From a local perspective

Charles Moore

Because of where they work and study, faculty, students, and employees in Emory’s Woodruff Health Sciences Center are at a particularly good vantage point to see unmet needs in the community. As clinicians or scientists seeking answers day in and day out to perplexing health problems, they could say to themselves that they are doing enough. But for many, the same desire that drew them to health care or research in the first place is one that compels them always to seek to do more.

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Creating a free clinic

Safe haven for abuse victims

Learning from and giving to the elderly

Immersing kids in science

Caring for farmworkers

Experiential math

Making a habit of volunteering

Responding to H1N1

Protecting pregnant workers

Easier access to clinical trials

Opening doors with science

Creating a free clinic: As chief of ear, nose, and throat at Grady Hospital, Emory physician Charles Moore (above) saw too many patients with previously undiagnosed late-stage head and neck cancer. A man of action as well as heart, he chose the three zip codes with the highest percentage of these cases and used his free time to offer education and health screening in churches and homeless shelters.

He also packed the modern-day equivalent of a black bag and began offering basic clinical services out of the back of his old Subaru. His residents offered to help, as did Emory colleagues. The work grew so much that Medical Missions International provided money for a van and other organizations helped with free medicines and supplies.

Last year, Moore established the Healing Community Center, a clinic providing free primary care, cancer screenings, and mental health services at the City of Refuge, an Atlanta nonprofit operated by the Mission Church, with support from the Atlanta Housing Authority. Faculty and staff from the Emory’s schools of medicine and nursing volunteer long hours in the clinic, and those in Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health provide health counseling. Now, with support from United Way and a number of partners, including Grady Health Systems, MedShare, Emory University Hospital Midtown, The Emory Clinic, and local architects and engineers, Moore is working on a clinic expansion expected to quintuple patients served, to 5,000, its first year.

Grady CEO Michael Young says the clinic helps patients in need and also will save tens of thousands of dollars each year for Grady and other area hospitals.

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Thomas Price


Safe haven for abuse victims: Last year, DeKalb County prosecuted 40 cases of elder abuse. DeKalb County Solicitor General Robert James says this total doesn’t begin to reflect the real number of such cases in a county with one of the fastest-growing senior populations in the Southeast. He believes hundreds, maybe thousands of cases have been slipping through the cracks.

That is now changing. A new partnership between prosecutors and Emory Healthcare is the first in the nation that guarantees victims of elder abuse immediate help, shelter, and a way to preserve evidence for prosecution. In a comprehensive program called VALARI (vulnerable adults living at risk invisibly), first responders bring patients to Emory, where Thomas Price (above), chief of medicine at Wesley Woods Center, gives them an exam designed to determine whether they have been neglected or injured by their caretakers.

If so, Price and his staff work with police and the solicitor general’s office to prosecute the abuser. Victims are given beds at Wesley Woods Center, where they receive care until they find a permanent safe home. Beds and care are provided at no cost to the victim. The VALARI team works to restore the person’s financial and social status while the victim’s body and mind are healed at Wesley Woods.

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Corrine Abraham

Learning from and giving to the elderly: What students like the one at left in Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing learned last year while spending time in a diversely populated high-rise is likely to make them better nurses. What they did about their findings made life more pleasant for the aging residents.

Faculty member Corrine Abraham arranged for 13 juniors to spend time in a naturally occurring retirement community (NORC) in a high-rise apartment complex, where residents are 60% Russian immigrants, 30% Koreans, and about 10% African Americans.

Residents receive lots of help—this NORC is a partnership between the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, Atlanta Regional Commission, and the Atlanta Housing Authority, with funding from the Georgia Department of Human Resources and the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation. The diversity of their languages, religions, and cultures puts them at special risk, however.

When Abraham’s students conducted a needs assessment, the residents’ No. 1 concern was isolation and loneliness. One outcome of isolation is malnutrition, so the students prepared a nutrition assessment, translated into Russian and Korean, and carried it door to door. Based on this, the students then donated their own money to prepare food and invited everyone to share a meal together. The meal was so successful that the Jewish Federation and other supporters are now considering making it a regular event. The information obtained by the students also is being used by the Atlanta Housing Authority in development of new programs and services going forward.

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Beth Buffalo

Immersing kids in science: This past summer, Emory’s Yerkes National Primate Research Center hosted a number of students from six local high schools to work in different Yerkes labs under the tutelage of neuroscientists like Beth Buffalo (right). The students worked with researchers who were studying memory, emotional processing, changes in brain function in aging, transgenic models of learning mechanisms, and brain neuroimaging techniques. Four high school teachers also worked in the labs as a means of enriching the teaching curriculum for science programs at their schools.

