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Advancing Care - 2023 | Issue 3

advancing care

Taking vitamins? Don’t forget to tell your doctor. 

You exercise and eat healthy foods. To boost your immune system, you take a multivitamin every day. It can only help, right? Perhaps. The answer isn’t as simple as you might think. Vitamins may put your health at risk. That’s why you should let your doctor know about any vitamins or supplements you’re taking to make sure they don’t put your health in danger

Every year, Americans spend billions of dollars on vitamins, herbs, minerals and supplements. National health surveys show that more than half of all American adults take some kind of vitamin or dietary supplement, a percentage that increases with age. About 80 percent of women over the age of 60 take one or more dietary supplements, the same report shows.

“If you are considering taking a vitamin or supplement, you should talk with your doctor about what you hope to get from that medicine. They can help you figure out if there is good evidence for taking it and what the risks might be,” said Katherine Reeve, MD, a primary care physician with Northeast Medical Group who sees patients at the Yale New Haven Health Uncasville Medical Center at Mohegan Sun. “Most people don’t need multivitamins and other supplements, though there are a few exceptions.”

Meds and vitamins don’t always mix

Many people don’t realize that taking over-the-counter supplements alongside prescription drugs and other medicines can have dangerous and even life-threatening effects, according to Michelle Kelley, PharmD, clinical pharmacy manager, Lawrence + Memorial and Westerly hospitals. 

“A number of supplements can enhance, diminish or negate a prescription drug in ways that can be consequential and unpredictable,” she said. “Many supplements can contain ineffective or harmful ingredients, especially if combined with prescription drugs.” 

According to Kelley, supplements and vitamins can change the “ADME” of prescription medications that you may be taking. ADME stands for absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion of drugs. Depending on the person and the drug they are taking, interactions can be serious. Vitamins and supplements can cause harmful reactions, or they may reduce effectiveness of the prescription meds. 

For example, warfarin is a drug often prescribed to treat or prevent blood clots in veins or arteries. Gingko biloba (an herb) and vitamin E supplements can thin your blood. Taking them with warfarin may increase your risk for internal bleeding or stroke. People often take vitamin C to ward off the common cold — but high-dose vitamin C supplements may reduce the effectiveness of some types of cancer chemotherapy and interfere with statin medications. 

Knowing about potential interactions is important. If you’re having surgery, don’t be surprised if your doctor asks you to stop taking dietary supplements two or three weeks before the procedure to avoid changes in heart rate, blood pressure or bleeding risk.

Reading beyond the label

Kelley says that many people also think that because a vitamin or supplement is promoted as “natural” it automatically means the product is “safe.” This can be a dangerous assumption. 

 “Vitamins and supplements are regulated as foods, not drugs. This means the Food and Drug Administration does not evaluate the quality of the supplement or assess its effect on the body before the product hits the shelves,” she said. “Some supplements can have a range of ingredients instead of exactly the amounts listed on the labels – which is why, even though supplements are ‘natural,’ they can sometimes be unsafe.”

Dr. Reeve recommends that you talk to your doctor before starting any new over-the-counter medication or supplement. When you go to your next doctor’s appointment, bring a list of everything you take — over-the-counter medicines, herbals, minerals, vitamins, dietary supplements and prescription drugs. Be sure to write down the dosages and how often you take them.

“I encourage my patients to show me what they are reading, such as ads or articles. They can send it in via MyChart or bring it to a visit and we can weigh the pros and cons together,” Dr. Reeve said. 

By talking with your doctor about the reasons why you want to add vitamins and minerals into your diet, your doctor can determine if there are underlying conditions causing you to feel the need to supplement.

“Consider whether you really need to take vitamins and supplements. The best way to get all the essentials is by eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and watching out for processed foods and supplements that are advertised as health foods,” Dr. Reeve said. “For most of my patients, I would recommend adding a banana or a handful of blueberries to their morning routine rather than a handful of vitamins.” 

Free wallet medication cards available

When your doctor asks about your medications, do you remember everything you are taking? It is important that your healthcare providers have complete information about your medical history and the medications you are taking. Having your medication list in one place helps your physicians, pharmacists and healthcare team take better care of you.

Yale New Haven Health offers a free wallet medication card to help you keep an accurate record of your medicines, including vitamins and supplements. 

  • Put the card in your wallet, so it’s handy in case of an emergency. 
  • Bring it to all doctor visits, when you go for any medical tests and all hospital visits. 
  • Be sure to update the list as needed. Add new items and cross out any medications that you stop taking. 

To receive a free wallet medication card, email [email protected] with your name and address. Supplies are limited. Please allow four to six weeks for delivery. 

A Spanish language version of the wallet card is available upon request.

‘Tis the season for sneezing 

Your eyes are itchy, your nose is runny, and you can’t stop sneezing. The allergy season is in full swing. What’s the best way to find some relief? 

If you’re one of the 50 million Americans who suffers from allergies, your symptoms may bloom when the seasons shift. Seasonal allergic rhinitis (commonly known as hay fever) is usually triggered by outdoor allergens such as pollen and mold spores. When you have hay fever, your immune system responds to specific pollens as a threat. The body’s defense system kicks in, leading to symptoms such as nasal congestion; itchy, watery eyes; runny nose; tickly throat; hoarse voice; coughing and sneezing.

