By Jennifer Comerford
As I headed to work on Valentine’s Day this year, I wore a ribbon that I made at Northern Illinois University, my alma mater, after the 2008 shooting at the school that killed six people. For the past 10 years I have worn the Huskie ribbon as a memory of the tragedy.
This year would be more of the same to an almost surreal degree. This year, my beloved high school in Parkland, Florida, would be the scene of another tragic shooting.
I remember hearing the news and thinking, “how can this be happening again?” It’s been 20 years since I graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I can clearly remember feeling safe at high school and making friendships that would last a lifetime. I remember myself in the buildings, hallways and courtyards that I now have seen on the news with children running through them to escape. High school was probably the most influential time of my life.
By Larry Goodman, MD
The tragic killing of 17 people, including students, in Parkland, Florida, in February shocked and saddened all of us. Once again we were each forced to try to make sense of a senseless act, or try to distance ourselves from something that, unfortunately, is all too close.
Gun violence is a public health problem. It is also a Chicago problem. As a community of students, faculty, practitioners and employees, Rush is committed to finding answers to this and other public health problems that affect the quality of life and the health of everyone we serve.
As a health care organization, it is not enough to provide care to those who are injured and psychological support to those impacted by that injury. Similarly, as a university, it is not enough to train students only to respond to health issues in this limited way.
Addressing root causes
As we increasingly focus on prevention, we need to better understand and address the social determinants of health that are the root causes of gun violence, health care inequities and other similar public health challenges. To solve this kind of complex problem requires discussion, debate, immersion, partnerships and commitment.
A lot of babies have been born at Rush. As far as we know, though, no one ever had delivered her baby in the fourth-floor lobby of the Atrium Building until a few weeks ago, when Laura Wolff gave birth to her son, Elliott Howard Wolff Claus, right in front of the reception desk.
Both Wolff and Elliott are doing well, despite the dramatic circumstances of his birth on Jan. 23.
Wolff had gone into labor around 6:00 the night before, but she waited to come to Rush. When she’d given birth to her first child, a daughter, Wolff had been in labor for hours, and she didn’t want to spend that much time waiting in the hospital again.
She even slept during the night and took a shower in the morning before leaving for Rush around 10 a.m. “I was 100 percent sure I was going to be in the hospital in labor for another 10 hours,” she says.
Gina meets with medical oncologist Marta Batus, MD, and thoracic surgeon Christopher Seder, MD.
As a lifelong smoker, Gina knew the risks of smoking — but, like many people, she pushed these thoughts out of her mind.
“For years, my very dearest friend and I would sit on the phone together, have coffee and smoke cigarettes,” Gina remembers. “Then she was diagnosed with lung cancer and died from it. Even though I saw what she and her family went through, I was still in denial that anything could happen to me.”
Five years ago, at age 70, Gina got a wake-up call to start taking control of her health: She was diagnosed with breast cancer.
She had a mastectomy at Rush and was soon cancer-free. With a new lease on life, she began running, cut down to three cigarettes a day, and started listening to shamanic drum chants and doing positive-thinking exercises. She also continued her regular breast cancer follow-ups at Rush with medical oncologist Melody Cobleigh, MD, and nurse practitioner Teri Dougherty, NP.
Still, Gina’s smoking history and age put her at high risk for lung cancer. So at an appointment last summer, Dougherty talked to Gina about her risk factors and suggested that Gina was a good candidate for a lung cancer screening test — a low-dose CT scan that can detect lung cancer at its earliest stages, before symptoms arise and when it may be most curable.
Proteus is the world’s first digital medicine service, which unlocks never-before-seen insight into patient health patterns and medication treatment effectiveness. While Proteus Discover is FDA-approved, Rush is only one of eight health systems in the world implementing this cutting-edge technology outside the scope of a clinical trial.
Two Rush staff members shared their thoughts about working with the Proteus device, which helps encourage people to take their medication via an ingestible sensor the size of a grain of sand, a wearable sensor patch and a mobile app.
Kerensa Vinson, MSN, RN
I joined the Proteus implementation team in January of 2017. The implementation team has had the highest acceptance rates seen with other customers leveraging a population health approach to introduce patients to the technology. This experience, paired with critical thinking and problem-solving, has allowed our team to quickly identify improvements to the workflows.
