All posts by Denise Parrish

Ice buckets are empty, but ALS coffers still need filling

Patients, families, employees and friends will Beat Feet for ALS at 8 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 26, at Augusta’s Riverwalk in an effort to raise money for the GRHealth ALS Clinic.

This annual fundraising walk posted a record year in 2014, pulling in almost $145,000 in donations, perhaps driven in part by the popularity and timing of the ice bucket challenge – a unique dare that several Georgia Regents University leaders participated in to raise financial support for ALS.

But much more funding is needed, says ALS Clinic Director Dr. Michael H. Rivner, in order to explore better treatments and improve the quality of life for patients with this debilitating disease that kills most patients within two to five years.

“With ALS, the muscles start to deteriorate rapidly until you are essentially trapped inside your own body, and there is no cure,” said Rivner, Charbonnier Professor of Neurology at GRU’s Medical College of Georgia. “There’s no way to sugarcoat it; ALS is a death sentence.”

But effects of the disease vary, and many people can live with quality in their last years with the help of nationally accredited clinics like the one at Georgia Regents Medical Center.

The clinic, which opened in 2004 through a partnership between the Georgia Regents Neuroscience Center and the ALS Association of Georgia, takes a multidisciplinary and coordinated approach to patient care. Instead of scheduling multiple appointments and trips, patients are able to see neurologists; nurses; physical, occupational and speech therapists; social workers; dietitians; respiratory therapists; and equipment specialists all on the same day. This is especially helpful for ALS patients because of diminishing mobility.

The Georgia Regents ALS team sees patients on the second Friday of each month in Augusta and the fourth Friday of each month at a satellite clinic in Macon. They assess disease progression, functional status, family concerns, and equipment, transportation and referral needs. In addition, family and caregiver training and support are incorporated into the time spent with each patient.

It could cost as much as $250,000 a year to treat just one patient with ALS, so fundraising dollars are financing medical equipment and therapies – often not covered by health insurance – such as wheelchair ramps, home modifications and speech and breathing assistance devices. Funds are also used to purchase gas cards and other items for patients and families who are under financial strains due to ALS.

In addition, donations are supporting several vital research efforts, including a clinical trial of a new ALS drug that follows disease progression and a study on ALS antibodies.

“We were able to fund a pilot project which allowed us to study LRP4 and Agrin antibodies in ALS. Our research thus far has identified these antibodies in around 10 percent of patients with ALS, generating a lot of excitement in the ALS research community,” Rivner said. “If this allows us to pinpoint the cause of ALS in that 10 percent of patients, then perhaps we can identify these patients more quickly and develop better treatments for them.”

Funds raised from the Beat Feet for ALS Walk also support programs administered by the ALS Associations of Georgia and South Carolina and the Muscular Dystrophy Association for patients and families affected by ALS.

To register for the walk or make a donation, visit or contact Brandy Quarles at or 706-721-2681. You can also make a donation directly to the Georgia Regents ALS Clinic on the website or make a check payable to ALS Clinic (Fund 1078) and mail it to 1120 15th St., BP-4390, Augusta, GA 30912.

ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, named for the late first baseman and power hitter for the New York Yankees. Gehrig was stricken with the neurodegenerative disease that causes muscular atrophy and forced into retirement at age 36. It claimed his life two years later.

About 6,000 people are diagnosed with ALS each year. The GRHealth ALS Clinic cares for about 150 patients between the Augusta and Macon locations.

CHOG celebrates 30 years as miracle hospital this weekend

The 2015 CMN Hospitals Celebration airs live from the lobby of the Children’s Hospital of Georgia from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23 on WRDW-TV News 12; it will also be streamed live on

AUGUSTA, Ga. – It’s hard to have a positive outlook on life when you’ve had two dozen surgeries from birth to age 7, but Avery Stoll of Evans is a fighter.

Avery Stoll has already had 24 surgeries, and she’s just 7 years old. Donations to the not-for-profit Children’s Hospital of Georgia help make miracles possible for patients like Avery.

