Why I love shooting pool

Like many billiards enthusiasts, Christopher Sanders has no pool table in his home, preferring instead to frequent a pool hall. His favorite is Premium Billiards, 228 Chapel Dr., Syracuse, which sponsors him. During the day he is an EEG technician at Upstate University Hospital.

Like many billiards enthusiasts, Christopher Sanders, 47, has no pool table in his home, preferring instead to frequent a pool hall. His favorite is Premium Billiards, 228 Chapel Dr., Syracuse, which sponsors him. During the day Sanders is a technician in Upstate’s clinical neurophysiology department. His wife, Elsie Sanders is a nursing supervisor.

By Christopher Sanders

1. Fond childhood memories.

We had a table when I was growing up probably 40 years ago. I hit the balls around there and just kept playing.

2. Leagues.

The 9-ball league is broken into skill levels from 1 to 9, with 9 being the highest. I’m a 9. The 8-ball league is different; the highest is a 7, and the lowest is a 2. I’m a 7.

Anybody can play in this league. It’s not just for the best. Every person on the team is just as important. We want the beginners. In 9-ball, it’s a maximum of 23, and you have five players that play. If I’m a 9, the other four players have to total no more than 14 all together. Everything is computerized, as far as your skill level. When you get a new player, they automatically, for the first few weeks, come in as a 4.

It’s just fun. We have great people of all ages. We’ve got people in their 70s, to their early 20s.

3. Mentoring.

I am a captain on my 8-ball and 9-ball teams. I help the lower-skilled players. I try to make it fun for them, not to get too intimidating. I’ll go in and have practice sessions with them. I’ll show them the basics of how to stand. I show them how to stroke the ball three times, every time.

If you don’t start out on the right foot in pool, you can pick up a few bad habits, like keeping your arm in and keeping your dominant eye over the stick.

EEG tech-Pool master4. Premium Billiards. 

It’s not a bar. It’s a nice place near Camillus (228 Chapel Drive, Syracuse) with all new tables and felt. They sponsor me.

You bring your own sticks. You usually have one to break with and one to shoot with. Your breaking stick is usually a stiff shaft, and it’s a lot heavier so you can break the balls harder. The other one, some of them have very flexible shafts to where you can get a deflection on the balls better.

5. Fills the calendar.

I play Mondays and Wednesday nights. I take off Tuesdays and Thursdays, maybe Fridays. League is on Sunday, and on Saturday I go in to play with friends who aren’t in the league.

6. Opportunity for improvement.

Here in Central New York, we have a really big pro tournament twice a year at Turning Stone Resort & Casino. There will be 126 players, and 100 of them are professional. They bring in tables from California, 16 tables that are brand new. These are world-class players that come and play. That is really good to go and watch. You can learn to improve your game by watching.

7. Vegas, baby!

The league I’m playing in is a world-class league. What they do is take the best 8-ball team, the best 9-ball team, the best doubles and have tournaments. Then the national and international tournament is in Las Vegas. Usually they have 10,000 people out there playing. In the master’s division — that’s the best of the best — there were 272 teams, and we placed 16th. There was only three of us on the team. We played teams from Japan, Canada and the United States.

8. Chance to give back.

My wife’s mother passed away at the age of 39. She had a massive heart attack. I’ve been a team captain for the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk for 10 years. My master’s team this time, we are donating $2 for every point we score — plus we have a backer who will double that — to the heart association.

The most you can score is 21 points per match. There are 14 teams. We’ll play each team probably twice. We play two games every three weeks. It starts Nov. 24 and goes to the first week of May.

EEG tech-Pool master

Posted in cardiac, community, entertainment, neurology | Leave a comment

Why breakfast matters so much

If you’re trying to lose weight, make sure you eat breakfast. Upstate registered dietitian Terry Podolak explains why:

* You need to “break” the “fast” by refueling after a good night’s sleep, ideally with a meal containing protein, fiber and fat. This will help keep you satisfied for four or more hours.

