“Treat the woman, save a family” could be the unofficial motto for Dr. Jaime Cardenas of the CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs Women’s Clinic.
“We look at women’s health care as the point of entry for a family,” he said. “Women are the largest decision-makers of health care. They set the wellness check-ups for their kids and encourage their husbands to visit the doctor regularly. We want to be a strong positive influence in their care so that they can guide their family on a path of health and wellness.”
A native of Colombia, Cardenas graduated from the University of Louisville medical school in 1996 and completed his residency at Wake Forest in North Carolina. Over those two decades, he said, the strides made in women’s health issues have been revolutionary.
“Twenty years ago, we saw women coming into the emergency room nine months pregnant with conditions that could have killed them and their babies,” he said. “We realized there was a huge population of women in our service area who were receiving no prenatal care.”
Such was the motivation for founding the women’s clinic, the largest source of prenatal care in a service area that stretches from Texarkana to Oklahoma. The center also addresses gynecological cancers, with oncologists trained in the treatment of uterine and ovarian cancers, which includes chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. All this is available, Cardenas is quick to point out, without regard for a women’s ability to pay.
“When we see a patient, we don’t ask for a deposit or insurance forms. We see the women who need us — an average of 1,000 patients a year,” he said. “This is tied into the CHI St. Vincent mission, but it is also a passion for us personally.”
Cardenas, 47, said the most pervasive challenge in his field is the relative lack of focus on wellness issues, a problem he’s worked hard to rectify. He said earlier and better medical direction is the key to heading off more serious and costlier issues later.
“The most helpful medicine is to never have to take medicine. Too many times, everyone is focused on treating disease whereas we focus on prevention,” he said. “Some women don’t see a primary care physician, but they do see us, so we do an osteoporosis screening, we discuss vaccinations, we talk about nutrition and weight management.”
The CHI St. Vincent Women’s Clinic service area extends well past the community of Hot Springs to Texarkana, Pine Bluff and Broken Bow, Okla., providing prenatal care, outreach and treatment of gynecological cancers. Women receive services regardless of their ability to pay.
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