GHA Member Hospital Happenings

New Medicare Benefits at AU Health Include Technology Allowing Patients' Loved Ones to Monitor Their Health

Living far away from a loved one with a chronic illness can complicate many things, not the least of which is their daily care. As the miles expand so do the worries, especially when a loved one suffers from a condition that requires constant monitoring and evaluation.

Thanks to new Medicare benefits recently introduced at Augusta University Health, those concerned can be put at ease.

“Medicare will now pay for what’s called chronic care management,” said Dr. Janis Coffin, medical director of the Department of Family Medicine at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

Patients with two or more chronic medical issues who require more than 20 minutes of care coordination every month are eligible for the new services.

Primary among those services is remote patient monitoring, which involves an app that allows a patient’s loved ones to be notified if the patient has been taking medication, checking blood pressure or doing other things necessary to deal with a chronic illness. If a patient falls below certain levels, NavCare, the company administering the new benefits , will contact them to see if changes need to be made to their routine home medical treatment.

“NavCare will call the patient and say, you need to take an additional dosage or ask if they are having any shortness of breath,” said Coffin. “They will go over their symptoms to try to keep them from having to go back to the emergency room or go back to their physician to see what’s going on. If there are blood pressure issues, they will send out a new blood pressure kit.”

NavCare will also arrange for patient transportation from the hospital and provide canes, walkers, shower chairs or other necessary equipment.

AU Health is one of the few institutions in the area providing these benefits through NavCare.

Memorial Satilla Health Receives an 'A' for Patient Safety for the Spring 2019 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade

Memorial Satilla Health was awarded an ‘A’ from The Leapfrog Group’s spring 2019 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade. The designation recognizes Memorial Satilla’s efforts in protecting patients from harm and providing safer healthcare. The Leapfrog Group is a national nonprofit organization committed to improving the quality of care and safety for consumers and purchasers. The Safety Grade assigns an ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’ or ‘F’ grade to hospitals across the country based on their performance in preventing medical errors, injuries, accidents, infections and other harms to patients in their care.

Bobby McCullough, CEO of Memorial Satilla Health, said, “We have worked really hard to provide the best possible care for our patients while putting their safety first. I commend our team of physicians and hospital staff for their commitment to patient safety and quality care.”

“To be recognized nationally as an ‘A’ hospital is an accomplishment the whole community should take pride in,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “Hospitals that earn an ‘A’ grade are making it a priority to protect patients from preventable medical harm and error. We congratulate hospital leaders, board members, staff, volunteers and clinicians who work so hard to earn this A.” 

Developed under the guidance of a National Expert Panel, the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses 28 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign grades to more than 2,600 U.S. acute-care hospitals twice per year. The Hospital Safety Grade’s methodology is peer-reviewed and fully transparent, and the results are free to the public.

To see Memorial Satilla Health’s full grade details, and to access patient tips for staying safe in the hospital, visit and follow The Leapfrog Group on Twitter and Facebook

Family Tree Pre-K Teacher Finalist for Teacher of the Year

Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning (DECAL) has announced that Kaysha Smith of Phoebe’s Family Tree Child Development Center is one of six finalists for Georgia’s Pre-K Program 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year. Smith received a surprise visit on Monday, May 6, from DECAL Commissioner Amy Jacobs and CALi, the official mascot for the state agency.

Smith has been teaching for almost 20 years, with 16 of those years at Phoebe’s Family Tree. She is finishing up her third year as a Pre-K teacher, but over the course of her career Smith worked with toddlers and children six to 11 years old. Smith says she became a teacher to make a difference and have an impact on the lives of the children.

“A teacher changed my life, so this gave me the desire to want to become a world changer, one child at a time. My favorite thing about teaching is to see the kids discover who they are as a person, make friends and master new skills. The smile and glow of excitement is breathtaking,” explained Smith.

Each day Smith reminds her students that they can achieve anything and encourages them to always try to do their best. “Learning is powerful. ‘I can’t’ is not in their vocabulary, only ‘I can, I will and I did it.’ I try to give them skills that they will remember and skills that will help them to become life-long learners,” said Smith.

Each finalist received $500 from the Georgia Foundation for Early Care & Learning. In September, DECAL will select a winner from a local public-school system and a winner from a private child care center. 

Habersham Medical Center's Quality Rankings Soar With State and National Regulatory Bodies

Habersham Medical Center (HMC) has received multiple quality awards this year in the areas of antibiotic stewardship, stroke, patient experience and standardized regulatory quality metrics. 
In February, HMC received Gold Status on Georgia’s Department of Public Health (DPH) Honor Roll for Antibiotic Stewardship. Antibiotic stewardship is a set of best practice guidelines that help facilitate the proper usage of antibiotics thereby decreasing antibiotic resistance. According to DPH, The Georgia Honor Roll for Antibiotic Stewardship was established in 2014 by the Healthcare Associated Infections Advisory Committee.  The goal of the program is to provide an incentive for acute care facilities and critical access hospitals to engage in antimicrobial stewardship. Angela Harpold, HMC’s director of pharmacy stated, “the Gold Status Award demonstrates our commitment to providing quality care to our patients and our community through our antibiotic stewardship initiatives”.  
In the same month, the Georgia Coverdell Acute Stroke Registry (GCASR) awarded HMC with three out of four awards for excellence in the care of stroke patients. In the category of hospitals with 26 to 100 beds, HMC won awards for having the highest proportion of eligible patients with a Door-to-Needle times less than 45 minutes; having the highest proportion of patients with a Door-to-Imaging times in less than 25 minutes and; having the highest achievement in dysphagia screening. 
“I am extraordinarily pleased with the leadership in our Emergency Department that allows us to perform with such excellence,” said Lynn Boggs, HMC’s chief executive officer. “These awards indicate that we continue to be a high performing stroke center and we are proud to be that resource for the communities we serve.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability. HMC is working with the GCASR program to improve stroke care and decrease the degree of disability someone suffers after a stroke.  

Habersham Medical Center’s overarching quality initiatives are measured through the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, also known as HCAHPS.  Serving as a patient satisfaction survey required by the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for all hospitals in the United States, HCAHPS allows patients to rate their experience regarding their inpatient stay at an organization. HMC’s ratings have improved by over 20% in the last nine months for those willing to recommend the hospital. 
There are four in-house hospital teams dedicated to working towards improving our HCAHPS scores: Environmental Services, Dietary, Family Birth and Acute Care Services (ICU and Medical Surgical Unit). Priscilla Adams, HMC’s quality manager stated that “all of our teams are working together towards continuous improvement of our HCAHPS scores. This is really important because it leads to success in value based purchasing and it helps the hospital deliver the highest quality of care to our patients.” 
In addition to improved HCAHPS quality ratings, HMC was also recognized for outstanding quality measures by Det Norske Veritas (DNV), an international accredited registrar for hospitals and healthcare systems.  DNV conducted two separate audits on HMC’s general services as well as its certified primary stroke program.  
“HMC has made vast improvements in our quality measures over the past year”, said Leigh Hunnicutt, director of regulatory services and compliance at HMC. “During our general DNV survey completed in March, the surveyor communicated that he was impressed with HMC’s quality initiatives and that our quality practices are far above those he sees in other facilities”.  

The stroke program also received rave reviews from DNV. Surveyors suggested that HMC submit an abstract for national recognition for door to needle time with the area EMS department. HMC is on track to receive additional awards in the upcoming months. 

Putnam General Hospital Generates $46,311,957 for Local and State Economy

In 2017, PutnamGeneral Hospital in Eatonton, Georgia generated $46,311,957 in revenue for the local and state economy, according to a recently released report by the Georgia Hospital Association, the state’s largest hospital trade association. Putnam General Hospital had direct expenditures of more than $19,802,436 in 2017. The total economic impact of those expenditures was $46,311,957 when combined with an economic multiplier developed by the United States Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. This output multiplier considers the “ripple” effect of direct hospital expenditures on other sectors of the economy, such as medical supplies, durable medical equipment and
pharmaceuticals. Economic multipliers are used to model the resulting impact of a change in one industry on the “circular flow” of spending within an economy as a whole.

During the same time period, Putnam General Hospital provided approximately $2,028,295 in uncompensated care while sustaining more than 112 full-time job throughout Eatonton and Georgia. When a US Department of Commerce multiplier is applied to the jobs number, it is
revealed that an additional 277 jobs are supported across the state due to the economic activity of Putnam General Hospital.  The hospital spent $4,846,841 in salaries and benefits, resulting in total household earnings in the community of 9,540,522.

“Putnam General Hospital’s mission is not only to provide quality health care, but also to serve as an economic engine for our community,” stated Alan Horton, CEO.  “We are proud to partner with our city of Eatonton to offer quality health care services close to home. As a leading employer in our region, we are dedicated to improving lives.”

