Tackling the Gut Glut


Poor Diet, Obesity Boosting Need for Children’s GI Care in Louisiana

Twelve-year-old Luci Geoffroy had no idea it would take doctors several months to figure out how to relieve the nausea and abdominal pain she began to experience in December 2014.

Pale and lethargic, Luci grew too weak to attend school and ended up spending months confined to her home in Erath, La. “Something was wrong, but I didn’t know what,” says her mom, Misty Geoffroy, a second-grade teacher.

A variety of tests failed to pinpoint the cause of Luci’s digestive distress, and at one point she spent four days in the hospital. But things finally started to look up when Luci saw a specialist who treats gastrointestinal disorders in children.

Ghanim Aljomah, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist, solved Luci’s medical mystery. He found that by adjusting Luci’s diet, all of the symptoms would clear up.

Best of all, she and her mom wouldn’t have to make the three-hour round trip to Baton Rouge for Luci’s care. Dr. Aljomah could treat Luci at the Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital Pediatric Specialty Clinic in Lafayette, which opened in June.

“For the most part, Luci is feeling 100 percent better,” her mom says.

Growth of Pediatric Gastroenterology

Luci is one of a large and growing number of children and teens in Louisiana who need gastroenterology care. What’s driving the increased demand for GI care?

At the top of the list, says Dr. Aljomah, is a modern lifestyle dominated by junk food. As well as causing childhood obesity, poor diet is behind a host of functional digestive diseases and ailments.

Additionally, improved neonatal intensive care at birth means more children born prematurely or with serious medical problems are surviving, says pediatric gastroenterologist J. Brannon Alberty, MD; and many of those children have complicated digestive disorders.

On top of all of that, parents of children with chronic digestive illness are more proactive in seeking relief for their children.

“We know there’s a tsunami of medical problems coming in the next 10 to 30 years as they enter adulthood," says Dr. Alberty. "We’re trying to nip this in the bud as much as we can.”

Extending Patient-centered Specialty Care

Establishing specialty clinics is a way to provide the best care possible for families who live an hour or more from Baton Rouge. “It’s easier for my team and me to travel than it is for individual families to come to Baton Rouge,” says Dr. Aljomah. “We can see 12 to 15 kids in a day at the Lafayette clinic, and the kids we see are usually quite sick and it’s hard for them to travel.”

Dr. Patrice Tyson specializes in treating childhood obesity. The Lafayette specialty GI clinic is the first of several opened throughout Louisiana. The second clinic opened in Hammond in October and is headed up by Patrice Tyson, MD, who also specializes in treating childhood obesity at the Pediatric Specialty Clinic in Baton Rouge.

A third clinic opened in Monroe in early December. Experienced pediatric gastroenterologists Meredith Hitch, MD, and Elizabeth McDonough, MD, will provide care there. The new clinics provide convenient, specialized GI care, and they also provide families with better access to the growing number of specialists and sub-specialists at Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital in Baton Rouge.

The new specialty clinics are changing how kids receive life-saving care in Louisiana and beyond. “This is about helping those who really need it,” Dr. Alberty says. The Lafayette Pediatric Specialty Clinic is located at 5000 Ambassador Caffery Parkway, Suite 101. The Hammond clinic is located at 15800 Professional Plaza Club Deluxe Road. The Monroe clinic is located at 2600 Tower Drive, Suite 215.

To reach the clinics or to make appointments, call our Pediatric Specialty Clinic at (225) 765-6834.