They created a computer station — and changed a quadriplegic patient’s life

Students Dustin Mays and Evan Amabile with Derrick Bayard at his home in Richmond.

Before dawn on Aug. 8, 2017, Derrick Bayard began having severe pain in his abdomen, followed by body spasms. Soon after, it became hard to breathe. He was home alone, a detail made exponentially more important — and dangerous — by the fact that he’s a quadriplegic, unable to use his hands and feet. Bedridden.

“I thought I could wait it out, but the pain was getting progressively worse and no one else would get here until 9 a.m.,” Bayard said.

So, using his head tracking mouse to press keys on the laptop monitor mounted above his bed, Bayard got on Facebook to see if any of his friends were online at such an early hour. He found three: one in West Virginia, one in New York and one in Richmond. They sent emergency help to Bayard’s Richmond home, but he couldn’t let first responders inside. One of them saw Bayard through a back window, but couldn’t gain access. A rescue team eventually broke through Bayard’s front window and transported him to Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center. He was treated for a urinary tract infection, a common and potentially life-threatening ailment for quadriplegic patients.

Bayard is familiar with VCU for several reasons. It is the health system from which he has received primary care for more than 20 years. It is also where Dustin Mays, Lars Hofland and Evan Amabile attend graduate school in the School of Allied Health Professions’ Department of Occupational Therapy. This past spring, the three students built a customized computer table for Bayard’s laptop monitor. If the monitor had been anywhere else, and not tilted perfectly above him, Bayard would have lost precious time summoning assistance.

“It took me less than a minute to send for help,” he said. “If I just had [the computer] sitting somewhere else, it would have taken [longer] depending on what position I was in.”

Lack of dexterity has been a longtime nemesis for 56-year-old Bayard. Forty years ago he was felled by a bullet to the neck that was intended for someone else. He was paralyzed instantly. Like most people, he uses his computer for everyday tasks such as accessing the internet and social media. A few years ago, however, he began developing pressure ulcers on his elbows and chest, because he used them to prop himself up while laying on his stomach to face his computer screen. At the time, there was no way his laptop could be tilted above him. Bayard’s home attendant at the time, Latoya Harvey, wasn’t able to configure a way to keep the laptop steady enough for Bayard to use while on his side. It occasionally toppled onto him in bed.

Enter a team of VCU students with a $10 budget and an idea.

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Company launched at VCU selected for ‘Best University Startups’ event at Congress

Arun Sanyal, M.D.

Sanyal Biotechnology, a company that has flourished with the support of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Innovation Gateway, will participate in the University Startups Demo Day at Congress on Sept. 20 in Washington, D.C.

The National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer, an association of university startup officers, selected Sanyal Biotechnology to be featured at the event alongside other exciting early-stage companies created at U.S. universities. The University Startups Demo Day is the university community’s opportunity to show how far it has come in its bold, new vision for the future of the university, and how that vision is central to national competitiveness and economic growth, peace and prosperity.

“To lead the world in the 21st century, our nation must have a sustained commitment to education, scientific research and startups,” said Tony Stanco, executive director of the National Council of Entrepreneurial Tech Transfer. “And American universities are uniquely positioned to deliver on all three to ensure the U.S. continues to lead socially and economically in this century, as it did in the last.”

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“The best year of my life:” Neurosurgery resident conducts brain tumor research in New Zealand

Supported by the most prestigious fellowship in neurosurgery, VCU Medical Center resident Lisa Feldman spent a year doing research in New Zealand.

Supported by the most prestigious fellowship in neurosurgery, VCU Medical Center resident Lisa Feldman spent a year doing research in New Zealand.

As a sixth-year neurosurgery resident at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center, Lisa Feldman, M.D., Ph.D., aches for her patients battling aggressive brain tumors.

Despite surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, the average life expectancy for patients diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive type of brain tumor, is 15 months.

“We have to do better than that,” Feldman said. “It’s so frustrating. I see so many patients suffering.”

Thanks to a prestigious fellowship and numerous collaboration efforts, Feldman is feeling optimistic about the future. The Chicago native was selected last year for the William P. Van Wagenen Fellowship, which awarded her a $120,000 stipend and $15,000 in research support. She used the funds to travel to New Zealand, where she studied perfluorocarbons as a new oxygen delivery therapy in hope of reversing the death of healthy cells that results from radiation treatment of brain cancers.

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For the second time, VCU Medical Center Medical Psychiatry Unit earns prestigious nursing award

VCU and VCU Health leaders pose for a photo at an Aug. 5 ceremony to celebrate the Medical Psychiatry Unit, which received a Beacon Award from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

VCU and VCU Health leaders pose for a photo at an Aug. 5 ceremony to celebrate the Medical Psychiatry Unit, which received a Beacon Award from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

The Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center Medical Psychiatry Unit is again the only one of its kind to earn national recognition for exemplary practices in patient care. The acknowledgment comes in the form of a silver-level Beacon Recognition for Excellence Award from the American Association of Critical Care Nurses.

