Posts by dugase

Launch Pad: New Doctor Hopes Her First Home Will be Forever

Posted on Oct 16, 2020 in Integrated Network, Scroll Images

Catherine Martin D.O., MPH has spent seven years and $400,000 training to be a doctor, but time and money don’t reflect the full price of becoming a physician.

“I’ve made countless sacrifices, put my life on hold really, so I could meet the 60 to 80 hour a week demands of medical school, clinical rotation and residency,” said Dr. Martin. One career-delayed goal she hopes to revive: living with her fiancé and buying a home together, a move that economists call ‘household formation.’

Catherine A Martin, D.O., MPH

Dr. Martin’s dream of homeownership may receive an unexpected boost, in the form of down payment assistance from Landed —thanks to a pilot program option offered through her employer, the Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group, affiliated with Sutter Health.

Landed’s shared-equity down payment program invests alongside homebuyers to help them reach a 20% down payment. Landed funds—up to $120,000 per household—come in the form of an equity investment in which homebuyers share in a portion of the gain (or loss, if any) of the home’s value once the partnership ends – typically by sale or refinance.

By providing access to opportunities like Landed, Sutter hopes to enable employees and clinicians to live where they work and in turn enhance the health of the communities they serve. “I know how difficult and costly it is to become a doctor, and I also know how rewarding it is to help people live healthy and productive lives,” said Elizabeth Vilardo, M.D., CEO for the Sutter Bay Medical Foundation. “Sutter looks for ways to support its healthcare workforce, so that they can support patients for all their years.”

Dr. Martin is eager to settle down and hopes her first home with be her forever home, because she is already committed to the community where she works. “I can’t see myself anywhere else,” remarked Dr. Martin. “I chose to go into family medicine because I want to care for my patients from cradle to college and I knew that in Watsonville I’d have the honor of caring for multiple generations of the same family, forming relationships with my patients that span decades.”

Close to Care: Nursing Couple’s Home Search Centers on Medical Services

Posted on Oct 16, 2020 in Integrated Network, Scroll Images

Yi and Esther Wang are saving up to buy a house, but for now, their son’s hospital room feels like home.

The Sunnyvale couple are both registered nurses and they both work with specialists – doctors who have extra training in a specific area of medicine – but they never expected that they would need specialist-level care for their firstborn.

Yi Wang, R.N.

At only 5 days old, Nathan Wang was diagnosed with Hirschprung’s disease, a rare birth defect that affects the intestine and prevents a baby from passing stool normally. Nathan needed life-changing surgery when he was just one month old and continues to need services in the hospital and outpatient pediatric specialty clinic.

“As a nurse manager I directly support pediatric specialists, so I know these experts are in high demand and short supply. Now, as a father, I’ve seen how critical it is that these specialists are available in my community – if we’d had to wait one day more or travel any further for Nathan to be diagnosed and get the care he needed – his outcome could have been drastically different.” Yi Wang, R.N., clinical manager for pediatric specialty care at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation (PAMF).

Yi and Esther have taken the availability of expert medical staff to heart; it’s one reason they are committed to buying a home in the area. They now have the potential for help with their goal in the form of down payment assistance from Landed —thanks to a pilot program option through Yi’s employer, Sutter Health.

Landed’s shared-equity down payment program invests alongside homebuyers to help them reach a 20% down payment. Landed funds—up to $120,000 per household—come in the form of an equity investment in which homebuyers share in a portion of the gain (or loss, if any) of the home’s value once the partnership ends – typically by sale or refinance.

Sutter launched the pilot with Landed as one option to support their highly skilled workforce of doctors, nurses and others. “As the Wang’s story shows so well, when we maintain a stable, expert workforce it in turn helps enhance the health and well-being of the communities we serve,” said Elizabeth Vilardo, M.D., CEO for the Sutter Bay Medical Foundation.

Yi and Esther’s wish list for their future home is focused on making memories. They want a backyard for Nathan to toddle in and where their 3-year old Maltipoo dog, Beau, can roam free. A place where they can barbecue and garden, teaching Nathan the value of growing your own food. They want a big dining room for Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings, but also for a weekly dinners with extended family. More than anything they want a nursery for Nathan, decorated in grey, white and blue.