Putnam General Hospital is a major component of the area’s economic strength; however,the hospital’s leadership, like the rest of the Georgia hospital community, is concerned about economic challenges that affect the hospital’s ability to deliver timely and efficient care. A fast-growing uninsured population and inadequate payments from government insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid have made it increasingly difficult to meet the community’s health care needs. In 2017, 44 percent of all hospitals in Georgia operated with negative totalmargins.

“Our hospital is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is dedicated to ensuring our residents receive state-of-the art health care services,” Horton said. “We are constantly challenged with making sure each patient receives quality care regardless of ability to pay. This environment often puts financial stress on our state’s hospitals.”

According to Alan Horton, every community needs nearby access to a strong, vibrant health care system that will not only meet the health care needs of its residents, but also attract other industries and businesses to the area.

“Preserving access to health care is extremely important and we are the primary guardian of health in our community,” said Alan Horton.  “A healthy
community depends on the strength of its hospital, both financially and in treating patients.”

Health System Auxiliary to Host Sterling Silver & Fashion Jewelry Trunk Show

It’s time to get connected with this summer’s trendiest jewelry! The Southeast Georgia Health System Brunswick Campus Auxiliary will host a “Your Silver Connection” sterling silver and fashion jewelry trunk show June 11-12, 2019. The event is open to the public and will include a 20 percent discount on all trunk show merchandise and a chance to register for jewelry giveaways.

The two-day trunk show will take place on Tuesday, June 11, 9 a.m.-7 p.m., and Wednesday, June 12, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., in the Health System’s Gift Shop, 2415 Parkwood Drive, Brunswick.

Cash and most major credit cards are accepted. As with all Auxiliary fundraising events, a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Health System. For more information, contact Susan Floyd, coordinator, Gift Shop, at 912-466-1180 or

Baer Elected Secretary-Treasurer of American Federation for Medical Research, Southern Section

Dr. Stephanie L. Baer, infectious disease physician at the Medical College of Georgia and chief of Infection Control and Epidemiology at the Charlie Norwood Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta, has been elected secretary-treasurer of the Southern Section of the American Federation for Medical Research.

The interdisciplinary Southern Section of the AFMR, which includes 13 states, Puerto Rico, the West Indies and Central and South America, works to promote research and foster mentorship of junior faculty and residents to ensure the future of medical research.

Baer, whose research interests include infections in veterans and dialysis patients as well as aging, immunocompromised individuals with human immunodeficiency virus, has served as a councilor for the Southern Section since 2016.

Baer is the VA representative and vice chair of Augusta University’s Institutional Review Board, which reviews research protocols that involve humans. At the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center, she is chair of the Infection Control Committee and co-chair of the High Consequence Infection Committee. She is also a member of the Executive Council of Medical Staff and  Environment of Care Committee and site director for the Infectious Diseases Fellowship Program.

Baer is a 2003 graduate of the Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine and completed her internal medicine residency and infectious diseases fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine.

Redmond Earns "A" for Patient Safety from Leapfrog Group

Redmond Regional Medical Center has been awarded an ‘A’ from The Leapfrog Group’s spring 2019 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade. This designation recognizes Redmond’s efforts to protect patients from harm and to provide safer health care. The Leapfrog Group is a national nonprofit organization committed to improving health care quality and safety for consumers and purchasers. The Safety Grade assigns an ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’ or ‘F’ grade to hospitals across the country based on their performance in preventing medical errors, injuries, accidents, infections and other harm to patients in their care.

“We know our patients expect Redmond to provide them safe, high quality care and we work very hard to make sure we do exactly that,” said John Quinlivan, CEO of Redmond Regional Medical Center.  “The Leapfrog ‘A’ rating marks us among the best hospitals in the country and further validates that our patients can expect the safest and best care at Redmond.”

“To be recognized nationally as an ‘A’ hospital is an accomplishment the whole community should take pride in,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “Hospitals that earn an ‘A’ grade are making it a priority to protect patients from preventable medical harm and error. We congratulate hospital leaders, board members, staff, volunteers and clinicians who work so hard to earn this A.” 

Developed under the guidance of a national Expert Panel, the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses 28 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign grades to more than 2,600 U.S. acute-care hospitals twice per year. The Hospital Safety Grade’s methodology is peer-reviewed and fully transparent, and the results are free to the public.

Redmond was awarded an ‘A’ grade when Leapfrog announced grades for the spring 2019 update. To see Redmond’s full grade details, and to access patient tips for staying safe in the hospital, visit and follow The Leapfrog Group on Twitter and Facebook

Canino Honored as DAISY Recipient

Courtney Canino, a registered nurse in South Georgia Medical Center's emergency department was named the May DAISY Award Recipient for Extraordinary Nurses. The award is part of the international DAISY Foundation developed to recognize the amazing care provided by nurses every day.

Recently, a patient’s sister requested to speak to the charge nurse during their ER visit. “I wanted to speak to the person in charge and give thanks to those who had cared for my brother and let her know how well her staff treated us during our stay,” read the nomination.

However, it was then the experience with Canino that resulted in the DAISY nomination.

“She sat down in the chair beside me just like she’d known us for years and as she talked the room lit up. She made it a point to let us know how important it was to her that the staff treated us well and would make sure they were given the credit they deserved. Courtney is a true demonstration of excellent leadership and wonderful customer service. We were pleased with all staff involved in my brother’s care, but Courtney is a nurse I will never forget!”

Upon receiving the recognition, Canino quickly shifted the praise to her team who she says truly deserve the award.

Canino has been with SGMC for nearly six years.

SGMC continues to ask patients and fellow employees to honor nurses they feel go above and beyond in their care. Nominations are reviewed by a committee based on criteria that include compassion, teamwork, leadership, attitude, and skills and knowledge.

DAISY awards are presented monthly in front of the nurse’s colleagues, physicians, patients, and visitors. Each honoree receives a certificate commending him or her for being an “Extraordinary Nurse” and a sculpture called A Healer’s Touch, hand-carved by artists of the Shona Tribe in Africa.

To nominate a nurse for the DAISY award, visit

Phoebe Sumter Earns Highest Safety Grade from Leapfrog, PPMH Maintains a Solid 'B'

For the second consecutive rating period, Phoebe Sumter earned the highest grade from one of the nation’s premier hospital rating organizations.  Phoebe Sumter was awarded an ‘A’ from The Leapfrog Group’s spring 2019 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade.The designation recognizes Phoebe Sumter’s efforts in protecting patients from harm and providing safer healthcare.

“At Phoebe Sumter, our top priority every day is keeping our patients safe.  We are committed to a culture of patient safety and continuous improvement, and we are proud The Leapfrog Group has once again recognized that commitment.  Earning another ‘A’ from Leapfrog was not our ultimate goal, but rather a welcomed result of the hard work and dedication of our employees and providers,” said Brandi Lunneborg, Phoebe Sumter Chief Executive Officer.

Quality improvement teams at Phoebe Sumter constantly gather and review quality data and have ongoing continuous improvement projects designed to build on the hospital’s safety success.  “We went almost two years without a single patient contracting a central line-associated bloodstream infection (CLABSI) and a year without any surgical site infections,” Lunneborg said.  “While our goal is always zero, those are two important metrics that show our quality improvement efforts are paying off and having outstanding benefits for our patients.”

The Leapfrog Group is a national organization committed to improving healthcare quality and safety for consumers and purchasers. The Safety Grade assigns an A, B, C, D or F grade to hospitals across the country based on their performance in preventing medical errors, infections and other harms among patients in their care.

“To be recognized nationally as an ‘A’ hospital is an accomplishment the whole community should take pride in,” said Leah Binder, President and CEO, The Leapfrog Group. “Hospitals that earn an ‘A’ grade are making it a priority to protect patients from preventable medical harm and error. We congratulate hospital leaders, board members, staff, volunteers and clinicians who work so hard to earn this A.” 

Developed under the guidance of a National Expert Panel, the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses 28 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign grades to more than 2,600 U.S. hospitals twice per year. The Hospital Safety Grade’s methodology is peer-reviewed and fully transparent, and the results are free to the public.

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital maintained a strong 'B' Hospital Safety Grade.  Phoebe Putney Health System CEO Scott Steiner said, "I am proud to be part of an organization as committed to patient safety as Phoebe.  These improving scores are a result of our partnerships with our outstanding medical staffs.  We pledge to continue to build on the quality improvement efforts that have been underway throughout our system for several years.  Patients want us to keep them safe, heal them and be nice to them.  We want every member of the Phoebe Family to keep that mantra in the forefront of their minds every day."

As a small, critical access hospital, Phoebe Worth was not included in the Leapfrog grades.