* Studies show that people who skip breakfast are likely to become over-hungry, and then overeat as the day goes on.

* Your metabolism can be altered when you go for longer periods without food.

* More body fat accumulates when you eat fewer large meals than when you eat smaller more frequent meals.

You may not be hungry when you first wake up, but that is OK. Work at being mindful of when hunger kicks in – likely by mid-morning — and have healthy foods at the ready. Some ideas: whole grain toast with peanut butter, yogurt topped with nuts or fruit, quick breads with nuts, seeds or berries, or eggs paired with some fruit.

This is excerpted from “Healthy Eats” on Upstate’s weekly radio program, “HealthLink on Air,” heard at 9 p.m. Sundays on WRVO Public Media.

Posted in community, nutrition, weight loss | Leave a comment

Are you still dragging from the time change?

Katie Gibas of Time Warner Cable News interviews Dr. Antonio Culebras.

Katie Gibas of Time Warner Cable News interviews Dr. Antonio Culebras. Photo by Kathleen Paice Froio.

We lost an hour when Daylight Savings Time took effect at 2 a.m. March 9, and some of us are still recovering.

Not only is the time set forward (until Nov. 2) “but that is compounded by the fact that many people are unable to fall asleep at the conventional time according to the clock,” Dr. Antonio Culebras told Time Warner Cable News. Culebras is a neurologist specializing in sleep medicine specialist at Upstate.

He said people may take as many as 10 days to get over the loss of sleep, and he explained the possible health consequences, notably motor vehicle accidents from drowsy driving.

Read/watch the Time Warner Cable News report

Listen to an interview with Dr. Culebras about sleep problems

Learn more about Dr. Culebras


Posted in community, neurology, public health | Leave a comment

Photojournalist spotlights patients in series of films

Photojournalist Ross Taylor captures an interaction between music therapist Claire Arezina and patient Aiden Erwin, as Aiden’s mom looks on.

Patient Kayla Smith touches the guitar as music therapist Claire Arezina sings to her, a moment caught on film by photojournalist Ross Taylor.

A child without hair reaches inquisitive fingers to the strings of a guitar during a “music therapy” session.

A man with kidney failure tears up when his sister — “she’s my everything,” he describes — offers her healthy kidney for transplant. 

A mother and father remind themselves “one day at a time,” as their preschooler battles a brain tumor. 

Ross Taylor of The Virginian-Pilot. (Stephen M. Katz/The Virginian-Pilot)These video vignettes tell the poignant stories of Upstate University Hospital patients. They were produced by Pulitzer Prize-nominated photojournalist Ross Taylor, a fellow at the Multimedia Photography and Design Department at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University. Working closely with Kathleen Paice Froio of Upstate’s Public and Media Relations Department, Taylor spent many days at the hospital last fall talking with patients, family and staff who allowed him to be present during many personal and emotional moments.

Taylor, a photojournalist for 20 years, is known for his sensitive ability to tell deeply personal stories. He has shot on assignment in six countries and is co-creator of The Image Deconstructed, a nationally recognized blog that highlights an image and asks the photographer to deconstruct the creation of the image, and the psychology and emotion behind the photograph.

He has won the prestigious National Photojournalist of the Year award, and he was nominated for a Pulitzer for his documentary photographs in a trauma hospital in Afghanistan.

For his projects at the hospital, Taylor is working in video, rather than still photography. 

“Film is much more difficult to do, and even harder to do well. It takes much more time and investment on both my part, but also the hospital and the patients who are willing to share their story,” he says. “I believe, though, that in the end, it’s a very powerful way to share someone’s story, and it’s worth the extra work.”

His three Upstate films include:

* “Music Therapy” showcases the work of board certified music therapist Clare Arezina,  who uses music as a tool to help connect with and heal patients in the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. 

“I do have days where I feel like there should be ‘Rocky’ theme music playing in the background behind me, and it’s fantastic,” Arezina says. “It’s those very clear moments of ‘this is absolutely why my job has worth,’ and ‘this is why I do what I do.’ It’s really rewarding those days to be able to have that kid smile, to have a kid reach who hasn’t reached for anything, to have a kid play and interact who hasn’t been playful or interactive.”

