Thank a Doctor!

Did you know that March 30 is National Doctor’s Day?  It was officially made a holiday in 1991, but the tradition of honoring doctors on March 30 got its start almost 100 years ago. In 1933, Eudora Brown Almond, a doctor’s wife herself, thought it would be nice to honor the local doctors for all their hard work and dedication to the community, and organized a luncheon. She also drafted a resolution which was passed by the Barrow County Medical Alliance that the physicians be honored each year on March 30, a date significant because it was the day anesthesia was first administered to a patient.

doctorA lot has changed for doctors since the 1930s. House calls are a thing of the past, and doctors today specialize in certain fields, making it less likely that one doctor will both deliver babies and ease the pain of the elderly. But even though the way we practice medicine is different, filled with life-saving drugs and amazing technologies that help us diagnose and treat people in ways we never could have imagined 100 years ago, the primary role of a doctor has not changed at all — to care for people, in sickness and with preventative care and screenings, to help us all live our lives as healthy as possible.

Many doctors put in long hours, spending time at their computers long after the waiting rooms are empty and the office is closed. They care deeply about their patients, dreading having to bring bad news to anxious patients and worrying about the people they see during the day, from sick children to elderly patients who might be in need of medical attention but mostly need companionship.

We often take our doctors for granted. They’re always there for us when we need them, but we really don’t think about them when we don’t need them. But take a minute to think about how much a part of your life your doctor (or doctors) are. When you’re sick they give you the medicine and care you need to get better quickly, they help set up screenings to make sure you stay healthy, they are there when your babies are born and they’re there to comfort anxious parents worried over the slightest fever. When you stop to think about how much doctors have done for you and your loved ones over your lifetime, it’s almost overwhelming.

So take some time on March 30 to say thank you to these people who care so much for others. Something as simple as a thank-you card can mean a lot.

And if you don’t have a primary care physician of your own, now is a great time to go in for a check-up and get in with a practice. Visit and click on the Find a Physician box in the top right corner or visit  Then the next time you’re in need of a doctor’s care, it’s just a phone call away.



AppOrtho to serve as Presenting Sponsor of the 17th Annual Blood, Sweat & Gears Bike Ride

Excitement is building for the highly anticipated 17th annual Blood, Sweat and Gears (BSG) bike ride. The ride, which causes thousands of cyclists to flock to the High County on an annual basis, is scheduled for June 27, 2015.

AROSMC_logo2This year, Appalachian Regional Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center (AppOrtho), a member of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, will serve as the presenting sponsor for the prestigious ride.

AppOrtho, which is located on State Farm Road in Boone, serves as the official sports medicine provider of Appalachian State University Athletics. Since opening in 2013, AppOrtho has worked diligently to provide exceptional orthopaedic care for local residents and visitors to the High Country, as well as Appalachian State University athletes. The practice, which is home to two orthopaedic surgeons, Drs. Evan Ekman and Bill DeVault, as well as Elyse Adams PA, is proud to support the healthy and active spirit of the High Country.

Cycling is a dynamic sport that reduces stress and body fat levels while improving muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness. The sport, which appeals to the whole family, has enjoyed an up tick in popularity over the last decade across the mountain community. This up tick can be attributed in part to interest generated by bike rides like Blood, Sweat and Gears and its recently added sister ride the Beech Mountain Metric. AppOrtho is pleased to also serve as the presenting sponsor for the 2nd Annual Beech Mountain Metric, to be held on May 16, 2015.

AppOrtho is proud to partner with Blood, Sweat and Gears and the Beech Mountain Metric as these rides continue to promote health, community and interest in the High Country.

To learn more about Blood, Sweat and Gears visit To learn more about the 2nd annual Beech Mountain Metric, which will be held on May 17, 2015, visit

For more information on AppOrtho or Appalachian Regional Healthcare System visit

The Wound Care Center heals leg after tractor injury

To Joanne Kemp, 62, the 60 acre farm that she and her brother grew up on can only be described as God’s Country. Nestled within the mountains of West Jefferson, Kemp can fondly recall countless summer days spent raking hay and putting up fields with her father and brother Jerry. Today, more than 40 years later, the siblings still live and occasionally work on the family farm together.

Due to excessive rain last summer, Jerry asked his sister if she would assist him in raking hay before the next storm. Kemp agreed to help and met her brother early that afternoon.

