A Smart Approach to Dealing with Seasonal Allergies This Spring

Photo of a butterfly collecting pollen on a flower

Warmer weather. Green grass. Leaves on the trees and flowers in bloom. 

Spring is a beautiful thing — except when you’re dealing with seasonal allergies. The grass, trees, and flowers also signal the return of pollen and a season of sneezing, coughing, and stuffy noses. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 50 million Americans suffer from allergies each year.

Pollen is nearly impossible to avoid altogether. If you suffer from seasonal allergies, it’s important to come up with a plan to stay as healthy as possible, so you can enjoy this beautiful time of year. 

Start with Over-the-Counter Medicines

With so many Americans suffering from seasonal allergies, it’s no surprise that there are countless options for over-the-counter medications that can help prevent and treat your allergic reactions.

  • Oral Antihistamines — These help relieve sneezing, itchy eyes, and runny noses. Antihistamines are typically available in pills, liquids or nasal sprays.
  • Decongestants — These help relieve congestion by treating the linings of the nasal passages. Decongestants may come in the form of pills, liquids and nasal sprays or drops.
  • Nasal Spray — A cromolyn sodium nasal spray is most effective when used as a preventative measure before the onset of symptoms.

Your Primary Care Physician Can Help

When your seasonal allergy symptoms are severe and the usual medicines aren’t providing the relief you need, your next step should be scheduling an appointment with a primary care physician.

Your doctor can prescribe allergy medication that isn’t available over the counter. They can also recommend tests to help diagnose your specific type of allergy, so you know that you’re taking the right steps to stay as healthy as possible.

  • Skin Prick Test — A small drop of an allergen will be placed on your skin and then you’ll receive a light prick or scratch on the spot to expose you to the allergen. If you’re allergic, a small reaction may occur within minutes to help them diagnose the allergy and devise a treatment plan.
  • Specific IgE Blood Test — As an alternative to the skin prick test, you can provide a blood sample. The laboratory will add an allergen to the sample and then study the antibodies that the blood produces in response.

Be Smart and Enjoy the Season

Armed with knowledge, medication and the support of your physician — like the team at UM Charles Regional Primary Care — you don’t have to miss out on all the best parts of spring.

You may never be able to completely avoid pollen and its effects, but when you’re prepared in advance, you can enjoy more days of clear eyes and sinuses and actually be excited about the warm weather, the sunshine and, yes, even the beautiful flowers.

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5 Real Benefits of Having a Primary Care Doctor

photo of dr. lorenzo childress with a patient

If you’re like most people, you might turn to urgent care or even the emergency room whenever you get sick or injured. While these two types of practices are essential for short-term or more immediate needs, they generally fall short — both in terms of practicality and cost-savings — in regards to long-term wellness.

A lot of people choose to use urgent care or the emergency room simply because it’s easier and more convenient for them, or they don’t know why they would need a primary care doctor in the first place. Despite what you might appreciate about the convenience of your nearby urgent care, there are some real benefits to having a primary care provider in your life:

Consistent Care with a Trusted Partner

Healthy living is a lifelong endeavor. Sure, there are some things you can do in the short term that can help you feel better or keep you safe from getting sick, but the biggest boost to your overall health will be the result of the decisions you make over the months and years to come.

Although an urgent care provider can give you some helpful tips and advice whenever you visit, it’s important to remember that those practices rarely ever know anything about you beyond what illness or injury brought you in that day. A primary care provider, however, is there to build a long-term rapport with its patients. The biggest benefit of this is that patients will feel more comfortable over time sharing more information about their health, and a primary care doctor will then be able to better understand the big picture for each of his or her patients.

Chronic Condition Management

Regular communication, recommended specialist referrals, and long-term strategies for managing chronic conditions such as diabetes, COPD, heart disease, etc. — these are all big benefits to having a primary care doctor in your corner. 