She goes on to explain that musical performers are focused on how they sound. But she is focused on how the child is experiencing the music and what it’s doing for his or her body, mind, emotions and spirit.

* “This Changes Everything” tells the sort of Aiden Erwin, 4, and his parents, Melanie Overy and Glen Erwin, as they cope with their son’s brain cancer diagnosis. They have been basically living at the hospital.

“Just one day at a time. That’s what you tell yourself every day,” Overy says. “Things change very quickly, and you don’t want to get your hopes up or have your hopes too low. You just kinda want to take it as it comes.”

* “A New Beginning” follows a brother and sister through a living kidney donation. LaToya Alexander says when she learned that her brother Robert Barnes was suffering kidney failure, she said “I’ll do it. Yeah. I’ll get tested, and I’ll donate my kidney if it’s a match.

“He said, ‘what’s your blood type?’ And I said, ‘O postive.’ And he said, ‘that’s the same one I am.’ 

Loved ones prayed with Barnes and Alexander before their surgery on Nov. 12, 2013 with transplant director, J. Keith Melancon, MD.

“If you don’t have good kidney function, your life is tremendously shortened. Even a young person is not going to have a normal life expectancy. So when someone donates a kidney to you, they’re really vastly extending your life. They’re saving your life,” the surgeon explains.

“These people are different after that operation. Everybody is transformed by this experience.”


Posted in cancer, community, Golisano, physical therapy, surgery, transplant | Leave a comment

Children with cerebral palsy improve physical abilities through dance

Upstate patient Miracle Thompson, 5, dances with Jowonio occupational therapist Lisa Neville, and is supported by Nottingham High School student and dancer, Bela Harris. The ballet program is sponsored by the Madeline Cote fund. Photo by Susan Kahn.

Upstate patient Miracle Thompson, 5, dances with Jowonio occupational therapist Lisa Neville, and is supported by Nottingham High School student and dancer, Bela Harris. The ballet program is sponsored by the Madeline Cote fund. Photo by Susan Kahn.

Like many preschoolers, Marley Aberdeen was enthralled with the mouse, Angelina Ballerina from the series of children’s books. So it was easy to enlist her participation in a pilot project last year exploring how ballet could help children with cerebral palsy.

Her mother brought her in pink leotard and tights to Jowonio School, where teenage dancers from the Syracuse City School District volunteered to help Marley and other children enjoy the benefits of dance.

Layout 1It’s a program created by Nienke Dosa, MD, a developmental pediatrician at Upstate, and Lisa Neville, an occupational therapist at Jowonio. They were inspired by Citali Lopez, PhD, an exercise scientist at the Rehab Institute of Chicago who gave a presentation at Upstate last year, attended by physicians, dance instructors and physical therapists from throughout Central New York. 

“In ballet, dancers learn positions that are held for eight counts, then four counts, then two counts until they become fluid movement,” Dosa explains. Her patients are children with physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy and spina bifida. She says dance is a good way for them to experience movement and motor learning and to be part of a group. 

“Motor learning is about repetition. We don’t sit down at a piano and play music right away. We practice our scales until finger movements become second nature. Same thing with ballet. We give children with cerebral palsy the opportunity to practice postures and for postures to turn into movements. Structured movement in a social setting is beneficial for any child.”

Many dance studios offer creative movement classes for youngsters before formal dance classes begin. The classes for children with cerebral palsy are a step between the two, helping the children to become comfortable with movement and helping their muscles to strengthen. 

Because many of the children do not stand independently, two dancing assistants are required per child. Neville and Dosa developed a workbook full of photographs to teach high school dancers who are willing to volunteer, and they formed a partnership with the Syracuse City School District. Students from Nottingham High School walk to nearby Jowonio after school one day a week to dance with the children with cerebral palsy.

