When Valerie Creswell isn’t globetrotting, you’ll find her at Wesley Medical Center, where she serves as the hospital’s infectious-disease medical director.
Creswell describes her job as detective work, looking at patients’ symptoms, histories and lab work to determine what sort of disease they have.
“You get to ask a lot of questions and things change so much. We have new infections we hadn’t heard of 10 years ago; there are changes in how we treat people. If you just look at antibiotic resistance, there are all sorts of new challenges,” Creswell said.
She’s been to all 50 states and 36 foreign countries.
“My favorite place was Bhutan,” she said. “They are the kindest, gentlest people there and are so friendly. Of course, with my fear of heights it didn’t help that it was in the Himalayas.”
Creswell did her undergraduate, medical school and residency work at the University of Kansas, and she calls herself a proud Jayhawker. Her fellowship in infectious disease was conducted at the University of Oklahoma.
She’s been at Wesley Medical Center for about 20 years.
Q. What first got you interested in pursuing infectious disease?
A. When I was a medical student, my younger brother went to Africa frequently, and he would come back with exotic infectious diseases, which I found a challenge to try to figure out before his physician did. For example, he had developed scrub typhus, but he’s much better at diagnosing malaria than I am. He’s had it a couple of times. That was the beginning.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges?
A. The biggest challenges are working on prevention. I’m a huge believer in vaccines and taking advantage of any vaccines that are available and in using antibiotics when appropriate, just when you need them, and not unnecessarily.
Q. What was the most difficult case you had to diagnose?
A. Back in the ’90s I had a patient with tuberculosis who actually developed multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis meningitis. They put a shunt in his head and he required antibiotics given directly through the shunt several times a week for several months. And he did incredibly well after that. It was great to see him respond so well to therapy.
Q. Any advice for folks with the start of flu season?
A. Just the practical advice. Stay home when you’re sick. Cover your cough. Wash your hands frequently and take advantage of getting the influenza vaccine, the TDAP because of the pertussis problems we’re seeing here, and try not to let the holidays stress you out too much ...
We’re having some sporadic influenza A (in Wichita) but I anticipate we will see it increase after the holidays since people travel and can bring it back to their homes.
Q. Kansas doesn’t require hospitals to report their hospital-acquired infection rates for the public to see. Should the state require it?
A. I think that hospitals themselves do a very good job in tracking their rates, but data collection on a national level is sometimes not truly reflective of the severity of the illnesses that we’re seeing ...
The problem is collection of data requires personnel to go through that data and that becomes incredibly time consuming ... which sometimes takes away from being here on the floor where we really can do the most good for our patients ...
The way we’re doing reporting requirements now I don’t think is incredibly useful for the average patient who is trying to make decisions as far as which hospital they would like to go to.