“No matter what she’s going through, she seems to take it in stride,” said her mother Renee Stoll. “Everywhere we go, everyone just loves Avery. She is such an inspiration.”

Avery’s spinal cord failed to develop properly when she was in the womb, so she battles spina bifida and a myriad of other maladies, including speech and bladder issues. This bright young girl – who physicians predicted would not survive childbirth – sees 17 different pediatric specialists and still baffles them by how far she’s come.

She enjoys camping, karaoke, and swimming, and she bowls and dances from her wheelchair. She has more makeup than the average adult female, and she willingly gives makeovers upon request.

You can hear more of Avery’s remarkable story and other miracle stories on Sunday, Aug. 23, as the 30th annual Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Celebration broadcasts live from noon to 6 p.m. in the lobby of the Children’s Hospital of Georgia on WRDW-TV News 12. This special event celebrates the funds raised this year by partners and donors to benefit programs and services at CHOG, the area’s only children’s hospital.

In addition, hospital staff, local volunteers and celebrities from News 12 will man the WOW-provided phone bank, accepting donations for the hospital during the fundraiser.

The CMN Hospitals broadcast will include video tours of the hospital; conversations with patients, donors and staff; and recognition of committed partners and supporters. Viewers also will get a first-hand look at the specialized care found only at CHOG and hear volunteers, supporters, and staff as they recall 30 years of incredible miracles in pediatric care in Augusta.

Telethon officials celebrated more than $906,000 in donations, pledges and fundraising events that took place throughout 2014. Organizers hope to surpass that number this year.

For more information on the broadcast, visit

To make a donation to the Children’s Hospital, call 706-922-5437 (KIDS) or toll free at 866-412-5437 (KIDS), or visit

The 154-bed not-for-profit Children’s Hospital of Georgia is the second-largest children’s hospital in the state, providing the highest level of pediatric critical care and neonatal intensive care, as well as a wide range of general and complex health care for children. Donations help fund the many resources needed to enhance and maintain the quality of care children receive – from the smallest bandage to the most precise surgical instrument.

CHOG has been a beneficiary of CMN Hospitals since 1986.

Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals® raises funds for 170 children’s hospitals across the United States and Canada, which, in turn, use the money where it’s needed the most. When a donation is given it stays in the community, helping local kids. Since 1983, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals has raised more than $5 billion, most of it $1 at a time.

These donations have gone to support research and training, purchase equipment, and pay for uncompensated care, all in support of the mission to save and improve the lives of as many children as possible. Learn more at

Cancer research building to be named for Storey

The cancer research building at Georgia Regents University is getting a larger footprint and a new name.

The 170,000-square-foot facility on the corner of Laney Walker and R.A. Dent boulevards will expand upward and outward, gaining 72,000 square feet of new space and 6,000 square feet of renovations to become the GRU Cancer Center GRU Bert-3M. Bert Storey Research Building, in recognition of the Augusta philanthropist and longtime university supporter.

“This $62.5 million project will be a significant expansion for the GRU Cancer Center that will physically connect our clinical and research missions as we continue the momentum toward National Cancer Institute designation,” said GRU President Brooks Keel. “We couldn’t make this happen without the generosity of supporters like M. Bert Storey, who understand the impact that our discoveries make in the fight against cancer.”

The state of Georgia is providing $50 million in bond funding and the university is securing the remaining funds that will finance two main components: a five-story expansion to the existing research building and an elevated connector that stretches across Laney-Walker Boulevard linking the research building to GRU Cancer Center Outpatient Services. The naming was approved by the University System of Georgia Board of Regents on Aug. 12.

“Philanthropy is a fundamental trait of a healthy university, and we are very pleased to be a part of it,” said Regent James M. “Jim” Hull. “You couldn’t ask for a more philanthropic man to be the namesake for the cancer research building than M. Bert Storey,” said Hull, a longtime friend and business partner.

