Meet our Docs: Med/Peds Melissa Knudson-Johnson, M.D., cares for patients of all ages

By Kristy Bleizeffer Oct 8, 2015

Med/Peds specialist Melissa Knudson-Johnson, M.D., is accepting new patients at Mesa Primary Care.

Melissa Knudson-Johnson, M.D., is what they call a Med-Peds – a type of medical specialty which trains physicians to be board eligible in both pediatrics and internal medicine. She is both an internist and a pediatrician – two specialties in high demand in Natrona County.

“I can treat patients aged 0 to 100. I have a special interest in geriatrics and pediatrics, but that does not mean I don’t see young families,” said Dr. Knudson.

Mesa Primary, along with Immediate Care in the same building in west Casper, underscores Wyoming Medical Center’s commitment to bringing health care to our patients, close to where they live and work. Mesa offers same-day appointments, extended hours and the ability to X-ray and cast broken bones on site. It is part of a network of medical specialties working together to cover all aspects of patient care, from birth to old age.

“I think there is a shift in hospitals across the United States in that we want to keep people out of the hospital if we can,” Dr. Knudson said. “We want to keep them healthy. The best way to do that is to have good primary care and specialists so people can see their providers on a regular basis.”

In this interview, Knudson talks about her path to Med-Peds and what good primary care means to health of a community.

Where did you grow up and how did you become interested in medicine?

I am from North Dakota, born and raised. I went to college there. I always knew what I wanted to do – go to medical school and be a doctor.

Is there any reason why?

I just always wanted to care for patients, ever since I could remember. I never grew out of it. I shadowed under the doctor in my hometown and he was great.

I knew I wanted to work with kids, just because I have a passion for them. But, through medical school, I loved internal medicine. I love the geriatric population, because they really take an interest in their health care. They always come to their appointments with their lists of medication and all the questions they want to ask. You really get to spend time with them. Sometimes, people with families, are busy and so we don’t think we have the time to devote our full interest to our health. So, a specialty in Med-Peds was the perfect fit.

Tell me about Wyoming Medical Center's efforts to expand primary care out into the community.

I think there is a shift in hospitals across the United States in that we want to keep people out of the hospital if we can. We want to keep them healthy. The best way to do that is to have good primary care so people see their provider on a regular basis. If they are sick, hopefully they can be treated by their primary care provider before they need to be admitted to the hospital.

Ideally, I want people to be interested in their health care. I try to explain things as simply as possible and make sure that they understand. I want them to be able to say, “Ok. The next time this happens, I know what to do.” For example, when you work with a patient who has asthma, you want them to understand the steps for when they have an asthma attack. You want them to know what is happening with their lungs, and what they can do to stop the attack and when they need to see the doctor.

What do you like about the outpatient setting?

I love being able to follow my patients for the long term. I love for them to call that day and say, “Hey, this is how I am feeling. Should I come in or not?” I can then decide whether it’s something I can take care of, or whether or not they can wait for an appointment a little bit later. To be able to take care of something like that when patients need it is, I think, the greatest thing.

How do you practice internal medicine on an outpatient basis?

Internal medicine is just the treatment of more complex medical problems such as congestive heart failure, diabetes and other chronic conditions. If, for example, a diabetic’s sugars are running high for a couple of days, I want to check them to be sure there is not an infection. If we can catch it early enough, then we can prevent them from going into diabetic ketoacidosis and end up in the hospital. Or, if they are starting to have a chronic obstructive pulmonary disease exacerbation, I can start them on steroids and an antibiotic to try to kick it before they have to be hospitalized and have to be on IV antibiotics, or have to be on a ventilator or something like that.

Do you have a philosophy you follow when practicing medicine?

I try to educate my patients as much as I can. I teach them about their disease process so that they understand why it is impacting them the way that it is. I want them to know why they cannot breathe, for example, why they need to take a certain medication and what that medication is doing for their body. Everybody knows they take their three pills – one is red, one is blue and one is white – but how many people know what those pills are doing for them? You are more likely to take your pills if you know what they do for you and why they make you feel better.

Outside of emergency care, what role do you see hospitals playing in the overall health of their communities?

I think the hospitals are always going to be important. Like I said, we want to keep people out of the hospital, but when we have those sick patients, we want our hospitals to be there to care for them. Then, we want the hospital to turn them back to their primary care doctors for followup so that they do not end up back in the hospital. It is one of those things where you want your hospital to really promote prevention. If they just want patients to come in, and there is not a great relationship with primary care, the patient is just readmitted soon after.

Melissa Knudson-Johnson M.D.

Dr. Knudson is a Med/Peds, a type of medical specialty that focuses on both internal medicine and pediatrics. She is board certified in pediatrics. She is accepting patients of all ages at Mesa Primary Care in west Casper. Call (307) 234-6765 for an appointment.