Posts by Monique

Fact vs Fiction: Medical Expert Dispels Six Flu Vaccination Myths

Posted on Sep 28, 2020 in Scroll Images, Wellness & Integrative Health

Separating flu vaccination fact from fiction can be challenging in this age of information overload. But it’s critical to have the facts straight because influenza and COVID-19 are separate viruses –so we run the risk of contracting both at the same time. That’s why it’s more important than ever to get a flu shot this year.

Jeffrey Silvers, M.D., Sutter Health’s medical director of Pharmacy and Infection control, dispels six common flu vaccination myths to help you and your loved ones stay healthy this flu season.

Myth #1: “My flu shot gave me the flu.”

Fact: Dr. Silvers says, “You can’t catch the flu from flu vaccine because the influenza viruses in the vaccine are dead, and therefore they’re not infectious.”

Dr. Silvers says sometimes people think the vaccine has given them the flu because they get sick soon after being vaccinated. He explains it takes about two weeks after you’ve received the flu vaccine for antibodies to develop in your body and provide protection against flu. “So, if you come down with the flu a few days after you receive a flu shot, you were probably infected with the flu before you got the shot or before your immune system had a chance to build up its defenses,” he says.

Even when they get a flu shot, people occasionally may still get the flu, not because their immunity wasn’t built up before they were exposed to it, but because they caught a strain of flu that wasn’t in the flu vaccine they received. This can happen because the strains of influenza virus that are included in the vaccine each year, there are typically four, may not exactly match the strains circulating in the community. Each year, infectious disease experts select the strains they believe will be prevalent in the U.S based on their observations of the most recent flu season in the Southern Hemisphere. Unfortunately, they’re not always able to predict which strains will be most prevalent in the U.S.

Even if the flu vaccine isn’t a perfect match for the strains in circulation during a given flu season, receiving a flu shot is still be beneficial. People who are vaccinated against the flu and still come down with the virus typically experience milder symptoms than those who skip the shot.

Myth #2: “I never get the flu, so I don’t need the vaccine.”

Fact: According to the CDC, nearly a quarter of those infected with the flu virus didn’t even know they were sick because they had such mild symptoms. The problem with that, says Dr. Silvers, is asymptomatic people can still spread the flu virus to others for up to a week. Getting a flu shot helps protect you, your loved ones and the larger community.

Myth #3: “Getting the flu isn’t a big deal.”

Fact: The flu is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and death, especially for people at high-risk such as newborn babies, people with chronic medical conditions and the elderly.

Remember, says Dr. Silvers, “If you get the flu, even if it’s a mild case and you don’t have symptoms, you could still pass it along to someone for whom getting the flu is a big deal, even deadly, like a grandparent, a newborn, or someone who has a weakened immune system—such as a person who is undergoing chemotherapy.”

Myth #4: I’m young and healthy, so I don’t need to get vaccinated for the flu.

Fact: The CDC recommends that nearly everybody 6 months and older get vaccinated for the flu. That’s because the flu is a contagious disease that can lead to serious illness, like pneumonia, as well as missed work or even hospitalization for otherwise healthy people.

Myth #5: I can’t get a flu shot because I’m pregnant.

Fact: The CDC recommends that all pregnant women get flu vaccinations because pregnant women are at a higher risk for serious complications from flu. Flu may also be harmful for a developing baby. Getting the flu shot while you’re pregnant even helps protect your baby from the flu for months after birth because moms pass antibodies to their babies before they’re born. And that’s important, says Dr. Silvers, because babies younger than 6 months can’t get the flu vaccine and are more likely to suffer serious complications from the flu.

Myth #6: I got vaccinated for the flu last year, so I don’t need it again this year.

Fact: You must get the vaccine every year in order to protect yourself and others from the flu. Why? Dr. Silvers explains, “The immune protection you get from a flu shot declines over time and flu viruses are constantly mutating.” These mutations are why the flu vaccine is updated every year.

The bottom line? For the best protection, nearly everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.

