Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Two Presidents Meet over Heart Health

Sinai President Neil Meltzer and former President Bill Clinton recently shared a New York stage, drawn together by a mutual passion - improving the health of children in the United States.

The men gave out Alliance for a Healthier Generation awards at an event to acknowledge 179 schools across the country that have created innovative, healthy environments where students and staff members can thrive.

“I was proud to be part of this touching ceremony as one of my last duties as Chairman of the American Heart Association,” says Meltzer, whose one-year tenure at AHA ends this month. “A major goal I set during my time as chairman was to spearhead efforts to decrease childhood obesity in this country by making substantive changes in the culture of our schools.”

Each school recognized by the Alliance's Healthy Schools Program had met or exceeded strict standards set through healthy eating and physical activity policies.

More than 9,000 schools in all 50 states have made the commitment to make modifications to turn the tide on childhood obesity.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation was founded through a joint partnership of the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation.

“Spending time with President Clinton was also a highlight of the evening for me,” adds Meltzer. “We spoke like two old friends about his daughter's upcoming wedding, what we're both doing for our respective heart health, what's happening in Haiti and in Africa. We also shared travel stories about our respective African trips and our mutual desire to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania."

-Helene King

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Staying Cool in the Summer

As Baltimore residents stagger through another week of high temperatures, health experts once again are stressing the importance of staying hydrated.

Chandresh Shelat, M.D., Sinai ER-7, spoke with WJZ-TV last week about the heat.

"Your blood pressure can drop; you can get confused," he said, and the consequences can be deadly without following common sense precautions.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the signs of heat stroke can include:
  • Red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating)
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Throbbing headache
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Unconsciousness
Heat exhaustion symptoms include dizziness, headache, fatigue, paleness and heavy sweating.

In extreme weather, those without air conditioning should take a shower or bath to cool down or move to an air-conditioned location. Wear light, loose-fitting clothing and, of course, drink lots of water. Remember to check on elderly neighbors.

Pets are also at risk in this hot weather - remember to make sure our friends with fur coats have plenty of water and access to cool spots. Never leave a pet in the car.

To learn more, read the CDC report on Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety.

Monday, June 28, 2010

LED Replacement Project Reduces Waste

As part of the ongoing Freedom to be Green program, Sinai Hospital has replaced nearly all fluorescent lights in non-clinical areas with super energy-efficient LED lamps.

The LED Replacement project makes sense both financially and environmentally.

For example, the new LEDs have three or four times the life of regular bulbs, which reduces waste. They work seven to ten years instead of the current seven months to one year. The bulbs also use 50 percent less electricity. In addition, the more these lights are used, the fewer florescent tubes- which must be disposed of in landfills- are needed.

"Budget-wise, the savings for LifeBridge Health will be substantial as the new LED bulbs are phased in. We were able to cut $110,000 from Sinai’s energy budget for the next fiscal year." says Lewis Poe, director of Plant Operations at LifeBridge Health.

Baltimore Gas and Electric will be giving LifeBridge Health rebates that will amount to about half of what our projected costs will be. In dollars and cents, that’s a savings of more than $300,000.

But Sinai and LifeBridge Health leaders know that one man's trash is another man's treasure. On June 22, Sinai donated approximately 4,000 of the outgoing fluorescent lamps and 2,000 ballasts to The Loading Dock, a Baltimore-based non-profit organization. This was the hospital’s first donation to the local charity. Most of the remaining lamps were redistributed internally to other LifeBridge Health properties for reuse.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Safe Haven for Mothers

The Safe Haven law in Maryland, passed in 2002, allows mothers to leave newborn babies at a hospital, fire or police station without being prosecuted and with no questions asked.

That means Sinai and Northwest hospitals are safe havens. The purpose of the law is to protect newborn babies who may be abandoned by their mothers who are afraid they would be subject to legal action if they cannot keep the child. The law aims to protect the health of a newborn baby, who may be especially at risk if a pregnant woman is fearful or in denial of her pregnancy.

The baby must be 10 days old or younger and unharmed for the mother to be protected by this law. The mother needs to hand the baby to someone at a Safe Haven facility and say that she cannot take the baby. If she is willing to answer a few questions with a social worker it is helpful, but not required.

Hospital employees should know that if a mother hands their baby to them and states they cannot keep the baby, the employee should call security, and an officer will escort the baby and employee to Sinai ER-7 or Northwest ER-7. The mother may either leave at that time or go with the baby and employee to answer questions.

