A Rush Manager’s Commitment to Excellence

Traci Colvin is Rush’s Wayne M. Lerner Manager of the Year

As the research study manager for the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Traci Colvin oversees its two largest epidemiological studies – the Religious Orders Study and the Memory and Aging Project. Each study includes more than 1,100 participants, who are evaluated annually until death and donate their organs afterward.

Colvin is on call 24 hours a day to ensure that autopsies are performed promptly after death, which often means being on the phone with the patient’s family, the funeral home and the hospital, frequently in the middle of the night for several hours. This commitment is just one of the many reasons why Colvin’s staff nominated her for the Manager of the Year Award.

“Much of our success can be attributed directly to her leadership and character,” says Tracy Faulkner, RADC department manager.

Colvin’s staff is a diverse group of 26 people, made up of research study coordinators, project coordinators, nurses, phlebotomists and research assistants. Most of these staff members work in teams off site for days at a time, sometimes out of state, collecting research data on participants. In order for them to be successful, they must work well together. Continue reading

Rush Dietitian: Using Nutrition to Empower Patients

By Cheryl Sullivan

When I was younger, I used to think, “everyone has to eat, might as well make it good.” But my definition of “good” has changed over the years. Growing up as a kid and teenager, “good” meant things that tasted good: French fries, candy, burgers, candy, pizza and more candy! But now “good” has a different meaning to me.

In college, I was trying to discover what I wanted to be when I grew up. I took several science classes as this was always an interest to me. One day I enrolled in a nutrition course and everything just clicked. We are what we eat. Our bodies will function no matter what type of food, or fuel, we provide it. But through nutrition we can impact the degree to which our body will function. And thus, the phrase “everyone has to eat, might as well make it good,” changed for me that day.

I loved learning about how different vitamins and minerals affected cell function and about different calorie and protein needs for our bodies during growth. But what was most interesting is how the fuel requirements for the body differ when we are sick. I was surprised to learn that during illness, different “diets” can help the body to function optimally. I am now a registered dietitian providing medical nurition therapy to all types of patients, but my passion lies on oncology.

During my training, I completed a rotation on the cancer units, and again, something just clicked and felt right. I love being surrounded by such motivated patients who want to make an impact in their lives through nutrition. Every day I get to help empower individuals by providing them with nutrition knowledge that could improve their health and their quality of life.

Cheryl Sullivan, MS, RD, CNSD, LDN, is a clinical dietitian and graduate faculty member at Rush University Medical Center. She’s part of the Cancer Integrative Medicine Program team.

Exterior of Rush Hospital Building Nears Completion

By Cynthia Castronovo

It’s strange to look up at the East Tower and see that the familiar yellow exterior is slowly disappearing. The attention-grabbing color helped to signal the new hospital building‘s presence and call attention to its unique design.

I recently asked one of the construction guys to explain to me what was happening. I saw that some of the exterior walls were black, some were brown and others white. Not surprising, the answer wasn’t as quick and easy as I’d hoped.

First, I needed to familiarize myself with some basic design components specific to our project. For instance, while we have always referred to the top five floors of the East Tower as the butterfly, I didn’t know that the base was referred to as the podium. The butterfly will house the acute and critical care patient rooms. And the podium will be the home of the emergency department, the interventional platform, noninvasive imaging, women’s services and the NICU.

Next, I learned about the two types of exterior wall systems – the curtain wall and window wall. The curtain wall is a continuous wall of windows and can be found on portions of the podium. The glass panels were specially designed and will help bring natural lighting to many areas of the new hospital. Continue reading

Centennial of Sickle Cell Discovery by Rush Alum

James B. Herrick, MD, in 1910

By Nathalie Wheaton
Librarian, assistant archivist

A hundred years ago, a momentous discovery occurred on the Rush campus:  James B. Herrick, MD, identified sickle cell anemia. Herrick was a 1888 graduate of Rush Medical College and became a faculty member at his alma mater. Herrick also served on the Presbyterian Hospital staff as a specialist in cardiovascular diseases for most of his career.

In 1908, a patient from Grenada entered Presbyterian Hospital with several medical complaints including weakness, fatigue and ulcers on his legs. “Routine” blood work was a relatively new concept, and this patient’s sample was like nothing Herrick’s intern, Ernest E. Irons, MD, had ever seen. The blood cells had a crescent-like shape.

Herrick and Irons treated this patient for over two years, and Herrick published “Peculiar Elongated and Sickle-Shaped Red Blood Corpuscles in a Case of Severe Anemia” in 1910. Although sickle cell anemia is common among Africans and prevalent among Americans of African descent, this was the first time this disorder was described in Western medical literature.

Herrick was a presence at Rush for over 50 years and embodied the Rush ideals of patient care, medical education and scientific research.  He attended Rush Medical College as a student when the curriculum consisted of two short years of study. Students learned through lectures and observation of clinics in amphitheaters.

As a faculty member, Herrick advocated educating Rush’s students in the wards themselves, where they could get first-hand experience diagnosing and treating patients alongside their mentors. He also was a witness of and participant in the shift of medicine from observation to scientific research, using new theories and technologies as they became available.

