Category Archives: Health Care

Four tips for a safe Memorial Day trip

AUGUSTA, Ga. – Drugs, drinking, distraction, and drowsiness are leading factors in motor vehicle crashes.

These risky behaviors result in thousands of deaths and hundreds of thousands of injuries each year, according to the American Trauma Society, which recognizes May as National Trauma Awareness Month.

Learn more at am
Learn more at

“Motor vehicle accidents are a leading cause of trauma,” said Dr. Colville Ferdinand, Trauma Chief at Georgia Regents Medical Center, the region’s only Level 1 trauma center. “From the CDC we know that every two minutes someone is injured in a drunk driving crash. But it’s not just drinking and drugs. More than one in six fatal car crashes involves distracted driving, and it’s disproportionately affecting our young people.”

Too often, drivers underestimate the risk. With Memorial Day on May 25 kicking off the summer travel season, Ferdinand recommends sharing these tips with drivers, especially teens, in your family:

1)  The roads are crowded this time of year, so pay extra attention.

The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is the deadliest time of the year for teen drivers and their passengers. The 2015 Memorial Day forecast is expected to mark the highest travel volume for the holiday in 10 years, since 2005, according to AAA.

2)  Get some sleep before hitting the road.

In one study, 41 percent of drivers admitted they’ve fallen asleep behind the wheel. The cost? More than 100,000 crashes a year are the direct result of driver fatigue, according to an estimate from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Men ages 18 to 34 are the biggest offenders.

Sleeping less than six hours a night can double your risk of being involved in a crash. Those who sleep less than five hours a night increase their risk four or five times, according to the American Trauma Society.

3)  Stay the night or call a cab.

Today, there are more alternatives than ever. Call a cab or ride-sharing company. Stay the night. Plan your options before a night of drinking and take along a designated driver. Drugs other than alcohol, including marijuana and cocaine, are involved in more than one in five fatal crashes.

4)  Put down the phone.

Sending a text – or even glancing at an incoming message – takes a driver’s eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, which is the equivalent of driving 55 mph down the length of a football field blindfolded.

“Distracted driving happens anytime you take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off of driving,” Ferdinand said. “We see firsthand the injuries that result from those decisions. Interestingly, a full 80 percent of motorists say distracted driving is a serious threat to their safety, yet many of us still do it.”

More information

The American Trauma Society, in collaboration with the Society of Trauma Nurses, has more information about trauma prevention at


Free mobile game brings awareness to cystic fibrosis

AUGUSTA, Ga. – If you are a fan of Fruit Ninja or Super Mario, the latest app developed by Georgia Regents University and local fifth-graders is a must-have.

Battle Bacteria is educational, fun, and free to download.​

The main goal of the game is to bring awareness to cystic fibrosis, a genetic disorder that affects about 30,000 people in the U.S. and 70,000 worldwide.

Fifth-grade students at Chukker Creek Elementary in Aiken, S.C., came up with the initial concept and design for the characters in the game, said Jeff Mastromonico, director of the instructional design and development department at GRU.

Fifth-graders at Chukker Creek Elementary in Aiken, S.C., designed all characters of Bacteria Battle and researched all the facts about cystic fibrosis displayed in the game.
Fifth-graders at Chukker Creek Elementary in Aiken, S.C., designed all characters of Bacteria Battle and researched all the facts about cystic fibrosis displayed in the game.

“I developed the gameplay and design, getting regular feedback from the students as well as meeting with them on campus to discuss the game and answer any question they had about the process,” he said.

In the game, players become aware of what cystic fibrosis is, what causes it and what the symptoms and treatments are.

“The students were responsible for researching the cystic fibrosis facts and information that are supplied in the game,” Mastromonico said.

The idea for the app

The idea to create the game came from Alecia Kinard, whose daughter was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, Mastromonico said.

Kinard wanted to educate children and parents about the disorder and wanted fifth graders at Chukker Creek Elementary involved in the project.

After seeing an app that GRU helped create to teach children with diabetes about making good food choices, Kinard approached Mastromonico with her idea.

“This seemed a perfect fit with some of the work that we have been doing lately with the Children’s Hospital of Georgia developing games for them to utilize with patients,” Mastromonico said. “The added benefit of working with young students and educating them about careers in app, web, and game development also felt like the perfect opportunity to make ourselves available as a resource to the community.”