Okay, I’m convinced. Where can I get a flu shot?

Flu shots are available by appointment at your doctor’s office. Same day flu shots are available by appointment at Sutter Walk-In Care facilities. Click here for more information and flu vaccination resources. –

Birth Never Takes a Holiday—Even During a Pandemic

Posted on Sep 24, 2020 in Pregnancy & Childbirth, Scroll Images

Nurse-Midwives Continue to Care for Moms during Pregnancy and Birth

Jessica Nagel, CNM. Photo: Birth Fusion/Jennifer Anderson Birth Photography

Many workers have been sidelined by the pandemic, but for nurse-midwives, life –quite literally— goes on.

“People still need us, pandemic or not,” says Jessica Nagel, a certified nurse-midwife for Sutter Medical Group in Davis.

Midwives the world over embody the caregiving ideals of compassion and calm under pressure. In designating 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, the World Health Organization could not have honored a more appropriate group at this not-so-calm time — nor could the American College of Nurse-Midwives in naming Oct. 4-10 National Midwifery Week.

In the United States, midwifery has evolved haphazardly from an unregulated home practice to the nursing-based model of today, with national standards and professional certifications and licensing similar to those for nurse practitioners. The profession now plays a vital role in the delivery of women’s healthcare, not just during pregnancy but throughout a woman’s life span.

“Midwives have become a valuable part of our care teams,” says Annette Fineberg, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist with Sutter Medical Group in Davis. “I’ve learned so much from the midwives I’ve worked with over almost 25 years. The collaboration between midwives and obstetricians is far more than the sum of its parts, and we all benefit.”

When Nagel was a college junior majoring in child development in the early 2000s, midwifery was not on her radar.

“I didn’t know anything about it,” she admits. “But I always enjoyed my classes in pregnancy and prenatal development.”

Recognizing her interests, Nagel pivoted to nursing school, working in a birth center and ultimately training in midwifery through Kentucky-based Frontier Nursing University. In 2009, she joined Sutter Medical Group in Davis, where she provides prenatal care at Sutter Davis Women’s Health Clinic and assists deliveries at Sutter Davis Hospital.

Kristen Ayer, a certified nurse-midwife and obstetrics/gynecology nurse practitioner for Sutter-affiliated Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Santa Cruz, stumbled into midwifery.

Kristen Ayer, CNM

“When I was pregnant with my first son in 1980, I decided to have my baby at home with a midwife and became fascinated with pregnancy and birth, which led to my interest in midwifery as a career,” she says.

Under the guidance of seasoned midwives, Ayer studied normal pregnancy and birth and began apprenticing at home deliveries. After completing an apprenticeship, she decided to go to nursing school to become a certified nurse midwife.

Ayer completed her midwifery education at the University of California, San Francisco, in 1993 and has practiced in Santa Cruz County ever since. She estimates she’s delivered 3,000 to 4,000 babies in her nearly 30-year career.

Ayer and Nagel find their greatest job satisfaction in supporting women.

“The joy in my work is starting with someone who’s scared, and then, after spending time with them, seeing them walk out feeling empowered,” Nagel says. “They feel comfortable and brave and strong.”

Listening is key to that process, Ayer says.

“It’s a tremendous service to listen to women deeply, to connect with them and help them have the kind of delivery they want,” she says. “The value for patients is having someone who’s gentle and thorough and communicates well.”

Midwifery care looks a bit different in the age of COVID-19. Nagel and Ayer can no longer offer in-person group prenatal sessions, where pregnant women and their partners gather to learn and socialize. Ayer says group care and some office visits are transitioning to a virtual platform. Prenatal checkups look different, too.

“Now we do one-on-one checkups just with Mom,” Nagel says. “No more bringing in other kids to listen to the heartbeat, and now the partners are on Facetime in the room. There’s definitely a lot more use of technology and telehealth.”

Pandemic restrictions have produced at least one unexpected blessing. After giving birth, many moms return home feeling less exhausted because they haven’t had the pressure of extra people in the labor room and visitors dropping by later.