Whatever the square footage or style of home, Yi and Esther know that what matters most is that they can be close to their work and close to ongoing care for Nathan. Having a view into both sides, as a nurse who works with pediatric specialists and now as a father to an infant who needed immediate medical care from those same experts, Yi says he has an even better appreciation for how vital he and other healthcare workers are to the livability of a community. “Like school teachers and firefighters, a community needs doctors, nurses, and many other healthcare professionals to thrive, we are essential workers and we can be counted on – every day and in emergencies – provided we can adequately live where we work. I am truly excited about the down payment assistance opportunity with Landed because I know that if I can buy a home here it will be better for my family and better for the families that my wife and I will care for as nurses for the rest of our careers.”

“I Should Have Known”—Identifying Suicide’s Warning Signs

Posted on Sep 14, 2020 in Mental Health & Addiction Care, Scroll Images

A message from John Boyd, PsyD, Sutter Health’s CEO of Mental Health Services, during Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

When I learned the news that I had lost someone to suicide, my first thought was, “I should have known.”

As a long-time mental health advocate and practitioner, I knew my response was the most common thought to cross the minds of those touched by suicide. I knew that family and friends repeatedly consider what difference it may have made had they known and intervened. I knew my years of education and training did not make me immune from this sense of responsibility and guilt.

It can often take a community to detect the warning signs that surface as pieces of a puzzle, appearing at different times and before different people. That people considering suicide are often afraid to speak up due to the stigma surrounding the mental health and addiction issues that most often lead to suicide. And while mental health issues are the most common reason for death by suicide, there are more hidden and less known reasons—financial problems, traumatic stress, relationship issues, the loss of family acceptance, academic failure and bullying.

This is why it’s so important that all of us learn as much as we can about the warning signs that lead to this irreversible outcome. National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month gives us all the opportunity to learn and share more.

We can all relate to struggling with despair and hardship. And there are specific signs that point to it all becoming too much for someone to bear—things like hopelessness about the future, sleep problems, withdrawal from friends or social activities, changes in personality or appearance, dangerous or self-harmful behavior, making preparations to put personal business in order, or threatening or talking about suicide. Mental health challenges are the leading factor, with 30% to 70% of suicide victims suffering from major depression or bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder, according to Mental Health America. The organization also notes that those with substance abuse disorders are six times more likely to complete suicide than those without.

Strikingly, this is an issue particularly common among healthcare workers who spend their days caring for others. Research cited by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) estimates that one doctor commits suicide each day. Physicians’ suicide risk is higher than any other profession due to higher rates of anxiety, depression and burnout. Yet, due to long-held stigmas, it is often more difficult for healthcare providers to reach out for support, notes the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Studies show that this risk is only increasing as providers care for themselves, their families and their patients during a global pandemic. At Sutter Health, we make our physicians’ and employees’ mental wellbeing a top priority, creating awareness, providing resources and reducing the stigma surrounding speaking up and asking for help.

Coming Together for Human Health

In what ways do we—as a community—address these alarming facts? It starts with understanding that mental health is human health. We are all human, deserving of compassion and grace. It starts by each and every one of us talking openly, sharing our experiences and listening to others to break through the stigma associated with mental health and addiction challenges.

In sharing our stories and experiences, we can reduce stigma. In opening our hearts and minds, we can heighten awareness. Most importantly, in coming together with care and compassion for one another, we can work together to recognize when someone needs us most.

Crisis Lifelines

If you or someone you know is in distress, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Or you can connect with a trained crisis counselor through the Crisis Text Line by texting 741741.

Pre-dawn Cheers and Applause Buoy Spirits of Weary Firefighters

Posted on Sep 4, 2020 in Integrated Network, Scroll Images

The town of Aptos is typically quieter than neighboring Santa Cruz, but last Tuesday that tranquility was broken by shouts of gratitude and applause for firefighters battling the CZU Lightning Complex fires – all organized by Sutter’s Lisa Haux.

“We made so much noise they could hear us across the highway,” Haux said.

Nella, age 8 and Clara, age 5 of Santa Cruz show
off the banner they made for the firefighter tribute.

The pre-dawn event that drew more than 100 community members was spurred by equal parts sincerity and serendipity, said Haux, a compliance officer with Sutter Health. “As part of the Sutter family, I’ve seen the salutes that our frontline healthcare workers have received from first responders – including fire, police, sheriff and ambulance units – thanking our nurses and doctors for their bravery and dedication to duty in the face of COVID-19. Those tributes were so meaningful to us, I thought we could do the same for the firefighters.”  

A small town has no secrets, and Haux learned which hotel was housing most of the out-of-town firefighters and that the end of their shift varied day to day, depending on firefighting conditions. “So I decided to organize a surprise early morning send-off, to lift their spirits at the start of their shift,” she said.

