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YRMG Welcomes Accomplished Neurosurgeon to the Quad Cities
Neurosurgeon Sam Safavi-Abbasi, MD, is now performing advanced brain and spine surgeries as well as the latest minimally invasive procedures in the Quad Cities, thanks to an affiliation between Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Group (YRMG) and Barrow Brain and Spine. “This is a major step forward for neurosurgical services in our community and throughout northern Arizona,” says Ken Boush, Director, Marketing and Communications at Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC). “Dr. Safavi-Abbasi’s expertise as a neurosurgeon complements the care provided by the team at YRMG, Neurosurgical Medicine and Physiatry.” Training with Top Neurosurgeons Dr. Safavi-Abbasi studied spine biomechanics and spinal disorders as well as cerebrovascular and skull base brain tumors during neurosurgical fellowships at Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. Following his fellowships, Dr. Safavi-Abbasi joined Barrow Brain and Spine, a physician-owned practice that partners with Barrow Neurological Institute. He specializes in: Spinal diseases Spinal pain Spinal disorders Neck pain Low back pain General neurosurgery Brain and spinal tumors Neurosurgical spine surgery Neurotrauma An Excellent Medical Education Dr. Safavi-Abbasi earned his medical degree from Georg-August-University, Medical School in Göttingen, Germany and undertook additional training at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. From there, he pursued an internship and residency at the University of Oklahoma, Department of Neurosurgery, in Oklahoma City. How to Reach Dr. Safavi-Abbasi Dr. Safavi-Abbasi is located on the campus of Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) West in the new Outpatient Services Building West at: 1001 Willow Creek Road Suite 3100 Prescott, Arizona 86301 (928) 445-4818
YRMG Cardiologist Lives Life with Heart
Many people have important childhood experiences that steer them towards their life’s work. Few, however, can point to an event as significant as testifying before the United Nations at 11 years old. That experience motivated Olufunso Odunukan, MD, MPH, FACC, FSCAI – an interventional cardiologist who recently joined Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Group (YRMG) – to pursue a career in medicine. “At the time, there was a big famine in Ethiopia,” says Dr. Odunukan, who was born and raised in the African country of Nigeria, approximately 2,000 miles west of Ethiopia. “That early exposure to advocacy and children’s health issues inspired me. I resolved to become a pediatrician. I did become a doctor, but as life would have it, I became intrigued by other subjects, one of them being cardiology.” The Interventional Cardiology Revolution Dr. Odunukan’s passion for cardiology was sparked during an internal medicine internship at the Mayo School of Graduate Medical Education in Rochester, Minnesota. There, he grew to appreciate how important the heart is to organs throughout the body. Inspired by this, Dr. Odunukan took his education to another level during two interventional cardiology fellowships at the prestigious Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California. Dr. Odunukan’s medical education coincided with groundbreaking advancements that expanded non-surgical – or minimally invasive – treatment options for people with valvular heart disease, such as aortic stenosis, mitral valve regurgitation and more. These interventional cardiology procedures reduce the need for open heart surgeries, shorten hospital stays and return people to their lives quickly. “Basically, we’ve found ways to close holes and repair tight or leaky heart valves without even opening the heart,” says Dr. Odunukan. “This has given the frail elderly – many who are not strong enough for open heart surgery – a second chance at life. And that is so inspiring to me.” A Well-Rounded Education Dr. Odunukan’s avid curiosity has motivated him to seek new experiences throughout his medical education. He participated in two global health exchange programs: one in Finland and another in the Philippines. During his fellowships, Dr. Odunukan became intrigued with how interventional cardiology was practiced in areas with few resources. This led him to spend a month working – and learning – in the Cath Lab of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, the leading healthcare institution in New Delhi, India. “In the U.S.,” Dr. Odunukan says, “I’ve lived in ten states in 15 years.” Many of these moves were related to Dr. Odunukan’s interventional cardiology training. However, he also pursued opportunities to practice cardiology in rural South Dakota, Georgia and West Virginia. For the Sake of Patients Dr. Odunukan’s experiences have made him an expert at caring for patients across the cardiology spectrum. “It’s incredibly gratifying to save someone’s life by removing a blood clot that’s blocking their heart and then to place a stent that will keep their blood flowing,” he says. “There’s also great joy in helping someone manage their risk factors – like hypertension and diabetes – to optimize their quality of life.” Embracing a New Community As you would expect of someone who has thrived in a variety of locations, Dr. Odunukan has wasted no time getting involved in his new community. He’s hiked the Tonto Rim Trail in the Grand Canyon with a group from Yavapai College and joined the Bike Prescott group. “The Quad Cities area is known for its excellent climate and outdoor activities,” Dr. Odunukan says. “There are lots of opportunities for a good work-life balance.” How to Reach Dr. Odunukan Dr. Odunukan is located on the campus of Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) West in the new Outpatient Services Building West at 1001 Willow Creek Road, Suite 2200, in Prescott. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Odunukan, call YRMG Cardiology at (928) 445-6025.
