Better Together: Unified, Streamlined OB-GYN Care in Calvert

From left to right: Dr. Mitra Nassiraee, Dr. Ranette Marshall, Dr. Michelle Johnson, Dr. Barbara Estes (seated), Nurse Practitioner Deborah Davis, Dr. Aparajita Mahata and Dr. Hilary Ginter

Women seeking high-quality, comprehensive, and continuous gynecological and obstetrical care in Southern Maryland can fi nd it in Calvert county. From routine health screenings to high-risk pregnancy, options exist for patients to be treated within the same system throughout the cycle of care.

In November 2016, the providers of Calvert OB/GYN Associates of Southern Maryland joined Calvert Women’s Center. Calvert Women’s Center is part of Calvert Physician Associates (CPA), the employed-provider network of Calvert Health System.

Drs. Barbara Estes, Hilary Ginter, Michelle Johnson and WHNP Deborah Davis join Drs. Aparajita Mahata, Ranette Marshall and Mitra Nassiraee in treating adolescent and adult women’s health issues. They specialize in reproductive, pelvic and obstetric health, breast and gynecologic cancer screening and evaluation, contraception, menopause and post-menopausal issues and preventative gynecologic care.

With locations in Prince Frederick, Dunkirk and Solomons, Calvert Women’s Center serves women in Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties. By merging their practices, the seven women’s health care specialists are able to access medical records for all their patients, providing better information sharing when the providers see each other’s patients. Dr. Barbara Estes, MD, FACOG and chair of the Obstetrics and Gynecology department at Calvert Memorial Hospital (CMH) says that joining Calvert Women’s Center “ensures that we all able to work together more effi ciently to get our patients the care they need.

“We had been sharing after-hours call schedules and taking care of each other’s patients for quite some time, so combining our practices was just the next logical step. When I see one of Dr. Mahata’s patients in the delivery room or if she sees one of mine, we have full access to all the information we need to provide the most appropriate care to the patient, regardless of whose patient she is.”

The ability to access patient information extends to all the primary and specialty care providers within the CPA network, something the providers from Calvert OB/GYN were previously not able to do. “This is great for our patients,” said Dr. Estes. “If a patient needs to see a specialist or even a primary care provider, we know exactly who to call and can share all the information needed to get that patient the best care possible in a timely manner.”

Managing High Risk Pregnancies

Dr. Aparajita Mahata, MD, FACOG and long-time OB/GYN with Calvert Women’s Center, is particularly proud of the specialty care that Calvert Women’s Center offers their high risk OB patients. “We work with the high risk OB doctors in Annapolis and Waldorf and have a direct connection with Dr. Althaus at Johns Hopkins,” she says. “When we have complications with a high risk patient, Dr. Althaus makes sure our patients get into Hopkins right away.”

About 50% of pregnancy patients are considered high risk. This includes potential complications from advanced maternal age, high blood pressure or diabetes. The doctors work together to develop a personalized care plan to help high-risk moms deliver healthy babies in the most appropriate facility. “Most of our mothers prefer to deliver at CMH whenever possible, and they can as long as they are not pre-term and their risk condition is managed,” says Dr. Mahata. “If they are before 35 weeks or even after 36 weeks but with, for example, a cardiac anomaly that requires surgery immediately on delivery, we will do all the prenatal work here and manage their care so that they can deliver at Hopkins or where ever is most appropriate for the mother and baby.” This minimizes commutes while ensuring the appropriate level of care for each situation.

The Family Birth Center at Calvert Memorial Hospital

All Calvert Women’s Center doctors have privileges and deliver babies at the Family Birth Center at CMH. The doctors and the nursing staff who support them are very proud of the level of care they provide to the babies they delivery here and their moms. “Our delivery room nurses are really smart; they work hard to provide absolutely the best level of care for the patients and they know exactly how to handle emergencies,” says Dr. Mahata. “I have patients who have delivered in Annapolis or Baltimore or other hospitals and they all say that they would come back here for their next delivery because of the standard of personalized care they receive here,” she says.

Calvert resident Trudy Woodland, who has had three babies at CMH under the care of Dr. Mitra Nassiraee, MD, confirms this sentiment. “Dr. Mitra was so personable and caring throughout my [first] pregnancy that my husband and I fell in love with [her],” adding that they considered Nassiraee part of their family, even naming their second daughter after her. Woodland and her family left Calvert for five years and returned to Southern Maryland when she was 34 weeks pregnant. She felt relieved and confident about giving birth at CMH under the care of Dr. Mitra once again. “I think it says a great deal about the hospital when the quality of care I received remained excellent between the first and third child.”

CMH recently announced renovations to the Family Birth Center that will enhance the comfort level for patients and their families.

The Center is being equipped with additional state-of-the-art technology, including an additional Panda® infant warmer, fetal monitor, portable infant monitor and updated nurse call system that gives doctors and nurses essential communications tools to care for mothers and babies during and after delivery.

“It is all about improving the safety and ease of giving birth,” says Dr. Estes. “With private birthing rooms we promote longer skin-to-skin time immediately after birth, which helps with bonding and nursing. We try to let our moms deliver vaginally whenever possible, but when we have to perform a C-section, we have special drapes in the OR that allow the mother to see her baby immediately following the birth. If mother and baby are both stable, we let them return to the labor room to bond.”

‘Baby Friendly’ Designation

“I just love all the babies that are born here!” says Patty Sanford, a long-time Family Birth Center nurse.

CMHs Family Birth Center is one of only six hospitals in Maryland to receive the coveted ‘Baby Friendly’ designation, a world-wide movement sponsored by the World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to improve infant health through breast feeding and improve family bonding from birth through extensive skin-to-skin contact between the baby and mother immediately upon delivery.

“The Baby Friendly designation is about maternal care and infant care and breast feeding and creating a safe and nurturing environment for baby and mom to bond,” says Dr. Mahata.

As part of the initiative, the Center provides on-site lactation consultants to help with nursing issues and Nurturing Necessities, an on-site specialty store for moms and babies, hosts a weekly breastfeeding support group. Betty Ellis is a certified lactation consultant and champion of breastfeeding awareness at CMH. She is the driving force behind the passion for lactation and is praised by moms and doctors alike for her role in helping mothers give their babies the best start. Local mom Krystal (who asked to be identified only by her first name) has birthed all three of her children at CMH and is grateful for the support she received. “Betty is amazing!” she says of Ellis, who helped her to successfully breastfeed all three of her children. “I have had three wonderful experiences at CMH!”

The women of Southern Maryland will benefit from the merging of Calvert OB/GYN of Southern Maryland into Calvert Women’s Center. The unified practice with its integrated medical records systems and access to CPAs network of primary care and specialty providers offers a seamless experience for women at any stage of their reproductive lives.

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Crystal Brandt is a freelance writer and contributor to WOMAN magazine. A Southern Maryland native, she lived in New York City for almost 8 years before returning to St. Mary's County in 2007. She has taught writing and literature in Maryland and New York, including courses at St. Mary's College of Maryland, Pratt Institute, and Brooklyn College. She earned a B.A. in English (2000) from the University of Maryland - College Park and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing (2006) from Brooklyn College. In addition to writing, her interests include making and talking about music, practicing yoga and meditation, and experimenting with her blender and bread machine.