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FirstHealth of the Carolinas
The importance of a primary care provider By Brenda Bouser
Steven Alexander, M.D.
Steven Alexander, M.D., is a new family medicine physician at FirstHealth Richmond Family Medicine.

Steven Alexander, M.D., never knows what to expect when he walks into an exam room at FirstHealth Richmond Family Medicine in Rockingham.

He might open the door to find a child with a sinus infection, or a woman with vaginal bleeding, or an elderly man with dementia.

“There’s really not a typical day for a primary care provider,” Dr. Alexander says. “You see so much variety.”

Dr. Alexander has been with Richmond Family Medicine just since September, but he’s already experienced the gamut of medicine. As a family care physician, he sees it all.

“You’re at the forefront of medicine,” he says. “You have to evaluate problems as they come in, and you have to know how to deal with them. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s very fulfilling.”

Exam Checklist

Depending on the extent of the exam, some or all of the following tests might be performed during a routine physical:

  • Blood pressure
  • Cholesterol
  • Skin cancer screening
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Fecal occult blood test
  • Height/weight
  • Urinalysis

Additional tests for women:

  • Pap smear
  • Pelvis and breasts

Additional tests for men:

  • Testicles
  • Prostate

By definition, a primary care provider, or PCP, is a health care provider who sees patients who are experiencing common medical problems. A PCP is usually, but not always, a doctor. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners who consult with physicians can also be primary care providers, and pediatricians and OB/GYN specialists often serve as primary care providers for specific populations.

Because your PCP is probably the provider you will see most often, it’s important to form a relationship with someone you’re comfortable with and who works in an office with a friendly and helpful staff that is good about returning calls.

Aside from identifying and treating common medical conditions and making referrals to specialists when necessary, a good PCP will also educate his/her parents about healthy lifestyle choices and provide preventive care. An annual routine physical is one of the best ways to communicate with your PCP about both.

“A lot of people don’t think they need to see a doctor,” Dr. Alexander says, “but our best bet for staying healthy is in terms of prevention. With a routine physical, we can prevent so many of the medical problems that affect our community—diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure—and the complications that arise from them. So many of these things can be prevented by taking one day out of the year to see your doctor. Prevention is key to staying healthy, and working with your doctor will go a long way in maintaining your quality of life.”