Cancer and comedy: Local filmmaker explores the importance of humor

By Matt Wastradowski

In the wake of his mother’s death from breast cancer, 21-year-old Ben Schorr discovered something: It seemed like everyone around him had their own cancer stories. What’s more, the people who shared those stories often added a dose of humor.

His improv comedy teacher at PSU, where Ben studies film and political science, joked about her diagnosis regularly. After his friend’s father had passed away after battling cancer, that friend – the “class clown,” according to Ben – dealt with the loss through humor. It was this ability to laugh in the face of cancer that inspired his latest short documentary, “Cancer and Comedy,” which features an interview with Brian Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.

Ben’s mother was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia when he was about 3 years old. She was part of the Gleevec clinical trials, and she lived a relatively normal life for the next 14 years. Ben’s mother was later diagnosed with breast cancer, however, and passed away in August.

“I still feel very lucky,” Ben said. “Because of Dr. Druker’s work, I had those 14 years. I like to look at it as if I’m lucky.”

Ben took improv comedy classes a year ago to cope while his mother’s health was declining; he found out about his teacher’s diagnosis after the class ended and admired her sense of humor about the situation. It reminded Ben of the times he would joke with his own mother about her diagnosis and how frequently others he knew turned to humor in the face of the disease.

This unusual juxtaposition of bleak cancer diagnoses and humor seemed like prime fodder for a potential documentary.

“It feels a little bit less explored,” Ben said.

He visited OHSU in September to interview Dr. Druker about the importance of humor in a field that can be rife with bad news and sad outcomes. Ben quizzed Dr. Druker about his own sense of humor, what he finds funny, how he uses humor to cope and whether humor can change how people feel.

“It was interesting, seeing him from that perspective,” Ben said. “He was a very warm, nice guy. He was exactly the person my mom described, and I understand why she looked up to him so much.”

You can watch “Cancer and Comedy” on YouTube here.

Holiday parties that don’t pack on pounds

With Thanksgiving upon us, it seems everyone’s focus has shifted to food—giant meals, potlucks, and holiday parties abound. Don’t let holiday parties become a source of stress this year! With the following tips, you can stay social and stay on track with a healthy diet this season.

Tip 1. When you’re gearing up for Thanksgiving dinner or an evening holiday party, don’t skip meals throughout the day. If you show up starving, it will be very hard to make good choices and maintain small portions. Have a light protein- and fiber-containing meal or snack an hour or two before the event.

Some good snacks include:

  • Plain Greek yogurt with berries
  • Hummus with veggies
  • Hard-boiled egg with whole-grain crackers

Tip 2. If you’re attending a potluck, bring a dish that you know fits in your meal plan – then you can be certain there will be at least one healthy food choice available. For buffets, scope out the spread before you start filling your plate. This way you can decide on the foods you definitely want and skip the ones you don’t.

Tip 3. Use a small plate instead of a dinner plate to help with portion control, and avoid alcohol and liquid calories such as soda, punch, and eggnog. Not only do these empty calories add up quickly, but alcohol can lower your inhibitions, making you more likely to choose higher-fat foods and sweets that you would normally avoid. Stay hydrated by drinking 64 ounces of calorie-free fluids such as water or herbal tea every day.

Tip 4. Don’t forget to keep practicing mindful eating throughout the holiday season to prevent mindless eating from sneaking in. Ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” If the answer is “no,” don’t eat it! Try to recognize what is actually driving you to eat – stress, habit, tradition, fatigue, depression, happiness, etc.—and find a different outlet for dealing with those emotions. To prevent mindless eating at parties, sit down and focus on eating your food instead of standing and chatting while you eat.

Tip 5. Finally, don’t forget to enjoy yourself! Take some time this holiday season to reflect on the healthy habits you have formed and maintained over the past year. Be grateful for the blessings in your life and start thinking about what you want to accomplish in 2015.

Happy Thanksgiving!

***

Tracy Severson is an outpatient clinical dietitian at OHSU. She moved to Portland from Tucson in 2010, and has worked at OHSU since 2011. Tracy works with the OHSU Surgical Weight Reduction clinic and Cardiac Rehab program, and also provides medical nutrition therapy for General Adult Outpatient Clinics at OHSU.

