Articles by the Doctor

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The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained on this website are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this website is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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Articles

  1. Meet the Doctor
  2. Doctor I am Dizzy
  3. Behavioral Issues in Dementia
  4. Should You Take Vitamins
  5. Treating Cholesterol
  6. Diabetes
Meet the Doctor,
Mary Beth Hardwicke, M.D.


I am honored to be writing this for the Seniors of Grand Traverse County. I wanted to start with a catchy name for my blog, but nothing brilliant popped into my head. I decided I should just start writing and see where it took us.  


As background, I come to this area honestly and I believe I am only a partial “transplant” from downstate. I grew up in Grand Rapids and then went to college in Ann Arbor and to medical school in Detroit – which is where I ultimately settled for the past 33 years.  Growing up, my family spent summers in Interlochen, helping my Grandmother run her seasonal gift shop.  We also headed “Up North” every weekend we could during the winter months. My parents made Interlochen their permanent home more than 30 years ago and my love for the area continued throughout my medical training and career. I became a permanent Interlochen resident in September 2013.

My years as an Internal Medicine doctor, which included delivering primary care to patients, taught me much. Much was disturbing. My population of patients was diverse and sophisticated. Most were well-educated, well-informed, and well-read. Yet, I was constantly amazed at the questions I received on a daily basis – usually in the privacy of the exam room. It became clear to me that my patients were frequently unclear on why they were given a “new heart pill” by their cardiologist. Or they did not understand the treatment options given by the Oncologist. Or they misunderstood the careful instructions I had given orally (and in writing) on when and how to take their Warfarin. Or they struggled with their parent’s dementia and didn’t know how to talk with the Neurologist about it. It sometimes stopped me in my tracks as I thought, “what is wrong here”. And if my patients (as sophisticated and motivated as they were) struggled with medical questions and confusion, what was happening with everyone else?

In the United States, around 4 Billion prescriptions are written every year. Over half those prescriptions are taken incorrectly or not taken at all. Poor compliance with medication instructions accounts for up to 40% of nursing home admissions. Compared with patients who follow medication instructions, those who do not follow directions have a risk for hospitalization and premature death that is 5.4 times higher if they have high blood pressure and 2.8 times higher if they have high cholesterol. In a study of 8400 Seniors enrolled in a health plan, only 1 in 3 of those who were begun on a blood pressure pill and a cholesterol pill at the same time were taking both medications as directed (or at all) at 6 months! It is estimated that poor compliance with medication instructions is costing the U.S. Healthcare system $290 Billion dollars each year. The question is “WHY”.

I believe much of the answer is because patients and their doctors simply don’t have enough time to understand one another. The growing shortage of primary care doctors along with declining reimbursement rates has led to those brave primary care doctors who remain having to struggle to see more and more patients each day. The obvious consequence is less and less time with each of those patients. I eventually learned in my own practice that when I could take the time to explain (sometimes over and over again) the “whys” of what I was prescribing and then could take the time to discover and assuage the “fear” my patient was having, the two of us enjoyed success and better health - better emotional health for me and better physical and mental health for my patient!

This circuitous rambling brings me to what I hope I can accomplish with this blog – bringing to your community a forum in which you can ask medical questions and receive simple and truthful answers. I will not incorporate sensationalism, truth varnishing, or scintillation into my answers. This should distinguish my blog from many of the medical stories I see in the print or electronic media as well as from the ridiculously (and, I fear, sometimes purposefully) misrepresented medical “facts” I often see on television. So, I think we will call this blog – “the unvarnished medical truth”. Please send your medical questions or comments. I will be as plain-spoken and “unvarnished” as I can be in my responses.

Humbly,
Mary Beth Hardwicke, M.D.