Bay County Updates on COVID-19

As our community struggles to get back to some semblance of normal after the disaster of Michael, healthcare professionals find ourselves again wrestling with the chaos addressing basic healthcare needs.  These are unprecedented times, and like our patients, many of us as physicians are trying to find a way to deliver even basic healthcare needs. We struggle with questions of priority, as we attempt to figure out how to keep our patients safe and healthy.  The silver lining is that by now, we as healthcare providers are well versed in dealing with challenging healthcare delivery. Relative to the challenges of Michael, we feel better prepared to face the adversity of COVID-19.

We have a strong Medical Association which does an amazing job of keeping both providers and patients abreast of the current Pandemic situation. We encourage everyone to visit our website and Facebook page for the latest updates and information. The rapid evolution of this process requires excellent communication and proactive thought processes.

With the recent ‘Stay at home’ (Executive Order 20-91) by Gov. Desantis, we want our patients to know that staying at home does not mean that you should disregard your healthcare needs and concerns. Take care of yourself! Your physician can address many healthcare needs (refills, questions, concerns) via remote telecommunication. We want you to continue taking regular medications and if you need refills, contact your physician.

If you feel sick and are concerned that you have symptoms of COVID-19, contact your primary care physician and initiate further instruction.  Do not go to the ER, or Urgent care clinic until you contact your primary care provider and are told to do so. If you don’t have a primary care provider, contact Michelle Flaat at or 850-819-8273 and she can help direct you to the appropriate provider.

If you have routine healthcare appointments pending, contact your provider or visit their website to seek guidance as to the best course of action.  Many providers will see you remotely, or perhaps reschedule your appointment depending on acuity. Do your best to stay healthy by washing your hands regularly, avoiding contact with others, and sanitizing objects that are frequently touched (i.e. cell phones, door handles). And of course, be vigilant about Social Distancing!

COVID-19 Patient Need-to-Know Summary:


  • Continue taking all prescribed medication.
  • Keep existing appointments (within the next 8 weeks), BUT, contact your physician or visit their websites/social media, prior to your scheduled appointment to see whether you can (or should) keep the appointment.
  • Remember that many healthcare needs can/may be addressed remotely via facetime or other similar apps.
  • If you need an appointment call your provider to schedule as necessary.
  • Wash your hands, and clean high traffic areas regularly.
  • Practice Social Distancing!

Do Not:

  • Neglect your healthcare needs due to quarantine.  We can help!
  • Go to the ER/Urgent Care if you are worried you may have COVID-19 without contacting your primary physician first (obviously if your healthcare situation is emergent take appropriate measures).
  • Underestimate the importance of your mental health!

Finally, remember not only to take care of your body but especially in times like these, take care of your mental health!  As our homes have now become our schools and offices, stress does not begin to explain the emotional obstacles we face during this challenging time.  Set aside designated exercise time, prayer/meditation time, and family communication time to ensure your well-being. There are many resources available and we are fortunate to have them set up and ready as mental health providers have been equipped to handle the Hurricane Michael mental health crisis already.  Focus on positive and uplifting thoughts, but don’t ever hesitate to ask for help if you feel like you could use support. Our community and strong, even stronger since overcoming the adversity and come out stronger. Together we will overcome this Pandemic, and again, be fortified as a country when all is said and done.

Weight-Related Cancers on the Rise

Recently, J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, the interim Chief Medical and Scientific Officer for the American Cancer Society posted some findings by the society,

“What if I told you that our children were being exposed to a known carcinogen…The carcinogen is excess weight.”

The American Cancer Society posted the report that shares the details of their findings on the medical journal Lancet Public Health. They also published another work in 2003, in the New England Journal of Medicine that shared evidence of cancer risks increase with excess body weight.

The piece published to Lancet used 12 cancers that are known to be linked with being overweight and obese, and 18 other common cancers that are provenly not related to being overweight. With 6 of the 12 those cancers showing an increase in younger people, whereas 2 of the 18 showed similar cases.

