MedStar Health has expert adolescent medicine physicians who offer specialized, routine, and acute medical care to adolescents ages 12 through 22—all within a trusting and compassionate environment.
We know that many distinct challenges exist in adolescent and young adult health care. This is why we keep open minds and use a flexible, comprehensive, and collaborative approach to all who come to us; above all, we respect the autonomy of young patients and the concerns of their parents/guardians. Our approach is to foster a gradual shift of responsibility for a young person's health from parents to self.
Not only do we address our patients’ physical, developmental, and psychosocial health needs, we also promote the health and well-being of young people through educational outreach to the community, including families, schools, and other health professionals.
Transition of care policy for youth and young adults
We are committed to helping all of our patients have a smooth transition from pediatric to adult health care. This process requires working with our patients and their families to plan and prepare for transition starting around the 14th birthday. At age 18, youth in our practice will transition to an adult model of care with modifications as needed for youth with intellectual disabilities. We honor the preferences of the youth and family regarding a primary care medical home, which tends to occur by 22 years of age.
For young adults
At age 18, under the federal Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), access to the patient’s health records and any discussion about the patient’s health is only provided to people that the patient has consented to, including parents. If the patient wishes for their parents to discuss their health on the patient’s behalf, the patient will provide written consent to the health care provider by completing a form. These forms are called Protected Health Information Consent, Consent to Discuss Medical information, or Protected Health Information. Please ask a staff member if you would like to complete this today.
If you need access to your child’s records, your child must consent in writing to provide you access. Under HIPAA, medical providers are no longer permitted to discuss health issues with you without express consent from your now young adult. This is important to keep in mind when trying to call for health questions when your young adult is away at college. They will need to call themselves.
Checkups, health maintenance, and preventive health screening
We recommend a comprehensive annual checkup once a year for all of our patients, including those we see regularly at more focused visits. The annual checkup is an excellent time to discuss a broad range of health issues and have a complete physical examination. It is not just about filling out a health form (which we certainly do) but, more importantly, to renew our relationship, update immunizations and laboratory tests, and screen for any physical or psychosocial problems or health-risk behaviors that may need attention or anticipatory guidance. Many adult health problems have their origins in adolescence and young adulthood, so discussions about smoking, alcohol and drug use, sexuality, mood, nutrition, sleep, and exercise are among the important subjects we review.
The following are common issues we address. This list is certainly not comprehensive; the adolescent specialists at MedStar Health are always available to discuss your family’s needs. Please contact us.
Primary care physicians are typically among the first to be consulted about acute illnesses (such as respiratory infections, abdominal pain, urinary symptoms); we can generally offer same-day appointments.
The daunting developmental tasks of adolescence and young adulthood are to achieve a high level of independence and autonomy, a social and sexual identity that allows for enjoyment and intimacy, and clarity regarding one's place in society as a contributing adult within the context of a family and/or career. Therefore, the stages of adolescence and young adulthood are fast-paced, present high expectations for growth and change, and demand frequent adaptation to new situations.
As primary care providers, we are always available to talk with our patients about anything on their minds, including disagreements with parents or friends, roommate problems, romantic matters, stress at school or at work, or career direction. Such counseling is generally brief (a few visits) and focused.
Some adolescents or young adults may experience more serious developmental or emotional difficulties that require further in-depth evaluation and treatment. The Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Program at MedStar Health provides comprehensive outpatient evaluation and treatment for children and their families. Our clinicians work with patients ranging in ages from early childhood to young adulthood, and place special emphasis on understanding family functioning and relationships to make the most accurate diagnoses and provide the most useful treatment recommendations.
We can provide treatment for a number of concerns, including:
- Eating disorders and obesity
- Mood and anxiety disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder
- Disruptive behavior disorders
- Learning disorders
- Autism-spectrum disorders
- Struggling to adjust to stressful life situations
- Coping with medical illnesses
We offer a full spectrum of therapeutic services, including:
- Individual psychotherapy
- Family therapy
- Medication treatments
Health problems may arise when an individual is having difficulty in some part of their world, such as stressors at home, disappointment in a relationship with a friend or romantic partner, or major challenges at school or at work. Not infrequently, difficulty in one part of this world impacts another part, which then compounds the distress. This distress may present as a physical symptom—trouble with eating or sleeping—or, more commonly, affect one's mood and result in sadness, depression, and/or anxiety.
