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$5 million to study children's health

Keeping an eye on Zika

Nursing students help in W Va flood

In brief

August 2, 2016

New hospital bridge-raising: long night's journey into day

The super-structure of the new two-story pedestrian bridge connecting the current and new buildings of Emory University Hospital went up over the weekend of July 22-24, beginning in the wee hours that Friday night. Clifton Road was able to be reopened by 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, 12 hours ahead of schedule, says David Pugh, Emory Healthcare VP for space planning and construction. View web cam time-lapse photos of this delicate operation as well as a documentary video and slide show.

David Pugh (second from left) enjoyed a front-row view of the bridge-raising, along with members of the communications staff.

$5 million NIH/EPA grant to study factors affecting health of African American moms and babies

Researchers in nursing, public health, medicine, and Emory College received $5 million from the NIH and EPA to create the Center for Children’s Health, the Environment, the Microbiome, and Metabolomics (C-CHEM2). C-CHEM2 researchers are studying interactions between toxicant exposures and the microbiome and their impact on birth outcomes, infant health, and neurodevelopment among African American mothers and babies in Atlanta.

Preterm birth occurs 1.5 times more frequently in African Americans than in Caucasians and is the leading cause of infant mortality in the African American population. Determining the role and function of the microbiome during pregnancy and subsequent newborn development may offer potential clues to new screening and intervention methods to prevent preterm births and adverse brain development.

One of 15 children’s environmental health centers in the nation and the only one in the Southeast, C-CHEM2 is the first such center to be based in a nursing school and to focus on the microbiome.

Nursing dean Linda McCauley and Barry Ryan (environmental health, RSPH) co-lead the center, which collaborates with the HERCULES exposome center in RSPH and involves researchers in nursing, public health, medicine, and psychology in three related projects.

Read more, and view a video about C-CHEM2.

Keeping an eye on Zika

Jessica Fairley, Henry Wu, and Phyllis Kozarsky

Jessica Fairley, an infectious disease specialist with the Emory TravelWell Center, follows news about Zika virus disease closely. She gave birth to her third child, daughter Avery, on July 25.

Since Zika was declared a public health emergency in February, Fairley and her TravelWell colleagues have advised individuals, employers, and Emory clinicians concerned about travel to and from Central and South America and the Caribbean, where Zika cases are prevalent.

As of July 27, the CDC reported 1,657 travel-associated cases of Zika in the United States, including 41 in Georgia. TravelWell director Henry Wu diagnosed four of those cases at the center, located at Emory University Hospital Midtown, in consultation with the Georgia Department of Public Health.

In addition to evaluating patients, Wu has worked with Emory GYN/OB physicians on procedures to test patients for the virus and is collaborating with colleagues in the Emory Vaccine Center's Hope Clinic to study the disease.

"For most people, the risk of complications is low," says Wu. "But it's the first disease to be linked to birth defects in 50 years. That's a big deal."

Two years ago, Wu developed protocols for possible Ebola patients who sought treatment at Emory facilities. When feasible, patients were directed to TravelWell, where strict steps were taken to minimize exposure to all patients and staff. The many patients screened by TravelWell for Ebola tested negative for the deadly virus.

Zika is a mild disease for most by comparison. Only 20% of people bitten by a mosquito carrying the virus develop symptoms—fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis—that last for a week. But Zika has been linked to Guillain-Barré syndrome and is worrisome for those expecting a baby or planning to conceive.

"We've gotten a lot of calls from women and men who have questions about sexual transmission of the virus and when it's safe to have sex or conceive, says TravelWell physician Phyllis Kozarsky. "Some have honeymoon plans in the Caribbean. Atlanta companies like Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines are sending employees to the Olympics (in August) and Paralympics (in September) in Rio. We tell them, 'Here's what you need to think about.' "

Fairley has counseled her share of travelers about Zika virus. "We ask them specific questions about their reproductive needs, if they're trying to conceive, or if they could possibly be pregnant," she says. "We make sure they are up to date on the guidelines and advice of the CDC as to when it's safe to have unprotected sex."

