Asthma program helps Richmond families, earns EPA recognition

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recognized Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU with the 2017 National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management. During Asthma Awareness Month each May, the EPA honors local asthma management programs for their exemplary role in improving the lives of people with asthma, particularly those in underserved communities.

Since 2005, the EPA has recognized 41 health plans, health care providers and communities in action. Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU was one of three winners this year, and the only one in the health care provider category.

Asthma affects more than six million children throughout the country. CHoR earned this award for its novel You Can Control Asthma Now (UCAN) program, which provides coordinated care to the disproportionately high number of children suffering from asthma in the Richmond community.

“When kids come to us with poorly managed asthma, they’re often missing school and unable to play with friends,” said Michael Schechter, M.D., chief of pulmonary medicine and director of the UCAN community asthma program at CHoR. “To treat asthma properly takes a team effort. The physician makes the diagnosis and prescribes treatment, the nurse makes sure the family understands the disease and the social worker helps to overcome barriers to getting children the care they need. Home visitors help point out environmental triggers and how to avoid them. We all depend on the child and the family to learn how to best manage their asthma, use the skills they learn and call for more help when they need it.”

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Weil Institute of Emergency and Critical Care Research celebrates grand opening at VCU

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Photos by Allen Jones, University Marketing.

Photos by Allen Jones, University Marketing.

On Oct. 24Virginia Commonwealth University will celebrate the grand opening of the Weil Institute of Emergency and Critical Care Research at VCU. The event will be held from noon to 1 p.m. at the Hermes A. Kontos Medical Sciences Building first floor lobby, 1217 E. Marshall St.

Max Harry Weil, M.D., Ph.D., the founder of the specialty of critical care medicine, founded the institute. It is widely regarded as the premier basic science cardiopulmonary resuscitation research laboratory in the world, with staff performing research on a broad area of emergency medicine and critical care topics. Current research focuses on improving outcomes of CPR, circulatory shock, life-threatening heart failure, acute lung failure and overwhelming infections that produce septic shock. The institute is also making significant advances in life-sustaining medical technology.

“After a yearlong search for an academic medical partner at which to relocate, the institute’s board of advisors unanimously chose VCU as their new home based on the academic medical center’s excellent clinical and resuscitation program,” said institute director Wanchun Tang, M.D.

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Sheltering Arms Hospital and VCU Health System announce plans for a proposed rehabilitation hospital in Goochland County

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Sheltering Arms Hospital and VCU Health System have announced plans for a new regional rehabilitation hospital in Goochland County.

The new hospital, called Sheltering Arms Rehab Institute — a joint venture with VCU Health System — will combine the current inpatient rehabilitation programs of Sheltering Arms and VCU Health to provide comprehensive and innovative physical rehabilitative inpatient care for people who have sustained a stroke, brain injury, spinal cord injury or similar illnesses and injuries.

The 114-bed inpatient rehabilitation facility will be centrally located on an easily accessible 25-acre site in the West Creek Medical Park off Route 288 and Broad Street, near the I-64 and I-295 interchanges.

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VCU School of Nursing sickle cell disease expert answers questions in Twitter chat

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Suzanne Ameringer, Ph.D.

Suzanne Ameringer, Ph.D.

Sickle cell anemia is a genetic, life-limiting disease in which chronic anemia, sickled red blood cells and inflammation cause debilitating pain and fatigue, as well as long-term complications to bodily organs.

In the United States, the disease affects up to 100,000 people, the majority of whom are African-American. Globally, it affects millions, and the number of infants born with sickle cell anemia is expected to increase by approximately 30 percent by 2050, according to a study published in the weekly medical journal PLOS Medicine.

September is National Sickle Cell Awareness Month and, in recognition of the awareness month, VCU Health hosted a VCU Health Chat from 11 a.m. to noon on Sept. 21 with Suzanne Ameringer, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Health Nursing at VCU School of Nursing.

Ameringer is currently working on a two-year study funded by the National Institutes of Health that aims to examine improved approaches to self-managing exercises in adolescents and young adults with sickle cell anemia.

During the chat, she answered questions about how to diagnose, treat and live with the symptoms caused by sickle cell disease.

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VCU researchers receive $1 million grant to test a diagnostic tool for Parkinson’s disease

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The Michael J. Fox Foundation has awarded a $1 million grant to Virginia Commonwealth University’s Schools of Medicine and Engineering to test a diagnostic tool for Parkinson’s disease that was developed by university researchers.

The noninvasive eye-tracking device uses infrared light to follow a patient’s eye movement as the patient attempts to fix his or her gaze on a screen-displayed object. While normal eye movements are highly regulated and follow well-defined patterns, neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease alter eye movements.

“One aim of the grant is to validate that we can use eye tracking to diagnose Parkinson’s disease with high accuracy,” said principal investigator Mark Baron, M.D., professor of neurology at the VCU School of Medicine and interim director of the VCU Parkinson’s and Movement Disorders Center. “Another aim is to validate that we can diagnose Parkinson’s disease well before a patient displays outward symptoms.”

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Medical students travel to Ecuador to help with emergent care

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Second-year VCU medical student Elissa Trieu (right) helps suture an emergency room patient in Ecuador with an Ecuadorian hospital official.

Second-year VCU medical student Elissa Trieu (right) helps suture an emergency room patient in Ecuador with an Ecuadorian hospital official.

When dialing 911 in the United States, callers might easily assume a dispatcher can relay their needs to the appropriate responder, whether it is firefighters or the paramedics. But in Ecuador, it is not always that simple.

