Health & Fitness

Her yellow skin wasn’t jaundice. How young doctors learned from it

The doctors-in-training at family practice residency programs in the San Joaquin Valley showed their scholarly prowess at a forum held last week at the Sutter education center in McHenry Village in Modesto.

Participating were residents from the Valley Family Medicine Residency in Modesto, the Mercy Medical Center program in Merced and Kaweah Delta residency in Visalia.

The young doctors had their posters judged in a contest, but these posters were not the kind you see in sixth-grade classrooms.

Attending physician Anika Godhwani and third-year resident Sumerra Khan reviewed how the Valley Family residents were doing with managing diabetic patients. Their findings and assessments were organized on a large board.

Posters lining the walls were supported by charts and ultrasound images. Some were case studies with horrifying titles, such as:

“Acute cardiac Tamponade in a 55-year-old male” and “Cotard Syndrome with Catatonia in a bipolar patient.”

Kathleen Kearns, director of the Valley Family residency program, said it was more than an academic exercise for the residents, who see real patients in hospital emergency departments and clinics under supervision. One case was a careful study of an emergency patient who succumbed to a heart condition.

“It might matter for a patient we see tomorrow,” Kearns said.

In another contest, three speakers presented their scholarly work in talks limited to two minutes. They were allowed two PowerPoint slides and two questions from audience members.

Kearns was strict in enforcing the two-minute rule.

Valley Family resident Alicia Zhou presented the case of a 40-year-old woman whose skin had turned yellow. The patient had been eating bell peppers and a lot of tomato sauce.

Zhou discovered the patient had carotenemia, caused by high beta-carotene levels in the blood. Children and adults can get it from eating too many servings of certain vegetables; for example, carrots and squash.

A resident needs to know about harmless carotenemia so it’s not mistaken for jaundice, a possible sign of serious illness.

Another physician’s talk was on the pregnancy resulting in birth of a 13-pound baby, which was featured in The Modesto Bee this month. The third presentation was on a “glucommander” software used to give the correct dose of insulin to diabetic patients in the hospital.

Zhou was declared the winner based on the amount of applause. Her prize was a $75 Target gift card. “She might have benefited from a home-court advantage,” Kearns said, getting a laugh. The top prize for the poster contest was a $150 gift card.

Kearns said the forum showcased the talents of the “doctors of tomorrow” in the San Joaquin Valley.

More than half of residents who complete the 3-year Valley Family program leave to practice elsewhere. Kearns said 41 percent of graduates in the last six classes have stayed in Stanislaus County or the Valley.

Some are true believers in the program’s mission to provide health care to the underserved and want to stay on the faculty. “There are residents who came here with family and might have school-age children here and have established roots,” Kearns added.

The director said family ties is also a reason why doctors leave to practice in the Bay Area. Some graduates want to work in the area where they attended medical school.

Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321, @KenCarlson16