The Road Home to Healing

Sergio AlfaroRush is proud to support veterans of the U.S. military by providing both employment opportunities and the specialized care many vets need. One of them is Sergio Alfaro, an Army veteran and Epic technical trainer at Rush University Medical Center. In a powerful testimonial, Alfaro openly shares how a tour of duty forever changed his life and mental health and how Rush and other organizations help him cope with his new normal. 

As a veteran of the armed forces, I volunteered years of my life for this country, and the impact of it has left lasting marks that have carried on past a decade now.

It may not be difficult to grasp that even one year in Iraq serving as a medic for the Army has left me with experiences that I grapple with to this day. What is harder to understand is the devastation that can be left in the wake of battling with mental illness.

My family and I have lived​ with post-traumatic stress disorder for the past 15 years of my life, which has also resulted in a major depressive disorder for the past seven years. My existence has been put at risk not just at war, but now at home as I struggle to reintegrate myself into civilian life.

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Writing a New West Side Story

Marquis-PittsBy Marquis Pitts

I’m from West Garfield Park, a great neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side. When you hear West Garfield Park, you probably think of two things:

  1. The Garfield Park Conservatory, a landmark of Chicago
  2. Crime or violence

I hope after reading this you’ll understand that there is a lot more to West Garfield Park.

I am 21 years old, and I’ve spent all 21 of those years in West Garfield Park. Based on the studies Rush and other groups have done, if I continue living in West Garfield Park, I’ve got about 48 years left. That’s right, the average life expectancy in West Garfield Park is 69 years old.

In the Loop it’s 85. Given that I’m an African-American male, other studies and statistics would say I’m lucky to get to that age, or even my current age. But I’m here to tell you I am more than a data point or statistic. I’m a person with a goal, a plan on how to achieve it, and I have the support of my family and community to help me get there.

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The ‘Smile Architect’

Padala_Soumya-1By Soumya Padala, BDS, MDS, MS

I see myself as a smile architect.

As an orthodontist, I make tangible changes in my patients’ lives by making visible changes to their teeth and jaws. I know some patients might be fearful of going to see an orthodontist, but I assure them that I’m all about smiles — not pain. I’m also all about education. As an educator and clinician, I love explaining and answering any questions a patient might have.

One question I often get asked is: What is the difference between an orthodontist and a dentist? The simple answer is that all orthodontists are dentists, but not all dentists are orthodontists.

To become a dentist, you must go to dental school for four years of general dental education. You can then choose to practice general dentistry or complete two to three years of specialty training in an accredited residency program. Once you finish that additional training, you are able to use the title that reflects your chosen specialty:

  • Orthodontists focus on the bite, including safely moving teeth, and guiding the healthy development and alignment of the teeth and jaw.
  • Endodontists specialize in root canals.
  • Periodontists address gum- and bone-related diseases of the oral cavity.
  • Pediatric dentists specialize in providing oral health care to infants, adolescents, teens and young adults up to age 18-19.
  • Oral and maxillofacial surgeons perform surgery of the face, mouth and jaw.

There’s a common misconception that you should see an orthodontist only if you need braces, and that most orthodontic patients are tweens and teens. But I provide orthodontic care for everyone from newborns to senior citizens.

For the newborns, I assist with molding their ears, nose and jaws. For all other ages, I offer a full range of treatments to modify jaw growth; relieve TMD (jaw-joint related issues) symptoms; improve breathing and speech; and align teeth and improving smile aesthetics and function — including, of course, removable or fixed appliances such as braces or aligners. I also provide customized appliances to assist with surgical care of patients undergoing craniofacial surgeries.

It is imperative that while receiving orthodontic care, you continue to see your dentist or other dental specialists regularly — for preventive care to protect against dental disease and gum diseases, and to check for or treat oral health issues such as bone loss and tooth decay.

If you have crooked teeth, gaps between your teeth, a misaligned jaw or any other problems that are standing in the way of a confident smile, schedule an appointment with me, a passionate educator, clinician and board-certified orthodontist. I will work with you to develop a customized solution to help you put your best face forward.

Soumya Padala, BDS, MDS, MS, is a board-certified orthodontists who offers comprehensive care of the teeth and jaws for children and adults. She is also the lead orthodontist in the Rush Orthodontics and Craniofacial Center.

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 participated in the YMCA’s Welcoming Week through a campaign that highlighted 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 to reflect and think about how they can be more welcoming to everyone at Rush.

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Fair Trade: Kidney Donor Swap Strengthens Family Ties

Ballantine_Johnson_Hrzntl

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.  

Lisa

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.

Sebrenia

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.

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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.

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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.

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