Physical therapist first to cross finish line


Men’s winner Lee Berube of Syracuse representing Upstate Medical University in the J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge. (PHOTO BY DENNIS NETT/SYRACUSE.COM)

Upstate Medical University’s Lee Berube was the fastest man to finish the 3 1/2-mile J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge race this June at Onondaga Lake Park. Berube finished in 17 minutes, 36 seconds.

Berube, 25, of Syracuse is a doctor of physical therapy who has been running since he was 6 years old. “I really do love it,” he says of running, which is like a hobby for him now. He rises at 5 a.m. to run five or six days a week, and he does speed work with the Syracuse Track Club every week.

Upstate co-worker Cara Lavier wasn’t far behind Berube, with a time of 22 minutes, 17 seconds. She was the fourth woman to cross the finish line.

Lavier, 37, of Chittenango is a registered nurse who began running at about the age of 9 with her father. In 2014 she was part of a four-person team from Upstate that traveled to London to compete in the Corporate Challenge championship race.

This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

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Renewed lives: Pancreas transplants mean patients with diabetes can skip insulin injections

Patrick Nolan felt better shortly after surgery that gave him a new pancreas. (PHOTO BY KATHLEEN PAICE FROIO)


Patrick Nolan, 52, remembers spending his 11th birthday at Upstate University Hospital with a new diagnosis of diabetes. The Syracuse native lived with the disease for 41 years, routinely checking his blood sugar and injecting insulin up to six times per day.

Nolan received the first pancreas transplant at Upstate since Rainer Gruessner, MD, became chief of diabetic services. Days after Nolan’s operation, Harry Tynan, 39, of Oswego also received a pancreas transplant.

Transplant nephrologist Oleh Pankewyz, MD (PHOTO BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE)

Both men had Type 1 diabetes, a disease in which the pancreas does not produce the insulin necessary for the body to process sugars. Both suffered kidney damage from diabetes, and each underwent a kidney transplant, Nolan in 2011 and Tynan in 2013. Today, pancreas transplants have further improved their lives.

“It’s a complete change just to look forward and not have to do injections,” says Tynan. “I’m ready to pick up the insulin pen – and now I don’t have to.”

Nolan says “wow” whenever he checks his blood sugar. He’s not used to such healthy numbers, and he’s not used to the freedom of not having to check his blood sugar so frequently. “I’m reliving my youth,” he says.

Harry Tynan also received a pancreas transplant.

The transplanted pancreas produces insulin as soon as it’s sewn into place. This helps the body maintain a stable level of blood sugar, avoiding dangerous fluctuations. A patient keeps his or her original pandfscreas, which continues to produce enzymes that aid in the digestion of food.

Gruessner explains that “the pancreas transplant works because it is the only way to create long-term normal glycemia, so you don’t run into the problems of low blood sugar anymore. It stabilizes glucose metabolism.” While a pancreas transplant can reverse some types of damage caused by diabetes, it can halt the progression of kidney disease, retinopathy and circulatory problems that could lead to dialysis, blindness and amputation. And with diabetes under control, patients reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke.

Mark Laftavi, MD, surgical director of the pancreas transplant program, explains that a pancreas transplant in a young person with hard-to-control diabetes “can cure diabetes in the early stages before it damages the body.”

People with diabetes who have already developed kidney disease may be candidates for kidney and pancreas transplants done at the same time, using organs from the same donor. Or, as in the case of Nolan and Tynan, they may undergo two separate transplant operations.

“If you have a living donor, you are better to do a living donor kidney transplant and then get a pancreas,” Laftavi says. “That’s the best option available at this time.”

Members of the transplant surgical team include, from left, Mark Laftavi, MD, Rainer Gruessner, MD, chief of transplant services, and Vaughn Whittaker, MD. (PHOTO BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE)


This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Upstate Health magazine. Click here for an interview with Nolan and Tynan about how receiving a new pancreas changed their lives, and here for an interview with Gruessner about how pancreas transplants can help diabetics.

