind the changing recommendations? What led to that?”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“So, there's a lot more research that goes into cervical cancer screening now. It's the biggest thing we do. It's our bread and butter. And they have found that cervical cancer is almost always caused by the HPV virus. You hear about it all the time on TV and commercials. And it is thought that at a younger age, your immune system will actually clear the virus, and it makes it so that it doesn't cause those precancerous cells, warts, any of the issues.

“So, by actually testing earlier, we were doing more harm than good because your body would take care of it. Naturally, we didn't have to step in. However, after the age of 21 and then 25 and 30, those guidelines change because your immune system isn't as strong.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“And I know this isn't necessarily in your field, but there's actually a vaccine for the HPV virus. When did that come out? And is the problem more like women are not getting the vaccine, or are you just helping generations that did not have it available to them?”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“So, the Gardasil vaccine is what you're talking about, and it came out probably about a decade ago. I remember when it came out, and that makes me feel very old. But most women are getting it now because our pediatricians are pushing it appropriately. And so, most males and females are getting them as children. And so, it's helping clear that as well.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“You talked about some of the services that you provide, such as cervical cancer. I know it can include screening for cancers, obviously delivering babies, performing surgeries—you told me you just came from performing surgery—, among others. What is the daily routine of an OB-GYN? Because I know it can probably run the gamut of things to do.”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“Thank you for asking that, because my own mother didn't even realize that I did surgeries other than a C-section. [LAUGHS] So, we do it all.

“We do clinic. That is what we do most days. And so, I see people in clinic for annuals. I see my pregnant patients. I see people for gynecology problems like painful periods, irregular periods, even just pelvic pain. That's one of the most common things we see. In addition to like depression and anxiety, I also and all OB-GYNs perform a number of surgery. So yes, we do C-sections, but we do hysterectomies. We do bladder slings. We do surgeries for pelvic pain and endometriosis. We take care of ovarian cysts. And then, of course, yes, we deliver babies, that's what everybody knows us for.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“I'm speaking with Dr. Whitney Rich, an Obstetrician and Gynecologist with St. Bernards OB-GYN Associates. “Dr. Rich, each woman is unique. You obviously know that. And the care they need is broad from person to person. As an OB-GYN, there are many firsts through which you help guide women, even seconds, thirds, fourths and so on. So whether we're talking about a teenager going through puberty, a young mother pregnant with her first child or a middle aged woman going through menopause, how do you approach these different stages of life, I guess, similarly and differently as a physician?”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“So, I try to meet them where they are. So, for my younger patients, my adolescents or my college students, I try to remember how embarrassing it was, how anxiety provoking it was. I try to set them at ease from that.

“For my first-time moms, same thing. I relate to them and let them know, ‘Hey, I remember being scared. I remember this hurting.’ Like ‘I remember all of this.’ Like, ‘It's going to be great.’

“The menopausal are a little different because I haven't been through that. But I remember my mom, my aunts going through it and now I'm to the point where I've seen enough that it's just meeting people where they are and relating to them there.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“Dr. Rich, kind of along the same lines is about the anxiety that you just mentioned. Research indicates that many women are left more vulnerable to mental health issues than men. For example, major life events can wreak havoc on hormone levels, which in turn can lead to anxiety, depression, a host of other mental health issues. I'm sure you encounter these, and when you do, how do you address them?”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“We see this all the time, and I try to address every person as a whole person. So not just their physical health, but their emotional, their spiritual, their mental, everything. Because if one's off balance, then yes, the physical is going to be off balance too. And I know my partners do the same. There's a joke among OB-GYNs that we're actually gyne-chiatrists. So a mixture of gynecologists and psychiatrists.

“You're right. They're so mixed in together. And so, we treat with medication. Like we treat anxiety, depression as OB-GYNs. Now we do basic stuff. If it's out of our realm, we'll send you to where you need to go. But I also try to just spend time with people who you can tell are struggling. And if it is a problem that can be fixed, then yes, I try to talk them through that. But a lot of times it's guiding people where they need to go.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“Sure. And you talked about being a gynecologist and a psychiatrist in one. And I know a lot of women actually look to you guys—even though you're not a primary care physician and don't try to take the place of one—a lot of women look at you as such.”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“Yes, they do. And in some instances, we can do that. Like if it's a very straightforward depression, anxiety, something like that. Yes. We can be your primary care provider for that and your female issues. If it ends up being something more physiologic like, ‘Oh, your thyroid or some other hormone is not quite right,’ or ‘You're having blood pressure issues.’ Those are primary care problems that we usually aren't as comfortable dealing with because the guidelines change so often that we can't keep up with those as well as the female issues. We're trying to just keep up with our specialties changing at once.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“But at the core you can be a funnel to where they need to go.”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“That's exactly right.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“Dr. Rich, many of the conversations you have require a level of trust with the patient. We've talked about that. That trust can be more challenging to establish when women may be anxious or embarrassed, or they may have a history of trauma or abuse. How do you not only establish that level of trust, but you maintain it too?”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“So, the first time that people meet me, I try to show that I'm a human. So, I smile. I laugh. I make jokes, try to show them that I'm not just some machine in a white coat who's going to talk down to them. And usually, honestly, that's enough. Like, people just need to say that you're a human, too.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“We've talked about what you do. Many women praise their entire care team because they play such a huge part of that, and I know that you interact every day with both nurses, technicians, other specialists, as women walk through their healthcare journeys. Describe the role that these support staff, these other health care professionals, play in making your job better and making women's lives more enriched.”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“I would not be here without those people, and none of the OB-GYN physicians would be here. We are nothing without our techs—our ultrasound techs, our surgical techs. Our nurses—our nurses are our right hands. And in my case, my three nurses, Emily, Jamie and Laura, a lot of days they're my mind to they keep me in line. They remind me of medications I've forgotten to send in.

