Raising Awareness About Myelodysplastic Syndromes

shammo-cancer-centerBy Jamile Shammo, MD

This year, the Myelodysplastic Syndromes Foundation will host its first MDS Awareness Run/Walk in Chicago, raising critical funds and awareness for myelodysplastic syndromes.

I am excited to share that I will be receiving the Nobility in Science Award at this year’s event, being held on June 22, from 8 a.m. to noon, at Maggie Daley Park. This community fundraising event helps the MDS Foundation in its mission to support and educate patients and health care providers with innovative research into the fields of MDS and related myeloid neoplasms.

As an MDS specialist, I have witnessed firsthand the impact this disease has on my patients’ quality of life and longevity. I strongly believe that we should support research endeavors to translate science into therapeutic advances that will ease the burden of this disease and prolong patients’ lives. I have participated in trials that resulted in approval of several agents for the treatment of MDS, but we need to work harder to identify additional treatments for MDS patients. I urge to join me to further this cause.

Continue reading

Rush Works to Ensure All Are Welcome

Padraic_StanleyBy Padraic Stanley

What can we do as an institution to make sure Rush is a welcoming place for everyone? How can we ensure Rush is a safe place for patients to heal, for staff and providers to thrive, and for students to excel?

The answer is difficult and complex, and it’s going to take all of us working together. Thankfully, we have our I CARE values to ground us. This year, Rush is participating in the YMCA’s Welcoming Week through a campaign that highlights the different ways Rush is becoming more welcoming for everyone. The idea behind the Y’s campaign is to remind us that our communities are much “stronger and more vibrant when everyone feels welcome and can fully contribute their unique talents for the greater good.” The Y’s initiative offers integration support to immigrants so they can thrive and contribute to the overall strength of the community.

Rush is taking on a similar commitment to being a welcoming health care institution, led by some of our most innovative and passionate staff, and all are working together to make sure Rush is a welcoming place — for everyone. Becoming a welcoming institution involves not only being kind and helpful, but also going the extra mile to ensure people feel welcome and safe while they are here, and even helping to empower them outside of our walls. I would love for any Rush student or employee to take some time this week — and beyond — to reflect and think about how they can be more welcoming to everyone at Rush.

The following are some key approaches we’ve taken to implement our welcoming work here at Rush:

Immigrants and refugees

The Rush Immigrant Health Working Group works on improvements in policy, practice and operations that help make Rush a more immigrant-friendly institution, helping to ease the fears our immigrant patients face while seeking health care. The group is also working on educational initiatives for staff to provide more competent and informed care to our undocumented patients, as well as for patients to inform them of their rights and how to navigate the health care system. To learn more about the Rush Immigrant Health Working Group, reach out to me at padraic_stanley@rush.edu.

LGBTQ and gender nonconforming patients

For the 11th consecutive year, Rush University Medical Center has been recognized as a Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index — and for the first year, all three system hospitals were included on this prestigious list. The Rush LGBTQ Leadership Council oversees Rush’s overarching LGBTQ strategies under the Diversity Leadership Council including instituting best LGBTQ practices across the system such as education for providers, staff and students as well as advocating for policy changes and institutional LGBTQ improvements across the Rush System.

Over the past five years, the council has overseen the inclusion of sexual orientation/gender identity in the electronic health record, created open and welcoming visitation policies and guidelines, included sexual orientation and gender identity into Rush’ nondiscrimination policies, and has championed comprehensive transgender health benefits for Rush employees and other beneficiaries.

In addition, the council facilitated new all-gender restroom signage and has trained more than 1,500 individuals in general LGBTQ competency. To learn more about the LGBTQ Health Committee, contact Christopher Nolan, MPA, at christopher_nolan@rush.edu or Brandy Hatcher, NP, at brandy_j_hatcher@rush.edu.

Older adults

The Rush Center for Excellence in Aging (CEA) anticipates and responds to the needs of older adults, their families and caregivers, primarily focusing on research, older adult and family care, education, community health equity and health policy. The CEA’s focus areas are meant to enhance Rush’s ability to improve the health and well-being of older adults and their families. Most recently, the CEA has taken the lead in Rush’s efforts to become the first hospital in Illinois to receive a designation as an Age-Friendly Healthcare System. To learn more about the Rush Center for Excellence in Aging, reach out to Erin Emery-Tiburcio, PhD, ABPP, at erin_emery-tiburcio@rush.edu, Robyn Golden, AM, LCSW, at robyn_l_golden@rush.edu, and Michelle Newman, MPH, at michelle_h_newman@rush.edu.

People with disabilities

Rush has made a commitment to recruit and hire qualified individuals with physical, mental and sensory disabilities/chronic health conditions, which serves its goal of having a diverse workforce that reflects the communities that Rush serves. In 2019, the Rush Disabilities Employee Resource Group was launched, and since 1991, the Rush ADA Task Force has developed and implemented policies for people with disabilities and educated the Rush community about accommodating people with disabilities as employees, students, faculty members and patients. Rush was also named one of the Best Places to Work for Disability and Inclusion based on high scores it achieved in the 2019 Disability Equality Index. To learn more about the ADA Task Force and the Rush Disabilities Employee Resource Group, reach out to Kevin Irvine at kevin_irvine@rush.edu or Carlos Olvera at carlos_a_olvera@rush.edu.

West Side residents

In addition to its ongoing community engagement efforts, Rush University Medical Center is welcoming to its communities on the West Side by being a part of the West Side United collaborative. Rush’s involvement in this multi-hospital approach allows us to play a pivotal role in all of its initiatives ranging from health care, education, economic vitality, and neighborhood and physical environment. It has also allowed Rush to play an integral part in offering business grants to community nonprofits and startups, making strides in hiring intentionally from the West Side, joining other hospitals to create evidence-based and community-focused health programming, and setting an intentional footprint in recruiting more West Side youth into internship programming. To learn more about West Side United, contact Ayesha Jaco, executive director at ajaco@westsideunited.org or Karen Aguirre, MPH, at kaguirre@westsideunited.org.

