Carolyn Kloek, MD

Photo courtesy Dean McGee


Dean McGee Eye Institute, OU Health

Oklahoma City

After serving as a faculty member at Harvard Medical School for 12 years, Carolyn Kloek, MD, says her desire to make a tangible difference in healthcare outcomes drew her to the opportunity of serving in multiple roles: Chief Medical Officer at OU Health, Vice Chair for Quality and Innovation and associate professor at OU College of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology, and as a comprehensive ophthalmologist at Dean McGee Eye Institute.

“As an ophthalmologist, I have the privilege of serving patients from diverse backgrounds and providing comprehensive eye care tailored to their needs,” she says. “Simultaneously, as Chief Medical Officer, I am dedicated to driving forward the vision of delivering high-quality healthcare and fostering a culture of excellence within the healthcare system – all of which is ultimately to provide the best healthcare possible to Oklahomans.”

Kloek’s passion for ophthalmology began during medical school when she witnessed family members grapple with vision issues. 

“Their struggles illuminated for me the profound impact vision – and its loss – can have on one’s quality of life,” says Kloek.

Whether she’s helping someone see clearly for the first time in years or preventing vision loss, she says making a difference in someone’s quality of life is incredibly fulfilling. 

“Vision is precious, and ophthalmologists are dedicated to preserving and restoring it through innovative treatments and technologies,” she says. And in recent years, there have been many advancements in both. 

“The development of new intraocular lenses has dramatically improved outcomes in cataract surgery, providing patients with better vision and quality of life,” she says. “Additionally, advancements in laser technology have revolutionized procedures like LASIK and refractive surgery, allowing for more precise and customized treatment.”

In addition, she says research into gene therapy and stem cell therapy shows promise for treating degenerative eye diseases that previously had few options.

Photo courtesy OSU Medical Center

Matt Wilkett, DO, FACOI, FACC


OSU Medical Center 


It was during his internal medicine residency that Matt Wilkett, DO, became interested in cardiology. He found the specialty to be a natural fit, and he was intrigued by the field’s vast and cutting-edge research and trials. 

“Cardiovascular medicine is ever changing and striving to improve outcomes in patients’ lives,” says the now Chief of Cardiology for OSU Medical Center and the Chair of Cardiovascular Medicine for OSU Center for Health Sciences. “Coronary artery disease is the leading cause of disability and death, and is mostly preventable. Unfortunately, Oklahoma has some of the highest burdens of heart disease.”

While every day is different, Wilkett says he typically sees patients in the clinic, makes rounds at the hospital, and performs cardiac catheterization lab procedures throughout the week. 

“I also spend a lot of time teaching every day – whether it is a patient, medical student, resident or fellow,” he says. “As a cardiologist on call at the hospital, I regularly field calls and visit the hospital as needed for emergencies.”

The most rewarding part of his career is two-fold; as a clinician, he enjoys helping improve patient’s lives and being there when they need him, but he also finds satisfaction in his role as a clinical professor of medicine, preparing future cardiologists.

“Teaching a cardiology fellow and watching them blossom into a specialized cardiologist gives me great pride,” says Wilkett.

He notes that medical advancements continue to change the landscape. 

“There are new medications in several areas including heart failure, obesity and high cholesterol therapies that I believe will change the field of cardiovascular medicine and make significant health improvements in our communities.”

Photo courtesy INTEGRIS

Nicole Sharp Cottrell, MD, FACS

Breast Surgical Oncologist 

INTEGRIS Health Breast Surgery Clinic

Oklahoma City

As a breast cancer surgeon, Nicole Sharp Cottrell, MD, FACS says playing a part in helping her patients become cancer free is an incredible feeling. 

Having had a maternal grandmother die very young of metastatic breast cancer, Cottrell finds it rewarding to educate patients and assist them in attaining the best treatment for their cancer.

“Breast surgical oncology allows me to take care of a wide scope of breast disease,” she says. “While I primarily focus my practice on the surgical treatment of breast cancer, I also see patients for benign breast disease – both surgical and nonsurgical – risk-reducing surgery, genetics counseling and high-risk evaluation.” 

At INTEGRIS Health, she says their teams work diligently to offer the best treatment modalities to patients. 

“I utilize oncoplastic surgery techniques to minimize incisions and smooth contours after surgery, as well as work alongside plastic surgeons to provide patients with a full spectrum of reconstruction options,” says Cottrell, adding that the best outcomes are achieved with early detection through mammograms and seeking high-risk evaluation for potential factors of increased risk.

Within her field, she says there’s a focus on deescalating surgical therapy to offer less invasive surgeries with lower risks of side effects without compromising survival or recurrence risks. Advancements in medical oncology treatments with medication, such as immune targeted therapy, have shown improved treatment response of cancer before surgery—which may improve a patient’s candidacy for smaller, less invasive surgical options. 

“We are looking forward to long term outcomes data that may allow us to further minimize surgery in the future,” she says.

