Baseball-loving former patient, family pitch in to comfort kids with cancer

Baseball pitcher and cancer survivor Jack Sheridan, now a sophomore at Le Moyne College, is shown in the team colors of his high school, Christian Brothers Academy. He is a board member of On My Team16, a charity to help children hospitalized for cancer. (photos by Robert Mescavage)

Baseball pitcher and cancer survivor Jack Sheridan, now a sophomore at Le Moyne College, is shown in the team colors of his high school, Christian Brothers Academy. He is a board member of On My Team16, a charity to help children hospitalized for cancer. (photos by Robert Mescavage)

BY JIM HOWE

In a baseball movie, Jack and Jordan Sheridan’s story might sound something like this:

Pitcher goes on injured list, recovers and, together with energetic manager and support staff, helps and inspires his teammates.

The pitcher is Jack, the manager is his sister Jordan, the support staff is their family and friends, and the teammates are any kids hospitalized with cancer.

Jack and his sister Jordan, the driving force behind setting up the charity he inspired. Their parents are Andy and Kim Sheridan of Fayetteville.

Jack and his sister Jordan, the driving force behind setting up the charity he inspired. Their parents are Andy and Kim Sheridan of Fayetteville.

But this is no sports movie; it’s the real story behind On My Team16, a charity founded in 2017 by Jordan Sheridan of Fayetteville, with the support of family and friends, to help comfort pediatric cancer patients at the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital.

The charity has an optional bonus for sports fans: You can make donations as if it were a fantasy sports league. On My Team16 will take any sports statistic you can think of and keep track of it for you to pledge, say, $10 for every home run hit by your favorite pro or college player. And athletes are encouraged to help, which they have done individually and as teams, through sending notes to children or visiting the hospital.

Jack, 19, went through three years of chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (see “What kind of cancer is that?” below). He was diagnosed during the 2014 baseball season, when he was a 15-year-old student at Christian Brothers Academy, where he pitched for the varsity team and wore the number 16.

Headaches, fatigue and fever led to tests, then to Golisano, where he started weekly, later monthly, chemo treatments that would last until September 2017, when he was declared cancer free. His tests since then have all been good, and “as of right now, I feel as close to normal as possible,” he said recently.

When Make-A-Wish Central New York asked Jack what he wished for, he wanted to give something back to his school. The result was this bullpen and batting cage, which debuted in 2016 at the CBA baseball field.

When Make-A-Wish Central New York asked Jack what he wished for, he wanted to give something back to his school. The result was this bullpen and batting cage, which debuted in 2016 at the CBA baseball field.

His illness delayed his CBA graduation from 2016 to 2017, and he returned to the pitcher’s mound in 2018 as a freshman at Le Moyne College. He will likely miss the 2019 season, though, after a baseball-related arm injury.

His sister Jordan, 23, who pitched for her CBA and St. Lawrence University softball teams and now works in social media for a local company, was a driving force in setting up the charity to carry out Jack’s wish to help other young cancer patients.

“When I was in high school, I did a program called Strike Out Hunger,” Jordan said. “Whenever I got a strikeout, we donated a certain amount of money to the Samaritan Center (a Syracuse soup kitchen), so for my whole life I’ve been involved in fundraising.

“But then, once he was diagnosed, I kind of changed who I wanted to help and focused on pediatric oncology patients, because of so many people, organizations and families that helped us when he was first battling cancer,” she said.

Brian Langdon

Brian Langdon

“It’s nice to see what you can do  as an athlete that’s more than just winning a game or performing. It’s nice to be able to give back,” she said.

On My Team16 is a tax-exempt organization, and several friends and family members pitch in to help track finances, create spreadsheets to track the sports statistics, plan fundraisers and maintain the website. Jack and Jordan’s younger sister, Charlie, a softball pitcher at CBA, serves as the charity’s photographer and record keeper.

The ambassador for the “patient care” side of things is Jack, “just because of the experience I’ve had. I can relate to the patients because it’s all stuff I’ve been through,” he said.

Jack noted that he became friends with a pediatric cancer nurse at Golisano, Brian Langdon, during his treatment, and Langdon will sometimes help put him and Jordan in touch with a patient who could use a visit or pep talk, after checking with the parents. Parents sometimes reach out directly to On My Team16 through its website, onmyteam16.com, or social media.

