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Back-to-school physicals: more than "just an item on a checklist"

Back-to-school season brings with it a checklist of essentials, from new clothes to books and school supplies, but according to one doctor at the Avera Medical Group Dawley Farms location, back-to-school physicals are much more than just another box to check.

Whether it’s a yearly wellness check-up or a sports physical, Dr. Mike Stotz said getting in to see a healthcare provider is an opportunity for both students to assess every aspect of well-being.

“We’re all made up of a physical body, a spiritual aspect and mental well-being, so it’s important to make sure all of those things are healthy because if one is off, it can lead to issues with the others,” Stotz said.

Stotz, who has been practicing at the Dawley Farm location since 2012, said August is always a busy month at the clinic, and he performs an average of 15 physicals per week.

Regular physicals screen for early signs of heart disease, heartbeat irregularities, vision and hearing impairments and vaccination records, whereas sports physicals — which Stotz said are required by some school districts for every athlete — focus more on orthopedic wellness and address any past injuries or ailments.

Stotz said that while addressing mental well-being with patients, it’s often as easy as simply asking whether or not they’ve been feeling sad or anxious.

“Sometimes that’s all it takes for them to really start getting into it,” he said.

Young adults who may be suffering from a mental illness are given a questionnaire that determines the path of further treatment.

Stotz said it’s important for doctors to incorporate questions about mental health into the physical to ensure that patients are getting a well-rounded check-up before they head off to school.

“A physical is more than just an item on a checklist for parents to do before school starts,” he said. “We want them to take it as an opportunity to learn about their child’s health, and, if necessary, intervene.”

For more information on Avera's clinic at Dawley Farms. click here: