Healing the healer: OHSU Doernbecher physician-in-training launches “The Well Resident”

It is well-established that over the course of a doctor’s training, there is often not enough time in the day to do everything: cook, sleep, exercise, take care of patients, spend time with loved ones.

In medical school, you’re in the classroom learning how to apply knowledge from the medical textbooks to the less scripted stories of patients. In residency, you are in the hospital more often than in your own home. To find work-life balance through all of this is a challenge; however, it is essential.

To be able to practice medicine to the best of your ability, you must be happy. Despite the recent 80-hour workweek restriction for resident trainees, this is still a fine balancing act to achieve. The question becomes how to weave self-care and wellness into the busy hospital day.

Wellness has been a special passion of mine from early on. Prior to medical school, I completed graduate studies at Georgetown University on the connection between life stress and physical/emotional health, examining various healing modalities like meditation, yoga and guided relaxation. I was determined to make wellness not only a priority on my own journey to becoming a physician, but also an important part of the community in which I trained.

This became an even larger reality when I lost my brother to a terminal illness prior to starting medical school. I often found myself using various stress-reducing techniques and regular exercise to help me get through my biggest challenges. My fellow medical students also were eager to learn more about reducing stress in order to bring more clarity and calm to their busy lives and minds.

When I arrived at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital for my pediatric residency, I again was determined to create an opportunity for growth, health and balance in my own life, but also in the lives of fellow residents. I was determined to utilize the passion and brilliance of Portland’s wellness culture to support fellow residents.

After thoughtful discussions with OHSU faculty, Graduate Medical Education, the primary care residency programs, combined with the generosity of local Portland businesses and wellness practitioners, the first formal resident wellness curriculum is slated to begin summer 2014.

Called “The Well Resident,” the new curriculum will be offered to all the primary care residents: family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics. It will address essential wellness topics like sleep, yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction, cooking and food culture, nutrition and exercise. Speakers will include a sports nutritionist with experience working for the Portland Timbers and Trail Blazers, a local restaurant owner and chef, a well-known Portland-based yoga teacher, a faculty member from University of California San Francisco’s Osher Institute for Integrative Medicine, and a faculty member in the OHSU Department of Pediatrics who specializes in sleep medicine.

We hope each resident will leave the lectures inspired and empowered to find wellness in their own lives. Bob’s Red Mill and Nike are both generously providing take-home items for all the residents to support physician wellness. Lululemon Portland is hosting the opening kick-off event to bring wellness practitioners in the Portland community and resident physicians together in order to form important relationships for future collaborations to best serve our patients.

I am thrilled that the “The Well Resident” has been met with such support and enthusiasm by OHSU. Together, we are the first academic medical center to institute a formal wellness curriculum for primary care residents, which ultimately translates into the highest quality of patient care. In the context of larger health care reform and the new pressures being placed on doctors, this couldn’t be a better time to advocate and educate on self-care and nourishment while at work.

“The Well Resident” is truly the culmination of all of my interests and efforts prior to starting residency. To work and learn at OHSU is a privilege and an honor. I look forward to seeing the program grow to be implemented institutionwide in the near future.

Megan Furnari, M.D.
Resident in Pediatrics
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital

Let’s Get Healthy! Teaching children about healthy food choices

We’ve learned that good nutrition in early life is critical to children’s health as they grow up and as adults. There are simple steps you can take to help your children eat well:

  • Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; your children will follow your example.
  • Create games to teach your children about healthy foods.
  • Involve your children in cooking at home.
  • Grow a garden at home, or participate in a community garden.

You can also use the Let’s Get Healthy! epigenetics learning station to teach your middle-school and older children about how our choices change our health.

It turns out that genes aren’t a rigid blueprint for health. Our health is influenced by our genetics and epigenetics. Genetics refers to the DNA we get from our parents (our genome), while epigenetics describes the state of activity of our genes (our epigenome). The latter can be changed in our bodies by the things we are exposed to in the environment and the lifestyle choices that we make. It’s where nature meets nurture. Environmental stimuli, such as nutrition or stress, affect the activity of our genes and, consequently, our health. The effects can be passed down to offspring, shaping the health of future generations.

The Let’s Get Healthy! program at OHSU has developed an interactive game that helps kids, parents and teachers explore this brand new field of science. Tour three game levels about bees, mice and humans to learn about genetics and epigenetics.