“So that’s how most of the relationships start, and they just build from there,” Jack said. He told of one boy, now a young teenager, they followed through his whole cycle of treatment, who was presented a bat signed by his idol, former Yankee Derek Jeter, when he rang the bell signaling the successful end of his cancer treatment.

Langdon, who has a grandson about Jack’s age, shared his love of baseball with Jack during his various hospital stays. “I saw him when he was very sick and when he laughed and things were good,” Langdon said.

He praised On My Team16 for helping morale among the young patients and for getting athletes involved in their efforts. “Not all parents can stay there all day, so they are happy they (Jack and Jordan) can spend some time with their child,” he said.

“They’re wonderful, responsible young adults who are just trying to ease the burden of what goes on in a chronically ill child, Langdon said, and the patients are grateful for the gifts. “They’re totally mesmerized, they’re smiling from ear to ear, so happy … and the parents are also very happy because their child is having a good day.”

Jack and Jordan are unsure of their career plans but said they would love to make a full-time job out of helping kids with cancer.

What kind of cancer is that?

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia, abbreviated as ALL and sometimes called acute lymphocytic leukemia, is the most common type of childhood leukemia.

ALL is a fast-growing cancer that develops in lymphoblasts, which are immature forms of the white blood cells called lymphocytes found in the bone marrow.

The cancerous cells can build up, crowding out normal cells, then spill into the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body.

If not treated, ALL would probably be fatal within a few months.

The usual treatment is a varied course of chemotherapy that typically lasts two to three years.

Source: American Cancer Society

On MyTeam16 wristbands

On MyTeam16 wristbands

Little gifts for little patients

Examples of things offered byOn My Team16 to young cancer patients:

  • a personal chat by Jack and/or Jordan with a newly diagnosed, and scared, child and family members.
  • a visit by a local or national sports figure, such as Cicero-North Syracuse graduate Pat Corbin, now a pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
  • A pair of comfy, fuzzy socks for hospital wear, along with an inspirational message.
  • an iPad or a book.
  • little comforts like a ChapStick, a stress ball to squeeze or hand sanitizer.
  • tickets to a sporting event, which nurses distribute to the patients and their families.
  • a customized package, if they know a child’s sports team or other special interest.

Cancer Care magazine summer 2018 cover

This article appears in the summer 2018 issue of Cancer Care  magazine.

Posted in cancer, fundraising, health care, patient story, Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital/pediatrics, volunteers | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do you always need chemotherapy for breast cancer?

Oncologist explains research that informs, personalizes treatment options for women

BY AMBER SMITH

Results of an international study — which includes some Central New York women who are patients at Upstate — are helping oncologists determine which breast cancer patients can skip chemotherapy.

Cancer specialist Abi Siva, MD (photo by Susan Kahn)

Cancer specialist Abi Siva, MD (photo by Susan Kahn)

“There is a subset of patients who will benefit from chemotherapy, but the majority of patients might not have to go that route,” explains Upstate oncologist Abi Siva, MD. She’s referring only to women with hormone-positive breast cancer that has not spread to the lymph nodes. The research does not apply to all women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Women with hormone-positive breast cancer typically have surgery to remove their tumor. Then a sample is sent to a specialized laboratory where the tumor cells are analyzed for specific genetic mutations in a test called Oncotype.

The test predicts the likelihood of recurrence and whether chemotherapy would help.

Women with a low score are considered low-risk and not recommended for chemotherapy. Those with a high score are recommended for chemotherapy. What about those in between?

“It was challenging for physicians to make a decision about chemotherapy for these women because we really didn’t know what to do until this study came out,” Siva says. “Now we are more confident.

“This is very personalized treatment for each patient, based on her score. We think now we are able to spare about 70 percent of the patients who fall into this category from chemotherapy.”

For the study, led by a cancer researcher at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, half of the women received chemotherapy and endocrine therapy. The other half received just endocrine therapy. Both groups fared well, with one exception — women under age 50, whose cancer is likely to be more aggressive, were found to derive benefit from chemotherapy.

The study, which began in 2006 and has involved more than 10,000 women, was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago this past spring. Paid for largely by the United States and Canadian governments and philanthropic groups, the research received some funding from Genomic Health, the company that makes the Oncotype tumor test, according to The New York Times.