“I remember that Jerry was already on the tractor raking hay when I got to the field,” said Kemp with a smile. “Since the baler was on the other side of the field he offered to drive me over to it so I could start raking and he could bale. In hindsight, I should have just walked.”

While attempting to mount the tractor, the vehicle unexpectedly lunged forward and Kemp’s leg was run over. Jerry called for help and shielded his sister from the afternoon sun while they waited for the ambulance to arrive.

Joanne Kemp, center, pictured with June Smith, WOC, Shelly Smith, PA and Allison Brown, RN.

Joanne Kemp, (center) shares a laugh with June Smith, WOC (left) Shelly Smith, PA (back) and Allison Brown, RN (right).

After Kemp was stabilized, it was determined that she had suffered a significant amount of tissue damage and swelling in her injured leg. In need of a specialist, she was referred to The Wound Care Center in Boone. Due to unhealthy tissue, The Wound Care Center’s Medical Director, Dr. Paul Dagher of Watauga Surgical Group explained that without surgery to remove the dead tissue, she would be in danger of losing her leg. With no more convincing required, the surgery was scheduled and completed successfully the following day at Watauga Medical Center.

Post surgery, Kemp was referred back to The Wound Care Center to treat her open wound which stretched from her upper thigh to the middle of her shin. The Wound Care team, consisting of Shelly Smith, a wound-educated PA-C, June Smith, a certified Wound Ostomy Continence Nurse and Allison Brown, a wound educated RN worked together to address the wound. The team provided weekly debridement (cleaning non-viable tissue from the wound) and redressing to the wound. In addition, Kemp was supplied with a wound vac, a lightweight machine that funnels drainage away from the wound and accelerates healing. Skin grafts were finally placed by Dr. Dagher to help with wound healing.

“I was blown away by the staff at The Wound Care Center,” said Kemp. “They quickly became like family to me and provided me with focused, individualized care.”

Due to the severity of her condition, Kemp’s road to recovery required 10 months of treatment at The Wound Care Center. However, at the conclusion of her treatment, her wound was completely healed.

“Each patient and each wound are different and we take a customizable approach to meet each patients needs,” said Shelly Smith. “With Joanne, we marveled at how despite her large wound she was able stay positive and never complain throughout the entire course of her treatment.”

To celebrate her last appointment, The Wound Care Center team drove to West Jefferson to take Kemp out for dinner. This act was outside of typical protocol for the wound care team but they wanted to honor their patient who had become a friend. At dinner, they asked Kemp if she would offer to help her brother in the fields again next summer. Kemp replied, “If he needs my help I’ll do it. But I’m staying clear of the tractor.”

For more information about The Wound Care Center, call 828-262-9520 or visit

No One Should Die of Embarrassment: Erasing the Stigma of Colorectal Cancer and Colonoscopy Screening

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Unlike October, when pink seems to be just about everywhere to support breast cancer awareness, or even February when we all proudly wear red to raise awareness for heart disease in women, colorectal cancer isn’t quite as widely publicized — yet. While it’s true that many people find this cancer difficult or embarrassing to discuss, early detection saves lives. So in March, think blue (the color of the colorectal cancer awareness ribbon).

woman-thinkingColorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Each year about 50,000 people die from the disease, and twice as many are diagnosed with it, including well-known figures such as Ronald Reagan, Vince Lombardi, and Audrey Hepburn. But with early detection, colorectal cancer is not only highly treatable, but also curable. According to the Colon Cancer Alliance, if everyone 50 years old or older had a regular screening, as many as 80 percent of deaths from colorectal cancer could be prevented.

So this March, if you are 50 years old or older and haven’t had a screening colonoscopy yet, don’t let embarrassment keep you from talking to your doctor about scheduling one. Also, be sure to let your doctor know if you have a family history of cancer, or if you have had symptoms like passing blood with bowel movements, abdominal pain, or changes in your bowel habits, like constipation or diarrhea. While nobody looks forward to colonoscopies (or, for that matter, going to the doctor), most people who have had one will tell you that it wasn’t as bad as they thought. The ‘prep’ (drinking a liquid which, to be honest, usually doesn’t taste all that great to clean out the bowel before the colonoscopy) has gotten easier to do, and you are sedated during the procedure itself, so you won’t feel a thing, although you will need someone to drive you home afterwards.