Photo courtesy OU Health

Robyn Cowperthwaite, MD

Psychiatrist/Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist 

OU Health

Oklahoma City

After her time in the U.S. Air Force, Robyn Cowperthwaite, MD, looked forward to returning to Oklahoma.

“I was eager to teach medical students so they would understand what a cool job child psychiatry is,” she says. 

Board certified in both psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry, Cowperthwaite is an assistant professor in the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Oklahoma City. She also serves as program director for Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, director of Child and Adolescent Consultation and Liaison Psychiatry Services, and chief of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Division.

With a natural curiosity for human nature, personality development and resilience in childhood, Cowperthwaite enjoys seeing the progressive impact of her work. 

“My most rewarding moments include caring for patients for several years in the outpatient clinic and being privileged to watch them become successful adults,” she says. “It is really an honor when families allow you into their lives in a long-term, personal way.”

Within her specialty, Cowperthwaite says she’s particularly interested in “emergency psychiatry, trauma-informed care, suicide risk factors and public policy as it relates to pediatric well-being and early childhood intervention.” 

In addition, she’s concerned by the extreme shortage of pediatric mental health professionals in Oklahoma and the increase in kids experiencing a mental health crisis. In Oklahoma, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10-24 and the state ranks 33rd in access to mental health services and support.

However, she’s pleased by OU Health’s recent groundbreaking on a new children’s behavioral health center, where she says children will be able to receive the specialized care they need, whether it’s a short inpatient stay, long-term treatment or intensive outpatient care.

Photo courtesy Oklahoma Eye Surgeons

Steven R. Sarkisian, Jr., MD


Oklahoma Eye Surgeons

Oklahoma City

A native of Philadelphia and a Wheaton College graduate, Steven R. Sarkisian, Jr., MD, received his medical degree from Sidney Kimmel Medical College and continued his training in Memphis before making the move to Oklahoma City.

“I was recruited to the University of Oklahoma where I rose to the position of clinical professor,” says Sarkisian. “After 14 years at OU, I made the decision to build a special practice of my own – Oklahoma Eye Surgeons – where I could curate the patient experience and expand my clinical research.” 

He says he found his passion for ophthalmology in medical school and was especially intrigued by glaucoma, having a father who suffers from the disease.

“It wasn’t ‘cool’ to specialize in glaucoma when I did, with no significant advances in years,” says Sarkisian. “Little did I know, at that time, what advances the next two decades would bring.”

He says he’s been “blessed to be a part of bringing the ‘minimally invasive’ glaucoma surgery (MIGS) revolution to Oklahoma and internationally by being a part of development and FDA trials for several devices that are now standard practice and some that are soon to be.”

In 2019, Sarkisian was the first in the state to implant the PanOptix trifocal lens – a technology that “helps patients gain independence from glasses after cataract surgery,” he says – and mentions the most recent glaucoma approved surgeries include the iStent infinite® and the iDose®. He was the first author on the publication demonstrating the efficacy of the iStent infinite® device on patients that were in the FDA clinical trial, and in February, he was among the first in the world to implant the iDose® sustained-release glaucoma implant after FDA approval. He was honored to be a leading investigator in the FDA clinical trial as well as lead author and co-author on its peer-reviewed journal publications.

He says at Oklahoma Eye Surgeons, their mantra is ‘serving with excellence, grace, and compassion.’ 

“Our team of dedicated staff work every day to make that a reality in the lives of patients,” says Sarkisian. “We are not perfect, but we give a perfect effort to serve the people of Oklahoma and beyond.” 

Understanding Stomach Cancer 

Stomach cancer, also called gastric cancer, can occur anywhere in the stomach – but most initial clusters of cancerous cells are found in the stomach body, or center of the organ. In the U.S., however, stomach cancer is more likely to originate in the gastroesophageal junction, where food travels from the esophagus to the stomach. 

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that recent studies indicate most GI cancers share several common risk factors, which include smoking, alcohol ingestion, poor dietary habits and obesity. 

Symptoms of stomach cancer include chronic indigestion and heartburn, trouble swallowing, unintended weight loss, nausea, vomiting, black stools, and feeling abnormally bloated after eating.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, NIH

The Thyroid 

Small but mighty, the thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland at the front of your neck and an integral part of your endocrine system. 

It assists in many of your body’s most important functions by producing and releasing hormones, with its primary function being the control of your metabolism’s speed. The gland interacts with virtually every other system in the body, including the cardiovascular, nervous, digestive and reproductive systems.

The four main disorders involving the thyroid are hypothyroidism – an underactive thyroid; hyperthyroidism – an overactive thyroid; goiter – an enlarged thyroid; and thyroid cancer. Symptoms of a thyroid problem range from slow or rapid heart rate to unexplained weight loss/gain, depression, difficulty tolerating cold or heat, and irregular menstrual periods. 

Source: Cleveland Clinic

Semaglutide: The Rise of Diet Injections

Semaglutide, known by brand names Ozempic, Rybelsus and Wegovy, is an antidiabetic medication used to help patients with type 2 diabetes, as well as people with obesity. The medication works by increasing insulin levels in the body and decreasing blood sugar, or glucose. 

Approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2021, semaglutide treatments are typically administered once weekly via subcutaneous injections. Side effects can range from severe – like allergic reactions, heart palpitations and pancreatitis – to mild – like diarrhea, nausea and other stomach pain.

Although semaglutide is meant for long-term use, patients sometimes stop treatment due to side effects, general availability or lack of finances, as many insurance providers do not cover all or most of the cost of injections. After stopping, many have experienced what is called the ‘Ozempic rebound,’ meaning that some, most or all weight lost during treatment is gained back. Experts advise eating mindfully, exercising regularly, treating underlying conditions and setting realistic expectations to help curb the rebound and its mental/physical effects. 

Sources: Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Heathline

Bone Health

Maintaining strong bone density is integral to overall health. Symptoms of low bone density or bone loss range from back pain to loss of height, stooped posture or easily fractured bones. Initial stages are called osteopenia, while more severe bone loss/structural changes to bone tissue is called osteoporosis. Early detection can stop osteopenia from developing into osteoporosis. 

Checking your bone density is relatively easy. The most common test is a dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA) – which is quick, painless and noninvasive. 

Whether you’re maintaining healthy bone density or beginning restorative efforts, include plenty of calcium and Vitamin D into your diet. Avoid substance abuse, specifically alcohol, and participate in weight-bearing exercises like walking, jogging or climbing stairs. 

Source: Mayo Clinic

Acid Reflux: What to Know 

Gastroesophageal reflux disease – or GERD – occurs when the sphincter muscle at the lower end of the esophagus relaxes at the wrong time, allowing stomach acid to back up into the esophagus. Symptoms include burning in the chest, belching, nausea, regurgitation, the sensation of a ‘lump’ in the throat or trouble swallowing. The disease is common in the U.S., with more than 3 million cases per year. Alongside use of over-the-counter reflux medication, those suffering with GERD can also try the following: 

     • Eat smaller meals, more often. 

     • Eat slower than you’re used to. 

     • Remain upright after meals, leaving enough time for food to digest before laying down. 

     • Avoid late-night snacking and carbonated beverages. 

     • Chew sugarless gum after meals, which promotes salivation,    neutralizes stomach acid and soothes the esophagus. 

Source: Harvard Health Publishing

Heart Health 

Heart disease is still a leading cause of death in the United States for both men and women. While some factors are genetic, there are dietary and behavioral choices you can make to lower your risk of heart problems. These include:

Getting quality sleep. Without it, you run the risk of higher blood pressure and heart disease. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends 7-9 hours a night, with the goal of going to bed and waking up around the same time each day.

Eating well. Consume the lowest possible saturated fat, sodium and added sugars contents. Venture toward lean meats, whole fruits, low-fat yogurts and veggies.

Maintaining a healthy weight. Staying in a healthy weight range lowers your risk for a variety of heart-related issues. This can be obtained through conscious snacking, exercise and lots of water consumption.

Being active. Guidelines recommend 150 minutes per week of physical activity. Exercise can range from brisk walks to weight lifting, yoga or running – anything that gets the heart rate up.

Other recommendations include controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and stress levels, as well as avoiding or ceasing use of tobacco products. 

Sources: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, The Heart Truth 

The Importance of Mental Health

Mental illnesses are common in the U.S. – it’s estimated that more than one in five U.S. adults live with one. They are typically arranged into two types – Any Mental Illness (AMI), defined as a mental, behavioral or emotional disorder with a wide range of impacts from mild to severe; and Serious Mental Illness (SMI), defined as the above, but with significant functional impairment that interferes with everyday life.

Improving one’s mental health is a personal journey, although common recommendations range from getting enough sleep to eating well, setting realistic goals and priorities, practicing gratitude and staying connected to others.The National Institute of Mental Health recommends seeking professional help if you’re experiencing any of these severe/distressing symptoms for over 2 weeks consistently: 

     • Difficulty sleeping and concentrating 

     • Changes in appetite or unplanned weight changes

     • Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning because of mood

     • Loss of interest/general apathy 

     • Inability to complete usual tasks and activities

     • Feelings of irritability, frustration or restlessness

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

Digestive Inflammation 

Digestive inflammation, commonly called inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), occurs when the tissues in your digestive tract are chronically enlarged, irritated and inflamed. The most common types of IBD are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease. The first involves inflammation and ulcers in the lining of your large intestine and rectum, and the latter involves inflammation in the lining of your digestive tract. 

While medical specialists initially determined diet and stress were the main causes of IBD, research now indicates potential other causes include immune system malfunctions and genetic factors. Other risk factors include age – most patients are diagnosed before the age of 30 – along with ethnicity – the disease is most common in white people – as well as the use of cigarettes and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen. 

Symptoms of IBD include diarrhea, rectal bleeding, abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss. 

Source: Mayo Clinic

Sidebars written by Mary Willa Allen

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