Cheryl Darby admits that she was unsure how ballet would benefit her niece, Miracle Thompson, 5. “I was skeptical. I was not sold that it would help her so much. But boy, what a change,” she says, explaining how Miracle can balance on one leg and hold the other up to form a P. Ballerinas call the move a passe. It’s quite an accomplishment for a little girl who struggles to walk.

Marley’s mom, Stephanie Pearman noticed improvement in her daughter, now 6. Before, when she sat on the floor, she would bend both knees backward. Now she keeps one straight. “She’d got what we call ‘dynamic’ tone. If she’s reaching for something, the tone in her arm will stiffen up.

“What ballet will help her to do is calm down, and it becomes more of a fluid movement. It’s almost like she can quiet down that tone with her brain when she does ballet.”

Plus, says Pearman, “it’s fun. She enjoys it.”

Listen to a HealthLink on Air interview with Dr. Dosa and Lisa Neville

Look through an album of photographs by Susan Kahn

See the story in Upstate Health magazine

View the video of photographs by Susan Kahn

Posted in community, fitness, Golisano, Health Link on Air, volunteers | Leave a comment

1958: Citizens envision community hospital

Going over tract of Onondaga County Sanatorium land as the probable site for the new Community Hospital, May 4, 1958.

Going over tract of Onondaga County Sanatorium land as the probable site for the new Community Hospital, May 4, 1958. Published in the Syracuse Newspapers. From the Onondaga Historical Association.

The well-worn adage – never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world – may remind us that this small group of citizens got together in 1958 with the idea of building a new hospital to serve the neighborhoods on the west side of Syracuse. This small group  may not have “changed the world,” but they certainly changed the face of healthcare in our region when they envisioned  a community hospital where most saw only overgrown fields.

Thanks to the Onondaga Historical Association and the Syracuse Newspapers, we know that this group, pictured in the field where Upstate’s community campus hospital now stands, included (from left to right): Harry King, architect; Dr. Albert Snoke, consultant; George Cooper and David Jasper, building committee members; and Thad Collum and Carl Maar, hospital fundraisers.

Upstate's community campus hospital, 2013.

Upstate’s community campus hospital, 2013.

By the time the hospital,  then known as Community-General  Hospital, opened several years later, this “small group” had grown to include 48,000+ individuals, foundations and corporations who donated a total of $7.2 million to build the hospital, which is located at 4900 Broad Rd. on Onondaga Hill.

Do you have old photos or memories related to the planning or building of the hospitals of Upstate Medical University? If you do, please contact the hospital anniversary committee through Susan Keeter, keeters@upstate.edu

Posted in community, foundation, health care, history, hospital | Leave a comment

What you need to know about medical marijuana

Lots of news coverage lately has been devoted to whether New York will legalize marijuana for medical use. Stepping away from the politics, here are some facts to consider:

iStock_000011843212LargeIt can be used to:

reduce muscle spasms. “It will release muscle spasms, for example, in people with multiple sclerosis who have spasticity,” says Upstate psychiatrist Gene Tinelli, MD. This may allow a person to use a walker rather than a wheelchair.

* provide a calming, euphoric effect.

* reduce intraocular pressure in people with glaucoma, although the effects are short-lived.

* help people forget suffering, such as in cases of post-traumatic stress disorder.

* reduce nausea and vomiting, especially after chemotherapy, and to a lesser extent after radiation therapy. “That’s a big thing,” Tinelli says, “because if people can eat, they can survive.”

* treat some seizure disorders.

* lessen the pain of shingles and other painful conditions.

* relieve suffering in patients with chronic pain who develop breakthrough pain. Many already take prescription opiates and don’t want to increase their opiate dosages.

* mask the pain of migraines, although scientists are still exploring exactly how.

Its side effects can include:

* slowed central nervous system and impaired motor coordination.

* increased high blood pressure and heart rate.

* worsening of some seizure disorders.

* impaired memory.

* lung irritation, if smoked.

* personality disturbances.