This is important information because chemotherapy —used to treat a variety of cancers — can take a toll. Side effects can include infections, alterations to kidney and liver function, nausea and vomiting, hair loss and neuropathy, or tingling in the hands and feet. Long-term effects may include difficulty with focused thinking, heart and/or lung problems, muscle weakness, bone and joint problems and secondary cancers or blood disorders.

After surgery to remove the tumor, a woman with hormone-positive breast cancer may face chemotherapy or radiation, both or neither. Regardless, she will receive endocrine therapy, which is designed to suppress the effect of the hormone estrogen.

“Even though we know the surgeon was able to remove the breast tumor, our concern is that there could be microscopic cells left behind in the breast or elsewhere in the body that could come back as a problem, five or 10 years down the road,” Siva explains.

Hormone-positive breast cancers in young women are driven by the ovaries, where estrogen is made. Often these patients receive the medication Tamoxifen, which works by blocking estrogen receptors in breast cancer cells.

In post-menopausal women, cholesterol can be converted into androgens and then estrogens, so doctors often use an aromatase inhibitor medication to block that conversion and decrease the amount of estrogen production.

Siva say studies are underway to determine how many years women should take aromatase inhibitors for the best protection against recurrence.

Cancer Care magazine summer 2018 coverHealthLink on Air logoThis article appears in the summer 2018 issue of Cancer Care magazine. Hear a podcast/radio interview with Abi Siva, MD, in which she discusses which breast cancer patient can skip chemotherapy.

 

 

Posted in cancer, diabetes/endocrine/metabolism, drugs/medications/pharmacy, health care | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New option for breast cancer treatment combines surgery with radiation

From left, breast surgeons Mary Ellen Greco, MD, Lisa Lai, MD, and Kristine Keeney, MD, and radiation oncologist Anna Shapiro, MD, in the operating room with the new intraoperative radiation therapy unit. (photos by Susan Kahn)

From left, breast surgeons Mary Ellen Greco, MD, Lisa Lai, MD, and Kristine Keeney, MD, and radiation oncologist Anna Shapiro, MD, in the operating room with the new intraoperative radiation therapy unit. (photos by Susan Kahn)

Surgeons and radiation oncologists at Upstate are teaming up to provide intraoperative radiation therapy to women with early-stage breast cancer. This allows for an intensive dose of radiation to be applied during surgery in the space where the tumor is removed.

The aim is to kill any microscopic disease that remains after a tumor is removed, explains Anna Shapiro, MD, associate professor of radiation oncology. Instead of waiting for the patient to heal from surgery and then completing a three- to six-week course of radiation, this intraoperative option allows the radiation oncologist to precisely deliver radiation to the tumor bed at the end of the operation.

Surgeon Lisa Lai, MD, says, “We’re able to complete both the surgery and the radiation in one day, so patients get back to their normal lives much quicker.”

Women whose breast cancer has not spread may be candidates for this new procedure. Lai and Shapiro explain that every patient’s situation is reviewed by a team of specialists who make recommendations for her best treatment.

Shapiro gives targeted radiation during surgery, eliminating the need for post-surgery radiation treatments for some cases of breast cancer.

Shapiro gives targeted radiation during surgery, eliminating the need for post-surgery radiation treatments for some cases of breast cancer.

Cancer Care magazine summer 2018 coverThis article appears in the summer 2018 issue of Cancer Care  magazine. Hear a podcast/radio interview where Lisa Lai, MD, and Anna Shapiro, MD, discuss this breast cancer treatment.

 

Posted in cancer, health care, medical imaging/radiology, surgery, technology, women's health/gynecology | Leave a comment

Will immunotherapy work for your cancer?

BY AMBER SMITH

Our immune system fights off colds. Why not cancer?

Stephen Graziano, MD. (photo by Robert Mescavage)

Stephen Graziano, MD. (photo by Robert Mescavage)

“Cancers develop mechanisms to get around the immune system,” explains Stephen Graziano, MD, chief of hematology/oncology at Upstate. “They express a protein on their surface which basically paralyzes the T-cells, which are the part of the immune system that’s active in the immune response.”

Immunotherapy drugs such as Keytruda and Opdivo are designed to be antibodies to that protein, “so they basically release the tumor from the immune cells, allowing them to do their job.”

