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Archive for June, 2016

Three Reasons Why a Strong Brand Is More Important In Healthcare than Any Other Industry

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

By Mike Villeen, VP of Marketing at LenzLenz marketing

Healthcare decisions are the most personal and significant we make

Every business benefits from a strong brand, but in healthcare it is an imperative. Why? Because healthcare decisions are the most personal and significant we make. These kinds of decisions require enormous amounts of trust, and a brand’s primary job is to facilitate trust.

You’ll buy a hot dog from someone you hardly know, but spine surgery? I don’t think so. You have to trust your surgeon, whether you personally know her or not.

There’s a formula that helps us understand how consumer relationships work. It’s Brand Promise + Brand Experience = Relationship. Among other things, this means that what consumers think of you before they know you is just as important as their experience with your service or product. Your brand is half the battle. Treat it well.

All doctors are experts

There’s good news and bad news for you as an expert American physician. The good news is that 300 million of your fellow countrymen recognize your expertise. The bad news is that they recognize your competitions’ expertise, too. In other words, your abilities as a physician are assumed and do not differentiate you in the mind of the American public—but your brand does.

This concept is called “price of entry.” Safety for airlines or clean kitchens for restaurants are other examples. That’s why airlines sell customer service and restaurants the dining room atmosphere.

What emotional intangibles do your customers value?

You must sell them before they are buying

Nobody likes seeing the doctor, and few consider their healthcare choices until they need them. So, we as healthcare marketers are constantly selling to an audience who is not buying. Yet.

Why do we do this? Because consumers will need our services someday, and at that point the decision is already made. They will go with the best-branded healthcare provider who they have known all along but never thought they would need.

Lenz marketing-Mike Killeen


Atlanta Cancer Experts Weigh in on White House Moonshot Initiative

Tuesday, June 28th, 2016

The White House has asked Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, in partnership with the Cancer Support Community Atlanta, to host the inaugural Atlanta Cancer Moonshot Summit on Wednesday, June 29.

Northside Hospital will live stream the event on their Facebook channel, from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. The summit, taking place at the Hyatt Regency Perimeter, is by invitation only.

Vice President Joe Biden has called for a national summit to take place in Washington, D.C. on the same day.

These events are the first time all cancer stakeholders — patients, survivors, researchers, oncologists, advocates, elected officials and community leaders are convening under the auspices of the White House to double the rate of progress toward a cancer cure.

The Atlanta Cancer Moonshot Summit will include panel discussions with leading cancer experts, advocates and survivors. Vice President Biden will address the summit via video.

The panel will be moderated by Hala Moddelmog, president and CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber and past president and CEO of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Among the panelists:
· Dr. Guilherme Cantuaria, Northside Hospital Cancer Institute; Principal Investigator, Georgia NCORP
· Christy Andrews, Executive Director, Cancer Support Community Atlanta
· Dr. Amelia Zelnak, Oncologist, Northside Hospital Cancer Institute
· Dr. Kent Holland, Medical Director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Northside Hospital
· Dr. Al Soltan, President of Georgia Cancer Specialists
· Local cancer patients and survivors


Emory celebrates 5,000th bone marrow transplant patient

Monday, June 20th, 2016

Emory’s Bone Marrow and Stem Cell Transplant Center in Atlanta is celebrating its 5,000th patient receiving a bone marrow or stem cell transplant this summer. As we commemorate this milestone, we renew our commitment to offering your patients the most innovative treatments and care by our experienced, compassionate clinical team.

Our plans for continuing advances:

We continue to grow.

Since our first autologous and allogeneic transplants in 1979, we have become one of the ten largest programs in the U.S., with 431 transplants last year. With the expansion of Emory University Hospital next year, our patient bed capacity will double, providing more access for your patients.

We are expanding the types of patient served.