“But I think it also helps because people know them in the community, or they can help set them at ease before they see me. Because like you said earlier, a lot of times it's scary going to see a doctor. You bet. You're just anxious. You're embarrassed. And so they're able to talk more freely with the techs or the nurse before they see me. And so it's like a way to set them at ease even more.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“And we talked about some of the services that you provide, and many of these, especially like these screenings, that are completely covered by insurance, etc.”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“So, we do the pap smears like we talked about starting at age 21 that screens for cervical cancer only. A lot of people get confused and think that it looks at cancer of the uterus, cancer of the ovaries, and it doesn't, unfortunately. It'd be nice if it did, but it's only cervical cancer. We also order mammograms for people. That's the biggest one. After the age of 40, every single woman should be getting a mammogram every year.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“Knock. Knock. We're coming up on October.”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“Yes, exactly. Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Right. But breast cancer has become one of those cancers that's very easily treated. So, you want to catch it as early as you can. I know a lot of my patients say they avoid it because ‘I just don't want to know.’ But we're to a place now where it's so treatable. Just do it so it can be found early.

“A lot of people don't know, too that we can even arrange your colon cancer screening. And the guidelines recently changed to where it's recommended for everyone to start at the age of 45 because, again, colon cancer, if found early, is a lot more treatable.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“Dr. Rich, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, they expect to see a shortage of you guys, a shortage of OB-GYNs over the next 30 years, possibly by as many as 20,000 plus physicians. Going forward, what do you hope to see from this field of medicine, and how do we address this problem so no woman today or tomorrow goes without care?”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“You know, I wish I had an answer for that because I think, unfortunately, there's going to be a dip in the workforce of all physicians, just because of burnout and the hours worked. But I hope that people will still go into it and realize that we are here to serve others like, yes it's a job, it's a career, but we really are here to take care of people. And that's what it boils down to.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“Maybe more of a psychological question. It might be difficult for a man to go into this field. How do we encourage both men and young girls to pursue something like this? Because women need such highly specialized care, and we want to be able to make sure that they have that.”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“I found that the men who go into it usually have really great relationships, either with their moms, their sisters, their wives and you kind of have to have a love for women and want to help them. And you're right, it does take a special someone. But the men in our group. Dr. Joe Sams, who is now leaving, Dr. Andrew Dunham, Dr. Carl Edwards, they are fantastic. So, I wouldn't want anyone not to go to them just because they're not a woman. Like they all have those relationships with women, and they do have the desire to take care of women.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“Just like maybe a woman pursuing urology or something like that.”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“I think they're crazy. I don't know why you would do it. [LAUGHS] But, yes.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“Dr. Rich. Any last words? Just a message of hope for a woman on the fence about, you know, getting established with an OB-GYN or making that appointment because it is a little nerve wracking for them.”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“If you think you need to see a doctor, or if it is time for you to see one of us, it will not be as bad as you think. I tell all of my patients, when you walk in the door, you are in charge. I'm not going to do anything you don't want to do. You can tell me to stop at any point. Like it's not going to be as bad as you think. So, we hope that you will come and take care of yourself, because we know that most women are the caretakers, and they're taking care of everyone but themselves. But in order to do that, you have to put yourself first.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“That's OB-GYN, Dr. Whitney Rich with St Bernards OB-GYN Associates in Jonesboro. Dr. Rich, thanks for being here.”

Dr. Whitney Rich

“Thank you.”

Mitchell Nail, Health Wav Host

“Again, we thank St. Bernards Healthcare for making this program possible, so go check them out: stbernards.info or call the St. Bernards Healthline at 870-207-7300. “We thank each of you for joining us on Health Wav, so go ahead and hit that subscribe button whatever service you're using—Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts—and leave us a five star review if you would. And that just helps other people find us. “And that's all we have for this edition of Health Wav. Tune in for our next episode. For Health Wav, I’m Mitchell Nail. We'll see you next time.”

OUTRO MUSIC






 

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