For nurses, a Beacon Award signals a positive and supportive work environment with greater collaboration between colleagues and leaders, higher morale and lower turnover. For patients and families, the Beacon Award showcases exceptional care through improved outcomes, and teamwork that caters specifically to patients’ greatest and gravest needs.

At an Aug. 5 ceremony to commemorate the award, VCU and VCU Health System President Michael Rao, Ph.D., told department members, “You are a model for VCU and [the standard of] VCU care.”

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

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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Patients’ quality of life restored after brain surgery

Kathryn Holloway was recently ranked the one of the most active deep brain stimulation surgeons in the nation by Medtronic, a Minnesota-based medical technology company.

Kathryn Holloway was recently ranked the one of the most active deep brain stimulation surgeons in the nation by Medtronic, a Minnesota-based medical technology company.

Eight years ago William Pappadake’s life and his lifestyle were interrupted.

Things he had done effortlessly, like golf, write, and carry his plate during an evening out at dinner, became a debilitating struggle because of a 2008 diagnosis of essential tremor. The disease, a nerve disorder that surfaces in different parts and different sides of the body, caused Pappadake’s hands to tremble uncontrollably. A practicing psychologist, Pappadake was losing his independence in a way that was frightening and progressive.

After his prescribed medication failed to control the tremor, Pappadake’s neurologist suggested he have deep brain stimulation surgery to more aggressively reduce his tremors. His surgery was performed in March by VCU Health neurosurgeon Kathryn Holloway, M.D., who was recently ranked the one of the most active deep brain stimulation surgeons in the nation by Medtronic, a Minnesota-based medical technology company.

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For seventh year, VCU Medical Center nets award for its work with stroke patients

Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center was recently awarded the Gold Plus Achievement Award and was designated as a Target: Stroke Honor Roll-Elite Plus hospital for its participation in the Get With The Guidelines-Stroke® program. The award is given by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. May is Stroke Awareness Month.

Get With The Guidelines is the AHA/ASA’s hospital-based quality improvement program, which provides hospitals with tools and resources developed to save lives and hasten recovery. VCU Medical Center earned the award by meeting specific quality achievement measures for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients at a set level for a designated period. These quality measures are designed to help hospital teams follow the most up-to-date, evidence-based guidelines with the goal of speeding recovery and reducing death and disability for stroke patients, the organizations said.

In the U.S., nearly 800,000 people each year suffer a stroke, and stroke kills nearly 129,000 people a year. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or ruptures. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood (and oxygen) it needs, so it and brain cells die. Poor diet and cigarette smoking are some risk factors associated with stroke.

Warren Felton III, M.D., medical director of the VCU Comprehensive Stroke Center, said the award is a testament to the care stroke patients receive there, and the staff’s commitment to excellence and administering superb care. The VCU Comprehensive Stroke Center is the first in Virginia.

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Making a surgeon

By Anthony Langley

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Mireille Truong, M.D.

Mireille Truong, M.D. (B.A.’03/H&S; Cert.’04/B; M.D.’08/M), had no idea what Richmond, Virginia, would be like.

“I’m originally from Canada, so when I got here, everything was brand new to me,” she says.

After her parents found jobs in the city, Truong, a college freshman at the time, moved to Richmond and, with her mother’s help, began researching colleges around the state. She applied to Virginia Commonwealth University to be as close to her family’s new home as possible.

She transferred to VCU her sophomore year, studying French and Spanish, and quickly got involved in campus life, serving as the student body vice president. Together with friends, she co-founded an organization to help expand diversity on campus and led efforts to turn the Intercultural Festival into a major annual event for students and VCU’s neighbors.

“I have friends who have kids now that go to the ICF, and I’m still amazed that it’s a big part of VCU tradition and the Richmond community,” she says. “I don’t know how many people get the chance to experience this — watching something they are passionate about, that they started, grow alongside them into something so huge. I am so grateful for that experience, and for those who shared this with me.”

Napoleon Peoples, Ph.D., was one of those individuals. The former associate dean of student affairs for VCU’s MCV Campus previously served as director of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs, where, as a faculty member, he worked with students on developing the ICF.

“She was instrumental in moving the ICF forward,” he says. “She had vision. …. She was an outstanding leader.”

Truong’s love of language inspired her to pursue a career in diplomacy, wanting to become an ambassador. She intentionally front-loaded her class schedule with the required science classes to get them out of the way.

“I never enjoyed the classes before I got to college, but I had great professors at VCU who changed my view of sciences,” she says. “That was what got me interested in sciences.”

