The Thin, Fuzzy Line between Medical Science and “Alternative” or “Complementary” Medicine

As physicians we try to draw a clear line when we make recommendations to our patients. Is the treatment choice based on strict, evidence-based medical science, is it based on the doctor’s years of experience, or is there really nothing factual to support a recommendation? Is it just an opinion, or worse, part of the darker side of health care, a profit-driven option?  By explaining these differences, we help our patients to make informed choices. Recently one of the U.S.’s most prestigious medical research and teaching hospitals, the Cleveland Clinic, promised disciplinary action against the Medical Director of its own Wellness Institute, Dr. Daniel Neides.. Read more

A Brief “Thank You” from Dr. Sparks

Now and then, most of us think about the people to whom we wish we said “thank you” much more often.  For the physicians at Sparks & Favor, it’s a long list, but the RNs who care for our patients during labor and delivery surely rank near the top.

Our nurses make an important difference for our patients every day. Sometimes they anticipate a mom’s rising need for comfort measures and offer suggestions early, allowing mom to remain in control of her labor. There are also difficult moments when a nurse’s timely recognition of a true obstetric emergency is critical to the wellbeing of mom and baby.

Over my career as an obstetrician, I have practiced in quite a variety of situations from my years as a young army doctor where four of us delivered nearly 1200 babies a year to my time on the faculty at UAB supervising residents first learning to deliver a baby. I have seen trends come and go. My confidence in my nursing colleagues here comes from a years-long positive working relationship, but also from a number of specific commitments Brookwood has made over these years to maternity care. I’d like to share some of these with our patients. Read more

From Dr. Favor: A Word about Pancreatic Cancer

The pancreas is a small organ behind the stomach. It produces hormones like insulin and enzymes that help digest food. Like other very serious cancers, pancreatic cancer usually doesn’t cause noticeable symptoms until it reaches an advanced stage. There is no reliable test to find pancreatic cancer at an early stage. With so little available to fight this disease, you might wonder why, as a women’s physician, I am talking about pancreatic cancer. Read more

Do Calcium Supplements Cause Heart Disease?

Are you confused about calcium? We can’t blame you. In the 1980s, about a fourth of women over 60 were taking calcium supplements. Among their daughters who’ve now reached this age, over 60% rely on calcium supplements to boost what their diet provides.* But in just the past few months, health news headlines have led women in all directions about whether to throw away their calcium supplements or buy more. Read more

Pelvic Organ Prolapse–a common women’s health problem

Actress Kate Winslett’s recent public disclosure of a very personal problem with bladder control was, in my view, an extraordinary gesture of kindness and support for millions of women around the world who suffer with a similar condition. Past generations of women have been reluctant to discuss such problems, even with their physicians—many believing they alone endured the discomfort and embarrassment. Such openness from a celebrity like Ms. Winslett is helpful; at least, I hope that my patients find encouragement from her message.

In reality, the condition affects millions of women who usually begin to notice symptoms around menopause. As baby-boomers pass into this age group, the prevalence of pelvic organ prolapse (POP) is on a steep rise.  The actual fact is that Americans buy more incontinence products than menstrual pads (Washington Post, Dec. 22, 2015).

Pelvic organ prolapse (or pelvic relaxation) is a very general term that describes the weakening of support structures, the muscles and connective tissue that hold the pelvic organs in place. Read more

Preconception Health and Health Care–(something to think about even if you’re not planning a pregnancy!)


First things first–why did I add the subtitle? Every woman can benefit from most of these recommendations even if her pregnancy plans are uncertain or a long way off. Preconception health care focuses on improving wellness, now and for life.  Keep in mind as well that about half of pregnancies in the United States are not planned.

Your annual well-woman visit is a good time to begin this discussion with your doctor. Think carefully about your life goals and plans. If pregnancy is not your intention, we will help you consider your birth control options including long-acting reversible contraception.

So what does preconception health care involve? Read more

Weight Loss: Counting Calories and Nutrients, or Is There Another Way?

Earlier this year, a group of scientists and physicians reported the results of a weight-loss study in the Annals of Internal Medicine (a peer review journal publishing high-quality research). Participants in the study were overweight adults with at least one symptom of metabolic syndrome (high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or high blood sugar). Individuals with these symptoms have higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease or diabetes. Read more

For Moms: Your ‘Tween Daughter and Healthy Puberty

As daughters enter the second decade of life, moms begin to alert themselves to subtle changes that signal the beginning of puberty. You look forward—with a little hesitation–to helping your pre-teen navigate the transition to young woman. For many of you, we shared the moment of your daughter’s birth, we have enjoyed hearing about childhood milestones at your annual visits, and occasionally you bring us questions about what to expect next.

As the mother of a young daughter, I share many of your concerns, though my medical training answers the basic questions. Your child is about to enter a phase of rapid development like no other time since infancy, and the question we hear most often concerns “what is normal?” I’d like to offer a few facts to help you gauge the answer. Read more

Your Birth Plan–Feeding Your Newborn (includes info about Brookwood’s donor human milk program)

As your pregnancy progresses, you and your partner will begin to imagine your birth experience and consider your personal choices for the special hours leading up to and immediately after your baby’s birth.

One of the most important decisions is how you will feed your newborn. Breastfeeding is best! On this point, childbirth and pediatric experts are pretty much in total agreement. Breastfeeding provides health benefits for your baby and for you that infant formula cannot. Click here for a quick review of breastfeeding basics. Read more

What about eVisits? (Online Medical Evaluations)

For us at Sparks & Favor, the last few years have been amazing! In 2008 we began our transition to electronic medical records. It took quite a while to scan tens of thousands of your charts into our EMR system. That job was just finished this year, so now even our first patients from 1991 have a complete electronic medical record.

In 2012 we overhauled our website and added a social media presence in order to expand or ability to provide up-to-date health information and educational materials.

During the same period, we gained the ability to communicate remotely with Brookwood’s medical records system for our patients. Now if you are admitted to the hospital, we can electronically access your vital signs, lab results, and other information.

And last year we added our Patient Portal. If you have registered to use the portal, you can request appointments, view a summary of your office visit, receive lab results, request prescription refills, and manage your billing account electronically. This has been quite a change!

You may have noticed, however, that we do not yet communicate with you via email (and wondered why). Obviously, technology provides a new forum for patients and healthcare providers to communicate directly about a medical problem without either doctor or patient being physically present in the office. Marketing for online medical evaluations (sometimes called eVisits or known by other terms) can be found in the media and even on billboards around Birmingham.  We’d like to tell you about some considerations that have gone into our decision at Sparks & Favor to approach this cautiously. Read more