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They treat the top killers

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For the 16th Arkansas Times' Best Doctors issue, we returned to an earlier theme: The deadliest diseases in Arkansas and who best treats them.

We asked doctors around the state, by means of an online survey and a mailout, to identify those physicians they'd go to for the treatment of heart disease (the number one killer in Arkansas and the U.S.), cancer (expected to pass heart disease in another decade), stroke, emphysema and other chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, flu and pneumonia, and kidney disease.

Our 26 top vote getters represent both town and gown — doctors in private practice and at the state's teaching institution, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. While you might expect the names on the list to have changed greatly since the Times first published a Best Doctors survey in 1995, 16 of the top doctors named here are repeat winners.

But there are new top doctors here, as well, like Dr. J.D. Day, chief of neurosurgery at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences since March. He talks about the rebuilding of the department at UAMS, which lost two of its star surgeons last year, in a story accompanying this one. Also new to the list: Dr. Scott Schlesinger, a neurosurgeon in private practice; he talks about his specialty — trigeminal neuralgia — in a separate story. As it happens, the doctor who was this year's most decisive winner was also a neurologist: Dr. Lee Archer, who's made the top spot in the Times' Best Doctor issues six times, talks about his special interest, multiple sclerosis, and stroke.

If you ask the state Health Department what the top killer of Arkansans is, they'll say tobacco. One in two people who smoke will die of a tobacco-related disease. So the Times talked to top private-practice hematologist/oncologist Dr. Brad Baltz, who treats lung cancer, about tobacco and patient attitudes. The Times also interviewed Dr. Ralph Broadwater, a five-time winner in the colorectal cancer surgeon category, who's become increasingly specialized in his practice in response to the depth of cancer care at UAMS.

A section of the Times' survey addressed Medicare participation, which according to some reports is declining in parts of the country because of threatened lower reimbursements. Anecdotal evidence suggests that is also happening in Arkansas, though only 36 doctors participating in the Times survey reported they'd dropped their Medicare patients. The state Medical Society says it's getting calls weekly from the public — including doctors — about difficulties in finding a Medicare provider.

Here's the line-up:

The best doctors 2010
The doctors' picks, in nine categories.

Medicare's senior moment
Anecdotal evidence suggests doctors dropping Medicare patients.

Lee Archer: Everyone's favorite neurologist

Ralph Broadwater: Refining his specialty at UAMS

Scott Schlesinger: A surgeon who says surgery should be 'last resort'

J.D. Day: Building a department at UAMS

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