Well known as a referral center for lymphoma and myeloma patients, we are increasing the number of leukemia patients transplanted. We also have active programs for allogeneic transplants for patients with severe sickle cell disease and autologous transplants for patients with relapsed germ cell cancer. We are one of a handful of centers able to perform “bloodless” transplants.

We are providing patients more clinical trials, such as immunotherapy.

Because Winship Cancer Institute is Georgia’s only National Cancer Institute-designated center, we offer transplant patients access to more than 200 clinical trials. Winship is also a core site in Georgia for the prestigious Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network (BMT CTN).

We are proud to work with you and other physicians across the region to bring the leading transplant care to your patients. Thank you for your partnership in the care of patients and your confidence in our program.

Watch Tamara’s patient success story at

Should you have questions or wish to discuss the care of your patients, please call 404-778-1900.


Dr. Salim Hayek Publishes Study on Peripheral Arterial Disease

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

An Emory study published in Circulation Research suggests that a disruption in the body’s own regenerative capacity, measured by levels of circulating progenitor cells, may contribute to the development of peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

PAD is usually caused by plaque buildup, or atherosclerosis, in the peripheral arteries away from the heart. Despite sharing the same risk factors such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, only 20-30 percent of patients with coronary artery disease (CAD) develop PAD.

“Even though atherosclerosis is one of the most studied of all human diseases, the reason why some patients develop widespread atherosclerosis and PAD, while others develop only coronary disease – despite similar risk factors – is unknown,” says Salim S. Hayek, MD, lead author of the study and Emory University cardiology research fellow at theEmory Clinical Cardiovascular Research Institute (ECCRI).

The Emory study investigated whether differences in progenitor cell counts could distinguish between patients with PAD and CAD and those with CAD alone.

Progenitor cells originate from bone marrow and circulate in peripheral blood. They are thought to be involved in vascular repair, promoting healing and recovery of blood flow.

Researchers looked at 1,497 patients participating in the Emory Cardiovascular Biobank, a prospective study enrolling patients undergoing left heart catheterization in the Emory system. The patients had a mean age of 65 and were 62 percent male.

They found patients with both PAD (in any of the carotid, abdominal, lower or upper extremity arteries) and CAD had significantly lower circulating progenitor cell counts, compared to those with only CAD. Researchers were specifically measuring CD34+ and CD34+/VEGFR2+, markers that are on the outside of the progenitor cells.

Most importantly, they found that having low numbers of these cells in the circulation was associated with worse cardiovascular outcomes – including death – and notably developing PAD in the future, which was measured as the occurrence of PAD-related events such as peripheral revascularizations or amputations.

“Our study not only provides information about the pathogenesis of PAD, it also
suggests we may be able to use progenitor cell counts as a way to identify patients at risk of PAD. More investigation is needed in this area,” says Hayek.

In the multivariable analysis, a 50 percent decrease in CD34+ or CD34+/VEGFR2+ counts were associated with a 31 percent (P=0.032) and 183 percent (P=0.002) increase in the odds of having PAD, respectively.

The CD34+ and CD34+/VEGFR2+ counts significantly improved risk prediction metrics for prevalent PAD. Low CD34+/VEGFR2+ counts were associated with a 1.40-fold (95 percent CI, 1.03, 1.91) and a 1.64-fold (95 percent CI 1.07, 2.50) increase in the risk of mortality and PAD-related events, respectively.

Arshed Quyyumi, MD, professor of medicine (cardiology), Emory University School of Medicine and co-director of the ECCRI was the senior author working with Hayek.


Emory Offers Specialized Vehicle to Transport Critically-ill Adult ECMO Patients

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Emory Offering State’s First Specialized Vehicle to Transport Critically-ill Adult ECMO Patients

Emory Healthcare is putting a new specialized ambulance on the road to transport critically ill adult patients who require extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO.

ECMO is a highly advanced form of life support that provides cardiopulmonary support to persons whose heart and/or lungs are unable to function appropriately to keep them alive.