“What is even more disturbing about the new data is the observation that for the weight-related cancers, the risk is increasing among progressively younger people, mirroring an increase in overweight and obesity we’re seeing in the U.S.” The link between the two factors may be something more severe or something we should not worry about.  Do you think the connection between weight-related cancers and obesity are connected?

The authors of the report also pointed out that as of 2014 1 of 3 children and adolescents are overweight or obese, and 78.2 percent of Americans (from 22 to 74 years of age) are also in the same situation. These numbers should have us very worried about the nation’s health.

Then as we look back to work published in 2003,

“The fact is, these warnings have not exactly received a lot of traction. The irony, of course, is the association between body weight cancer gets a fraction of the attention of other, much smaller risks.” The older published work was not taken as seriously as it should have been and unfortunately, because of that, the situation hasn’t gotten better.

However, how do we make these numbers deplete?

“We can try to do something about this as individuals: We can try to eat more fruits and vegetables and less red and processed meat and other processed foods; we can try to be more active.” As a group, Americans can make better health choices, and try to avoid unhealthy alternatives. Americans need to get out more and make better life choices to make sure they can cap out on their experiences and life in a whole.

We (Emerald Coast Medical Association) have written some other papers on how to stay healthy, and we recommend that you read those too.  J. Leonard Lichtenfeld left his readers with this,

“We haven’t worked this hard to fail. We always work hard to succeed, to improve our lives. Now it is clearly the time to take on this challenge, to make a difference, and avoid what appears to be a looming catastrophe when it comes to a disease we all dread. And that disease is cancer.”

Emerald Coast Medical Association doesn’t just care for your health, but we also care for your opinion and wellbeing. Feel free to leave a comment and discuss how you feel about weight-related cancers and obesity. Also, we will always do our best to keep you informed, and you’ll always have a voice we want to hear.

Fitness Trackers to Save Lives

Technology in patients’ hands can give medical professionals the help they need to ensure patients’ health. Instead of looking up their symptoms on Google, anyone can buy a tracker that can monitor their health. However, since the new technology became available, professionals have worried that patients would be running into ERs thinking they’re having a heart attack, all because their watch sent them a warning. The future, however, is bright for this technology and could be very helpful to medical professionals.

Now, in 2019, there are a handful of wearable trackers like the Fitbit, Apple Watch, or other smart devices. Spotting atrial fibrillation early on is very important and these trackers can help with that. These same trackers could potentially help decrease the 130,000 deaths per year and also help detect heart attacks and strokes earlier. This doesn’t just help the medical professional dealing with the patient, but it also gives the patient a little more grip on their own life.

These devices are not perfect, and hopefully, the user understands that. However, with trackers improving and providing more reliable data, they could be monumental for the medical field. Patients are also smarter than we give them credit for. People also understand that not every time they get a weird feeling do they need to be rushed to the hospital. However, it’s also the patient’s life on the line, and they want to know that they are healthy. So, the smarter our fitness trackers, phones, and watches are, the better off we will be in the future. These advancements could lower death tolls, and additionally help solve health issues that need to be detected early.

Fitness trackers are not just there to tell you you’re unhealthy. They are also put into play to let you know you are doing well. These wellness trackers don’t just check your vitals, they also count steps, measure other movements (like sitting, laying, etc.), can help keep track of calorie intake, monitor sleeping habits and stages of sleep, and also send messages. Not all trackers have these abilities, but most have more than just the one function of checking your heart rate. Trackers help the user understand themselves better. The user can also set a goal for themselves and track those goals easily, and the trackers can also help them train more effectively. Sure the costs for these wrist caretakers vary, but that cost is money spent toward a healthier life.