Primary care doctors can’t do it all, and they’ll often lean on other specialists for more in-depth chronic condition care. But, in general, the management of your condition is made far easier and more effective when you have someone who knows your full medical history and is with you every step of the way.

Referrals Are Made That Much Easier

When you require the help of specialists, such as those for physical therapy, diagnostic imaging, or even surgery, you’re almost always going to need a referral from a trusted doctor to get an appointment. And while you can still probably get an appointment with one of these specialists through an urgent care doctor, the process is made far easier with a primary care doctor.

A primary care doctor is usually going to be better connected and more experienced with patient referrals compared to a practitioner at an urgent care practice, so you’ll always know you’re getting the best recommendation possible. Moreover, if you’re working with a primary care provider that’s part of a larger network, like Dr. Childress at UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Primary Care, you can get the added benefit of faster, more seamless referrals to other practices.

Preventive Medicine is a Priority

If you’re only turning to a medical care provider whenever you get sick or injured, you’re really only being reactive about your overall health and wellness. Preventive medicine is all about taking a proactive stance and taking the necessary steps to reduce the likelihood of getting sick or hurt in the first place.

With regularly scheduled appointments with a primary care doctor, you’ll have a better chance of spotting warning signs before they evolve into something potentially more harmful or debilitating. Your doctor can also ensure you’re up to date with recommended vaccinations as well as help you along with your general wellness goals — making you more likely to live a healthier life in the long term.

Potential Long-Term Savings

What all this boils down to is this: Having a primary care doctor comes with the added benefit of saving you time and money.

Following a regular appointment schedule and keeping your primary care doctor involved in your medical history are key to preventing illnesses before they happen or limiting the damage done when you do get sick. That means you’ll be able to spend less time trying to get well and more time actually being well. On top of that, many insurance companies understand that it’s in their benefit to incentivize preventive care, so you’ll often pay far less for regular checkups than you would going to urgent care or the emergency room for far more serious ailments.

Where to Find a Primary Care Doctor in Southern Maryland

A quick online search will help you get started in your search for a primary care provider, and other resources such as your insurance company can help you narrow your list based on which doctors are in your network. 

If you live in Southern Maryland, we recommend you take a closer look at UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Primary Care, located in La Plata. Led by Dr. Lorenzo Childress III, this primary care practice offers flexible appointment times in a convenient location. Visit our website or call (301) 609-5044 to learn more.

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2019 Holiday Hours for University of Maryland Charles Regional Practices

Hospital Exterior Photo | Holiday Hours

The holidays are fast approaching, and, like you, our team members are getting ready to celebrate with their friends and family. With that in mind, many of the local practices will be operating under adjusted hours for the next couple of weeks. See below for details about holiday hours for all of our facilities and local offices:

UM Charles Regional Rehabilitation

  • Wednesday, December 25: Closed
  • Monday, January 1: Closed

On all other dates, UM Charles Regional Rehabilitation will follow normal operating hours (Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m.-7 p.m., Friday, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.).

UM Charles Regional Imaging

  • Tuesday, December 24: 8 a.m.-12 p.m.
  • Wednesday, December 25: Closed
  • Monday, January 1: Closed

On all other dates, UM Charles Regional Imaging will follow normal operating hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.).

UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Primary Care 

  • Wednesday, December 25: Closed
  • Monday, January 1: Closed

On all other dates, UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Primary Care will follow normal operating hours (Monday, Thursday, and Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Tuesday, 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Wednesday, 8 a.m.-7 p.m.).

UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Women’s Health

  • Wednesday, December 25: Closed
  • Monday, January 1: Closed

On all other dates, UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Women’s Health will follow normal operating hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.).

UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Gastroenterology

  • Wednesday, December 25: Closed
  • Monday, January 1: Closed

On all other dates, UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Gastroenterology will follow normal operating hours in these locations:

  • La Plata: Tuesday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
  • Waldorf: Monday and Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Diabetes & Endocrinology

  • Wednesday, December 25: Closed
  • Monday, January 1: Closed

On all other dates, UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Diabetes & Endocrinology will follow normal operating hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.).

UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Surgical Care

  • Wednesday, December 25: Closed
  • Monday, January 1: Closed

On all other dates, UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Surgical Care in Waldorf and La Plata will follow normal operating hours (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.).

UM Charles Regional Medical Center Visiting Hours

Visiting hours at the hospital will remain normal throughout the holidays. Need more information or have a question? Please call our main phone number at (301) 609-4000.

As always, the emergency room at University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center is open 24 hours a day every day. We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to all of the doctors, nurses, and support staff who will continue working hard throughout the holidays to make this possible and ensure that there will always be someone ready to help in the event of an emergency.

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Why National Influenza Vaccination Week Is So Important

Photo of a person receiving a vaccination shot

Did you know that, every year since 2005, the week of December 1-7 has been designated as National Influenza Vaccination Week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)?

If the fact that it takes place so late in the year strikes you as surprising, you’re not alone. But there are some really important reasons why the CDC and its partners highlight the need to get the flu shot as we head into winter — and some good reasons why everyone should pay attention.

Why Now?

You might be thinking to yourself, “if you haven’t gotten the flu shot by now, why bother?” 

It’s probably a common question because, according to the CDC, flu vaccination rates usually trend downward near the end of November. This is because people start getting busier with the holidays and many people even overlook just how common the seasonal flu is during the month of December and beyond.

Don’t believe us? Take a look at the chart below, which highlights the months in which peak flu activity was observed from 1982 through 2018. You can see that things really start picking up right around December.

Chart of peak flu activity from the CDC

(Chart source: CDC)

What this means is — if you or someone you know hasn’t yet received their seasonal flu vaccination — it’s not too late!

As more people come together for the holidays, the likelihood of spreading or catching the seasonal influenza virus is greater than ever. And even if you don’t want to get vaccinated for yourself, you should do it (assuming you’re medically able to do so) to protect those around you who may have a compromised immune system.

What if I’ve Already Gotten the Flu?

You can and should still get the flu vaccine! Since there are a variety of influenza virus strains that are spread every year, there’s no way to tell which strain you were previously infected with. And the seasonal flu vaccine may be able to help protect you from other strains.

Where to Receive the Seasonal Flu Vaccine

If you live in Southern Maryland, there are several places you can turn to for the seasonal flu vaccine for little or no cost to you.

Many local stores and pharmacies offer walk-in clinics where standard vaccinations are offered. You can also visit your primary care physician, who can administer the shot for you. Don’t have a primary care doctor? Visit our website to learn more about UM Charles Regional Medical Group – Primary Care in La Plata, and call (301) 609-5044 to schedule an appointment.

Don’t have insurance or worried that it won’t cover the full cost? The Charles County Department of Health offers free walk-in flu vaccinations from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. Its office is located at 4545 Crain Highway, White Plains, MD 20695.

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Why Do I Need a Primary Care Physician?

Photo of Dr. Childress looking at a patient in a primary care office

According to a 2018 study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 45 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds and 28 percent of 30- to 40-year-olds didn’t have a primary care provider. 

Does this mean you shouldn’t have one either?

If that question is on our mind, let’s start by taking a look at some important facts about primary care.

FACT #1: Having a Primary Care Doctor Can Help Your Health

In a 2019 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers surveyed 49,286 adults with and 21,133 adults without primary care. They concluded that those with primary care received significantly better care than those without. 

FACT #2: Having a Primary Care Physician Tends to Provide a Better Healthcare Experience

In this same study, those who regularly visited a primary care provider reported significantly better health care access and experiences than those who did not. Consistent care made people more confident in the quality of care they receive and more knowledgeable about their health. 

FACT #3: A “Medical Home” Comes with Benefits

When you regularly visit a primary care physician, you have one point person who can refer you to specialists as needed. They also monitor your progress through treatment, following up to ensure you are healing. 