Posted in diabetes/endocrine/metabolism, health care, HealthLink on Air, illness, kidney/renal/nephrology, liver/ gallbladder/ pancreas, organ donation/transplant, pancreas/liver/gallbladder/bile ducts, patient story, surgery | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Science Is Art Is Science: A crystal-clear view of a proton pump

A proton pump called vacuolar ATPase plays an essential role in several biological processes. Malfunctions in this pump lead to a wide spectrum of human diseases, including bone and kidney diseases, diabetes and cancer.

Biochemistry and molecular biology scientists in the laboratory of Stephan Wilkens, PhD, use X-ray crystallography to study the 3-D structure of the pump to understand its role in disease and to aid in the design of therapeutics.

These colorful images illustrate how sectors of the proton pump – the sectors responsible for using cellular energy to drive transport through the pump – pack together to form the crystals that the researchers study. This work involves postdoctoral researcher Rebecca Oot, PhD, and Wilkens in collaboration with Patricia Kane, PhD, and Edward Berry, PhD, from Upstate’s department of biochemistry and molecular biology.

This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Upstate Health magazine.





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Recipe: Berry Good Wraps

High in vitamin C and antioxidants, berries of all sorts are good food choices eaten as they are. But you can also include them in recipes for meals. This wrap showcases strawberries, which are rich in a B vitamin called folate, which is responsible for making healthy new cells and preventing anemia and neural tube defects in developing fetuses. This recipe serves 2.

Renowned chef Cary Neff, left, is vice president of culinary for Morrison Management Specialists, which operates Upstate’s food services. He visited cafeterias on campus in June promoting Flavors 450, a hospital dining menu that features an array of more than 60 rotating recipes, each under 450 calories.


2 cups diced strawberries

1 diced peach

¼ cup finely chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

two 12-inch flour tortillas

4 to 6 slices of reduced-sodium deli turkey

½ cup fresh spinach leaves


Combine the fruit, cilantro and orange juice into a fruit salsa. Heat the flour tortillas in a microwave for 30 seconds. Layer 2 or 3 slices of turkey on each of the warm tortillas. Then, spoon on the fruit salsa, and top with spinach. Fold tortilla to make a wrap.

Nutritional information

Serving size: 1 tortilla

286 calories

16 grams protein

46 grams carbohydrates

5 grams fiber

17 grams sugars

5 grams fat

24 milligrams cholesterol

889 milligrams sodium

This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

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What’s Up at Upstate: A look at educational, health care, research and community endeavors

The Weiskotten Hall courtyard at Upstate Medical University.

Organ lessons and clinical exposure

A renewed curriculum for the first two years of medical school at Upstate introduces students to the body, organ by organ, and provides them with clinical exposure earlier in their academic careers.

Their study begins with molecules, cells and microbes and then focuses on the musculoskeletal system, skin and blood before moving to the nervous system, the circulatory and respiratory systems and more. In each unit, students learn what an organ and its cells look like, what they do, how they work and how they relate to the other organs and systems of the body. Woven throughout each unit are the basic sciences, including anatomy and cell biology, biochemistry and molecular biology, physiology and neuroscience, microbiology and immunology, pathology and pharmacology.

In addition, faculty members who also care for patients at Upstate University Hospital will teach small groups of students to use problem-based learning to analyze clinical cases.

Many medical schools follow a similar curriculum.

Easing the way home for hospital patients 

Upstate University Hospital offers a 20-bed Transitional Care Unit on a newly renovated floor for patients who no longer require acute care but continue to need specialized medical, nursing or other hospital ancillary services before returning to their homes.

Patients who may receive transitional care include someone with a new diagnosis of diabetes, someone recovering from surgery and needing complex wound care, or someone requiring intravenous antibiotics for a systemic infection. (Click here for a radio interview/podcast about the unit with Sharon Brangman, MD, medical director, and nurse Amy Rottger, unit manager.)  