A baby who is brought to a hospital will be examined and treated, and a social worker will notify the Baltimore City Department of Social Services or Baltimore County Department of Social Services. The baby will be placed in a safe foster care or potential adoptive home.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Visit Sinai Booth at the Hare Krishna Festival of India

If it’s summertime in Baltimore, it’s festival time!

The Baltimore 2010 Hare Krishna Festival of India is Saturday, one of the many fun ethnic events that are celebrated during Baltimore hot summers.

“All are invited to come partake of the great food and music,” says Dr. Neeraj Verma, an anesthesiologist at Sinai Hospital.

And while you’re there, look for the Sinai Hospital GI Associates booth where someone will be on hand to provide information that could save lives.

You can learn about gastrointestinal distress such as bloating, heartburn, diarrhea or constipation. Maybe you have trouble swallowing, are bothered by a burning sensation in the throat or stomach reflux, and want to know why. Perhaps you want to know when – and where - to get a colonoscopy. Remember, while the standard guidelines recommend getting a colonoscopy at age 50, there are some people, such as those who have a family history of colon cancer, who should start earlier.

Dr. Sudhir Dutta, Dr. John Rabine and Dr. Vinod Parashar are board-certified gastroenterologists at Sinai Hospital. They can provide complete diagnosis and treatment for disorders of the colon, stomach, esophagus, small bowel and the biliary and pancreatic system utilizing the very latest technology.

The Festival of India will start at noon on Saturday with a chariot parade from the Maryland Science Center, 601 Light Street. The festival will take place until 7 p.m. at McKeldin Square, corner of Pratt and Light streets.

For more information about the GI Associates at Sinai Hospital or to schedule an appointment call 410-601-WELL (9355).

-Sandra Crockett

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Cancer Survivors Recognized at Camden Yards

The Baltimore Orioles will recognize the courage and strength of those living with cancer in an Evening of Hope pregame ceremony before the Orioles take on the Florida Marlins.

James Brooks, a multiple myeloma patient in remission, was treated at the LifeBridge Health's Alvin & Lois Lapidus Cancer Institute and will be honored in the ceremony. Other cancer patients from local area hospitals will also be recognized by the Orioles.

Stephen Noga, M.D., the director of oncology/hematology at the Alvin & Lois Lapidus Cancer Institute, submitted a letter to the Orioles that included information about the James’ diagnosis and his successful treatment. As part of the recognition, the Orioles provided LifeBridge Health with 100 Left Field Club Level tickets in the “All You Can Eat" section for cancer patients and their guests for the game. The official ceremony is from 6:45-7:00 p.m. and the game begins at 7:05 p.m.

We're thankful to the Orioles for honoring cancer patients, and wish them the best in tonight's game!

To learn more about cancer services at LifeBridge Health, call 410-601-WELL (9355).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

LifeBridge Health Honored for Excellence in Diversity

LifeBridge Health was awarded the 2010 James W. Rouse “Excellence in Diversity Award” by the Chesapeake Human Resources Association’s Diversity and Inclusion committee.

According to the CHRA, LifeBridge Health has demonstrated a superior effort to promote diversity and inclusion through wellness, community outreach and company policy. The award was presented to Taylor Foss, vice president of Human Resources at LifeBridge Health, on June 16.

“At LifeBridge Health we embrace a culture of inclusion and mutual respect by valuing the unique contributions of each employee,” says Foss. “That’s our Diversity Vision Statement
and it is reflective of our rich history—when the Hebrew Hospital and Asylum became Sinai Hospital in 1920, it was the only hospital in the city where Jewish people and people of color could work and get care. We are fortunate to have senior leaders at LifeBridge who are committed to continuing our comprehensive approach to diversity with initiatives focused on our workforce, our suppliers and on the communities we serve.”

An extraordinary group of passionate employees at LifeBridge Health make up a Diversity Council. The Diversity Council is helping LifeBridge create an environment where all employees can be their very best.

“I am honored and humbled to accept this award on behalf of LifeBridge and all our employees who are making a difference,” Foss says.

To learn more about working for LifeBridge Health, click here.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Northwest Hospital Reduces Pressure Ulcers

Pressure ulcers (sometimes called "bed sores") affect millions of patients in hospitals every year. They are not only painful, causing blistering and bleeding, but also can be dangerous.