“ECMO works by replacing the heart and lungs, pumping blood in-and-out of the body, while removing the carbon dioxide and oxygenating blood,” says James M. Blum, MD, chief of critical care for the Emory Department of Anesthesiology and director of the Emory ECMO Center. “It allows life saving time essential for the treatment and recovery of the lungs and heart.”

The Emory ECMO Center is one of a few centers in the Southeast specializing in the management of adult patients. It provides a comprehensive team of clinicians, advanced technology, and protocols to support programs in respiratory failure, cardiac failure and bridges to transplantation.

“In the past, ECMO has mostly been used on children but the technology is being used more frequently in adults with cardiac and respiratory failure,” explains Blum, who has treated hundreds of ECMO patients and is recognized as a national leader in critical care.

Emory’s new critical care vehicle, created in partnership with MetroAtlanta Ambulance Service, has a customized interior that includes special equipment and expanded seating to accommodate the team needed to care for ECMO patients.

Proper transportation of ECMO patients requires a larger care team of at least four people, each with specialized knowledge and skills, versus two care team members in a regular ambulance, so additional seating was necessary for the unit.

The vehicle also contains dedicated equipment for monitoring and lifting the patient because of the complexity of their illness and weight of the equipment.

During a transport mission, members of the Emory ECMO Center have the ability to stabilize patients by remotely initiating ECMO before the trip begins and subsequently transferring the patient to Emory University Hospital. Transporting extremely compromised patients without initiating ECMO has a very high mortality rate.

“For patients with severe cardiac or pulmonary failure who require transport to a specialized hospital like ours for advanced medical therapy, transportation can be a difficult and dangerous problem,” says Bryce Gartland, MD, chief executive officer, Emory University Hospital.

According to Blum, the specialized ambulance will allow patients within about a 70-mile range of the hospital to be transported in approximately four hours from the initial transfer request. The Emory ECMO Center also has established the ability to transport patients globally via air, having completed its first airborne transport in 2014.


Medical Residency: Keeping Residents in Georgia

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

By Helen K. Kelley

Doctor shortages are critical throughout the country. To address this growing problem in Georgia, educational institutions, health systems, legislators and medical organizations are working to increase the number of residencies offered to medical school graduates.

More Opportunity

“Georgia is in a ‘world of hurt’ for having enough physicians. In fact, some counties have only one or no physicians,” says Waldon Garriss, M.D., who serves as the internal medicine director for WellStar Health System’s new residency program. “Georgia has traditionally been a net exporter of physicians. Newly graduated M.D.s and D.O.s have to leave Georgia to train because there is little opportunity here.

“What makes this situation particularly bad is that about 70 percent of physicians will end up practicing close to their last stop for training,” he adds. “If we’re sending our doctors elsewhere to train, they often don’t come back to Georgia.”

In answer to this need, WellStar has assembled a team of qualified clinicians and resources to achieve accreditation and begin a residency program that has already begun attracting applications from medical graduates. WellStar has completed its first interview season for its internal medicine and obstetrics/gynecology residencies, which will get underway this summer. The health system is currently working on accreditation for two additional residency programs in emergency medicine and surgery.

Garriss emphasizes the importance of reaching out to medical schools in Georgia and surrounding states to make them aware of these new residency opportunities.

“It’s obviously crucial and in keeping with our mission to have doctors who join WellStar and remain in our community, so it’s important for us to reach out to our state medical schools to make sure they know what we’re offering,” he says. “These are the students who already have some roots here in Georgia and the southeast because of school. They have the highest likelihood of staying.”

Patient Base, Specialty Programs Grow

James R. Zaidan, M.D., M.B.A., associate dean for graduate medical education (GME) at Emory University School of Medicine, says Emory’s residency programs, a great number of them established many decades ago, have continually expanded over the years in response to a growing patient base.