Project SEARCH Student Wins Georgia Department of Education's Award of Excellence

Georgia Academy for the Blind (GAB) high school senior Austin Rogers – an intern with The Medical Center, Navicent Health’s (MCNH’s) Project SEARCH program – has been honored with the Georgia Department of Education’s Award of Excellence. The annual award honors a Georgia high school senior with disabilities who has demonstrated outstanding academic success and extracurricular involvement.

Rogers, who serves as a greeter and wayfinder for visitors at MCNH, was selected to compete for the award by a team of educators at GAB. Rogers has maintained a 4.0 grade point average during his senior year, while interning at MCNH and volunteering within the community to raise awareness of visual impairments.

“Austin entered GAB as a first grade student and has participated in various extracurricular activities at GAB throughout his tenure. This year, Austin has represented GAB at off-campus speaking engagements, presenting at Downtown Rotary and Navicent Health’s Autism conference, and competing in the Braille Challenge Competition. Austin also volunteers his time to foster community awareness of visual impairment. He is a wonderful person, a joy to be around, and we are so proud that he has been honored with this statewide award,” said Mary Keith, Teaching and Learning Innovative Programs Coordinator with GAB.

Rogers will graduate from Project SEARCH in a small ceremony at MCNH on May 16, and will receiving his high school diploma from GAB on May 17. Rogers plans to work with the Macon Bacon baseball organization as a greeter this season, and hopes to obtain future employment in the customer service field.

“Austin immediately makes a connection with everyone he encounters, our employees and patients and visitors alike. He gives a cheery good morning or good afternoon. He’s making a huge difference in the lives of the teammates and visitors here – they are huge fans of Austin’s and express what a difference he has made. He is very enthusiastic about learning and is just caring to everyone he encounters,” said Darrell Palmer, Customer Service and Guest Relations Manager for MCNH.

Navicent Health has partnered with GAB since 2017 to bring the international Project SEARCH to Macon-Bibb County, creating the world’s first Project SEARCH program to assist students with visual impairment. Through this program, GAB students are able to gain real-world employment experience by interning with various departments at MCNH. Students who participate in the program are high school seniors who plan to enter the workforce following graduation. The program required each student to obtain transportation from GAB to MCNH in order to “interview” for positions within MCNH departments. The students are then “selected” and receive “job offers” for those departments.

“The goal of this program is to allow these graduating students to gain independence and real world experience. They are responsible for managing their time, obtaining transportation, reporting to work and completing their job duties in a satisfactory manner. This program provides real world experience that will allow them to build their resumes and obtain employment following their graduation this spring. We are so pleased to partner with Navicent Health to prepare our students as they transfer from our school to society,” said Keith.

Rogers began his internship in MCNH’s Create Café, where he quickly became known among visitors and staff for his warm and inviting demeanor and outstanding work ethic. Because of these qualities, he was “transferred” to the hospital’s main information desk to greet visitors and help them find their way to the various departments of the hospital.

“Navicent Health is pleased to work with the Georgia Academy for the Blind to provide this program. Our goal as an organization is to increase health and wellness for individuals throughout the communities we serve. By providing these students with real-world work experience, we are assisting them as they become productive members of society, armed with independence and the skills needed to thrive,” said Dr. Ninfa M. Saunders, President and CEO of Navicent Health. 

Project SEARCH is an international program founded in 1996 that provides individuals with developmental disabilities the opportunity to work in entry-level positions. Project SEARCH’s primary objective is to secure competitive employment for people with disabilities. For more information, please visit

Bariatric Surgeon Earns Obesity Medicine Board Certification

Dr. Robert Kelly Jr., a bariatric and minimally invasive surgeon at Memorial Health, recently was named a Diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM).

He is the first surgeon in the region to earn board certification in obesity medicine, which means he is knowledgeable about a variety of obesity treatments and can match patients with the most appropriate treatment.

“Obesity is one of our nation’s top health risks,” Kelly said. “My goal as an obesity medicine specialist is to help my patients lose excess weight and maintain a healthy weight for life.”

According to a recent study, 69 percent of Americans (160 million) now qualify as overweight or obese, up from 65 percent in 2003-2004.

Certification by ABOM requires physician to complete 60 hours of continuing medical education in obesity-related topics, and then pass a rigorous exam that is similar to those in other subspecialties.

Kelly joined Memorial Health University Physicians | Surgical & Bariatric Care in 2012. He is a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Medicine. He completed his surgical residency at Memorial Health University Medical Center and a fellowship in bariatric and minimally invasive surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Gwinnett Medical Center's Glancy Rehabilitation Announces New Treatment Options

Gwinnett Medical Center’s (GMC) Glancy Rehabilitation Center recently announced the addition of a new treatment for patients—the Exoskeleton.  This new equipment allows therapists to perform gait training for patients with weakness and paralysis in their lower extremities. 

Glancy Rehabilitation is the first to offer this advanced technology locally, which allows people paralyzed below the waist to stand up and walk. 

“We are constantly seeking the best treatment solutions for our patients and through the Indego Therapy Exoskeleton, we can deliver the critical results our patients desire,” said Alison Freeman, therapy manager at Glancy Rehabilitation.  “Furthermore, because the equipment is customizable, we can quickly and effectively treat patients and monitor their improvements through software.”   

Recently, wearable robots have become more practical for patients. The unique device is very similar to an external skeleton and straps tightly around the torso.  Supports are strapped to the legs and extend from the hip to the knee and from the knee to the foot. The hip and knee joints are driven by computer-controlled electric motors powered by advanced batteries. Patients use the powered apparatus with walkers or forearm crutches to maintain their balance.

While the equipment has only been in use a short time, GMC therapists have noticed the remarkable results in patients. Freeman added that through this therapy, recovery times are dramatically reduced.  

As a donation from the GMC Foundation, Glancy will use the Exoskeleton to treat stroke patients, and patients with spinal cord and cerebrovascular accident injuries throughout North Georgia and metro Atlanta. Features include:

  • Unique adjustability and custom sizing, allowing patients to be fitted in under five minutes;
  • Comprehensive software suite, providing patient analytics and data used to improve patient treatment plans; and, 
  • A modular design, which decreases Exoskeleton set up and break down time between patients.

Currently, patients are treated using the Exoskeleton on a case-by-case basis. 

With Seven Hospitals Earning 'As' in Leapfrog Spring Safety Grade, Piedmont Healthcare is Georgia's Safest System

Seven of Piedmont Healthcare’s 11 hospitals received “A” grades in The Leapfrog Group’s Spring 2019 Hospital Safety Grade, making it the safest healthcare system in Georgia with more A grades than any other healthcare system in the state.

“We are proud of our record on quality, which our talented employees have worked hard to attain,” said Kevin Brown, president and CEO, Piedmont Healthcare. “Quality, safety and service lie at the heart of Piedmont’s strategic vision of providing high-quality, patient-centered care and it is great to see us delivering on that.”

The Piedmont hospitals that earned A grades were:

  • Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center, which serves as the system’s east clinical hub, received an A grade for the second consecutive period. Previously, it had gone eight report card periods, a span of four years, without receiving an A. Piedmont Athens, which was the only facility in Georgia named a Top Teaching Hospital by Leapfrog last December, joined the Piedmont system in 2016.
  • Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, which received its third consecutive A grade. Piedmont Atlanta, home to Piedmont Heart Institute, Piedmont Cancer and Piedmont Transplant Institute, has the highest Case Mix Index (CMI) of any community hospital in the nation, according to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) data. This means Piedmont Atlanta takes care of the sickest patients of any non-academic medical center in the United States, ranking in the top 10 for all hospitals.
  • Piedmont Fayette Hospital, which received its third A grade in the past four terms.
  • Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, which earned its eighth consecutive A grade. Piedmont Mountainside has not had a Hospital-Acquired Infection since November 2017 and has gone 490 days without a serious safety event.
  • Piedmont Newnan Hospital, which earned its ninth consecutive A grade.
  • Piedmont Newton Hospital, which received an A grade for the fourth time in the last six reports. Piedmont Newton joined the Piedmont system on Oct. 1, 2015, and roughly 13 months later – after integrating Piedmont’s safety practices and hard-wiring clinical protocols through its electronic medical record – the hospital went from a D to an A. Piedmont Newton was named Small Hospital of the Year in 2018 by the Georgia Association of Community Hospitals and has gone 811 days without a Serious Safety Event.
  • Piedmont Columbus Northside Campus, which earned its second consecutive A grade as a member of the Piedmont system. It joined Piedmont on March 1, 2018.

The Leapfrog Safety Grade, which is released twice a year, is a complex quality rating with 28 different quality measures, each with different weightings and gathered from different sources and time periods. This makes it especially difficult – and special – when a hospital is able to make significant improvement.

