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Eye Center docs respond to needs of Ebola survivors * $15 million to support veteran care * New vaccine app * Energy savings at EUHM
barbara-rothbaum$15 million grant to support veteran care ready-vaxNew vaccine app for parents/providers sarah-peekLarge-scale energy savings at EUHM eric-sorscherIn brief
June 18, 2015

Eye Center doctors respond to needs of Ebola survivors


Emory ophthalmologists and physician-patient Ian Crozier with clinicians at ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo by Beth Fankhauser.

In April, an Emory Eye Center team led by Steven Yeh traveled to Liberia to help establish an eye clinic for Ebola survivors at ELWA Hospital in Monrovia.

The origin of their journey dates back to last fall, when Yeh, ophthalmology resident Jessica Shantha, and infectious disease specialist Jay Varkey treated physician Ian Crozier, one of four Emory Ebola survivors, for acute hypertensive anterior uveitis that progressed rapidly to sight-threatening panuveitis in his left eye.

When Crozier was discharged from Emory University Hospital in October, blood tests showed that he was free of the virus. But he still suffered from aftereffects, including joint and back pain, headaches, and hearing loss. He also experienced severe pain and fading vision in his left eye, which led him in December to the Emory Eye Center, where he came under the care of Yeh, a uveitis expert.

Wearing a protective gown, gloves, and mask, Yeh took a sample of Crozier's ocular fluid, which tested positive for Ebola.  

Crozier's recovery appeared uncertain at first. His left iris inexplicably turned from blue to green. Eventually, his symptoms subsided and his vision gradually returned, following treatment with corticosteroids and an experimental antiviral drug used for the first time in the U.S., the latter recommended by Varkey and the other physicians who had treated Crozier when he was hospitalized.

Emory ophthalmologists Hayek, Shantha, and Yeh with Fankhauser and Crozier. Photo by Beth Fankhauser.  

Crozier had contracted Ebola while caring for patients in Sierra Leone. His ongoing concern for Ebola survivors in West Africa, coupled with a request from physician-missionary John Fankhauser at ELWA Hospital to help survivors there with eye problems, led the Emory Eye Center to respond. In April, Crozier, Yeh, Shantha, and Brent Hayek, an oculoplastic and reconstructive surgeon, took donated equipment and medications and set up an eye clinic at ELWA.

In the course of a week, the Emory team evaluated about 100 Ebola survivors and taught Fankhauser and his staff how to check ocular vitals, including intraocular pressure, visual acuity, and peripheral vision. They also instructed them on how to assess and treat uveitis with steroid eye drops or oral steroids for more advanced cases. The Emory team found that the most common ocular complication in survivors was a spectrum of uveitis.

The team also met with Ministry of Health officials, local ophthalmologists, and mid-level ophthalmic providers to share their findings and recommend avoiding cataract surgery on Ebola survivors.

"Our goal was to establish a baseline about what was going on among Ebola survivors and what is needed to support them in terms of evaluation and treatment," Shantha says. "We offered a lot of reassurance to patients who did not have Ebola-related eye disease and instructed them on what symptoms to look for."

A lot of that reassurance came from Crozier, who took patients' histories, checked their vision and eye pressure, and dilated their eyes so the Eye Center physicians could examine them. "Dr. Crozier was able to connect with patients on a level that none of us could," says Shantha.

The Eye Center team is now considering possible next steps in West Africa.

"Experiences like Liberia change who you are and how you think about medical care," says Shantha. "The knowledge that this work can be translated into helping countless numbers of patients has affected all of us deeply," adds Yeh.—Pam Auchmutey

Watch a video of Ian Crozier talking about his experience with uveitis.

Grant supports Emory role in new care network for veterans

Barbara Rothbaum, a pioneer in virtual reality therapy, has specialized in PTSD research and treatment of service members for more than two decades.

The Emory Veterans Program, led by Barbara Rothbaum (psychiatry), has been selected by the Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) to participate in its new Warrior Care Network, which will connect wounded veterans and their families with individualized care for two of the most commonly experienced wounds from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Emory is one of four academic health centers selected and will receive more than $15 million to support its role in the network. Terms of the grant stipulate that each site will raise an additional $7.5 million over three years.

The Warrior Care Network will expand regional outpatient programs and develop two- to three-week intensive outpatient programs to provide care tailored to each wounded veteran and family member.

This program will ensure that wounded veterans who are eligible for network care will not be denied access to state-of-the-art care because of their geographic location or inability to pay. The treatment programs will integrate behavioral health care, rehabilitative medicine, wellness, nutrition, mindfulness training, and family support.

WWP and the individual network sites will recruit and educate wounded veterans about the resources available through the network, facilitate inter-facility collaboration, evaluate the effectiveness and scalability of the network, and coordinate services and share best practices in providing services to wounded veterans and family members across the country. The program is expected to serve thousands of veterans and family members over the next three years. Read more.

New vaccine app targeted to parents and providers

Saad Omer and Robert Bednarczyk  

Researchers from Rollins School of Public Health have developed a new mobile app called ReadyVax that contains up-to-date information about vaccines and vaccination. Saad Omer and Robert Bednarczyk led the project. The app, available on iTunes, provides regularly updated data on vaccine recommendations and vaccine safety. At each start-up, the latest information is downloaded to the user's version of ReadyVax. It also includes the ability to notify users in real time of important vaccine-related updates.

"We wanted to create a single, trusted, go-to vaccine resource," says Bednarczyk, lead developer for the app. "ReadyVax applies to routine vaccine use but is also a helpful resource in case of emergency."