In the fourth game level, create an avatar and twin-ize them. You’ll select your diet, sleep, air and stress levels to see how different your avatar and its twin become. Fast forward in time to see how your genomes remain the same, but your epigenomes become different. The game clearly demonstrates how our health can be changed by our everyday choices.

In addition to the game, the website has several printable handouts and tools that you’re welcome to use. Teachers, parents and others can also download free classroom lessons and activities about epigenetics.

By teaching our children about how the choices we make matter to our health, we can help make sure that they and their children grow up as healthy as possible.

Susan Bagby, M.D.
Chair, Community Education and Outreach Committee
OHSU Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness
Professor of Nephrology & Hypertension

Lisa Marriott, Ph.D.
Associate Director, Let’s Get Healthy!
Assistant Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine

Child abuse prevention: Be a force for good in a child’s life

Research on the subject of child abuse and neglect is more robust than ever. In 1974, the first federal legislation, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Actwas enacted. That year, three articles on child abuse and neglect were published in medical journals. In 2013, nearly 40 years later, more than 300 articles on the topic appeared in peer-reviewed journals.

Scientists are unravelling the undesirable effects of “toxic” stress on early brain development. Long-term health outcomes associated with adverse childhood experiences — obesity, hypertension, stroke, diabetes and depression — are now well-described in both adults and adolescents.

These discoveries are irrefutable evidence that prevention of child abuse and neglect can have measurable impact across the lifespan of a child. Furthermore, research has identified practices that can lower a child’s risk of abuse.

Breastfeeding, parent treatment for mental illness, and mothers’ high school graduation or the equivalent promotes infant attachment and parental resilience. Educating parents about early child development and normalcy of baby’s crying fosters confidence and competency, easing the adjustment to a new baby.

National campaigns, such as Pinwheels for Prevention, help raise awareness. Their magic lies in stimulating individual and organized grass roots efforts to support families and strengthen neighborhoods.

Catching sight of the pinwheels at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in the month of April affords an opportunity to reflect on the more than 9,500 children in Oregon who were victims of child maltreatment in 2012, and on how you might become part of the solution.

You might think you don’t know any children who are abused or neglected. But perhaps you do know a family that has fallen on hard times or a child who is bullied or appears isolated. It may even be a relative or a neighbor or your child’s teammate. Anything you or your community might do to buffer “toxic” stress, transforming it into a “tolerable” stress, will lessen the physiologic impact and alter the biochemistry.

A stable source of adult nurturance in a child’s life can foster resilience to many common disease outcomes in adulthood. Could compassion now impact the public health of future generations?

Be a force for good in a child’s life.

Tamara Grigsby, M.D.
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Program
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital



My child is constipated. What can I do?

Constipation is common, especially in children, and can be caused by changes such as toilet training, stress, travel illness or the start of school. If your child is frequently constipated:

1) Provide a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and fiber.

2) Be sure your child drinks enough liquids daily to turn the urine clear or light yellow.

3) Plan daily toilet-sitting time for at least 5 to 10 minutes to help get things moving.

4) Encourage children to exercise or be active at least 30 minutes to an hour daily.

You may also ask your provider about fiber supplements, stool softeners, and in rare cases, suppositories or enema treatments. Also talk to your provider if your child has painful bowel movements associated with bleeding, stomachache, poor appetite vomiting, stool or urine accidents, or a change in gait.

Janice Tendler, R.N., M.S., C.P.N.P.
Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Gastroenterology
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital


Talk to your kids about energy drinks

Energy drinks are a $12.5 billion dollar industry in the United States, and while the sale of soda continues to decrease, energy drink sales grew by 6.7 percent in 2013. Consumption is increasing among middle school and high school students, especially boys.

The increase is driven by powerful marketing machines that target advertising to teens and young adults in ways that didn’t exist 10 years ago — game systems, downloaded apps on personal phones, reading devices and social media. They also target traditional methods, such as TV, magazines and sports sponsorship, especially motor sports and extreme sports.

A recent study conducted in Canada involving more than 8,000 public high school students showed an alarming correlation; young people who drank energy drinks a few times a month were more likely to participate in substance abuse and risk seeking.

Most kids know energy drinks aren’t healthy. They know the drinks are full of empty calories and loaded with caffeine; a central nervous system stimulant. Yet, they drink them because as one freshman explained, “People think drinking them is cool, especially boys.”