* irritability and psychosis, in high doses.

* addiction, if use becomes compulsive.

* possible learning and memory deficits in adolescent users.

* attention, memory and problem solving deficits in babies born to mothers who use marijuana in pregnancy.

Whether marijuana use permanently reduces IQ, cognitive functioning, learning and memory has not been proven.   

Patients don’t have to smoke it.

“Inhaling a burning plant is not healthy, period,” Tinelli says.

Herbal vaporizers allow the drug to be inhaled without ingesting toxins.

The active chemicals of the cannabis plant are available as alcohol elixirs or teas, or made into a spray that can be absorbed sublingually. A variety of edible products are made using butters or oils derived from the cannabis plant. Marijuana is also available as a salve, lotion or spray for the skin.

A synthetic version of THC, the chemical responsible for marijuana’s high, is available in the prescription drug, Marinol, but some patients dislike the drug’s side effects of dizziness, drowsiness, confusion, an exaggerated sense of well-being, red eyes, dry mouth, headaches and lightheadedness.

Its potency has increased.

Cannabis grown today contains higher levels of THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol.

“In the 1970s, the THC content was around 1 or 2 percent. Today it’s more like 11 or 12 percent,” Mahmoud ElSohly, PhD, director of the University of Mississippi’s Marijuana Project, told Men’s Health magazine.

But it is cannabidiol, another of the more than 60 psychoactive compounds in cannabis, that captures the attention of patients and scientists. Cannabidiol and THC balance each other, cannabidiol tempering the stoned sensation caused by THC and maximizing the pain relieving effects.

It affects the body’s endocannabinoid system.

Scientists are still learning about the body’s endocannabinoid system, a neural communication network which plays an important role in normal brain development and function, and which some medical authorities consider the bridge between body and mind. It is this system that marijuana overactivates and, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, causes distorted perceptions, impaired coordination, difficulty with thinking and problem solving and disrupted learning and memory.

The first endocannabinoids were discovered in 1992. Anandamide and 2-AG are natural brain compounds that activate the same receptors as THC and cannabidiol. The function of the endocannabinoids is to maintain homeostasis, or to keep internal conditions the same, whether they’re physically located in the brain, abdominal organs, connective tissues, glands or immune cells. They play a role in appetite, memory, pain, mood and several other physiological processes.

Research is sparse.

Marijuana remains categorized by the Drug Enforcement Administration as a “schedule I” substance, like heroin, LSD and Ecstasy, meaning it has no medicinal value, a high potential for abuse — and is out of reach of scientists.

Removing it from the schedule would allow it to be regulated like alcohol and cigarettes, and available for research.

Listen to a radio interview with Dr. Tinelli about medical marijuana

Posted in community, psychiatry, research | 3 Comments

The basketball-prostate cancer connection in Syracuse

SU Basketball Coach Jim Boeheim is surrounded by Upstate’s prostate cancer team: urologist Oleg Shapiro, MD, pathologist Steve Landas, MD, urologist Gennady Bratslavsky, radiation oncologist Jeffrey Bogart, MD, pathologist Gustavo de la Roza, MD, radiologist Andrij Wojtowycz, MD, urologist Srinivas Vourganti, MD, and radiologist Robert Poster, MD.

SU Basketball Coach Jim Boeheim is surrounded by Upstate’s prostate cancer team: urologist Oleg Shapiro, MD, pathologist Steve Landas, MD, urologist Gennady Bratslavsky, MD, radiation oncologist Jeffrey Bogart, MD, pathologist Gustavo de la Roza, MD, radiologist Andrij Wojtowycz, MD, urologist Srinivas Vourganti, MD, and radiologist Robert Poster, MD.

Syracusans love our basketball team and our coach, who happens to be a prostate cancer survivor. That’s why Jim Boeheim is featured in many of the advertisements for Upstate’s prostate cancer services.

