New Nash UNC doctor helps patients find hope

Originally Published in the Rocky Mount Telegram

Dr. Cheltenham

Nash UNC Health Care’s Coastal Plain Hospital has been serving patients in the Twin Counties since 1994 by offering mental health treatment. Nash UNC has hired a new medical director for Coastal Plain Hospital, Dr. Mark Cheltenham, who has a mission of helping patients find hope. 

“We offer compassion, medical assistance and cutting edge treatments — all wrapped up in a message of hope for our patients. We encourage patients to find the hope in their situation and understand things can get better,” Cheltenham said. “Finding hope is the first — and most important — step.”

Cheltenham explained that helping patients find hope is rooted in doctors and staff making connections with patients by offering individualized care to address their mental health needs. 

Cheltenham grew up in Michigan and attended medical school in Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. During his four-year residency, he realized he was drawn to the field of psychiatry. He said he liked building more established and long term relationships with his patients. 

“I was really interested in the connections between a patient’s emotional health and their physical health,” Cheltenham said, “I liked getting to know my patients better and healing their emotional health problems.”

Cheltenham’s coworkers at Coastal Plain Hospital are some of his biggest fans and can attest to the impact he makes on patients and staff. April Wright, a lead nurse at Coastal Plain said her team has been impressed with how Cheltenham listens to his patients and is a true advocate for patients.

 “He has a great bedside manner and is very approachable,” Wright added. “My team has described him as personable, a team player, a valuable leader and a patient’s advocate.”

Wright’s team also said Cheltenham is always willing to go the extra mile, he makes staff members feel special and he knows every Coastal Plain staff member by name. 

Luci Battle, a mental health technician at Coastal Plain Hospital agrees and said Cheltenham has been a breath of fresh air for the hospital.

 “Dr. Cheltenham is dedicated to providing his patients, his staff and other providers with respect and dignity and a smidge of humor. He is full of compassion and treats the whole patient, not just their symptoms,” Battle said. “He truly is passionate about his work.”

That breath of fresh air is needed for much of the community as well, as Cheltenham explained the Twin Counties and most of the surrounding counties have some of highest rates of poverty in the state, and that correlates with a higher number of mental health diagnoses.

“When you are traumatically influenced by poverty and maybe violence, you will see more cases of depression and substance abuse,” Cheltenham said. “Then overall health will decline. So it’s a cycle and improving the mental health of our community is important. That’s what I’m interested in — I want to build on that and see mental health services expanded into our community.”

For those reasons, Cheltenham and his team are working hard to ensure Coastal Plain Hospital is  a beacon of hope for those seeking treatment and an invaluable resource for the community.

“I see Coastal Plain Hospital and Nash UNC Health Care becoming a resource for mental health care for our entire community,” Cheltenham said. “Addressing the mental health needs of our community, in addition to our patients in this facility, is the key to improving the general health of our community.”

April Lynch, nurse manager at Coastal Plain, said she’s excited to see how Cheltenham is committed to patient care and the overall wellbeing of the community, all while having a goal to expand the services offered by Coastal Plain Hospital.

“I’m so glad to see Dr. Cheltenham wants to grow our patient population. Hopefully, we will be increasing our ability to take care of more patients,” Lynch said. “There are so many behavioral health patients in our area needing treatment that sometimes have to seek treatment outside our area. By growing our census, we will be able to keep our patients closer to their community and provide more services to those in need.”

Improving the mental and emotional health of the community is part of improving overall health rates in the Twin Counties, Cheltenham said.

“The goal of Nash UNC is to improve the health of people in our community — whether that happens on our campus, or with outreach and outpatient care. However it happens, we want to be a part of it,” he said. “I am eager to be a part of that.”