Project aims to reduce HIV, similar infections

A five-year, $1 million grant from the New York State Department of Health will help prevent the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. Doctors at Upstate’s Immune Health Services will provide pre-exposure prophylaxis, a daily pill called Truvada, to healthy HIV-negative adults and adolescents who are at risk for HIV or other sexually transmitted infections. HIV screening and health assessments are also available.

This is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s goal to reduce the annual number of new HIV infections in New York state to 750, from an estimated 3,000, by the end of 2020. Studies show that people who take the medication as prescribed reduce their risk of getting HIV by more than 90 percent.

Research focuses on pregnancy, early childhood

The Global Maternal Child and Pediatric Health Program is designed to address the global health issues women face during pregnancy and children face during early childhood. The initiative combines research, clinical trials, education and training here and abroad.

The program is part of Upstate’s Center for Global Health & Translational Science, which already has done significant work in various global health issues, such as mosquito-borne illnesses including dengue and chikungunya. “We will now have a laserlike focus on emerging areas of research during pregnancy and early childhood,” says David Amberg, PhD, Upstate’s vice president for research.

Neighbors spread healthy information about parenting

Guest instructor Gwen Webber-McLeod (left) high-fives Tara Harris, a resident health advocate who initiated the parenting classes in the Healthy Neighbors program. (PHOTO BY SUSAN KEETER)

Resident health advocates help teach a parenting class as part of Healthy Neighbors, a health and wellness collaboration between Upstate and the Syracuse Housing Authority.

Ten residents of Pioneer Homes completed an eight-week training program to become health advocates, learning about cancer prevention, sexual health, physical activity and nutrition. Healthy Neighbors is expanding to the Toomey Abbott Towers, 1207 Almond St., and Almus Olver Towers, 300 Burt St.

This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

Posted in aging/geriatrics, autoimmune, community, drugs/medications/pharmacy, education, health care, HealthLink on Air, illness, infectious disease, international health care, maternity/obstetrics, medical education, medical student, Medicare, nursing, prevention/preventive medicine, public health, research, sexuality, Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital/pediatrics, volunteers, women's health/gynecology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Syracuse’s poorest workers: Health problems, low wages







An ongoing study of the Syracuse area’s lowest-paid workers finds they often face aching backs, constant stress and a lack of respect as well as a skimpy paycheck.


These workers, often in service jobs, deal with sore muscles, ever-changing work schedules and the fear that if they even mention a health problem, they’ll lose their job — a job that may not be secure to begin with.

These concerns are documented in “Healthy Work in Syracuse? Conversations With Low-Wage Workers,” the second phase of the Low-Wage Workers’ Health Project. It’s a study from the Occupational Health Clinical Centers, a state operation based in Syracuse that serves 26 counties and is affiliated with Upstate Medical University.

Defining who is a low-wage worker is difficult, explains project manager Jeanette Zoeckler, but in this study it means workers struggling to survive at a basic level, earning less than $15 an hour, depending on family size and other factors.


About 39 percent of workers in the five-county region around Syracuse made $15 or less an hour in 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, including cashiers, food preparers and servers, cleaners, office and stock clerks, health aides and unskilled laborers, such as the workers shown in the first four photos).

“Occupations that are giving people less than a living wage tend to have certain characteristics that impact health, and that can range from poor air quality to poor ergonomics, physical factors on the job that influence health and also mental factors on the job that influence health, and so in the new economy we’re curious about how the low-wage worker’s work impacts their health,” Zoeckler says.


The project saw national trends mirrored in Central New York, such as the move from manufacturing to low-skilled work – “basically a proliferation of lousy jobs or less meaningful or less satisfying jobs that also have poor conditions associated with them,” she says.
These jobs are described as “precarious” because they can end suddenly and “dead-end” because they tend to offer little long-term chance for a raise, promotion or desirable career.

More than 450 people were interviewed over the first two years of the study, and “I think we’re starting to get a good picture of the kinds of struggles that the workers are facing on the job with regard to their health, and with regard to the entire context of what it means in their lives,“ Zoeckler says.

Health aide.

Among the physical problems, muscle and joint pain were common, with roughly a third of respondents saying they experienced pain daily at work and many facing barriers to getting medical care.