The Issue of Online Medical (Mis)Information

The internet seems to be a place where people think they can diagnose themselves instead of going to a healthcare professional. The biggest issue here is that if you look up “Why does my head hurt?” on google, you can end up with an answer like, “you may have a brain tumor.” Nothing is going to stop this mass of people who use the internet. So, what should be done? More health care professionals need to establish online presence. Doing so would help create better responses and less havoc for people using the internet for medical knowledge.

The Emerald Coast Medical Association is here for both medical professionals and patients alike to make sure the correct information is available. Another good option would be to create a Q&A service. Dr. Petra Dolman, MD, hosts an hour-long Twitter chat, with guest moderators facilitating conversations ranging from how to negotiate pay, navigating residency interviews, and countering burn out, all searchable under the hashtag #womeninmedicine. Social media will help give those with unheard voices a better opportunity to help those in need.

However, since freedom of speech is a thing, anyone on the internet can get backlash, even if they are correct. For example, Dr. Monique Tello, MD, MPH spoke out in support of vaccinations; she was then targeted by “anti-vaxers” online. Her blog was overthrown with one-star reviews, but those reviews were later removed due to their invalidity. With that being said, this scares medical professionals reaching for the internet because it can be an unforgiving or uncaring place. With the next generation of doctors spending a lot of their time on social media, we can’t deny that the online platforms should be a place with easy to reach medical advice or information. With that information being well known, Universities have begun to take notice and create positions to legitimize social media. The Association for Healthcare Social Media will aim to create the best practices by which all health care professionals can be guided and protected in the emerging field.

By using social media, medical professionals can come off as more human to the public. Just like when a patient is going to see a therapist, they want someone who cares about them and has had good and bad times too. Showing more care for the patient’s emotions and wellbeing can show them that you want to help them. Revealing past experiences, giving your real opinion, voicing the option you’d take, and talking to patients so they can understand better will go a long way. Whether it be in your office or on the web, there will always be a patient looking for a medical professional to help point them in a direction so they can get better.

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Five Tips for Child Health From a Pediatrician

Making sure your child is healthy in adulthood begins when he or she is young and full of life. Kids today have created bad habits for themselves that could lead to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity in their future. However, this can be stopped by parents who are aware of the potential disasters their kids could be facing. Parents need to be good role models and exhibit better habits. Which in return would make the children follow suit.

Adults tend to keep their bad habits from when they were little. This does not have to be the case for all children though. Those bad habits could be turned into healthy habits which would then lead to a healthier, fuller life. Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg believes these five simples steps could help keep children healthy and ready for adulthood.

Step 1: Daily exercise is needed. Let the boys and girls play a sport which they desire or let them play with friends outside. To maintain a healthy heart for children, they should be doing something active for at least an hour a day. However, kids should also do more than one thing, so they are not overusing the same muscles, so try rotating between a few different physical activities from time to time. You’ll also find that this improves the child’s mood and could create better sleeping habits.

Step 2: Eating more plant-based food and less meat packed proteins is another way to keep kids healthy. Things like fruits, vegetables, and grains should be a child’s most substantial intake; these foods give children the needed antioxidants, fibers, minerals, and vitamins. Parents should not be so worried about giving their kids the right amount of protein. Most of the time children are overeating protein during the day. Thus, an increase in plant-based food and smaller meat portions will go a long way.

Step 3: Another food-related thing to keep kids healthy is skipping desserts. Children should be full after dinner. However, if they do become more hungry try giving them fluids or maybe a small healthy snack could also do the trick.  Desserts can also be put under portion control, so kids are not eating all those bad sweets. Those same sweets could make it hard for the child sleep which would make a rough start to the child’s next morning.

Step 4: Talking to kids can help them too. Explaining the dangers and effects of drugs, cigarettes, and alcohol can be daunting. However, it is very necessary to make sure they know the harms their healthy bodies could face if one horrible habit begins. Even a smoker will tell you not to smoke, which should be brought up when talking to kids because things like cancer and other disastrous diseases could ruin their lives.