YRMC Announces the 2021 Volunteers of the Year
What’s the best job in the world? Working with volunteers, of course! Just ask Nancy Thomes, the Director of Volunteer Services at Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC). “I am so fortunate to be where I am because I work with top-notch people every day,” says Thomes. “It takes a giving heart to be a volunteer, and I’m surrounded by hundreds of volunteers with very generous hearts.” The volunteers are an integral part of the hospital, enhancing the patient experience and providing much needed support to YRMC staff. While the pandemic restricted their involvement over the past 2 years, YRMC is currently working to reopen additional service areas. Along the way, volunteers build friendships and enjoy the sense of purpose that volunteering provides. Each year, YRMC Volunteer Services recognizes three volunteers whose service to the hospital, its patients, and the community embodies the Mission and Vision of Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Center. Each recipient is recognized for the unique ways in which they make YRMC a better place. YRMC East Volunteer of the Year, Maggie Goltra “Nancy had asked if I could attend a meeting at the West Campus, and of course, if I can help in any way, I will be there,” recalls Goltra. “When we walked into the room, I recognized some of the staff, but still couldn’t figure out what I was doing there. When Nancy told me that I was Volunteer of the Year – East Campus, I was completely shocked – that never entered my mind! What an honor!” Goltra started volunteering at YRMC in 2007. Over the years, she has worked in Admitting, Care Management, and the Family Birthing Center, and now works at the East Campus Front Lobby. Volunteer Services Manager, Victoria Spears says that Goltra is one of those kinds of people that you just love being around. As the first point of contact when you walk through the hospital doors, the Front Desk volunteers have an important role. They can often set the tone for the patient or visitor’s experience, offering information and assurance. Duties include helping patients check in at the kiosk, helping visitors sign in, escorting patients and visitors throughout the hospital, delivering items, and regularly sanitizing the area. “Maggie does all of this with a big smile and gracious attitude,” notes Spears. “Everyone who is around Maggie cannot help but smile. She is a joy to be around!” Goltra gives credit to her fellow volunteers as well. “It’s nice to work with a group of people who are there because they want to be,” she says. “I work with Debbie, Wayne, and Gus, who are always there with a friendly hello and a readiness to help all of the patients and visitors who come in. These are the type of volunteers I would like to have welcome me to the hospital.” With more than 1,850 volunteer hours under her belt, Goltra is a true asset to YRMC. Yet she describes her role in simple terms: to be helpful, even if in a small way. “The best part about volunteering at YRMC is just being able to help make our patients’ time at the hospital a bit easier, in our small way,” she explains. “It’s important to be able to help where you can, especially if it is making someone’s day easier or less stressful.” YRMC West Volunteer of the Year, Mary Kerper Mary Kerper worked for 42 years for an international mechanical parts distributor, overseeing operations, training, auditing, and continuous improvement for more than 400 locations. Retirement brought her and her husband to Prescott in 2019. Their desire was to continue to contribute to their new community. “I have had chores, responsibilities, and jobs since elementary school,” says Kerper. “I was taught that work is important, and contribution is necessary to help others, as well as yourself. Volunteering helps me to maintain my sense of self while I provide support to others.” Nancy Thomes recognizes Kerper’s strong work ethic as she looks back on the past few years. “Mary is one of the volunteers who didn’t let COVID stop her from volunteering,” recalls Thomes. “She stayed active until we suspended all volunteers and returned immediately when we could open up the Information Desk – our only service area for a while. She took on an extra shift and was a ‘rock’ throughout that very uncertain time.” Staff and fellow volunteers agree. When asked why she is a stand-out volunteer, responses include: Mary is so vigilant – always alert to who is coming through the doors. She consistently subs for her fellow volunteers when she is available. One of Mary’s responsibilities is training new volunteers. They consistently remark how thorough she is with her training. She is helpful, compassionate, and caring, along with a friendly smile! The Front Desk is a challenging area of service, and she has remained calm throughout. Mary is a problem solver extraordinaire! “It is so amazing to come to a place of healing and do what I can to contribute to the patients, visitors, staff, and my fellow volunteers,” says Kerper. Yet on a larger scale, she reflects on the importance of her award. “This award reinforces the importance of the role of volunteers. It really shows the value that YRMC leadership places on the contributions the volunteers make. I love being part of this team. Leadership here at YRMC clearly includes volunteers as valuable members of their team.” “The new relationship between Dignity Health and YRMC has brought change, and will no doubt bring more change. But the community will benefit greatly,” she continues. “What I feel will not change is the commitment our leadership has to the hospital and to our community. The volunteers will always be here to help.” The Sandy Zinn Martin Award, Norma Bauer When describing Norma Bauer and her dedication to YRMC patients, staff, visitors, and fellow volunteers, Nancy Thomes is reminded of a television show. “There is a show called New Amsterdam. The setting is in a hospital, and the Medical Director is often seen moving about the hospital asking, ‘How can I help?’ The writers may not know this, but they must have fashioned that character after Norma Bauer.” Thomes continues, “She has been SUPER flexible, changing service areas often, and always willing to go where needed. When I ask for favors of volunteers, I often begin with a reminder that ‘No’ is an acceptable answer. That is a word that Norma rarely uses.” The award is named after a former volunteer, Sandy Zinn Martin, whose spirit lives on in the selfless service that Bauer demonstrates. It’s often the little things that show the true character of a person – the things that go unnoticed by most people. Thomes shares a brief but telling story. “A staff member sent me an e-mail after observing Norma assisting a patient who was having trouble getting something from a vending machine. Norma was a patient coach, gentle and kind.” “This award is a humbling honor; there are so many dedicated volunteers,” says Bauer. “I believe it indicates that staff and other volunteers have considered my presence and efforts in a positive light and kindly took the time to ‘say so.’” “Nearly every shift includes at least one interaction that stands out from the rest,” Bauer reflects. “What makes the greatest impact on me usually comes from a patient who expresses apprehension approaching a procedure. A brief suggestion to expect the staff to be caring and understanding can often serve to lessen the patient’s anxiety.” Bauer has been called a true role model in the Volunteer Services program, with some affectionately referring to her ‘old-world mannerisms.’ According to staff and fellow volunteers, Bauer’s gracious, polite, and professional approach informs everything she does. Comments include, “It was a privilege to be tutored and to subsequently work with Norma,” and, “She deserves this recognition.” When she was invited to consider volunteering at YRMC, Bauer didn’t hesitate. She was impressed with the quality of care given to her friends and family. “Volunteering at YRMC is an opportunity to support and give back to an organization that benefits our community,” she explains. “It gives me a sense of purpose and provides interests beyond myself. YRMC values its volunteers and demonstrates their appreciation of them.” “I sincerely enjoy volunteering at YRMC. It has become an enriching part of my life.” To learn more about becoming a volunteer at Yavapai Regional Medical Center, visit DignityHealth.org/YRMC. Or you can call Volunteer Services in Prescott at (928) 771-5678, or in Prescott Valley at (928) 442-8683.
