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One of the most crucial screenings used today for the detection of colon cancer in men and women involves a colonoscopy. This exam allows a physician to closely look at the inside of the entire colon using a thin, flexible, hollow, lighted tube with a tiny video camera attached.
Colorectal cancer, the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States, almost always develops from precancerous polyps (or abnormal growths) in the colon or rectum.
Consistent screening for colon cancer increases the likelihood of finding and removing precancerous polyps before they develop into cancer.
Two local primary care physicians, Dr. Garrett Barton of McLeod Primary Care Cheraw and Dr. Travis Novinger of Palmetto Family Medicine, have partnered together to perform colonoscopy procedures at McLeod Health Cheraw. Both physicians are passionate about improving patient access to preventative screenings. Their collaboration meets the needs of patients at the local hospital so patients can remain in Cheraw.
Dr. Barton, who moved to Cheraw in the fall of 2018, considers Dr. Novinger a mentor. “His leadership has helped me strengthen my endoscopy skills to provide the highest level of care in our rural community.”
The unique role these primary care physicians play is an important one because they fill any gaps in care for the patients they serve. They act as an advocate for their patients whom they develop long-lasting relationships with while keeping their best interests in mind. Providing local access to quality health care saves patients time and resources, and they tend to feel more comfortable with their family doctor.
“Early detection is a critical component to a positive outcome,” said Dr. Novinger. “Though the average age to begin screening for colon cancer is 50, patients who have a family member with colon cancer should begin their screenings ten years before that family member was first diagnosed.”
Dr. Barton and Dr. Novinger are both graduates of the McLeod Family Medicine Residency Program, which is designed to train physicians in an effort to increase the availability of family medicine physicians for patients in the 18-county region McLeod Health serves.
Through the residency program, physicians receive real-life training on a much broader scale than ever before. They complete the program with the necessary skills to provide prenatal care for expectant mothers, to conduct women’s and men’s preventative health screenings, colonoscopies and the ability to care for pediatric and geriatric patients.
“The expansive curriculum offered by the residency program prepares primary care physicians to provide the highest quality of care in a rural healthcare setting,” said Dr. Barton. “Two of the most important aspects of healthcare patients expect today are convenience and access, and McLeod Health Cheraw continuously strives to meet both.”
McLeod Health recently received a grant for the establishment of the McLeod Family Medicine Rural Track Residency Program in Cheraw and Manning. It is expected that a large number of graduates from this program will remain in the region to practice in the underserved communities that desperately need improved access to primary care and specialty services.
In addition to providing a sustainable pipeline of primary care physicians to support access to care, residency programs connect rural communities to a larger network of academic medicine and resources to support advances in care delivery, when needed. This collaborative academic training program serves to encourage a culture of scholarship, research, and continuous quality improvement in rural community hospitals.
Both Dr. Barton and Dr. Novinger will be involved in expanding the rural track residency initiative in Cheraw.
“Every day, we strive to fulfill our organization’s mission of improving the health of the patients we serve,” said Dr. Barton. “We remain committed to providing specialized, quality care and making a significant impact on our community.”