Workers also reported stress from being bullied and disrespected, having poorly defined duties and not being paid what they are owed by employers.

The report’s contributors have met in the past year with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s task force on exploited workers, distributed the report to lawmakers and hope it will help point the way to both short- and long-term solutions to low-wage workers’ problems.

The third phase of the report is to be published soon.

Jeanette Zoeckler, project manager for an ongoing study of low-wage workers’ health conditions, and Michael Lax, MD, medical director of the Occupational Health Clinical Centers.










This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Upstate Health magaz. Click here for a radio interview/podcast about the low-wage workers’  health study with Zoeckler and Lax

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Photography, writing provide creative outlet for program coordinator

A newborn fawn photographed by Patty Mondore at her camp in Redwood, in the Thousand Islands region.

A newborn fawn photographed by Patty Mondore at her camp in Redwood, in the Thousand Islands region.


Whether it’s with a camera, a keyboard or a microphone, Patty Mondore likes to express herself and share her world.

A 25-year employee of Upstate, where she is the pediatric residency program coordinator, Mondore has written numerous newspaper columns and books to express her thoughts, often of a devotional nature, and usually featuring photographs she has taken of her beloved Thousand Islands region, where she and her husband have a camp.

“I’ve always loved nature. I’ve always been outdoors since I was a little kid, when I had a Brownie,” she said, recalling her first Kodak camera.

“When I am outdoors I like to shoot photos. I just want to bring it all back in with me.”

Her photos, and some videos, include views of the St. Lawrence River and its islands and wildlife, including a chipmunk that she and her husband, Bob Mondore, a retired Upstate clinical data staffer, named Hoover. The energetic Hoover – named for the way he practically vacuums up his food — has achieved something of a following on YouTube.

She takes pictures with an inexpensive, point-and-shoot camera that has a good zoom lens for capturing animals. “Someone once told me that being a good photographer is strictly a matter of showing up at the right time and place,” she notes.

Two of her photos – of a butterfly and a rainbow, both taken near her Jamesville home — hang in the Upstate Cancer Center.

Her photos can be seen on her Web site, which also features songs and keyboard music by Mondore.

This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Upstate Health magazine.

Mondore captured this image of a butterfly and butterfly bush at her home in Jamesville.

Mondore captured this image of a butterfly and butterfly bush at her home in Jamesville.

Posted in community, entertainment, health care, medical education, Upstate Golisano Children's Hospital/pediatrics | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Nurse relieves stress, has fun with Zumba

Upstate nurse Barbara Mcginley (front row, center) teaches Zumba at the YMCA in downtown Syracuse. (PHOTOS BY SUSAN KAHN)











“If you love to dance, you’re going to love a Zumba class,” says Barbara Mcginley. “Do you love to dance? And get a workout at the same time?”

A highly energized dance class, set to anything from Caribbean salsa to hip-hop, is what Mcginley, a psychiatric nurse at Upstate’s community campus, leads each Monday afternoon for an enthusiastic crowd at the downtown Syracuse YMCA. She also teaches a class at Syracuse’s Unity church.

Mcginley, 65, of Syracuse, had studied African dance and cardio salsa and been an aerobics instructor when she heard about Zumba being offered at the Y about five years ago. Curious, she took some classes, said, “Wow, this is what I want to do,” and soon got certification as a Zumba instructor.

She choreographs each song, which probably takes her students a couple of the hourlong classes to learn. The moves are basic, often repeated and can incorporate fitness moves like squats.

“It’s more like fun moving in a way that you probably have not ever moved, and anybody can do it. We’re here to have fun and to have a workout and enjoy the music, and most people who come into the class come back again,” she said.

She gradually introduces new songs into the mix, since “sometimes the gals (the classes tend to be all or mostly women) like the same songs over and over again.”

“I want my class to feel like you’ve been to a Latin country. Like you just took a mini trip to Puerto Rico or to South America,” she said.

“I love my job,” said Mcginley, who has been a nurse at her campus for 43 years, and Zumba “is a great way to be able to be able to cope with life and its stressors.”

