The staff at Kids and Tummies, LLC may be in the business of quality gastrointestinal care for kids, but the owner, Dr. April L. Ulmer, says the clinic’s true specialty is listening to patients.
“Every complaint, no matter how common, is addressed on a case-by-case basis, and there’s no single diagnosis that can be attributed to a complaint,” says Ulmer, who is known to many as the Tummy Doctor.
She adds, “Tummy pain can be due to constipation, gallbladder disease, celiac disease, gut allergy, and the list goes on and on. That’s why we start by listening to the parent and patient. We believe that it’s important to give people the time and space to just talk.”
Ulmer says allowing parents and patients that freedom ensures her staff of six full-time employees and numerous part-time affiliates are asking the right questions and making the correct recommendations. The members of her team have been handpicked based not only on ability, but also attitude and because they share Ulmer’s philosophy
“It’s important to acknowledge why a patient is coming in,” she says. “Sometimes what registers as a concern to a parent or patient is not what is most concerning to us as providers. To be able to address the thing that is concerning to me as a physician, I must first tackle the issue that is most worrisome to the patient and parent.”
Ulmer says working closely with children makes for lively workdays filled with endless laughter and lots of wholesome discussions.
“There is talk of tummies and worries, but also cartoons, little league, soccer and supper,” she says.
“At Kids and Tummies, we are a family to one another, and we treat our patients as an extension of that family. We are talkers, and we are listeners. Work is more than just a job here; it’s a calling. We approach every patient as if they are a member of our own family.”
Since opening her Gulfport practice in 2017, Ulmer says her biggest reward has been the difference she and her staff make in the lives of children and their families daily.
“We are providing access to a subspecialty service that is scarce in many parts of the country and definitely here in the South,” she says. “It’s rewarding when our patients tell us, ‘You changed our lives,’ or, ‘My friend or family member recommended y’all, so that’s why we decided to come here.’ The affirmations are not why we do it, but it sure helps on those difficult days to be reminded that what we do matters to people.”
The clinic provides a variety of pediatric services, including endoscopies and breath testing to detect conditions like lactose intolerance, sugar intolerance and bacterial overgrowth of the GI tract, as well as care and maintenance of feeding tubes, specialized bloodwork, stool testing and imaging.
“The testing that we order or perform at Kids and Tummies is not standard,” Ulmer says, “and most frequently has not yet been performed on the patients that present to the practice for diagnosis and management.”
The most challenging cases include those patients who have few or no typical gastrointestinal symptoms.
“Our approach to the GI tract is that it is the portal into the entire body,” the doctor says. “For that reason, problems in children that are primarily GI in origin can manifest as something that seems completely unrelated.”
One such case for Ulmer was the child of a dear friend, who was having allergic reactions that seemed to be escalating. Although the child did not have any GI symptoms, Ulmer recommended testing, which revealed that he suffered from a severe gut allergy.
“With treatment of his gut, his predominant symptoms either down-regulated or melted away,” she says.
Ulmer knew she wanted to become a doctor at the age of 6, primarily because she loves to help people, and she’s not stopping anytime soon. Kids and Tummies just opened a second location in Ocean Springs.
Also exciting is the addition of Erica Kostmayer, a certified pediatric nurse practitioner, and the addition of the only freestanding pediatric nutrition program in the state, which is set to start accepting patients in early 2023.
Ulmer says when she dreamed of opening her medical practice, she knew the Gulf Coast was the perfect place for her clinic and her family.
“(The Gulf Coast) is special because the people here are very warm,” she says, “and parents are so appreciative of what we do for them and their children.”
ABOUT KIDS AND TUMMIES LLC
Gulfport location: 401 Cowan Road, Suite B
Ocean Springs location: 1161 Robinson St.