Haux quickly realized that firefighters – like healthcare workers – start work early. To catch the firefighters before they headed to base camp, the community needed to gather in the hotel parking lot, with their signs and balloons, by 5:45 a.m. “I honestly expected maybe 20 people would show up, given how early it was, so I was blown away by the response.”

The crowd was five times larger than Haux’s expectation and even drew reporters from the Santa Cruz Sentinel and KTVU. “When we started it was still dark outside, but we held our banners high as the sun slowly rose. It was awe-inspiring to see the turnout and see how heartfelt the appreciation was from our community to these brave professionals, risking themselves for strangers.”

Crews from across California filled the two dozen fire trucks that pulled out that morning, flashing their lights and waving back in thanks.

Stephen Gray, chief administrative officer for Sutter Maternity & Surgery Center of Santa Cruz and operations executive of Palo Alto Medical Foundation Santa Cruz said that wildfire season is something we know all too well in Northern California.

“Several parts of our network, including our employees who live and serve in these communities, have been personally impacted,” Gray said. “We’re so happy to express our appreciation for the efforts of the firefighters to keep us safe, which helps us continue our mission of serving others.” 

A week later Haux still delights in how her community showed their spirit, saying, “Fire is a horrible way to bring out comradery, but it does show that people really do want to help each other, and we are all in this together.”

Video Visits by Flashlight: Telehealth Keeps the Doctor ‘In’ Even When the Power is Out

Posted on Aug 25, 2020 in Digital Health, Scroll Images

When the next heat wave causes power outages or the next round of wildfires prompt evacuations throughout Northern California, chances are the global COVID-19 pandemic will still be unfolding. Under any or all of these conditions, we want to remind patients how and when to seek care, even during displacement or power loss.  

First: Make Your Smart Phone Smarter with the My Health Online App.

There is no question that mobile phones have become essential to our lives, and that reality has been underscored during the current emergency. Your phone may already receive alerts, including air quality reports, evacuation announcements or planned power shutoff notices, but is your phone optimized for your personal health needs?

If you haven’t already, we encourage Sutter patients to download the My Health Online smart phone app from the Apple App Store or Google Play. The My Health Online smartphone app helps connect you with your care team – even if you lose power or are displaced – provided you have wireless or mobile internet access and a charged phone battery.

“When we created the My Health Online patient portal we knew we would need a mobile phone option, but I don’t think we realized how important it would be in the context of natural disasters,” said Albert Chan, M.D., chief of digital patient experience at Sutter Health. Within the app you can send a message to your care team, view lab and most test results, securely access health records and schedule and complete a video visit.

“While we previously saw the app as a convenience, we now know that it’s a necessity; in fact we have a dedicated support team at (866) 978-8837 to troubleshoot any issues that patients have activating the app,” said Dr. Chan.

Second: Know that Severe Weather Can Cause Symptoms to Worsen, Quickly.

The smoke from wildfires, the heat in late summer and the stress of evacuation or a power outage can compromise your immune system and put stress on your body. “People who already have heart or lung-related illness, and some who don’t, may need personalized medical care to manage through this period,” said Chan. Video visits can often help doctors determine the severity of symptoms, provide medical advice and guide someone to in-person care as needed; providing reassurance in a very uncertain time.

“Bottom line, if you experience new or worsening symptoms we encourage you to schedule a same-day video visit with your doctor or another provider in the Sutter network – don’t ignore your body’s signals.”

You can also use the “symptom checker” that is integrated into Sutter Health’s website and My Health Online patient portal. Originally launched in February 2019, the self-led symptom checker is a kind of online survey that helps patients decide whether to engage in self-care or to seek care, if they need an in-person appointment or a video visit, and if they need to be seen now or soon.

As always, call 911 or go directly to the nearest hospital emergency department if you are experiencing chest pain or having difficulty breathing.   

Third: Don’t Let an Evacuation Erode Your Health.

“Often, when people are ordered to evaluate they are in such a great rush that they leave medications, medical equipment, or medical instructions behind,” said Chan. “We recommend preparing a ‘go bag’ for each member of the family with medications and any needed medical supplies, just in case.”

But if you have to evacuate without medications, remember an often- overlooked value of video visits is their role in enabling physicians to authorize new prescriptions or call in short-term refills of existing medications to pharmacies near a patient’s temporary relocation spot. “We will do everything in our power to assist with your medication or medical device needs, so please remember to reach out as soon as you are somewhere safe.”