Dr. Brenda Pereda/Courtesy Photo
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Women of ages in Los Alamos County are excited about the opening of a women’s health care practice Oct. 15 by Dr. Brenda Pereda, the new obstetrician gynecologist at Los Alamos Medical Center.
“Her arrival in October can’t come soon enough,” Karen Brown, an independent doula for Sanguine Journey, LLC who provides non-medical practical and emotional support for pregnant, birthing and newly parenting families who has been deeply involved in the quest to have women’s health services provided again in Los Alamos County.
“I am looking forward to the hospital and clinic program growing to hopefully include additional locally-based nurses, midwives and physicians so that there is less reliance on traveling providers,” Brown said. “It has been a long year of conversations at multiple levels with LAMC and the community.”
She said she is grateful for the people and families who have shared with the hospital and the County Council, and also with the Ten Moons Collective via their community birth care survey, their personal experiences, hopes, and concerns for the only locally available OB/GYM resource. Brown said she has particular gratitude for Danna Brooks, Kathryn Oakes Hall and Alyssa Reeves who primarily made up a small consumer advocacy group with her that has been meeting somewhat regularly with LAMC leadership since September 2019.
“Their reception of our concerns and shared interest in this issue have been key. Our community might not be here—anticipating the reopening of a clinic, welcoming a new obstetrician gynecologist, and seeing the continuation of the local hospital OB program—without the support and initiative of the many people interested in this issue, including the participants of BabyNet, the Los Alamos County Health Council, Rep. Christine Chandler, Council Chair Sara Scott and our County Councilors, Frances Chadwick of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos Medical Center’s staff, including John Whiteside and his administration team, and all of the concerned members of the community,” Brown said. “It is wonderful to see these efforts result in a renewal of what I have every reason to expect will be consistent, respectful, quality OB/GYN care at LAMC.”
Representatives of LifePoint Health, the company that owns LAMC, were also involved in the discussions.
Ellen Ben-Naim, director of the First Born Program, said Monday that First Born is delighted to welcome Dr. Pereda.
“Many of our prenatal families are excited about the option of giving birth close to home with an excellent provider. In fact, our clients are looking forward to being able to attend to all of their gynecological needs here in town,” she said.
Carie Fanning, chair of BabyNet, a sub-committee of the Los Alamos County Health Council, told the Los Alamos Reporter Monday that BabyNet is extremely pleased to have a full time OB/GYN here and grateful to the community for their work in ensuring that women’s health is a priority in Los Alamos.
“The hiring of Dr. Pereda is a great first step in establishing much needed robust women’s health services in Los Alamos,” she said.
Dr. Pereda met with the BabyNet committee virtually Tuesday afternoon.
Dr. Pereda comes to Los Alamos after 10 years at the University of New Mexico Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology where she was an assistant professor and assistant dean or diversity, equity and inclusion. She graduated from the Michigan State College of Human Medicine medical school in 2007. She completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the Detroit Medical Center.
Pereda met virtually with the BabyNet group Tuesday afternoon where she was enthusiastically welcomed to the community. She said it is tough to leave UNM because things just don’t just go away, particularly if you‘ve been embedded into the fabric of the institution.
Pereda said she’s the kind of lady that likes to center the community.
“It’s really important to identify the needs of the community – what has been missing, who’s not at the table who needs to be at the table, how do we really think about making sure that the right people are giving the input, particularly at a time when we’re building the practice because we’re really building the practice to uplift the lives and the health of the community of Los Alamos,” she said.
Pereda said it’s important to have all the voices of the BabyNet committee at the table.
“It will be important for you guys to bring it with regard to what your perceived needs are of your community and then to serve as liaisons. And then it’s not enough for us to talk about what we think the community needs, we actually need to have some open forums. Back in the days we could have had some town halls but we can still have some virtual town halls where we invite the particular stakeholders,” she said. Those stakeholders would include Los Alamos National Laboratory and the surrounding communities, she added.
“We can’t have a community if we don’t have healthy moms – that’s not a thing. We know it from global healthcare, we know it from urban environments. It’s no different in rural environments. Los Alamos doesn’t feel that rural but it is rural and that’s just the reality of locality,” Pereda said.
