You might be tempted to head to a specialist when you’re feeling ill, but you’re better off seeing a primary care physician (PCP) first. “Everyone needs a health “quarterback,’” says Shankar Santhanam, MD, a primary care physician in Lawrenceville. “For instance, if you have a thyroid condition, you might experience fatigue, insomnia, heart palpitations, weight gain and constipation. You could see a gastroenterologist, bariatric specialist, or cardiologist for any one of these symptoms, but a primary care doctor looks at the big picture when it comes to your health.” A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that one-quarter of adults don’t have a healthcare provider to turn to when they’re ill. Here are the key reasons to consider finding a PCP.
1. You’ll Receive Excellent Preventive Care. Instead of putting out health “fires,” your PCP will keep you well. “A lot of people ignore their health until there’s a red flag,” says Dr. Santhanam. “We can help patients avoid that.” Your PCP will ask about your medical and family history, record your blood pressure and weight, and give you a head-to-toe exam. Your thyroid, heart rate, and abdomen will be checked, and you’ll be screened for depression. Your PCP will also prescribe any other necessary screening tests, such as a mammogram, colonoscopy, or bone density imaging. Blood work will be performed to check your blood counts, cholesterol, and blood sugar, and you’ll receive any necessary immunizations, such as the flu or shingles vaccine.
2. Your PCP Can Treat Your Entire Family. Family medicine physicians can see patients from birth to death. (Internists only see adults, and those specializing in geriatric medicine see patients who are 65 and older.) “I’m seeing the children of some of my patients now,” says Dr. Santhanam. “I know their risk factors for disease, and I’m familiar with the way they deal with illnesses. Some patients ignore a medical problem until they’re hospitalized, while others will run to their doctor for the smallest problem. The fact that I know the entire family helps me provide the best care.”
3. PCPs Can Perform Certain Medical Procedures. Family medicine practitioners are trained to perform minor surgeries, such as suturing lacerations and removing skin lesions. They can also destroy warts and drain abscesses. Some physicians are trained to perform exams for women, such as Pap smears, and can place an IUD or a contraceptive implant.
Find a primary care physician near you! Visit www.rwjbh.org/hamilton.
RWJUH Hamilton Primary Care Practices
RWJ Medical Associates, Primary Care Express, 3100 Quakerbridge Road, Suite 28. 609-245-7430.
Hamilton Internal Medicine, 2055 Klockner Road, 609-586-8060.
RWJ Medical Associates, Lubna Ahmed, MD, 17000 Whitehorse Hamilton Square Road. 609-584-1111
RWJ Medical Associates Lawrenceville, 2999 Princeton Pike, Suite 3, 609-882-9333.
RWJ Medical Associates, Shankar Santhanam, MD (until December 31, 2019), 1950 Brunswick Pike, 609-392-6366.
RWJ Medical Associates Robbinsville, Shankar Santhanam, MD (beginning December 2, 2019), 17 Main Street. 609-392-6366.