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 Feature Profiles

Physician Spotlight: Dr. Kenneth S. Robinson
If ever a life represented a circle, it would be that of the Reverend Kenneth S. Robinson, MD, the current Commissioner of the Department of Health for the State of Tennessee. Born in Nashville at Hubbard Hospital, Robinson tells an extraordinary story that parallels his accomplished career as a physician, educator, and now as the state's chief health officer. "I was born premature and was predicted not to survive. Much of my childhood and adolescence was spent being nursed back to health." Robinson was born in 1954 into an era of Southern segregation … born just two weeks after Brown v. Board of Education. His formative years would greatly impact both his professional and his personal life. "One of my caretakers was Dr. E. Perry Crump, the first African-American board certified, NIH-trained allergist. I didn't know it at the time, but he was just part of that cocoon of care that I received at Meharry," says Robinson.
by Karen Ott Mayer

 Nashville Archives

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Researchers Link Hospital IT Investments to Better Returns
As hospitals and physicians have steadily upped the ante on their investments in healthcare IT, there's always been a nagging doubt about just how much real value they were gaining in the transaction. True, a host of reports could point to the link between cutting edge technology and better care and improved patient safety, but the providers never really knew what – if any – hard financial return on investment was being achieved. The absence of a demonstrable bottom line has proven to be a consistent deterrent for some providers still sitting on the IT fence. But a group of researchers feel that by looking at the numbers of a large lineup of hospitals in one region, they have helped expose the silver lining that is attached to the IT budget.
By John Carroll

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Balloon Procedure Offers Hope for Sinusitis Sufferers
Think of it like a heart angioplasty, but it uses a balloon to open up sinus passages rather than a coronary artery. That's how Dr. Jack Coleman, a Murfreesboro ear, nose and throat physician, describes Balloon Sinuplasty™, the newest procedure to help patients who suffer from sinusitis. The first Tennessee otolaryngologist to learn Balloon Sinuplasty, Coleman has performed more than 25 of the operations at StoneCrest Medical Center in Smyrna. Approved about a year ago by the FDA, the sinuplasty technology was developed by Acclarent, Inc., a privately held medical device company based in California. That's where Coleman went for his hands-on training. Today, three other Murfreesboro ENTs are also trained for the procedure.
By Sharon H. Fitzgerald

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Dr. Christopher E. Harris, a pediatrician at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital.
Secondhand Smoke Prompts Grim Results In Children, Especially Asthmatics
Classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a known cause of lung cancer, secondhand smoke is a health danger to anyone exposed. But for the 15 million young children who inhale environmental tobacco smoke in America each year, the consequences may be even more dire. Dr. Christopher E. Harris, a pediatrician at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital and an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine, says most children average six to nine colds per year. However, if secondhand smoke is in the picture, that average rises to between 12 and 18 colds. "At six to nine colds, it may seem indeed that your child is always sick," he says. "But at 12 to 18 colds, your child really is sick all the time." In fact, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, secondhand smoke causes 300,000 cases of pneumonia and bronchitis in children every year. What's more, an EPA study revealed that children who are exposed to secondhand smoke are more likely to develop asthma and allergies.
By Sharon H. Fitzgerald

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Dr. Brian A. Smart, allergist at the Asthma and Allergy Center of DuPage Medical Group.
Allergy Academy Defines Sinusitis and Its Treatment
Just reading the litany of symptoms is enough to make you sick – stuffy nose, post-nasal drainage, discolored mucus from the nose, facial pain and pressure, a toothache, cough, loss of smell, bad breath, headache and fatigue. Those are most, though not all, the woes caused by sinusitis, one of the most often diagnosed diseases in the United States. But when physicians diagnose sinusitis, are they all singing from the same page of the hymnal? Not necessarily, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. That's why the academy late last year released an updated practice parameter with an agreed-upon definition of sinusitis and new recommendations for diagnosis and management of the disease.
By Sharon H. Fitzgerald

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Dr. Stephen McGeady, an allergist at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
Nuts Still Top the List of American Food Allergens
When Canadian coroner Michel Miron announced last month that the death of a 15-year-old Quebec girl allergic to peanuts was not the result of kissing her boyfriend, who earlier had eaten a peanut snack, Miron said he hoped to quell the "phobia" surrounding the tragic incident. Indeed, the worldwide media coverage surrounding Christina Desforges' November 2005 death, probably due to her asthma, illustrated how much medical science still does not know about food allergies – and how much the general public fears unpredictable allergic reactions. Food allergy symptoms can "unfortunately be quite variable," says Dr. Frank Virant, an allergist with Northwestern Asthma & Allergy Center in Seattle, Wash. They can range from a little redness and irritation around the mouth to a swelling of the mouth and throat, vomiting and diarrhea, hives, wheezing, a rapid drop in blood pressure and even death.
By Sharon H. Fitzgerald

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ACP President Dr. C. Anderson Hedberg, FACP
ACP Warns of Pending Primary Care Crisis
Each year the American College of Physicians holds a media conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Typically, the organization covers a variety of topics pertaining to internal medicine. But not this year. "We made this a single-issue press conference … it's a crisis," says ACP President Dr. C. Anderson Hedberg, FACP, of the growing concern over the future of primary care practitioners. Currently, says the board-certified internist, the organization's membership is split about 50/50 between general internists and those in subspecialties. However, those percentages are not expected to hold up in the future. Hedberg says long hours and low reimbursement rates in the field of general internal medicine are driving young doctors toward specialties. "The number of medical students choosing primary care internal medicine has dropped dramatically," Hedberg states. "In 1998, approximately 54 percent of our internal medicine residents chose that track. By 2005, it had dropped to 13 percent."
by Cindy Sanders with Ted Griggs

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To URL or Not to URL
The Internet is rewriting the rules of business in almost every industry. Healthcare is no exception. Primary care givers, doctors and nurses, however, have been slow to adapt to the new reality, perhaps assuming that a Web site is not a necessity for great patient care. Doctors and nursing provide hands-on services, of course, but a major part of the job is communication. For some patients, it's the only service. However in many medical practices, time to communicate is at a premium. And for a growing number of people, the Web is rapidly becoming their prime source of information. In other words, if patients don't get it from the source, they'll likely go to the Web. So, despite the title of this article, for doctors and nurses, it's not a question of whether, but of when.
by Richard W. Oliver

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Jennifer Miller
Desperately Seeking Simplicity
It's the very first step in the reimbursement food chain … being credentialed by public and private payers. Unfortunately, it is also a step rife with complexity, redundancy and sometimes seemingly endless delays. Jennifer Miller, JD, external relations liaison in the government affairs division of the Medical Group Management Association, says there are two key issues tied to credentialing: 1) the timeliness of the process and 2) the administrative burden. MGMA has recently joined forces with the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Health Information Management Association to form the Healthcare Administrative Simplification Coalition. As a group, HASC is looking at a number of issues that needlessly complicate the practice of medicine.
By Cindy Sanders

Technology Innovation Conference Examines Healthcare Advances and Needs
Healthcare information technology – or, rather, the need for improved HIT – was a focus of the second annual Technology Innovation Conference sponsored by the Nashville Technology Council. The March 15 event in downtown Nashville featured several speakers, including one who cited a quote by Dr. Robert Pearl, CEO of Permanente Medical Group, that appeared last month in The Wall Street Journal: "Medicine is not behind by a decade. It is a century behind applying technology effectively." Ouch! Yet the Nashville conference certainly left room for optimism, as experts reviewed innovations and the processes necessary to introduce today's technological advances into medicine's complex delivery structure.
By Sharon H. Fitzgerald