Caffeine has stronger effects on young people than adults. It can cause rapid heart rate, transient hypertension, and headache. Young adults are mixing these drinks with alcohol or drugs and driving, and it has becoming a significant health problem.

To address this potential new “gateway drug,” parents need to talk with their children early on — well before middle school.

Share your opinion on energy drinks and health habits on a regular basis, when you still have your children’s attention and are influential. Teach them to respect their body. The best way to embed these values is to model them in your home and in the choices you make. Sprinkle in a few short but poignant news stories to demonstrate your point.

As they get older, talk to them about marketing and how it influences trends, especially in their age group. Make a game out of identifying the silliest or most clever advertising — use the old cigarette ads from the 70s as an example. Then look at the ads for drinks today, but beware — many have sexual amd violent themes. This would make for a very interesting high school project.

Talking about energy drinks is just the beginning. Tickle your children with little bits of information when they can’t escape, like in the car, on the bus, or better yet, while walking in the park. Listen carefully because they will share less and less as they get older, but often what is shared is important.

And what if you missed that influential window of opportunity? Be blunt. Be a parent. Set limits.

April Mitsch, M.S., R.D.
Instructor in Pediatrics
Feeding and Swallowing Disorders Clinic
OHSU Institute on Development and Disability
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital

Additional Resources:


Could your child have narcolepsy?

Victoria was 13 when she started experiencing unrelenting sleepiness. This was out of character for her and was confusing because she was getting the amount of sleep most kids her age need. She and her parents attributed the increased need for sleep to adolescence. They became much more concerned when she started falling to the ground unexpectedly.

She was assessed twice in the emergency room for this problem and admitted to the hospital after the second ER visit. The assessment for medical and neurologic causes of passing out (medical term is syncope) was negative, and the problem was attributed to stress.

Victoria was referred to a therapist but no stress was found outside of the stress of dealing with an undiagnosed medical problem. By the time she was referred to a psychiatrist, her “passing out” spells were increasingly associated with emotions such as laughter and joy.

The psychiatrist was suspicious of narcolepsy and referred her to the OHSU Doernbecher Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic where she was diagnosed with narcolepsy with cataplexy, which is loss of muscle tone associated with experiencing strong emotions, a phenomenon that occurs almost exclusively in patients with narcolepsy. The diagnosis involved taking a careful history, and overnight and daytime sleep studies.

Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder affecting 1 in 2,000 individuals. The onset typically occurs in adolescence, but there often is a delay in diagnosis. In the past, diagnosis sometimes took as long as 15 years. Fortunately, patients are now being diagnosed much sooner after symptoms appear.

Classic symptoms and signs of narcolepsy include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (falling asleep suddenly often causing embarrassment)
  • Cataplexy
  • Sleep paralysis, or waking in the morning without ability to move major muscle group
  • Experiencing hallucinations as one falls asleep, much like starting to dream before one is asleep

These symptoms are often scary for patients and cause problems at school and with friends and family

We now know that narcolepsy is a neurologic condition involving a relatively small cluster of neurons in the hypothalamus of the brain. These neurons make a neuropeptide, hypocretin, also knows as orexin, which is involved in positively affecting alertness. In narcolepsy, especially the type of narcolepsy involving cataplexy, these neurons stop functioning and hypocretin levels plummet. Scientists hypothesize that these neurons become nonfunctional due to an autoimmune process much like the process responsible for multiple sclerosis.

Fortunately, once recognized, narcolepsy can be effectively treated although not cured. Treatment includes education about the condition, scheduled naps and medications. Ongoing management by a sleep physician is indicated.

Since being accurately diagnosed, Victoria has taken charge of her illness, finishing high school, competing in cross-country running, and now succeeding in college.

Victoria shared her story with KGW-TV a couple of years ago.

Kyle Johnson, M.D.
Director, OHSU Doernbecher Pediatric Sleep Disorders Clinic
Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital

A note of thanks from 8-year-old former NICU patient Elle

Hi my name is Elle. I’m 8 years old and in the third grade. I was born in Silverton, Oregon, but was quickly taken to Doernbecher where I spent the first two weeks of my life in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

Since then I have spent many days at the hospital with 10 different surgeries and lots of doctor’s visits. I am happy that Doernbecher is my hospital because they do everything they can do make a difficult situation better.

My favorite things are weekly Bingo and the prize cart, the ice cream, and lots of visits from fun people … and sometimes pets! My team of doctors is great. They help me grow stronger and make my life better.

