Category Archives: Healthy Living

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Since 1998, the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic has enjoyed a reputation for quality care so good, patients travel from outside Ringgold County just to be seen here. If you’re searching for a doctor near you, you’ll want to check out all the family practice providers that offer exceptional care locally. Located within Ringgold County Hospital, The Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic offers you convenient access to other services like laboratory testing, medical imaging, specialty physicians, and more.

One of the biggest shifts in healthcare has been a focus on lifelong health and wellness rather than only treating patients when they’re sick. That’s where the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic is excelling. “We have a tremendous staff at the clinic,” says CEO Gordon Winkler. “We’ve always had excellent physicians and nurses. With the advent of physician assistants and nurse practitioners, we’ve been able to attract and keep very talented people in our small community. The Mt Ayr Medical Clinic has a tenured team who speak highly of each other, the clinic, and their patients. 

Bruce Ricker, D.O. recommends taking preventative steps to improve your long-term health

“With good health, you can make a big difference for a long period of time,” says Katie Willcox, D.O.

“I love helping people get through something and over time becoming part of the process to keep them healthy,” says Scott Bland, D.O.

Erin Leonard, ARNP was born and raised in Mt. Ayr, IA. She joined the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic in August 2017. She enjoys caring for the people throughout their lifespans, from birth to advanced age.

Ron Schafer, PA-C grew up in Mt. Ayr and got his start in EMS. Marcy Gregg, ARNP is from Clearfield, IA and began her career as an acute care nurse. Both providers joined Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic around 2000.

Denise Coleman, ARNP was born and raised in Bedford, IA. “I’m dedicated to providing the best care. Our patients become our family. I love getting them well and keeping them well.”


Prior to 2020, the population of Ringgold County was fairly stable, however, the number of patients being seen in the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic has been increasing. Winkler attributes the clinic’s growth to the excellent quality of care provided. “Our patients know that we have good, local health care. They trust us, and don’t feel a need to drive out of town to find doctors who are capable of taking care of them.”

Ron Schafer, Pa-C agrees. “We take a holistic approach to health care.”

Call to connect with your partner in health 641-464-4470

Women’s Health & Mental Health Month

Everyone who has ever flown on an airplane has heard these instructions: “Secure your own oxygen mask before trying to help others.” It’s also true when it comes to your health. You can’t take care of your loved ones if you haven’t cared for yourself first. Women have traditionally filled the roles of caregivers for their families, which makes it even more important to attend to their own health. 

Erin Leonard, ARNP

As women move through the different stages of life, there are screenings and routine exams based on age that can potentially be lifesaving. Erin Leonard, ARNP at the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic, encourages the basics, “A healthy diet and exercise is so important for women of all ages.” Erin recommends a wellness exam every year. Wellness visits can include breast exams, pelvic exams, lab work, and immunizations. The healthcare providers at the Mount Ayr Medical Clinic encourage younger women and girls to discuss what’s happening with their bodies during well child and well adolescent visits. Beginning at age 21, a pap smear is recommended every three years until the age of 30. “After 30, we do a Pap smear with HPV testing.  This can be done every 5 years, as long as previous testing has been normal,” says Erin. Screening intervals can change depending on previous results. “One size does not fit all. The best approach is shared decision making between a woman and her primary care provider. As women age, they need to add mammograms and colonoscopies to the list, too!” 

Top of mind this year is how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected everyone, especially women who are pregnant, or may be trying to get pregnant.  “There have been a lot of questions surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, and whether or not women should get it,” said Erin.  The CDC, World Health Organization, and American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommend vaccinating pregnant women against COVID-19 due to the increased risk of complications should they contract the virus.  Additionally, the vaccine has not been tied to adverse outcomes related to pregnancy or fertility.  Recent studies have shown immunity passed on to babies in moms who have been vaccinated during pregnancy and lactating mothers.  Erin added, “If you have any concerns, you should discuss these with your healthcare provider.”

No matter your age, particularly in stressful times like a pandemic, mental health is as important as physical health. “We screen for depression and anxiety in all our annual visits,” said Erin. “Mental health concerns can span across our entire lifetime. We’re here to help when it’s needed.” 

According to Morgan Drake, Director of Ringgold County Hospital’s Senior Life Solutions, women are twice as likely as men to experience symptoms of depression. “There are a variety of reasons,” said Morgan. “But often it’s related to hormones. Women’s hormones change at the onset of menstruation, with pregnancy, if they’re experiencing infertility, or going through menopause.”

Although these hormonal changes may be inevitable, they don’t have to lead to depression. “Physically taking care of ourselves with a healthy diet and some exercise is a great place to start,” she said. “Studies show that even 30 minutes of walking each day can be as effective as taking anti-depression medication.” Morgan added that the walks can be broken up into 10-minute bursts and be equally beneficial.

Along with basic diet and exercise, it’s important to get adequate sleep and practice keeping stress in check. “We suggest learning relaxing techniques and making time to do things you enjoy. Even caring for a pet can relieve stress,” said Morgan.

Morgan invites the entire community to participate in Wear Green Day on May 21 to bring attention to Mental Health Awareness.

Print the Full May 2021 Story

Early pediatric intervention improves outcomes

Pediatrician Tabitha Wilson, M.D.

Parents gazing into the face of a baby often only see perfection. As the babies grow into toddlers, they can amaze and amuse their caregivers with their antics. But alongside all the cuteness, children’s development needs to be monitored to make sure they’re on track. “Well-child checkups are so important,” says pediatrician Tabitha Wilson, MD. “If a developmental issue is discovered, the earlier the intervention, the better the outcome.”