It’s a concept that is more than a century old. In the last 30 or 40 years, scientists have been able to harness the body’s immune system to fight cancer, “and we’re starting to see advances that translate to patients,” Graziano says.

“It’s almost dizzying as an oncologist to keep up with the advances.”

Various immunotherapy medications are already in use for cancers of the lung, stomach, bladder, head and neck, and also for Hodgkin’s disease. In addition, Graziano says Upstate has clinical research underway that uses immunotherapy to treat patients with three stages of lung cancer, melanoma, sarcoma, cancers of the kidney, colon and head and neck.

Patients are selected for those research studies, known as clinical trials, after cells from their tumors are tested, so doctors know the likelihood the drug will work. Patients with serious autoimmune disease are not candidates for immunotherapy, since the medications could stimulate their autoimmune disease.

Also, as with any treatment, immunotherapy has potential side effects. Patients may develop fatigue, rash, diarrhea, cough or other symptoms. In those instances, immunotherapy is halted while patients receive steroid treatment.

“The nice thing about these immune therapies is they don’t have the side effects we usually associate with chemotherapy. They don’t have the nausea and vomiting, the fatigue, the hair loss, the low blood counts. Most patients feel well after they receive their treatment.”

Graziano says that in his experience, about a third of patients receiving immune therapy see a remarkable prolonged remission, about a third experience a stabilization of their disease for a period of time, and a third may see no response.

“We do have patients with advanced cancer who were on these drugs in early clinical trials for two years. And now, some patients have eight years of follow-up and are still in remission,” he says. “I think immunotherapy has great potential.”

Cancer Care magazine summer 2018 coverThis article appears in the summer 2018 issue of Cancer Care  magazine.

Posted in cancer, drugs/medications/pharmacy, health care | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Harnessing his immune system to fight cancer

Eugene Young talks with his oncologist, Abi Siva, MD, about encouraging results of immunotherapy medication. (photo by Richard Whelsky)

Eugene Young talks with his oncologist, Abi Siva, MD, about encouraging results of immunotherapy medication. (photo by Richard Whelsky)

BY AMBER SMITH

The tumors near Eugene Young’s liver turned up by chance.

At the age of 67, he was dealing with symptoms of acid reflux. Thinking he may have a problem with his gallbladder, Young’s doctor sent him for an ultrasound.

“That’s the first I knew I had a problem,” Young says of the imaging test he underwent in February. It showed tumors in his liver, spleen, adrenal glands and bones. Weeks later, he had a biopsy — and a cancer diagnosis. What he needed was a cancer doctor.

He chose Abi Siva, MD, a medical oncologist at Upstate who thought Young would be a good candidate for immunotherapy, a medication that works with the body’s immune system to fight cancer cells.

“She did some genetic testing,” Young recalls, “and found that I had the genes necessary for a good reaction to Opdivo.” That’s a new medication also known as nivolumab.

Young’s treatment included intravenous infusions of the drug every couple of weeks. After four doses, he developed some unusual side effects. His vision became blurry, he lost some hearing, and he developed some dizziness. Steroid treatments have helped improve his vision and hearing, he says.

Before he started taking the medication, he had an imaging test called a positron-emission tomography scan that reveals metabolic processes. After four doses, he underwent another PET scan.

“I was hoping that maybe it would show some slight decrease,” Young says. “It was like a miracle. It showed that there were no active cancer cells. We don’t know what that means: Are they dead? Are they gone? Am I cured?”

Siva was impressed with the effect of the medication.

“The scans are negative. That’s a great sign. There is no active cancer, but there could still be dormant cells.”

The oncologist says Young’s follow-up will include periodic scans, and she’s optimistic about his health.

“We know that when people have a complete response like he has, they may keep this response going for years.”

Young was able to go ahead with his wedding early this summer. He is resuming his law practice and has returned to his role as a councilman for the town of Clay.

Cancer Care magazine summer 2018 coverThis article appears in the summer 2018 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

 

Posted in cancer, drugs/medications/pharmacy, health care, patient story | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Cancer Center expansion makes way for more patients, infusion rooms

The lobby of the newly opened fourth floor in the Upstate Cancer Center. (photos by Richard Whelsky)

The lobby of the newly opened fourth floor in the Upstate Cancer Center. (photos by Richard Whelsky)

When the Upstate Cancer Center opened its doors in July 2014, only the first three floors of the five-story building were completed and occupied. The fourth and fifth floors, each about 20,000 square feet, were constructed but left empty, anticipating future Upstate needs.