That makes Zika quite personal. "When Ebola happened, there were only a few cases in the U.S. Most cases occurred 'over there' in Africa," says Kozarsky. "Zika hits closer to home because of the potential to affect many families right here. People ask, ‘Why weren't we prepared for this?' The truth is we need better public health infrastructure to deal with emerging and re-emerging diseases so we can be better prepared."—Pam Auchmutey

A real-life clinical "immersion" experience in West Virginia

On the morning of June 23, Emory nursing students Phil Dillard and Abby Wetzel hit the road in Charleston, WVA, bound for the nearby Clendenin Health Center. Their drive had become routine during their two-week immersion with Cabin Creek Health Systems. Over the next 36 hours, they would assist Clendenin staff and patients in ways they never imagined.

Phil Dillard, Abby Wetzel  

Since 2010, Emory nursing students have traveled to West Virginia each summer to gain practical experience at the Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) operated by Cabin Creek to reach medically underserved patients. This year, seven advanced practice students took part, led by nursing faculty advisers Carolyn Clevenger and Debbie Gunter. Each day, the students fanned out to work at four FQHCs outside of Charleston, where they returned each night.

That morning, Dillard and Wetzel arrived as usual at the health center, housed in a handsome three-story brick building some 30 feet from the bank of the Elk River. By early afternoon, it started to rain.

"There was some conversation about the potential for flooding," says Dillard, an emergency NP student. "By mid-afternoon, we were just about to get all of the patients out and leave when all of a sudden, the flood just happened." The parking lot and street in front of the clinic were knee-deep in swift brown water.

Everyone at the health center, including the seniors living in basement and third-floor apartments, had to stay put. The clinic, on the main floor, was a safe place to be, with potable water, a kitchen and food, electricity, restrooms, and plenty of flashlights and working cell phones. "If you could pick where you wanted to be during the flood, that was it," says Wetzel, a student in the family NP–nurse-midwifery program.

By early evening, the rain subsided, and the water stopped rising. All was calm until 9:00 p.m., when rumor spread that the dam upriver might be opened to avoid a breach. Within the hour, water from the river rose and lapped at the sides of the building. It was time to evacuate the seniors from the basement, where water was already ankle deep.

As staff and students began knocking on apartment doors, the power went out. Armed with flashlights, everyone helped each senior up the stairs and outside into an all-terrain vehicle for a short stay at the fire station across the street. By midnight, the basement was flooded to the ceiling.

Around 7:00 a.m. the next day, Dillard awoke and looked out a window. The cars in front of the clinic—including Wetzel's—were submerged. The fire station and other town buildings were flooded 8 to 9 feet deep. The tops of stop signs were barely visible. "We realized we were going to be there a while," Wetzel says.

Come afternoon, the water receded quickly, leaving behind a sea of smelly mud littered with debris. Finally, word came around 5:00 p.m.—prepare to evacuate. Clinic staff and students rallied again, this time to help senior residents down from the third floor and onto a National Guard truck, which took them to a nearby church on higher ground. The students were among the last to leave at around 7:00 p.m.

Once at the church, Wetzel helped some of the medically fragile with their health needs, while Dillard helped others onto a truck bound for a high school in Charleston.

Around 9:00 that night, Dillard and Wetzel also were headed to Charleston, to their hotel, where they were greeted by a relieved Clevenger and five fellow nursing students and were able to enjoy hot showers, pizza, and salad. The students at the other Cabin Creek clinics had come through the flooding unscathed, thanks to less rainfall and gentler terrain at each facility.

"There was never any question that we should be the last to leave Clendenin," says Dillard. "We wanted to be there to help in any way possible."

"A lot of people in West Virginia face challenges that many of us can't fully relate to," adds Wetzel. "The best thing we can do as students is go on immersion trips like this one and just be humble and learn and take in everything we can. This trip was a reminder of how resilient people are when they have to be."—Pam Auchmutey

Watch a video about these students' experience.