My patients have experienced life-changing results with the Proteus tool. Patients have seen marked improvements in their medication compliance as well as improved or controlled blood pressure. In addition, Proteus has had the unexpected benefit of improving communication between the physicians and the patients.
We often hear from patients and their family members who want to thank the doctors, nurses and other staff members for their care at Rush. Click the images to see their stories.
“I was a nervous wreck while my love was in surgery. When it was over, Dr. Nicole Siparsky sat down with me and assured me that my love was all alright. She explained every question in detail, as well as what took place and what to expect. Dr. Patrick constantly came to check in on my love. He was kind, patient, informative and straight to the point. The nurses were very kind, helpful, giving and we felt they went above and beyond to make us comfortable.”
“Dr. Srinivas Vourganti went above and beyond the call of duty by using the most meticulous, detailed, time-intensive procedures to absolutely minimize damage to good tissue during our brother’s surgery. He came to our waiting room, sat down and essentially gave us a TED Talk, explaining in terms largely understandable to a lay person exactly how he performed the surgery, what characterizes the healing process and the prognosis. Medicine and Rush are so much better for having the gift of Dr. Vourganti’s presence.”
“Felicia Ortiz was my son’s patient care technician. Her actions and kind heart helped make a terrible situation just a little better for him. Each time she had any interaction with him, she was so kind and soft spoken. She always spoke to him with such respect and tried to make a connection with him. Her dedication to those around her speaks volumes for her integrity and excellent work ethic.”
“Working at Rush, I know what an incredible team of people we have. However, during my hospitalization my expectations were far exceeded. I was admitted to labor and delivery from clinic with new-onset, severe pre-eclampsia. I was 35 weeks pregnant. From the moment of my admission, to the birth of my daughter, to her transfer to the neonatal intensive care unit and then to the mother baby unit — each and every person who entered our room was kind and compassionate.”
“Our world was rocked as I gave birth to our beautiful daughter, Hannah Rose, who was born with Down syndrome, pulmonary hypertension and three holes in her heart. We were in the hospital for 70 days. On day 68 we received a generous gift from the nursing staff on the Rush bone marrow transplant unit. We were able to use it to buy a bulk supply of formula. This staff shared our story with the surgical intensive care unit’s Nurses Helping Nurses organization, who took our little family under their wing.”
“Navigating the health care system was a nightmare. By the time our daughter was finally transferred to Rush, we were traumatized. The 8 North JRB staff took amazing care of our daughter. We were a mess, full of nerves and anxiety. Yet they were infinitely patient, reassured us and repeatedly offered the support we needed. We saw the difference excellent medical care can make. My daughter stated, ‘I don’t know if it’s the meds that are working or if it was being at Rush for five days that made me better.’ We are full of gratitude.”
“I was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer during a routine colonoscopy. After surgery, I was fortunate enough to find myself in room 995 North Atrium. I cannot imagine a better place to recover than under the care provided by that team. After discharge, I entered a six-month treatment program of aggressive chemotherapy. I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with some of the finest medical professionals imaginable in the Cancer Center. They were always a source of positive energy and strength.”
“My father suffered a massive heart attack. My parents reside two hours west of Chicago. As a nurse I wanted him to have the best care possible and suggested Rush. The transfer was seamless. The cardiologist in my small town was able to talk to Dr. Robert March, and he accepted my dad’s transfer. The outpatient follow-up, including a call from our surgeon, cannot be matched.”
“Our daughter has proven to be a warrior — handling each test, scan and appointment with such strength it would make any adult cry. Her doctor was amazing, holding our hand through the entire process. The real champions for her were the people from Child Life. Lori Franz made her last EEG seem like it was just that — her last. From sitting and talking with her to decorating the room in an underwater theme, we can’t thank you enough!”
“Dr. Rasa Kazlauskaite is unbelievably compassionate and caring. Dr. Rasa has made herself infinitely available to us and has allowed us to text her with any important questions and concerns we have. The remarkable care she has provided should not go unnoticed. We are truly grateful for her.”
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.