What is Zumba?

McKinley (front) says most people who come to her class come back for more.

Zumba is a trademarked dance and exercise program set to Latin and world music, designed to be simple, energetic and fun. It was created in the 1990s when Colombian aerobics instructor Beto Perez forgot the music for the class he was teaching and improvised with his own Latin music. That happy mistake led to a worldwide sensation. Today, Zumba is practically a lifestyle, with variations including Zumba Kids and Zumba Gold (for seniors) as well as themed clothing, DVDs, cruises and more.

This article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Upstate Health magazine. 

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A digestive disorder: Gastroparesis a life changer for Liverpool woman


Most people can eat a snack or a meal without thinking about it beforehand or feeling sick afterward.

Not Rhonda Ferry, for whom eating usually means a liquid dietary supplement or a quarter cup of a low-fiber, low-fat food, like gelatin, taken very slowly. Nausea is likely to follow, and maybe vomiting and blood sugar problems as well.

Rhonda Ferry carrying the backpack that holds a nutrition pump attached to her feeding tube. (PHOTO BY ROBERT MESCAVAGE)

“It’s just the simple things that you take for granted. You just don’t realize until something like this happens how much food is involved with everything you do — church picnics, whatever — I skipped a picnic yesterday because I did not want to be tempted,” the 56-year-old Liverpool resident says.

Ferry suffers from gastroparesis, a disorder in which food does not move through her stomach as it should. In her case, longstanding Type 1 diabetes damaged her vagus nerve, disrupting motility, or the process of moving food through the digestive tract. The condition, which affects about 5 million Americans, mostly women, has other causes, too.

Food tends to sit in Ferry’s stomach like a brick and can collect into a potentially dangerous food ball, or bezoar.

She had suffered from digestive problems before, including acid reflux, so she thought what started in January 2015 might be related. But it gradually got so unpleasant to eat that by October 2015 she had gone from about 130 pounds to about 93 pounds.

She went to see Divey Manocha, MD, a gastroenterologist at Upstate, which has a motility laboratory using manometers – tubes with pressure sensors — to help diagnose gastroparesis as well as irritable bowel or chronic constipation.

Divey Manocha, MD

Patients with gastroparesis can become so averse to eating that they can become dehydrated and malnourished as well as anxious and depressed, Manocha says.

Gastroparesis is treated with a multidisciplinary approach at Upstate, involving a nutritionist and primary care provider as well as the gastroenterologist. Treatment can involve medicines, botulinum injections to alleviate nausea and vomiting, and a feeding tube that bypasses the stomach to go directly into the small intestine.

Ferry had a feeding tube implanted in November 2015. Its attached pump, which can be carried in a small backpack, sends liquid nourishment over a 10-hour period to avoid malnutrition.

After eight months on the tube, she gained only 5 pounds, she was struggling to reach 100. Her nutritionist told her that if she can reach and maintain 115 pounds, she might be able to come off the feeding tube.

In the meantime, she has found support from her family as well as from a larger community on the Internet that discusses gastroparesis and its related issues, such as a petition H.R. 2311 petition for a proposed federal law to expand research of gastrointestinal motility disorders, or how some doctors dismiss the disorder because they are unfamiliar with it.

Ferry, who once loved to eat, has gotten used to a limited social life, to avoid food-laden occasions and people who don’t understand her illness and keep urging her to eat.

“A good day would be no pain in the stomach and that I was able to eat something other than a liquid,” she says, adding that she has found some relief through her treatments.

HLOA-4C-VERT-REVThis article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Upstate Health magazine. Click here for a radio interview/podcast with Ferry and Manocha about gastroparesis.

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A kidney unites them: Facebook connects Upstate nurse with woman needing a kidney transplant

Transplant recipient Victoria Fitzgerald (left) with her kidney donor, Upstate nurse Jody Adams. (PHOTO BY WILLIAM MUELLER)


As Jody Adams scrolled through Facebook in January, one post stuck with her. It was written from the point of view of a baby boy named Carter, seeking someone to donate a kidney to his ailing mother.