From June 27 to July 19 members of the VCU Health International Trauma System Development Program traveled to Cuenca, Ecuador to help enhance the country’s coordination between firefighters, ambulances, 911 call centers and hospitals. The work was part of a series of projects to determine why there is a breakdown in Ecuador’s pre-hospital communication, which starts when a person seeking emergency help contacts authorities and ends when they arrive at a hospital.

Mark Hopkins, a second-year student in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, was one of three medical students who traveled to Ecuador with School of Medicine faculty. Though public health care is free in Ecuador, high patient volume and a lack of resources and proper education dilute the quality of that care, he said.

“Since we were kids, we’ve known there is one number to call [for medical help] and we know we can trust whoever shows up on our doorstep to be trained and qualified,” Hopkins said. “We have jobs solely dedicated in the hospital to making sure the right information comes through. In Ecuador, they are trying to replicate that system. That’s where we want to help.”

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VCU Medical Center ranked No. 1 hospital in the Richmond metro area and among the best in the state

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VCU Medical Center has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the No. 1 hospital in the Richmond metro area for 2016–17 and was ranked No. 2 in Virginia. VCU Medical Center also ranks in the top 50 in the country for orthopedics at No. 36 and is tied at No. 46 for nephrology.

“We’re honored to be named among the best hospitals in the country,” said Marsha Rappley, M.D., vice president of VCU health sciences and CEO of the VCU Health System. “This recognition is only possible because of the extraordinary work, compassion and devotion our entire team puts forth each and every day. I am very proud of our entire team that works tirelessly to provide exceptional care to all we serve.”

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VCU Health named to 2016 Most Wired list

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000000001VCU Health has been named among the Most Wired health care organizations in the country for 2016. The results of the 18th annual Health Care’s Most Wired survey, released today by the American Hospital Association’s Health Forum, indicate technology is improving the efficiency of care delivery and creating a new dynamic in patient interactions.

According to the survey, Most Wired organizations are using technology to build patient engagement with the individual’s lifestyle in mind, which includes electronic access to their care team. This past year VCU Health continued its focus on patient portal expansion and real-time visibility of clinic notes, which is called OpenNotes.

“VCU continues to expand upon its robust patient portal,” said Colin Banas, M.D., chief medical information officer, VCU Health System. “Within the last year we opened up our clinic notes to allow patients to read the notes their physician writes instantaneously. This is a powerful step forward in patient engagement, transparency and improving patient outcomes. The response from our patient community is overwhelmingly positive, and we’re just getting started.”

Most Wired organizations, including VCU Health, are utilizing population health management tools and partnering with other health care providers to share critical clinical information used in analyzing interventions aimed at key patient groups, such as those with diabetes. To get patients the right care, health care organizations are using predictive modeling to eliminate preventable problems. While VCU Health continues to build out new technology capabilities, it also continues to strengthen cybersecurity to ensure health data is secure.

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VCU Health celebrates new one-of-a-kind outpatient facility

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In the lobby of the new VCU Health Neuroscience, Orthopaedic and Wellness Center on Tuesday night, more than 150 guests cheered as VCU leadership officially cut the ribbon for the new outpatient facility.

The N.O.W. Center, located just outside the Short Pump Town Center in Henrico County, focuses on human movement. The vision for the center is to restore motion and help patients with orthopedic and neuroscience illness not only survive, but thrive and optimize their personal potential. The new five-story building is 111,000 square feet with more than 80 exam rooms. It offers a unique model of care that is regionally focused and represents the future of interprofessional care delivery. The center is led by a trio of medical directors, Kevin Hoover, M.D., William Jiranek, M.D., and Bruce Mathern, M.D.

“The VCU Health Neuroscience, Orthopaedic and Wellness Center is a new facility that brings together the physicians, staff and support services needed to optimize the ability of patients to move,” Hoover said. “The quality of the patient experience is at the center of our care model and drives our effort to shorten the time from initial patient contact to definitive management. By leveraging our tremendous depth of expertise, the commitment of our staff and advanced technology, we will measurably improve the quality of their care.”

Much like the popular children’s song, “Dry Bones,” where the “hip bone is connected to the back bone,” the care team at the N.O.W. Center are also connected to one another. The interdisciplinary model offers many subspecialties in one location. The care is coordinated so patients can get everything they need in one day without having to set foot outside the building.

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Local middle schoolers provide new name for Hume-Lee’s robotic surgical system

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Shriya Chemudupati is instructed how to use HARPER by Yolonda Brown, specialty team manager for robotics.

Shriya Chemudupati is instructed how to use HARPER by Yolonda Brown, specialty team manager for robotics.

The robotic system used by the Virginia Commonwealth University Health Hume-Lee Transplant Center to perform kidney removals for living donors has a new name. The $2 million state-of-the-art transplantation instrument is now known as HARPER.

Two 12-year-olds, an aspiring surgeon and scientist, offered the name when entering a robot-naming contest sponsored by Hume-Lee. HARPER is also an acronym for Helpful Awesome Resourceful Protective Engineered Robot. The contest, which garnered more than 700 entries from throughout the Richmond area, was designed to familiarize young people with organ transplantation, as well as highlight the use of STEM fields in the operating room. The system was formerly known by its more technical name, the da Vinci Surgical System.

The winners, Haasita Akkala and Shriya Chemudupati, entered the contest as a pair and both attend Richmond’s George Henry Moody Middle School. They learned about the contest through a booth VCU Health had at the Metro Richmond STEM Fair that was hosted by the MathScience Innovation Center.

In coming up with a name, the pair said they wanted to be welcoming.

“We wanted people to think HARPER is their best friend,” Chemudupati said.

“We wanted to make it child friendly. We heard it could also be used for children so we wanted to not make it (the name) scary,” Akkala said.

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