Keeping Your Immune System Healthy with Food
Over the last few years, we have heard a lot about the importance of having a strong and balanced immune system. Good research shows that regular exercise, solid sleep, and a nutrient-packed, anti-inflammatory diet all contribute to reduced risk of illness from viruses and chronic conditions like cancer, cardiovascular, and autoimmune disease. A nutritious, anti-inflammatory diet creates the foundation for healthy immune function in a number of ways. Meals that feature fresh vegetables, greens, fruit, nuts, seeds, and other healthy sources of protein provide essential nutrients that immune cells need to do their jobs. These nutrients include zinc, selenium, folic acid, and vitamins A, C, D and E. Phytochemicals found in a variety of plant foods — especially herbs, spices and dark green, red, orange and purple vegetables and fruit — reduce chronic inflammation, helping the immune system work more effectively. Fiber from plants feeds the microbiome, the collection of bacteria that live in the gut. A large part of immune function resides in the gut, where immune cells partner with healthy bacteria to keep us free from harmful pathogens and disease. Join me in our latest episode of YRMC’s Your Healthy Kitchen, where I dive into more details about the foods that protect us from illness, while preparing a delicious, immune-boosting soup! Recipe: Homemade Vegetable or Chicken Broth Recipe: Gingery and Garlicky Chicken Soup You can find many more nutrient-packed, immune-supportive meal ideas at yrmchealthconnect.org. Remember to follow me on Facebook as well, where I post photos and videos of the simple, healthy food I make at home, plus links to my favorite food and gardening destinations on the web.
Women and Chronic Pain: Life on Your Terms
Fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal and pelvic disorders—they’re a few of the medical conditions many women face, all of which can lead to chronic pain. Pain is considered chronic when it persists longer than three to six months and essentially becomes imprinted on the nervous system. “In neuroscientific terms, pain is a necessary protective response from our nervous system,” explains Cheryl Van Demark PT, C-IAYT, Co-facilitator, Chronic Pain Self-Care Program at Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC). “We experience pain in situations of actual or anticipated threat.” Van Demark – a physical therapist and certified yoga therapist from YRMC’s Physical Rehabilitation Services – emphasizes that chronic pain is real and each individual’s experience with pain is unique. She notes that a history of trauma, adversity or prolonged periods of stress can affect how we experience pain. Learn How to Create Your Narrative YRMC’s Chronic Pain Self-Care Program includes five weekly, two-hour sessions of approximately 10 group participants. Van Demark is joined by co-facilitators – a physical therapist, yoga therapist, nutritional counselor, pharmacist and behavioral health specialist – who share information and dialogue with the group. A cornerstone discussion of the group is pain as influenced by perception. For example, a woman with osteoarthritis cannot change her medical condition, but she can change or develop self-care behaviors to improve how she lives with the condition. “That’s called life on your terms,” says Van Demark. “You don’t choose the circumstances, but you can create your own narrative. Developing mindful attention to our inner dialogue allows us to include self-affirming messages and challenge unhelpful mental chatter.” During the program, Van Demark and other co-facilitators foster a positive, supportive environment that has proven successful. “We remind participants that they are wise and intuitive and they should expect to be treated this way by the people from whom they seek treatment,” she says. “Because chronic pain tends to influence all facets of life – activity level, sleep, appetite, relationships, to name a few – their treatment also needs to touch all of those facets. This calls for self-honesty and courage.” Your Journey to Self-Care & Wellbeing YRMC’s Chronic Pain Self-Care Program includes self-care and wellbeing habits to: Reduce stress Feel sensations of comfort and relaxation Use food as medicine Face fear of movement Mitigate suffering Cope with uncertainty Befriend the body Pace physical activity Develop self-compassion The more participants repeat these behaviors, the stronger their self-compassion skills become. Many thrive under the encouragement of other group members. Others find inspiration by leaning into their personal religious and spiritual beliefs. “This support is very affirming for women as some tend to go out of their way to support everybody else and put themselves at the end of the line,” Van Demark says. “This jeopardizes our personal wellbeing. Pain tends to become more persistent when our wellbeing is compromised.” Following the five-week session, some participants opt for individual physical therapy sessions from Van Demark to work on specific areas of importance to them. Want to join YRMC’s Chronic Pain Self-Care Program? Tell your physician and ask for a referral. For more information, call (928) 771-5131, check out our program flyer or visit DignityHealth.org/YRMC.