“Your primary care physician essentially serves as your ‘medical home’,” said Dr. Childress, a primary care physician at University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Group – Primary Care. “We are part of a growing network of talented medical professionals. So when we refer you to a specialist, we can keep track of your care throughout your time with them.”

FACT #4: Self-Referrals Can Be Costly (to Your Wallet and Health)

Without a primary care physician to monitor their health, people often go directly to the specialist they think is best when a problem arises. Maybe they are experiencing chest pain, so they visit a cardiologist. 

But what happens if those tests can’t determine the problem? If the chest pain is caused by something other than a cardiac condition — such as a gastrointestinal issue or a lung problem — the patient will be stuck searching for the right specialist, traveling to different offices and, most likely, incurring increasing out-of-pocket expenses. 

“Working with a primary care physician can end up eliminating the need for many costly tests,” says Kelli Goldsborough, a nurse practitioner at University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Group – Primary Care. “You’ll end up saving precious time and money by getting a professional opinion instead of guessing on your own.”

FACT #5: Primary Care Physicians Take a Holistic Approach to Health Care

The primary focus of your physician is on taking every aspect of how you feel into account and creating a complete picture of your health care. They can save you time and money by evaluating your health instead of focusing on the treatment of individual symptoms. 

Countless reports emphasize the need for regular visits with a primary care physician. If you want to get or keep your health on track, it is highly recommended that you start developing a relationship with one.

So are you ready to find a primary care physician you can trust? Or are you looking for more information about how regular visits with a primary care physician can help you? Call 301-609-5044 or visit our website to make your appointment today.

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Adult Vaccines: What They Are and Who Should Get Them

Adult Vaccination Photos

Children aren’t the only ones who need to roll up their sleeves. In fact, adults require vaccines throughout their lives to protect themselves and others from serious illnesses. There are a variety of immunizations that adults should consider receiving, especially if they’re traveling abroad, but here are four of the most important:

Influenza

It’s no secret that we — along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — are major supporters of the seasonal flu vaccine.

The flu shot is just as much about keeping yourself safe as it is about protecting those whose bodies may be compromised by another health condition or simply because of their age. And it’s difficult to know whether or not the influenza season will be severe, so the best way to protect yourself and others around you is to get vaccinated yearly.

“Everyone should have a flu shot every year,” Nurse Practitioner Kelli Goldsborough said. “Vaccination is particularly important for people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women and adults 65 and older.”

Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis

Often referred to as the “Tdap,” this vaccine protects adults from serious illnesses, including:

Tetanus – a bacterial infection that produces a toxin, or poison, that causes muscles to become tight, which is very painful
Diphtheria – a very contagious bacterial disease that affects the respiratory system
Pertussis – also known as whooping cough, this is an extremely contagious bacterial infection that causes a bad cough

Adults should get the Tdap vaccine first if they didn’t get it as an adolescent to protect against whooping cough, and then a Td booster shot every 10 years to protect against tetanus and diphtheria. Women should get the Tdap vaccine between the 27th and 36th weeks of pregnancy, regardless of when they last had the shot.

Pneumococcal

Adults 65 and older — and adults younger than 65 with health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and HIV — should get the pneumococcal vaccine, which protects against pneumonia, infections in the bloodstream, and meningitis (an infection of the brain and spinal cord).

Shingles

Adults 50 and older should receive the new Shingrix vaccine. This shot protects against the re-emergence of herpes zoster, the virus responsible for chickenpox, which can cause a painful rash later in life (known as shingles).

“You should get this shot even if you have already received the old vaccine, Zostavax,” Goldsborough said.

Where to Get Vaccinated in Southern Maryland

Fortunately, for adults who live in the area, staying up to date with a vaccination schedule is easy and convenient. If you have any questions about which vaccines you should receive or are ready to get immunized, make an appointment with UM Community Medical Group – Primary Care providers Dr. Childress or Kelli Goldsborough by calling (301) 609-5044.

