Volume 74, Number 10 | July 7 - 13, 2004

Village clinic has prescription for safe summer fun

By Judith Stiles

Dr. Jerry Clements, right, and Nurse Helene Starcevic of Village Family Practice

As summer fun is peaking, so are the splinters in the toes, the puffy bee stings, the lobster-like sunburns, even total-body poison ivy, sabotaging vacation for children of all ages.

“Yesterday I had another case of baseball bat in the nose, bleeding, swollen, but thankfully not broken,” reported Dr. Jerry Clements of Village Family Practice. “There is an increase in phone calls and visits to the doctor during the summer simply because people are more active and outdoors more,” he added.

Dr. Clements practices family medicine in Greenwich Village like a country doctor of yesteryear, caring for the whole family, often grandparents, parents and the children in the same clan. Doctors in his office have been known to make friendly house calls to the elderly who have trouble getting out and about in the winter. Dr. Clements himself was readily available to a patient who was stuck in Los Angeles getting a questionable diagnosis in an emergency room. On a Sunday he was back and forth on the telephone with the L.A. doctor until his patient from the small village of Greenwich in New York City felt satisfied that the treatment was suitable.

At V.F.P. the office “philosophy” is to thoroughly discuss options for treatment with the patient, or the patient’s parents, until the diagnosis is clearly understood, making the patient an active participant in his or her own healthcare program.

Although the physicians at V.F.P. are pleased that some city children go to camp all summer and finally get regular exercise, they note that other children are not nearly active enough, causing an alarming increase in overweight and obese children. Dr. Clements cites the poor and sometimes nonexistent physical education programs in schools as a significant part of the problem.

“When children are overweight or obese it can lead to serious problems later in life such as heart disease and diabetes,” noted Dr. Clements. “Discussing the weight problems of children is a tricky topic. I have to be very sensitive and positive in my approach to discussions with the parents first, and then the child.”

Initially, Dr. Clements gets an overview and understanding of the child in context of his or her family — i.e., what are the eating habits and exercises attitudes of the other family members? He then takes his cues from the parents on what is the most appropriate way to involve the child in a new physical fitness program that includes healthier eating and more activity. He believes it is important to find out what the child’s interests are to try and develop a program to which the child and family can relate.

Dr. John Falencki founded Village Family Practice in 1986, in a partnership with Dr. Clements. For eight years Nurse Helene Starcevic has calmed crying children, boosted the confidence of new parents. Her specialty is explaining in child-speak how injections are no big deal, as she deftly gives the shot before the child has time to worry.

She is a nurse by day and an acclaimed ceramicist by night, which explains why her fingers are as agile with clay as they are sensitive with the syringe.

It was a tremendous loss when Dr. Falencki died in a scuba diving accident in December 2003, but his legacy continues on at Village Family Practice, especially in the belief that in order to understand the patient, a doctor must understand the health and lifestyle of the whole family as well. Last year Dr. Virginia Reath, with her 20 years experience in women’s sexual and reproductive healthcare, joined the staff, creating an even more comprehensive approach to family care at V.F.P.

What hot tips do the doctors and Nurse Helene give to insure a healthy and safe rest of the summer? The list is long but right at the top is try to stay out of the sun at high noon, and keep reapplying sunscreen, S.P.F. 15 or greater, throughout the day. Wear hats that shade the top of the ears too, a sensitive spot that is often overlooked with sunscreen, yet very vulnerable to skin cancer. Keep hydrated, and don’t just drink water either. You need fluids that replace electrolytes such as sports drinks even though they have a fair amount of sugar. Check the entire body including the scalp for ticks, know how to identify tick bites, carry bee sting kits if you are highly allergic and swim in lifeguarded areas are up there in their top ten of summer safety rules. Most important, Dr. Clements and Nurse Helene would tell you common sense goes a long way toward a safe and fun summer, and by all means, don’t be afraid to call the doctor.


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