The Greater Augusta Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals recognized Storey and his son Barry in 2010 with the Outstanding Philanthropist Award. Storey was instrumental in fundraising for the Kroc Center in Augusta and serves as a GRU fundraising campaign cabinet member.

“It is my honor to lend my name to such a worthy endeavor. Cancer research truly touches all our lives, and I encourage others to join me in supporting this vital effort,” said Storey, the president and owner of Bert Storey Associates, LLC, a commercial real estate development company, and Chair of the Storey Foundation.

“The entire GRU Cancer Center family is profoundly grateful for the generosity and goodwill the Storey family has shown us. This gift – the partnership – greatly contributes to the wellbeing of our patients and the continued growth and evolution of the Cancer Center, our research, clinical trials and patient care,” said Dr. Samir N. Khleif, Cancer Center Director. “It is an incredibly important and exciting moment for our Cancer Center family, and one we are overjoyed to be able to share with this community.”

Building renovations are expected to improve the Cancer Center’s ability to host community events focusing on prevention, awareness and education. Construction is expected to be completed in early 2018.

An estimated 1.6 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed and about 590,000 cancer deaths will occur this year, according to the American Cancer Society.

The GRU Cancer Center is a multidisciplinary academic cancer center whose mission is to reduce the burden of cancer in Georgia and across the globe through superior care, innovation and education. Its patient-centered approach includes first-in-the-nation treatment protocols, an experimental therapeutics program and specialized clinics for Phase I trials and immunotherapy.

For more information visit

Medical Center, Health System boards to meet Aug. 27

The Boards of Directors of MCG Health, Inc., doing business as Georgia Regents Medical Center, and MCG Health System, Inc., doing business as Georgia Regents Health System, will meet Thursday, Aug. 27, in the first-floor conference room, BT-1810, at Children’s Hospital of Georgia (CHOG). The Medical Center Board will meet at 10 a.m. and the Health System Board will meet at 1 p.m.

A combined Compensation Committee meeting will be held at 5 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 20, at the Human Resources building, 1515 Pope Ave., Conference Room, FG-2201.

Other board committees will meet on Aug. 27 as follows:

Medical Center Board committees:

• Audit, Compliance, and Enterprise Risk Management Committee, 8 a.m., Medical Center Administration Conference Room BI-2077
• Finance Committee, 8 a.m., Medical Office Building, Room BP-4306

Health System Board committees:

• Audit, Compliance and Enterprise Risk Management Committee, 10 a.m., Medical Center Administration Conference Room BI-2077
• Finance Committee, 10:30 a.m., CHOG Administration Conference Room, BT-1843
• Planning and Development Committee, 9 a.m., Medical Center, Clinical Pathology Conference Room, BI-2006

For more information, call Kelly Busbee at 706-721-6569.

Medical Associates audit group to meet Aug. 26

There will be a meeting of the Audit, Compliance, and Enterprise Risk Management Committee of the Medical College of Georgia Physicians Practice Group Foundation, doing business as Georgia Regents Medical Associates, at 2 p.m. Aug. 26 in Georgia Regents University’s Annex I building, room HS-3135.

For more information, contact Clay Sprouse as contact, 706-721-2661.

First altruistic kidney donation

Candy Candler went the extra mile to demonstrate a lesson in selflessness to her third-grade students. She donated her kidney to a stranger.

It was the first altruistic kidney transplant surgery performed by Drs. Todd Merchen and Jason Rolls at Georgia Regents Medical Center. With most kidney donations, the donor selects the recipient such as a relative, close friend or acquaintance. But Candler’s donation was different; she had no idea who would be getting her kidney.

“My daddy always told me that I couldn’t save the whole world, but I told him I can – one life at a time,” said the Thomson Elementary School teacher, who begins her 17th year of teaching this month.

While working on an assignment about New Year’s resolutions this past January, Candler encouraged her students to be more selfless in 2015 and pledged to do the same.

