Showcasing its spruced up pediatric clinic, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Odessa took the opportunity to spotlight asthma awareness month.

Dr. Robert Bennett, chairman of pediatrics at Texas Tech health sciences and a neonatologist, said the clinic was looking rundown before its remodeling so they are proud of how it looks now.

The clinic has 12 exam rooms, nine staff members and five providers. Dr. Bhargavi Kola said they wanted to make the clinic more appealing to children, more “kid friendly” and offer more safety features.

A pediatric clinic also opened in Midland in late 2017.

“Our pediatric clinic is responsible for providing many services to the community,” Bennett said. “It’s responsible for ADHD management, adolescent care, follow up for our NICU babies, something that is near and dear to my heart, as well as newborn care, hearing and vision screenings, immunizations, school sports physicals … sick infant and child care, treatment of childhood diseases and well child visits.”

“We see roughly 11,000 patients a year in this clinic. We’re one of the few places that will take care of patients, regardless of their ability to pay, which in the Permian Basin not many places do. …,” Bennett added. “… We feel it is our duty to take care of the citizens of the Permian Basin …”

He said at Thursday’s event that more room is needed to accommodate patients.

Dr. Bhargavi Kola runs an asthma awareness program and conducts a lot of student outreach.

About five years ago, Kola said two students died who suffered from asthma.

“And those were easily preventable. That ignited our department to do something for our community and that’s when we started this program. So basically what we do here is we screen them; we educate them; we empower them with the knowledge of asthma. We give them the tools to check and take care of their asthma at their house and when to call a doctor,” Kola said.

Kola said there is less awareness of asthma than there should be. People often think the condition is like an ear infection and it will go away.

“It doesn’t go away and with the environment pollutants that we have here, the wind here, the weather here, everything triggers asthma. This is what the kids need to know: what triggers asthma and how can you control it. So we want to teach that to the parents and also teach that to the kids,” Kola said.

Like other medical conditions, asthma has multiple causes. Kola said it can be genetic, prompted by weather or allergies.

“Something with the genes, we can’t do much but we can teach them how to control it. If you don’t take care of the asthma, the asthma will take care of you so we want the child to be more powerful in controlling (their) asthma,” Kola said.

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