Boeheim, who was diagnosed in 2001, speaks about his experience as a way to encourage other men to be screened for prostate cancer. The American Cancer Society does not offer strict screening guidelines but urges each man to speak with his healthcare provider to determine whether and when screening is appropriate. Screening may include a blood test and/or a rectal exam.

“If you’re diagnosed, you have to figure out the right treatment for you, and then just take care of it,” Boeheim told Men’s Fitness a few years ago.

The American Cancer Society projects that 17 of 100 men who are age 50 today will be diagnosed with prostate cancer sometime during their lives, and three of 100 will die of the disease. A man’s chances of developing prostate cancer increase with age.

In a series of recent ads, Boeheim is surrounded by Upstate physicians, led by Gennady Bratslavsky, MD, who offer a variety of treatments for prostate cancer. They all wear serious looks and white physician coats. Four carry basketballs. They are Syracusans, after all. And the academic medical center where they work is adjacent to Syracuse University.

The ads are succinct. One uses the words “outstanding technology and treatment” to summarize the amazing advances available at Upstate. (Read about the latest, on page 4 in this magazine.) Another simply says, “If you ever face prostate cancer, put Upstate’s specialists on your treatment team.”

Learn more at upstate.edu/prostate

Posted in cancer, community, urology | Leave a comment

‘Upstate Answers’ question on funerals after organ donation

Q: “When somebody in my family dies, we have an open casket at the calling hours. If I sign up to be an organ donor, can I still have an open casket when my time comes?”

–Tim Jones of Syracuse

A: “Many people have the same concerns, so thank you for the opportunity to reassure that someone who has donated his or her organs can still have an open casket. Donation does not disfigure the body or change the way it looks in a casket.

“Every donor is treated with great care and dignity during the donation process, including careful reconstruction of one’s body. Surgery lines will be fully covered by most clothing chosen for the viewing. For skin donation, skin is taken from the back and the legs and is not visible with clothing. For bone donation, a stand-in plastic bone is used to allow the shape of the arms and legs to remain the same. For eye donations, plastic caps are placed over the eye to maintain the shape of the closed eyelid.

“Organ donation, as a rule, does not delay funeral plans.”

– Nurse Ellen Havens, certified clinical transplant coordinator, Upstate Transplant Clinic.

If you have a question for Upstate Answers, send it to whatsup@upstate.edu and it may appear in a future issue of Upstate Health magazine.

Posted in community, surgery, transplant | Leave a comment

Ballerina on cover of winter ‘Upstate Health’ magazine

Photographer Susan Kahn shoots images for the winter issue of Upstate Health magazine. Photo by Amber Smith.

Photographer Susan Kahn shoots images for the winter issue of Upstate Health magazine. Photo by Amber Smith.

Layout 1A physical therapist offers encouragement, along with her therapy session.  A surgeon offers hope to a patient who wants to be able to walk. A professor offers enthusiasm for science.

Upstate Medical University is academic medicine at its best. We care for patients with a range of health issues from routine to complex. We train tomorrow’s healthcare providers, and we conduct research that may lead to the cures of the future.

This year as we celebrate 50 years our hospitals welcome a dynamic electronic medical records system called Epic that wasn’t even dreamed of 50 years ago. It will organize patient care documentation and allow patients access to much of their health information. Even as Epic illustrates technical advances, we are mindful to maintain the human touch and our important role in Central New York community.

Three examples in the winter issue of Upstate Health:

  • the physician who prescribes ballet to improve the lives of her patients with cerebral palsy, (p. 6,)
  • the scientist who helps us understand how smoking addictions affect babies in utero, (p. 11,)
  • the staff who volunteer on Onondaga County’s Search & Rescue Team, (p. 15.)

We hope you enjoy your Health, brought to you by Upstate.

To obtain a print copy of Upstate Health, email your name and address to whatsup@upstate.edu

Need a referral or more information?

Contact Upstate Connect at 315-464-8668 or 1-800-464-8668, day or night, for appointments or referrals to the health care providers on these pages or anywhere at Upstate — or for questions on any health topic.

Posted in community | Leave a comment