That's one of the reasons Northwest Hospital began a comprehensive education program last year that has succeeded in virtually eliminating pressure ulcers from patients in the hospital.

"Pressure ulcer management is a big part of what I do," says Deborah Greener-Orr, Ph.D., RN, a former certified Wound and Ostomy Care Nurse at Northwest who spearheaded the program. "Over the course of six months we've provided education to the staff, and I think the education part has been very exciting."

At the beginning of the six-month trial, there was a prevalence of hospital-acquired pressure ulcers in the geriatric unit that was around 25 percent, she says. At the end of the trial, the prevalence went to zero.

The program was implemented in collaboration with Medline Industries, Inc., a provider of health care products and the developer of the pressure ulcer reduction system, which provided helpful educational materials and products.

You can see Deborah talking more about the pressure ulcer initiative by clicking here and watching the video from MedLine.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Northwest ER-7 Shows Gains In Patient Satisfaction

At 7:05 a.m. on Wednesday, June 16, Northwest Hospital’s ER-7 saw its 60,000th patient since July 1 of last year. If current trends continue, the ER will see about 62,380 patients in a year’s time, a new record for the hospital. There’s no question that the Randallstown community has grown, increasing the demand for emergency medical services, and we're constantly striving to improve the ER patient's experience.

Northwest’s current ER was built 7 years ago and was designed to accommodate 50,000 patients a year. Though the emergency department is busy, the staff takes measures to ensure that patients don’t feel the pinch.

Through the creation of a Rapid Evaluation Unit (REU), in which patients are quickly screened by a health care provider and directed to one of seven ER care centers, average waiting time to see a physician has decreased by half. For people in the main waiting room, a guest relations representative makes sure they have what they need, whether it be a blanket, something to read or more information about their loved one. Since 2006, patient satisfaction with the Northwest ER has increased three-fold.

Last June, Northwest’s ER was designated as a Primary Stroke Center by MIEMMS. This means that ambulances will bring patients who present with stroke symptoms to Northwest when it is the nearest Primary Stroke Center. With a stroke, time to treatment is of the utmost importance, and now that stroke patients now are able to be seen more quickly at Northwest, lives will be saved and qualities of life improved.

“Our hospital and community are better off for the commitment [the ER staff has] made to providing top notch care to those who need us in times of emergency,” say Erik Wexler, president of Northwest Hospital.

-Holly Hosler

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Magic of Life Gala Raises More Than $3 Million

Baltimore has once again made the LifeBridge Health Magic of Life Gala one of the most successful one-day fundraisers in the city.

The event, held at the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, raised $3,007,500 for programs and services provided by LifeBridge Health and its member facilities– Sinai Hospital, Northwest Hospital, Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, and Courtland Gardens Nursing & Rehabilitation Center (formerly Jewish Convalescent & Nursing Home).

Leading the effort were the Magic of Life Gala chairmen and their wives, who are pictured at left: Joseph and Annette Cooper, Jon and Susan Levinson, and John and Laura Shmerler.

"The gala chairmen and our wives would like to thank the Baltimore community for making this year's gala the most successful in LifeBridge Health history," says Jon Levinson, executive vice president at Alex Cooper Auctioneers.

"The tireless efforts and dedication of our great team, combined with the support of individuals, foundations and the business community, contributed to an unforgettable night and much-needed programs and services for LifeBridge Health," Levinson says.

This year’s gala featured a performance by the season six winner of “American Idol,” Jordin Sparks, and comedian SARGE. Sparks is pictured at right with Levindale president Aric Spitulnik and his wife, Lisa Spitulnik.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Composting and Horticulture Therapy at LifeBridge Health

Two LifeBridge Health facilities are encouraging residents to get their hands dirty - and help the environment.

Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital and Courtland Gardens Nursing & Rehabilitation Center began receiving compost to use in therapeutic patient activities in May. Dee McGuire, Levindale horticultural therapist, and Jamilah Bashir, therapeutic recreation manager at Courtland, each got a truckload of compost from Envirelation, the company that manages LifeBridge's food waste.

LifeBridge composted more than 100 tons of organic waste from food prep and patient trays in 2009. Composting allows minerals and nutrients to be recycled from food and plant waste and the material biodegrades, rather than being trapped in a landfill, which is designed to prevent leaching and decomposition.

