When Emily Leibow, a physician’s assistant who’s part of the UCHealth team that provides occupational health services to employers, listened to Wade L. Clements’ heart during a routine medical exam, she found something concerning. Clements had a heart murmur that hadn’t been there the year before.
Leibow encouraged Clements to listen to his heart and when he compared his heartbeat to hers, he could hear an obvious irregularity. Clements’ primary care physician would have easily detected it, but Clements did not see his primary care doctor regularly.
“I’m a typical male in that I don’t get a normal check-up with my physician,” Clements admitted. “If it wasn’t for work, I wouldn’t have seen a doctor.”
Occupational medicine through UCHealth
Clements works at Broadcom Inc., a California-based global technology leader.
Several years ago, Broadcom contracted with UCHealth to operate an on-site medical clinic. Leibow now works on-site at Broadcom’s Fort Collins facility.
“I’m kind of like a little urgent care on Broadcom’s campus,” she said. “My role includes certain primary care services, workplace injuries, and annual surveillance and audio testing. I’m connecting their employees with primary care physicians, and now, helping with COVID-19 protocols.”
Occupational health services for employers
OSHA requires that certain workers exposed to hazardous or dangerous work environments undergo exams to ensure they haven’t been exposed to health risks at work. Other employers require drug or health screenings for potential employment, and many businesses need workers’ compensation resources.
UCHealth’s Occupational Medicine program partners with area businesses — big and small — to provide convenient and tailored occupational medicine services to help meet OSHA requirements and other business needs.
“One of the benefits of our Occupational Medicine program is that we can work with employers of all sizes and create specially tailored programs to suit their needs,” said Hannah Waltrip, UCHealth’s manager of Occupational Medicine in southern Colorado.
Services include everything from physical exams and injury management to drug testing and vaccinations.
Onsite clinics vs. many occupational health clinic locations
Having a provider available in the workplace has multiple benefits.
“I am not functioning as employees’ primary care physician, but if an employee has something like a sinus infection, they can wander down to the main floor of the cafeteria and see me at the UCHealth clinic. It’s convenient for the employee and cost-effective for the employer.”
For businesses that choose not to have an in-house provider, UCHealth has many occupational medicine clinics for employer needs.
“Our many locations make it very convenient for employees to access services,” Waltrip said. “Some of those clinics are open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.”
Occupational medicine is more than just tests and exams
“A huge part of our Occupational Medicine program is that we are an educational resource for businesses,” Waltrip said. “Employers can reach out to us if they are not understanding some of these regulations that are required of them, either because it’s a new position within their company, or they are new to the industry.”
UCHealth has a team of occupational medicine experts available to answer questions.
“Employers don’t just have one contact person at UCHealth, but a whole team they can reach out to,” Waltrip said.
Megan Fontenot, director of operations for Occupational Medicine at UCHealth, said UCHealth has vast resources and knowledge. During the pandemic, for instance, UCHealth served as a go-to resource in Colorado for accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines.
“We have infection prevention experts at our fingertips and resources we can tap,’’ Fontenot said. “All this benefits employers and employees, as well as the communities they serve.”
Caring for the whole employee
At Broadcom, after Leibow found his heart murmur, Clements followed up with his primary care provider.
“He listened to my heart, and I could tell it was serious,” Clements said.
Clements’ primary care physician referred him to Dr. Eks Wye Pollock, a cardiologist with UCHealth. They decided to monitor it for a few months, but Clements’ quality of life then began to suffer so much so that he struggled to keep up with his 81-year-old father.
“Wade (L. Clements) was found to have a severe mitral regurgitation, which is leakiness of the valve between the upper and lower chambers of the left side of the heart,” Pollock said.
On Oct. 5, 2020, Clements had heart valve replacement at UCHealth Medical Center of the Rockies. The surgery went well but his heart rate was still slow. On Oct. 9, 2020, doctors put in a pacemaker. On Nov. 16, 2020, Clements started cardiac rehab, and he’s continued exercising, feeling healthier now than he has in years.
“I was never a big runner, but when I was done with rehab I could do 40 minutes on the treadmill – I never even did that when I had a gym membership,” Clements said. “I’ve been keeping that up and going on walks every day. When the weather is nice, I go out on hikes.”
He’s also focused on his diet, and the experience also convinced him to make annual primary care visits a priority.
“You have to maintain a healthy active lifestyle if you want to stay around — that goes for everyone,” Clements said. “My whole experience with UCHealth was awesome. The staff was awesome. I’ve got nothing but good things to stay.”
He added, “I’ve very fortunate my employer has an on-site clinic. As for my heart condition, if I hadn’t had my yearly (work-related surveillance exam) then it would not have been detected until something had seriously gone wrong.”