Racism, Health and Rush’s Commitment to Equality

Leaders at Rush shared the following message Friday with the Rush University Medical Center staff:

Along with our leaders across the Rush system, we are deeply saddened to be writing to acknowledge the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This tragedy is all too familiar and has once again shocked the nation and our community here at Rush.

Floyd’s death sadly echoes those whose lives were taken before, like Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Laquan McDonald and so many more. This is not an issue for only black Americans. This is an attack on all humanity.

At times like these, we often offer thoughts and prayers as a show of support. However, thoughts and prayers will never be enough to address this pattern of losing men and women in our communities. We need more than just words. We must show by our collective actions that we are willing to dismantle racism — a system of oppression that produces poor health outcomes and premature mortality and affects all of us. 

We have witnessed in our own community how COVID-19 has disproportionately taken its toll on black and brown lives. People have lost family members, and in areas throughout our community, many have lost jobs. The murder of George Floyd just adds to the collective pain and strain that our communities, including those in our community here at Rush, are feeling.  

‘We must work together’

Rush has a mission of improving the health of communities. Four years ago, we made health equity a strategy and identified structural racism as the root cause of poor health and death gaps in our neighborhoods. We formed West Side United, a racial equity health collaborative aimed at reducing by 50% the life expectancy gap between the Loop and the West Side by the year 2030 by addressing the structural determinants of health.

Violence in any community tears at its very fabric. Such violence cannot be tolerated, and we must work together to guard against it. We commit to doubling down on our existing efforts and to building a stronger foundation to support them. We must continue to stand united against racism in all its forms.

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate. Adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Dark cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Today, hate is thriving in the light, on our TV screens, through social media, in public speeches, in random police stops, during casual walks in the park while bird watching. It’s so important for the light of justice, peace and equity to shine even brighter, and we do this by calling out the darkness. By facing it head on and refusing to give into it. What’s happening now in our nation and communities is not normal. It is not acceptable. We cannot sit by and tolerate it, because our silence equals complicity.

At Rush, we do everything we can to save lives. Rush is a place of hope, health and healing. We honor people’s lives here. We care for each other. Our culture is to heal, to connect, to support, to serve, to give back, to invest in communities and to provide opportunities. We believe in respect for all, and Rush stands with those looking for peaceful change and an end to such unnecessary brutality. We know we are so much stronger together.


Dr. Omar Lateef, CEO, Rush University Medical Center
Dr. Sherine Gabriel, President, Rush University, and Chief Academic Officer, Rush University System for Health
Dr. Ranga Krishnan, CEO, Rush University System for Health  

A Second Chance at a Healthy Heart

By Hussam Suradi, MD

I was in medical school when my dad suffered from a heart attack that required an emergency procedure. It made me realize that sheer minutes can make a difference in treating cardiac patients. I wanted to make that difference for people like my father; I wanted to save lives in the minutes that mattered most.

One thing I love about my job is being able to tell patients that they have more options — that it’s not the end of the road. And frankly, this is the heart of our work as interventional cardiologists as we can provide minimally invasive treatments for structural heart diseases.

Every day, we see people who think nothing can be done for their heart problems, but most of the time, they’re willing to do whatever it takes to improve their quality of life. Perhaps they’re older, or maybe they’re dealing with illness or birth defects that limit their possible treatments. The good news is, there are always more options.

Alternatives to open-heart surgery

Structural heart intervention is a relatively new field in cardiology, treating patients with heart valve problems such as tight or leaky valves, or those born with birth defects. In the past 10 years especially, technology and devices for treating structural heart conditions have changed dramatically. Today, patients are treated for these conditions through minimally invasive procedures rather than open-heart surgeries, regardless of how old or sick they may be.

One of the biggest innovations we’ve seen is the treatment of valvular heart disease through minimally invasive catheter-based procedures. One of these procedures is called TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve replacement), which involves replacing the aortic valve without needing open-heart surgery.

With TAVR specifically, patients recover much faster. In fact, they can usually go home the very next day. Additionally, they typically don’t need cardiac rehab after the procedure and they surely don’t endure as much pain — whereas, open-heart surgery patients typically go through cardiac rehab and need several months of recovery before feeling “normal” again.

Aside from a faster recovery, data has now shown that TAVR is as effective and safe as open-heart surgery. Only recently, but fortunately, TAVR was expanded to low-risk patients after initially only being for high-risk patients who were not candidates for surgery.

Another similar treatment option is MitraClip, specifically for those with severe leakage in their mitral valve. Using a catheter, the interventional cardiologist attaches a small clip to the valve to enable it to close more completely without leaking. Given the minimally invasive nature, this is another ideal treatment option for those not eligible for traditional surgery.

A better solution and quality of life

At least 30% of the people we care for have had some sort of heart procedure before — whether it’s a stent procedure or bypass surgery. When they come to us, they not only gain a more hopeful outlook, but they experience the full “heart team” approach. They’re evaluated by an interventional cardiologist and a cardiac surgeon who, together, evaluate their data and tests to recommend the best treatment options available — including some of our latest clinical trials.