"We've done it a few times with the residents and it appears to be going well," Bashir says. "Horticulture therapy provides relaxation and gives them a chance to put their hands into the soil."

Horticultural therapy is recognized as a practical and viable treatment with wide-ranging benefits for people in therapeutic, vocational, and wellness programs. Dee and Jamilah are excited to see what blooms out of this new project!

Are you interested in composting in your own backyard? The University of Illinois has some helpful tips here. Gardening can be a great outdoors activity, and growing your own vegetables is both rewarding and a way to eat healthy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Intimacy After Menopause

It's no secret that "The Change" means change for you, your body and your partner. But life doesn't end after menopause - in fact, the best is yet to come!

Dee-Dee Shiller, D.O., board-certified gynecologist and director of the new Women's Wellness Center at Northwest Hospital will talk about how your love life can improve even as you mature.

Her talk, titled "Bringing Back Sexy: Women and Intimacy," will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on Monday, June 21 in the MacDonald Boardroom at Northwest Hospital.

Dr. Shiller comes to Northwest Hospital via Good Samaritan Hospital, where she was the chief of Gynecology. She received her Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree from the New York College of Osteopathic Medicine, and completed her residency at Sinai Hospital. As a doctor of osteopathy, Dr. Shiller is able to provide osteopathic manipulation treatment – hands-on care for muscle and bone pain – which is another added benefit of the center.

The Women's Wellness Center offers a variety of services for women at every stage of life, connecting them with physicians and other health care providers. Dr. Shiller's talk is one in a series of free lectures that allow women to have the latest information at their fingertips.

For more information, click here. To register to attend this FREE lecture, call 410-601-WELL (9355).

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sinai Volunteers Give Back To Community

Sinai Hospital was the first place winner and Levindale was second in THE ASSOCIATED's 90,000 hours campaign, officials recently announced.

As part of its 90th anniversary celebration, THE ASSOCIATED had a drive for the community to serve 90,000 volunteer hours together. THE ASSOCIATED’s Jewish Volunteer Connection (JVC), which matches individuals, families and groups with projects that match their interest. managed this initiative. Sinai Hospital contributed 11,772 hours and Levindale completed 10,300 hours.

The winners of the campaign were announced at THE ASSOCIATED's Celebration of Leadership on Wednesday at the Weinberg Park Heights Jewish Community Center Community Room.

"As the volunteer manager at Sinai, I feel fortunate that the hospital is ASSOCIATED," says Beth Markowitz. "Through its programs and services, THE ASSOCIATED: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore works wonders to highlight and strengthen the role of volunteers in our community."

Sinai was awarded $500 for its volunteer recognition efforts.

"It was a very vibrant competition that demonstrated commitment to service," says Ashley Pressman, director of Jewish Volunteer Connection. "It has been very successful in creating a culture of service, plus it got people to track their hours."

To learn more about THE ASSOCIATED, click here. To learn more about volunteering at Sinai, click here. To learn more about volunteering at Levindale, call 410-601-2260.

Friday, June 11, 2010

bacteria versus virus, in clay

A bit of infectious diseases whimsical warfare for your Friday...

I recently stumbled across this playful short video on the Improbable Research blog, showing a bacterium being infected by a bacteriophage. Bacteriophages are viruses that specifically infect bacteria, but not the cells of humans or other animals. Although they have seen little use in the United States in terms of medical and biotechnology applications, they have been more widely used in other countries. With the continued concern over antibiotic-resistant bacteria and a lack of new drugs to treat them with, bacteriophages may be more extensively researched for clinical uses in the future.

And really, who wouldn't want to, when they look this cute?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cancer Survivors Celebrate Life

by Jill Adler
Coordinator, Patient Information Services
Alvin & Lois Lapidus Cancer Institute, LifeBridge Health

Lime green goodie bags lined the hallway like proud soldiers Sunday afternoon at the Pikesville Hilton where over 100 cancer survivors, their family and friends came to celebrate LIFE. Survivors received a warm welcome as they were greeted by nurses and other staff with colorful leis representing their years of survivorship from months to over 20 years.

The foyer magically turned into a min-spa with six healing stations set up. Feet were rubbed, pressure points were gently releived and participants could be seen relaxing with headphones on a warm mat filled with healing crystals. Can you say Freedom to Relax!