Dr. Myall is my favorite doctor. He has been with me since I was a baby and I was sad that he retired last year.

Because so many people have donated toys, movies and their time to make my hospital time better, I wanted to give back. I chose to have a lemonade stand and donate the money to Doernbecher.

Lots of people stopped by and shared their own special stories about their experiences with the hospital.

I am happy we raised $150 for Doernbecher.

When I grow up I want to be a veterinarian. I would like to take care of animals just like Doernbecher has taken care of me.

My time at the hospital is unfortunately not over with at least 12 more surgeries to go. But I am happy that I have the very best people taking care of me.

Thank you to all the wonderful doctors and nurses that have helped me!



Vancouver’s Trey Foote Foundation raises $12K for OHSU Doernbecher, Knight Cancer Challenge

Dr. Charles Keller; Lea Foote; Jim Foote; Olivia; Olivia’s dad, Todd

The International Air and Hospitality Academy recently sponsored the second annual Trey Foote Foundation fundraising dinner to support OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital — specifically Dr. Charles Keller’s Lab.

The event was a huge success with more than 100 people in attendance. Dr. Keller spoke about the advances his team and his fellow researchers from OHSU Doernbecher and the Knight Cancer Institute are making, but the true star of the night was Olivia.

Olivia is a 15-year-old young lady who is currently battling leukemia. She spoke to the audience about her disease, what her life was like before cancer, some of the challenges she faces as her fight continues, but more importantly, she shared the hopes and dreams she has once her cancer is cured.

Trey Foote Foundation Board

“It was a real reminder why we are all here tonight and how important it is to support Olivia, support Dr. Keller, and more importantly, do our part to make the Phil and Penny Knight challenge a reality,” said Lea Foote. “What a rare opportunity we have to play such active role in fighting cancer.”

The event raised $12,000, and 100 percent will be donated to Dr. Keller’s lab and will put us $12,000 closer to fulfilling Phil and Penny Knight’s $500 million Knight Cancer Challenge.

Together we will raise $1 billion for OHSU to fight cancer.

Jim Foote
Father of Trey Foote and President of the Trey Foote Foundation
Vice President and Chief Business Security Officer
ADP Dealer Services


New heart defibrillator is game-changer for tweens, teens with heart arrhythmia

This week the pediatric cardiovascular team at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, in cooperation with the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute, made history by implanting a first-of-its kind heart defibrillator that is less invasive and poses fewer risks to patient than current heart defibrillators.

Kenneth Clark, 17, is the first pediatric patient in Oregon to receive the implant.

Clark recently was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Additional testing suggested he was at risk for lethal fast heart rhythms and a defibrillator was recommended. Boston Scientific had recently released a new defibrillator called the S-ICD, and Clark was a perfect candidate. His procedure was uneventful and smooth.

The main advantage of the S-ICD (subcutaneous implantable cardiac defibrillator) is there are no wires inside the heart. All components of the defibrillator are located under the skin on the chest and in the armpit. This minimizes the risk of potential complications associated with conventional defibrillators, including heart perforation, wire dislodgment, heart infections, blocked veins, heart blood clots, and the later possibility of having the wires extracted, which can be risky.

Due to size of the defibrillator, this technology is not yet appropriate for very small children. But for teens and some pre-teens, it promises to be a very useful advancement. It is only a matter of time before this technology is applicable to even smaller children.

View an animation of the procedure:

YouTube Preview Image.

Seshadri Balaji, M.D.
Professor of Pediatric Cardiology
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital


Q: Are the steroids in my daughter’s asthma inhaler safe?

A: If your daughter has chronic asthma, it means that the airways that carry air to and from her lungs are inflamed, so that inflammation needs to be reduced to help her breathe.

Inhaled corticosteroids help ease inflammation in the lungs. The steroid in an inhaler is set at an extremely low dose and is not absorbed in any significant amount.

Even if your daughter is feeling better, being consistent with medication for childhood asthma is important: She still needs to continue using the inhaler to prevent the inflammation in her lungs from returning.

If you have more questions about dosage and long-term use of corticosteroids, talk to your child’s doctor.

Alexandra Cornell, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Pediatric Pulmonology
OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital

Doernbecher Best in the Country U.S. News & World Report

Doernbecher Best in the Country U.S. News & World Report


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