It’s so rewarding to be able to tell patients they have another shot at life, and it’s even more powerful to feel their gratitude. If you ever feel it’s the end of the road, know that there are always more options.

Hussam Suradi, MD, is a fellowship-trained structural/interventional cardiologist at Rush.

Tips for Working From Home, From Us

MicrosoftTeams-image (2)Even if you’ve done it before, working from home for an extended period of time comes with unique challenges. And many of us have been doing it for a while now thanks to COVID-19.

While Rush’s health care workers still head to our hospitals every day to treat patients and save lives, many other staff members — including most of our marketing and communications team — are working remotely.

So we’ve learned a few things along the way that are helping us maintain work efficiency and well-being — sometimes even our sanity — and we’ve decided to share them. Here goes:

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ER Nurse: Don’t Panic, ‘Take Care of Each Other’

This is an excerpt from a message Georgia Orchowski, RN, a nurse in the Emergency Department at Rush University Medical Center, recently shared with friendsGeorga Orchowski

First and most importantly, I cannot thank everyone enough for everything. I have been completely overwhelmed by the love and kindness I have been shown over the past few weeks. Every single gesture — a call, message, gift, coffee, meal, etc., is appreciated. I don’t feel worthy of any of it because nursing is something I have been doing for 12 years. It’s a part of who am. I would never think twice about being a part of the movement to care for America as more and more of us fall ill. It’s honestly an honor to know I can make a real difference in such a time of despair.

A couple thoughts as I reflect on what I’ve seen over the past few weeks for anyone reading.

  • No. 1 is please, please don’t panic. Fear gets you nowhere. We all know what we need to do to stop the spread — stay at home, wash your hands, etc. But your mental health is also so important. Stop reading so much COVID news. Take time for your mental health. Find something that brings you joy each day. Read for pleasure, meditate, exercise, have a glass of wine, watch Netflix. Get outside every single day. Stop reading so much COVID news! The world is not ending. This too shall pass.
  • Be kind to one another. It’s OK to still smile and wave when you pass people (six feet away) when you’re out walking the dog. Send a note in the mail to someone who might appreciate it. FaceTime friends or family members every day. Think about someone who might be lonely and reach out to them. Donate to a local food bank. If you’re reading this, you are probably in a lot better position than a lot of our country right now. So many have lost their jobs, are without paychecks, or have children home without food to eat. Let’s give what we can. Let’s take care of each other.
  • Do your part to not overwhelm our medical centers. Things are escalating quickly, and soon we will all be overrun with critically ill patients. Call your doctor if you think you have symptoms of coronavirus. If you think you do, honestly at this point you probably do. We have extremely limited testing supplies. They need to be saved for the elderly, immunocompromised, homeless and pregnant. If you have are having trouble breathing, come to the emergency room and we will help you immediately. If you have a fever, cough, sore throat or fatigue, you can probably help yourself at home.
  • Lastly, practice gratitude. Think about all that you have to be thankful for: a warm home, family, children, food to eat. Each day that I wake up and don’t feel sick I consider a gift. Each day that I get to work with the most incredible team of nurses and doctors, I feel beyond grateful. Thank you for reading, and take care of yourselves.

‘Social Distancing Actually Works’

By Mia Levy, MD, PhD

I know there’s a lot of fear right now with the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States, and there’s even more fear when we start talking about shutting down schools and closing restaurants and taking a lot of measures to do social distancing.

But I think that should be our message of hope today. Social distancing actually works, and it is our best defense right now against this rising epidemic in our country.

Many people feel like we’re overreacting by closing schools and restaurants and not going to the movies, but actually it is our best hope for really making a change in the curve of acceleration of this illness in our country.

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Coronavirus Tips From an Emergency Physician

Braden Hexom - Open GraphBraden Hexom, MD, is an emergency physician at Rush University Medical Center, which is preparing for a sharp increase in patients with COVID-19. He shared the following tips about the coronavirus.

Here are my recommendations for those of you wondering what you should do about COVID-19. I won’t go over the obvious — just my thoughts from a week on the inside. Hopefully there’s something useful in here:

  1. None of you should want to come to get a coronavirus test. Simply standing in line puts you at risk. Especially if you are currently healthy and don’t need to be there. Getting a test shouldn’t change anything about how you prepare or act in the next few weeks.
  2. Don’t come to the ER unless you are HAVING AN EMERGENCY. That means you are having difficulty breathing or you can’t keep down any food or water. If you have a cough, sore throat, or feel crummy, you already know what to do. You don’t need an ER for that. Call your doctor. Better yet, call your mom.
  3. If you do have concerns or questions, do a video visit. Many large medical centers are doing these now. Your local public health office likely already has a hotline or process for fielding questions. Use them.
  4. Stop buying toilet paper, hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes in bulk. Someone else needs those, and it’s probably not you. If you have a sink and soap, you have all you need.
  5. Rethink your flu shot for next year. Chances are, if you have a cough, you may actually just have the flu, which is still widely present. You might have not had it altogether if you’d received your flu shot. And next year’s flu may be worse than this year’s coronavirus. We never know, that’s why we keep on working to make these better, every year. Whatever you are afraid of by not getting the flu shot is nothing compared to this.
  6. Have honest, open discussions with your children, family, older parents, etc. I’ve found that some of the best conversations I’ve had about the current pandemic have been with my kids. And we all need each other right now, especially when we’re asking everyone to shrink their community to the bare minimum. Make sure your kids are reassured. Check on your older relatives and make sure they have food.
  7. Buckle up for a longer period of uncertainty than you are used to. I don’t know what next week will look like. It might be better. It might be worse. It will be like trying to buy the right stock right now. Just relax, slow your life down, enjoy the moments you are having with your loved ones or simply at home. Read a good book.
  8. If you get seriously ill, we are here for you. But the only way I do my job at the top of my abilities is if you are truly sick. If I’m spending most of my day counseling you on why you don’t need a coronavirus test, then I’m not helping the ones who might be standing behind you in the screening line with an oxygen saturation of 79%.