Step 5: Make it known that you care about your health just as much as your child’s. Planning family physicals and staying up to date on immunization and routine lab tests will show children that you want to be healthy too. This will help with keeping you healthy and creating good habits for your children. This is also the time to ask questions and be concerned about your health. Doing that could make children follow in their caretaker’s footsteps when they become an adult and need to put their foot forward about their health.

Original article: 

Social Determinants of Health Influence in 2018

Social determinants of health (SDOH) started becoming more mainstream of a concern for the greater healthcare system in 2018. An individual’s socioeconomic status can put their health at risk. Locally, this has become even more apparent since Hurricane Michael hit the panhandle last October. SDOH is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as “conditions in the places where people live, learn, work, and play affect a wide range of health risks and outcomes.” These conditions can determine the health of people.

People have been living in unimaginable conditions since Hurricane Michael hit on October 10th, 2018. We are now in 2019, and many are still unable to live in their homes. Without proper housing and the many hazardous conditions around the panhandle that extend farther than just at home, there has been an increased rate of injury and illness. This hurricane has provided us with a prime example of social determinants impacting health.

The healthcare system has avoided addressing the issue of social determinants for a long time. In 2018, newly launched initiatives, as well as studies showing the need for these initiatives, have caused the healthcare system to take a new look at social determinants and how to address them.

Factors such as housing, transportation, food assistance, and personal finances have been taken into account to begin the process of reassessing healthcare’s take on social determinants. People with limited access to transportation and housing are at a higher risk of injury or illness, especially when they have limited ways to get to a physician. Medicaid plans on helping to offer affordable housing to those who need it. Patients without transportation often forego making an appointment or miss them when they do have them. Uber recently launched a “health dashboard” to provide free rides for those unable to get to a doctor when they need to.

In addition to this, Geisinger Health System started “Fresh Food Farmacy,” which cut costs among diabetic patients from anywhere between $48,000 to $240,000 per member. This caused the risk of serious complications or death for people with diabetes to drop to 40%, a great win for those working with diabetics. Cigna is also planning on offering financial planning services for their group members, as announced in December 2018. Financial stress can take a significant toll on a person’s physical and mental health.

With many physicians claiming social determinants “aren’t their problem,” there is still a long way to go with maintaining equity among Americans. However, now that the panhandle is experiencing even more of these social determinants than usual, we have been provided a new chance to tackle these determinants and make the panhandle a healthier place for everyone. These social determinants will continue to play a significant role in local health for everyone involved with the hurricane, but choosing to see the positive side of this great opportunity is best for our county’s health.

ECMA Cares About Preventing Doctor Suicide


Time and time again, people fail to address the scale of suicide and mental illness in the medical profession. Emerald Coast Medical Association wants to change that. By becoming a member of Emerald Coast Medical Association, you will always be supported by our other members and us.

Dr. Leanne Rowe, M.D. wrote an article on the five ways to help prevent doctor suicide, which we want to share with our members.

The first way to help prevent physician suicide is by destigmatizing mental illness for doctors and medical students. Although doctors are the ones who take care of people, they have the same risk factors for mental illness as the general population does. According to Dr. Rowe, when our patients talk about problems within their life, whether they be physical or mental, it can trigger us because of our own history. Having an understanding of our own vulnerabilities can help us when we experience these triggers.

While stress and burnout are recognized as “normal” in medical workplaces, they should be recognized as warning signs of mental illness. Mental illness is known to have a stigma surrounding it, but for doctors, it is even more so. It is important that if a coworker discloses something to you about feeling depressed or burnout that you address it with him and let them know they you do not judge them. That is why Emerald Coast Medical Association is an excellent place for doctors; they can all relieve stress and talk about how they feel without worrying about judgment.

The second way is to encourage doctors and medical students to have their own trusted doctors that they can seek help from if they need it. Although we can recognize the early symptoms of mental illness, we should not treat our coworkers or friends because we can not give them optimal care.