“There comes a point for most patients when they will need some form of specialized care. As our knowledge of different areas of medicine expands, little segments of those areas break away to become their own specialties, and we are constantly developing training programs for these new specialties,” he says. “When I started as the Associate Dean at Emory 16 years ago, I believe we offered about 67 accredited residency programs. Today, we offer more than 100.”

Zaidan emphasizes Emory’s ever-growing patient base as the driving force behind the growth of its residency program.

“This dramatic growth is directly attributable to the numbers and types of patients who come here. When a new need is identified, our GME faculty members, department chair and program directors will review the possibilities of creating a new program, asking questions like, ‘Does it make sense?,’ ‘Does Georgia need it?,’ ‘Do we think this program will do a lot of good?,’ and ‘Do we have a faculty member who will want to oversee it?’” he says. “If the answers are ‘yes,’ then we still have to undergo the rigorous accreditation process.”

Some of Emory’s newer residency programs, which will begin this summer, include epilepsy and medical biochemical genetics. Others, such as clinical informatics and interventional radiology, are undergoing the accreditation process.

“Georgia needs more physicians and certainly more primary care physicians. But we must keep in mind that primary care physicians will need experts to whom they can refer patients who require specialized care,” Zaidan says. “We need to have that specialized training here in Georgia.”

Scholarships Benefit Emory and Morehouse Students

 In an effort to increase the number of practicing physicians in Georgia, the Medical Association of Atlanta Board of Directors has created four $5,000 scholarships, to be split evenly between senior medical students at Emory University School of Medicine and Morehouse School of Medicine.

To qualify for one of these scholarships, a senior medical student must have matched and committed to a residency program located in Georgia. Preference will be given to those students who have joined the Medical Association of Atlanta and attended MAA events.

State Invests in Rural Practitioners

Gov. Nathan Deal recently announced that Georgia will invest an additional $70 million in two medical schools as a result of a settlement agreement offer from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The recipients, Morehouse School of Medicine and Mercer University, were selected based on their continued efforts to place graduates in rural and underserved areas throughout the state.

“The state should receive these funds as a result of a healthcare lawsuit settlement regarding Medicaid reimbursements,” Deal says. “It is only fitting that we in turn invest this money in healthcare education programs, particularly those that prioritize placing primary care physician graduates in high-demand areas throughout the state. We look forward to continue working with these two medical schools to advance their healthcare training and delivery efforts.”

Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, president and dean of Morehouse School of Medicine, says the medical school will use the money to help expand classes and its residency programs, as well as recruit new staff. Mercer University President William Underwood says their portion of money will be used to assist students with a commitment to providing primary care in areas of the greatest need.


Allergy – Three Atlanta Specialists Provide Insights

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

By Helen Kelley

From itchy eyes, stuffy noses and sore throats to breathing problems, digestive issues and more severe symptoms, allergies affect the lives of millions of American every day. Atlanta Medicine recently spoke with three Atlanta area allergy specialists to learn more about which types of allergies affect people living in Georgia and the treatments available to treat those allergies successfully.

Trending allergies, ongoing research

Stanley M. Fineman, M.D., M.B.A., a partner in Atlanta Allergy & Asthma and adjunct faculty member at Emory University, says that one interesting trend in the Atlanta area is a spike in tree pollen allergies in the fall.  Technicians at Atlanta Allergy & Asthma, which provides the official daily Atlanta Allergy Pollen Count on its website (, recently traced the source of the spike to one particular tree.

“In Atlanta, there are two pollen seasons, spring and fall. Spring is the season for tree and grass pollens and fall is the time for weed pollen such as ragweed. So it was unusual that we were starting to see more people with tree pollen allergy in the fall,” said Fineman. “We were able to trace the source of their allergy to the Chinese Elm, which had not been a tree that we typically saw here in Georgia. However, it has become very popular with landscapers and homeowners in recent years as an ornamental tree because it’s pretty, hardy and grows fast. And it pollenates in the fall instead of the spring.”

Fineman also has noticed an increase in food allergies in the past 10 years.

