General Pediatrician Sade Francois, M.D., describes Primary Care at Arkansas Children’s Hospital Pine Bluff as a “community.”
"I feel like we get to know our patients really, really well. I really like that our patients usually will see the same doctor every time, they don't really see a mixture of us too often, unless it's needed. And I think that helps build a really good rapport with our patients and have them trust us more. And I really like that part of our clinic dynamic," she said.
The Pine Bluff clinic is one of seven clinics operated by Arkansas Children's throughout the state. It is in association with Jefferson Regional Medical Center (JRMC). The clinic had 14,123 on-campus visits and 121 telehealth visits in 2022.
Three physicians are on staff: Francois, Joseph Elser, M.D., Sevilay Dalabih, M.D., and Certified Nurse Practitioner Shanda Vinson.
Francois, originally from Canada and an adjunct professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, joined Arkansas Children’s in 2021 when the clinic opened and has helped shape its commitment to care. She earned a medical degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada. She completed her pediatric residency at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois through the University of Illinois School of Medicine in Peoria. Francois also works at the Arkansas Children’s After-Hours Clinic in Little Rock and the JRMC nursery with newborns.
"When I was looking for jobs after residency, I really wanted to move somewhere more South from where I was before in Illinois, somewhere a little warmer; a lot of my friends had been moving this direction, too," Francois said. "And then I really wanted to work for a children's hospital where I had access to all the specialties and a wide variety of services basically. So, Arkansas Children's kind of fit into what I was looking for."
Caring for Patients
Primary Care at ACH Pine Bluff medical experts treat a variety of everyday health needs and preventative medicine, including:
- Wellness exams, including school and sports physicals
- Treatment for minor illnesses, such as cold and flu
- Developmental testing and screenings
- Community resources
- Health resources and education
The clinic also focuses on education. Francois, an active American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) member, attends annual conferences and reads monthly newsletters and journals to stay current on the best care for pediatric patients.
"Anticipatory guidance, just kind of teaching parents what to expect, what to look out for and things like that with their children," Francois said. "And then we also, of course, provide sick visits or other office visits to address specific problems or concerns that parents have with their children. So, whether that's a cold or an ear infection, or headaches or whatever the concern is, we try to address those at those sick visits."
The most common health condition treated at the clinic is viral infections. Francois said most of the time, they see pediatric patients with an upper respiratory infection or cold.
"Sometimes that can turn into an ear infection, a lower respiratory infection, a sinus infection or sometimes it can trigger an asthma attack," she said. "It's our job to differentiate all these different types of infections and make sure we give the proper advice and treatment depending on what's going on."
Preventing and Treating Respiratory Illness
A top priority for most primary care clinics each fall is treating patients for respiratory illnesses, including flu, RSV and COVID-19. Francois said now that schools and daycare centers are open for the year, viruses spread quickly.
"In bigger classroom settings or with a lot of other children, people just get sick. So, I like to warn parents of that, your child may very well get sick. But things you can do to help prevent it is of course biggest thing is just hand hygiene," Francois said. "I know kids like to touch everything, put everything in their mouths, things like that, so just encouraging good hand hygiene. If you know that somebody is sick, trying to stay away as best you can to try to prevent spreading that way as well."
Vaccinations are also an important preventative measure to help lessen symptoms of respiratory illnesses.
"The idea behind most of those vaccines like the flu, COVID and even the new RSV vaccine is not necessarily that your child will never get those viruses, but if they do, it won't be as severe. They'll be able to better manage it because their body has built some immunity to that virus," Francois said. "It's kind of unavoidable, but we do what we can to kind of help the kids get through it."
Besides general pediatric care, Francois said one of her passions is breastfeeding support. Though not a lactation specialist, she passes on the benefits of breastfeeding to parents and supports mothers.
"Sometimes people don't realize that it takes a lot of work, especially in the beginning, to really establish that breastfeeding relationship, and so I'm here," Francois said. "If I know that that's your goal, I'm here to encourage you with that. And so, however I can do that through the clinic, or offer services outside the clinic, like with other lactation specialists, or things like that is sort of how I promote that here."
Forward-Thinking for Mental Health
Arkansas Children's is now promoting a direct approach to mental health needs in its primary care clinics. Clinics will begin to hire a behavioral health care worker in each primary care setting.
"(Mental health concerns) were amplified after the (COVID-19) pandemic, having been in isolation and quarantining for months at a time, years even really. It definitely impacted a lot of our children and adults, honestly, too," Francois said. "So, I think that, especially in those early development years, it's important to get those kids whatever therapy and help they need to sort of handle whatever emotions or feelings that they have going on with them. I think that it's great that we're getting those services because there's definitely a shortage, and there's definitely a need. I think this is just a good step in the direction to get our kids the help they need."
Francois said this holistic approach to caring for children and their families is why she loves her job.
"I think the fun thing about pediatrics is, yes, I am taking care of the children, but it's all-encompassing. Really, most of the time, I'm talking to the parents more than the kids, especially when they are younger. So that whole family feel, I love that about the job," Francois said. "I enjoy providing education and reassurance to parents because that's a lot of what we do. A lot of our kids are healthy, and so just being able to support families in that way is my favorite part of the job. When they leave the clinic, and you can tell a weight has been lifted off their shoulders, I think I've done my job as a pediatrician."
Watch the full interview with Sade Francois, M.D. and learn more about her.