Tips for staying safe in winter sports

Winter is coming.
The rain is falling in town and we all know that means snow is falling in the mountains! Time to get ready for the snow season.

Take a moment to consider some basics of winter sports safety from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) before heading to the mountains this season.

1. Helmet use

Ski helmet with goggles

  •  The National Ski Patrol recommends wearing a helmet while skiing or snowboarding.
  • Safety and conscientious skiing and riding should be considered the most important factors to injury prevent, while helmets provide a second line of defense against head injuries.
  • Studies show that helmets offer considerably less protection for serious head injury to snow riders traveling more than 12-14 mph.

 

2. Sledding

  • All participants should sit in a forward-facing position, steering with their feet or a rope tied to the steering handles of the sled. No one should sled headfirst down a slope.
  • Do not sit/slide on plastic sheets or other materials that can be pierced by objects on the ground. Use a sled with runners and a steering mechanism, which is safer than toboggans or snow disks.
  • Avoid slopes that end in a street, gravel road, drop off, parking lot, river or pond. Make sure people at the bottom have cleared the slope path before allowing another sled to go down.

3. Snowboarding and skiing

  • Warm-up the muscles that will be used in skiing with exercise activities to help prevent injury such as knee lifts, heel raises, abdominal twists and squats. When done, take a few minutes to stretch out your muscles.
  • Use proper ski and snowboard equipment such as properly fitting boots and adjusted bindings that attach the boots to the skis/snowboard. Bindings should only be set by a certified technician to help prevent injuries during a fall.
  • Participants should ski on trails within his or her skill level.
  • Obey trail closure and other warning signs. Do not go off-trail.

4. Prepare in advance

  • Think ahead and participate in preseason conditioning activities.
  • Know your limits, terrain and conditions. Use well-lit areas when choosing evening activities.
  • Ski or ride with a partner.
  • Understand sport requirements and equipment maintenance.
  • Know the skill level required for your location.

 

 

5. Dress for Winter

  • Stay dry by using ‘wicking’ (polyester) materials against skin.
  • Layer clothing to increase warmth.
  • Use protective devices such as a helmet, wrist and knee braces, and poles.

 

 

 

6. Nutrition

  • Properly fuel before your activity.
  • Bring portable snacks like granola bars and apples.
  • Take breaks to eat and drink before hunger or thirst hits.

 

 

 

 

It’s important to stay safe and be prepared. Parents or adults should supervise young children during all winter downhill slope sports activities at all times. Individuals with pre-existing neurological problems may be at higher risk for injury. If you have pre-existing condition you should talk to your doctor before participating in these activities.

Learn more about how to prevent winter sports injuries from The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. 

***

 

Ryan Petering. M.D. specializes in Sports Medicine and Family Medicine. He also has special interest in Pediatric Care, Primary Care Sports Medicine, Recreational Athletes, and Wilderness Medicine.

Register for the Portland Metro HeartMap Challenge

Did you know? Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere and at any age.

An automated external defibrillator (AED) is the only effective treatment for restoring a regular heart rhythm during sudden cardiac arrest and is an easy to operate tool for anyone with little to no medical background.

Studies have shown that during a cardiac arrest if the victim receives defibrillation within three minutes, the chances of survival increase by as much as 25%!

There are more than 1.2 million AEDs in public places in the United States, and about 180,000 more are installed each year.  That’s great news, but it would be even better if 911 operators and members of the public could easily access a database of AED locations to get help for cardiac arrest victims faster.

That’s where the Portland Metro HeartMap Challenge comes in. Conducted by OHSU’s Department of Emergency Medicine, the Portland Metro HeartMap Challenge is a month-long community scavenger hunt encouraging citizens to map AEDs in the four metro area counties – Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties in Oregon and Clark County in Washington – so they can be found more quickly in an emergency.

The challenge runs November 15th to December 15th with registration now open, and we’re asking for your help to make it a success.

