The Value of Regional Obstetrical Care
Stephanie Foughty, MD, first became interested in obstetrics—the branch of medicine that focuses on pregnancy and childbirth— during her third year in medical school at the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks.
“I participated in the ROME program, which stands for Rural Opportunities in Medical Education, and did a six-month rotation here in Devils Lake,” Dr. Foughty says. “Seeing obstetrics through the family medicine lens is what really inspired my passion.”
After earning her medical degree, Dr. Foughty went on to complete both her family medicine residency and obstetrics fellowship at Altru Health System. She is now the department chair at Altru Clinic in Devils Lake and a board-certified family medicine physician with a special interest in obstetrics and women’s health.
Care With The Whole Family In Mind
Dr. Foughty is one of four providers at Altru Clinic in Devils Lake who offer obstetrical care—a service she says is crucial in rural areas.
“In a lot of these smaller towns in North Dakota and the greater Midwest, you have higher percentages of people who are struggling with issues related to poverty and substance misuse,” Dr. Foughty says. “As a result, you have sicker, higher-risk patients who are unable to travel long distances for care. If they do not have access to local care, they might not have access at all.”
Altru Clinic in Devils Lake helps bridge this care gap by offering a full spectrum of obstetrical services, including preconception counseling, vaginal and cesarean section deliveries, and beyond, and diagnosis and management of more complicated obstetrical issues, such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, in addition to traditional family medicine.
“If Altru Clinic in Devils Lake did not have providers capable of offering specialty services, our patients would have to travel 90 miles for obstetrical care.” – Dr. Foughty
“We take care of the mom, baby, father and other children all in one visit,” Dr. Foughty says. “For example, I might see a baby for his or her well-child checkup and notice that the mom, whom I cared for throughout her pregnancy, looks down. I can address the fact that she may or may not have postpartum depression right then and there. If I were a pediatrician, I would have to get that mom into another appointment with a different provider.”
By offering both family medicine and obstetrical services, Dr. Foughty says she is also able to address certain women’s health-related needs, such as recommended vaccinations and screenings, that may otherwise be missed.
“There is still some truth to what people say about patients in farming communities—that they only come in when they are sick,” Dr. Foughty says. “However, the good news is that I can see a patient for a cough or cold and notice they are long overdue for a Pap test. Then, instead of having to make a referral, I can ask whether that is something they want to take care of that day or if they would prefer to schedule a future visit.”
Additionally, if patients do require the services of an obstetrician, Altru Clinic in Devils Lake is able to help co-manage that care. Outreach services from obstetrics and gynecology physician, Joshua Sayler, MD, are available at the Altru Clinic in Devils Lake once a month.
“Thanks to modern technology and a broad network of specialists within Altru, we work closely with other providers to help support our patients,” Dr. Foughty says. “This allows us to act as a coordinator for our patients’ care and, in the event that they are ever unable to travel to see their specialist, cover some of those appointments in between.”
Altru provides care throughout Northeast North Dakota and Northwest Minnesota, with clinics conveniently located in several communities. Find a clinic close to at altru.org/locations.