If you could peel yourself away from the spa a sea of vendors including local cancer resources, LifeBridge Health program and services and several activity stations surrounded the main ballroom.

Roars of laughter would soon be heard from the crowd as they witnessed a funny lady sitting on a barstool with a tattered book on her lap. Such a lady could only be known as Kathy LaTour, the keynote speaker, an author, comic and breast cancer survivor. Ms. Latour shared entries from her journal that set the stage for each step in her cancer experience: discovery, diagnosis, treatment, chemo, hair loss, acceptance and lessons learned. She left the crowd feeling like they were all part of a great big inside joke.....lifted, lighter and more connected. In the picture above you can see me with Ms. LaTour and Erika Akers from Breast Friends.

Although bellies were full of laughter at day's end, there was still room for the sweetness of dessert thanks to Whole Foods and Debi's Cake Studio who donated beautifully decorated cakes.

Any day that starts with warm hugs and ends with sugary treats is indeed a cause for celebration!

To learn more about the Alvin & Lois Lapidus Cancer Institute, click here or call 410-601-WELL (9355).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Thyroid Nodules Should Be Examined

Thyroid nodules – or abnormal growths on the thyroid gland – are quite common, with the rates of thyroid cancer growing, a leading expert told physicians last week.

Kenneth D. Burman, M.D., chief of the Endocrine Section at Washington Hospital Center and professor in the Department of Medicine at Georgetown University, presented at Sinai Hospital Grand Rounds on “Thyroid Nodules and Thyroid Cancer: Recent Advances.”

Dr. Burman cited an autopsy study in which it was discovered that 12 percent of the deceased had one nodule, 37 percent had multiple nodules and 2.1 percent even had thyroid cancer – even though they did not know it and died from other causes. Women are three to four times more likely to have thyroid nodules than men, and the nodules most commonly appear in women in their 30s and 40s.

While 90 to 95 percent of thyroid nodules are benign (such as adenomas, cysts or infections), it’s imperative that they are closely monitored by an endocrinologist to make sure they are not cancerous.

Two key diagnostic tools are ultrasound and fine needle aspiration. An ultrasound can tell a doctor if the nodule is solid, has blurred edges or calcifications, or has a lot of blood vessels feeding it – all of which are potential signs of cancer. If the nodule has any of these characteristics, a fine needle aspiration biopsy, or FNA, will be ordered. During an FNA, key portions of the nodule will be removed with a small needle so that they can be evaluated to see if they are cancerous.

According to Dr. Burman, 86 percent of thyroid FNA results come back as non-cancerous, while 4 percent are malignant and 10 percent are suspicious. However, when the FNA and biopsy are repeated 6 to 12 months later, 22 percent of nodules can be categorized as malignant or suspicious. (Sixty percent of suspicious FNA results are later found to be malignant.) Therefore it is important that the patient have another FNA about 6 months later and ultrasound be repeated every 6 to 12 months to recheck the size and characteristics of the nodule.

In terms of incidence, thyroid cancer is the fastest growing cancer, with a 5 to 6 percent increase in the number of cases diagnosed each year. Dr. Burman says that there has been a 2 to 3-fold increase in thyroid cancer in the past 20 or 30 years. The most common thyroid cancer – papillary cancer, which amounts for 80 percent of cases, has a fairly good prognosis, with 93 percent of papillary cancer survivors living 10 or more years after diagnosis.

However, anaplastic thyroid cancer, which accounts for 2 percent of all thyroid cancer diagnoses, is the deadliest of all known cancers, with a 14 percent survival rate of more than 10 years. As with all cancers, the earlier thyroid cancer can be detected, the better the chances are that a patient will make a full recovery.

As with all cancers, the earlier thyroid cancer can be detected, the better the chances are that a patient will make a full recovery.

Surgery and radioactive iodine therapy are used to treat thyroid cancer. Also, if a non-cancerous nodule is a causing cosmetic problems or compressing a patient’s esophagus, it can be surgically removed.

If you or a loved one has been discovered to have a thyroid nodule and you’d like to schedule an appointment with a LifeBridge Health endocrinologist, call 410-601-WELL (9355).

-Holly Hosler

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Team Sinai Heads to Haiti

As a sign of their commitment in providing medicine for those who are less fortunate, LifeBridge Health has several employees who regularly go on medical missions. This week, a team of volunteers from Sinai Hospital head to Haiti, many for the second time since the January earthquake.