Cystic Fibrosis

Cystic fibrosis is an inherited disorder caused by a defective, recessive gene.

This gene makes body fluids such as mucus and digestive juices thicker and stickier. In turn, these fluids lose their lubricant properties, causing them to accumulate in the lungs and the digestive tract.

This build-up may lead to serious lung infections and life-threatening damage to the pancreas and other organs of the digestive system.

​There is no known cure for the disorder.

Playing Battle Bacteria

In this military-style game, you are the antibiotic and your mission is to kill the different bacteria that are in the lungs and pancreas of a person with cystic fibrosis.

In the first level, you have to slice and kill the bacteria in the lungs and be careful not to burst the oxygen bubbles in the same way you would cut fruits in Fruit Ninja and avoid exploding bombs.

The second level is similar to Super Mario in that you have to jump on the enemies to destroy them. Just be careful not to touch the enzymes, which could kill you.

Battle Bacteria has had about 700 downloads since its launch in March. It is available for Android and iOS platforms, and you can download it for free on Google Play or iTunes.

You’re invited: EP lab turns 10!

Please join GRHealth’s Heart & Cardiovascular Services in honoring electrophysiology (EP) physicians and staff for 10 years of EP excellence. The reception will take place from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Friday, May 22, in the EP lab (BI 8086). Refreshments will be served.

Click here to read the article published in the spring issue of Health on Time, GRHealth Heart & Cardiovascular Services’ quarterly consumer newsletter.

GRU’s Unsung Heroes: Athletic Trainers

They walk the halls with us and work diligently beside us. However, many of us are not aware of the lengths to which many of them have gone to ensure our patients and students receive quality care when they arrive on our campuses.

In an effort to show our appreciation to these employees, Georgia Regents University is kicking off the GReport series Unsung Heroes as a way to highlight individuals or professions that make a substantive yet unrecognized contribution to the university and our community.

Today, we highlight: GRHealth Sports Medicine Center
With the NBA Playoffs in full gear, many of us will be glued to the television cheering on our favorite basketball teams and players. However, before the first fan enters the arena and long after the sports reporters have left the court, you will find athletic trainers working closely with coaches and athletes to make sure the team is being provided with the proper course of care.
As a society, most of us would agree that sports plays a major role in our culture and we hold our top athletes in high regard . But, it will be the unsung heroes we call athletic trainers that will be the first responders to prevent or treat the injury when our favorite athlete falls on the playing field.
According to Tim McLane, Senior Athletic Trainer in GRHealth Sports Medicine Center, athletic training is a healthcare profession that specializes in the prevention, assessment, treatment and rehabilitation of injuries and illnesses as it relates to sports. Although it requires countless hours of work behind the scenes, McLane says it is a rewarding experience to help athletes achieve their physical best.


“Whether it is finding ways to prevent injuries or providing care after an incident happens, our priority is always the health and well-being of the athletete,” says McLane. “So, to know that I can make a difference in this capacity in the field of health care is a task that I do not take lightly, but I am honored to take on.”
In addition to working in sports, many certified athletic trainers are increasingly being hired to not only assist with performing art productions such as Cirque du Soleil, but they provide tactical medical care for law enforcement agencies including the FBI.
The staff in GRHealth Sports Medicine Center provides health care for many of the schools in the Augusta area and they assists with city-wide sporting competitions including IRONMAN 70.3  and the GRU Augusta Half Marathon and 10K.
Do you know someone or a department that should be featured in GRU’s Unsung Heroes series? Email us your suggestion at

New philosophy increases patient satisfaction

In a continuing effort to improve the patient experience, hospital leadership has made some fundamental changes that are beginning to produce improvements in patient satisfaction. Recently, the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scores have shown particular signs of improvement.

“Basically, we took the responsibility [for patient satisfaction] out of our office’s hands and put it into the hands of the people who have ownership of it,” said Delandous Haynes, Service Excellence Coordinator. “It’s the people who are on the floors actually doing the work that can impact the change.”

One of the areas where the change is most noticeable is in the area of Physician Communication, where Dr. Michael Madaio and Dr. Lee Merchen helped lead the Performance Improvement Team to several quarters of improvement.

HCAHPS is an instrument to measure patient perceptions of care at acute-care hospitals. It relies on questions asked in a survey given to discharged patients and evaluates their perception of care in 10 different areas, called domains. While Medicare reimbursements are tied to these scores, Haynes said the main focus behind the drive for improvement is to provide better care to patients.