YRMC Physician Treats Heart Rhythm Problems
When Nisha Tung, MD, was a young girl she wanted to be a surgeon when she grew up. After all, she came from a family of physicians and medicine was in her blood. But her family also had a history of heart problems and as an adult she decided to enter the field of cardiology, before going on to specialize in treating heart rhythm problems called arrhythmias. Dr. Tung started out at Indiana University in Indianapolis as a resident in internal medicine. She then moved to Arizona to complete a cardiology fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, where she was then hired as a general cardiologist. Dr. Tung decided to specialize in electrophysiology, a subspecialty of cardiology, and moved to Los Angeles to receive training at the University of California. As a newly board-certified cardiac electrophysiologist and cardiologist, Dr. Tung returned to Phoenix and entered private practice. “I soon recognized the need for an electrophysiologist in Northern Arizona,” she said. “It was a real hardship for patients to come to Phoenix for consultation, procedures and follow-up. I decided it would be best to set up an outreach clinic in Northcentral Arizona. After falling in love with the community of Prescott I accepted an offer from Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Center to develop an electrophysiology program in 2015.” Today Dr. Tung is the director of a growing electrophysiology program within YRMC’s James Family Heart Center. “When the electrophysiology program opened in August 2015 we were already booked with procedures,” she said. “Since then procedures have doubled to about 500 a year. “I am extremely passionate about my patients,” she continued. “With me every patient is a VIP. I am deeply committed to achieving the best outcome for every patient in my care.” When not working Dr. Tung enjoys hiking, biking, tennis, racquetball and pickleball. She also enjoys spending time with her family and 10-year-old son who wants to be a doctor when he grows up. Electrophysiology Services at YRMC Electrophysiology is a subspecialty of general cardiology which deals exclusively with electrical pulses that regulate the heart. When these pulses beat steadily, they signal the heart to pump the blood that oxygenates, feeds and protects the body. When the heartbeat is off—either too fast, slow or erratic—arrhythmias, or irregular heart rhythms, develop. These arrhythmias can lead to stroke, heart attack or even sudden death. As an electrophysiologist with YRMC’s James Family Heart Center, Dr. Tung specializes in identifying and correcting these arrhythmias. Depending on the source of the problem, she may use cardiac ablation, a noninvasive procedure where she inserts a slim catheter and destroys problem cells by applying cold or heat. Or she may need to regulate the heart’s rhythm by implanting a device like a pacemaker or defibrillator, which she then monitors through remote follow-up technology. So how do you know if you have an arrhythmia? Symptoms include fluttering in the chest, chest pain, dizziness, shortness of breath, sweating and anxiety. If you experience these symptoms see your primary care physician or go to the ER if the pain is severe. If they think you have an arrhythmia, ask for a referral to see Dr. Tung.
What Are Your Tired Legs Telling You?
Do your tired legs keep you from doing what matters most to you? If your lower limbs feel fatigued even after minimal exercise, they may be sending an SOS. Tired legs may be caused by a vein disorder that can be easily diagnosed and treated. However, if it’s left untreated, that disorder can progress into a serious condition. “People often don’t associate tired legs with a health issue,” said Anil Kumar, MD, MRCP, FACC, RPVI, RPhS, Medical Director of the Vein Center at Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) in Prescott Valley. “In reality, tired legs may be a symptom of chronic venous insufficiency.” An estimated 40 percent of Americans may suffer from chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), according to the Society for Vascular Surgery. It’s most common in women – especially after multiple pregnancies – and in people who are middle-aged or older. CVI occurs when the venous walls and/or the valves in the leg’s veins have been damaged. This makes it difficult for blood to move from the legs to the heart, which causes blood to pool above the ankles. Pull On Compression Stockings At the Vein Center, Dr. Kumar creates individual care plans to address CVI. Those plans include using compression stockings to promote better blood flow, reduce swelling and relieve discomfort. The team at the Vein Center can help you choose the right stockings to wear every day. Vein Ablation for Vein Health For some patients, Dr. Kumar recommends vein ablation, which closes the unhealthy vein and redirects the blood to a healthy vein. The Vein Center offers: VenaSeal Ablation Radiofrequency Ablation Liquid Sclerotherapy and Compression For more information about the Vein Center at YRMC, contact us at (928) 759-5890.