Continue reading about how to find relief from allergy symptoms

Laboratory services, close to home

Did your physician order blood work? Do you need to schedule a lab test? Yale New Haven Health makes it easy for you with blood draw stations conveniently located throughout southeastern Connecticut and Rhode Island, including the following sites: 

When you have your blood work done at a Yale New Haven Health blood draw station, your results will be available to physicians at Lawrence + Memorial or Westerly Hospital if you are admitted to the hospital or visit the emergency department. 

A requisition form is required. Our blood draw stations also honor requisitions from other labs. No appointments are necessary. All major insurance is accepted.

Please call 1-800-305-3278 for a list of additional locations near you. If you need help figuring out which lab services are covered by your insurance, call 1-888-542-2925 Monday - Friday from 8 am - 4:30 pm. 

Pequot Health Center ED sets standards for patient experience 

Yale New Haven Health’s Pequot Health Center Emergency Department has been recognized with Press Ganey’s 2022 Human Experience Guardian of Excellence Award® for consistently setting high standards of patient care. The award is part of Press Ganey’s annual ranking of the top hospitals and health systems in the country, according to performance in patient experience. The Guardian of Excellence Award is given to organizations that have achieved the 95th percentile or higher for performance in patient experience.

Pequot Health Center features a full Emergency Department, same-day surgery, laboratory services, diagnostic imaging, outpatient rehabilitation and occupational health services. It is located at 52 Hazelnut Hill Road in Groton, CT. For more information, call 860-446-8265.

Patients who require hospital admission will be transferred from the Emergency Department to Lawrence + Memorial Hospital in New London, CT, or to Westerly Hospital in Westerly, RI. 

Free hernia screenings in Groton on June 10

Both men and women can experience hernias. Typically, hernias can occur after childbirth, excessive lifting or straining, or a persistent or heavy cough. If left untreated, hernias may require surgery. When surgery is needed, Yale New Haven Health surgeons perform same-day, minimally invasive procedures using the latest da Vinci® robotic system so patients can recover faster. 

Free hernia screenings will be offered Saturday, June 10 from 9 am – noon at Pequot Health Center 52 Hazelnut Hill Rd, Groton. Schedule your free screening to meet one-to-one with an expert surgeon and see a demonstration of the da Vinci robotic system. Walk-ins welcome; however, registration is recommended by calling 800-562-2537 or signing up online.

Free diabetes support group at Westerly Hospital

Northeast Medical Group offers a free monthly diabetes support group at Westerly Hospital for patients, families and caregivers. Sessions are the first Wednesday of the month from 5 - 6 pm in the Henry J. Nardone Conference Center. The group is facilitated by Joan Sommers, RD, and Dandie Gallaher, LICSW. For information, call 401-637-7202.

Learn how to “stop the bleed” with free class at L+M

Did you know that if someone is bleeding heavily, they can bleed to death in as little as five minutes? Knowing how to control bleeding can make a life-or-death difference. Lawrence + Memorial Hospital is sponsoring free training sessions that will teach basic bleeding control techniques you can use in an emergency.

The STOP THE BLEED® workshop includes a hands-on practice of applying direct pressure, packing a wound, and using a tourniquet to stop bleeding. The next session will be at L+M, 365 Montauk Avenue, New London on Wednesday, June 14 from 2:45 – 3:45 pm. 

To register, please contact Jessica Mancarella, trauma program manager, at 860-271-4812 or email [email protected]. More information about the program is available at

“Top Docs” named at L+M and Westerly hospitals

Physicians affiliated with Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and Westerly Hospital have been named among the “Top Docs” in annual surveys by Connecticut Magazine and RI Monthly, reported in the May 2023 issues. 

Oliver Mayorga, MD, chief medical officer, said the annual roster of the top physicians is always a chance to acknowledge the fine work of the hospital medical staff. “Each year, it’s a source of pride to see so many of our doctors represented on the list,” he said. “We commend this year’s honorees. These outstanding doctors are examples of what I believe all our employees strive to give our patients – quality care and excellence.”

The Connecticut Magazine “Top Docs’ list is compiled each year after the magazine sends out 5,000 questionnaires to physicians across Connecticut asking them to name specialists they’d send a loved one to for expert care. The top vote-getters make up the final list. 

The RI Monthly “Top Doc” list highlights physicians from myriad specialties such as neurosurgery, cardiology, gynecological oncology, emergency care and infectious diseases. Those named as "Top Docs" were nominated and voted on by their peers.

This year’s list of “Top Docs” from L+M includes:

Mary Ann Bentz, MD, dermatology
Joseph Brito, MD, urology
Mical Campbell, MD, gastroenterology
Francis Falck, MD, ophthalmology
Jon Gaudio, MD, cardiovascular disease
Alan Greenwald, MD, gastroenterology
Christopher Hutchins, MD, orthopedic surgery
Amzad Khan, MD, gastroenterology
Harry Ma, MD, vascular surgery
Thomas Peter, MD, nephrology;
Fred Santoro, MD, pediatrics
Eugene Sapozhnikov, MD, gastroenterology
Timothy Tran, MD, urology

This year’s list of “Top Docs” from Westerly Hospital includes:

Eric Cohen, MD, Orthopedic Surgery
E. Bradley Miller, MD, Urology


Billing questions? 

Yale New Haven Health offers financial counseling to patients and families. Spanish-speaking counselors are also available. To make an appointment with a financial counselor, call 855-547-4584.