“There are a number of theories about why we’re seeing an increased prevalence in food allergies, but we’re still not certain of the reason,” he said. “Each person is different, but we’re definitely seeing more people with allergies to nuts, milk, eggs and fish.”

Atlanta Allergy & Asthma is conducting ongoing research to help develop therapies for allergic diseases. The practice is actively recruiting participants for various clinical trials, including asthma patients who have difficulty controlling their symptoms, people who have a dust allergy and those who have an allergy to peanuts.

“The clinical trials are carefully regulated by the FDA and involve treatment methods like targeted therapy for asthma, sublingual medications for dust mite allergy or oral desensitization for peanut allergy,” Fineman said. “We hope that the data we gather will lead to the development of improved treatments for different types of allergies and asthma.”

Advances in treatments for allergies, asthma

Some of the best testing and treatment options are tried-and-true methods, according to Alan R. Redding, M.D., of Redding Allergy & Asthma Center. But he also cites a new treatment as an improvement in treating certain allergies.

“Skin testing remains the mainstay of allergy testing because it doesn’t require a blood draw from the patient and it allows us to see results immediately. And subcutaneous immunotherapy is still the most widely used treatment for allergic rhinitis and asthma,” he noted. “However, there is a new FDA-approved sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) treatment on the market for people with grass and ragweed allergies. This may signal additional SLIT treatments in the future for other allergies.”

Redding says that patients who suffer with severe uncontrolled asthma are finding relief from a new treatment, Omalizumab.  Omalizumab is currently the only biologic treatment for asthma that is FDA-approved for use in the U.S.

“Omalizumab, given to the patient as an injection every four weeks, targets one of the main interleukins that causes chronic spontaneous urticarial (hives),” he explained. “This drug has multiple benefits. In addition to helping control the patient’s chronic hives, it can also reduce their dependence on oral steroids.”

Redding encourages his fellow physicians to refer patients they suspect of having allergies or who have uncontrolled asthma to a board certified allergist for treatment.

“I think it’s important to understand that a board certified allergist has very specific training in identifying and treating allergies and asthma,” he said. “Physicians who are certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology have completed either an internal medicine or pediatric residency and an allergy/immunology fellowship, and have passed a board exam. The American Board of Allergy and Immunology is the only allergy organization that is recognized by the American College of Graduate Medical Education.”

Adult-onset allergies, recognizing symptoms

Faria Khan, M.D., a physician with Georgia’s Allergy and Asthma Institute and current Communications Chairman for the Medical Association of Atlanta, says she has noticed a rise in the number of adults presenting with allergies later in life.

“At least one-fourth of all people in America have allergies, but we’ve seen a noticeable trend emerge over at least the last 10 years but probably more,” she said. “While the proportions and types of allergies — to pollen, environment and food — are the same, we’re now seeing people in their 40s and 50s who are experiencing their first allergies.”

Khan says there are many theories as to why this is happening, but that no clear reason has emerged.

“Some theories suggest we are ‘too sanitary’ and are not allowing our immune systems to develop by being exposed to germs. Other ideas involve dietary factors or aspects of living in an industrialized society that we haven’t yet identified,” she explained. “But we really don’t know why we are seeing this increase in adult allergies.”

Khan says the symptoms for allergies may often mimic other illnesses, so it’s important for physicians to be aware of this and know when to refer a patient to an allergist.

“There are so many aspects of allergy. Allergies often affect the upper respiratory tract, so if a patient has chronic sinusitis or frequent colds, it may actually be allergy. Sometimes, gastrointestinal problems turn out to be an undiagnosed food allergy. A rash could be caused by an allergy. And breathing problems could actually be asthma,” she noted. “I would advise other physicians to consider allergies as a root cause of symptoms of many kinds that they can’t get to the bottom of and solve.”



MAA Annual Dinner Meeting

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

June 16, 2016, Atlanta, GA. For more information, visit Medical Association of Atlanta



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