Category Archives: Health Care

CHOG ranks No. 1 in nation

Children’s Hospital of Georgia is the highest performing children’s hospital in the nation in quality and safety. When pediatric patient care at CHOG is compared to that provided at 122 peer hospitals across the country – Augusta’s only children’s hospital ranks at the top.

“We take care of some really sick children here at the Children’s Hospital of Georgia. These aren’t just kids with aches and pains and temporary illnesses; although those are a significant part of what we do,” said CHOG Administrator Jim Mumford. “We’re talking about kids who need heart surgery, brain surgery, and cancer treatments, as well as ECMO; and kids with chronic diseases, like asthma, diabetes, and epilepsy. These UHC quality and safety indicators and our national ranking is a testament to the outstanding care that our physicians, nurses, and staff provide to these children and families across the southeast on a daily basis.”

According to the latest Quality and Safety Management Report from the University HealthSystem Consortium – an alliance of the nation’s leading nonprofit academic medical centers, CHOG ranks first in pediatric care for all of 2014 in an Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) integrated measure on pediatric quality.

“Being recognized for the highest quality and safety outcomes on a national level is certainly a significant honor,” said Dr. Charles Howell, co-medical director and surgeon-in-chief of CHOG. “It speaks volumes about the compassion and expertise that we provide to each and every patient at Children’s Hospital of Georgia.”

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 instruments.

“It takes a remarkable team effort centered on children and their families to be the best of the best in children’s care,” said Dr. Charles Linder, chairman of pediatrics for GRU’s Medical College of Georgia and co-medical director at CHOG. “We just celebrated a year of record-breaking donations in 2014 that culminated last weekend with our telethon. Now we have another reason to celebrate, and our supporters can take pride in these accomplishments, too.”

CHOG celebrates record $1.35 million in donations

The 2015 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals broadcast celebrated a record-breaking $1,356,058 in donations for Children’s Hospital of Georgia.

The local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Celebration, which aired from noon to 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23, on WRDW-TV News 12, celebrated a record-breaking $1,356,058 in donations to benefit the services and programs at Children’s Hospital of Georgia, the area’s only children’s hospital.

The total represents an accumulation of all CMN Hospitals fundraisers, campaigns, and other donations in 2014 to the children’s hospital from various supporters and partners, as well as new pledges and donations raised over the weekend through a telethon.

This was the first CMN Hospitals Celebration for new Georgia Regents University President Dr. Brooks Keel.

“It has been a very exciting day of showcasing the excellent care provided to patients and families at Children’s Hospital of Georgia. I have enjoyed watching the miracle stories and hearing how the medical care right here in Augusta is saving so many young lives,” Keel said. “And to top $1 million for the first time ever … at my first telethon … is very special. Thanks to everyone for your support for the Children’s Hospital, where miracles are happening every day.”

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.

A not-for-profit, CHOG relies on community support to provide patient care services to children and families and has been a beneficiary of CMN Hospitals since 1986. About $906,000 was raised for CHOG through CMN events last year. Before this year’s record, the highest year of donations was close to $915,000 in 2013.

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.

Two proteins work together to help cells eliminate trash and Parkinson’s may result when they don’t

Two proteins that share the ability to help cells deal with their trash appear to need each other to do their jobs and when they don’t connect, it appears to contribute to development of Parkinson’s disease, scientists report.

Much like a community’s network for garbage handling, cells also have garbage sites called lysosomes, where proteins, which are functioning badly because of age or other reasons, go for degradation and potential recycling, said Dr. Wen-Cheng Xiong, developmental neurobiologist and Weiss Research Professor at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University.

Inside lysosomes, other proteins, called proteases, help cut up proteins that can no longer do their job and enable salvaging of things like precious amino acids. It’s a normal cell degradation process called autophagy that actually helps cells survive and is particularly important in cells such as neurons, which regenerate extremely slowly, said Xiong, corresponding author of the study in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Key to the process – and as scientists have shown, to each other – are two more proteins, VPS35 and Lamp2a. VPS35 is essential for retrieving membrane proteins vital to cell function. Levels naturally decrease with age, and mutations in the VPS35 gene have been found in patients with a rare form of Parkinson’s. VPS35 also is a critical part of a protein complex called a retromer, which has a major role in recycling inside cells. Lamp2a enables unfit proteins to be chewed up and degraded inside lysosomes.