Register as a team or an individual and then report any AEDs you find in your community on the contest website for a chance to win cash prizes. We want to map them all in our database so make sure to report AEDs at your place of work, where you shop, in public buildings, at the airport, or anywhere you see them in the community. A $10,000 grand prize will be awarded to the individual or team that identifies the most unique AEDs!

And most importantly you will be helping to make your community safer by locating AEDs and raising awareness that anyone can use one safely. To participate—and for the complete set of rules—visit the Portland Metro HeartMap Challenge website.

***

 

Mohamud Daya, M.D., M.S. is an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at OHSU. His specialty is emergency medical care with a focus on out-of-hospital care.

National Nurse Practitioner Week is November 9-14

It’s National Nurse Practitioner Week, a time to celebrate these exceptional health care providers!

What is a Nurse Practitioner?
A Nurse Practitioner (NP) is an advanced practice nurse with master’s, post-master’s, or doctoral level education. The NP is a health care provider who delivers direct primary or specialty care to patients and families in a variety of settings. They provide high quality, cost-effective care that results in a high level of patient satisfaction.

Nurse practitioners are informed, in touch and involved, making them the health care providers of choice for millions and a solution to the primary care crisis in America. 

How can I support our Nurse Practitioners?
If you are visiting one of our clinics, be sure to thank them for their hard work! It is also important to remind lawmakers of the importance of removing outdated barriers to practice so that NP’s are allowed to practice to the full extent of their experience and education.

How do I become a Nurse Practitioner?
Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing has numerous nurse practitioner full-time faculty and clinical preceptors across the state. They deliver skilled and up-to-date instruction based on their experiences in a variety of clinical specialties and facilities.

For each of the specialties listed above, you can enter with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and exit with a master of nursing degree. For all of these specialties you can also enter with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and exit with the doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree.

Applicants with an existing advanced practice license can achieve a post-master’s certificate in nurse-midwifery, psychiatric mental health or family nurse practice.

For more information, contact us at proginfo@ohsu.edu

***

 

Christi Richardson is the Web and Communications Specialist for the OHSU School of Nursing. She manages the School’s newsletter, maintains the website and manages all social media and communications.

 

Melanoma event to spotlight latest research and survivor stories

By Matt Wastradowski

Shon Ramey began his seven-year fight against skin cancer in 2007, when he was first diagnosed with melanoma. Growing up in Washington State, he never used sunscreen and admitted that his goal was to get tan as fast as possible. But after four surgeries in seven years, he understands more than ever the importance of proper skin care and remaining vigilant about the dangers of melanoma.

Ramey will be one of three featured panelists at the Melanoma Care Update and Patient Dialogue on Nov. 15, 2014. He discussed his experience with 96,000 Square Miles and stressed the importance of raising awareness about the deadly disease.

What have you learned about melanoma that has surprised you?

I’ve lived in Texas and in the Middle East, so I was surprised by the prevalence of melanoma in Oregon when I moved here in 2013. Oregon has the fifth highest rate of new melanoma cases in the nation, and scientists are unsure why.

I learned the importance of wearing appropriate clothing and applying sunscreen of 30-50 SPF regularly year-round. Even when the sun comes out on wintry days, it can do serious damage if we’re not careful.

You joined the Melanoma Community Registry, which formed earlier this year to bring together patients, friends and family to help researchers take on melanoma. What made you decide to join?

The medical establishment is getting better at keeping us alive, but there’s not always a focus on how to live—and rightly so. The registry creates this pool of meaningful resources for others dealing with melanoma, and we can help each other out. Every survivor’s story is unique, but there’s also a commonality; we can share those experiences and help others.

I don’t want to be defined as a survivor, but I have a cache of experience that I think will help other people in the same or similar situations. It’s not the highest and best use for people with medical degrees, but we all have a bachelor’s degree in cancer survivorship; how can we become a resource?

What do you hope attendees learn from your panel discussion?

Registration is now open for the Melanoma Care Update and Patient Dialogue. The free event is from 8 a.m. to noon Nov. 15 at the Vey Auditorium in OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

It’s important to learn about the latest melanoma research from the experts, but it helps to hear stories from patients who have gone through it themselves.  I’m excited by the research happening and the enthusiasm generated by the registry so far, and I want to share that.