Since shifting that responsibility to the domain teams, things have begun moving in a positive direction.

“When we got out of the silo effect and started partnering with each other, that’s when we really started to see the trend move,” Haynes said. “I think the employee engagement survey done on the HR side had a large impact, because the leaders were able to identify things that were of concern to their staff and then they addressed those concerns. From there, happier staff provided better care, and better care translates to happier patients.”

As far as physician communication, a lot of the improvement stemmed from the development of medical team cards that explain to patients and their families who is on their care team and what their roles are, translating clinical terms like “attending” to more understandable expressions like “boss of the team.”

Another change has been the introduction of white boards inside the rooms.

“Now, we have a pain scale on the white boards, so our nonverbal patients who might not be able to tell you how they feel can point to the sad face and let you know where their pain level is,” Haynes said.

Even simple things like acknowledging who is in the room, introducing yourself, and letting patients know the duration of your stay – part of what is known by the acronym AIDET – can go a long way toward helping patients feel less anxious about their care. A study at Vanderbilt saw the use of AIDET, which also includes explaining what you’re doing and thanking the patient, reduced complaints by 50 percent and increased HCAHPS scores by 17 percent.

The main thing, Haynes said, is transparency and participation.

Momentum began to increase when leadership, front-line staff, and patients and families came together to change the culture.

Save the Date: Day of Service 2015

Mark your calendars now. GRU will hold its annual Day of Service on Saturday, Sept. 12. This serves as an opportunity for employees and students to give back to the community.

Last year, more than 500 volunteers contributed their time and services to help those in need at locations throughout Richmond, Columbia, and Aiken counties. Every minute donated in service to our community makes a difference that will last a lifetime.

Day of Service was introduced in 2011, when 261 volunteers contributed more than 800 hours with local nonprofit organizations.

J. Lo advocates for children’s hospitals

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jennifer Lopez is joining Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals as an official spokesperson to encourage supporters to “Put Your Money Where the Miracles Are.” The actress and singer is the latest celebrity to join CMN’s efforts to raise funds and awareness for 170 member children’s hospitals, including Children’s Hospital of Georgia.

Lopez, an actress, singer, American Idol judge and mother of twins, is a longtime supporter of children’s hospitals through her Lopez Family Foundation. She will be appearing in print, television, and radio advertisements, including commercials airing during this season’s final episodes of Fox’s “American Idol.”

Above is a full-page print ad for Children’s Hospital of Georgia, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospital, featuring actress Jennifer Lopez.

The Put Your Money Where the Miracles Are campaign brings attention to the importance of urgently needed donations to children’s hospitals and underscores the miracles that happen every day at CHOG and other CMN hospitals across North America. Here are some quick facts:

• 62 kids enter a CMN Hospital for care every minute
• 97 children will have surgery at CMN Hospitals every hour
• 16,000 children are treated in CMN Hospital emergency rooms every hour

“At Children’s Hospital of Georgia, CMN funds provide new equipment, such as NICU beds, patient monitors, and blanket warmers, plus a multitude of other supplies and resources that help make miracles happen for our patients and families,” said Catherine Stewart, CMN Development Officer. “We are so excited about this new campaign and Jennifer Lopez’s help in promoting CMN. There are so many worthy organizations where you can donate your money, but we are asking people to ‘Put Your Money Where the Miracles Are.’ This is really a no-brainer.”

In the Put Your Money Where the Miracles Are advertisements, Lopez wears a yellow Miracle Band. The design resembles the identification bands worn by children while in the hospital and represents the more than 100,000 children treated annually at CHOG and the 10 million kids treated at all CMN Hospitals each year. Anyone can order a free Miracle Band at Supporters are encouraged to share their reasons for wearing a Miracle Band on social media with #MiracleBand.

For more information on how you can become a CHOG supporter through CMN, please contact Stewart at or 706-721-4004; or Jessica Seigler, CMN Development Coordinator, at, or 706-446-0232.

The 2015 CMN Celebration (telethon) for Children’s Hospital of Georgia, which is usually scheduled for the first weekend in June, will broadcast live from the CHOG lobby from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23.

