Holy Cross Medical Center is the central hub for health care in north-central New Mexico. Our hospital and clinics are home to over 80 physicians, covering a variety of ever-expanding specialties that include internal medicine, wound care, dermatology, ob/gyn, orthopedics, general surgery, urology and a fully-staffed emergency department.
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Dr. Steven Slikkers is a Board-Certified general surgeon and has been practicing in Michigan for the past 18 years. Steven graduated from the Loma Linda School of Medicine in 1999 and completed a 5-year residency at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota. Holy Cross Medical Center is proud to welcome Dr. Slikkers to our team of surgeons at Holy Cross Surgical Specialties.
When asked why he pursued a career in Medicine, Dr. Slikkers responded “I always felt like Medicine was my calling. I don’t think there is a higher honor than when a patient lets me help them. At the end of the day, if I can help someone heal, that’s it, that’s what I love.”
After his residency at the Mayo Clinic, Steven became one of five partners at Grand Traverse Surgery, a private practice surgical group. After fourteen years of private practice, the partners dissolved the practice and joined the team at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, MI.
While general surgery can encompass a broad range of services, Dr. Slikkers specializes in minimally invasive procedures known as laparoscopic surgery. Minimally invasive techniques for surgeries mean that operations are often faster, less painful, and require a lot less recovery time. This allows surgery patients to get back to doing what they love quicker. Steven specializes in many advanced laparoscopic techniques including laparoscopic colorectal cases, anti-reflux surgery, surgical oncology, gastrointestinal conditions, and hernia repairs; including surgery for endocrine disorders of the parathyroid and thyroid, breast cancer, and endoscopy.
Steven and his wife Holly share three children and a small brigade of pets. While he is excited to bring his services to Taos, employment is not his only reason for making the move. Years ago Holly visited northern New Mexico and was so moved by her experience in the Southwest that she told Steven that if they ever had the opportunity to move to the Southwest, they should take it. Steven and his wife are very excited to bring their two teenage daughters, five horses, and five dogs to Taos. The move will also allow them to be closer to their son who is attending college in southern Colorado.
Along with their shared fondness for the Southwest and a welcome change in the weather, the family is excited about all the outdoor adventure that Taos has to offer. Outside of work, Steven is an avid skier, hiker, and fly fisherman.
“Along with the weather, one of the big reasons we are drawn to Taos is the diversity of the culture. We are very excited to get immersed in the culture and experience what Taos has to offer.”
When asked about professional highlights in his career, Steven responded “I was privileged to attend the Mayo Clinic for my residency, but as a surgeon, you don’t get awards for the most surgeries, or perfect surgeries. For me, when I help a person get better, that’s a highlight.”
Dr. Slikkers is passionate about his work and is excited to begin serving the medical needs of northern New Mexico.
Most people think that a “speech therapist” helps people who have a lisp or need to re-learn how to talk after a stroke. This is true, but you might be surprised to find out that Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) do much more than this. Did you know that Medical Speech-Language Pathologists are experts in swallowing disorders?
Swallowing is a complex process. Under normal circumstances, we swallow about 500 to 2000 times daily. Swallowing requires the concerted actions of about 50 pairs of muscles and 5 main cranial nerves (nerves in the skull).
People with “dysphagia”have difficulty swallowing and may even experience pain while swallowing. Some people may be completely unable to swallow or may have trouble safely swallowing liquids, foods, or saliva. When that happens, eating becomes challenging or even impossible. Often, dysphagia makes it difficult to take in enough calories and fluids to nourish the body and can lead to additional serious medical problems. Dysphagia can occur at any age, but it’s more common in older adults. The causes of swallowing problems vary, and treatment depends on the cause.
Patients who experience dysphagia may benefit from a form of treatment called swallowing therapy. During swallowing therapy sessions, the speech pathologist may use different methods involving the lips, jaw, and tongue to strengthen the muscles of the mouth. Special exercises for engaging the swallowing muscles and stimulating the nerves that trigger the swallow reflex may be used. Food may be used with the exercises for different textures, temperatures, and swallowing abilities. Patients may also be taught simple ways to place food in the mouth or position the body and head to help swallowing occur successfully. Sometimes, therapy may also include a change in diet.
At Holy Cross Medical Center, we are fortunate to have a team of Medical SLPs who diagnose and treat dysphagia. Kristen Torres started the speech and swallowing program over 30 years ago. Tracey Poffenroth Prato is the primary SLP and continues to grow the program to meet the needs and demands of our community. Mia McMullen is the newest member of the team. Early this year, the SLP team worked closely with radiology to update video fluoroscopy equipment and purchase a specialized swallowing chair. Medical SLPs collaborate with Radiologists and Radiology Technicians to perform Videofluoroscopic Swallowing Studies (VFSS). This test is also called a Modified Barium Swallow (MBS) Study and is now available right here in Taos.
These specialized swallowing studies are real-time x-rays that allow Medical SLPs to see what happens in your mouth and throat when you swallow. It allows the therapist to see if food or liquids go into your airway instead of your stomach, which muscles and parts of your mouth and throat may not work well, what kinds of foods are safest for you to swallow, and if certain positions or strategies help you swallow better. It helps the therapist create a treatment plan and therapy to help improve swallowing.
With over 20 years of experience as a Medical SLP and dysphagia, Tracey is only 1 of 8 SLPs in the state who is certified in the McNeill Dysphagia Treatment Program (MDTP), an innovative and evidence-based program for swallowing rehabilitation. Tracey and the Medical SLP team use their vast experience, expertise, and compassion with their patients, which means, you don’t need to leave Taos to get great care.
For more information contact Holy Cross Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation by calling (575) 737-0304 or visit www.taosphysicalhealth.com
Written by Tracey Poffenroth Prato M.S., CCC-SLP
Community Health Needs Assessment – 2022
July 6, 2022
The Taos County Health Assessment surveys local residents every three years to identify local strengths, household challenges, and issues, as well as the perception of needs in the area. Results of this survey are used to document needs and develop plans that make Taos County a healthier place to live. This year’s survey represents over 500 submissions. You can find the results of this survey in the link below.
As the Hermits Peak and Calf Canyon Fires continue to threaten our region, Holy Cross Hospital has been working closely with local Emergency Response Coordinator David Elliot to make sure that proper response plans are in place.
Holy Cross Medical Center has over 400 employees. Some employees live in neighboring communities that are under different levels of evacuation notice, and the team at the hospital is monitoring the situation in regards to those that might be affected by evacuations. Holy Cross is helping employees that are displaced from their homes find safe places to relocate and is offering housing support if necessary.
In preparation for possible air quality degradation due to smoke from the fires, the Holy Cross Hospital maintenance team is evaluating the hospital’s HVAC system and making plans to mitigate potential smoky conditions and poor air quality.
Holy Cross Hospital remains open and the emergency response team does not foresee an immediate situation where services would need to be restricted. Bill Patten, CEO of Holy Cross Medical Center said “It is important that our community knows that our hospital remains open to provide quality health care. Though this is an evolving situation and weather patterns can change, it appears unlikely that the hospital or any of our facilities will be at risk, and Holy Cross is here and ready to care for our community.”
Monthly Video Update
In an effort to help our community understand the changes happening in health care and at the hospital, we will be posting regular updates from the administration at Holy Cross Medical Center to help share information with the public.
Board Review – August, 2022
Dr. Steven Slikkers Joins the Team at Taos Surgical Specialties