This Year’s Most Important Appointment

Young or old, people need tune-ups or evaluations to ensure their bodies are functioning properly. Annual wellness exams provide reassurance that you’re healthy or they can catch problems before they become serious. Two Meritus Health physicians explain why a wellness exam is the most important appointment you can make this year.

Well-child exams

To help children and teens grow into healthy adults, well-child exams begin when a child is a few days old and continue until he or she turns 18.

Darnika Rhodes, M.D., is a pediatrician and internal medicine physician with Meritus Medical Group’s White Oak Pediatric and Adult Medicine. Trained to treat patients from birth to adulthood, Dr. Rhodes focuses on developmental screening during well-child exams.

“It’s a time to monitor growth and development and screen for any potential problems,” says Dr. Rhodes. During the exam, she discusses a child’s communication skills, motor skills, interaction with family members, emotional well-being, diet, exercise, sleep patterns, oral hygiene and caregiver’s observations. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides information on developmental stages and well-child care visits at

“Developmental prevention is really important,” explains Dr. Rhodes. “If your child isn’t meeting developmental milestones, early interventions can help your child.” During the well visit, Dr. Rhodes provides caregivers with checklists to assess their child’s development over time.

But as children grow older and become busier, Dr. Rhodes notices well visits become less frequent. “Well visits are an opportunity to build a long-term relationship with patients and their families,” says Dr. Rhodes. “If I don’t see patients every year, it’s hard to build the trust necessary between provider and patient.”

Parents are the best advocate for their children says Dr. Rhodes. To ensure children remain healthy, they need to see a pediatrician or family physician once a year for a well visit.

Adult well exams

Adults also need well-care visits, preventative screenings and immunizations to stay on top of their health.

“When you grow older, you’re more prone to health issues,” says Padmini Herath, M.D., with Potomac Family Medicine. “A primary care physician looks for any health changes, follows risks associated with family medical history and develops an understanding of your lifestyle.”

During a well exam, Dr. Herath performs a thorough head-to-toe evaluation and discusses diet, exercise, oral hygiene, mental health and changes in your health. She recommends coming to the well exam prepared to discuss concerns, updates on family medical history, current medications and visits to specialists throughout the year. To learn more about adult well exams, go to

During the exam, Dr. Herath also provides her patients with education on health risks and preventative screenings. Research shows that screening for cervical, colorectal and skin cancers help prevent the diseases by finding pre-cancerous growths and treating them before they become cancer. Screening for breast and prostate cancer also helps identify the disease at an early stage when it’s highly treatable. Your health care provider can recommend when and how often to have these important screenings.

Why a primary care physician?

A path toward wellness involves a primary care physician who gathers valuable information about you and your family members and tracks your health over time. “Well exams build a relationship between provider and patient so it’s best to stick with your provider for the long haul,” says Dr. Herath.

If you are looking for a primary care provider please click here. Young or old, this 30-minute appointment once a year can pay dividends on your health for years to come.