Friday, August 29, 2014

Visiting Alumni

I just returned from a trip with our Director of Development, Lynne Corboy, to visit alumni in Maryland and Virginia. It was a great trip as I had the opportunity to see how professionals from both optometry and audiology have used their skills to improve the lives of their patients both here in the U.S. and abroad.  It was also very nice to visit one of our retired alumni who has contributed a great deal to his community and our profession.  More on that later.  During the trip we stayed at the lodging facility on the U.S. Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia.  Having served in the Washington DC area for many years I was very familiar with the base - and it felt good to go back.  One of the high points of my stay was a quick visit to the Naval Health Clinic on Quantico (Navy Medicine takes care of the Marines) where I wanted to show Lynne what an integrated care model looked like in practice.  The clinic integrates dentistry, primary care in the form of a Medical Home, optometry, pediatrics, mental health and other specialities under one roof.  When patients are seen in their Medical Home, if they require specialty care, often they are walked down the hall for either a same day appointment or an appointment within a week.  It's a very effective and efficient way to deliver health care; a model we need to embrace here at Salus.

One of the high points of my visit to the clinic was running into some officers whom I've had the privilege to work very closely with in the past who have become part of my "Navy Family".  It's great to be able to maintain these important relationships even though I've since moved on into academia.  We've followed each other's careers and I've been honored to serve as a mentor for many of these officers over the years.  So why bring this up? (Lots of themes bouncing around in this blog entry!)

Well, we all develop personal and professional relationships and I would argue, extended families as we move through our professional programs.  You will develop very special bonds at Salus who will become your extended "Salus/Professional Families".  These will be folks you meet during the course of your time at the university that become not only life-long friends but confidants and extended family members you know you can count on (and they count on you) as you navigate through your education subsequently professional lives.  These relationships are something to be nurtured and cherished over time.

Now back to our alumni - our extended professional family.  The most "mature" family member we visited graduated in 1948 and is still active doing gardening, working out and giving advice to his step son, a current optometric provider.  Another of our family members is doing some very interesting work with macular pigmentation while the other is helping to change the lives of children in Kenya leveraging their skills as an Audiologist.   I think it's important to recognize what our extended family members are doing to better the lives of those they touch so we can determine what we might be doing to both augment and build upon their successes.

As we get ready to say farewell to Summer this weekend and get ready to jump into the academic and clinical cycles with fervor it's also a good time to reflect on those special relationships we've developed or will be developing and what they mean to us professionally and personally.  Take some time this weekend to recharge your batteries, energize some of your personal and professional relationships and come back next week ready to tackle whatever comes your way.

Wishing everyone a very safe and fun Labor Day Weekend.

Monday, August 18, 2014

School-Based Family Service Centers in the Philadelphia Public Schools

I'm not normally in the habit of posting one blog right after another but in this case I wanted to share an experience I had a Philadelphia City Hall late last week.  

I was invited to testify on behalf of Salus in support of the development of School-Based Family Service Centers in the Philadelphia Public Schools. These centers would function as neighborhood-based community hubs for the delivery of key social and health services to children and their families to include vision screenings, mental health support, primary health care, counseling services and other related functions .

My goal was to provide supportive testimony as to why establishing these family service centers will be valuable to both school age children of Philadelphia and to the City writ large.  We did a great deal of work developing our testimony based on the 40+ year experience we've had in providing vision care services to the Philadelphia Public Schools and others.  

I began my testimony by explaining how our experience has taught us that advancing health equity for children and families in urban settings is a challenging task.  I discussed how the economic downturn of 2008 and the years that followed exacerbated the health disparities that already existed in the city.  Even in a time of economic recovery, record numbers of families - disproportionately people of color - have been pushed into poverty or near-poverty, creating an increased risk for poor health.  We've also witnessed how many of the “safety net” programs that have provided basic health and economic security are no longer viable options for families.  Despite the many challenges associated with an uncertain economic environment and the challenging socio-economic realities of many families, we pointed out that there are opportunities for public and private collaborations that can positively affect health disparities and that we believed School Based Family Services Centers represent a unique solution to addressing the health care needs of children and families, as well as the many other socio-economic challenges that impact academic and economic success.

I went on to discuss how 80 percent of what school-age children learn is through their visual system and how undiagnosed and treated visual anomalies  could adversely affect academic achievement well into a child's future. In support of this, I quoted the Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), 2008 white paper, “A Problem We Don’t See: The Status of Children’s Vision Health in Philadelphia” that concluded there are 35,000 - 40,000 moderate-to-low income children in Philadelphia with vision problems that, if left undiagnosed and untreated, will compromise performance in school and the fact that over 13,000 children who failed the state-mandated vision screening never received comprehensive eye care.

While those in attendance appeared to agree with our observations, what was startling to me was more than half of the City Council Committee on Education had left the room prior to my testimony and the testimony of others.  It made me wonder about how the local process worked and what impact we and others asked to testify, (Penn, CHOP, etc.) were having on the discussion.   

That notwithstanding, I felt that being invited to the table to have the discussion marks a first for us at Salus and that supporting these School-Based Family Service Centers is absolutely the right thing to do.  Hopefully, these will be approved and we'll be integrally involved in the set-up and execution of these school/community based health and wellness centers. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Welcome to All of Our New Students

Well, we've made it through orientation week.  Again, welcome to all of our new students.  I wanted to remind you about a few of the things that I mentioned during my welcome remarks last Tuesday.  First and foremost, speaking on behalf of our great faculty and staff, we're all ABSOLUTELY THRILLED that you've chosen Salus to make your transition from an undergraduate student to becoming a healthcare professional.  We will do this together, as a team.  Our goal is to transform you into the world's best healthcare professional that not only can diagnose, treat and cure but also CARE.  

I will remind you time and time again that our care must be patient centric, placing our patient's best interest before anything else.  For most of you that won't be difficult;  after all, that's why you've chosen to become a healthcare professional.  For a few, you'll have to work at it, and that's okay - we're all here to help!  The other point I wanted to make in this blog entry is that while you all will be busier than you've ever been in the past, it will be extremely important for you to allocate your time so you ensure you both take care of yourselves but also are looking out for each other.  One of the hallmarks of a great healthcare professional is that they walk the talk.  If you're going to be taking care of others and giving advice on healthy lifestyles, you all need to do the same.  There's nothing worse than having one's healthcare provider give advice to a patient that the provider doesn't seem to follow themselves.  Get yourselves to the gym regularly, eat healthy (yeah, occasional pizza and a cheesesteak is okay every once in a while) and get as much sleep as you can.  Really, all of this advice will serve you well over the time your at Salus and beyond.  Get into good habits early so they follow you throughout your training and beyond.

Finally, have fun!  We're all in this together and we want nothing more for you than for you all to succeed - and you all will!  See you around campus!