Only about 50 percent of doctors have their own independent doctor, and often times we see our doctor later rather than sooner as we should have. Dr. Rowe believes it is important to have routine mental health screenings.

The third way to prevent physician suicide is by providing optimal management of mental health problems in doctors and medical students. Dr. Rowe has said from experience she often sees doctors with a mixed pattern of depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. All of which can come from being overexposed to patient misery, violence, abuse, and death, including suicide.

Physician suicide is actually more common than suicide in the general population. Structured formal mindful-based cognitive behavioral therapy has been found to be an effective treatment for doctors suffering from mental health disorders.

The fourth way is by changing our medical culture. A medical career is challenging and complex, and doctors require support. Many medical workplaces do not give doctors the time off that they need or help them out when they ask for a lower workload; this can put pressure on them and lead to them experiencing burnout.

According to Dr. Rowe, recent families of young doctors who have committed suicide have described the medical field as “soul-crushing.” Bullying, harassment, and discrimination in the workplace can cause safety issues, especially for doctors who are predisposed to mental health issues. Changing medical culture will take time but is well worth it as it will be beneficial in the long run.

The fifth and final way to prevent doctor suicide is by making our medical organizations work for us. Engage with your medical organization and work together to present a powerful unified voice of advocacy for doctors at a local, national, and global level. Medical organizations can provide more ways for doctors to deal with their mental health, such as conferences and training in care for mental illness.

It is important to remind ourselves of what makes us enjoy being doctors and why we chose this career in the first place. Coming together as a united team is what will really help to prevent physician suicide. Emerald Coast Medical Association is here to help prevent it, and we are ready for you to be a part of our team.

Unite with us, and help us prevent doctor suicide.

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You can find the original article by Dr. Leanne Rowe, M.D., here:

Should Doctors “Stay in Their Lane..”?


A recent uproar in the media was the National Rifle Association telling doctors in a tweet to “stay in their lane” when addressing the issue of gun violence. As you know, doctors see the aftermath of gun violence; you have to tell the family whether their loved one is alive or dead from this senseless act of violence. An immediate tweet back to the NRA from the Annals of Internal Medicine simply said: “Doctors are in our lane.” In addition to this, the AIM also decided to collaborate with the American Foundation for Firearm Injury Reduction in Medicine (AFFIRM) to fund new research supporting new practice recommendations.

These two tweets have sparked an uprise of tweets from doctors and nurses. These tweets show pictures from the ER where patients with gunshot wounds have come in. Most of these pictures have considerable amounts of blood and are something the general population is not used to seeing. Accompanying these tweets are hashtags like “#Thisismylane” or “#Stayinyourlane.” Amid all of this, providers and affiliate organizations have begun to present a broader definition of their lane and how gun violence fits within it.

The medical community has been known to be reluctant when sharing its opinions on gun rights. Due to the rise of high-profile mass shootings, the medical community has been changing its perspective and redefining its role in advocating for policies related to public health. Many have said doctors do have the right to advocate for stricter gun policies since they see the immediate aftermath of gun violence.

Daniel T. Wu, M.D., associate professor of emergency medicine at Emory University and chief medical information officer for Grady Health System, studies violence of all kinds as a public health issue. His studies place gun violence along a broader continuum of all types of abuse. Most of these acts of violence occur invisibly to most of society, besides high-profile incidents involving firearms. Considering that doctors and nurses act as the only point of contact between many victims and any type of social support, you have a unique perspective on the breadth of the problem. The imperative to help can force doctors and nurses out of roles that were much more narrowly defined. Dr. Wu surveyed his team and found that over 90% saw the extra work of treating the patient in more than just a physical way as a core part of their job as making sure the patient is safe for the long run. New research into various areas of interface between gun violence and public health can be the next step into engaging action.

We at Emerald Coast Medical Association want to know what our members think about all of this. Do you think doctors should “stay in their lane,” or do you think that as physicians you have a right to have an input on these acts of gun violence.

