Health care continues to be an important part of our lives. Everyone wants to be healthy, but sometimes you need some help to get that way. Luckily, the North is home to fantastic doctors in a variety of fields. We spoke with seven local doctors about the care they provide and why your health matters to them.

Dr. Aparna Shah
The Christ Hopsital

Dr. Aparna Shah is out to dispel some myths. Chief among them, it is not normal, nor a function of age, for a woman to suffer from any kind of incontinence.

Further, “there are always options,” she says of the non-invasive and non-surgical options to surgical treatments for incontinence and other pelvic floor disorders that affect the quality of life for women at all ages.

Instead of women accepting the inconvenience of involuntary loss of control or pain, “I want them to seek help,” she says.

Shah is a practitioner of a recently board-recognized sub-specialty, urogynecology, which was formally declared in 2013. Urogynecologists treat disorders that stem from the muscles, connective tissue and ligaments of the pelvic floor.

“It felt like an unmet need,” says Shah of the reason she chose this particular focus. Growing up with a mother who was an OB-GYN, Shah declared her own intentions to be a doctor while in the fourth grade. From there, her passion for women’s health and advocacy paved the rest of the way.

“It was natural that I fell into an OB-GYN residency,” she says.

Urogynecologists treat such disruptive conditions as urinary and/or fecal incontinence, as well as pelvic organ prolapse, where the bladder, uterus or cervix slips below their normal location.

Shah says patients who experience involuntary loss of urine or stool, stress incontinence (brought on by jumping or sneezing, for example) or who have back discomfort, urinary frequency or urgency, a feeling of vaginal pressure or bulging, should have that evaluated by a urogynecologist. She hopes that with this emerging field patients will become more comfortable discussing their symptoms and seeking help.

Women should not have to live with these symptoms, she adds. In virtually every case, “we can improve things, at least to some degree.” - Deborah Rutledge 

Dr. Christopher Juergens 
Mercy Health - Fairfield hospital
General & Laparoscopic Surgery

For Dr. Christopher Juergens surgery is much more than the time spent in the operating room.

“I think it is important to care for, and spend time with, patients and their families,” says Juergens, who has been a general surgeon for more than 20 years.

“It’s important to care. You can’t always cure everybody, but you can always care, “ he says.

A native of Springfield, Ohio, Juergens came to Cincinnati as an undergrad in pre-Med and biology and graduated from the UC College of Medicine in 1992.

Juergens does open surgical procedures, minimally invasive procedures and robotic surgeries.

He sees a role for each type of surgery.

“The nice thing about emerging technologies is the continued miniaturization [of instruments] means smaller incisions and with the robot you have the dexterity to do some things better that are more complicated.”

At the same time, traditional open surgery can be required, particularly where there’s a lot of scar tissue.

He says an early lesson from a mentor, Dr. Creighton Wright, is still true.

“The operations and techniques you use will change [over time] but as long as you have the fundamentals down you’ll be able to adapt that to whatever you do in the future,” he says.

– Mike Boyer

Dr. Prasanth Lingam 
Kettering Medical Center – Fort Hamilton Hospital
Interventional Cardiologist

There is a good news-bad news element to the world in which Dr. Prasanth Lingam practices as an intervention cardiologist.

The good news is that “science is growing almost daily” in the field of heart health. The bad news is that folks at younger ages need it more than ever before.

Lingam, who practices at Fort Hamilton Hospital, a part of the Kettering Medical Center, says he’s seeing patients “come in a lot sicker at younger ages,” which is why he wants people to be seen for “anything they feel uneasy about,” like chest pain, trouble breathing, heart racing or skipping beats.

“Even something like you could do 10 minutes on the treadmill, but now after five minutes you feel short of breath,” says Lingam.

Smoking, increased life stress coupled with decreased exercise, and poor diet are contributing to the development of heart disease at younger ages, including the 30s and 40s, he says.

Interventional cardiologists perform the procedures that stop heart attacks, or aim to prevent them, with stents, for example.

Heart patients’ dramatic transformation, which Lingam first saw shadowing doctors and through his own physician parents, was a powerful motivator for his own career.

These days it’s a view he gets firsthand working in the Cath lab.

“Seeing patients at their most vulnerable and then a few weeks later in the office [laughing and at ease] with their families, it’s amazing and gratifying how quickly you can bring joy back into their lives.” - DR

Dr. Rhonda Washington
Premier Health - Atrium Medical Center

Premier Health’s Dr. Rhonda Washington is a regular witness to the highlight of her patients’ lives.

“It’s an awesome thing to see someone on the best day of their life,” says the OB-GYN of the rarefied view she gets when her patients become mothers for the first or more times.

And it’s a far cry from where she was heading as a graduate student in biochemistry. She switched gears after two years in her PhD program.

“It wasn’t for me; I didn’t want to be in a lab all day,” she says.

So she spent the year it took between applying and attending medical school zeroing in on her medical career’s focus. She took a job as a medical assistant in an OB-GYN’s office, which solidified her plans.

Now, as director of the Natural Beginnings Birth Center in Premier’s Atrium Medical Center, the only natural birth center in Greater Cincinnati, Washington sees variety in her days, sprinkled with the miracle of birth.