Piedmont’s hospitals were among 27 in Georgia to earn A’s on Leapfrog’s Spring 2019 Hospital Safety Grade.

Son is Thankful Each Mother's Day, After Mom's Breast Cancer Scare

Every year, we celebrate Mother’s Day during the month of May, a day set aside to remind the mothers in our lives how thankful we are for all that they do. Mother’s Day is extra special for a Barrow County son, who is reminded of how he could’ve lost his mother after her cancer diagnosis. He’s thankful each year that she is here to celebrate the holiday devoted to her, as well as for the exceptional care that she received through Piedmont Athens Regional’s comprehensive breast care program.          

Fifty one-year-old Amy Ivey made sure to complete her mammogram exam, making an annual routine. Although she doesn’t have a history of breast cancer in her family, she understands the importance of the screening tool.

In July 2013, however, the unimaginable happened. “My mammogram came back abnormal and Piedmont Athens Regional’s Breast Health Center called me back in for a follow up,” said Ivey, a long-time local business owner in Winder, Ga. “They said they had located a small mass and wanted to do a biopsy. I tried to stay positive, thinking it wasn’t anything serious.”

Soon after receiving her biopsy, however, doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer. She was devastated, but knew she that needed to stay strong for her family: Her husband and two sons.

Ivey’s youngest son, Grayson, knew his mom’s diagnosis would be tough. He understood that this would change things for their family, but that his mother was going to fight..

“She’s a strong woman, so I knew she wasn’t going to let this get her down,” Ivey said. “I never had a bad outlook about her diagnosis and we stayed positive for her. This was not just her fight!”

Ivey’s older brother, Dylan, was already in college out of town at the time of their mother’s diagnosis, and he was to begin his first year at an out-of-state school as well.

Although it was scary knowing she had breast cancer, things went smoothly for Ivey after her diagnosis.  She quickly met with Cody Gunn, M.D., breast surgeon at Piedmont Athens Regional. Dr. Gunn also leads the hospital’s comprehensive breast care program, which has been providing care to patients in the community for 14 years.

The program, managed by the hospital’s Breast Health Center, is made up of a number of specialty services, such as breast imaging, breast surgery, genetic counseling, cancer support services, oncology services, and patient navigation.

Providing guidance and support for Ivey, Dr. Gunn’s team completed a double mastectomy, removing the mass found in her mammogram as well as several lymph nodes around Ivey’s breast. After her surgery was complete, Ivey also completed chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments.

Grayson Ivey remembers it was a tough time for the family. “When I started school, I still came home every single weekend to be with her,” Ivey said. “It still amazes me how strong she was through everything with her surgery and treatments. If there were any issues, we would’ve never known it because she stayed so positive through it all.”

It has been nearly six years since Amy Ivey first received the news about her breast cancer, but since her treatments have finished, she’s been living a healthy life, enjoying spending time with her family and running her business.

During her cancer journey, Ivey found support in many forms. Her family members, loved ones and her faith kept her strong, but she also appreciated the amazing care and support that was provided through Piedmont Athens Regional’s comprehensive breast care program.

Every year for mother’s day, Grayson Ivey said his family always thinks back about his mom’s journey and are thankful that she is a survivor.

“Her cancer diagnosis really put things into perspective. We’re all so much closer because of it,” Ivey said. “My mom’s cancer journey is our whole family’s journey.. It affected all of us. The best thing that we could do was be there as a form of support, and we were thankful that we could trust her healthcare team to help her beat it!”

Piedmont Columbus Northside Receives an 'A' for Patient Safety for the Spring 2019 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade

Both Piedmont Columbus Regional hospitals were awarded high marks from The Leapfrog Group’s spring 2019 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade. Piedmont Columbus Northside Campus was awarded an ‘A’ and the Midtown Campus received a “B” score. The designation recognizes Piedmont Columbus’ efforts in protecting patients from harm and providing safer health care.

The Leapfrog Group is a national nonprofit organization committed to improving health care quality and safety for consumers and purchasers. The Safety Grade assigns an ‘A’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘D’ or ‘F’ grade to hospitals across the country based on their performance in preventing medical errors, injuries, accidents, infections and other harms to patients in their care.

“At Piedmont Columbus Regional, we always put patients first and patient safety will continue to be our highest priority,” said Scott Hill, CEO and president of Piedmont Columbus Regional. “The fact that Piedmont Columbus Regional’s Northside and Midtown campuses have again both earned such high grades in 2019 is a testament to the quality of care and service that our providers and employees deliver on a daily basis. Leapfrog's Hospital Safety Grades help people make informed decisions when choosing where to seek medical care. Piedmont Columbus Regional has joined the other Piedmont hospitals in embracing the Leapfrog grades as a way to gauge our progress on the journey to improve patient safety and satisfaction.”

“To be recognized nationally as an ‘A’ hospital is an accomplishment the whole community should take pride in,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “Hospitals that earn an ‘A’ grade are making it a priority to protect patients from preventable medical harm and error. We congratulate hospital leaders, board members, staff, volunteers and clinicians who work so hard to earn this A.” 

Developed under the guidance of a national Expert Panel, the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade uses 28 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign grades to more than 2,600 U.S. acute-care hospitals twice per year. The Hospital Safety Grade’s methodology is peer-reviewed and fully transparent, and the results are free to the public.

Piedmont Columbus Northside and Midtown campuses were awarded an ‘A’ and ‘B’ grade today, when Leapfrog announced grades for the spring 2019 update. To see Piedmont Columbus Regional’s full grade details, and to access patient tips for staying safe in the hospital, visit and follow The Leapfrog Group on Twitter and Facebook

Northside Hospital BMT Program Among Best Nationally for 10th Year

For the 10th consecutive year, The Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) Program at Northside Hospital Cancer Institute has been recognized as having among the best survival outcomes in the United States for bone marrow transplants. The data was reported by Be The Match®, which manages the largest and most diverse marrow registry in the world.  
Northside ranks in the top 20 percent of transplant programs in the country in terms of volume of allogeneic transplants performed. According to the data reported by Be The Match the oneyear survival of patients transplanted at Northside was 79.4 percent, which exceeds the survival expected for the hospital.  
The hospital’s BMT Program is one of only two adult programs in the nation (out of 177) that has achieved survival outcomes that significantly exceed the expected survival rate for the last 10 consecutive reporting cycles, and is the longest running adult program in the Southeast to exceed expected survival rates. 
H. Kent Holland, M.D., medical director of The BMT Program at Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, believes that these results are a direct reflection of the hard-working dedication of Northside’s physicians and staff. “We have very experienced team that spearheads the amazing work that takes place in our inpatient and outpatient BMT units, our stem-cell laboratory and blood donor center,” he said.  
In addition to state-of-the-art facilities and expert leadership, innovative treatments and research are major components of the BMT Program at Northside. Northside recently began offering chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy and other immunotherapy treatment options including novel clinical research trials, and is the lead site for a consortium with the Blood and Marrow Transplant Clinical Trials Network (BMTCTN), which conducts large multiinstitutional clinical trials that address important issues in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and furthers the understanding of the best possible treatment approaches.  
“At Northside, we are committed to providing our patients with outstanding clinical care as demonstrated by our patient-centered, comprehensive quality management program,” said Dr. Holland. 
For more information about the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program at Northside Hospital Cancer Institute, visit and 
For more information about Be The Match, visit

College of Nursing Student Receives Prestigious Beard Award

College of Nursing student Dan Nguyen is the 2019 recipient of Augusta University’s John F. Beard Award for Compassionate Care.

The $40,000 award was presented to Nguyen on May 10 during the college’s convocation held at Christenberry Fieldhouse.

During her time at the university, Nguyen demonstrated compassion for others by giving back to the community and campus by collecting and donating toys to the Children’s Hospital of Georgia and raising over $3,000 for undergraduate nursing students while serving as the second vice president of the college’s Student Leadership Organization.

In the clinical setting, she devoted herself to the hospitals’ most vulnerable patients, developing treatment-specific plans for CHOG patients, providing care to new moms in the medical center’s Perinatal Unit and helping to evaluate psychiatric patients receiving care at East Central Regional Hospital.   

Her passion for excellence in health care made an impression on Dr. Pamela Cook, interim associate dean for academic and student affairs in the College of Nursing, whose nomination letter states how Nguyen’s work ethic exemplifies what it means to be a high-quality health care provider.

“While in the nursing program, Dan has demonstrated a strong work ethic, determination, social aptitude, enthusiasm and flexibility,” Cook said. “She has performed compassionate service to our patients, their families and the Augusta University Health community without expectation of recognition or reward. She is a true asset to the college and the university.”   

In addition to graduating cum laude, Nguyen has received several awards for her work, including the Lettie Pate Whitehead Scholarship and the University Nurse Alumnae Scholarship.