A nurse for 12 years and the mother of six children, Adams says the idea of donating one of her healthy kidneys never crossed her mind – until she read that post. She didn’t want to imagine a little boy growing up without a mother, especially if she could help. And it didn’t matter to her that she did not know the family.

Fitzgerald (left) gives Adams a hug. (PHOTO BY KATE RUTHERFORD)

Rereading the post, she got the feeling that her kidney would be a match for the young mother. Adams, who commutes from a small rural town in Steuben County to work as a nurse at Upstate University Hospital, called the transplant program to begin the process of becoming a living donor.

The young mother, Victoria Fitzpatrick was a stranger to Adams. “Yes, she’s a stranger,” Adams would explain to friends who questioned whether she should donate, “but this is somebody’s daughter, somebody’s mother.”

Adams, 40, has a daughter named Victoria. The girl’s fifth birthday is the day Adams received the call from the transplant center saying she was a match for Fitzpatrick, 30, of LaFayette.

“Altruistic donation is one of the most worthy causes an individual can be involved in,” says Rainer Gruessner, MD, chief of transplant services at Upstate. “It really is a gift of life.”

The Facebook post that inspired Adams to donate her kidney to a mother who was a stranger.

Fitzpatrick’s health status has been challenging since she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 10. Two years ago she developed end-stage renal disease and went on dialysis. Then last summer, as she was being evaluated to join the kidney transplant waiting list, she discovered she was pregnant.

Her pregnancy was high risk, requiring dialysis for six hours a day, six days a week. Carter was born Nov. 4, eight weeks premature and weighing just 3 pounds, 14 ounces. Three days after the delivery, Fitzpatrick lost her vision to diabetic retinopathy. Surgery has since restored her sight. And, she’s become engaged to Carter’s father, Daniel Bequer.

Her mother, Janet Burton, crafted the Facebook post seeking a kidney in January, using a picture of Fitzpatrick holding Carter. “Hi! My name is Carter. This is my mommy, Victoria, holding me. She’s pretty and smells nice. She doesn’t feel so good though,” it said. “Dad says she needs a new kid knee because hers are broken, and we need someone to give her a new one.”

Transplant surgeon Vaughn Whittaker, MD, says more than 50 phone calls came into the transplant center in the days after that Facebook post from people interested in donating. Six people were qualified to donate, and two have set dates for their altruistic kidney donations. Which means two Central New Yorkers will come off the transplant waiting list.

Staff at Upstate perform an average two kidney transplants every week, with the majority of kidneys coming from deceased donors. Currently, living donation is the exception. Gruessner intends to build a program where living donation becomes the rule.

When Gruessner completed the transplant from Adams to Fitzpatrick in May, he came to the waiting room to find their families.

“What your daughter, Jody, is doing,” he began, “she really is a hero. If we had more people like her, more people would not be on dialysis.”

In a news conference a few days later, the women spoke to reporters together, taking turns holding Carter. Adams said her recovery had been easier than when she had her appendix removed. She said she felt like an older sister to Fitzpatrick and that she was grateful Carter would have his mom.

“I’ll be thinking about her every Mother’s Day.”

Would you donate?

To be considered as a donor of a healthy kidney, a person must be:

* willing to donate.

* older than 18 years old.

* within normal weight range.

* in excellent health with no current diseases. High blood pressure, diabetes, kidney stones and cancer usually prevent donation.

* able to pass a medical evaluation.

For more information about organ transplants at Upstate,  click here or call 315-464-5413.

magazine-fall16cvrHLOA-4C-VERT-REVThis article appears in the fall 2016 issue of Upstate Health magazine. Click here for a radio interview/podcast version of this story,  here for an interview on the process of donating organs and here for an interview with Whittaker on the need for living kidney donations. More interviews can be found at health and entering “transplant” in the search field.  

Posted in death/dying, diabetes/endocrine/metabolism, health care, HealthLink on Air, illness, kidney/renal/nephrology, nursing, organ donation/transplant, patient story, surgery, volunteers | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,