Shon Ramey, 53, is a father of two working for NAVEX Global, a software company in Lake Oswego.

Don’t be scared by Halloween treats!

The holiday season seems to get longer every year, with sweets, shopping, and stress threatening to derail your healthy lifestyle habits from Halloween to Valentine’s Day!

Hopefully you’re already following these tips to minimize temptations at home, but how do you deal with treats that show up at the office?

Follow these tips to help stay on track when Halloween candy begins making its spooky appearance this month.

1. Make a plan: If you don’t already, begin planning your meals and snacks for the week. Life gets extra busy during the holidays, so make good use of slow cookers, leftovers, and low-fat frozen entrées to help stop you from eating out or skipping meals. Have a long day coming up at work? That’s a perfect time to toss ingredients in the slow cooker before you leave in the morning!

2. Bring supplies: Now that you have a plan, make sure you’re bringing lunch and snacks to work each day. When the cupcakes call your name, it will be much easier to resist the temptation if you have healthy foods on hand. Stock up on protein- and fiber-filled snacks to help stop the sugar cravings, such as:

  • String cheese and fruit
  • Hummus and veggies
  • Trail mix or nuts (pre-portioned into ¼ cup servings)
  • Edamame
  • Low-fat Greek yogurt
  • Apple slices or celery sticks with 2 tablespoons peanut butter

3. Pay attention: Start tracking everything that goes in your mouth with a food log app such as MyFitnessPal. No smart phone? Pen and paper work just as well! It’s much easier to stay on track if you see the evidence of the candy!

4. Drink up! Stay hydrated with 64 ounces of calorie-free, caffeine-free fluids every day. Your body may mistake thirst for hunger, leading to unnecessary snacking.

The Halloween Candy Buy Back program is going on again this year and is a great way to get leftover candy out of your house or office. Enter your zip code on their website to find a participating dentist office to “buy” your leftover Halloween candy—your waistline (and teeth!) will thank you.

Another cool campaign happening this year is the Food Allergy Research & Education’s (FARE) Teal Pumpkin Project, which aims to help make Halloween more inclusive for kids with food allergies. To participate, simply have non-food treats available for trick-or-treaters, such as spider rings, bubbles, or glow sticks. Paint a pumpkin teal or print and post a sign from FARE to indicate you are participating (teal is the color of food allergy awareness).

Happy Halloween!

***

Tracy Severson is an outpatient clinical dietitian at OHSU. She moved to Portland from Tucson in 2010, and has worked at OHSU since 2011. Tracy works with the OHSU Surgical Weight Reduction clinic and Cardiac Rehab program, and also provides medical nutrition therapy for General Adult Outpatient Clinics at OHSU.

OHSU Recognized as 2014 LGBT Healthcare Equality Leader

We are proud to share that for the fourth year in a row, Oregon Health & Science University has been recognized as a “Leader in LGBT Healthcare Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation, the educational arm of the country’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization. 

The findings were part of HRC Foundation’s Healthcare Equality Index 2014, a unique annual survey that encourages equal care for LGBT Americans and recognizes healthcare institutions doing the best work.

OHSU earned top marks in its commitment to equitable, inclusive care for LGBT patients and their families, who can face significant challenges in securing the quality health care and respect they deserve.

OHSU was one of a select group of 426 healthcare facilities nationwide – and one of only four in Oregon – to be named Leaders in LGBT Healthcare Equality.

OHSU is the largest employer in the Portland area that offers health coverage for employees and their dependents for care related to gender transition.

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion coordinates trainings and cultural competency lectures on patient-centered care.

OHSU Pride, the employee resource group for LGBTQ staff and their allies, promotes an inclusive workplace that provides opportunities for growth for all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

For more information about the Healthcare Equality Index 2014, or to download a free copy of the report, visit www.hrc.org/hei.

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Maileen Hamto is Communications Manager for the Center for Diversity & Inclusion, which leads and supports university-wide initiatives to create a culture of respect and inclusion for all people.