Remember, no one should die of embarrassment. For more information or help with setting up your own screening, contact your primary care provider and visit

For information about Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center in Boone, visit

Girl with cerebral palsy bonds with pet therapy dog at The Rehabilitation Center

Ann Winkler is an 8-year-old, third-grade student at Hardin Park Elementary School, in Boone, N.C. She has an infectious smile, a playful spirit and a hunger for learning new things in the classroom. At home, her favorite activities include planting seeds in the garden with dad and assisting mom with the baking in the kitchen. Ann’s familiar and feel good story is only possible, however, thanks to her adoptive parents who selflessly agreed to adopt her after she suffered a prenatal stroke that left her with cerebral palsy.

Ann and Leo have become good friends.

Ann and Leo have become good friends.

Before signing the papers to adopt Ann through the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina, her doctors cautioned William and Janta Winkler that their would-be daughter would never develop beyond the cognitive understanding and physical ability of a baby.

“We thanked the doctors for sharing their professional assessment with us, but told them that the future is not for us to know,” said Janta. “We felt that the Lord was bringing the three of us together for a reason and we acted on faith.”

For the Winkler’s, who were unable to have children of their own, adopting Ann was a dream come true. “We could not wait to bring her home and provide her with an over abundance of love, family and support,” said William.

Fortunately, despite her doctor’s fears, Ann’s cognitive ability did progress beyond infancy in a healthy proportion to her age. However, in order for her to combat her motor deficiencies and still function in a traditional classroom, she began weekly after school physical therapy sessions at The Rehabilitation Center, in Boone.

Ann, who normally operates out of a specialized wheelchair, struggles to do basic motor functions like sitting up or walking without assistance. As a result, her physical therapist, Melia Pinnix, PT, NCS, uses a variety of tools such as a harnessed treadmill to help develop Ann’s limited physical functionality.

“I admire her willingness to come in here after a long day at school and work hard,” said Pinnix. “She always has a positive attitude but on occasion she needs a little extra motivation.”

Ann’s extra motivation comes in the canine form. Leo, a 110-pound Bernese Mountain Dog, recently went through the certification process with the help of his owners Steve Coleman and Ellie Austin to become a Pet Therapy volunteer at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

Steve Coleman, Leo, William and Janta Winkler and Melia Pinnix surround Ann Winkler in love and support.

Steve Coleman, Leo, William and Janta Winkler and Melia Pinnix, PT surround Ann Winkler in love and support.

The PAWS Pet Therapy Program reminds patients that it’s okay to “paw-se” and experience joy throughout the treatment process. The program, which currently includes eight active pet therapy dogs and their handlers, was established earlier this year. Each volunteer pet and handler must be licensed pet therapists and vetted by the healthcare system before visiting with patients. Once approved, the volunteers are provided with their own hospital badges to wear on their respective collars while on duty.

Leo began visiting Ann at The Rehabilitation Center a few months ago and they bonded quickly. During therapy, he stays by her side, ready at a moment’s notice to provide a hug or a sloppy wet kiss of encouragement. Pinnix has also found ways to incorporate Leo into her therapy. On occasion, she will ask Ann to walk across the room to Leo, who is patiently waiting and wagging his tail in approval. On other instances, Leo and Ann have sitting contests to see who can sit-up straight the longest. Ann always wins.

“Ann talks about Leo at home and she looks forward to going to physical therapy now because of him,” said Janta with a grin. “As a parent, to know that there are people like Steve and Ellie and dogs like Leo who are willing to volunteer their time to bring this much joy to my little girl’s heart is unbelievable.”

Since starting her physical therapy at The Rehabilitation Center in 2013, her doctors have marveled at her steady improvement. She can now sit on the floor, without assistance, for up to five minutes at a time. She can also walk with trunk assistance over short distances.

“A few years ago we started sending an annual Christmas card to Ann’s birth doctors with a description of her progress,” said William. “Each year, they are blown away by her strides of improvement. She is truly a miracle and we feel blessed to have so much local support from The Rehabilitation Center and The PAWS Pet Therapy Program at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.”

For Ann, the future is uncertain. Her ultimate potential is hard to predict as she continues to exceed the expectations set before her. Although, she has a host of challenges to still overcome her prayerful parents feel more resolved than ever. With their love, Pinnix’s help and the encouragement of her four-legged accountability partner, Ann feels well-equipped to continue to defy the odds.

To learn more about The PAWS Pet Therapy Program visit To learn more about The Rehabilitation Center at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System visit