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5 Ways High Blood Pressure Can Affect Your Body

High Blood Pressure Measurement Photo

Did you know that one out of three adults in America has high blood pressure? And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), that only about half of those nearly 75 million people have their blood pressure under control?

It’s true — high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) has become a serious medical problem in our country. And if you have high blood pressure, it’s far more serious than you might think.

While the most immediate, short-term damage done by high blood pressure might not be instantly apparent, this condition is one of the leading contributors to serious long-term health problems among Americans.

Your blood pressure is the force at which blood is being pushed against the walls of your arteries. Here are just a few ways your blood pressure can affect your body when it’s at a higher level than it should be:

It Can Damage Your Heart

The CDC notes that your heart often bears the brunt of the damage caused by high blood pressure. This is because, over time, high blood pressure can harden your arteries, which makes it more difficult for your body to get blood and oxygen to and from the heart. When that happens, these are just some of the potential outcomes:

It Can Increase Your Risk of Stroke

As we’ve previously discussed on our blog, stroke is a serious medical condition and one of the leading causes of death and long-term disability in Americans. Unfortunately, the reason why it’s so common in our country is because high blood pressure is, too.

The simple truth is this: Hypertension is the primary cause of stroke.

It Could Eventually Cause an Aneurysm

An aneurysm happens when a section of an artery’s walls are weakened and bulges. If the bulging gets too extreme, the artery can rupture and cause internal bleeding — a serious, life-threatening situation.

Though the exact causes of aneurysms are far from certain, high blood pressure has been linked to an increased risk of developing an aneurysm because of the long-term damage it can do to arteries.

It Can Lead to Kidney Failure

Sustained high blood pressure can lead to damaged blood vessels in the kidneys. Once damaged, the filtering process that occurs inside your kidneys, which helps your body rid itself of waste and toxins, becomes more difficult and less effective. Over time, this can lead to kidney disease and even kidney failure.

It Can Damage Your Eyes

One little known fact about high blood pressure is that it can have a significant impact on your eyes, specifically your retina.

The retina is found at the back of your eye, and high blood pressure can affect how well this tissue is able to function. This is because abnormal blood pressure can cause damage to the vessels in the retina — leading to double vision, dim vision, headaches, or even total vision loss.

Usually, this damage is done over time, but there are instances where very high blood pressure spikes can cause symptoms to appear suddenly. These situations are medical emergencies and should be treated as such if they ever happen to you or someone you know.

Visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine website to learn more about how blood pressure levels can affect your eyesight.

High blood pressure is a dangerous condition that affects millions of Americans young and old. Unfortunately, many people with high blood pressure don’t know that they have it. That’s why it’s important to get your blood pressure levels checked regularly and get your blood pressure in check by practicing healthy living habits. Talk to your primary care provider to learn more about your blood pressure and how you can get on track to preventing high blood pressure.

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3 Reasons Why We’re Raising Awareness for Minority Health Month

Minority Health Month 2019 Photo

We’re proud to support Minority Health Month this April as we shine a light on the importance of equal and accessible health care in Southern Maryland. Here are three reasons why this month means so much to us and those who count on us.

Some Diseases Affect People Disproportionately

While diseases such as cancer or the flu affect everyone regardless of who they are, there are certain diseases and ailments that affect a disproportionate number of minority groups in America.

Sickle cell disease is one such disease that affects minorities in America, especially among black people and African-Americans. African-Americans and Latino-Americans are also at higher risk for developing diabetes than other groups, too.

While there are numerous reasons why these groups are at greater risk for developing these diseases, more than anything, these facts serve as stark reminders that more work needs to be done to ensure that every member of the population is given the same chance to live a long, healthy life.

Health Disparities Can Be Caused by Multiple Factors

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines health disparities as “preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health.” Ethnicity, race, gender, disability status, and socioeconomic factors can all play a role in this, and it’s important for communities to step up to help everyone live healthier.

Health disparities can come from:

  • Poverty
  • Environmental Threats
  • Poor Access to Health Care
  • Educational Differences

You can learn more about the various health differences that exist among the American population by visiting the official website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.