The 18-member team will be providing support to the Hopital Adventiste d'Haiti (Haiti Adventist Hospital - "HAH") in Carrefour, Port au Prince. The focus is to provide reconstructive orthopedic surgery to the earthquake victims, as well as general support to HAH. The team members include three orthopedic surgeons, one podiatrist, one anesthesiologist, one family practitioner, five nurses, one physical therapist, one surgical instrument technician, and three volunteers.

In preparation for their coworkers' trip, Sinai employees joined forces to help collect supplies. In the last week of May, the employees gathered band-aids, protein bars and flip-flops. As you can see from these pictures, hundreds of flip-flops were donated. They will be handed out to patients at HAH, allowing many to no longer be barefoot. Help also arrived from Practice Dynamics employees, who started their own flip-flop drive for the trip.

"Dr. Herzenberg and I were very humbled by the response from employees," says Aaron Zuckerberg, the head of the Pediatric Intensive Care and Critical Care Unit at the Herman & Walter Samuelson Children's Hospital at Sinai.

You can learn more about the Team Sinai members and see progress on their trip by clicking here.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Meeting with a Genetic Counselor

Editor's Note: A LifeBridge Health patient recently met with one of our genetic counselors. She graciously agreed to share her story in the hopes that it will help others.

A lot of women in my father’s side of the family have been diagnosed with breast cancer, which is why my doctor recommended that I meet with a genetic counselor. Knowing that one is genetically predisposed to a certain cancer can allow screening to occur more often and start at a younger age in attempts to catch any potential cancer at its earliest stage, when it is the most treatable.

There are two known gene mutations – BRCA1 and BRCA2 – that greatly increase one’s odds of getting breast cancer. That’s because these gene mutations interfere with the body’s ability to suppress tumors in the breast. It turns out that our bodies frequently make abnormal cells. However, the body also has mechanisms to rid itself of these irregular cells. When these mechanisms fail or aren’t working properly (as in the case of BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutation carriers), that’s when cancer can occur. Having the BRCA mutations increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer to anywhere from 60 to 85 percent. These same mutations also increase the odds of getting ovarian cancer to about 45 percent.

I went to the Alvin & Lois Lapidus Cancer Institute to meet with Shannan DeLany Dixon, M.S., C.G.C., a genetic counselor and director of the Master's in Genetic Counseling Program at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Shannan regularly sees patients at Sinai and Northwest hospitals. First, she asked me questions related to my personal risk for breast cancer, such as when I had my first menstrual cycle, if I was ever pregnant, my age, if I had ever taken birth control pills, and how much I drank alcohol. Experts estimate that about 75 percent of breast cancer cases are attributable to these lifestyle factors and have nothing to do with our genes; 15 percent are caused by a combination of genetic and lifestyle factors; and 10 percent are inevitable based on genetic makeup.

Shannan mapped out my complete family tree, noting which family members had conditions such as breast cancer, severe diabetes, heart disease and stroke. (As part of her job, she searches for all known genetic-related diseases, not only breast cancer.) While my paternal grandmother and both of her sisters had breast cancer, my grandmother was the only one to get it when she was only 39; the other family members were all women in their 50s, 60s and 70s, when breast cancer is not unusual. Shannan mentioned that there could have been an environmental factor in the town in which they lived that would have caused this breast cancer cluster.

If my grandmother’s breast cancer had been caused by the gene mutation and not her environment or lifestyle, there is a 50 percent chance that I would have inherited a mutated gene from my father. However, as long as I haven’t also received the mutation from my mother, I would not have increased risk for breast cancer because of my genes.

Based on my family tree, Shannan estimated that there would be about a 6 percent chance that a genetic test would come back positive for me, which would not necessarily mean that I would have a cancer-causing mutation to my BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. A positive test result might show “a variant of unknown clinical significance,” because there is some normal variation to BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes that researchers are still sorting out.

As it turns out, I decided not to move forward with the genetic test because my mother’s side of the family is largely cancer-free and no one in my family is known to have had ovarian cancer. (Had either of these factors been otherwise, my decision would be different.) Testing would have been an easy process, involving either a blood sample or a cell specimen collected from the inside of my cheeks. I was surprised to learn that my insurance would have covered almost the entire cost of the test.

