The full article appeared in Fox Baltimore. Read the full article here.
Summer is a more relaxed time of year, with fewer appointments and more lenient schedules, but there are some things you shouldn’t put off until fall. Scheduling your child’s back-to-school physical is one of them.
“Summer is a period of vacations for all of us. Everyone takes vacations, and schedules can be rather limited because everyone in the office is also trying to get away,” said Robin Motter-Mast, DO, FAAFP, CPE, Chief of Staff at GBMC HealthCare. “Physicians’ and providers’ schedules are almost full now, three months in advance of the start of the school year. If you think you can wait until the last minute to get in, it will be almost impossible.”
She says the benefits of scheduling back-to-school physicals outweigh any inconvenience around making room for them in your summer schedule. One main reason for planning ahead is to make sure children are up to date on vaccinations.
“Parents often think they’re done once kids are in school, but there a few [vaccinations) that trickle up to high school, and vaccination recommendations change all the time,” Dr. Motter-Mast explained.
The larger emphasis of these regular physicals is on the relationship between the provider and the patient.
“We want to continue to build on these relationships with the parents and children year after year, check in and reconnect, and see their development. We also complete screenings and testing to make sure they’re up to speed physically and mentally.”
One of those screenings has become more necessary since 2020, Dr. Motter-Mast emphasized.
“COVID-19 brought a significant rise in depression and anxiety in kids, so we’ll check in and see if they’re feeling okay,” Dr. Motter-Mast said.
Physicians at GBMC use evidence-based screening tools to check for depression and anxiety in children. Treatment and follow-up depend on what the physician sees during those screenings.
“It depends on the individual patient, but we often recommend counseling,” Dr. Motter-Mast explained. “We have behavioral health care managers at GBMC who are integrated in the primary care offices. We focus on team-based care, so physicians, social workers, and psychiatrists all work together using cognitive behavioral therapies and potentially medications to treat depression and anxiety.”
GBMC physicians will also take note of the child’s height and weight and make sure they’re growing appropriately and staying in a healthy weight range.
“Childhood obesity is occurring more frequently than in the past, so if a patient is over a BMI (Body Mass Index) we’re comfortable with, there may be more lab work needed so we can avoid childhood diabetes and hypertension,” Dr. Motter-Mast said.
She said the conversations around development tend to shift as children get older, beginning with a focus on age-related milestones in younger children and moving to risk-taking behaviors as they reach school age. Physicians may ask questions about home safety, bullying, drugs and alcohol, or sexuality, among other topics.
“Oftentimes we ask the parent to leave the room so the kids can have an open and privileged dialogue, without any penalties,” she explained. “Most parents are happy to leave the room and have another voice act as a parent. Sometimes when another adult says it, your child might listen more closely.”
Dr Motter-Mast emphasized that, above all else, GBMC focuses on the wellbeing of each patient and encourages parents to not delay getting their back-to-school physicals scheduled as soon as possible.
“The best part of our job is being able to foster that relationship every year with a patient, to build trust, and to know about them. It’s the best feeling to be able to see a child that you’ve known for years grow up and be able to catch up with them.”