About CHOG
The 154-bed CHOG 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. Visit CHOG at and

About CMN
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals® raises funds and awareness for 170 member hospitals that provide 32 million treatments each year to kids across the U.S. and Canada. Donations stay local to fund critical treatments and healthcare services, pediatric medical equipment and charitable care. Since 1983, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals has raised more than $5 billion, most of it $1 at a time through the charity’s Miracle Balloon icon. Its various fundraising partners and programs support the nonprofit’s mission to save and improve the lives of as many children as possible. Find out why children’s hospitals need community support, identify your member hospital and learn how you can Put Your Money Where the Miracles Are, at and


Parkinson’s seminar set for Friday

AUGUSTA, Ga. – More than 60,000 Americans will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease this year, joining the nearly 1.5 million people – including actor Michael J. Fox – already living with PD.

Learn more about this neurological illness when the Georgia Regents Neuroscience Center – the state’s only National Parkinson Disease Center of Excellence – presents “Know More; Live More: Parkinson’s 101” from 9 a.m. to noon Friday, May 15, at the Kroc Center Augusta, 1933 Broad St. This free seminar is open to patients, families, and others affected by Parkinson’s disease.

Georgia Regents Movement Disorder Specialists Drs. John Morgan and Julie Kurek are the presenters, and special guest is Dr. David G. Standaert, Professor and Chair of Neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Director of the UAB Bachmann-Straus Dystonia and Parkinson’s Disease Center of Excellence and the American Parkinson Disease Association’s Advanced Center for Parkinson Research.

Parkinson’s disease affects men and women in almost equal numbers usually after age 65. PD is caused by a severe loss of dopamine production in the brain, limiting the smooth, coordinated function of the body’s muscles and movement.

Warning signs include tremors or uncontrollable shaking; loss of smell; insomnia; constipation; and stiffness in the arms or legs that does not go away as you move. Because these signs are commonly associated with aging, it’s no surprise that many patients ignore them. But neurologists recommend seeing your doctor right away if you experience these symptoms since an earlier diagnosis could mean better interventions and treatment possibilities.

You can find out more about these interventions at this free seminar, made possible by Medtronic and the National Parkinson Foundation. Please RSVP by visiting

Nurses recognized for spirit, compassion

AUGUSTA, Ga. – More than a dozen Georgia Regents University and Health System nurses were recognized at the 2015 Spirit of Nursing Showcase hosted May 2 by the CSRA Chapter of the Georgia Nurses Association. The annual Showcase and awards banquet is a celebration of National Nurses Week, which each year begins on May 6 and ends on May 12, the birthday of nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale.

2014 CRSA Nurse of the Year Amy McKeen is featured in the May/June issue of Augusta Family Magazine. The Nursing special section also includes a list of the 2015 nurse of the year nominees, as well as this year’s Spirit of Nursing award winners.

The following nurses received Spirit of Nursing awards for exemplifying a true spirit of caring and commitment to the nursing profession – whether delivering direct patient care services or leading others:

  • Renee Flippo, Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, Biobehavioral Nursing
  • Dr. Amber McCall, Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, Physiological and Technological Nursing
  • Gail Cantrell, Senior Staff Nurse, IV Therapy Team, Georgia Regents Medical Center
  • Anne Gadia, Senior Staff Nurse, Operating Room, Children’s Hospital of Georgia
  • Tammy Harris, Senior Staff Nurse, Family Medicine, GRHealth
  • David Highsmith, Staff Nurse, Operating Room, GRMC
  • Donna Kolb, Senior Staff Nurse, Epilepsy Unit, CHOG
  • Kasey McGill, Senior Staff Nurse, Emergency Department, GRMC
  • Yakita Rouse, Senior Staff Nurse, Post Anesthesia Care Unit, GRMC
  • Traci Talman, Senior Staff Nurse, Adolescent Clinic, CHOG
  • McKenzie Vick, Staff Nurse, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, CHOG
  • Deanna Williams, Senior Staff Nurse, Emergency Medicine, GRMC

In addition, McCall and Assistant Professor Dr. Stephanie Wright, also in Physiological and Technological Nursing, were awarded Spirit awards on behalf of Sigma Theta Tau, and the Georgia Association of Peri Anesthesia Nurses recognized GAPAN member Gloria Moxley in Preanesthesia at CHOG with a Spirit of Nursing award.

Nurse of the Year nominees in the staff nurse category were Cara Collins and Nancy Green, both Senior Staff Nurses in Emergency Medicine, and the College of Nursing’s McCall was nominated in the category of nurse educator/researcher/clinical nurse leader.

