Posts by Monique

Senior Well-Being: How to Maintain Mental and Physical Health While Sheltering in Place

Posted on Jun 1, 2020 in Affiliates, Eden Medical Center, Scroll Images, Wellness

CASTRO VALLEY, Calif. – As shelter in place restrictions are gradually eased this summer, people are still being advised by public health officials to stay home as much as possible and to maintain physical distancing. While some restrictions are loosening, the virus is still circulating in the community and it remains dangerous—especially for older people. Sheltering in place can help keep you safe, but for some it can have a downside too, leading to feelings of isolation, loneliness or even depression.

During the pandemic many older adults have found new ways to stay connected through technology, others may not have access to the internet at home or may not feel comfortable with video calls or social media platforms that could help keep them connected to friends and family.

What can be done? Recognizing feelings of isolation, loneliness or depression is the first step in alleviating them. Taking some simple actions can help make sheltering in place more tolerable.

James Chessing, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist at Sutter’s Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley, says, “Sheltering in place is certainly a major challenge, but still only a challenge, one of many that a senior has dealt with in his or her life. Framing it that way calls to mind the coping skills that were used to surmount past challenges, as well as the memory of having succeeded in dealing with other tough situations. While the current situation may certainly be different, the skills or coping devices used in the past may be applicable now. Remembering that feeling of success may give hope.”

Dr. Chessing’s tips to help older people stay socially connected while maintaining physical distance include:
• set up regular phone call check-in times with loved ones
• become pen-pals with a friend or relative
• take advantage of the pleasant summer weather and set up outdoor seating (spaced the minimum six feet apart) to enjoy face-to-face conversations
• get some training or coaching on how to set up a video visit or talk via FaceTime—try asking a your adult child or a tech-savvy teenage grandchild

Just as human connection impacts mental health, so too does physical health. It’s important to your mental health to maintain your physical well-being. One strategy to keep your physical health strong is to maintain a regular schedule, says Pamela Stoker, an injury prevention specialist with Eden Medical Center’s Trauma department.

“Maintaining a regular daily schedule can provide comfort, familiarity, and health benefits. We recommend creating a daily schedule with regular mealtimes, regular bedtime and wake-up, and regular exercise. Irregular meals and sleep can have a negative impact on your hormone levels and medication responses. An irregular schedule can also cause your blood sugar to fluctuate, which can lead you to make unhealthy food choices—like reaching for cookies when you’re tired. And changes in sleep patterns, like staying up late one night and going to bed early the next, can affect metal sharpness, lower your energy level, and impact your emotional well-being.”

“The good news is that regular exercise helps keep your body strong, protects you from falls, and improves your mood,” says Stoker.

Adding to the feelings of depression and loneliness can be the feeling of lack of control, says Dr. Chessing. Even before the pandemic, some older people may have struggled to maintain independence while accepting the help of family and friends. Well-meaning family and friends may try to be helpful by delivering groceries or handling other errands in order to keep you safe from the virus, but this help may cause feelings of discomfort. You may not want to rely on others too much and you may feel your independence is slowly being stripped away. It is important to discuss these feelings with loved ones; remind them of your strengths, while acknowledging your own limitations. As Dr. Chessing reminds us “having open communication will allow you to explore the facts and weigh the risks in order to make informed decisions about behaviors.”

In uncertain and distressing times such as these, you or someone you love may find that it’s not enough just to stay connected with others and maintain a regular schedule—you may find professional help is needed. In the extreme, feelings of depression, loneliness, and lack of control can lead to destructive behaviors like excessive drinking, violence or self-harm. That’s why Dr. Chessing recommends staying in close contact with your doctor and reaching out for help if you feel overwhelmed.

The hardest part may be asking for help, but help is available without judgement.

Call your doctor or call:
Friendship Line California 24/7, toll free: 888-670-1360. Crisis intervention hotline and a warm line for non-emergency emotional support for Californians over 60. The phone line is staffed with specialists to provide emotional support, grief support, active suicide intervention, information and referrals.
Crisis Support Services of Alameda County, 24/7, toll free, 1-800-260-0094. Additionally, Crisis Support Services of Alameda County has expended service to include friendly visits by phone for home-bound seniors.

