KU School of Medicine–Wichita
1010 N. Kansas
Wichita, KS, 67214
December 20, 2018
Dr. Apeksha Sathyaprasad, right, checks the lungs of 14-month-old Collin Mann, while mom, Cristy, at left, runs interference in the KU Pediatrics Subspecialty Clinic in Wichita.
By Brian Whepley
Cristy and Scott Mann decided it was time for Collin to see a pulmonologist, as the toddler, unlike his twin brother, sometimes had difficulty breathing and had ended up in the hospital several times.
It was "scary how sick he was," said Cristy, an oncology nurse at Wichita's Wesley Medical Center, and time to have a specialist check out Collin, who was born prematurely.
Young teen Katisjisha Oliver, who suffers from cystic fibrosis and the treatments, infections and hospitalizations that accompany it, also came seeking answers. "I have been getting sick a lot. They really don't know what to do anymore," said Oliver, who rattles off her medications like a sports nut does lineups. "I'm energetic, but I'm just not getting better."
With the addition of pulmonologist Apeksha Sathyaprasad, M.D., to the KU Wichita Pediatrics faculty last summer, little Collin, teen Katisjisha and their families can now more readily access specialized care in Wichita instead of having to travel to Kansas City, Oklahoma or even Denver. Working out of the KU Wichita Pediatrics Subspecialty Clinic at Wesley Medical Center, Sathyaprasad joined a growing range of pediatric specialists employed by KU School of Medicine-Wichita.
"When I came here three years ago and visited with pediatricians and referring providers here and in the region, many mentioned a pulmonologist as the highest need," said Brian Pate, M.D., chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Wichita campus. "These physicians struggle to take care of patients with severe lung problems. That's forced families to travel outside of our state."
Larry Hund, M.D., a pediatrician practicing in Wichita since the early 1980s, said providers managed care as best they could during the five years without a pediatric pulmonologist. Natalie Sollo, M.D., associate professor at the Wichita campus, cared for many cystic fibrosis patients, and "we general pediatricians did everything we felt comfortable doing prior to sending the patient out of town," she said.
After medical school in India, Sathyaprasad did her pediatrics residency at Lincoln Hospital in New York City and then her pulmonology fellowship at St. Louis Children's Hospital-Washington University. Now, four days a week she sees patients at the subspecialty clinic and consults daily on ones in the ER and pediatrics unit at Wesley. She also sees patients at the cystic fibrosis clinic at Via Christi, which has a team of nurses, social workers, physicians and others supporting patients with the genetic lung disease.
She sees many patients with asthma - Collin doesn't likely have it, she tells his parents - and other breathing disorders. She does bronchoscopies, a procedure she likes because of the skill required and because they can be both diagnostic and therapeutic for patients.
Sathyaprasad was drawn to pulmonology during med school, when a mentor exposed her to the specialty, and she enjoys working with children, as was clear during her visits with Collin and Katisjisha.
Born at 34 weeks, Collin is a curious, busy little boy who has been on steroids and albuterol but who has generally been healthy in between illnesses that escalated into scary trips to the ER and pediatric intensive care.
"Do you want to play with this? Sathyaprasad asked Collin when putting her stethoscope within reach. "His lungs sound good," the doctor concluded.
With no family history of asthma, she thinks Collin's difficulties likely result from a combination of viruses and premature birth. Doctor and parents discuss treatments, concluding with a plan to use albuterol sooner, via an inhaler instead of the mask and nebulizer Collin resists, and to return in three months. The best news is Sathyaprasad's belief that "I don't think he has any other lung disease that's concerning at this point."
A few minutes later, teen Katisjisha requires a firmer but still friendly approach. It's her first visit to the new pulmonologist in town, so doctor and patient are getting to know each other. The questions fly: How's your cough? When is it worse? Are you taking all your medications? Are you doing your breathing treatments and using the vest? Under questioning, Katisjisha concedes - and Grandmother Carolyn Dickson backs it up - that she sometimes skips the time-consuming treatments with the device that inflates and deflates rapidly to break choking mucus from airway walls.
After Katisjisha rapidly runs through a dizzying list of antibiotics, enzymes, albuterol and more, the doctor concludes, "She knows all her medications. That's amazing."
They talk about genetic markers, whether dancing is a substitute for the vest ("No"), bacteria, Katisjisha's hair - "I love your hairstyle," the doctor proclaims - and promising new medications that could come in years ahead, if she keeps up her treatments and maintains her lung function.
They finally agree on a plan: increase vest sessions, work harder to cough out mucus, see an ENT to rule out sinus issues. And, being a teen, she gets the lecture and some sympathy, too, over using the vest: "You have to maintain the lung function you have. And that takes a lot of effort," Sathyaprasad tells her, while conceding, "I don't blame you for being frustrated."
The opportunity to set up a practice in an underserved area was one thing that drew her to Wichita. The medical school, where she is a clinical assistant professor, is another. "I have been teaching med students every month, giving sessions on pulmonology. They are really eager to learn. One of the reasons I decided to come here was it's affiliated with a medical school."
"We are all excited to have Dr. Sathyaprasad join our pediatric health care team in Wichita," Hund said. "She is a very well trained specialist who will provide extremely critical services to our children, and her presence will allow more of our patients to receive their health care locally. This is extremely important for relieving some of the stress for families with an ill child, not to mention the expense and time of traveling for health care."KU School of Medicine-Wichita