Like part of the family: Longtime pediatrician builds trusting relationship

July 19, 2013

“She goes way beyond doctoring, always taking time to talk to us. She really cares,” says Julie Hanson-Haukoos, standing, of Heidi Stoltenberg, M.D., seated. Dr. Stoltenberg has been William and Trinity’s pediatrician since they were born nearly 10 years ago.Albert Lea pediatrician Heidi Stoltenberg, M.D., has smiled as Trinity Haukoos told stories about hockey camp. She also congratulated Trinity’s brother, William, when he showed off his medal for participating in Albert Lea’s Polar Plunge one winter — and gave their mom, Julie, major kudos for jumping with him. This is a story of a doctor who knows her patients, and the patients who know and trust her.

It’s the kind of relationship that all primary care providers at Mayo Clinic Health System hope for — and one that makes a big difference in the care they can provide.

From NICU to nearly 10 years old

Trinity and William started pretty small — at two and four pounds, respectively.

The twins were born one month premature at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, where they stayed in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) for one month. Even before they arrived home in Albert Lea nearly 10 years ago, Dr. Stoltenberg was caring for them.

“It’s been so fun to watch them grow into lovely kids,” says Dr. Stoltenberg.

And although she provides care only to the children, the relationship is with the whole family.

"Obviously we’re not caring for the parents directly, but I like to think we’re caring for the parents by taking care of their kids,” Dr. Stoltenberg says.

Julie Hanson-Haukoos agrees.

“It’s the truth,” she says. “My kids are my whole world. You want someone who you trust and have faith in to take care of your kids. Dr. Stoltenberg is such a smart, smart lady. She catches everything.”

Subtle becomes obvious

Dr. Stoltenberg says that’s one of the major benefits to having a close relationship with your primary care provider: A longtime relationship can help highlight when something isn’t quite right.

“I know these kids, and I know their history,” she says. “I’ve seen them when they feel good and when they don’t feel good. Even subtle differences jump out more, simply because I know them.”

Hanson-Haukoos says it’s also the way Dr. Stoltenberg practices medicine, by putting the patient first — a hallmark of Mayo’s model of health care.

“It’s just amazing to see what she catches just by knowing her patients and taking that extra time,” she says.

Parent and provider team up

According to Dr. Stoltenberg, Hanson-Haukoos is especially good about keeping her informed about Trinity and William’s care.

“Julie has been so amazing about communicating back to me if her kids have seen a different provider, just to keep me in the loop,” says Dr. Stoltenberg. “I don’t know if many parents realize how much I appreciate that as a provider. Sometimes kids get sick when I’m not here, and I like being able to follow up on things.”

“If I have a concern, she never acts like it’s insignificant,” says Hanson-Haukoos. “I know she wants to follow up with my kids’ care because she always shows how much she cares about them.”

Dr. Stoltenberg agrees.

“There’s an emotional connection there,” she says. “It’s really fulfilling to partner with parents to help all the kids I care for to be successful.



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