OHSU participating in Ebola drill Thursday, October 23

Although the odds of seeing a patient with Ebola virus here in Portland are low, OHSU continues to actively prepare for the possibility of a suspected or confirmed case.

On Thurday, Oct. 23, Multnomah County Emergency Medical Services will be running a full-scale practice drill, in collaboration with OHSU’s Emergency Department. The drill will include receiving, transporting and isolating someone roleplaying as a potentially infectious patient (an actor) from the Portland airport to OHSU.

The drill will take place from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., with ambulances, fire trucks and emergency and medical personnel in full protective gear on our Marquam Hill campus. Other hospitals will also be participating in drills with the MCEMS over the coming weeks.

Please remember, this is not a real Ebola patient, and this drill does not mean that OHSU has been designated as a hospital to receive Ebola patients.

We are working very hard to ensure that employees are protected while providing care for patients. If or when a patient with suspected Ebola virus disease is identified, we will deploy a highly trained and experienced team to care for the patient, thereby limiting exposure to others.

We are putting protocols in place to rapidly identify potentially infected individuals across OHSU, including the Emergency Department, inpatient services and clinics on and off campus.

Our multidisciplinary response plan allows us to provide the necessary medical care while minimizing the risk to health care workers and our community. We know from experience that good infection control practices can prevent the spread of viruses like Ebola.

OHSU has conducted tabletop emergency preparedness exercises and continues to participate in regional preparedness discussions with local, state and federal health officials, as well as peer hospitals and health systems citywide. Our collective goal is to ensure a collaborative, citywide response to Ebola virus.

Learn more:

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John Townes, M.D. is the Medical Director, Infection Prevention and Control at OHSU and Associate Professor of Medicine,
 Division of Infectious Diseases at OHSU and the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

Back to basics for women

In a recent National Institute of Health study on pain, nearly 1/3 of respondents listed low back pain as the most common type they experienced. Aside from being frustrating and costly to treat, back pain can also keep you from your favorite activities. Women, especially, can suffer in conjunction with other life events, including pregnancy and menopause.

So, how can women of all ages can benefit from easy ways to prevent or fight back pain?

In your teens: If it’s painful, stop. Pain can be a warning sign that you need to seek help. You don’t want something that happens in your teens to turn into a chronic injury lasting years.

Pregnant woman with backacheIn your 20s–40s: Pregnancy is an easy way women can injure their backs. Toward the end of pregnancy, ligaments and tendons loosen to help the birthing process. But that tightness is what helps prevent injury. Also, make sure to keep your core muscles tightened when you lift or carry a child.

50+: After menopause, estrogen production begins to wane, giving women a higher risk of conditions such as compression fractures. Try yoga or Pilates to keep core muscles strong and protect your back. If you garden, take breaks often: None of us are made to be hunched over for more than a few minutes, unless you’re a master yogi!

There is good news about back pain, though it may not seem that way when you’re going through it: It will often resolve on its own. Heat, ice, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, and over-the-counter pain medications — taken as directed — can help.

But there is some back pain that does need urgent care: See a doctor if your pain is so acute you can’t walk or turn your body, if you feel numbness or weakness, or if you lose control of your bladder or bowels.

A leader in the latest techniques and technology, the OHSU Spine Center treats every back and spine condition, with a wide range of treatments, including physical therapy, corticosteroid injections, acupuncture, surgery, and more. To make an appointment, visit www.ohsuhealth.com/spine.

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Grace Chen, M.D., joined the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine in 2004. Her primary clinical interests are in the non-surgical treatment of back pain, spinal pain that is not alleviated by surgery, and non-opioid treatment of pain.

 

 

OHSU Health Fair at Pioneer Square.

Why 96,000 Square Miles?

President Robertson is fond of saying that OHSU has a 96,000 square mile campus, serving Oregonians “from Enterprise to Coos Bay, from Portland to Klamath Falls.”

This blog aims to highlight that breadth. 96,000 Square Miles (96K for short) will focus on the people of OHSU, the Oregonians we serve and the ripple effect of our work in Oregon and beyond.

Read more

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