Finding the right spots that provide quality healthcare for children
BY ELLEN GILLETTE
Although South Florida enjoys a reputation as a retirement destination, almost 30 percent of Port St. Lucie is younger than 21.
Responsible parents place their children’s health and safety at the top of wish lists, so for those who want to find a local pediatrician or change pediatricians, the focus is on two of the fastest growing areas in St. Lucie County — St. Lucie West and Tradition.
New parents hesitate to take infants on trips, especially during the vital first few months, and no one wants to schlep a sick child further than necessary. Location, however, is only one consideration when choosing a pediatrician. A board-certified pediatrician has met certain requirements. A designation of FAAP — a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics — indicates a commitment to lifelong learning and advocacy for children. Check your insurance policy’s preferred provider list ahead of time. While not always an accurate barometer, patient reviews can provide insight.
It is reasonable to inquire about availability in case of a sick child or emergency and about the doctor’s hospital affiliations. A parent may prefer either a female or male physician, someone newly certified or with years of experience, a doctor who is also a parent or a bilingual office. Ask questions and expect friendly, patient and thorough responses.
Having narrowed down your list to two or three offices, a visit is recommended. Observe the atmosphere. Is the office clean? Inviting? Listen to how the staff speaks to patients, parents and each other. With infants particularly, you may be entering into a relationship that will last for many years — most pediatricians treat patients up to age 21. Although you can always switch doctors, the more you find out initially, the better your decision and experience will be.
We contacted doctors, staff or associates at the following pediatric offices in St. Lucie West and Tradition to help residents in those areas make informed decisions. In alphabetical order:
ABC Pediatrics, 437 S.W. Bethany Drive – 772.344.1775 or www.abcpediatricsofstlucie.com
Since 2007, ABC Pediatrics has been dedicated “to giving family-centered care from birth to later years in an affordable, high quality manner.” Office manager Hortensia Santana says that Dr. Maria Rizo’s personal interest in her patients sets the practice apart. “A few months ago, on a Saturday morning, she went to a patient’s home and drove mother and daughter to the ER herself,” Santana says.
Dr. Georges Guerrier has joined the practice after 20 years of service in St. Lucie County. Both doctors are in the office Monday through Friday, with extended hours in case of injury or illness; hospital privileges are with Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute in Fort Pierce. Four languages are spoken: English, Spanish, French and Creole. Although Rizo was diagnosed with cancer last year, Santana shared that she is now in remission and working full-time. Parents have 24/7 access to medical records online or through the Healow mobile app. ABC’s website includes a virtual tour of the office, and you may also find them on Facebook.
Bee Well Pediatrics, 10521 S.W. Village Center Drive, Suite 101-A at Tradition Station – 772.873.7114 or www.beewell-pediatrics.com/contact
Bee Well’s staff wants to make every experience with them “extraordinary,” earning the “Most Loved Pediatrician” award for the last three years from Hulafrog, a go-to website guide for life with kids. Reviewers consistently mention personal touches that are meaningful, such as follow-up calls from the office, an inviting atmosphere and being treated as individuals, not numbers. Dr. Veronica Espinoza is affiliated with Tradition Medical Center and has a bilingual female staff. Helpful FAQs (frequently asked questions) are answered on the website which also provides links for such things as vaccine information and tips for expectant or breastfeeding moms. In addition to well visits and same-day visits for sickness and injuries, Bee Well diagnoses and treats ADHD, provides adolescent gynecological management and pierces infants’ ears, if desired.
Martin Health Physician Group/Cleveland Clinic, 1095 N.W. St. Lucie West Blvd. - 772.785.5505 or www.martinhealth.org/pediatric-care-mhpg
The Cleveland Clinic has been a respected name in health care since 1921. Communications specialist Donna Murphy points out that Cleveland Clinic’s pediatric practices have pediatric care coordinators who work closely with physicians and families, helping navigate medical services and/or specialized resources including home care, behavioral health, respite and health education. The St. Lucie West office has three doctors and one nurse practitioner; a particular physician may be requested for appointments. Labs and imaging can be done on-site. Through their Jensen Beach office, they offer Saturday walk-in availability for sick children. Doctors see patients for outpatient services, but if a child is admitted to Tradition Medical Center, he or she is seen by pediatric hospitalists, neonatologists and pediatric cardiologists from Nemours Children’s Hospital through its affiliation with Cleveland Clinic.
Optimal Care Pediatrics, 150 S.W. Chamber Court, Suite 101 – 772.301.0123 or www.optimalcarepeds.com
Dr. Monique Mondesir and her staff incorporate the latest developments in technology and treatments, believing that your child “deserves optimal care.” Mondesir, the mother of two, is also part of the Florida State University Medical College faculty and is on the board of directors for the Selective Mutism Association focused on that particular anxiety disorder. Her book, Mason Is Learning to Roar, addresses selective mutism as well, and is available on Amazon. An online office tour can prepare children for an upcoming visit to Optimal Care Pediatrics, located near St. Lucie West Boulevard and California. Office hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The practice is on Facebook and Instagram. The practice has consistently received a “5-star” rating; reviewers mention that they don’t feel rushed at appointments; a portal gives 24-hour access to patient information.
Pediatric Associates, St. Lucie West; 1850 S.W. Fountainview Blvd., Suite 105 - 772.336.2818 or https://www.pediatricassociates.com/locations/st-lucie/st-lucie-west
A staff of six physicians and four nurse practitioners at the St. Lucie West location of 60-year-old Pediatric Associates enables patients to be seen 365 days a year. They offer after-hours sick care and virtual office visits through KidzDocNow for minor issues. The website includes resource material for childhood medical concerns, including a video library of helpful topics. Corporately owned, Pediatric Associates offers lab and X-rays on-site, support groups, classes and events. Regular hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with after hours 6-8:30 p.m. Appointments may be scheduled online. Pediatric Associates accepts most insurances and may be found on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube. Doctors are affiliated with both Lawnwood and Tradition hospitals.
Physicians for Children, 555 N.W. Lake Whitney Place, Suite E102 – 772.873.4585 – on Facebook
Doctors Ramon Chiong and Wendell Koblegard are joined by three nurse practitioners and additional staff, all affiliated with Lawnwood Regional Medical Center & Heart Institute in Fort Pierce. The practice was the 2015/2016 winner of the Macaroni Kid PSL Gold Daisy Award for favorite local pediatrician. One personal touch they provide is taking their own calls. A service relays after-hours calls to the doctor, who then contacts parents directly. Twelve years ago, after having opened a practice in Fort Pierce, Physicians for Children moved to the Lake Whitney professional complex tucked behind Walmart on St. Lucie West Boulevard. Understanding that injuries and sicknesses don’t take holidays, they remain open when many offices are closed, such as for several hours on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. They are open Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. See their Facebook page for product recalls, health information and links to helpful articles.