Dr. Wilson recommends well checks starting at 3-5 days, and then regularly until the child is two years old. After that, annual checkups are important. “Every child is different. But the key is early intervention. If we can catch a speech difficulty when they’re age two, we can have it fixed before they even start school.” She added that the most common cause of language issues is hearing loss which parents may not be aware of, but that can be discovered by a doctor.

“We can check a child’s vision as early as age three,” said Dr. Wilson. “It seems young, but we can make a big difference if we find a problem early.” Along with hearing and vision, it’s important to keep an eye on dental health as well. “Babies should see a dentist as soon as they have their first tooth! Believe it or not, some preschoolers have dental issues.”

Most parents are aware of the need for immunizations along with developmental screenings. “Babies need some immunization during every visit for their first 18 months,” she said. “If the immunizations get off schedule, it is a problem. There needs to be a certain amount of time between doses to be effective. Some vaccines, like for Rota virus, can’t be given after eight months.”

Iowa has some of the highest lead levels of any state in the US. So Iowa Public Health recommends all children be tested for lead. “It’s a simple finger prick to get enough blood for a test. But if high lead levels are found, it can cause brain damage and lower the child’s IQ if not treated. So, here in Iowa, it’s important.”

Obesity is a nationwide problem, and increasingly children have high cholesterol and high lipid levels. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening children for high cholesterol. If it’s elevated, we start with diet and exercise changes before putting them on medication. Over the past year, kids have gained weight. They’re getting less exercise than normal due to Covid restrictions.”

It’s not just weight Dr. Wilson checks on. She makes sure that weight and growth are appropriate. Neither overweight nor underweight are healthy. “Kids should grow around two inches a year. The right balance is critical for brain development.”

“Parents may think their child is healthy and wonder why they should bring him to the doctor. But there are subtle things that I can see that parents don’t. It’s worth the small effort!”

Dr. Tabitha Wilson is available every Monday & Thursday. Call (641) 464-4470 to schedule an appointment at the Mt. Ayr Medical Clinic

Heart Health & Cholesterol Guide

Eric Martin, M.D.

Cardiologist Eric Martin, MD encourages you to keep your heart beating strong by following these healthy heart tips!

Improve your blood pressure: Have your blood pressure checked frequently by your doctor and keep a record so you can identify and track changes.

Live Smoke Free: Smoking narrows your blood vessels which can increase your blood pressure.

Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight makes your heart work harder causing high blood pressure.

Eat less sodium: Eat less than 2300 milligrams of sodium a day.

Be more active: Exercise can help lower your blood pressure and your weight. Aim for 20-30 minutes of moderate exercise each day.

Manage the stress in your life: You will always have some stress, but learn to control it.

Learn to relax: When you relax, your blood vessels relax too.

Take blood pressure medicine: If your doctor prescribes it, take it!

Know your numbers and understand your results: Don’t let your numbers be a mystery. Know them and track them to keep up with your progress and so you can watch for any changes.

Total cholesterol
Best: less than 200
Borderline high: 200-239
High: 240 or higher


LDL (Bad) cholesterol
Best: less than 100
Near best: 100-129
Borderline high: 130-159
High: 160-189
Very high: 190 or higher

HDL (Good) cholesterol
Low: less than 40 for men,
less than 50 for women
Good: 40-59
Very good: 60 or higher

Normal: less than 150
Borderline high: 150-199
High: 200-499
Very high: 500 or higher


Personal Goal Becoming Reality

Melissa Friedrich, CRNA

Melissa is like most healthcare professionals. She simply wants to help patients feel better. But her patients often experience the kind of chronic pain that is debilitating and keeps them from living normal lives. “It’s so hard when patients have pain and they feel like nothing can be done,” she said. “I have friends and family who have suffered. It’s my personal goal to help them and give something back to my community.”

In pursuit of that goal, Melissa is embarking on a year-long journey that will combine academic instruction and hands-on clinical training. At the conclusion of her training, she’ll be certified in Nonsurgical Pain Management and will have earned her NSPM-C. The credential is offered only to nurse anesthetists and validates their advanced subspecialty knowledge.

Melissa is already a Certified Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and works full time at Ringgold County Hospital. “About 85-90% of anesthesia in rural hospitals is provided by nurse anesthetists,” explained Melissa. “I came back to my hometown because I believe that patients deserve the same level of care here as in big cities. We’re keeping our care here.”

Ringgold County Hospital opened a Pain Management Clinic in November 2020. The clinic is staffed by RCH nurse anesthetist Melissa Friedrich and visiting nurse anesthetist Brian Jacobs. Melissa explained that by establishing the clinic, patients experiencing pain can be treated holistically, using a wide variety of approaches, not just by prescribing narcotics. “We’ll start with a full assessment to determine what’s causing the pain. Patients may need to change their eating habits, exercise, stop smoking, manage their weight, or work with a physical therapist to strengthen different muscles. There are a lot of options besides putting them on a narcotic and sending them out the door.”

Brian Jacobs, MS, CRNA, NSPM-C, Board Certified in Pain Management and Fellowship trained, joins Melissa Friedrich, current anesthesia provider at Ringgold County Hospital

“Pain management may also include establishing realistic goals,” added Melissa. “Then we give them the encouragement and the tools to help themselves heal.”

The Pain Management Clinic and Melissa’s training are results of a partnership with Midwest Integrated Pain Care in Des Moines. Brian Jacobs, MS, CRNA, NSPM-C, is Board Certified in Pain Management and Fellowship trained. He’ll be working closely with Melissa at the clinic and in other sites outside of Mt. Ayr. “Brian will be here once a month, and together we’ll see patients. I’m learning from him.” She’s appreciative of the opportunity that Ringgold County Hospital is giving her to train and establish the Clinic.

Appointments are being accepted now. Patients can visit with their primary care provider or call the clinic directly at 641-464-4433.

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