If the two sound like a natural couple, scientists now have more evidence that they are. They have shown that without VPS35 to retrieve Lamp2a from the trash site for reuse, Lamp2a, or lysosomal-associated membrane protein 2, will be degraded and its vital function lost.

When the scientists generated VPS35-deficient mice, the mice exhibited Parkinson’s-like deficits, including impaired motor control. When they looked further, they found the lysosomes inside dopamine neurons, which are targets in Parkinson’s, didn’t function properly in the mice. In fact, without VPS35, the degradation of Lamp2a itself is accelerated. Consequently, yet another protein, alpha-synuclein, which is normally destroyed by Lamp2a, is increased. Alpha-synuclein is a major component of abnormal protein clumps, called Lewy bodies, found in the brains of patients with Parkinson’s.

“If alpha-synuclein is not degraded, it just accumulates. If VPS35 function is normal, we won’t see its accumulation,” Xiong said.

Conversely, when MCG scientists increased expression of Lamp2a in the dopamine neurons of the VPS35-deficient mice, alpha-synuclein levels were reduced, a finding that further supports the linkage of the three proteins in the essential ability of the neurons to deal with undesirables in their lysosomes.

Without lamp2a, dopamine neurons essentially start producing more garbage rather than eliminating it. Recycling of valuables such as amino acids basically stops, and alpha-synuclein is free to roam to other places in the cell or other brain regions where it can damage still viable proteins.

The bottom line is dopamine neurons are lost instead of preserved. Brain scans document the empty spaces where neurons used to be in patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. One of the many problems with treatment of these diseases is that by the time the empty spaces and sometimes the associated symptoms are apparent, much damage has occurred, Xiong said.

Putting these pieces together provides several new, early targets for disease intervention. “Everything is linked,” Xiong said.

Dopamine is a brain chemical with many roles, including motor control, and patients with Parkinson’s have a loss of the neurons that secrete this neurotransmitter. At least in mice, VPS35 is naturally expressed in dopamine neurons in areas of the brain affected by Parkinson’s.

Xiong and her colleagues reported in 2011 that reduced expression of VPS35 enables activity of the dormant-in-healthy-adults protein BACE1 to increase along with accumulation of the brain plaque that is a hallmark of Alzheimer’s. Xiong said then that impaired VPS35 function likely also was a factor in Parkinson’s.

In a definite vicious circle, trash starts overwhelming the brain cell’s natural garbage disposal system. Proteins start getting misfolded and dysfunctional, potentially destructive proteins such as BACE1 and Lamp2a end up in the wrong place and get activated/inactivated, while good proteins get chopped up and/or bad proteins accumulate.

Parkinson’s disease is characterized by uncontrolled shaking, an unstable gait and cognitive loss. The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Fulei Tang is the study’s first author.

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

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.

‘The Patient Voices’ lecture

Pip Hardy and Tony Sumner are founding directors of The Pilgrim Projects, UK – an education consultancy specializing in health care quality improvement. Hardy and Sumner established the Patient Voices Programme in 2003 to communicate patient and clinician experiences to designers and deliverers of healthcare, and to support and enrich the development of ‘delightful’ learning.

Please join us on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2015 between noon and 1 p.m. in the Natalie and Lansing B. Lee Jr. Auditoria Center on the Health Science Campus as Hardy and Sumner will present “The Patient Voices” to physicians, residents, students and staff.

A livestream of the event have been scheduled for those who are not able to attend the event in person. For the livestream, please visit

READ: GRHealth/Philips partnership featured on Advance Healthcare Network

“The managed services partnership model not only works in theory, but also in practice. GRHealth, the clinical arm of Georgia Regents University based in Augusta, Georgia, provides patient care, conducts research and is the only academic health center in its region,” writes Matt Bierbaum, vice president of Managed Services and Enterprise Partnerships at Philips. “Like others, GRHealth was mired in a poor payer mix, flat reimbursements, aging technology across modalities, inefficient processes, competing priorities and a need to take cost out of an already strained set of resources.”

Click here to read the full story featured in Advance Healthcare Network’s Executive Insight.

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).