“The variety of what you get to do, it’s not boring,” Washington says.

And as opposed to her husband, a family physician who is based in the office five days a week, Washington appreciates how her workplaces vary from office to delivery and operating rooms, depending on the day.

Some procedures, too, have migrated from the operating room to the office, she adds. But office visits now include a good deal of imparting education.

“I probably spend more time counseling than actually doing the exam,” Washington says of the conversation with her patients, which often include the changing guidelines of screenings like Pap tests, “reassuring them that, yes, these intervals are appropriate.” - DR

Dr. Michael L. Nordlund
Cincinnati Eye Institute
Cataract Surgeon/Cornea Specialist

Dr. Michael Nordlund of the Cincinnati Eye Institute always knew he was going to be a doctor, but it took a bit longer to decide on his specialty.

“I was all over the place,” says Nordlund of when he started looking at specialties. However, attending a lecture by a neuro-opthamologist led Nordlund to his path.

“Neuro-ophthalmology is trying to understand the details of the brain pathways and how they work for vision. And it’s super complex and very interesting. That’s really what got me interested in ophthalmology,” he says. “It’s cerebral, there’s a lot of thinking that goes on, but it’s tactical.”

Patients often come to see Nordlund with eye diseases like corneal edema (the swelling of the cornea), cornea scratches or scars, surface tumors, or cataracts.

In his 17 years of practice he’s seen markedly improved outcomes and decreased downtime thanks to technology. For example, 15 years ago the only recommended way to deal with corneal problems was a full thickness corneal transplant, which took 10-15 months to recover from and still left the patient with lower quality vision. Now, there are three different types of partial transplants that can take as little as two weeks to recover. “For the vast majority of patients the vision goes back to as good as it was or when they never had the problem,” he says.

Nordlund sees patients at CEI’s Blue Ash campus and its new surgery center in Middletown on Atrium Medical Center’s campus, which is opening in the fall. “It will be another eye-only, dedicated ophthalmology, super specialized ophthalmologic surgery center where we’ll provide all services, so it’s going to be great,” says Nordlund. - Corinne Minard

Dr. Vincent Martin
UC Health – West Chester & Clifton
Headache & Facial Pain Specialist

Dr. Vincent Martin, director of the UC Headache & Facial Pain Center, can relate to his migraine patients—he and his wife have them, too.

“Migraine is different from just a headache,” he says. “It’s a lot more severe, it’s a lot more disabling, it’s a lot more likely to knock you out at work than, say, a tension-type headache.”

Martin, who has been working with headache and migraine patients for more than 22 years, says that treating migraine sufferers takes a three-pronged approach.

First, he helps patients learn to manage their lifestyle. “A lot of managing migraine is in teaching [patients] appropriate lifestyles and even appropriate diet. A lot of the same things that are healthy for people in general, like avoiding sweets and decreasing the carbohydrates and eating lots of fruits and vegetables, are probably helpful for migraine patients, too.” Martin says that helping patients develop a healthy lifestyle is at least half the battle in treating migraines.

The two other aspects of treatment are medical—preventative medications that can decrease the number of migraines a person has, like Botox, and acute medication that can be taken to decrease the severity of a migraine once it starts. Using all three of these approaches together, Martin says most migraines can be well managed.

While treatment and care options have improved over his years of practicing medicine, Martin says that people still suffer many misconceptions about the ailment.

“Migraine is about three or four times more common in women than men. I think there’s a lot of stereotypes, too, [such as] neuroticism and [the idea that] migraine is a psychological illness. They still pervade in today’s society,” he says. – CM

Dr. David Aichholz
Seven Hills Women’s Health Centers

Obstetrician-Gynecologist Dr. David Aichholz has been making deliveries since he was a kid.

Of course, back then the babies were purebred Angus calves born at his family’s farm in Bainbridge. But it was the gateway to a career.

“I’ve always been interested in reproduction and fertility,” says Aichholz, whose father also was an OB-GYN. When his father was not working they would go to the family farm.

“We loved to go up on weekends, in the summer, and over Christmas and spring breaks,” Aichholz says of the place that fueled his career interest. “It was fun.”

These days, it’s the variety of patients—from teens to seniors—that keeps his career interesting, says the Seven Hills Women’s Health Centers physician.

In practice since 1994, Aichholz says while patient concerns have remained largely unchanged, some conditions have grown more worrisome over the last 10 years.

“I think patients still worry about the same things—breast cancer, ovarian cancer, ‘is my baby going to be OK?’ and ‘what are my chances of getting pregnant,’” he says. “Some of the challenges are that patients are sometimes not getting the care they used to get. For some women, I may be the only person (physician) they see.

“Primary care is a limited resource, unfortunately, for a lot of people,” he adds, making unresolved medical issues a priority to treat when pregnancy occurs.

People are also heavier now, which “impacts on what we do,” Aichholz says. The effects are widespread as people work more and exercise less, perhaps eating out more between their at-work hours and at-home hours where caretaking and household duties claim more of their time and energy.

With two-thirds of Americans overweight, the issue affects rates of heart disease and diabetes, but also fertility and healthy birth weights, he says.