What to Consider When Finding Care for Your Aging Parents
What to Consider When Finding Care for Your Aging Parents Your parents may have expressed to you that as they get older, they hope to age in place in their own home. However, you may start to see indicators that they will need more care as time passes. Changes in their health, physical abilities or mental capacity may be the first clues that a conversation about senior living options may be needed. This can be a difficult discussion to initiate with your parents, and the choices may seem overwhelming. Experts suggest that you take some time to educate yourself about the various living options available before you begin talking with your parents. Include your parents’ healthcare provider. Encourage your parents to be active participants in the decision making, as much as they are able. Finally, keep in mind that there are no right or wrong solutions. Everyone’s retirement is different, and different living options appeal to, and are suitable for, different people. One of the best ways to begin is to evaluate your parents’ basic self-care tasks, known as ‘Activities of Daily Living’ or ADLs, such as bathing, personal hygiene, dressing, and feeding oneself. If you’re starting to notice that any of these tasks are getting more difficult, make sure that the option you and your parents choose offers this type of assistance. Other questions to consider are: Can my parent keep track of their medical – and other – appointments? Can they manage their medication(s) on their own? Are they able to prepare meals on their own? Are they able to safely move around their living space on their own? Are they engaged in an active social life? If they are living alone, do they seem isolated or overwhelmed? What financial limitations do we have? The good news is that retirement living options have evolved leaps and bounds over the last few decades. There is a variety of choices that offer a range of personal and health care services, including: care for those who can no longer live independently but do not yet need or wish to move into a specialized facility; independent living communities, which offer a rich social life and daily activities; and care facilities that provide a continuum of care as your parents’ needs change over time, allowing them to stay in place as time passes. Here is an overview of the most common senior living options: Independent Living – This may be the right choice for parents who are able to live on their own, but who are looking for a social life and group activities. Residents live in their own apartments, but they can take advantage of services such as community meals, housekeeping and transportation to appointments and other events. Adult Day Care – This option will ensure that your parents receive care and companionship during the day in a safe, friendly environment. These centers usually operate during normal business hours, Monday through Friday. Some centers focus primarily on social interaction, some provide medical care, and some specialize in Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Home Healthcare – This option will allow your parent to remain in their own home while still receiving necessary medical attention. A nurse visits regularly to help with medication management and other medical needs. Homecare workers can also assist with meals, housekeeping and other tasks as often as needed. Assisted Living – Designed for seniors who can no longer live independently, assisted living facilities offer ongoing support with daily tasks such as the administration of medications, bathing, dressing and grooming. Residents have their own living space, with the added assurance that help is nearby. While assisted living facilities do not offer medical care, they are continuously staffed to provide help when needed. Extended Care – If your parent has a health condition that requires constant monitoring by medical personnel, this may be the choice for you. Many extended care facilities offer social activities, a beauty salon and restaurant-style dining. Rooms may be private or shared. Some extended care facilities also specialize in caring for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Regardless of the choice you make, keep in mind that you have an important role as your parent’s caregiver and advocate. Make sure you meet the staff who will be assisting your parent and learn about the daily schedule and other protocol. Help your parent settle in to their new home by decorating it with family photos and other familiar items from their previous home. Make an effort to meet their new neighbors and friends. Finally, frequent visits, and outings if possible, will help with the transition. Helping your parent move from the home they are familiar with can be a difficult and sometimes bittersweet experience – after many years, you are now the caregiver. It helps to keep in mind that the move is for your parent’s safety, security, health and well-being. There are many caregiver support groups that can help you along the way. A good place to start is with AARP’s Family Caregiving web page. Click here to learn more.