Study Shines Light on COVID-19 Racial Disparities

Posted on May 21, 2020 in Expanding Access, Research, Scroll Images, Uncategorized

Differences in How People Access Care Contribute to Inequalities

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads throughout the U.S., evidence is mounting that racial and ethnic minorities and socioeconomically disadvantaged groups are bearing a disproportionate burden of illness and death. Here in California, African Americans are about 6% of the California population, but make up 10.3% of COVID-19 deaths where race/ethnicity is documented.

To better understand how this issue impacts patients in Sutter Health’s network, and to help develop solutions, Sutter’s Advancing Health Equity team undertook a thorough data analysis of the not-for-profit system’s COVID-19 patients. The resulting study, published today by the journal Health Affairs, revealed that African American COVID-19 patients are 2.7 times more likely to be hospitalized than their Non-Hispanic White counterparts, and they tend to arrive at Sutter healthcare facilities sicker and with more severe symptoms.

The findings underscore the fact that race and ethnicity still play a pivotal role in determining how and when care is accessed. Despite having health coverage, African American COVID-19 patients may not seek testing and care until it is an emergency requiring hospitalization.

Stephen Lockhart, M.D., Ph.D.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has ripped a Band-Aid off of the structural inequities that exist within our society – we must address these disparities right away because the cost of not addressing them is measured in human life,” said Stephen Lockhart, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer at Sutter Health. “With lives on the line, we as a state can and should do better in connecting minority patients to culturally competent care – that is why Sutter Health has committed to advancing health equity and this study is just one part of our mission and work. We have a moral obligation to do so and must work together to meet this moment and lean into the opportunity to advance health equity for generations to come.”

The study, “Disparities In Outcomes Among COVID-19 Patients In A Large Health Care System In California,” was conducted using Sutter’s electronic health record (EHR) data to characterize COVID-19 tested and confirmed cases by key sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, including self-reported race and ethnicity, across the 22 Northern California counties served by Sutter’s network.

A number of factors uniquely position Sutter to offer early insights into the reasons for the disparities in health outcomes that have been noted nationally. As an integrated healthcare delivery network serving more than 3.5 million patients a year, Sutter had been studying healthcare disparities for close to three years when it became one of the first in the nation to treat patients with COVID-19. And Sutter’s integrated system-wide electronic EHR includes race/ethnicity data throughout its service area, which is one of the most diverse regions of the country.

Sutter Health also operates in an environment that is one of the closest to universal healthcare coverage of any state in the U.S., mitigating one of the known causes of healthcare disparities – unequal rates of medical coverage – and making other factors driving disparities more visible. But coverage is not the same as access, and the higher hospital admissions and mortality rates for African American COVID-19 patients in California revealed by the study illustrate that expanded healthcare coverage is not enough to resolve health disparities.

Kristen M.J. Azar, RN, MSN/MPH

“The real value of the study lies not in the disparities it reveals but in its utility to inform our work to develop solutions that will address the equity gaps we are seeing with programs such as community outreach and engagement in at-risk neighborhoods,” said Kristen M.J. Azar, RN, MSN/MPH, Sutter Health’s lead author for the study and research scientist within the Sutter Health Center for Health Systems Research. “This pandemic underscores the need to develop innovative solutions that are specifically tailored to address the unmet needs of those at highest risk.”

Sutter has extensive experience looking for and analyzing disparities within its own network and beyond.

The results of the COVID-19 study mirror the patterns Sutter observed in a 2017 study about African American patients with asthma and how they access care. The asthma study found 72% of patients drove up to eight miles to a hospital emergency department to access care, even though they lived within one mile of a primary care clinic. We observed they were doing so because of a lack of culturally competent care.

After reviewing the findings of the 2017 study, Sutter developed its Advancing Health Equity Adult Asthma Program. Since the program began in April 2017, nearly 600 African American patients suffering from asthma attacks have been connected to a respiratory therapist to participate in the asthma program. As a result, very few have returned to the emergency room. The asthma program serves as a model for trusted outreach, education and treatment in a public health crisis – and how they can reduce health disparities.