A short time later, one of her young pupils asked for prayer for her grandmother who was in dire need of a kidney transplant. The girl also shared an information card with Candler about transplantation that got her thinking.

“I’m an organ donor, but that really only helps others after I die,” 38-year-old Candler said.

The school’s 2010 Teacher of the Year did a little homework and found out that she could save a life much sooner by donating one of her kidneys now.

“I felt like this was what God wanted me to do,” said the wife and mother of two. “I realized part of it would be hard for me, but I wanted to set a good example for not only my schoolchildren, but for my own children. I realized that I could give someone the gift of life today.”

So Candler started the process of blood work and testing in the hopes of donating a kidney to her student’s grandmother. But before she finished the process, the grandmother found a donor.

To the surprise of her family and friends, Candler decided to go ahead and offer her kidney for someone else in need.

“We don’t know if we’ll have tomorrow or not,” she said. “I just know that this was what I was supposed to do.”

That “someone else in need” turned out to be another educator, 74-year-old Sharon Dole, a professor at Western Carolina University near Asheville, North Carolina.

In October 2014, Dole’s daughter Jennifer Tinsley of North Augusta was being evaluated to donate.

“My mom has given to me all of my life, so I wanted to give something to her,” 45-year-old Tinsley said.

The tests, however, revealed that the mother and daughter were incompatible.

“I was very disappointed,” Tinsley said. “I live a very healthy lifestyle, so it was difficult to understand why I couldn’t be her donor.”

Dole joined about 102,000 people nationwide on the kidney transplant waiting list with the United Network for Organ Sharing, or UNOS, and the 5,500 across Georgia-Carolina who need a kidney.

Fortunately, her wait lasted just a few months.

While Dole was doing some teaching in Jamaica in the spring, her daughter got the phone call that a donor had been located for her.

“When I found out she would be getting a donor kidney, I was so relieved,” Tinsley said.

On July 8, with her husband Chuck at her side, Candler checked into the medical center. While she was waiting to be taken to the operating room for surgery, she heard a family in an adjacent room talking excitedly about how their mother was finally getting a kidney that day.

“I said to my husband, ‘I think that’s my recipient. I want to meet that person,” Candler recalled. “We had signed the paperwork stating that we wanted to meet, and the other family had done the same thing.”

The two special education instructors met for the first time that morning.

“From that moment, if my family wasn’t in my room, they were in Candy’s,” Dole said. “We were just like one big family. Of course, now we’re connected for life.”

Dole said she can’t say enough good things about Candler.

“She’s just a wonderful person,” she said. “She gave me the best gift of all; she gave me the gift of life.”

Candler has become a literal example of what it means to give of yourself – and it’s a lesson that is sure to motivate her students for years to come.

Some have told Tinsley that since she couldn’t give a kidney to her mom she doesn’t have to donate now. But this wife and mother of four said that would almost be like denying someone else.

“I feel like now I should give too,” she said. “You know, pay it forward.”

To find out more about kidney donation, contact the Georgia Regents Medical Center transplant offices at 706-721-2888 or visit

Kelly joins hospital as AVP for Perioperative Services

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Allen Kelly, former executive director of surgical services with Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois, has been named assistant vice president for perioperative services at Georgia Regents Medical Center.

Allen Kelly.jpg“Allen has a proven reputation for developing and implementing high-quality and efficient strategies in surgical services in the health care industry. Furthermore, he comes to us from another Level 1 trauma center – one of the busiest medical centers for surgery in the state of Illinois,” said Steven M. Scott, chief operating officer. “We welcome his expertise in Augusta.”

Kelly has more than 25 years of experience in surgery administration, including multiple leadership roles at St. John’s Hospital in Springfield, Illinois, the teaching hospital affiliated with Southern Illinois School of Medicine, and Riverside Medical Center in Kankakee, Illinois. Prior to that, he served as a staff nurse in an adult intensive care unit and as a medical specialist in the U.S. Army.

He earned a bachelor of nursing degree from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois, and a Master of Science in Health Services Administration from the University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Illinois.