While studying Spanish, she volunteered at a local OB-GYN clinic translating for Spanish-speaking patients. In her two years working there, she grew to enjoy her interactions with the patients and eventually became a clinical assistant, helping the physicians with patients.

With encouragement from her professors and mentors, Truong continued to work in medical settings, volunteering at the Fan Free and CrossOver clinics as well as shadowing physicians at VCU Medical Center. By the time she reached her junior year, she knew her career path was headed in a different direction.

“I had a biology professor, Dr. [Rhonda] Perozzi, who told me that I should go to med school one day,” Truong says. “She probably doesn’t even remember saying that to me, but it stuck.”

Truong completed her bachelor’s degree, obtained a certificate in international management and then dove headfirst into her medical studies at VCU’s School of Medicine, where she became involved with HOMBRE, a student-led group that organizes medical mission trips to Honduras, and Centering Pregnancy, a holistic model to prenatal care. Once she earned her medical degree, Truong left Virginia to complete a research fellowship in surgical simulation at Florida Hospital Nicholson Center and a fellowship in minimally invasive gynecologic surgery at Columbia University Medical Center.

“I love that I can help improve a woman’s quality of life, and that’s why I do surgery,” she says. “VCU does a great job combining teaching with not just hands-on experience, but also creative and innovative teaching methods. It’s like one big family. That’s why I came back to Richmond.”

Truong is now an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in the VCU School of Medicine and director of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery at VCU Medical Center.

“It’s surreal that the people who helped me so much in medical school are now my colleagues,” Truong says. “Without them there to push me, mentor me and support me, I wouldn’t be here today.”

She serves as a pioneer in her field, developing surgical techniques that offer relief to patients suffering from abnormal menstrual cycles, fibroids, endometriosis or other lower abdominal pains who want to get pregnant or who are having difficulty conceiving.

“These issues can really affect their quality of life,” she says. “Oftentimes, it prevents them from going to work or school.”

Through minimally invasive techniques, endometriosis and large masses, such as fibroids and uteri, can be removed with incisions smaller than 1 centimeter, which allows women to recover faster and have less pain than traditional surgery.

“To get a phone call from a patient who was able to get pregnant after the surgery or seeing a patient who can now get back to living a normal life without pain or heavy bleeding, knowing that I was able to make a difference, that’s my favorite part,” Truong says.

– Anthony Langley is a VCU senior majoring in mass communications.

 

VCU Medical Center recognized as Magnet-designated hospital for third time

VCU Health employees celebrate the recent Magnet designation for VCU Medical Center.

VCU Health employees celebrate the recent Magnet designation for VCU Medical Center.

Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center has been recognized as a Magnet-designated hospital for the third time by the American Nurses Credentialing Center after demonstrating excellence in patient care in four areas of focus throughout the hospital.

Representatives from nursing, medical staff, hospital administration and members of VCU Health received notification of the re-designation from the ANCC, the nation’s largest and leading nursing credentialing organization within the American Nurses Association, on Jan. 21. VCU Medical Center first earned the designation in 2006 and again in 2011.

“To be recognized as a Magnet® hospital three times in a row, particularly since the standards have become increasingly more challenging, means that the bar is rising, our performance is improving and we are continuing to look at how we can better serve our community, our team and most of all our patients,” said Deborah Zimmermann, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services at VCU Health.

“The Magnet® Commission specifically recognized the comprehensive approach in the prevention of unique pathogens, the expertise and innovation in the prevention of hospital-acquired conditions, the organizational dedication to education and the ability to drive improvements in clinical outcomes because of an empowered team,” she said.

Magnet® designation recognizes excellence in 45 rigorous standards that touch all aspects of nursing, from professional practice, organizational planning, leadership, innovation, patient outcomes and nursing research. The VCU Medical Center received a score of excellent in all of these standards.

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VCU Medical Center re-verified as a Level I trauma center

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The Virginia Department of Health has re-verified Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center as a Level I trauma center. VCU Medical Center has been a state-designated trauma center since 1981, making it the longest-standing trauma center in the state. As part of the designation review, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU and the Evans-Haynes Burn Center received provisional designations as Level I pediatric trauma and burn centers, respectively. This is the first provisional designation offered by the state in burn and pediatric trauma medicine.

“This re-verification is a tribute to the excellence of care that is provided by all our VCU Health teams,” said Marsha Rappley, M.D., vice president of VCU Health Sciences and chief executive officer of VCU Health. “Treating burn patients requires a unique set of skills and expertise from wound care to plastic surgery. Treating children is no different. The work of our pediatric trauma team is another way VCU Health continues to advance children’s health in our community. This designation is continued recognition of the leadership in all aspects of patient-centered trauma care, education, research and injury prevention.”

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