At such times, we offer our patient an opportunity to meet with us for counseling, to begin to talk about and gain insight into their difficulty, problem-solve their particular situation, and hopefully reduce their stress level. If the problem is severe, persistent, or complex, we refer our patient for additional evaluation and/or treatment with an appropriate mental health professional.
In collaboration with a mental health colleague who knows our patient well, but is not a physician, we may prescribe medication for a mood disorder, attention problem (ADD or ADHD), or sleep difficulties. Some adolescents or young adults may experience more serious developmental or emotional difficulties that require further evaluation and treatment with our adolescent psychologist or a community-based provider.
Our adolescent medicine providers offer care for people with various medical needs and conditions, including:
- Adolescent well visits, immunizations, and sports physicals
- Menstrual disorders and adolescent gynecology
- Young men's health and male reproductive health
- Complex medical diagnoses (e.g., chronic fatigue syndrome)
- ADHD/learning disorders
- Eating disorders
- Substance use and abuse
Gynecologic care provided in our office most often pertains to menstrual problems (periods that are too long, too heavy, too frequent, and/or too painful), vaginal discharge or discomfort, breast development or lumps, and sexuality-related care. We can also assist with any issues around young men's health and male reproductive health.
Sexuality-related care includes discussion about relationships, counseling regarding birth control and sexually transmitted diseases, prescribing birth control, and screening for and treating gynecologic—including sexually transmitted-infections.
An adolescent’s first gynecologic examination may be performed when a patient has a gynecologic concern or at some point soon after the onset of sexual activity (intercourse). If a patient has never had a gynecologic examination and has never had intercourse, we generally recommend the first routine examination take place between ages 18 and 21.
As part of providing preventive health care and anticipatory guidance to our patients, we regularly ask about their exposure to or use of cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, and/or drugs (including un-prescribed prescription and street drugs). Our role is to counsel our patients regarding the risks of using these substances, and to address with each patient the concerns regarding such use. For patients who smoke cigarettes, we hope to help them quit. Illicit drug use is a very serious concern that may require referral for care with a psychotherapist or substance abuse specialist.
As medical providers, we diagnose and manage any medical or metabolic conditions that may be related to overweight or difficulty with weight loss, and, on occasion, we prescribe medication. Our approach is individualized for each patient and family, addresses new strategies for dealing with particularly difficult times of the day or situations, includes attention to emotional triggers to overeating, emphasizes healthy and satisfying meals and snacks, and encourages activities that are both physical and fun.
The readiness to begin to work on nutritional concerns may be immediate for some, or develop more slowly for others, so we are always available to step in at the appropriate time. Our goal is to assist in achieving a healthy lifestyle and maximize the physical, emotional, and social well-being of each of our patients.
Adolescence is a time of rapid and dramatic growth and development that transforms the body from that of a child to that of an adult over a span of only a few years. Each adolescent grows and develops at his or her own time and pace. Puberty and growth are impacted by genetics, nutrition, exercise, and even stress. In some situations, we may feel it is necessary to perform laboratory tests to learn more about why a teen's growth and development are unusually precocious or delayed.
Dermatologic conditions (such as acne, allergic reactions, infections, and other eruptions) are also managed at our office. When necessary, we refer our patients to sub-specialists or dermatologists.
Adolescence and young adulthood are viewed as the healthiest times of life, when serious medical disorders are relatively uncommon; yet many young people do suffer from physical symptoms, such as excessive fatigue, dizziness, headaches, or pain in the abdomen, chest, or back. Besides causing discomfort, such symptoms interfere with their sense of well-being, create anxiety and worry, and sometimes affect attendance at school, work, or social activities. As medical providers, our role is to take a detailed history, perform a complete physical examination, and conduct appropriate tests to fully evaluate our patients' symptoms.