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This article was originally published Fall 2022 in The Monitor magazine.


Primary care is truly at the heart of wellness. If you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. That has long been the mantra for Kimberly and Brian Dum of Stoutsville and their four children – Mason, Carson, Lilyann and Branson. Having watched their oldest son Mason, 21, manage diabetes and their only daughter Lilyann, 16, overcome the challenges of spina bifida, Kimberly and Brian understand the importance of preventative care in disease management, and the impact that serious health conditions can have on the family unit. So when it came time to find a primary care provider who could meet their entire family’s unique needs, they wanted someone special in their corner.

That someone turned out to be Brandie Herdlitzka, CNP, a certified nurse practitioner with Fairfield Healthcare Professionals Family Medicine of Amanda and one of the Dum family’s biggest supporters in their journey toward better health and wellness. The Dums began seeing Brandie shortly after she joined the practice in 2019, and they now consider her a part of their boisterous and fun-loving family.

“I don’t know what we would have done without her,” Kimberly said. “God has truly put her in our lives at a time when we most needed her. I’ve had some health issues that I was unable to talk to anybody about, and she has listened to me and believes in me. She is absolutely a part of my family.”

Each member of the Dum family can recall a time when Brandie helped them through a unique challenge or obstacle. Brian, who has diabetes, said it was Brandie who helped him get his blood sugar under control and manage the stress of caring for his mother when she was ill. For Lilyann, Brandie is the one who inspired her to set goals that she might have otherwise deemed impossible, such as walking without crutches or driving a car. When the entire family contracted COVID-19 at the height of the pandemic, it was Brandie who called them multiple times at home to ease their fears and coach them through the worst of the illness.

“She’s kind of like another parent,” Mason said. “She has personally helped me with my diabetes and with my anxiety. She helps us focus in on the end goal.”

Primary care is often viewed as the building block of a healthy life by focusing first and foremost on the prevention of disease. In many cases, visiting a primary care provider is the patient’s first step to finding answers to their questions and solutions to their concerns. It is recommended that patients, regardless of their age, visit a primary care provider once a year for a routine wellness exam.

Brian said he and his family look forward to those annual visits with Brandie, as it gives them peace of mind and an opportunity to refocus on their personal health goals. “When I show up for my annual appointment, I sometimes go in there concerned about everyone else, and Brandie will say, ‘No, we’re going to take care of you today. This time is for you,’ ” Brian said.

Carson agreed. “I don’t feel like I am at a doctor office, I feel like I am talking to a friend,” he said. “Brandie is so easy to talk to and so caring about not just my physical health, but my overall life.”

For Brandie, having a close relationship with her patients and getting to know them as individuals is essential in providing them with the best care and treatment. She likes to talk with patients about their lives and learn more about their interests and passions (12-year-old Branson jokes that Brandie never tires of listening to him talk about his favorite topic, the video game Minecraft).

“If you do not get to know your patients, you cannot properly treat them,” Brandie said. “I tell people that sometimes I talk too much, but my true goal is to get to know my patient, get to know their history – not only health history, but their social history. I want people to feel comfortable talking to me and to understand that I’m not here to be judgmental. I am here to be a cheerleader for their health.”

Brandie added that there are benefits to having one provider who cares for the entire family. The provider has the opportunity to get to know each member of the family and understand how certain events or milestones, such as graduation, a new job or an upcoming trip, are impacting the family as a whole.

“It’s called family practice for a reason; we care for the whole family, and we understand the impact family has on your overall health,” Brandie said. “It gives us the ability to diagnose hereditary problems quicker. It gives the family a safe place to feel comforted and cared for. As a provider, when you are caring for more than one family member, you see them more often and have the ability to touch base with them more frequently, which helps build trust.”

Trust, along with compassion and empathy, are among the
main reasons why the Dum family said Brandie has made such a difference in their lives over the past three years. Kimberly recalls one such instance when she knew with absolute certainty that Brandie was the right provider for her family.

“Brandie had seen Mason at the grocery store where he works, and she asked him how the family was doing, and he told her that I had been dealing with a headache for about a week,” Kimberly said.

“Brandie called me and said, ‘Girl, what’s going on?’ I knew at that moment that I was in the right place. Just the empathy that she cares about me as a person, and wants to make life better for my family, has made all the difference.”

To learn more about primary care services at Fairfield Medical Center, click here.


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