Meeting with Shannan gave me tremendous peace of mind. I still run the risk for breast cancer (1 in 8 women will be diagnosed at some point in her life), but I now think it’s unlikely that I have a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation. This doesn’t mean I can let my guard down. I will still get my annual mammograms and do all that I can through diet and exercise to lead a healthy lifestyle – the best form of cancer prevention.

Do you have an increased risk for breast cancer based on certain lifestyle factors? Take LifeBridge Health’s free risk assessment at Know Your Health. There are also several helpful websites with information on genetics, such as the Family Cancer Genetics Network and Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered (FORCE).

Friday, June 4, 2010

Hackerman-Patz House Provides Haven for Families

If you or someone you love is sick, all you want to do is concentrate your attention on recovery.

One thing that can help you put your mind at ease is not having to worry about where you and/or your loved ones will stay when you’re not at the hospital.

That’s why the Hackerman-Patz House was built.

It’s located on the Sinai/Levindale campus, and people being cared for at both hospitals have a comfortable, clean and convenient place to rest afterward.

“The Hackerman-Patz House is a save haven for people to unwind after undergoing out-patient procedures or to relax after providing comfort to a sick friend or relative,” says William “Bill” Turner, director of the Hackerman-Patz House.

“Not having to get into a car and go to a hotel - in many cases only to have to return to the hospital the next day - means less stress and more time to concentrate on what’s important…the health of the person who’s not feeling well!”

Rooms at the Hackerman-Patz House are handicap-accessible with sitting areas, microwaves, refrigerators, cable TV, wireless Internet, DVD players and too many other conveniences to name.

Patients being treated in the LifeBridge Health system, their friends and/or their families can stay at the house, whether it’s for one night or as long as a year.

“The building itself is nice,” says Amy Scholnick-Powderly, an administrative assistant at the Hackerman-Patz House. “But what makes it really special is the feeling that our guests have. There’s a sense of camaraderie and being with people who understand what each other is going through.”

Gwenn Eisenberg agrees. “I choose to volunteer my time at the Hackerman-Patz House because I love knowing that I make a difference in people’s lives, no matter how big or small. I also love meeting people from around the world, who stay there while undergoing procedures," she says.

In fact, in addition to the local patients and families at the Hackerman-Patz House, people from more than 50 countries and all 50 states have also called it their “home away from home.”

Parking is free and room rates are reasonable. For more information, you can call 410-601-5163 or log onto wturner (at)

-Helene King

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mini-Golf Event to Benefit Cancer Patients

There's a good chance the weekend weather will be in the 80s - and what better way to get some sun and fun than by playing mini-golf?

The Mildred Mindell Cancer Foundation is hosting a mini-golf event at Tom Mitchell's Golf Complex, 301 Mitchell Drive, Reisterstown on Sunday. Proceeds from the event will go toward establishing a Child Life Library for cancer patients at the Herman & Walter Samuelson Children's Hospital at Sinai.

Mary Zell, a LifeBridge Health pharmacist, was motivated to hold the event in honor of her mother, Marilyn Zell. Both mother and daughter were past presidents of the Mildred Mindell Cancer Foundation. When Marilyn Zell passed away in January 2007, her daughter wanted to find a way to honor her mother.

"I overheard a child talking to his mother about how boring it was to do an infusion," Mary Zell says. "We want the Children's Hospital to have enough funds to be able to get new movie releases, books, games and art supplies. Lots of times a parent may need to miss or give up work to be with their child, which makes money tight. Even in the best circumstances, parents don't always have the means to throw down $20 on a new DVD."

The event will be from 2 to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets for those over age 13 are $18; ages 4-12 are $15; and children under 3 are free. The rain date will be Monday, June 7, beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Baked goods, snacks and beverages available for purchase. For more information contact Mary at 410-262-8569.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Monitoring and Managing Diabetes and High Blood Pressure

People with diabetes should have their blood pressure monitored and managed aggressively, a leading nephrologist told a group of Sinai Hospital physicians last week.

George Bakris, M.D. presented on “Updates in Treatment Goals for the Diabetic Hypertensive” at Sinai Hospital’s Grand Rounds. Dr. Bakris is the Director of Hypertension Center and a professor at the University of Chicago Medical Center. The presentation was dedicated to the numerous accomplishments of longtime Sinai Hospital physician Leon Kassel, M.D.