Nguyen has also furthered her education by earning several credentials, such as the Freshstart Tobacco Cessation Counselor Program Certification through the American Cancer Society, Strengthening Families Program Completion Certification from Augusta University and the Professional Development Certificate in Child Maltreatment through Pro-Solution Training.  

The $40,000 annual John F. Beard Award is endowed by William Porter “Billy” Payne and his wife, Martha, to a graduating Augusta University student who exemplifies caring and compassion in health care. Payne, the immediate past chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, established the Beard award in 1998 in memory of his father-in-law, who died of cancer in 1997. The award honors Augusta University President Emeritus Francis J. Tedesco and Beard’s physician, Dr. Mark F. Williams, a 1988 Medical College of Georgia graduate who treated Beard during his hospitalization at Augusta University Medical Center.

SGMC Presents Nurse Awards for Nurses Week

South Georgia Medical Center honored three employees at a recent Nurse Week celebration. SGMC asked nurses and nursing support staff to nominate one registered nurse, licensed practical nurse, and patient care technician for a Nursing Excellence Award. Kirbi Spires, RN, Patient Care Coordinator received Nurse Leader of the Year, Holly Turner, LPN, received Nurse of the Year, and Charlene Daniels, CNA received Nurse Assistant of the Year. 

Spires serves as the Labor and Delivery dayshift charge nurse, recently accepting the role of patient care coordinator. According to her peers, "Everyday Kirbi makes sure each patient and staff member is taken care of. No one ever feels alone in caring for their patient because of the reassurance of having such a strong support person there to help you. Her passion and love for others is reflected in the way she treats her staff and patients." Spires has been with SGMC for seven years.

Turner is an LPN on 4 West. According to her nomination, "Holly is a nurse that would benefit any medical team. She is dependable and always takes the time to help out where she is needed. She consistently steps in to help others who are busy with others patients." Turner has been with SGMC for 10 years.

Daniels is a CNA at the SGMC Lanier Campus. Her nomination included,  "Charlene is such a caring lady. All of our patients love her kindness and dedication to the facility. She never grumbles or complains. As some of our patients have to stay for a while, Charlene helps them have the best possible experience possible." Daniels has been with SGMC for six years. 

Nursing, or Patient Care Services as it is commonly called, is a vitally important function in all healthcare organizations. SGMC employs 1,200 employees within the Nursing division and would not be successful without the many contributions of nurses and nursing support staff who deliver hands-on care.

Navicent Health Celebrates National Nurses Week by Awarding Outstanding Professionals

In recognition of National Nurses Week, May 6-12, Navicent Health has celebrated the contributions of its almost 2,300 nurses.

The week-long celebration culminated on Friday, May 10 with Navicent Health’s fifth annual Friends of Nursing Gala. The evening of music and dancing also included the annual Nursing Excellence Awards. Nurses were recognized in the following categories:

  • Excellence in Leadership – Sherry Haizlip, RN
  • Excellence in Advanced Practice – Deon Hutchison, RN
  • Excellence in General Medical / Surgical Care – Dottie Hester, RN
  • Excellence in Post-Acute Care – Ashley Barrett, LPN
  • Excellence in Ambulatory and Community Care – Terri Matula, RN
  • Excellence in Emergency and Critical Care – Sarah March, RN
  • Excellence in Pediatric Care – Kristi Sheridan, RN
  • Excellence in Clinical Support Services – Josephine Fabico-Dulin, RN
  • Excellence in Specialty Services – Tracey Thomason, RN
  • Barb Stickel Community Award – Mandy Pompa, LPN
  • Nightingale Award of Excellence – Mark Christmas, Jr., RN
  • Rising Star Award – Leigh Mills, LPN

Nursing comprises the nation’s largest healthcare profession. Nurses must meet the varied healthcare needs of patients in a range of settings, and professional nursing is an indispensable component of safe, quality care for patients.

“As the healthcare industry shifts its focus to primary and preventative healthcare, the demand for registered nursing services will continue to grow, particularly when we consider the needs of an aging population. In the future, we will rely on nurses more than ever before for our healthcare needs. At Navicent Health, we have an extraordinary group of talented, compassionate nurses who are committed to ever-improving quality care. It is appropriate that we pause during National Nurses Week to recognize them for their many valuable contributions to healthcare, to our patients, and to our community,” said Tracey Blalock, RN, MSN, Chief Nursing Executive for Navicent Health.

In 2015, the American Nurses Credentialing Center Magnet Recognition Program recognized Navicent Health with its fourth Magnet designation, placing Navicent Health in an elite group of only 130 hospitals worldwide to achieve three designations. The designation is a testament to the commitment of Navicent Health’s nurses to excellence in quality patient care.

Annually, National Nurses Week begins on May 6, RN Recognition Day, and ends on May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightingale, who is recognized as the founder of the modern nursing profession. 

SGMC Volunteer Auxiliary Awards Pins

South Georgia Medical Center’s Volunteer Auxiliary recently awarded pins for hours of service at their annual “Thank Pink” luncheon.

Auxiliary members receiving pins included Stella Taw (11,000 hours); Barbara Thomas (7,500 hours); Evelyn Harrell (6,000 hours); Janice Langjan (5,500 hours); Diane Belcher and Emerida Rodriqguez (4,500 hours); Mary Young Manning (4,000 hours); Bill West (3,000 hours); Jan Newton (2,000 hours); Henry Hicks (1,000 hours); Dot Chambers and Ora Morrison (800 hours); Debbie Dowling (400 hours); Sharon Huffman and Ashok Kumar (200 hours). 

The Volunteer Auxilians, or Pink Ladies and Red Coats as they are commonly called, work daily in over 20 areas of the hospital. Since October, the volunteers have contributed 5,766 hours of service and donated $51,500 back to the hospital and community projects. 

For more information on volunteer opportunities at SGMC, visit

Memorial Health Earns Primary Stroke Center Certification

Memorial Health University Medical Center (MHUMC) has earned designation as a Primary Stroke Center by DNV GL – Healthcare, affirming the hospital’s readiness to handle a full range of stroke-related medical problems.

“The Primary Stroke Center certification demonstrates our ability to provide excellent care for stroke patients,” said Dr. Joel Greenberg, medical director for Memorial’s stroke program. “We have the right team, equipment and training to quickly assess and treat strokes. Achieving this certification validates our commitment to ensuring the health and safety of our patients.”

The DNV GL - Healthcare Primary Stroke Center Certification is based on standards set

by the Brain Attack Coalition and the American Stroke Association, and affirms that MHUMC provides the full spectrum of stroke care – diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and education – and establishes clear metrics to evaluate outcomes. The certification process included a review of patient outcomes and required processes, an assessment of the care and services provided, an evaluation of patient care areas, including inpatient units, ER and ancillary services, and a documentation review to validate findings. MHUMC’s certification is valid for three years.

Memorial’s stroke program has also earned the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award for seven years in a row, which recognizes the hospital’s commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines.

Taxpayers Can Apply for Tax Credit by Supporting Rural Hospitals

For the third year in a row, Georgia taxpayers can earn income tax credits by supporting Phoebe Sumter and Phoebe Worth.  Both hospitals qualify as rural hospital organizations (RHOs) under Georgia law and participate in the Georgia HEART (Helping Enhance Access to Rural Treatment) Program.

“During a time of unprecedented financial challenges for rural hospitals in Georgia, the state’s rural hospital tax credit has been an incredible benefit for Phoebe Worth and our patients,” said Kim Gilman, Chief Executive Officer, Phoebe Worth.  “We have used donations to purchase new equipment and to renovate all our patient rooms.  We are currently renovating the entire front part of our hospital which will improve access and efficiency and create a more welcoming environment.”

Future plans for Georgia HEART contributions at Phoebe Worth include renovating the rehabilitation unit, purchasing new patient beds and upgrading the hospital’s emergency power generator.

Phoebe Sumter has used donations through the tax credit program to renovate a pediatric practice, replace their portable x-ray equipment that speeds up ER times by doing x-rays at the bedside, and purchase equipment to establish a new cardiac rehab program. Future plans include upgrading additional x-ray units to digital systems that improve speed and image quality.

“This program is such a great way for people to support their community hospital.  Phoebe Sumter is able to use the money for vital purchases and programs that benefit our patients, and the donors are able to direct their tax dollars to stay in their local community.  It truly is a win-win,” said Brandi Lunneborg, Chief Executive Officer, Phoebe Sumter.

Individuals can earn a 100% tax credit for their contributions.  During the first six months of the year, there are limits to how much individuals can donate ($5,000 for a single head of household; $10,000 for a married couple filing a joint return).  During the second half of the year, those caps are lifted so individuals can donate up to their maximum state tax liability, as long as the $60 million annual statewide cap has not been met.