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farmworkers

Caring for farmworkers: Crops start coming ripe in June in south Georgia, and seasonal farmworkers work long hours to harvest them. As they have for the past 15 years, Emory faculty and students spent two weeks in the rural area, setting up clinics to provide free health care to more than 1,700 workers. Until late in the night, the workers came—with hypertension, headaches, diabetes, respiratory infections, eye problems, and more. Many had never seen a health care provider before. For most, this is the only care they receive during the year.

This year, for the first time, physical therapy students joined the other teams from Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing and the physician assistant program in Emory’s medical school, helping with injuries common in strenuous farm work.

Because of the program’s impact on indigent patients and the community, it was selected as the beneficiary of this year’s national Physician Assistant Foundation campaign to promote literacy. The award brings money and hundreds of children’s books that the Emory faculty and students can use toward educating the farmworker families they serve each summer. (Photo by Jon Sofer)

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Claire Coles and Julie Kable

Experiential math: Historically, children with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) were considered unteachable. Such children have difficulties regulating their behavior and organizing themselves. Sitting still and paying attention for more than a few seconds may be hard. Add to that the visual and spatial deficiencies that characterize FAS, and math skills may seem beyond reach.

Not so, say educators in the Math Interactive Learning Experience (MILE) program developed by faculty members Claire Coles and Julie Kable (above) in Emory’s medical school. Children solve math problems while using a timer so they can see the passage of time, important since alcohol-affected children often have no concept of time. Parents and guardians also attend workshops, where they not only get help in controlling their child’s behavior but also learn to reinforce math skills through everyday situations such as counting sugar packets when eating out. What never happens is traditional drilling of math facts.

In one study, more than 55% of children in MILE improved in math, and more than 68% showed persistent improvement in learning and behavior. What’s most important, say the Emory faculty who developed MILE, is that the children experience success in a learning environment, become more open to learning, and achieve improved relationships with their parents.

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volunteering

Making a habit of volunteering: The fourth annual Rollinsteer Day took place in August, when incoming students at Rollins School of Public Health volunteered at various venues throughout Atlanta. This year, they worked at 19 sites, sprucing up the grounds at Jerusalem House for the homeless, assisting clients at the International Refugee Center, and painting homes for senior citizens. Many students and faculty continue such volunteer work throughout the year, working to help cultivate a community garden in Decatur, doing clean-up at a local urban farm, and assisting at Samaritan House, a support service to homeless people struggling with addiction issues, mental health concerns, and physical disabilities.

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Responding to H1N1: When H1N1 arrived last year, Emory emergency medicine specialists developed a web-based algorithm, SORT (strategy for off-site rapid triage), to help manage the surge of people who could quickly overload an already strained health care system in the event of a moderate to severe pandemic. Microsoft hosts the site (http://h1n1responsecenter.com), and the CDC and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services use lightly modified versions on their own sites.

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Linda McCauley with preganant worker

Protecting pregnant workers: Many female farmworkers have no choice but to continue working while pregnant, often with little awareness of how exposure to occupational hazards like extreme heat and pesticides or long periods of standing may be affecting their health and that of their unborn baby. Linda McCauley, dean of Emory’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing, wants to change that. With a CDC grant, McCauley is examining how these women perceive their risks and is developing culturally and linguistically appropriate materials about protective behaviors to decrease the impact of these risks during pregnancy. Co-investigator Maureen Kelly is developing strategies to improve these women’s access to prenatal care. (Photo by Jon Sofer)

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Easier access to clinical trials

Easier access to clinical trials: Emory is one of 51 institutions participating in a new, free website, researchmatch.org, sponsored by the NIH’s National Center for Research Resources to help match people interested in participating in clinical research studies with appropriate available trials.

Emory also expanded its own clinical trial resources in cancer, with the Winship Cancer Institute’s opening of a new unit dedicated to phase I clinical trials, the “first-in-human” studies conducted to determine safety of new drugs as well as optimal doses. The unit was developed through collaboration with the Georgia Cancer Coalition and Georgia Center of Oncology Research and Education. Community oncologists had expressed strong interest in having such a unit at Emory, and Winship considers it a resource for the entire state.

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science class

Opening doors with science: Sixteen years ago, as part of Emory’s ongoing efforts to encourage a more diverse physician and research workforce, Robert Lee, director of multicultural student affairs in the medical school, established a summer science academy designed for Atlanta high school students from minority backgrounds. For two weeks each year, these students participate in lectures, labs, and field experiences in anatomy, neuroscience, genetics, environmental biology, and interactive cases designed to teach preventive medicine. Working with Emory medical faculty and students who volunteer as counselors and teachers, the youngsters learn about the possibilities of careers in health care or research. The first class, back in 1994, had eight students; the 2010 program had more than 100.

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