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Towson, MD 21204
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The Healthy Bones Program for Osteoporosis and Fracture Prevention

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Decreasing the risk of fracture through education and early intervention

The Healthy Bones Program for Osteoporosis and Fracture Prevention is a service provided by GBMC Health Partners Orthopaedics that focuses on decreasing the risk of bone fractures due to osteoporosis in the aging population. Most people over the age of 50 have not been properly evaluated to see if they are at risk for this disease and other conditions that cause weak bones. Once a fracture occurs, it increases the chance of recurring fractures and it is important to actively address bone health to prevent this from happening. Severe fractures, such as hip fractures, can greatly impact quality of life. The goal of this program is to identify risk factors, investigate bone health, and provide interventions to prevent fractures from occurring.

Early recognition of osteoporosis is critical. Around 300,000 Americans fracture a hip each year. Most people who fracture a hip then require a walker, if they don’t die within the first year. Individual risk for fracture can be reduced. Maintaining bone health can extend personal independence, prolonging enjoyment of family, friends, and activities. The GBMC Healthy Bones Program is available for anyone over the age of 50 who is concerned about bone health. It can be especially beneficial for patients who have had previous fractures caused by a fall. An osteopenia or osteoporosis diagnosis is not required to participate in the program. Risk factors for poor bone health include, but are not limited to:
  • Having a fracture after the age of 50
  • Smoking tobacco
  • Consuming more than three alcoholic drinks per day
  • Having a parent who has broken his or her hip
  • Taking steroids or certain other medications for a long period of time
  • Having a previous spine fracture
  • Having rheumatoid arthritis
  • Being a thin, postmenopausal, Asian, or Caucasian woman


Julie Merrill, PA-C

Julie Merrill, PA-C

Director, GBMC Healthy Bones Program for Osteoporosis and Fracture Prevention

Julie Merrill, PA-C, is the Director and lead clinician of the GBMC Healthy Bones Program for Osteoporosis and Fracture Prevention at GBMC Health Partners Orthopaedics. With a B.A. from Vassar College, Julie earned her Master of Science degree in Physician Assistant Studies through the Towson University/CCBC-Essex PA Program and is certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. She also earned her Master of Science degree in Oriental Medicine from Southwest Acupuncture College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) and the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF), and is a member of their Ambassadors Leadership Council.

Prior to taking on her role at GBMC Health Partners Orthopaedics, Julie served as a physician assistant in the Harvey Institute for Human Genetics at GBMC. She has had over 20 years of patient care experience and was previously employed with Pulmonary and Critical Care Associates of Baltimore. She is a member of the GBMC CARES Peer Support Team.

Our Services

The GBMC Healthy Bones Program provides the following services to patients:

  • Extensive bone health and medical history evaluation
  • Education on how to improve bone health through:
    • Fall prevention
    • Nutrition and supplement use
    • Exercise
  • Referral for physical therapy or to local classes for balance and strength training
  • Diagnostic tests to evaluate bone density and to check for spine fractures
  • Calculation of 10-year fracture risk
  • Discussion of whether medication for reducing fracture risk is an appropriate treatment
  • Prescription of medication when necessary
  • Explanation of types of osteoporosis medications, their risks and benefits, and how to reduce side effects
  • Communication of findings and recommendations with a primary care provider
  • Ongoing monitoring as needed
Healthy Bones Story

How to Prevent an Event More Common Than Heart Attacks and Strokes

The risk of falls and fractures increases steadily as we age. Learn how our program is helping you prevent fractures, particularly hip and spine, which can be life changing.

Watch Now

Program Goals

Many people experience fractures before osteoporosis is even considered, which is why it is often referred to as a “silent disease.” The Healthy Bones Program strives to stop debilitating and preventable fractures through three steps: identification, investigation, and intervention.

Identification

When a fracture happens in a person over the age of 50 from a low-impact fall, it is important to know whether or not it occurred because of weak bones. The team will identify the type of fracture and determine whether osteoporosis was a potential cause of the break.

Investigation

Using diagnostic testing such as DEXA (bone density) scans, spine X-rays, bloodwork, and more, the team will assess for any causes of low bone density and each individual’s risk for future fractures

Intervention

Once a fracture risk has been established, patients will be provided with a customized education and treatment plan. Interventions range from nutrition counseling and medication to assistance with smoking cessation and fall-proofing.

To learn more about the Healthy Bones Program, contact Julie Merrill, PA-C, at healthybones@gbmc.org. To make an appointment, call GBMC Health Partners Orthopaedics at 443-849-3838.

Osteoporosis Support Group

The GBMC Healthy Bones Program for Osteoporosis and Fracture Prevention is offering a free online information and support group for GBMC patients living with or concerned about osteoporosis. The goal of this group is to enhance participants’ quality of life through creating community, providing new information, and sharing coping strategies in a relaxed and informal environment.

Meetings are held through Webex on the first Thursday of every month at 11 a.m. Please click here to register. After receiving your registration form, our team will add you to our email list to provide you with specific, ongoing information about the group.

If you have any questions about this group, feel free to contact Julie Merrill, PA-C, Director, GBMC Healthy Bones Program for Osteoporosis and Fracture Prevention, at healthybones@gbmc.org. We welcome you to share your concerns and interests that you would like addressed in the group.
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