Three years later, those needs became obvious as more and more adult cancer patients have been seeking treatment at Upstate, said Dick Kilburg, associate administrator of the Cancer Center. After about a year of designing, planning and construction, the new fourth floor opened in early June. It comprises patient exam rooms, upping the number from 14 to 35.

Another view of the fourth-floor lobby.

Moving exam rooms from the second to the fourth floor allows for additional infusion rooms to be added to the second floor, increasing that number from 27 to 44.

The fifth floor is scheduled to open this fall and will house Upstate’s Clinical Pathology Lab. “Patients may never see the lab, but getting lab results to physicians quickly, so that they may initiate appropriate therapy sooner, is key to quality patient care and patient satisfaction,” said Sophia Lustrinelli, department manager of clinical pathology.

Kilburg said the fourth floor was constructed with the same patient-focused design qualities as the rest of the cancer center.

Huge, floor-to-ceiling photo murals of lush garden landscapes adorn the pillars in the reception/waiting area, and wherever you look there is art — from a huge hanging sculpture near the front to vibrant abstracts lining the hallways.

“We’ve had a lot of comments from patients and family members who said they feel like they are going to a museum rather than going for care,” Kilburg said.

“We’re trying to take their mind off why they’re here.”

Cancer Care magazine summer 2018 coverThis article appears in the summer 2018 issue of Cancer Care magazine.

 

Posted in cancer, health care | Tagged ,

Science Is Art: Close-up of a cancer cell

(Image courtesy of Anushree Gulvady and the lab of Christopher Turner, PhD)

(Image courtesy of Anushree Gulvady and the lab of Christopher Turner, PhD)

Turner

Turner

Gulvady

Gulvady

Cell and developmental biologists including Anushree Gulvady are studying how cancer invades and metastasizes at the cellular level. Gulvady is a doctoral student working in the laboratory of Upstate’s Christopher Turner, PhD. She works with Hic-5, a molecular scaffold that coordinates multiple interactions among proteins. Plasma membrane protrusions called invadopodia are seen reaching out from the red- yellow puncta. Gulvady’s project explores the mechanisms by which the invadopodia fuse together to form rosettes, the circular areas of red and yellow. The rosettes secrete an enzyme that helps degrade the extracellular matrix, which allows the cancer to spread. Understanding this process may help scientists develop ways to intervene.

Posted in cancer, health care, research | Tagged

Putting heads together: Brain researchers collaborate to understand and battle dementia, addiction, schizophrenia and more

Wei-dong Yao, PhD (photo by Debbie Rexine)

Wei-dong Yao, PhD (photo by Debbie Rexine)

BY AMBER SMITH

What do drug addiction, neurodevelopmental disorders and dementia have in common?

All three disorders have origins in the brain, with causes and potential treatment methods that tend to overlap.

Above and below, nerve cells (from the lab of Wei-dong Yao, PhD)

Above and below, nerve cells (from the lab of Wei-dong Yao, PhD)

For instance, they are all caused, at least in part, by a damaged prefrontal cortex, the brain structure that controls our cognition, emotion and memory, and altered neural connections and communications between this and other regions of the brain.

Neuroscientists at Upstate, led by professor Wei-dong Yao, PhD, study the brain and have a variety of collaborative research projects that deal with addiction, psychiatric diseases and dementia.

Nerve cells (from the lab of Wei-dong Yao, PhD)What they learn about dopamine — a neurotransmitter linked to reward and addiction, and synaptic plasticity — helps in the understanding of schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric diseases.

And, learning about the synaptic loss that leads to frontotemporal dementia may actually reveal new ways of treating this devastating  early-onset neurodegenerative disease.

Yao is a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, and neuroscience and physiology who came to Upstate in 2014 after 10 years on the faculty at Harvard Medical School.

Addiction

For more than a decade, Yao has been working on how cocaine impairs the brain by hijacking the dopamine reward circuits. These are the brain’s cortical and limbic structures where dopamine is made and detected that are associated with our ability to feel pleasure.