“Now, you can have only one healthy support person,” Nagel says. “The one-person rule has created some very intimate experiences for the woman and her partner. Women don’t feel they have to get presentable afterward, and they can both just take their time. They can relax and get to know their baby.”

Learn More about Nurse-Midwife Services at Sutter Health

At many Sutter hospitals, you have the option to choose a certified nurse-midwife. Sutter’s certified nurse-midwives deliver babies and can provide comprehensive prenatal care throughout your pregnancy.

Read on for more information on our certified nurse-midwife services.

COVID-19 and the Flu: Time to Arm Yourself with a Flu Shot

Posted on Sep 17, 2020 in Scroll Images, Wellness & Integrative Health

This fall, we could face a flu season like no other. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s possible to become sick with the flu and COVID-19 at the same time. You don’t want to risk being infected with both because as reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, people infected with COVID-19 and flu may be more likely to be hospitalized with severe and sometimes deadly disease.

Getting a flu shot this season may also help conserve potentially scarce health care resources like personal protective equipment (PPE), and reduce the burden on healthcare systems as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For these reasons, it’s more important than ever to get the flu vaccine this year,” says Bill Isenberg, M.D., Sutter Health’s chief quality and safety officer. “As we await a vaccine for COVID-19, we very strongly encourage people to get flu shots to boost their immunity and protect themselves and the people they love from the flu.”

“Even without the added threat of COVID-19, getting a flu shot is one of the most important things you can do to help lower your risk for getting sick with the flu, avoid suffering through days or weeks of illness and help prevent spreading the infection to those around you, at home, at work and in the community,” says Sutter Health’s medical director of Pharmacy and Infection Control, Jeffrey Silvers, M.D.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year more than 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized for flu, and typically around 50,000 die from it. A flu shot is important even if you’re staying home more—or working from home—because you still face potential exposure to the influenza virus, which you can then spread to others.

When should you get the flu vaccine?

“Timing is important,” says Dr. Silvers. “The CDC recommends people get vaccinated for influenza before the flu begins spreading in the community, since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop and begin to provide protection.”

In the U.S., flu typically begins circulating in October. That means the ideal time to get vaccinated for flu is late September through early October.

“Vaccination is still beneficial as long as flu viruses are circulating. If you haven’t been vaccinated by Halloween or even Thanksgiving, it can still be protective to get vaccinated through December or later,” says Dr. Isenberg. “The influenza season usually peaks in January or February, but sometimes the virus is still circulating in the community as late as May.”


How can you get a flu shot?

  • The process to get a flu shot will be different this year because of COVID-19.
  • Vaccination at your Sutter-affiliated doctor’s office is by appointment only.
  • Existing patients can schedule appointments through the patient portal My Health Online or by phone beginning September 17.
  • Sutter Walk-in Care offers same day appointments for flu shots, whether you are an established Sutter patient or not.


Who should get this year’s flu shot?

  • For nearly everybody, getting an annual flu shot remains the first and most important step to help prevent the spread of the flu—you don’t want to get the flu and COVID-19.
  • Getting the flu shot is especially important for people in high-risk groups: pregnant women, elderly, children under five and those with other health conditions.
  • The CDC recommends everyone six months and older get a flu shot every year.
  • The CDC recommends a flu shot for all women who are pregnant during flu season. (Pregnant women should not receive the nasal spray vaccine.)

Make sure kids are up to date on vaccinations

Dr. Isenberg says it’s also a good idea, before flu season is in full swing, to make sure children are up to date on their vaccinations including chickenpox, Diphtheria, tetanus, and whooping cough (DTaP), Measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) and Polio.

“Now is an ideal time to visit your child’s pediatrician, before the annual flu kicks in and pediatricians’ offices are inundated with sick children,” says Dr. Isenberg.

To find a Sutter primary care physician, click here.

Is it safe to go to the doctor’s office or Sutter Walk-In-Care?

