CONTRIBUTED CONTENT — The complex nature of rheumatic illness presents unique challenges for both doctor and patient.
In July, the Southwest Spine & Pain Rheumatology Division welcomed Dr. Paul Pickrell, who brings 30 years of experience in treating autoimmune diseases to serve southwest Utah and surrounding communities.
“You have to like crossword puzzles and solving things and mysteries,” Pickrell said of his chosen field. “That’s what rheumatology is – the great mystery that sometimes, no one else can figure out.”
Pickrell graduated from the University of Oklahoma Medical School before completing a residency in internal medicine at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, and a rheumatology fellowship at the University of Arizona.
Pickrell told St. George News that after practicing in Austin, Texas, for many years, he was looking for a smaller community in which to spend the last years of his career. Knowing he wanted to stay amid the beautiful deserts and mountains of the Southwest, his search brought him to Utah. While visiting St. George last fall for an interview, he fell in love with the area.
And he was equally impressed by the rheumatology team at Southwest Spine & Pain.
“They’re exceptional,” he said. “They have an amazing system that makes doctors highly efficient. We get to actually focus on the patient, and I love that.”
The Rheumatology Division specializes in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, ankylosing spondylitis, gout, lupus and Sjögren’s syndrome, among other illnesses. An infusion suite allows biologic therapies to be administered in-house.
Pickrell said he takes pride in the quality of care the clinic is able to provide, adding that therapies for inflammatory arthritis have improved dramatically in recent years.
“In the old days, people would say, ‘I’m just going to take Tylenol, and I’ll live with it,’ while their joints were slowly deforming,” he said. “That has all changed. We can arrest this disease fairly promptly with the biologics and the new synthetics, the small-molecule pills that are hitting the market now.”
The prevalence of autoimmune diseases has increased substantially over the last several decades and continues to rise, Pickrell said. Theories abound, but no key factor – whether it be diet, stress or lifestyle choices – has been identified.
For the past 25 years, Pickrell has worked for a Texas-based medical research company conducting clinical trials on emerging treatments for rheumatic diseases. He is also involved in the development of vaccines and currently serves as a principal investigator in COVID-19 vaccine trials for several major pharmaceutical companies, something which keeps him commuting between Texas and Southern Utah.
Pickrell joins Dr. Jeffrey L. Matthews and nurse practitioners Bart T. Hunter and Kami Stevens in treating both local patients and those who come from as far away as Las Vegas or Page, Arizona.
Southwest Spine & Pain operates 15 health centers throughout Utah, but the St. George clinic, located within the Coral Desert Health Center on Foremaster Drive, is the only one focusing on rheumatic and autoimmune diseases treatment. The Rheumatology Division opened a year and a half ago to great demand.
Southwest Spine & Pain administrative manager Shannon Akins said the rheumatology team puts efficient patient care at the forefront while providing a warm, friendly environment. In the past, Southern Utahns were often forced to travel to receive treatment in a timely manner. The Rheumatology Division can typically see patients within a couple of weeks.
“Now, with the addition of Dr. Pickrell, we’re able to get patients treated quickly and back to living life,” she said.
Written by ALEXA MORGAN for St. George News
• S P O N S O R E D C O N T E N T •
- Southwest Spine & Pain Center Rheumatology Division | Hours: Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. | Address: 1490 E. Foremaster Drive Suite 220, St. George | Telephone: 435-879-7610 | Website.
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