“Some people are more vulnerable or susceptible to drugs,” he says, explaining that certain mutations on certain genes influence a person’s vulnerability. But that only tells part of the story. Yao’s neuroscience research lab at Upstate is working to tell more.

Using a powerful microscope that allows them to view the junctions between neurons, called synapses, and sophisticated electrophysical recording equipment,

Yao’s research team explores how neurons communicate in addicted brains — and whether that affects how susceptible a person will be to addiction.

Ultimately, he would like to come up with a way to treat addiction by repairing the synapses and neural circuits in the brains of cocaine addicts.

Neurodevelopmental disorders

Abnormal levels of dopamine have been linked to schizophrenia and other psychiatric disorders.

The spines or synapses (circled in white) indicate sites where communication between neurons take place. (from the lab of Wei-dong Yao)

The spines or synapses (circled in white) indicate sites where communication between neurons take place. (from the lab of Wei-dong Yao)

In Yao’s lab, researchers have provided evidence on how excessive dopamine impairs synaptic plasticity in the prefrontal cortex, which represents a significant step forward in our understanding and potential treatment of schizophrenia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. They have also studied the medication clozapine to learn how it may improve cognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia.

In collaboration with colleagues at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Yao is also studying a group of genetic switches on our DNA, known as epigenetic modifiers, that control synapse and brain development and are linked to schizophrenia, autism and depression.

Dementia

Yao is looking for a way to help people with a type of dementia that affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

Synapses change over time. This ability is called plasticity. They can become stronger or weaker or disappear, which impacts neural communication, cognitive function and behavior.

Neuroscientists have learned that symptoms of cognitive impairment and dementia arise with synaptic loss. Keeping neurons active and maintaining existing synaptic connections can help alleviate symptoms, Yao says, adding that exercise, including mental exercise such as meditation, can help preserve brain plasticity and prevent the loss of synapses. Exactly how that is achieved is currently unknown.

Yao’s team is working on strengthening and stabilizing synapses by tweaking some proteins within the neurons. Eventually, Yao believes, scientists will find a more physiological way to keep neurons healthy and synapses stable. He also hopes to find a way to delay or prevent the death of neurons, through controlling the brain’s natural electric activity, a project he’s working on with a colleague at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Neuroscience terms to know

Neurons are nerve cells that, once born, can live for many years and often for a person’s lifetime. Debate exists over whether the brain has the ability to continue making neurons after a person is born. Some neuroscientists believe neurogenesis takes place into adulthood in the hippocampus, a region of the temporal lobe near the center of the brain, but research published this spring in the journal Nature questions that. Neurons are not like other cells in the body, which are constantly being replaced as they die.

A molecular signaling pathway is a coordinated series of biochemical reactions within a cell that control specific cellular functions, such as cell division or cell death.

Synapses are the “wiring” of the brain, the junctions between neurons where communication takes place. Each neuron starts out with many thousands of synapses. As a person learns, he or she builds more synapses. So yes, there is science behind games that are promoted for brain health.

Plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change, physically but also functionally and chemically throughout a person’s life. If the synapses weaken as a person ages, communication among the neurons diminishes.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that facilitates communication among neurons. It is also known as the pleasure molecule of our brain.

Frontotemporal dementia is the second most common form of dementia after Alzheimer’s disease and results from the progressive degeneration of the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain.

Chemical compounds used to regulate the activity of genes are called epigenetic modifiers. In some instances, modifications remain as cells divide and can be inherited through the generations. Scientists are studying what effect the modifications have on gene function, protein production and human health, according to the Genetics Home Reference from the National Institutes of Health.

Upstate Health magazine summer 2018 issueThis article appears in the summer 2018 issue of Upstate Health  magazine.

 

 

Posted in addiction, aging/geriatrics, Alzheimer's/dementia, brain/neurology, health care, psychology/psychiatry, research | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Yoga for all: Physical therapist adapts exercise for those with developmental disabilities

The downloadable booklet on yoga for people with a range of developmental disabilities.

The downloadable booklet on yoga for people with a range of developmental disabilities.

From its origins in India more than 3,000 years ago, yoga in America today has a reputation for improving flexibility, balance and muscle strength.

Rebecca Alexander, who graduated from Upstate with her doctor of physical therapy degree this spring, extols the versatility of yoga, which can be done sitting in a chair or wheelchair. She hopes to work with patients who have neurological impairments. “Yoga can provide significant benefit,” she promises.