Sutter Walk-In Care centers and Sutter-affiliated doctor’s offices have taken several steps to help minimize spread as the pandemic continues. These measures include mandatory masking for patients and visitors, performing extra cleaning and disinfecting, and screening employees before each shift.

Protect yourself and your family. Get a flu shot.

Project Connects Clinics Serving Most Vulnerable with Health Systems, Specialists

Posted on Sep 16, 2020 in Quality Care, Scroll Images

Pandemic underscores value of seamless connection. More than 2 million patient records shared with participating providers.

Coordination between health care providers can be crucial for patients’ health – and it’s even more important while caring for them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A newly completed electronic health record system is enabling primary care providers from Community Health Center Network (CHCN) health centers to better coordinate patient care, improve health equity, and manage population health for the vulnerable groups they care for in the East Bay. The project electronically connects the eight community health centers of the CHCN with local health systems and specialists.

The new system – powered by OCHIN Epic Electronic Health Record (EHR) and funded through generous grants from Sutter Health and Kaiser Permanente– allows CHCN health centers to reliably and confidentially share patients’ electronic health records (EHR) with participating providers.

With more seamless collaboration between health centers, primary care providers, hospitals, and specialists in Alameda County, more than 270,000 patient records are now digitally accessible. Through this state-of-the-art EHR technology this is helping provide high-quality health care for the area’s most vulnerable residents.

“This new integrated system ensures that patients will have a seamless experience, while receiving the best possible coordination of their care,” said Ralph Silber, CEO of CHCN. “We’re already seeing the positive impact and transformative potential of the OCHIN Epic EHR, as it’s deployed across our network.”

First implemented at Axis Community Health, OCHIN Epic EHR is now available at all eight of CHCN’s community health centers with the last health center, La Clínica, launched in April.

“We were really pleased to be able to complete this deployment for CHCN, despite the pandemic, by offering full support for a virtual go-live at La Clínica,” said OCHIN CEO Abby Sears. “Now more than ever, we need to ensure frontline providers and public health authorities are able to exchange real-time health information and can respond quickly to the needs of their communities.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, health centers had to quickly adapt to caring for patients virtually. OCHIN Epic allowed CHCN health centers to quickly begin telehealth and video appointments so patients could continue receiving high-quality health care.

“OCHIN Epic is a powerful system,” said Sue Compton, CEO of Axis Community Health in Pleasanton, Calif. “We’re just beginning to explore its full capabilities, but the portal already offers more engaging features for our patients and more robust charting features for our providers, including both medical and Integrated Behavioral Health providers. It has strengthened our capacity to meet the complex needs of the patients we serve.”

The OCHIN Epic EHR also provides CHCN health centers with tools for data reporting and population health management, and offers a patient portal called My Chart, which facilitates patient communication.

To date, over 2 million patient records have been shared between CHCN health centers’ OCHIN Epic EHR and hospital/specialist EHRs. With full implementation, the system supports over 500 primary care, dental, and behavioral care providers who serve over 270,000 patients across CHCN’s network of care.

“Sutter Health is a longstanding partner of CHCN and its member clinics. We are delighted to expand our partnership through this vital initiative to improve care coordination between health care providers and to deliver comprehensive, quality health care for underserved communities of the East Bay,” said Emily Webb, vice president Bay Area External Affairs for Sutter Health. “Being connected through technology will support improvements in care for vulnerable patients at an especially critical time when the need is so great in our communities.”

“As a nonprofit organization with a mission to improve community health, Kaiser Permanente is pleased to support this important work,” said Kevin Hart, senior vice president, Strategic Development and Technology, Kaiser Permanente Northern California. “We are investing and partnering in our communities to improve health care quality and access; helping build out the EHR among our safety net partners is key to this.”

The OCHIN Epic EHR is available at CHCN’s community health centers including: Asian Health Services, Axis Community Health, Bay Area Community Health, La Clínica, LifeLong Medical Care, Native American Health Center, Tiburcio Vasquez Health Center, and West Oakland Health.