There is a significant increase in mortality rates for patients in a hospital who have both diabetes and hypertension. Untreated high blood pressure increases the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke. That’s one of the reasons why physicians need to get patients’ blood pressure controlled, which can be accomplished through medication, Dr. Bakris says.

According to the American Heart Association, 77 percent of first-time stroke victims have a blood pressure of over 140/90. The recommendations for blood pressure levels in those with diabetes and chronic kidney disease (without proteinuria) should be less than 140/90, Dr. Bakris says.

“If your patient doesn’t have proteinuria, treat the blood pressure and lipids with the simplest medications and get it below 140/90,” he says.

Diabetes and high blood pressure are risk factors for kidney disease. Those with diabetes should be monitored for microalbuminuria, or small amounts of a protein called albumin in the urine, although physicians should be careful to not jump to conclusions.

“Microalbuminuria does not by itself indicase kidney disease,” Dr. Bakris says. “It is a risk marker, not a risk factor. If you take care of the heart and the brain the kidneys will come along for the ride.”

Both patients and health care providers also need to remember to take blood pressure accurately.

“The patients’ back should be support with both feet on the floor,” Dr. Bakris reminded the physicians. He’s a believer in letting patients use home blood pressure kits.

“Taking blood pressure at home empowers the patient with information,” he says.

To learn more about assessing your high blood pressure, visit the American Heart Association's High Blood Pressure Health Risk Calculator. You can also visit Know Your Health Baltimore to do a heart assessment test.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Celebrating Health Care Recruiter Day

The team of 12 health care recruiters (also known as a Human Resources Business Partner) at LifeBridge Health deserve to be recognized. Each has a very important and difficult job. These individuals assist department managers with finding qualified and experienced health care professionals to fill over 6,000 positions throughout LifeBridge Health. Today is Health Care Recruiter Recognition Day, which is a great way to recognize what recruiters do.

The search process for job candidates can be daunting and cumbersome. It begins when a position is vacated by a current employee, or when a new position is created out of need or patient volume. The recruiter determines if a current employee may be interested in filling the position, or if an external search needs to be completed. Searching outside of the health system often involves advertising the position in various sources, using a temporary agency, or asking an external recruiter to help find the appropriately qualified candidate. Once a pool of candidates is narrowed down, interviews are conducted and the hiring process begins.

I recently spoke to Julia Farrell, a recruiter from Northwest Hospital, who primarily recruits for nursing and tech positions in the clinical areas at the hospital.

Q: How did you become a health care recruiter?

I started out in non-profit management and marketing, and fell into human resources in a temporary assignment. I began to learn the ins and outs of the human resources field through training from the ground up in support of the Nurse Recruitment Team at Sinai Hospital. My role expanded to learn the processes for compensation, recruitment, generalist support and project management. Then, I earned the opportunity to grow as the health care recruiter supporting the allied health team at a different community hospital. Here I learned about and supported the non-nursing health care professional side while partnering with hospital leadership in their recruitment and retention needs.

Later, I came back to LifeBridge Health to support the nursing team as a Human Resources Business Partner at Northwest. In this role, I assist the nursing department at Northwest with their recruitment, retention and employee relations needs.

Each step in my career, I was mentored by senior leadership team members. I continue to grow my professional knowledge base through attending internal and external classes, seminars and conferences, and more recently webinars related to recruitment and retention.

Q: What's the best part of your job as a Human Resources Business Partner?

Every day is different! I thoroughly enjoy working with my human resources team members at Northwest Hospital and throughout LifeBridge Health. I love to find the right fit and best qualified candidates for the Northwest team. I have also come to enjoy coaching and partnering with the Nursing Leadership Team in their employee relations needs. Building and nurturing relationships with leadership and other staff members is also enjoyable.

Q: What are the hot jobs right now throughout LifeBridge Health?

  • Experienced operating room, emergency department and critical care RNs
  • Physical Therapists
  • Occupational Therapists
  • Practice Managers
  • Health Information Coding Manager and Coders
  • Physician Assistants
  • Neonatal Intensive Care Manager
  • Speech Therapists
  • Pathology Positions

Q: What is your advice for job seekers in the current economy?
I advise anyone currently entering the job market, or wanted to make a job change to network! Networking is beneficial when done directly in person, by phone, by email and using social media web sites, such as LinkedIn.

For a complete list of the opportunities any of the LifeBridge Health facilities, visit All applicants must apply online to be considered.

-Betsy Haley