Amy McKeen, a pediatric nurse in the CHOG Cystic Fibrosis Center, was 2014 CSRA Nurse of the Year. McKeen and this year’s Spirit winners are featured in the May/June issue of Augusta Family Magazine in the Spirit of Nursing special section.

According to the American Nurses Association, there are about 3 million registered nurses in the United States today. About 1,300 of them deliver care at GRHealth. Often described as an art and a science, nursing is a profession that has grown tremendously over the past few decades. Most people associate nurses with hospitals, but hospitals are just one of the many areas where today’s nurses practice.

Nearly 70 faculty nurses at GRU’s College of Nursing work in the classroom, teaching and training tomorrow’s patient care teams. Nurses are also earning advanced degrees, such as the nurse practitioner degree, and are operating a variety of medical clinics to help meet the demand for primary care. Furthermore, nurses are leading the charge in Patient-and Family-Centered Care, a practice GRHealth helped pioneer that improves health care quality and safety by involving the patient and family in the entire plan of care.

Gene found that is essential to maintaining breast and cancer stem cells

The gene and hormone soup that enables women to breastfeed their newborns also can be a recipe for breast cancer, particularly when the first pregnancy is after age 30.

Researchers have now found that the gene DNMT1 is essential to maintaining breast, or mammary,  stem cells, that enable normal rapid growth of the breasts during pregnancy, as well as the cancer stem cells that may enable breast cancer. They’ve learned that the DNMT1 gene also is highly expressed in the most common types of breast cancer.

Conversely, ISL1 gene, a tumor suppressor and natural control mechanism for stem cells, is nearly silent in the breasts during pregnancy as well as cancer, said Dr. Muthusamy Thangaraju, biochemist at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University and corresponding author of the study in the journal Nature Communications.

“DNMT1 directly regulates ISL1,” Thangaraju said. “If the DNMT1 expression is high, this ISL1 gene is low.” They first made the connection when they knocked out DNMT1 in a mouse and noted the increase in ISL1. Then they got busy looking at what happened in human breast cancer cells.

They found ISL1 is silent in most human breast cancers and that restoring higher levels to the human breast cancer cells dramatically reduces the stem cell populations and the resulting cell growth and spread that are hallmarks of cancer.

When they eliminated the DNMT1 gene in a breast-cancer mouse model, “The breast won’t develop as well,” Thangaraju said, but neither would about 80 percent of breast tumors. The deletion even impacted super-aggressive, triple-negative breast cancer.

The findings point toward new therapeutic targets for breast cancer and potentially using blood levels of ISL1 as a way to diagnose early breast cancer, the researchers report. In fact, they’ve found that the anti-seizure medication valproic acid, already used in combination with chemotherapy to treat breast cancer, appears to increase ISL1 expression, which may help explain why the drug works for these patients, he said. The scientists are screening other small molecules that might work as well or better.

Mammary stem cells help maintain the breasts during puberty as well as pregnancy, both periods of dynamic breast cell growth. During pregnancy, breasts may generate 300 times more cells as they prepare for milk production. This mass production may also include tumor cells, a mutation that seems to increase with age, Thangaraju said. When the fetus is lost before term, immature cells that were destined to become breast cells, can more easily become cancer, said Rajneesh Pathania, a GRU graduate student and the study’s first author.

DNMT1 is essential for maintaining a variety of stem cell types, such as hematopoietic stem cells, which produce all types of blood cells. But, its role in regulating the stem cells that make breast tissue and enable breast cancer has not been studied, the scientists write.

While the exact reasons remain unclear, there is an increased risk of breast cancer if the first pregnancy occurs after age 30 as well as in women who lose their baby during pregnancy or have an abortion. Women who never have children also are at increased risk, while multiple term pregnancies further decrease the risk, according to the American Cancer Society.

Theories include that the hormone-induced maturation of breast cells that occurs during pregnancy may increase the potential for breast cancer cells to be made as well. Also, most breast cancers thrive on estrogen and progesterone, which are both highly expressed during pregnancy and also help fuel stem cell growth.

During pregnancy, stem cells also make more of themselves so their population increases about five times. DNMT1 levels experience a similar increase.

In five different types of human breast cancer, researchers found high levels of DNMT1 and ISL1 turned off. Even in a laboratory dish, when they put the ISL1 gene back, human breast cancer cells and stem cell activity were much reduced, Thangaraju said.