Dr. Chris Magryta: Here are two positive developments for local health

Published 1:19 am Tuesday, September 6, 2016

After 17 years of practicing medicine in Salisbury, I thought it time to reflect on the positive changes that have occurred for our community. I am going to focus on two principal issues that are close to my heart. The first is the changes in culinary cuisine options and the second is the benefits of the neonatal nurse practitioners that protect our newly born infants from harm.

When I came to town 17 years ago, I was greeted in week one with a chili and slaw dog from College Barbecue free of charge. It was delicious, I was grateful and I felt the charm of the small Southern gem known as Salisbury. People were wonderful and the journey had begun.

As you all well know, the years since training at the University of Virginia have been filled with the teachings of my nutritionally brilliant wife, the fellowship with Dr. Weil in Arizona and a lot of self-education on the topic of nutrition. By 2006 it became clear to me that while these lovely Southern foods are delicious, in large volume they are unfortunately unhealthy.

Salisbury had been culinarily challenged when it came to healthy food options. The worst offender of this truth was our hospital, then Rowan Regional Medical Center. Heart attack patients were being fed fried chicken, fried okra and pudding the day after surgery. Children were fed a steady diet of chicken fingers, fries and Jell-o. The cafeteria lunch and dinner lines were a who’s who of Southern fried everything. Not exactly a recipe for a healing environment.

Fast forward to Morrison’s Healthcare taking over food services at the hospital, and moving to a healthy menu at the behest of CEO and forward thinker, Dari Caldwell. Novant Health Rowan Medical Center was the first in the region to remove deep fryers from the facility, practicing what they preach about healthy food. I smile often now when I see the food line in the cafeteria where Executive Chef Chris Herron is turning out real wholesome healthy food. Patients and families can now go and have a vegetable plate or a tossed salad with grilled chicken. My personal favorite is his brisket with au jus. Now don’t get me wrong, you can still eat unhealthy if you want, but it is less than 25 percent of the daily choices available. This is serious progress.

The city has mirrored this progress with new eateries opening up like Mambo Grill, Go Burrito, the renovated Sweet Meadow Café, Mykonos, Emma’s, The Palms and Bangkok Downtown. Each establishment has embraced the options of health. Fresh, whole and quality describe the shift that has occurred. Gluten-free, quinoa and yucca are but a few of the terms unheard of just a decade ago that are now spoken with confidence.

I encourage all readers to support and thank those establishments that are committed to your health. Especially thank the “house of healing,” Novant Health Rowan Medical Center, for caring enough to offer your grandmother a real healing meal. Send the CEO a note of appreciation. These changes are often a fight, and they fought for your family.

Second, the addition of full-time neonatal nurse practitioners was a coup for the county. Dr. Lins and Trudy Pollack, NNP, have produced a cutting-edge, big-city resuscitation program for all mothers to feel the safety that their baby will be blanketed with just in case there may be a difficult, unplanned delivery.

Most counties without a large metropolitan base do not have this luxury and rely on less experienced medical personnel to carry out this difficult duty. The unfortunate reality of that scenario is reduced quality, akin to the quickie clinics when a serious issue arises.

To put it another way, these amazingly trained NNPs are frequently handling the most dangerous scenarios in their rotations through Charlotte and bring the same expertise to Salisbury and our mothers. They are present in the hospital 24 hours a day, for that “just in case” moment. We now have one of the lowest cesarean delivery rates in the area and zero maternal or fetal deaths. Having this security has changed how mothers-to-be approach a delivery. Staying local is now preferable and exceedingly safe for mom and baby. Add to that the recent Baby Friendly designation (one of only nine in the state), and Novant Health Rowan Medical Center is now the place for discerning parents-to-be to deliver.

As the world grows and medical knowledge evolves, it is no longer a virtue of location that dictates the quality of care. Salisbury now boasts one of the best medical communities in the state. We see that patients are now routinely driving here from Charlotte, Gastonia, Raleigh and Concord for care.

I will end with this. I am grateful that I came to Salisbury, and I am thrilled that Salisbury is thriving.

Thank you, College Barbecue, for my hot dog that summer day. It brought me so much joy when I was young and scared. Those random acts of kindness are what make Salisbury special.

Dr. Chris Magryta is a pediatrician in Salisbury.