Take care of each other. Take care of yourselves.

Rush’s Tower: Built for What We Hope We’ll Never Need

Screen Shot 2020-03-09 at 8.39.14 AMBy Anthony Perry, MD

At a time when people across Chicagoland are feeling anxiety about the coronavirus spread, we find ourselves reflecting on work to design a hospital that would stand ready to support Chicago in times of great need. It was 15 years ago that we first crafted the strategies that led to the opening of the iconic hospital building at Ashland and the Eisenhower in 2012.

People often reflect on the interesting design of the building. But they don’t often get to see much of the functionality that we designed into it. One of the many aspects of the design is the preparedness for pandemic scenarios that might lead to large surges in potentially infected patients and provide an environment that protects both patients and the staff working in the building.

In the emergency department, the ambulance drop-off bays can convert into a large-scale decontamination zone, and the emergency room itself was built to expand its bed capacity by more than two and a half times its normal capacity.

Surge isolation

Computerized controls allow physicians and nurses to alter the airflow in the emergency room to create special surge isolation capacity if a serious contagion was identified. And in the Brennan Pavilion, columns can turn into patient care locations in the case of a true emergency scenario.

The sophisticated air-handling control continues in the hospital’s bed tower. In fact, if you look at the butterfly-shaped top half of that building, a quarter of that building at a time can be converted from the normal, everyday air handling of typical hospital units to special, large-scale isolation capacity to again provide an environment that maximally protects both patients and staff.

It stands as an important component of preparedness for Chicagoans and one of those things that you build thinking (and hoping) that you may never need it. But in times like these, we’re glad to know it’s there.

Anthony Perry, MD, is vice president of ambulatory transformation at Rush University Medical Center.

First Black Child Born at Rush Leaves Lasting Legacy

Botanical Gardens
By Traci Daniels

When I began my tenure at Rush last year, I was proud to walk the halls of one of the finest health care institutions in the land. My mother worked in health care administration, and the care that she received prior to her death made me inspired to make the switch to this field.

I recall her writing down for me her life facts on a piece of paper before she passed. She was always thinking of others and knew that I, as her only child, would be planning her services. She spoke of being the first black baby born at Rush on July 12, 1953 (then Presbyterian Hospital). She was the youngest child of the late Claude and Geneva F. Brown.

Life is truly full circle. Here I am, 67 years later, now working at that very same place she began life.

Since it’s Black History Month, I am reflecting on how my ancestors and older relatives probably could not have dreamed of the position I am in now. Because of the strides that they and my mother made, it is conceivable for me to now shine. When I saw a slideshow of all the black excellence and history made here at Rush, I mentally inserted a slide about my mom.

A staunch champion for education, my mother, Linda Levon Brown, attended Emil G. Hirsch High School and graduated in 1971. She won a full academic scholarship to the University of Illinois at Chicago for education.

‘Destined for greatness’

Following college, Mom began her career in her chosen field of health administration at the University of Chicago Billings Hospital and the Osteopathic Chicago Hospital.

She was married in 1977 to decorated Purple Heart war veteran Robert L. Daniels, and to this union, her only child, Traci Daniels (me), was born in 1980. Priding herself in her work, my mom was employed throughout her career at South Chicago Hospital, University of Illinois Medical School, St. Francis Hospital and finally Palos Community Hospital.

Even her name, Linda, is a wonderful tribute to black history, as she’s named after the plaintiff in the landmark Supreme Court Brown vs. the Board of Education case. It was almost as though her parents knew she was destined for greatness.

I like to think that her birth here at Rush was representative of all of the births that were to come — all of the great stories that have literally been birthed in Rush’s hallowed halls. If she had not ventured into the world of health, she would have loved a career in Silicon Valley or as a pilot. In fact, she made sure to attend the Bessie Coleman memorial here in Chicago every year, which celebrates the first black woman to get a pilot’s license. Mom also loved music (Motown artists were her favorite) and thoroughly enjoyed attending “Motown the Musical” for her last birthday before she passed.

​​When I think about Rush’s tagline and motto, “Excellence is just the beginning,” I feel that is truly the legacy my mother left through Rush, and with me. As I continue to craft my own legacy, I will definitely carry on that tradition in her honor.