Health Fairness is Important

At University of Maryland Charles Regional Medical Center, we believe that no one should be put at a disadvantage in the health system, regardless of race, ethnicity, social status, age, or gender. By valuing health fairness, we value all people equally, and we work to ensure that every person in our community always has access to high-quality health care.

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Get to Know Primary Nurse Practitioner Kelli Goldsborough

Kelli Goldsborough, NP, Photo

Kelli Goldsborough, NP, set out to study social work. But she gravitated toward nursing in school — first becoming a licensed practical nurse, then a registered nurse (RN) and finally a nurse practitioner (NP).

What’s the Difference Between a Registered Nurse and a Nurse Practitioner?

While RNs and NPs both tend to patients’ needs and treatments, nurse practitioners must complete a masters or doctoral educational program while RNs are required to complete a nursing program. In addition, NPs are able to see and treat patients on their own as well as prescribe medications. This is why you’ll commonly see an NP at a specialized practice, such as UM Community Medical Group – Primary Care, rather than at a hospital.

Where She Practices

From inpatient and outpatient settings to the health department and even hospice in St. Mary’s County, Goldsborough’s background is diverse and wide ranging. Now, she’s found a home in primary care.

“It’s challenging,” she said. “No two patient situations are the same. But I look forward to building relationships with patients the same way I have with my own primary care provider. I’ve been seeing some patients for more than 12 years, so when something’s wrong, there’s a little bit more understanding as to what’s happening. As you learn about patients and as they trust you, you can impact them in a more positive way to help them achieve their health goals.”

When She’s Not in the Office

When Goldsborough is off duty, her family takes center stage.

“My husband and I have five children between us — four of them still at home,” she said. “My youngest is six and my oldest is 16, along with two adult children who are 23 and almost 21.”

With three girls at home, after-school time and weekends often revolve around activities like Girl Scouts and dance. Goldsborough also makes time for extended family.

“I’ve lived in southern Maryland my entire life, and my family is here,” she said. “That’s important to me.”

Want to schedule an appointment with Nurse Practitioner Kelli Goldsborough? Give us a call at (301) 609-5044 today.

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High School Sports Physicals for Spring and Wellness for Life

Spring Sports Physicals Photo

Don’t save those doctor’s appointments for when there’s something already wrong.

Sure, a great primary care provider can help you get better. But our first goal is keeping you in your best health at all times and stopping health issues before they start.

UM Community Medical Group – Primary Care is a great team to have on your side, whether you’re a high school athlete or anyone looking to live their healthiest life.

Dr. Lorenzo Childress, III, along with Nurse Practitioner Kelli Goldsborough and the talented team of medical professionals are ready to help you be your best.

Now Scheduling High School Sports Physicals

Spring sports will be starting before you know it.

Lacrosse, baseball, softball, tennis or track & field. No matter what sport your student will be playing, they’ll need a sports physical from a licensed physician if they want to be ready to compete when practices start.

All that requires is a quick visit with our Primary Care team. We’ll ensure your athlete is healthy enough to compete at the top of their game.

Call 301-609-5044 to schedule your visit today.

Wellness is a Lifelong Pursuit

You don’t have to be a budding sports star to want to be at the top of your game.

No matter how old you are, achieving and maintaining your best health is an important goal. Do it for yourself. Do it for the ones who count on you.

Regular visits to a primary care physician can help you live well, live healthier and live longer.  Through quality, compassionate primary care, we’ll put you on the path to a lifetime of good health — and give you the freedom to live the life you want.

What can you expect from your primary care team? We welcome adult patients for preventive care and checkups, management of ongoing health issues, diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic illnesses, disease prevention, patient education and more.

It all starts with making that first appointment. Schedule yours today. We’re open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, plus we’re now open until 7 p.m. every Wednesday to make it even more convenient for you. Give us a call at 301-609-5044.

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