Hungry People Fed through Food Waste Reduction Pilot

Posted on Sep 1, 2020 in Integrated Network, Scroll Images

35,000 meals donated in first seven months of project

SACRAMENTO, Calif. –In its first seven months, a pilot project involving 14 Sutter hospitals reduced food waste and fed the hungry by donating nearly 35,000 meals to 17 local nonprofits. The effort comes at a critical time as increasing numbers of people experience food insecurity due to the pandemic-induced economic downturn.

Last January, 10 hospitals in Sutter Health’s integrated network launched a collaboration with nonprofit Health Care Without Harm to implement the program, which is partially funded by a grant from the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) through California Climate Investments. Over the summer, an additional four Sutter hospitals joined in Sutter’s efforts.

“From our earliest days, Sutter Health’s network has provided access to high-quality, affordable medical care in our facilities – but we’ve also been deeply invested in the health and wellbeing of our broader communities,” says Chief Medical Officer Stephen H. Lockhart, M.D., Ph.D., executive sponsor of Sutter Health’s Environmental Stewardship program. “The teams behind this project with Copia and Health Care Without Harm are putting our values into action by leveraging innovation to not only reduce our environmental footprint, but also help feed community members in need.”

The work is powered by a technology platform designed by San Francisco-based Copia – a zero waste and hunger technology platform that allows food service employees to measure and prevent food waste while seamlessly donating all unsold or unserved edible excess food. Hospital food services workers measure daily food waste and submit their edible food donations in one streamlined process through Copia’s software application on mobile tablets. Copia’s mobile app then automatically dispatches drivers to pick up and deliver the food to local non-profits feeding food insecure populations.

And local really does mean local in this case – the average distance donated food traveled from the hospitals to someone who needed it was 3.4 miles.

In its first week in the program, Sutter Delta Medical Center recovered nearly 140 pounds of surplus food from the hospital—enough for 116 meals for Love a Child Missions, which serves homeless women and children in Contra Costa County, and Light Ministries Pentecostal Church of God, which serves meals to needy families in Antioch.

“This is an exciting partnership,” says Sutter Delta’s assistant administrator Tim Bouslog. “We’ve always had a vested interest in sustainability at our hospital, and the positive impact on the community during these difficult times makes this a great step forward.”

Another program benefit? The food donations efforts have helped Sutter reduce carbon emissions by 185,000 pounds and saved 15 million gallons of water!

Says Maria Lewis, director of Food and Nutrition Services at Sutter’s Eden Medical Center, “Eden’s first donation provided 45 meals to The Salvation Army in Hayward. This one donation not only consisted of 55 pounds of perfectly edible food, but also saved 241 pounds of CO2 emissions. We are humbled to be able to support our community, as well as help preserve our environment in the same process.”

“Over the first six months of this pilot project, we have gained valuable insight into how to contribute to community health, reduce waste and be good stewards of our own resources,” says Jack Breezee, regional food and nutrition services director for Sutter’s Valley Area. “I can only look forward to what we will learn over the pilot’s remaining year, and how we can build on these successes to serve our patients and communities.”

“Food waste among hospitals is a solvable problem,” says Komal Ahmad, founder of Copia. “If every hospital in the U.S. partnered with Copia, we could provide more than 250 million meals each year to people in need and save hundreds of millions of dollars in purchasing and production of food. Copia is thrilled to partner with Sutter Health to lead the healthcare industry in filling the food insecurity gap and building community resilience, especially during a time when insecurity has never been higher.”

Participating Sutter hospitals are Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, Eden Medical Center, Mills-Peninsula Medical Center, Memorial Hospital Los Banos, Memorial Medical Center, Sutter Amador Hospital, Sutter Auburn Faith Hospital, Sutter Center for Psychiatry, Sutter Davis Hospital, Sutter Delta Medical Center, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, Sutter Roseville Medical Center, Sutter Solano Medical Center and Sutter Tracy Community Hospital.