Mid-America Gastro-Intestinal Consultants
Ensuring Patient Care is Always Priority #1
When it comes to overall digestive health, patients are in good hands with these top-notch digestive health specialists, whose primary emphasis is on health promotion and disease prevention.
Struggling with a chronic illness or disease is a challenge no one wants to bear. Both physically and emotionally exhausting, it can certainly take its toll on the individual and his or her family. Fortunately, Kansas City is known for its diverse, experienced and talented collective of physicians, nurses, clinicians and all other health care personnel who are fiercely dedicated to providing the utmost in patient care through leading technologies while simultaneously lending an arm of compassion and support. Among the leaders in this regard are the health professionals at Mid-America Gastro-Intestinal Consultants. Since its inception in 1984, the physicians at the helm of this leading GI practice know exactly what it means to deliver quality service through the best in technologies, education and experience.
With its main location at St. Luke’s Medical Plaza near the Plaza at 4321 Washington Street, the practice also has an office up north just off 152 Highway on 9411 N. Oak Trafficway. The north office is undergoing exciting expansions to accommodate patients with an even greater degree of services and specialty care.
According to Jennifer Sipershteyn, practice manager, the group currently has three full-time physicians, including Dr. Mark Allen, Dr. J. Edward McCullough, and Dr. Hillary Bownik, who has recently joined the ranks of this outstanding group of professionals. Additionally, the team has a nurse practitioner, Sandra Hoover, two dedicated infusion nurses, along with a solid team of endoscopic nurses, medical assistants, clinicians and administrative staff.
“Our goal is to expand our north office, especially with respect to the infusion services we offer our patients,” explained Sipershteyn.
Unlike other practices, this group of physicians actually accepts patients from other gastrointestinal doctors for infusion services when those physicians don’t offer it in their own practices.
“We then send those patients back to their doctors who continue to fully monitor them,” noted Sipershteyn, who further explained that the drugs they administer are biologic, which are genetically-engineered proteins derived from human genes deigned to inhibit certain aspects of the immune system that exacerbate inflammation. However, these drugs do come with potential side effects that must be continually monitored.
“We observe our patients and those individuals who are not expressly our patients and will also draw labs on them while they are being infused. To us, we simply see that as having two sets of eyes on the patients,” said Sipershteyn.
With a focus on all IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) patients, Mid-America Gastro-Intestinal Consultants offers Remicade, a biologic drug indicated for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease but has also proven to be effective in treating rheumatoid arthritis and inflammation associated with IBD. Other infusion drugs administered here include Entyvio, Stelara, and Injectafer. When patients choose to have their infusions through an in-office visit instead of going to the hospital, they save time and money. Plus, it is far easier and more convenient for the patient.
“We have an infusion room designed to accommodate four chairs, and as we are in the process of expanding our office up north, we are also focusing on offering patients more privacy, making the experience as relaxing as possible for them,” noted Sipershteyn.
Highly experienced in the gastrointestinal arena, Dr. Bownik came on board in February, bringing with her not only a wealth of talent, experience and knowledge, but also an obvious heart of compassion for the patients she treats and serves. Armed with an impressive resume, Dr. Bownik, a native Kansas Citian and graduate of Pembroke Hill, earned her undergraduate degree in English and Pre-Professional Studies from the University of Notre Dame in 2002 graduating summa cum laude, followed by her Doctorate of Medicine from George Washington University, from which she graduated with distinction. She then transitioned to complete her internship and residency at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center in 2010, followed by her fellowship in gastroenterology at Northwestern University in Chicago, Illinois, where she was recognized as chief fellow in 2014.
Further, Dr. Bownik was an IBD Advanced Fellow and Instructor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine until 2015 and since that time has been a practicing GI specialist in Los Angeles and in Kansas City for a cumulative total of nine years.
Professional associations include membership in the American Gastroenterology Association (AGA); the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG), and certification with the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM). What is most notable among her prolific distinctions, however, is her dedication to working with her patients to provide superior care through the best in technology, education and expertise through her specialty in Inflammatory Bowel Disease, commonly referred to as IBD.
Clinically speaking, IBD involves chronic inflammation of any or all of one’s digestive tract and mainly includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. While there are marked similarities between the two diseases, there are also certain differences.
An inflammatory disease, ulcerative colitis causes long-lasting inflammation and ulcers in the inner most lining of the large intestine and rectum. On the other hand, Crohn’s disease presents as inflammation of the full thickness/transmural lining of the digestive tract. This inflammation has the propensity to spread deeper into affected tissues and can involve other areas of the digestive tract, including either the large or small intestine, or sometimes both.