Provider organizations like Sutter Health are on the front lines and, while not able to address all of the complex societal factors at issue, can play a unique role in developing solutions. For example, as part of its commitment to advancing health equity, Sutter developed a novel metric, the Health Equity Index (HEI), to identify and quantify disparities in outcomes across patient groups and develop targeted interventions to enhance equity. Through the HEI, our Advancing Health Equity team is taking major steps, like those detailed here, to build on the benefits of our integrated network of care to further health equity within the Sutter system and across the country.

Our health equity work and the findings of the study released today highlight the importance of community-based outreach and access to culturally competent care within the African American community, which hold the promise of reducing disparities. Additional research is needed to understand where healthcare disparities exist, what drives them, and what targeted interventions work best to address them. Sutter remains committed to continued advancement and leadership in this field.

How to Weather the Storm: Top Tips for Improving Personal Resiliency

Posted on May 20, 2020 in Scroll Images, Wellness


SACRAMENTO, Calif. –During tough times, the ability to bounce back from hardship comes in handy. But what if mental resiliency is not someone’s strong suit?

Urmi Patel, PsyD

Urmi Patel, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and director of clinical care for Sutter Mental Health and Addiction Care, defines resilience as “the ability to cope mentally and emotionally with trauma or difficulty, and quickly get back to a state of equilibrium.” And the good news is, according to Dr. Patel, “In general, people have the ability to grow their resilience. It’s not an innate capability, it can develop.”

So how does one develop more personal resiliency? In a recent San Francisco Chronicle article, “Resilience: 15 ways to weather life’s challenges,” Dr. Patel offers her top tips for improving one’s ability to bounce back from adversity.

Additional Resources:

People who feel their emotional condition is serious should call their doctor or go to Mental Health America’s website, which offers tips and resources for people who feel stressed, anxious or depressed.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24/7: (800) 273-8255

TrevorLifeline for LGBTQ Youth in Crisis 24/7: (866) 488-7386

California Peer-Run Warm Line 24/7 for Californians Needing Emotional Support: (855) 845-7415

Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center Welcomes New CEO

Posted on May 18, 2020 in Affiliates, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Uncategorized

OAKLAND, Calif. – David D. Clark, FACHE, begins a new role as chief executive officer of Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, part of the Sutter Health not-for-profit integrated network of care, on May 18. Clark served as interim CEO at Alta Bates Summit for the past year.

David D. Clark

“David Clark is an engaged and tireless leader who quickly immersed himself into all levels of the medical center’s operations when he assumed the interim CEO role at Alta Bates Summit a year ago. Since joining Sutter, David has built a diverse, cohesive, and values-driven team focused on strategy development and deployment, community relations, and operations improvement with a focus on patient-centered care,” said Julie Petrini, president and CEO of Sutter Bay Hospitals.

Clark is an accomplished healthcare executive with more than 25 years of leadership, including 15 years as CEO in various hospitals and health systems spanning rural, urban, academic medical centers, and integrated health systems.

Prior to joining Sutter, Clark served in executive roles at three different integrated health systems: Intermountain Healthcare as regional vice president and CEO in Provo, Utah; Trinity Health as regional president and CEO in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and CHRISTUS Health as senior vice president/chief administrative officer in Corpus Christi, Texas. Clark has provided interim healthcare leadership, executive coaching and consulting for hospitals, health systems, physician groups, and other organizations. Before his interim CEO position at Alta Bates Summit, Clark was interim chief operating officer for El Camino Health in Mountain View.

Clark grew up in Chico, California. He earned an MBA in Health Organization Management from Texas Tech University and a B.S. in Finance from Brigham Young University.

First Responders Salute Eden, Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation Healthcare Heroes

Posted on May 15, 2020 in Affiliates, Eden Medical Center, Scroll Images, Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation

CASTRO VALLEY, CALIF. –It was a wonderful afternoon for a joyful first responder parade to salute and thank the dedicated Eden Medical Center and Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation nurses, doctors and staff working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Two mounted officers from East Bay Regional Parks, riding Domino and Guinness, lead off the parade. They were followed by dozens of first responders representing the Alameda County Fire Department, California Highway Patrol/Castro Valley, Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, East Bay Regional Parks and FALCK Northern California ambulance.

In turn, about a hundred Eden and SEBMF nurses, doctors and staff members held handmade signs, waved and shouted their appreciation back to the first responders in a heartfelt show of mutual support.