Padraic Stanley, LCSW, is program coordinator for Social Work & Community Health at Rush University Medical Center.

Fair Trade: Kidney Donor Swap Strengthens Family Ties


By Lisa Ballantine and Sebrenia Johnson

This is a shared story of a kidney donor and recipient told through the eyes of both participants who are related through the marriage of their children but were brought closer together because of a paired kidney exchange.  


When I first met Sebrenia, I was impressed with this kind, godly yet fierce woman who was to be my son’s mother-in-law. I saw her ability for compassion and kindness toward others. We connected immediately, and she has since become a dear friend. In fact, we call each other sister-mom since there is no term for our relationship, and as we share our children now, and love each other as sisters, this seems fitting.

As I got to know Sebrenia, I learned that this amazing woman was being hindered by her lack of a functioning kidney.


To manage my kidney disease for the past 13 years, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday for three hours and 15 minutes I needed dialysis treatment. I also had to incorporate a renal diet into my lifestyle, which included many food restrictions. As a dialysis patient I had to adhere to no potatoes, cheese, milk, chocolate, dark-green leafy vegetables, beans, cornbread, bananas, tomatoes, orange juice, colas, ice cream, peanuts or products with nuts.

These foods are high in potassium and phosphorus and could be detrimental to the heart and bones of a person with limited or no renal function.

Continue reading

Beverly Huckman, Champion of Equal Opportunity

Beverly HuckmanBeverly Huckman, a champion for equality, affirmative action, diversity and inclusiveness who served for 38 years at Rush, died May 27 at her Chicago home. She was 77.

Huckman, who retired in 2012, was Rush’s associate vice president for equal opportunity and diversity.

“Beverly did some of the earliest work at Rush organizing our approach to diversity. She helped to found the ADA Task Force at Rush and did countless other things in support of equal rights for all. She touched many lives here and well beyond Rush,” said Larry Goodman, MD, the recently retired former CEO of Rush University Medical Center and the Rush University System for Health.

“Some people come into our lives for a season, but Beverly’s commitment to diversity, inclusiveness and equity has left a lasting impression on me and those of us who were blessed to know her,” says Terry Peterson, vice president of corporate and external affairs and chairperson of the Rush Diversity Leadership Council.

Continue reading

Halting the Hepatitis C Epidemic

Vicki Shah, PA-CBy Vicki Shah, PA-C

Over the last 10 years, I have treated and helped cure more than 1,000 people with hepatitis C of all ages and backgrounds. It’s rewarding, to say the least, when my patients can move forward with one less health burden.

My patients usually struggle with the negative connotations of drug use associated with hepatitis, but this not the only way to contract hepatitis C. It can also be transmitted from blood transfusions, mother to child, or any blood-to-blood contact like needle sticks.

These patients are not alone. About 3.4 million people have hepatitis C in the U.S., and half of them don’t know they have the infection. Interestingly, three of every four people with hepatitis C are baby boomers, born between 1945 and 1965 and infected decades ago.

The main reason why a person might not know they have the infection is that they have not been screened for hepatitis C. Other reasons include that basic labs show normal liver enzymes and there can be no symptoms until there is progressive liver disease.

Cirrhosis can be the resulting condition of untreated hepatitis C, and it increases the risk of liver cancer, the need for a liver transplant and death.

Opioid-related surge

There is also a new surge of infected young people with the increase of opioid drug use. The blood-to-blood contact occurs with sharing of needles or other paraphernalia. Next door in Indiana, there was an outbreak of HIV with over 200 people infected, and 95 percent of those people also got hepatitis C.

The outbreak was devastating to the community because it included 3 generations of families — from preteens to grandmothers.

While we as a whole health community will continue to conquer the rise in opioid drug use, we can stop the epidemic of hepatitis C across the U.S. with awareness and treatment with a short duration of oral medications.

Vicki Shah, PA-C, is a physician assistant at the Rush University Medical Center Medical Center Hepatology Clinic.

Thank You for Saving My Dad’s Life

George Allington

George Allington

By Jason Allington

Rush saved my father from certain death and made a horrific situation not only tolerable, but inspiring.

I live in Oak Park. Over the holidays, my 76-year-old dad, George Allington, came to visit from South Carolina. On the evening of Dec. 29, we were watching TV together when he took a bathroom break. A few minutes later, he called in distress, because he’d passed a frightening amount of blood.

We called 911, and the paramedics rushed him to the Rush Oak Park Hospital emergency room.

Continue reading

Telling Your Loved Ones You Have Cancer

IMG_6093By Deb Song

I can still remember the day I got the call from Dr. Andrea Madrigrano, my breast surgeon at Rush.

“Deb, I’m so sorry, but it’s not going to be what you want to hear,” she said. “The lumpectomy confirms it is DCIS. You have breast cancer. The good news is, we caught it early, but we recommend a bilateral mastectomy.”

I don’t remember much after that. I tried to stay calm and ask questions on next steps. I’m a doer. Instinctively, I just set out to get this treated. My “let’s do this!” attitude kicked in.

But suddenly I felt my heart racing faster, my breath shorter, and I could not hold back the tears any longer. I started to weep uncontrollably.

I blurted out, “Oh my God. How do I tell my mom? How am I going to tell my parents I have cancer?”

On this Mother’s Day, as I plan a day with my mom, I cannot help but think back to this moment when I was finally diagnosed and staged out for surgery. How do you tell your loved ones you have cancer?

Continue reading