Feel free to contribute to this discussion in the comments section of this blog; we appreciate every comment from our members.

Reasons for Patients Ignoring Physician Advice


It is a known fact among all of our members that patients often do not do what their physician advises them to after seeing them. As frustrating as it can be, it is important to us at Emerald Coast Medical Association to make our members know that this is not a failure on your part, as you can only do so much. Our meetings are open for our members to discuss these frustrations without judgment, and allow them to discuss among each other how to better address these types of situations.

Many patients disregard a physician’s advice because they have read an article on Facebook or Google that states the opposite of what the physician has advised. Many of these articles are from an inexperienced person who believes that they can give professional advice in the medical field. Many other patients listen to their friend’s claims, figuring that they should listen to those close to them rather than a random doctor. Although this can be infuriating to everyone in the medical field, it is more common than we all wish to think.

According to the National Academy of Medicine, many people have issues with “health literacy,” which means the ability to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and the services needed to make the appropriate health decisions and follow treatment instructions. Most doctors are aware that health literacy is significantly under-recognized, but it is a major issue that affects the care of patients. It is estimated that around 90 million adults struggle to understand what the doctor is explaining to them about their sickness, and how to take the proper steps to treat it. Anywhere between 20%-30% of prescriptions are never filled, resulting in more illnesses, hospitalizations, and in some cases, death. Existing data supports that although physicians believe they are accurately communicating advice to their patients, it can often be misinterpreted by the patient, which is a huge part of the problem.

An aspect to consider is moving away from the mindset of “telling” the patients what to do, but rather act as more of a partner and advocate for their health. Translating terms from the medical terminology you were taught all through medical school into easier and more common words can aid in how the patient will interpret it all. Having an understanding of the difficulties this patient may be having with their illness and factors aside from that, is a great first step towards gaining patient trust. Empowering and engaging a patient can lead to them being more likely to follow your advice as a physician.

Effective physician-patient communication increases the chances that the patient leaves your office and readily takes your professional advice. We encourage our members to consider all of this when treating your patients, as it can mean a better outcome for you and your patient.

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Providing Support to Those Experiencing Burnout

Emerald Coast Medical Association is aware that physician and nurse burnout is becoming more and more of a problem in the workforce. Recent reports have shown that factors such as the generation and role of the nurse can have a major impact on whether they experience burnout. We aim to provide our members with a compassionate community that supports each other through tough times. Our members communicate with each other to aid in problem-solving.

When looking at the resiliency of nurses across different roles and age groups, it was found that nurses who are millennials struggle the most with burnout. Burnout can also be referred to when talking about “activation,” meaning the ability to find joy or value in work. Being able to balance work and life outside of work is one of the most crucial ways to avoid burnout. Our members have access not only to each other but also to events put on by our association to relieve stress and allow each other to decompress.

Nurses with low levels of activation and decompression are usually more likely to leave their job. It is important to support nurses mental health in addition to physicians because of the various stress factors. It is essential to identify what makes a nurse want to stay at their job and find the joy and value in it to keep them working. Making sure people are activated is one of the most significant ways to make an impact on someone’s work drive.

Christy Dempsey, the chief nursing officer at Press Ganey, talked about how disengaged nurses represent $22,000 in lost productivity a year on average. It was also mentioned that disengaged nurses attitudes could affect others in the office and in turn cause low productivity.

Finding a way to accommodate nurses depending on their generation and role is one of the easiest fixes to burnout. Decompression is crucial to enjoying work, and ECMA has events that allow our members to do so, such as the CME beach retreat. Dempsey also stated that recognizing nurses for their work can cause a positive reaction and make them more eager to work. At ECMA meetings we take the time to recognize our members and spotlight on special topics, giving them the boost they need to continue work. The support in the ECMA community is overwhelming, and the perfect way to fight back against nurse burnout.

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