“With ulcerative colitis, patients usually have loose and/or bloody stools, diarrhea, and evidence of weight loss,” explained Dr. Bownik. “With Crohn’s disease, patients may also have diarrhea and weight loss, but typically have less bloody stools. They can also experience significant pain. Further, this disease can affect the patient anywhere from the mouth to the rectum.”
It was during her time at Northwestern that Dr. Bownik was exposed to the discipline of IBD and from there the spark was ignited.
“This is a disease that delivers complex cases and involves a population for which you become the consistent provider of patients,” noted Dr. Bownik, who worked with Dr. Stephen Hanauer at Northwestern. She then worked alongside two additional esteemed physicians Dr. Gary Lichtenstein and Dr. James Lewis at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I had phenomenal experiences that introduced me to so many complex cases, giving me the opportunity to learn so much,” reflected Dr. Bownik. After working for a year in Los Angeles, she circled back around to her hometown and accepted the position at Mid-America Gastro-Intestinal Consultants.
“I chose this position because there is a very bountiful IBD population here and also because the set-up of this practice is similar to the other places I have worked in that the environment is small enough for us to get to know the patients while still providing a multidisciplinary approach for the patients in terms of managing their illness. This has been a good fit for me and I believe there is a strong need here for this service,” said Dr. Bownik. “The entire staff is extremely nice, helpful and 100% involved with the care of the patients, making it easy and convenient for the patients to receive treatment.”
Dr. Bownik is excited about how Mid-America Gastro-Intestinal Consultants can offer a better quality of life for its patients.
“We have so much more to offer with medications to make them feel well, so that they can get back to work; attend that wedding; or just go out to dinner without the anxiety of a flare-up,” she noted. “The anti-TNF medications (designed to reduce inflammation and slow the progression of disease) have vastly improved our ability to care for our patients while also decreasing the need for surgeries and avoiding further complications down the line. We are seeing a change in a positive direction of outcomes, from patients being sick to realizing a better quality of life. Our desire is to improve normal bowel function.”
Dr. Bownik noted that while there is currently no cure for IBD, there is hope for remission of the symptoms.
“Our goal is to get the patient to feel clinically well,” she said. “We want to allow the gut to heal so that there are less complications down the line, thereby possibly preventing subsequent surgeries and hospitalizations.”
The infusion treatments offered by Dr. Bownik and the team require two types of medication, one that is directed towards times when symptoms flare and another targeted towards keeping the patient in remission.
“We now have new medications for IBD and new methods for lab testing and monitoring the patient,” noted Dr. Bownik. “Remicade, one of the drugs we administer, can do both.”
Dr. Bownik explained that patients undergo infusion therapy as a means of maintenance to keep the symptoms away and to avoid the body making antibodies against these medications. Additionally, patients may take weekly shots and/or daily oral medications.
While certainly side effects can arise, including the risk of respiratory infections, increased incidences of non-melanomatous skin cancers and lymphomas or the reactivation of TB or Hepatitis B, Dr. Bownik assured that such frightening situations are rare.
“The most common side effect is infection,” she stated. “But we carefully and properly monitor patients’ blood counts, fully understanding that our patients require a different set of health maintenance due to both the medications delivered and the disease itself.”
Among the services offered at Mid-America Gastro-Intestinal Consultants include colonoscopies, EGDs, infusion therapy, sigmoidoscopies, capsule endoscopies, and other special procedures, such as tests that can detect lactose intolerance to non-invasive endoscopies. This practice is committed to these procedures that are both innovative and highly effective in diagnosing and treating digestive health problems. These group of specialty physicians focuses on the diagnosis of and effective treatment of digestive diseases, emphasizing health promotion and prevention as an integral piece of their practice. When it comes to matters of digestive health, patients can rest easy in the hands of this practice, knowing every measure is being taken towards each individual’s overall health.
“Patient care is our top priority,” smiled Dr. Bownik. “We work to get the patients what they need and effectively address their symptoms.”
Dr. Bownik also emphasized the importance of routine screening exams, and gave a strong nod to the month of March as Colon Cancer Awareness Month.
“Colon cancer is currently the #2 cause of cancer related deaths in men and # 3 cancer related deaths in women the United States,” she noted. “Excluding skin cancers, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer diagnosed in both men and women in the United States, and early diagnosis of this disease is critical to our abilities to cure the patient.”
And while it may seem to be a bit challenging and disheartening at times to see patients suffer, Dr. Bownik maintains a positive focus on all that she does.
“It is very rewarding for me to be in a position to help someone and to see them improve, embracing a better quality of life,” she reflected.