She noted that she is “a pretty strong-headed leader”.
“I already have a good relationship with (LAMC CEO) John Whiteside. He knows that we have to hire people in order to build a team. He knows that I can’t do it all by myself, that we’re going to have to hire another provider. I have some particularities about the type of people I like to work with so I’m going to recruit someone that has a similar mindset and vision,” Pereda said.
She noted that as much as she loved the UNM community, she thinks it is important to go to other communities to really serve and implement some of the things learned at the academic centers.
“I’m hoping to bring these toolkits so that we can disseminate them and think about how we plant ourselves into the DNA of the hospital so that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again. No community should be without a woman’s health provider. That’s just not how we take care of people, particularly communities,” Pereda said.
She noted that she’s a pretty good collaborator.
“I never think that I’m the lead of anything because I’m not. I’m not from the community. It’s going to take me a little while to learn about the particularities of who’s been doing the work and how we honor that time and that expertise. There are many ways of knowing the clinician way – that’s just one way. I think if we honor all the diverse ways of knowing what people can bring to the table, we will get something really nice and robust, that’s long-lasting and could really help improve the health of our population, particularly the women,” Pereda said.
Committee member Ellen Ben-Naim asked Pereda to help with the rumor that she is coming here just to run labor and delivery or if her plan is to come here and have a full service women’s health clinic for the whole lifespan of women’s health.
“You need to do both. You need to have a robust labor and delivery skills in a team because that’s where the maternal mortality lives so we have to be very thoughtful and safe. I’m doing a full spectrum. I take care of women trying to become pregnant and I take care of women who are trying to end their pregnancy for whatever the reason. I’m full spectrum,” Pereda said. “I am a full spectrum OB/GYN taking care of women from early adolescence to the end of the reproductive life and beyond. That’s what it means to be full-spectrum.”
Pereda’s first day at LAMC is Oct. 15 and she noted that there is a lot of work to do from looking at the structure of how even to make an appointment to working out what equipment needs to be ordered.
“I need to do a whole rundown in the operating room and in the clinic. I’m kind of like a same-day shopper. I want the people that come in to have all that they need at one stop. Nobody has time for multiple visits. Right now we don’t have patients but I’m thinking maybe by the middle of November we should hopefully have a jam-packed schedule but it’s going to take at least a month for us to really look at how not to reproduce the things that really don’t work,” Pereda said. “We’re going to start from scratch and let’s do innovative ways. Let’s be fresh and let’s have new ideas and think outside the box so that we develop something that will grow and flourish. I know that the old methods haven’t worked and I don’t want to reproduce them.”
She said she can’t imagine showing up and not having the instruments she uses.
“How do we give the community a sense that we really know what we’re doing. And starting from somebody else’s old templates without having an analysis of even how to do such a thing is just not the right message. I want people to show up (when I have) the tools that I need so that I can give people the care they deserve,” Pereda said. “It’s going to take me at least two weeks to do the assessment and by the time we order materials it’s going to be a month. Will we see a few patients? Yes, and maybe a few routine things that don’t require anything, that’s fine. But to bring people in and not have the things they need – the impact of that doesn’t give the community a lot of reassurance. I think that for a program that’s starting from scratch, we need to be thoughtful about the impact of how they experience us.”
She said she gets the sense of urgency to get the practice open.
“All of us are right there, but in order to do a good job we have to look at what hasn’t worked and fix it before we move forward,” Pereda said.
Whiteside said in an email Wednesday that Dr. Pereda will be open for all OB/GYN services when she begins. Meanwhile, various community agencies are anxious to get the word out that the full spectrum of women’s health services will be available soon. Pereda is planning to speak to civic groups and conduct virtual community town halls as the practice gets going.
Ben-Naim encouraged women to make sure they have copies of their medical records on hand. She said even for women who plan to have babies at facilities off the hill, it can only help to have their records in case they need to seek emergency care closer to home.
According to information released by LAMC, appointments with Pereda may now be made by calling (505) 661-9201.