Kelly is a member of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN).

GRMA Executive Committee meets Aug. 12

AUGUSTA, Ga. – The Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of The Medical College of Georgia Physicians Practice Group Foundation, doing business as Georgia Regents Medical Associates, will meet at noon on Wednesday, Aug. 12, on the fourth floor of the Medical Office Building, BP-4306.

For more information, contact Lauren Neville at 706-724-6100.

MCG alum wills $278,000 to CHOG

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Though it angered some when she got accepted into medical school, Dr. Martha Smith McCranie didn’t hold a grudge.

“They thought we were displacing men who could work their entire careers, you know? But I was not going to let that interfere with my learning,” said McCranie, one of just three women in the Medical College of Georgia Class of 1945.

Dr. Martha McCranie
The late Dr. Martha Smith McCranie designated a $278,000 estate gift to CHOG.

It was this kind of resilience that characterized the late McCranie, who died in January 2014 at age 92.

“Whatever her situation, she made the best of it and tried to find humor in it,” said McCranie’s daughter, Nancy M. Higgins. “My mother was adventurous, fun-loving, positive and unselfish.”

It’s that generous spirit and a love for children that led the former pediatric psychiatrist to leave a $278,000 estate gift for the Children’s Hospital of Georgia.

“She wanted to gift the medical community in some way,” Higgins said. “She was always a children’s advocate and knew the money would be used for helping children.”

Georgia’s second largest children’s hospital, the not-for-profit CHOG relies on donations and other philanthropic support to provide specialized pediatric care for about 100,000 patients each year. CHOG is also the place where many of today’s MCG students at Georgia Regents University acquire clinical skills.

Originally, McCranie had planned to become a pediatrician. But after providing medical care and counseling support to American soldiers who returned from World War II, she changed her plans.

“Seeing those veterans come back and the psychiatric problems they were having really changed me,” she told her granddaughter Katrina McCranie when the two sat down to document Martha McCranie’s life story several years ago.

So McCranie put her skills to work with children as a pediatric psychiatrist. Being a female physician was very unusual at the time. On top of that, working in a field other than general practice, obstetrics/gynecology, or general pediatrics made her an innovator … but also an outsider.

She even labeled herself “A Skirt on the Outskirts of Medicine.”

“People felt comfortable calling me ‘nurse,’” she told her granddaughter. “But they didn’t feel comfortable calling me ‘doctor.’”

She recounted an experience she had while stitching up a man in the emergency room during an internship.

“For some reason, I loved to sew up the cuts and things,” McCranie said. “I didn’t care about sewing cloth at the time, but I really liked sewing up people. And so, I had done a wonderful job on this man’s stitches. And when he got up, and I dismissed him and told him he could leave, he said, ‘Well, when can I see a doctor?’ I said, ‘Just look at me. I am your doctor.’”

The man was quite shocked. But every patient who was treated well by a female physician became a sort of spokesperson in society, McCranie recalled.

“They’d say things like, ‘Oh, I had a woman doctor, and she did a good job.’ Things like that helped improve people’s opinions.”

McCranie also had an ally in fellow MCG classmate Dr. E. James “Jim” McCranie, whom she married. They moved around during the early years of their marriage before returning to Augusta, where Jim joined the MCG faculty in 1956 and served as professor and chairman of the department of psychiatry from 1958 to 1979.

Martha McCranie took about five years away from medicine to give birth and care for the couple’s three children. But like a magnet, the attraction of medicine pulled her back in 1958.

“When (Jim) asked me to go down to the Medical College and work, I thought maybe it would be all right for just a short while to help him out,” she reminisced. “But then I got so interested in it; I got back into the mood. You know, you just can’t work at that sort of thing part-time.”

She gave it her all, devoting more than 20 years to patient care, teaching and community service before retiring in 1981.

“She was genuinely interested in every person she met and wanted to make sure they felt welcome and heard,” Higgins added. “She loved her family, and she loved MCG.”