Features of the app include the following:

- Recommendations for who should be vaccinated, recommended vaccine schedule, and safety profile for each vaccine

- Descriptions of diseases prevented by each vaccine

- Answers to frequently asked questions about vaccines and vaccine safety

- News alerts and updates about vaccine-preventable diseases and links to available resources

"We have designed the app to be used by both health care providers and users," says Omer. "Data presentation can be customized to suit individual information needs."

Development of the app was funded by the CDC through the Emory Preparedness and Emergency Response Research Center. Read more.

EUH Midtown achieves large-scale reductions in energy use

The hospital installed high-efficiency lighting in common areas, patient rooms, and the parking deck as well as devices for automated temperature control.

Emory University Hospital Midtown (EUHM) was featured recently in a Georgia Power publication for its ongoing success in reducing energy costs. EUHM has been a partner in the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge since 2012, with the goal of reducing energy and water use by 20% by 2020.

Sarah Peek  

"Audits of energy and water use helped us identify a number of ways to increase efficiency," says Sarah Peek, assistant director of facilities management at the hospital. Projects for the medical office tower, parking deck, and Peachtree Buildings 1 and 2 qualified for rebates from Georgia Power and offered paybacks in a relatively short time, she says.

"We also made operational changes," says Peek. "We see more than 6,000 visitors a day, all of whom affect our energy consumption in some way. But we were operating 24/7 as if this total number of people were occupying spaces all the time, even though at night things slow down. We investigated occupancy scheduling to determine what made more sense in terms of temperature control." Making simple changes, such as raising set points and taking greater control over building systems through automation and programming, helped drive energy costs down, she says.

The hospital's installation of variable frequency drives on chillers in the medical office tower qualified for $3,000 in incentives from Georgia Power and paid for itself in a year. Replacement of more than 500 lighting fixtures in the parking deck earned rebates of more than $9,400, helping reduce payback on that project to less than two years. Lighting upgrades in other areas qualified for rebates as well.

"Reducing our energy consumption helps us be a good neighbor and allows us to focus more resources on our main mission of helping our patients," says Peek.

From the Executive VP

WLA fellows analyze service, function, innovation

Wright Caughman

Each May, as the culmination of their semester-long program, fellows in the Woodruff Leadership Academy present a team project to Woodruff board members, deans, VPs, and other WHSC leadership, identifying specific opportunities to advance the WHSC's mission.

Following are downloadable executive summaries of each of three team projects of the Class of 2015:

1. LinkEmory analyzes ways to exploit video conferencing as a substitute for in-person meetings, estimating savings of $1 million per year if 25% of in-person meetings requiring off-site travel were shifted to this alternative.

2. At Your Service looks at how to create and sustain effective, patient-centered service lines across the entire WHSC.

3. Innovate Emory proposes a platform for inspiring, collecting, evaluating, rewarding, and disseminating ideas for disruptive innovation with broad application.

Congratulations and thanks to these teams for their time, energy, and thought in contributing ideas with real potential to enhance both culture and strategy throughout the WHSC. 

Please direct questions and comments to evphafeedback@emory.edu.


In Brief

New GRA Eminent Scholar in CF


Eric Sorscher has been named a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Hertz Professor in Cystic Fibrosis Research, a position sponsored jointly by Emory, Children's, and the GRA. Sorscher will help develop a program focused on new drugs for CF patients. Read more.

$6.5 million for brain tumor research

Ravi Bellamkonda

A research team from Emory, Georgia Tech, and Children's received $6.5 million from the Marcus Foundation to accelerate development of a "tumor monorail" device to treat brain tumors. Led by Ravi Bellamkonda, chair of biomedical engineering, the team has shown that the device can reduce tumor load in rodent brain by guiding tumors to grow into a specially designed "gel sink." This grant will enable researchers to move this technology into clinical trials. Read more.

Nursing receives new grant for VA care

Phyllis Wright

The nursing school is one of six nursing schools nationwide selected for the VA Nursing Academic Partnership for Graduate Education, which will provide $2.9 million to fund five additional faculty positions and increase Emory's adult/gerontology NP program by 32 students over five years. Phyllis Wright will coordinate the program. Read more. This grant, to fund graduate students, follows a similar grant of $4 million in 2013 to increase Emory's undergraduate nursing class by 100 students over five years and fund 10 additional faculty positions.

PCORI grant for sex chromosome research


Sharron Close (nursing) received a $230,000 PCORI grant to develop recommendations for symptom management and lifestyle interventions for patients and families battling sex chromosome aneuploidy, the most common chromosomal abnormality in humans. Read more.



Mary Beth Allen, VP for human resources in Emory Healthcare, has been named the new chief HR officer for EHC, effective July 1.


Peter H'Doubler received the annual E. Napier "Buck" Burson Physician Award of Distinction, Emory Saint Joseph Hospital's highest honor for physician service.

Marin and Evans

Nursing faculty DIan Dowling Evans and Terri Marin are 2015 fellows in the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. MaryJane Lewitt is a 2015 fellow in the American College of Nurse-Midwives. Ann Rogers received the Pioneering Spirit Award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.


Alex Isakov (CEPAR) received the Zeb L. Burrell Distinguished Service Award for contributions to enhance pre-hospital emergency medical care from the Georgia Association of Emergency Medical Services.


Clinician-researcher Paul Spearman is president-elect of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.



Oct. 3: 5th annual Winship Win the Fight 5K. Atlanta Braves president John Schuerholz is grand marshal. More info.


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