Beginning on May 15, taxpayers can make a “HEART appointment” to authorize Georgia HEART to submit their post-June 30 tax credit pre-approval forms.  “Last year, donations came in very quickly once the donation limitations were removed.  We don’t want donors to miss out on this opportunity to direct their tax dollars to support healthcare in their community, so if they’re interested in donating, we encourage them to begin the pre-application process right away,” Lunneborg said.

Business can also donate their tax dollars directly to Phoebe Worth and Phoebe Sumter.  A “C” Corporation or trust can qualify for a 100% Georgia income tax credit up to 75% of its total income tax liability.  An individual who is a member of a limited liability company, shareholder of an “S” Corporation or partner in a partnership (pass-through entities) may qualify for a 100% tax credit up to $10,000.

Find more information on the HEART program and how to donate at

Philanthropic Physicians Donate to Integrative Technology at Good News Clinics

Thanks to a $100,000 gift from a group of active and retired physicians, Good News Clinics (GNC) is one step closer to integrating technology that will help improve patient care. This group of physicians forms the James H. Downey Society, a part of the Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) Foundation, and is dedicated to improving health locally through philanthropic efforts.

In October of 2017, NGHS installed Epic as its electronic health record, connecting patients and healthcare providers to medical records in a way that allows for easy access and collaboration with fewer barriers and inefficiencies. GNC’s transition to Epic will replace GNC’s antiquated process of faxing physician orders and medical histories with electronic communications that will allow community partners easy access to a patient’s record.

“We are so thankful for all of our generous physicians who not only give their time to care for our patients, but also their resources,” said Liz Coates, executive director of GNC. “This gift is huge for GNC, as we have a great need for this technology to improve efficiency. I know there is still more money to raise, and we are grateful for the NGHS Foundation’s commitment to bring us this technology that will improve the clinic experience for everyone at GNC.”

Established in 1992, GNC serves a critical role in the continuum of health care by providing medical and dental care to uninsured residents of Hall County who have a family income within 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

“Implementing Epic will allow each patient to have one chart that will follow the patient throughout their care,” said Antonio Rios, MD, chief physician executive for Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, Downey Society member and GNC physician volunteer. “It doesn’t matter if the patient is in the hospital, the Emergency Department or a clinic – all clinicians will be able to see the same information.”

The cost of the collaborative project between NGHS and GNC is in excess of $1 million and will be 100 percent funded through the philanthropic efforts of the NGHS Foundation.

“The members of the Downey Society are passionate about healthcare excellence and making a difference in the lives of others,” said Chris Bray, president and chief development officer for the NGHS Foundation. “We are so thankful these physicians are leading by example and motivating others to give to this important community project. Everywhere they give their time and resources, it is evident that they are deeply dedicated and invested in a way that drives our mission and makes our community a better place.”

Gifts to the NGHS Foundation support community health initiatives and allow NGHS to provide the latest medical treatments and end-of-life care, as well as support access to care for all patients – regardless of their ability to pay. In order to complete the technology project at GNC, the NGHS Foundation is working to raise an additional $400,000.

To donate or learn more about the NGHS Foundation, visit

First Federal Savings of Valdosta Donates $6,000 to Local Cancer Patients

First Federal Savings of Valdosta presented South Georgia Medical Center Foundation with a $6,000 donation to the Partnership Cancer Fund. Contributions to the Partnership Cancer Fund provide financial assistance to cancer patients undergoing treatment with medically related expenses.

“First Federal is pleased to support SGMC Foundation by making a positive impact on the community in which we live and work. Our commitment to support the hospital is truly an investment in the future of SGMC and the health and care of citizens in our region,” says Tom Newbern, President/CEO of First Federal Savings of Valdosta.

Contributions to SGMC Foundation anchor local charitable dollars to the health system permanently. These dollars are investments in innovative healthcare for our family, neighbors, and friends. The Foundation is grateful for the philanthropic passion of businesses in our community like First Federal. Elizabeth Vickers, SGMC Foundation Executive Director shares her excitement, “This gift continues a 25 year giving history with the Foundation and we couldn’t be more grateful for their support.”

Funds were generated through various fundraising activities throughout the year at First Federal’s branch locations in Valdosta. Staff members organized a cake auction, t-shirt sales, and $5 box lunch meals. “It’s a rewarding feeling to know our efforts are supporting  local patients who shop at the grocery stores, attend church, or may be a customer at the bank in our community,” stated Leslie Culpepper, Executive Secretary/Loan Administration/Marketing of First Federal Savings of Valdosta.

For more information on SGMC Foundation’s donor opportunities, visit or call 229.433.1071.                     

Augusta University Program Takes on Alcohol, e-cigarette Use by Children

The bottom line is to help children grow up safer and healthier and to increase parents’ ability to help them do that, says the investigator leading a $1.4 million state-funded alcohol and substance abuse prevention program.

Investigators at the Medical College of Georgia and Georgia Cancer Center are working with Augusta area schools to prevent or reduce use of two major substances abused by children: alcohol as well as e-cigarettes, whose use by teens is reaching epidemic proportions, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

“We are focusing on alcohol and electronic cigarette use, but more broadly we are working to prevent children from taking up any type of substance abuse, and to help parents better understand the importance of behaviors they are modeling at home,” says Dr. Martha S. Tingen .

It’s a definite battle, with 1 in 5 middle and high school students using some sort of tobacco product and e-cigarettes now at the top of their list.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us the efforts to prevent youth taking up smoking have been erased with the onset of e-cigarettes,” says Tingen, Charles W. Linder Chair in Pediatrics at MCG and associate director for cancer prevention, control and population health at the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University.

Children don’t think e-cigarettes are harmful, she says, but the increased vulnerability of the developing adolescent brain to nicotine addiction has groups like the Food and Drug Administration and Office of the U.S. Surgeon General concerned.

So the investigators are taking substance abuse prevention to children and parents simultaneously. Their effort starts by working with professionals at schools like Augusta’s Murphey Middle School to identify children and families who might benefit most; surveying the children and families about how these issues affect their lives; then offering simultaneous but separate, tailored classes for children and their parents, says the prevention researcher.

They ask children questions like when was the first time they remember drinking alcohol, whether they thought it was OK for children their age to drink, and what risks they associate with marijuana use. The questionnaires are anonymous and children only answer questions they feel comfortable answering, Tingen notes

Investigators take what they learn from the students to also develop a targeted, positive social norms campaign for their school, which generates slogans like: “91% of Murphey Middle School Students DO NOT VAPE,” rather than focusing on the inverse fact that 9% of the children at this inner city middle school do use e-cigarettes.

To further instill a sense of ownership and pride, the children have major input into what the posters, which hang in their school hallways, look like. Billboards carrying similar community specific messages like “Most Youth Say No to Alcohol. Stay in the majority,” also are strategically placed around town.

Fifteen families at a time go through the 10-week program, and afterward investigators will ask parents about the changes they see in their children.

But it all starts with each family having dinner together, says Tingen, repeating a National Institute on Drug Abuse statistic that families that have just one meal together a day – with phones down, televisions off and instead direct conversation with each other – prevents up to 80 percent of any type of drug use. A host of other benefits also are associated with this dwindling family tradition including better school grades, nutrition and family relations.

After their meal, children and parents migrate to separate rooms to talk more and learn with their peers.

It appears to be a win-win. Quiantanna Beard of Augusta and her daughter Cahaydrienna Rivers, 16, had already gone through the program, but on a recent Tuesday were back along with Ms. Beard’s sons, Tavarus Smalley, 14, and Javieon Beard, 11, as well as stepdad Jeff Montgomery.

The program is helping strengthen her family and solidify valuable parenting lessons for her, the mom says. Her lessons include learning more about the importance of listening to her children, whom she already categorizes as “wonderful.” She also has learned to help herself and her children better deal with difficult situations at school, rather than getting angry herself and “going straight off.”

She likes that in their sessions, everyone has a say, so everyone can learn better from each other both what and what not to do. She also likes how the program will help her children never start habits like drinking alcohol or cigarettes of any kind. The mother has smoked herself for two decades, and wants to quit – which the program can also help her do.

Because to help parents achieve goals for themselves as a role models, the investigators are helping with referrals to groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and even provide transportation to smoking cessation classes at the Georgia Cancer Center for those who need it.

The popularity and pride of the program doesn’t stop with Ms. Beard’s family. You can hear the hum of conversation as the families enjoy dinner together, then see children’s hands go up eagerly to answer questions in their sessions. One student even asked if their participation in the program could be recognized at the school’s Honors Day.

It’s all about bringing home, school and community together, says Regena Jennings, family facilitator at Murphey Middle School. The Strengthening Families Program, as the name implies, definitely brings families together, she says, as children learn more about dealing with tough issues like peer pressure and parents learn how to talk to their children like children rather than like a friend. Families that go through a program together also develop a lasting kinship.

