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Women and Healthcare

Melisa Adkins, CEO of Heartland Regional Healthcare, speaks during a community forum highlighting advances in healthcare for women on Thursday evening in Marion. 

MARION — Heartland Regional Medical Center hosted a community forum on Women and Healthcare on Thursday at Kokopelli Country Club.

The event highlighted advances in healthcare for women and of interest to families, as well as providing an opportunity to introduce new and returning staff.

Melisa Adkins, CEO of the hospital, welcomed the crowd and thanked staff for their hard work.

“Everybody has done a lot since I’ve been back,” Adkins, who returned to the hospital in February 2017, said. “I’m excited to see what we can for the community in years to come.”

Herby Voss, marketing director at Heartland, said the goal of the event was to educate community leaders to be vocal advocates for the hospital.

“This is an open dialogue. We are starting a conversation,” Voss said.

The first program featured was Telemedicine for Expectant Mothers. On Feb. 6, Heartland Regional Medical Center announced a new telemedicine partnership with between its Family Birthing Center and SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Hospital in St. Louis that gives neonatologists in St. Louis access to babies born in Marion through robotic telemedicine equipment.

Having the equipment and collaboration means that two out of five babies who need neonatal care do not have to be transferred to St. Louis.

Hans Driessnack, Heartland COO, and his wife, Beth, spoke about the birth of their daughter, Fiona, at the hospital.

Beth Driessnack talked about finding a doctor and giving birth at HRMC, calling it a great experience and giving a lot of credit to the experienced nursing staff in the Family Birthing Center.

“I could ask any question and felt like they were knowledgeable,” Beth Driessnack said.

Next, Dr. Suzanne Burge highlighted a new screening tool for cancer in a video.

“It helps us screen and see who is at risk for carrying a gene for cancer,” Burge said.

Based on a questionnaire, patients can receive a genetic test for genes known to cause cancer. A patient who had a mammogram showing “dense breast tissue,” which is common, was able to get a breast MRI because of the positive screening. The MRI showed stage 1 breast cancer, which is not usually detected on a mammogram.

“Screening leads to early detection which leads to early treatment. We have better outcomes when we catch it early,” said Dr. Sujatha Rao, hematologist/oncologist.

The evening included panel discussions on emergency care with Emergency Room Medical Director Dr. Todd Engdahl and ER Director Robert Eilers. They explained what happens when patients visit the ER by using the case of a child with breathing difficulties.

One of the ER facts highlighted is that all ER doctors are board-certified and residency trained in emergency medicine, which Engdahl said is unique for the area.

Nurse leaders Stephanie Langley, chief nursing officer, and Adkins talked about nursing staff and their importance to the hospital experience.

“I think it [nursing staff] is better than it’s been in years,” Adkins said.

Adkins said many good things are in the works, including more collaboration with St. Louis University Hospital and its doctors.

“We are looking at a lot of progressive things here at Heartland,” Adkins said.

For more information about the hospital and its services, visit



Marilyn Halstead is a reporter covering Williamson County.

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