Note: The week after the flood of June 24, the Clendenin Health Center set up two tent sites to fill prescriptions for lost medications and provide routine and urgent care for area residents. On July 13, the health center reopened in its three-story facility.

From the Executive VP

Premier destinations for health care

Jonathan S. Lewin

U.S. News & World Report released its 2016-2017 Best Hospitals list today, and our hospitals again ranked very well at the statewide and local levels.

Emory University Hospital is ranked the #1 hospital in Atlanta and #1 in Georgia, while Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital is ranked the #2 hospital in Atlanta and #2 in Georgia. Emory University Hospital Midtown is ranked the #5 hospital in Atlanta and #9 in Georgia. We also have six specialties that are ranked nationally.

I am excited that our hospitals continue to be viewed as premier destinations for health care. As we do every year, we will be carefully studying the changes in the U.S. News ranking methodology to see what we can learn about opportunities to improve our performance in the future.

Meanwhile, I’m grateful to see the excellence, talent, and hard work of our patient care teams and the staff who support them receive this well deserved recognition.

In Brief

Art therapy for cancer patients

Art therapist Virginia Lago (above left) works with Winship patients at Emory Johns Creek Hospital to help them paint canvasses during their infusion treatments. Lago says her job is more than just art, but about connecting with patients. "It's about the love you give them and the bond you build." Read more.

New technology to observe rhesus monkeys

A team led by Yerkes psychologist Kim Wallen received $2.6 million from NIH to develop new technology to enhance behavioral observation and data collection of rhesus monkeys. Read more.

Toddler named for Emory

Toddler Emory Hammonds and his family reunited with nurses at Emory Johns Creek Hospital for a birthday celebration last month. Hammonds’ parents say they named their son after the hospital because of the incredible care they received from doctors, nurses, and staff two years ago, when Emory was born at 22 weeks' gestation. Read more.

Reacting to new evidence

David Howard

David Howard (health policy, public health) led a study published last month in Health Affairs that highlights how evidence from trials of untested but widely used treatments can change medical practice and help patients. The study results challenge the conventional wisdom that physicians are slow to react to new evidence. Read more.

New guidelines to treat/prevent HIV/AIDS

Carlos del Rio

A panel of experts convened by the International Antiviral Society-USA recently issued updated recommendations for the use of antiretroviral therapy in adults with HIV. Carlos del Rio (chair of global health), a member of the panel and chair of the HIV Medicine Association, was co-author of the report published last month in JAMA. Read more.

Top docs issue

More than half of the physicians recognized in the July issue of Atlanta magazine are Emory faculty or EHC network doctors. This year, 319 Emory physicians are on the list, making up 51% of doctors recognized. Read more.


Maria Aaron (ophthalmology) has been named associate dean for graduate medical education in the medical school.

Michael Davis has been appointed associate chair for graduate students in biomedical engineering.

Paula Frew (infectious diseases, medicine) received a grant from the National Vaccine Program Office for research to address parents' vaccine decision-making and develop education strategies. Read more.

Leon Haley (executive associate dean for clinical services at Grady Hospital and chief medical officer of the Emory Medical Care Foundation) is the new chair of the Essential Hospitals Institute. This is the research and quality arm of America's Essential Hospitals, whose board is now chaired by John Haupert (CEO, Grady Health System).

James Lavery has been named the first Hilton Chair in Global Health Ethics (public Health). Read more.

Taofeek Owonikoko (oncology) received an NCI Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership award. Read more.

Tristram Parslow (chair, pathology and laboratory medicine) is the new president of the Association of Pathology Chairs.


Aug. 4: Grand opening of new interfaith sanctuary, Emory Johns Creek Hospital, followed by panel discussion. 10 a.m.

Oct. 1: Sixth Annual Winship Win the Fight Walk/Run. 8:30 a.m., McDonough Field. Atlanta Braves Vice Chairman John Schuerholz will serve as grand marshal. Register.

Oct. 10-11: NETEC Emerging Infectious Disease Preparedness Training, Room 101, Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing.

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