“Yoga is about intention and the breath. It doesn’t matter if you can’t get your arms all the way over your head. The intention doesn’t get lost.”

Alexander has been involved with “Unified Yoga,” a program that grew out of a mainstream yoga program at the Southwest Community Center in Syracuse.

Mainstream yoga, adapted for people with a range of developmental disabilities, such as autism, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy, was an effort by Upstate pediatrician Nienke Dosa, MD, for people between the ages of 16 and 40.

Yoga classes were held outdoors in good weather, with students unfurling colorful yoga mats on the grass at Thornden Park and Burnet Park, and then following Alexander through a series of poses.

Alexander teamed up with Joy Papazides-Hanlon, a teacher at the community center, to create a 28-page booklet for the Inclusive Fitness Initiative, a three-year pilot program paid for by the New York State Developmental Disabilities Planning Council.

Download the booklet, for free, at www.inclusiverec.org under the “resources” and “useful articles” tabs.

Upstate Health magazine summer 2018 issueThis article appears in the summer 2018 issue of Upstate Healthmagazine.

Posted in community, disability, fitness, health care, physical therapy/rehabilitation | Tagged , , ,

How do you choose between a medical and a musical career? Find a way to do both

Kaitlyn DeHority (photo by Durst Breneiser/courtesy of Ithaca College)

Kaitlyn DeHority (photo by Durst Breneiser/courtesy of Ithaca College)

BY JIM McKEEVER

Future Upstate medical student Kaitlyn DeHority started classes at Ithaca College as a music major. She decided to add chemistry in her second semester. Four years later, she graduated with a dual degree in music and chemistry.

“I sat down and planned every semester of courses, so I could do both, and I checked in with my advisers and associate deans each semester to make sure I was on track,” DeHority recalls. “I put a ton of effort into it.”

Accomplished in both fields — she was an Ithaca College Presidential Scholar and the principal trumpet player in the college’s Chamber and Symphony orchestras — DeHority had to make a decision which to pursue after graduation. How did she decide?

“A lot of people have a ‘light bulb’ moment. Not me,” she says. “It was a series of little things along the way.”

Her passion for music became obvious in elementary school. DeHority performed throughout middle school and high school in the Fayetteville-Manlius school district, earning honors at county, state and national levels. Her involvement continued throughout her time at Ithaca College.

In high school, she attended a 10-day National Youth Leadership forum on medicine in Boston. Then in college, she spent a summer doing electrochemistry research. And she shadowed Upstate experts in anesthesiology, oncology and pathology. All of those experiences made a lasting impression.

When she arrived at Upstate in 2016, DeHority was used to rehearsing 15 hours a week, practicing another hour or two each day and performing regularly. She missed it. So, she joined the Syracuse University Brass Ensemble, where she performs almost weekly, along with Upstate’s James Greenwald, MD, a professor of family medicine who also plays trombone.

“I’m busier,” she says of the music in her life, “but more balanced.”

DeHority’s two passions complement each other. Dedication, preparation and practice are required, whether it’s with a patient or for a performance.

“Medicine is moving toward a team-based approach,” she describes. “It’s impossible for one person to know everything, so you rely on your colleagues. It’s the same with an ensemble. You bring your highest level, but you rely on your colleagues.”

Study music and medicine

An initiative called the Upstate Guaranteed Entrance Program for Select Majors aims to enroll about 10 high-caliber students each year to medical school who come from a diverse range of undergraduate programs.

Students will be accepted into Upstate’s College of Medicine directly from high school, with the understanding that they will complete a bachelor’s degree at SUNY Purchase College or another of SUNY campus before starting medical school.

They are able to pick from a range of pre-med degrees, including a bachelor of fine arts, bachelor of arts, bachelor of music or bachelor of science. Students will have to maintain a 3.5 grade point average in college and would not have to take the Medical College Admission Test.

Interested high schoolers must apply to the SUNY campus and interview at Upstate for consideration. To qualify they must have an average of at least 90, extracurricular activities having to do with health care, and an SAT score of at least 1360 or an ACT score of at least 29.

Upstate Health magazine summer 2018 issueThis article appears in the summer 2018 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

Posted in education, health care, health careers, medical education, medical student | Tagged