‘Mental Illness Is Not a Normal Part of Aging’

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Sandra Swantek, MD

Sandra Swantek, MD​, has dedicated her career to ensuring quality mental care for older adults. She will be honored for her work when she receives the 2018 American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry Jackson-Siegal Clinician of the Year Award.

In this Q&A, the medical director of Rush’s geriatric psychiatry program tells us about herself and the honor, which she’ll receive in March in Honolulu.

Tell us about your background.

​I’m originally from Detroit. I received my undergraduate degree in communications from Michigan State University, East Lansing Michigan. I worked at a public radio station then a Detroit television station. I transitioned to communications work at a hospital on the east side of Detroit and created a community education program for a young hospice program. I recognized that I enjoyed working in a health care environment, and that I wanted to take on a different role in health care. I eventually realized that I wanted to be a psychiatrist.

I was 10 years out of school by then and not certain that I could do it. I started premed classes on my 30th birthday, all while working a day job. Medical school was both an exciting and terrifying challenge.

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Insurance Doesn’t Guarantee Health Care Access

angela-mossBy Angela Moss, PhD, RN, APRN-BC

Health insurance is a common proxy measurement for access to health care services. That is, if a person has health insurance, they also have access to health care services and time to seek regular visits. Unfortunately this isn’t always the case.

A new Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index shows the number of adults without health insurance is up 3.5 million this year. But those with health insurance also may not have access to doctors, nurses or clinics.

One of those Americans is my patient; I’ll call him Joe. He has worked two full-time jobs for all of his adult life. Joe is 57 years old and regularly works the evening shift six or seven days a week from 2 to 11 p.m. in a distribution factory operating heavy machinery. He then clocks in for his night shift warehouse job at another factory from midnight to 7 a.m.

For nearly 30 years, Joe has had about four hours of sleep a day between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. He smiles proudly and says he supported his family with his tough schedule. He put three kids through college and now all three are independent, successful professionals who are free from college loan debt. He and his wife own their home and two vehicles outright.

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Hearing the Words ‘You Have Lung Cancer’

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Jill Feldman with Philip Bonomi, MD, a medical oncologist at Rush

Lung cancer specialists at Rush are among five worldwide recipients of the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer’s inaugural Cancer Care Team Award. Jill Feldman, a patient at Rush, introduced them at a recent ceremony in Japan. Here’s her story:

When I was 13, I lost two of my grandparents to lung cancer, and six months later my dad died of lung cancer. Then in my 20s, both my mom and close aunt died of lung cancer.

Needless to say I was devastated and felt helpless, so I started doing advocacy work with LUNGevity Foundation, a national lung cancer organization. I also began getting scans every few years. All was good until 2009. I was 39 years old, had four small children and was president of LUNGevity, so there just aren’t words that can describe how I felt when I was diagnosed with lung cancer, the same disease that I literally watched kill both of my parents.

Foreign territory

I have been in and out of treatment for the past 8 1/2 years. Lung cancer will be a lifelong roller coaster ride for me, but because of a better understanding of lung cancer biology, advancements in treatments, and my dedicated, passionate, collaborative care team, the cancer can be managed as a chronic disease, for now.

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Call of Duty: Providing Surgical Care in Combat Zones

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By Tad Gerlinger, MD

My first deployment was to Kosovo with Task Force Falcon, Operation Joint Guardian, in 2001. Three weeks after 9/11, I was deployed from Fort Bragg with the 274th Forward Surgical Team (Airborne) — the first FST sent into Afghanistan — for Operation Enduring Freedom. Two years later, I was part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in the initial actions of Operation Iraqi Freedom. And I returned to Afghanistan in 2011 with the 936th Forward Surgical Team and served with the Norwegian Provincial Reconstruction Team. That was my last deployment.

Targeting civilians

In armed conflict, the vast majority of casualties and injuries are the locals — the civilian population. That was true for the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq back when I served, and it’s true today in countries like Syria. What’s happening in Syria with ISIS, where they’re using human shields, was very common for Al Qaeda, too.

In 2011, our special mission unit went in to get a high value target in northern Afghanistan. After our soldiers surrounded the compound, they asked the enemy to send out all of the noncombatants. As soon as all of the women and children had come out into the courtyard and our soldiers had gone out to secure them to safety, the enemy threw grenades at the entire group. So the majority of the casualties from that mission were women and children — and, of course, our soldiers were injured trying to protect the families of the men who threw the grenades.

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All About Bones: Advice From an Orthopedic Nurse

facebook-Linked_Image___kujath_amber_conBy Amber Kujath, PhD, RN, ONC

Halloween is an orthopedic nurse’s favorite time of year. At no other time does a nurse who specializes in the care of bones get to see visual reminders of skeletons: decorations, bone candy, and perhaps an adult-sized skeleton t-shirt that says, “Give me a break!” For added irony, National Orthopedic Nurses’ day is Oct. 30, one day before Halloween.

But what is truly scary and more serious is that every day people suffer 8.9 million fractures each year worldwide due to osteoporosis, a common bone disease. Most of them are women. One in three women over age 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures, compared to one in five men over 50.

Those 8.9 million reported fractures do not include the fractures from trauma related to sports or falls from ladders and roofs. Additional bone disorders, like osteoarthritis, limit the ability to work for 8 million working-age adults in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control.

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‘Helping Patients Relish Life Differently’

As a 37-year survivor of a brain injury, Marvel Vena understands the unique issues that neurointensive care patients and their families endure. She is devoted to making positive changes for patients both locally and nationally, and as a volunteer at Rush she has touched the lives of thousands of patients and their families. Her devotion to helping others turn disability into possibility has earned her this year’s Eugene J-M.A. Thonar, PhD, Award.

“Marvel has embraced Dr. Thonar’s achievements in helping patients relish life differently,” says Barbara Klawans, who has worked closely with Vena through Rush’s Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation program. “They both display positive attitudes and push the boundaries as crusaders for patients with fundamental desires to transition from vulnerable to developing resilience in spite of their disabilities.”

Making sure ‘someone is there to help them’

At Rush, Vena was instrumental in the creation of the Family Information Group. Founded in 2002, the group meets with families of current neurointensive care unit patients every Wednesday afternoon. The purpose of the group is to provide necessary information needed to navigate through treatment and recovery.

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Surgeon Chronicles Decades of Humanitarian Trips

dennis-gatesBy Dennis Gates, MD

I have been taking part in medical missions for more than 50 years. My first trip was as a medical student at Loyola University, when I worked as a laboratory technician for a couple of doctors in Brazil. That experience enlightened me to the far greater need for orthopedic and medical care in Brazil than in the U.S. A child in America with a club foot is going to get treatment somehow, whereas in Brazil, that’s not the case. There aren’t adequate medical facilities, and patients can’t afford treatment or simply don’t have access to care. Then, two years in the Peace Corps as a family doctor in Nigeria and Ghana reinforced to me the incredible medical needs of developing countries.

Once in orthopedic practice, some colleagues and I started making regular mission trips to Brazil. We’d go down to a little clinic on the Amazon River, called Esperanca, to perform many surgeries and train orthopedic residents. When we started in the mid-1970s, there was only one local orthopedist; by the time we stopped making the trips 30 years later, there were seven well-trained orthopedic surgeons in town. That was pretty satisfying.

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