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03
2012

VA Chief draws attention to polytrauma rehabilitation

Richmond’s McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center has built the reputation as the VA system’s premiere program for treating polytrauma patients, those soldiers who come from the battlefield with multiple disabling injuries including traumatic brain injury.

VA tour

From left to right: Director of the Richmond VA Medical Center Charles E. Sepich, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki, Virginia Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, D-3rd, Dean of Medicine Jerome F. Strauss, III, M.D., Ph.D., and network director of the region’s Veterans Integrated Service Network Daniel F. Hoffman.

The polytrauma unit at McGuire tests approaches for these difficult to treat patients and then shares what works throughout the VA system. On February 3, Eric K. Shinseki, the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs, visited McGuire for a first-hand view of the work.

Visits like this do a tremendous amount for patients’ recovery, according to Shane McNamee, M.D., who is medical director of McGuire’s Polytrauma Rehabilitation Center. “The patients are buoyed by seeing their senior leadership on site, caring about them as individuals.”

McNamee led Shinseki on a tour that included meeting patients and test driving a backhoe simulator that prepares patients for real-world jobs. As an assistive technology Center of Excellence, the McGuire VA is among the first to get new equipment that is useful in rehabilitation.

McGuire is one of few VA medical centers in the country that treat active duty service members in addition to veterans. Because of that, they see a large number of patients with recent, acute injuries. Shinseki told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that seeing the service members’ hard won improvement made him proud of the VA’s work.

Like many of the VA’s physicians, McNamee holds a joint appointment in the medical school. Now an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, he also completed his housestaff training on the MCV Campus.

The medical school’s longstanding partnership with the nearby McGuire VA was spotlighted by the Jan. 11 visit of First Lady Michelle Obama when she came to Richmond to announce the Joining Forces initiative.

Dean of Medicine Jerry Strauss, M.D., Ph.D., toured the unit with Shinseki and was reminded of the importance of the VA’s relationship to the medical school and its faculty. “When we visited the unit, we met a number of polytrauma patients who are working hard on their recovery. They have earned our country’s gratitude, and I was impressed to see the team approach to world-class care that the polytrauma program provides for our service men and women.”

Photo courtesy of the McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center

LINKS:
Read the Richmond Times-Dispatch coverage of Shinseki’s visit.

02
2009

The day the NBC Nightly News reported on House Calls’ potential to reduce health care costs.

"If we can keep these people from riding in ambulances to emergency rooms and hospitals, we’ll save the Medicare program perhaps as much in a year’s time as $50 billion," Peter Boling, M.D., told NBC Nightly News.

In today’s ongoing health care reform debates, House Calls are being discussed as an option that has the potential to save costs as well as improve care for those patients who have great difficulty in getting to a doctor’s office. Internal Medicine Professor Boling helped craft language for the Independence at Home Act (S. 1131/HR. 2560) that advocates home-delivered care for individuals with functional impairment, high costs and multiple illnesses.

Watch the NBC Nightly News segment.

Boling’s House Calls program has also received coverage by ABC News, CBS News and the LA Times.

29
2009

The day the AP reported on a return to House Calls as an answer in the health care reform debate.

In today’s ongoing health care reform debates, House Calls are being discussed as an option that has the potential to save costs as well as improve care for those patients who have great difficulty in getting to a doctor’s office.

Internal Medicine Professor Peter Boling, M.D., helped craft language for the Independence at Home Act (S. 1131/HR. 2560) that advocates home-delivered care for individuals with functional impairment, high costs and multiple illnesses. The Associated Press visited the MCV Campus to learn more about the program, reporting in its resulting story that “Where other proposals have divided lawmakers, the house-calls idea is winning support from Republicans and Democrats alike.”

The story “House calls as cost-saver in health care reform?” already has been picked up by nearly 100 AP-member news organizations including National Public Radio, CBS News Online, ABC News Online and Yahoo News.

For more information see:

25
2009

The day Dr. Boling’s House Calls Program garnered media coverage.

Twenty-five years ago, Internal Medicine Professor Peter Boling, M.D., started his house calls program for elderly patients who had difficulty getting to their appointments at the medical center. Some saw it as a throw-back to the days when physicians drove a horse and buggy to visit their patients instead of the other way around.

In today’s ongoing health care reform debates, house calls are being discussed as an option that has the potential to save costs as well as improve care. In fact, Boling helped craft language for the Independence at Home Act (S. 1131/HR.2560) that advocates home-delivered care for individuals with functional impairment, high costs and multiple illnesses.

The August 25, 2009 edition of the Los Angeles Times details Boling’s house calls program and includes data from a study by the medical center that looks at recently discharged patients who are seen in the program. The news article reports… “the house call program helped cut in half the number of days these patients spent in the hospital, saving the medical center as much as $2 million.”

Read about the work of Boling’s team in “Getting cheaper, better healthcare at home?

The Los Angeles Times’ story has been picked up by the Chicago Tribune and was the top story in their Tuesday, August 25 e-mail blast from America’s Health Insurance Plans to health plan executives.

29
2009

The day that Lexi undergoes a rare brain surgery

Seven-year-old Lexi suffers with kernicterus, a type of brain damage that was caused by excessive jaundice after she was born. A story that appeared in the Sunday, July 26, 2009 edition of the Charlotte Observer chronicles her struggles as well as her family’s hopes that a rare brain surgery may allow her to talk or even walk.

Professor of Neurology Steven Shapiro, M.D., an expert in kernicterus, diagnosed Lexi in July 2004. Five years later, Lexi is prepping for a surgery at the VCU Medical Center that will place electrodes deep inside her brain. A week later, a battery-operated generator will be placed in her abdomen, and on August 24 , 2009, the generators will be turned on

This kind of deep brain stimulation has been used to treat other types of movement disorders but, to Dr. Shapiro’s knowledge, it has not yet been tried on someone with kernicterus.

Read more about Lexi’s story at:

07
2009

The day the Washington Post reported on Dr. Sismanis’ talent for solving troubling medical mysteries.

The July 7 edition of the Washington Post recounts the frustration that a Bethesda real estate lawyer suffered for six months as he sought an explanation and treatment for a relentless pulsating noise in his ear.

Though previous specialists had offered tinnitus as a diagnosis, it was not until he visited Aristedes Sismanis, M.D., past chair of the medical school’s department of otolaryngology, that he discovered there was a more dangerous explanation for his problem.

The Washington Post story reported that Sismanis suspected a dissecting left carotid artery was at the root of the noise, a condition that would place the patient at high risk for a stroke. The diagnosis not only ended the patient’s frustration, it also put him on track for an eventual cerebral angioplasty that corrected the problem.

Read the complete story that is the latest in a regular series in which the Washington Post’s Sandra G. Boodman reports on medical mysteries.