The Rush University Medical Center Archives is proud to house the James Bryan Herrick Papers. His collection contains almost 100 of his articles, mostly on cardiology but also medical education. Herrick also wrote articles on non-medical topics such as literature and history.

Interested in learning more about Herrick and his collection? Contact the Rush Archives at (312) 942-7214 or Rush_Archives@rush.edu or visit us at www.lib.rush.edu/archives.

Organ Donation: Addressing a Vital Need

Robert Higgins, MD

In the United States, more than 100,000 people are currently on transplant waiting lists for organs, including more than 4,700 people in Illinois. But each year — because of the scarcity of donor organs — less than half of those who need transplants will get them.

“The number of donors simply isn’t keeping pace with the growing need for organs,” says Robert Higgins, MD, chairperson of cardiovascular-thoracic surgery at Rush University Medical Center, who has taken a special interest in organ distribution throughout his career. He is immediate past president of the board of directors of United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which generates and maintains the transplant waiting list, and he is currently a physician liaison on the UNOS Foundation board, which is looking at ways to increase organ donation. He previously sat on the Secretary of Health and Human Services Advisory Committee on Transplantation, which addresses transplant-related issues and concerns at the national level.

In this post, Higgins discusses the state of organ donation today, and what efforts are under way to address the increasing need for donor organs in the United States.

How are organs distributed — who gets them and why?

It’s a very complicated sequence of matching need with the availability of organs. If you have a diagnosis of end-stage heart, liver, kidney or lung failure, as determined by a physician, you are entered onto a recipient list that has certain predefined criteria. Local organ procurement agencies, such as the Gift of Hope in Chicago, help manage the organ donor lists at the local and regional levels. When an organ becomes available, they contact UNOS, which generates and maintains the national transplant waiting list. UNOS then generates a list of potential recipients — the people who are the right blood type, height and weight, and who have been waiting the longest or who are the sickest. The local agency then notifies the physician that the patient is being offered an organ.

Do famous or wealthy people have a better chance of getting an organ?

There is no favoritism in the system as it stands now. These listing criteria and practices and supervision of the process have evolved over the last 27-plus years. So everybody has an equal shot at getting an organ once they get on the UNOS list. Some medical issues do come into play — for instance, heart or liver failure patients who are expected to die within 30 days get priority over people who have chronic stable heart failure or liver disease. But there isn’t any way to jump the list except by the criteria of how sick you are, what your blood type is and how rare it is, and special medical circumstances.

Do lifestyle factors influence who gets organs?

I personally don’t see that our job is to judge people based upon past mistakes, but we are concerned about people who show an inability to change the behavior that led to the organ damage. If a person is actively smoking or drinking, for example, we consider that as a behavior issue that must be changed before that person would be considered for a transplant. There are so many people who would do anything to get an organ that it doesn’t make sense to offer organs to those who aren’t willing to do whatever it takes to improve their health. Patients must also demonstrate compliance with the complex regimens — exercise, medications and diet — prescribed by their physicians. Continue reading

Artists Help Keep Young Patients’ Minds Off Medicine

Works by hundreds of young patients from Rush University Medical Center and other local hospitals will be on display next week at Snow City Arts‘ Gallery Night 2010. We spoke to two Snow City artists-in-residence, visual artist Allison Spicer and filmmaker John Lyons, about the event and the roles they play at Snow City and Rush.

Snow City artist-in-residence Allie Spicer with a patient

Why do you think what you do is important for kids here in a hospital?

Spicer:  I think what’s great about our job in the hospital — and we’re probably the very few that get to say this — is that we don’t see sick kids. When they come into the idea lab and into the studio they’re just lively kids. There’s times when they’ll get tired, and it’s a reminder that — oh, that’s right, they’re ill — and there’s a reason they’re here, but we get to walk into the room and be these people that are just there to have fun with them and make something of the day, make something out of anything that they want to do.

Lyons: We engage with them in a completely different way, besides their family and friends or whatever visitors. We’re probably the only people who walk through their door that aren’t asking anything medical of them — How are you feeling? How’s your medicine? Does it hurt here? Or we’re going to do this procedure or that. It’s really got nothing to do with that. So while the hospital and while the sick kids are sort of the thread that runs through everything that we do here, other than that it really doesn’t come up at all. There have been times, it sounds funny but there are times when you almost forget that you’re here, like you almost forget that you’re in a hospital.

Is that the most important thing — to keep their minds off  the other things that are going on with them?

Spicer: For us I think we’re trying more to teach them something for that day.

John Lyons working on a video with a student

Lyons: I think that happens organically when we’re working with them, they don’t forget why they’re here, they don’t forget that there might be something painful going on with them at that moment, but it becomes less important and there is something else to focus on.

When you work with these patients it sounds like it’s clearly more than just keeping them engaged while they’re here in the hospital. It sounds like you want to encourage them to be artists.

Spicer: Absolutely.

Lyons: It’s not like we say we want you to follow in our footsteps or become artists. Art, I think, is more than a profession. It can be a useful way to engage and communicate with people while they’re here.

Can you tell us a little about Gallery Night? Continue reading