“The kids develop a bond and a friendship so they protect each other inside the school, and outside the school the parents become friends,” Ms. Jennings says. She has watched the children take the lessons they learn to heart; watched them become more focused, respectful and well behaved.

“We want the children to know that they are only limited by what they can dream, but to do that takes commitment and dedication to making decisions that have good consequences, not decisions that end in jail,” adds Tingen.

While their focus right now is middle-schoolers, kids about ages 11-14 in the Georgia counties of Richmond, Columbia and McDuffie, the team may soon take the program into elementary schools as they move across the five years of the grant, Tingen says. While school is out for the summer, they will be taking the program to Augusta’s Good Shepherd Baptist Church.

The NIDA describes e-cigarettes, also known as vapes and hookah pens, as battery operated devices that often contain nicotine, along with flavorings and other chemicals. There are now more than 460 brands of e-cigarettes, which are teens most commonly used form of tobacco.

Last September the FDA announced it was issuing more than 1,300 warning letters and civil money penalty complaints to retailers who illegally sold JUUL and other e-cigarette products to minors nationwide over the summer of 2018, calling the sale and marketing to children a “clear and present danger.”

The 10-week program funded by Tingen’s grant from the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Addictive Diseases Office of Preventive Services, is based on the Strengthening Families Program.

The 30-year-old program has been used successfully in a wide range of ethnic populations and in settings from schools to drug treatment centers to housing projects, churches and family court. It is designed to improve family relations, with classes and discussions that increase parenting skills – like decreasing parents’ stress and use of physical punishment – while increasing use of positive praise and time spent with their child.  For the children, it works on issues like improving academic performance and complying with the requests of responsible adults while decreasing their own aggression and, conversely, shyness.                           

SGMC Honors 2019 Stroke Ambassadors

South Georgia Medical Center honored six area high school students as 2019 Stroke Ambassadors at its Stroke Symposium on May 8, 2019. The health system had previously identified a need to educate young people about risk factors and poor habits that might contribute to having strokes as they aged, and the Stroke Ambassador program was born. 

The targeted Ambassadors are high school students with an interest in a health care career. They are provided with stroke information and prevention, then tasked with passing those positive lifestyle habits to their peers. The goal of the program is for each Ambassador to reach out to 40 adolescents and young adults, and educate them on modifiable risk factors that should lower their chances for a stroke in the future. These include, in part, healthy diets, not smoking, how to reduce stress levels and the importance of physical activity. 

They are also taught identifying stroke warning signs (F.A.S.T.) to allow rapid intervention if a stroke occurs. Currently in its third year, there are six Stroke Ambassadors from two area schools that have met the criteria and were honored with a certificate for 20 hours of community service. Recipients included Bridgette Singletary, from Lowndes High School, and Dancey Hinson, LilyAna Pittman, Hannah Rowland, Ramara Williams and Ashley Zuniga from Clinch High School.

Redmond Announces Dr. Ryland Scott Named 2018 National Frist Humanitarian Recipient

Redmond Regional Medical Center announces that Dr. Ryland Scott, Harbin Clinic General Surgeon, has been named the HCA Healthcare national recipient of the Frist Humanitarian – Physician Award. The Frist Humanitarian Awards are given annually in recognition of the humanitarian spirit and philanthropic work of the late Dr. Thomas Frist, Sr., co-founder of HCA Healthcare.  The HCA Healthcare Awards of Distinction are the highest honors bestowed upon employees, physicians, and volunteers.  HCA Healthcare is the parent company of Redmond Regional Medical Center.

Dr. Ryland Scott received the Redmond Frist Humanitarian – Physician Award in February. After the local awards selection, Dr. Scott was named the division-level recipient. As the division-level recipient, Dr. Scott moved on for consideration in the national-level awards.

Dr. Scott is described as a consummate professional, treating patients and their families as if they are members of his own family. His focus on quality of care and elevating the patient experience is truly above par. Beyond the practice of medicine, Dr. Scott and his wife Jennifer continue to serve the community of Rome and beyond. Their recent 18-month commitment of providing a foster home for three children took them from a busy life with three children of their own, to another level of childrearing. Now, with those children formally adopted by a loving family, they are shifting their focus to Restoration Rome, which is a redevelopment opportunity to transform the former Southeast Elementary School into a hub of foster and adoptive community services.  Dr. Scott has taken his family on three medical mission trips over the last few years, serving Honduras as a surgeon, Guatemala to build/teach about water filters, and Mexico with Power Ministries to serve on a building and jail ministry.  He and Jennifer were the founding chairs of the Rome chapter of Young Life, which is an interdenominational ministry for youth. They served as chairs for 11 years before turning this over to new leaders within the organization. Dr. Scott serves as a Deacon at First Presbyterian Church in Rome. Although nominated to an Elder position, he preferred to remain in a position of service, recognizing that is just “the way he is wired.”

“It is a privilege to know and work alongside Dr. Ryland Scott,” said John Quinlivan, Chief Executive Officer at Redmond Regional Medical Center. “Dr. Scott sets an example for caring and compassion with his patients and for those in our community. He truly exemplifies our mission statement: ‘Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life.’ We are thrilled that he has been chosen as the national Frist Humanitarian – Physician Award recipient.”

Dr. Scott will receive the national Frist Humanitarian – Physician Award during a special ceremony at the HCA Healthcare headquarters in Nashville, Tennessee.

About the HCA Healthcare Awards of Distinction

Established in 1971, the Frist Humanitarian Award honors outstanding individuals for their humanitarian and volunteer activities. The awards are given annually in recognition of the caring spirit and philanthropic work of the late Dr. Thomas Frist, Sr., a founder of HCA Healthcare. The Frist Humanitarian Award recognizes one employee, one physician and one volunteer from each HCA facility.

Our knowledgeable and compassionate nurses are at the front line of patient care every day. The HCA Healthcare Excellence in Nursing Award was created in 2014 to recognize the intrinsic value of the nursing practice in accomplishing our mission of providing the highest quality of care to the patients and communities we serve. The award recognizes HCA Healthcare nurses who excel in the categories of compassionate care and professional mentoring.

HCA Healthcare was created through the vision of founders, Dr. Thomas F. Frist, Sr., Jack Massey and Dr. Thomas “Tommy” Frist, Jr., and more than 45 years later, the company continues to invent and develop systems to advance health and patient care, in large part due to ideas from employees. The HCA Healthcare Innovators Award, established in 2010, continues the tradition of recognizing innovative thinkers with ideas that improve patient quality, service or the financial impact of operations.

Northeast Georgia Health System Volunteers Recognized at Appreciation Luncheon

Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) volunteers were honored on Tuesday at the 2019 Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon held at the Ramsey Conference Center of Lanier Technical College. Auxiliary volunteers serve in a number of ways at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) Gainesville, Braselton and Barrow campuses and within programs such as Hospice of NGMC, NGMC’s Lifeline Program and long term care facilities New Horizons Limestone and Lanier Park.

245 volunteers were recognized with service awards, representing a cumulative total of 263,675 volunteer service hours – equivalent to a value of $6.5 million dollars. In 2018 alone, volunteers contributed nearly 70,000 hours of service which is the equivalent of 41 full-time employees and a value of more than $1.7 million to the organization.

“Our loyal and dedicated volunteers give of their time to selflessly serve each and every day,” said Ellen Toms, president of The Medical Center Auxiliary. “Their commitment to our health system and community is certainly worthy of recognition.”

Robin Prechter, Life Member of the Auxiliary, was honored with the 2019 Nell Whelchel Wiegand Patient Friend Award. Robin is a harpist and certified music therapist who has given more than 1,600 hours of service to NGHS in just six years. Research has found that therapeutic music can help patients by easing anxiety, high blood pressure, sleep disturbances, dementia, depression and other conditions.

“Robin’s talents bless not only our patients but also our hospital staff, visitors and volunteers,” said Nancy Swann, manager of Patient Centered Care for Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, fellow Auxiliary volunteer and musician. “She is a true treasure who has used her exceptional knowledge to touch countless lives.”

Henry Monroe, Lifeline Program volunteer, also received a prestigious honor – the Marjorie Covington Smith Auxilian of the Year Award. He has volunteered for 16 years and given more than 5,300 hours of service.

“Henry is willing to serve in any capacity without hesitation,” said Dianne Appling, Lifeline Program coordinator. “From helping develop new ways for Lifeline installers to become more efficient to contacting subscribers to follow up on incidents, he serves with a humble, warm spirit and gentle sense of humor.”

NGMC’s Lifeline Program was also recognized for celebrating 35 years of service. Led by Dianne Appling for more than 31 years, Lifeline volunteers have donated more than 44,000 hours, driven more than 1 million miles and installed more than 3,000 units for seniors living within 13 counties in Northeast Georgia.

