A pediatrician has joined the staff of Southwest Health System at Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez.
Dr. Moriah Tarpey is practicing at the SHS primary care clinic, caring for newborns through early college-age students, well and sick alike.
Tarpey previously practiced pediatrics in Yakima, Washington, and in Grand Junction.
She completed her residency at the University of Tennessee School of Medicine after earning her medical degree from Saint Louis University School of Medicine. She also attended college at St. Louis University and graduated summa cum laude with a dual major in biology and theology.
“I am very excited to call Southwest Colorado home and thankful to work alongside such an amazing team with the common goals of providing fantastic care in combo with the small-town personal touches that make all the difference in our patients’ experience, both in illness and in health,” said Tarpey.
Tarpey is board certified through the American Board of Pediatrics and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
She has an interest in breast-feeding medicine and is certified as a lactation educator.
In a news release, SHS said Tarpey also “has a passion for helping families to navigate complex medical concerns in children. She has a heart for working with families that are fighting addition.”
“Dr. Tarpey is exactly what SHS has been searching for in a pediatrician — a kind spirit with the experience and commitment to rural medicine that our community deserves,” said Southwest Medical Group Chief Operating Officer Kerri White-Singleton.
Tarpey loves all things outdoors and strives to “bring the next generation up humbly and deeply connected to this amazing world we each borrow.”
She is married to Dr. Jeff Tarpey, who also was recently hired by SHS, and works in the inpatient wing of Southwest Memorial.
Tarpey said she is a “grateful doctor’s wife” and proud mother of three rambunctious boys.
“I enjoy being sidekick in my family’s many adventures of yak farming, beekeeping, gardening and mountain exploring,” she said.
Dr. Moriah Tarpey responded to questions submitted by The Journal.
What do you like about practicing medicine in a rural area?She said her upbringing was in a small Midwestern farm town with a work ethic similar to Cortez. Her dad was a auto mechanic teacher, and her grandfather, a World War II vet, raised 2,000 chickens for egg sales.
After leaving her rural Midwestern setting to seek a medical degree and gain experience in larger centers, she was ready for a small town.
“My husband and I are so grateful to be able to give our kids the small-town experience of being brought up by ‘a village’ here in the Cortez area,” she said.
“I am excited for the depth of relationship that can develop in a setting where I may run into my patients at the store, on the trails or in my own children’s classrooms. The stronger the team we can create around any given child will help maximize his or her strengths and build the resilience needed to thrive.”
Could you talk a bit about how you generally approach medical issues with children? What are some common medical ailments with children?She cites experience raising her own children, and combines that with her medical training.
“My first goal is always to ensure a child is as comfortable as possible by engaging parents and caregivers in the process of the evaluation and treatment,” Tarpey said. “Many things about a doctor visit can feel unnatural or scary for a child. We spend time warming up in play, exploring the tools and becoming comfortable to help kids be at their best.”
It’s really important to work with parents on their child’s health, she said.
“So often the answer to a medical or behavioral concern is an adjustment in routine. My goal is to never treat with a medication if the end can be accomplished with simple changes.”
Child obesity is a continuing health problem nationwide, Tarpey said.
“It took me quite a while to figure out how to speak about this with parents in a way that was helpful, I believe because the medical term obesity carries such an ugly connotation.”
Unhealthy weight is often a multigenerational condition that brings long-standing emotions in parents because of the struggles they themselves have faced, she said.
“Unfortunately, because our weight and our sense of beauty are so closely tied in our American culture, I think we have to find ways to communicate the truth, that a child is absolutely beautiful, but has a serious health concern that can and should be best addressed early in life before consequences arise,” Tarpey said.
Consequences range from the practical discomfort of moving like a child should, to now middle school-age children developing diabetes, fatty liver disease, cholesterol problems and the cardiovascular complications that come with them, early growth plate closure resulting in shorter than genetic potential status, and hormone abnormalities.
“Teaching our parents how to best nourish our children to not just survive but to thrive should be a top priority for any pediatrician,” Tarpey said.
Her strategies on how to best nourish children, is to touch on all foundational aspects of what makes kids grow and thrive, not just food and drink.
“This includes strategies to manage behaviors, provide opportunities for delayed gratification and reinforce good choices,” Tarpey said.
She has seen the impacts of addiction and recognizes it is a problem in communities across the nation.
“I believe my role as a tiny piece of this giant puzzle is to help break the cycle of addiction through education and early intervention and finally to be a light in a child’s life when things are looking dark.”
What are some key preventative measures to protect children from medical issues. Every age child has a different variety of infectious potentials depending on their immune development, Tarpey said, and there different ways they can come into harm’s way depending on their physical and cognitive development.
Prevention starts with education.
“With each wellness check, my focus is on teaching parents everything I can to help them to understand how to water the flowers, not the weeds so to speak,” Tarpey said.
“As kids get older, I encourage parent to understand that their power is in their purchasing, as adolescents will readily consume whatever is available to them. I also try to help to engage in their own health choices as age and developmental readiness allows.”
Good nutrition balanced with age appropriate activity are keys for preventing many medical concerns, Tarpey said. She is a proponent of childhood vaccines as a strategy for preventing some of the particularly dangerous infections.
“I understand when there is hesitancy with vaccination and respect parents’ decision in this aspect of prevention,” Tarpey said. “My hope is for an open and honest ongoing conversation with accurate information sharing to help parents make the best choice for their child’s health.”
Tarpey also provided insight into COVID-19 care and impacts for children. See related story.