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The Importance of Checkups with Your Primary Care Physician

Many adults think a yearly checkup isn’t really necessary, especially when they consider themselves to be healthy, but periodic physical exams should be part of everyone’s health care.

A physical exam can help to determine if you are as healthy as you feel or catch health problems before they become serious. A checkup also helps you and your primary care provider come up with a care plan for a longer, healthier life.

“Annual checkups are a good time to discuss your overall health, diet and family history, which may indicate a need for earlier screenings. A lot of things can change in a year.

People gain and lose weight, go through emotional changes – all of it can affect their health,” said Sarah Cottingham, MD, at Palmetto Family Medicine, a Lexington Medical Center physician practice.

An annual physical for an adult can include things such as:
− a comprehensive physical exam catered to your age, gender and specific risk factors;
− electrocardiogram to check for heart health;
− examination of respiratory health;
− skin screening to check for dermatological health;
− lab tests, including blood count and cholesterol;
− body mass index testing;
− screenings for age- and gender-appropriate cancer risk factors.

During a child’s annual checkup, a doctor may look at:
− his or her overall growth and development;
− missed immunizations or needed booster shots;
− dental, vision, speech or hearing issues;
− cholesterol, blood count, urine, blood sugar and/or scoliosis results.

“An annual physical isn’t just getting a full-body exam. You may need labs tests, vaccinations and cancer screenings, which depend on age and risk factors. Even if you eat well and exercise, you could still have high cholesterol or be at risk for developing diabetes. We can’t know if you have these conditions if we aren’t checking for them,” said Dr. Cottingham.

Apart from cancer and other screenings, such as diabetes and heart disease, a physical exam helps patients answer questions about their health and lifestyle, and get advice on how to lead the healthiest lifestyle possible.

It’s also an opportunity to tell your doctor about any medical conditions or diseases within your family. Certain diseases and medical conditions can be hereditary, and families can pass on lifestyle habits. People who live, play and eat together influence each other’s attitudes toward smoking, exercise, weight and many other factors that influence your health.

For Dr. Cottingham, annual checkups are a great way to help her patients have good quality of life along with quantity of life.

“If we can catch high cholesterol and elevated blood sugars early and make lifestyle changes or treat with medicine, we can significantly decrease the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and more.”

109 Barton Creek Court
Columbia, SC 29229
(803) 256-2286

Accepting New Patients

Everyday Hero: Natalie Copeland

When doctors diagnosed Natalie Copeland, manager of Lexington Medical Center’s Cancer Registry, with type 2 diabetes, she quickly got to work learning how to best manage the disease.

“I attended the nutrition consultation and education program at LMC when I was first diagnosed, and I made great progress,” said Natalie.

Eventually, though, she forgot some of what she had learned and started “cheating” on her new lifestyle. Her struggle to get back on track led her to start D2 & Me, a free support and wellness group for people with type 2 diabetes.

Natalie Copeland

“I couldn’t find a support group in the area. So, when hospital dietitian Laura Stepp suggested that I consider starting a group, I decided to give it a go. LMC has been very supportive of my efforts. I could not do half of what I do without the help of the Marketing department, the certified diabetes educators at LMC and Lexington Endocrinology, and Laura.”

D2 & Me isn’t just for people with type 2 diabetes; it’s also for their caregivers. At each meeting, attendees learn ways to improve their quality of life with diabetes. Health care professionals including endocrinologists, diabetes educators and nurses cover a variety of topics, such as carbohydrate counting, diabetic complications, medications and interactions, and diabetic emergencies, as well as conduct grocery store tours. 

“My absolute favorite part of D2 & Me is knowing that I have helped someone. It brings me such joy to hear participants say that a meeting has been valuable to them or that they have made better life choices since they’ve started coming to D2 & Me meetings,” she said.

In addition to educating those with type 2 diabetes and their caregivers, members of D2 & Me encourage and uplift each other. They share in successes and failures.

“You can make a difference in someone’s life simply by taking some of the burden off his or her shoulders and sharing in his or her struggles. The older I get, the more important this work becomes to me. I want to make a difference; I want to hear ‘well done, good and faithful servant.’”  

And so, Natalie isn’t slowing down her efforts to help others. This month, the D2 & Me Diabetic Food Pantry, a collaborative program with Harvest Hope Food Bank and the American Diabetes Association’s Columbia chapter, opens. Natalie hopes to expand this program to all Harvest Hope Food Bank agencies in South Carolina. She also plans to bring D2 & Me meetings to Northeast Columbia and create a program to help diabetics afford costly medications.

“The experiences and knowledge I’ve gained since beginning D2 & Me has been unimaginable. I’m excited to see the growth of D2 & Me, and it feels so good to help others.”

Carolina Women’s Physicians Opens New Office In Irmo

Carolina Women’s Physicians has opened a new office in Irmo to better serve its patients. Located near Lexington Medical Center Irmo at 7045 St. Andrews Road, patients will have access to the same services offered at the practice’s West Columbia location.

Pictured left to right: Amy McMillan, PA; Julie A. Reed, MD; Elizabeth S. Lambert, MD; Jennifer A. Greene, MD; Allyson I. Jones, MD; and Samantha F. Morton, MD

“Since I joined Carolina Women’s Physicians five years ago, patients have asked me if we would ever open an office in Irmo. We’re happy to say that we listened, and our Irmo location is now open,” said Julie Reed, MD.

The providers at Carolina Women’s Physicians – Jennifer Greene, MD; Allyson Jones, MD; Elizabeth Lambert, MD; Samantha Morton, MD; Julie Reed, MD; and Amy McMillan, PA – and their teams will rotate their schedules between the two offices, which means patients will receive the same compassionate care for women, by women at the Irmo location.

“All of our providers are excited about this new space. We have so many patients from the Irmo/Chapin area, and we hope they will enjoy the convenience of this office for years to come,” said Dr. Morton.

This location is extra special to some of the providers at the practice because they call this area home.

“Our children and families are part of this community. We’re delighted to make our practice part of it as well,” said Dr. Jones.

Appointments at Carolina Women’s Physicians’ West Columbia and Irmo locations are available Monday through Thursday from 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Friday from 7:00 a.m. to noon. For more information about the practice and its providers, visit

Two Convenient Locations
146 North Hospital Drive, Suite 240
West Columbia, SC 29169

7045 St. Andrews Road
Columbia, SC 29212

Now Accepting Patients
(803) 936-7590