Additional Auxiliary volunteer honorees included Lorena Collins, who has given more than 25,500 hours of service during 56 years; MaryAnna Wicker, who has given more than 12,500 hours of service; and Lee Highsmith, who has given more than 9,500 hours of service.

“Each of the individuals honored with awards, as well as all of our Auxiliary volunteers, are commendable and very deserving of recognition,” said Lynne Allen, director of The Medical Center Auxiliary. “They are generous with their time and are such positive ambassadors for The Medical Center Auxiliary, the Northeast Georgia Health System Foundation and the entire NGHS organization within our community.”

Since the Auxiliary’s inception 68 years ago, volunteers have now contributed 2 million hours of service – a cumulative value of $50.8 million – and more than $8.5 million in monetary contributions to benefit NGHS.

For more information about volunteering with The Medical Center Auxiliary, visit

Cherokee Medical Center Launces Live Well Cherokee!

Cherokee Medical Center will officially launch Live Well Cherokee! by hosting two Lifesaving Training classes on Saturday, May 18.

“The goal of Live Well Cherokee! is to establish Cherokee Medical Center as this community’s connection to health-related information, resources and wellness,” said David Early, Floyd Vice President of Support Services and Operations and Administrator for Cherokee Medical Center. “We want to partner with you in your health, even when you don’t need hospital care.”

Live Well Cherokee! is a community engagement program that will be focused on improving health and wellness in Cherokee County. Specific goals are to:

·         Expand community partnerships for better heath

·         Encourage healthy behaviors

·         Provide education and screenings tied to Cherokee County’s unique health needs

·         Engage people where they are: work, school, church, civic organizations, etc

“So many of the consistent health issues many of us face relate to how well we take care of ourselves,” said Dan Bevels, Floyd Public Relations Manager. “We want to turn back that tide in our community by helping our neighbors get active, eat better, break old habits and start new ones.”

The Lifesaving Training will be the first of many events designed to help Cherokee County accomplish this goal. The training will include Stop the Bleed education, hands only CPR and water safety classes.

“We’ve had a tremendous response since announcing this training opportunity,” said Captain Andy Fairel, Floyd Emergency Services. “Our first class filled up almost immediately after it was announced so we added a second and it’s filling up as well. We encourage anyone who is interested to register right away.”

Information about the class, as well as a registration link and additional Livewell Cherokee! information can be found at and on the Cherokee Medical Center Facebook page.

Joint Commission Recertifies St. Mary's for Knee, Hip and Spine Care

St. Mary's Health Care System today announced that St. Mary's Hospital in Athens has again earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® Certification for total hip replacement, total knee replacement, and spine surgery.

Disease-specific certification is for Joint Commission-accredited hospitals, critical access hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers seeking to elevate the quality, consistency and safety of their services and patient care.

St. Mary's underwent a rigorous onsite review earlier this year. Joint Commission experts evaluated compliance with advanced disease-specific care standards and requirements for total hip and knee replacements and spine surgery, including surgical consultation and pre-operative, intraoperative and post-surgical follow-up care. Joint Commission certification is valid for two years.

“Achieving certification in these three procedures recognizes St. Mary's commitment to provide care in a safe and efficient manner for patients,” said Patrick Phelan, executive director, Hospital Business Development, The Joint Commission. “These certifications will help St. Mary's better provide coordinated and comprehensive care to patients undergoing total hip replacement, total knee replacement, or spine surgery.”

'St. Mary's is pleased to receive continuing certification from The Joint Commission, the premier accrediting body in the nation for health care quality improvement,” said Montez Carter, President and CEO of St. Mary's Health Care System. “The standards they set and best practices they advocate are tremendous assets to our continuing process of improving patient safety and quality of care. The trust and partnerships we have developed with our physicians have significantly contributed to our outstanding success.'

St. Mary's first earned certification in knee replacement in 2008, followed by spine surgery in 2011 and hip replacement in 2015. St. Mary's maintains Joint Commission specialty certification in seven specialties: advanced primary stroke center, advanced inpatient diabetes, heart failure, COPD, total knee replacement, total hip replacement, and spine surgery.

The Joint Commission developed knee, hip and spine certification programs in response to the growing number of patients undergoing these procedures, as well as the increased focus on clinical evidence-based patient care as it relates to pain management, quality of life issues, functional limitation in mobility and the return to normal daily activities.

Order of the Easter Star Donates Stuffed Bunnies to Southeast Georgia Health System Pediatric Patients

A peep chick and a bunny are the best of Easter friends. And a child’s stuffed animal is more than just a toy — it signifies love that can help create lifelong memories. The members of the Order of the Eastern Star District 7 are dedicated women and men who sincerely reflect the spirit of fraternal love and the desire to work together for good. Members of District 7 showed their love this Easter holiday by donating stuffed bunnies to Southeast Georgia Health System pediatric patients to provide peace and comfort during their stay. 

The Joint Commission developed knee, hip and spine certification programs in response to the growing number of patients undergoing these procedures, as well as the increased focus on clinical evidence-based patient care as it relates to pain management, quality of life issues, functional limitation in mobility and the return to normal daily activities.

Willowbrooke at Floyd Hosting Mental Health Month Events

May is Mental Health Awareness Month and Willowbrooke at Floyd is sponsoring events that will offer insight into mental health as a critical part of overall health. The public is welcome, events are free of charge and no reservations are needed.

A healthy lifestyle can impact the progression of mental illness as well as chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and obesity. People with untreated and under-treated mental illnesses lose an average of 10 productive years of their lives. Starting the conversation about mental health helps people seek treatment and reduces the stigma surrounding mental illness.

“Mental illnesses are common and treatable. If we can help people understand that mental health means brain health, we may also be able to help people focus on mental health as integral to overall health,” stated Kenneth J. Genova, M.D., a psychiatrist with Willowbrooke Behavioral Health.

On May 23, Richard Blackwell will speak from noon – 1 p.m. about teen suicide prevention. “When Love Isn’t Enough” will take place at the Stuenkel Conference Center on the first floor of Floyd Medical Center, 304 Turner McCall Blvd. Blackwell, who has appeared in events across the state, knows first-hand the impact teen suicide can have on a family. His daughter, Alex, took her own life when she was just 16 years old. The event will include a panel discussion.

On May 28, “In Our Own Voice – A Model of Hope and Recovery” will be offered from noon-1 p.m. in the Stuenkel Conference Center on the first floor of Floyd Medical Center. On May 29 “In Our Own Voice” will be offered again from 2-3 p.m. at

Willowbrooke at Floyd Conference Room, 306 Shorter Ave NW. This compelling presentation offers participants insight into how the more than 58 million Americans living with mental illness cope and reclaim rich and meaningful lives. Discussion follows the presentation.

For more information contact Katherin D. Weiss, Director of Nursing, Willowbrooke at Floyd, 706.509.3505.

Memorial Health to Host 4th Annual Trauma Symposium

Memorial Health will host the 4th annual M. Gage Ochsner Trauma Symposium at 8 AM on Friday, May 10. The symposium will be held in the Medical Education Auditorium on the campus of Memorial Health University Medical Center.

“Dr. Ochsner was an excellent surgeon and teacher who was passionate about providing outstanding trauma care and improving injury prevention,” said Dr. James Dunne, medical director of trauma services. “We host this symposium every year to honor his legacy and contributions.”

The symposium is designed to improve the outcomes of critically ill and traumatically

injured patients by closing the gap in best practices across the continuum of care. Physicians, nurses, paramedics, EMTs, residents, medical students and clinicians interested in trauma care are encouraged to attend. In addition to Dr. Dunne, speakers and topics include:

  • Dr. James Davis, “The Rule of Thumb” (A Review of Intimate Partner Violence)
  • Dr. Matthew Santore, Radiation in Pediatrics
  • Dr. Babak Sarani, Wounding Patterns in Mass Shootings

The full agenda for the symposium is attached. The symposium fee is $25. Register at and search “Trauma Symposium.” 

Auxiliary Hosts Masquerade $5 Jewelry & Accessories Fundraiser

The Southeast Georgia Health System Camden Campus Auxiliary will host a Masquerade $5 Jewelry & Accessories fundraiser May 20-21, 2019. Everything is only $5! Items include jewelry, watches, scarves, handbags, purses, wallets and a vast array of other accessories and seasonal items.

The two-day sale will take place Monday, May 20, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.; and Tuesday, May 21, 7 a.m.-2 p.m., in the Conference Center, 2000 Dan Proctor Drive, St. Marys.

As with all Auxiliary fundraising events, a portion of the proceeds are donated to the Health System. For more information, contact Kristin Doll, CAVS, director, Volunteer Services, at 912-576-6405 or