Advanced surgery suite allows for MRI scans during operations

The room where the surgery takes place has a large door that opens into the suite for magnetic resonance imaging.

The room where the surgery takes place has a large door that opens into the suite for magnetic resonance imaging. Photo by Bob Mescavage.

Ordinarily after Satish Krishnamurthy, MD, removes a brain tumor in a patient, he finds the family in the waiting room. “I think we took out most, if not all, of the tumor,” he tells them, “but we will get a scan to make sure we took it all out.” Sometimes after the scan, the neurosurgeon has to arrange a second operation to remove any tumor that was left behind.

Now Krishnamurthy’s conversation has changed, thanks to the new intraoperative suite with MRI scanner in the Upstate Cancer Center. After he removed a brain tumor recently, he told his patient’s family, “I KNOW we took all the tumor out”.

“We had the ability to get an MRI scan before we closed the incision to figure out whether the tumor was, indeed, totally removed,” Krishnamurthy explains.

He performed the first surgery in October in the intraoperative suite, an expansive operating room which includes a powerful new magnetic resonance imaging scanner. The 3 tesla machine provides increased clarity and anatomic detail, making it an ideal choice for surgeries of the brain and spine. The suite is located in the Upstate Cancer Center, which is attached to Upstate University Hospital but can also be used for patients who have noncancerous tumors.

Obtaining an MRI scan during brain surgery involves additional steps that are complicated. “We had to safely move our patient — while under anesthesia, with his head fixed to a clamp and all of the attached lines – more than 20 feet from the operating room to the scanner and back 20 minutes later. We had to make sure that everything on the patient was non-magnetic (due to the scanner’s magnetic field.) Afterward, we had to re-drape the patient and complete the surgery.

“The entire process, and in fact the entire surgery from beginning to end, was entirely flawless,” Krishnamurthy says. “This was not a coincidence but a result of months of preparation for the day that we brought our first patient in.”

As impressive as the operating room and state-of-the-art equipment are, Krishnamurthy says success relies on the expertise of the entire team which includes the operating room staff, anesthesia team and MRI technicians.

Posted in community, neurology, neurosurgery, nursing, surgery | Leave a comment

Outreach to Ethiopia: Upstate otolaryngologists help restore hearing after ear infections

Using a flexible scope, Rick Kelley, MD, examines a patient's nasopharynx and voice box with Muluken Bekelle, MD, the first ear, nose and throat doctor Kelley trained in Ethiopia, equipping him with clinical and operating room instruments.

Using a flexible scope, Rick Kelley, MD, examines a patient’s nasopharynx and voice box with Muluken Bekelle, MD, the first ear, nose and throat doctor Kelley trained in Ethiopia, equipping him with clinical and operating room instruments. Photo by Sarah Stuart, MD.

Five years ago, Rick Kelley, MD, and his wife, Ashley, decided their home could hold more children. They looked into international adoption and wound up in Ethiopia.

Now they have three daughters and a son, ranging in age from 3 to 10 — along with a mission to help prevent hearing loss in the kids’ birth country.

Medical students in the Ethiopian city of Awassa examine a patient using an otoscope donated by Drs. Rick Kelley and Sam Woods, after the Upstate physicians demonstrated how to conduct the exam.

Medical students in the Ethiopian city of Awassa examine a patient using an otoscope donated by Drs. Rick Kelley and Sam Woods, after the Upstate physicians demonstrated how to conduct the exam. Photo by Sarah Stuart, MD.

Kelley, an associate professor of otolaryngology and communication sciences at Upstate, has made the 7,500-mile trek to Ethiopia a dozen times, providing medical care and making connections and plans for how to help. A variety of colleagues from the Syracuse area have accompanied him.

“Over the years it has grown, and what we’ve been able to accomplish and do has grown,” he says.

The country of Ethiopia has 10 ear, nose and throat doctors, located in the capital city of Addis Ababa, and 4 outside Addis, to look after 85 million people.

Kelley’s first trip to provide medical care was preceded by a radio announcement. Organizers told him to expect maybe 10 or 15 patients. Instead, about 250 people were there. Some had traveled for days to get there. More than 90 percent had ear disease and hearing loss.

“What we figured out on that very first trip is that although it may feel good to go on a medical trip and treat a couple hundred people, it’s really just a drop in the bucket,” Kelley says. He wanted to make a bigger, more lasting impact.

Charles "Sam" Woods, MD, takes Muluken Bekelle, MD, through an eardrum replacement surgery, called tympanoplasty, in Awassa, a city in Ethiopia.

Charles “Sam” Woods, MD, takes Muluken Bekelle, MD, through an eardrum replacement surgery, called tympanoplasty, in Awassa, a city in Ethiopia. Photo by Sarah Stuart, MD.

Back in Syracuse, he enlisted the help of Sam Woods, MD, a colleague and fellow ear, nose and throat doctor at Upstate who specializes in hearing loss and disorders of the ear.

When Ethiopians get ear infections, they aren’t necessarily able to get to doctors for

Otolaryngologist Asnake Kassa, MD,  gave a talk at Upstate as part of his visit to America this fall. He presented case studies of patients and discussed Ethiopia's medical schools (there are three) and otolaryngology residency programs (there are none). In the background is Rick Kelley, MD.

Otolaryngologist Asnake Kassa, MD, gave a talk at Upstate as part of his visit to America this fall. He presented case studies of patients and discussed Ethiopia’s medical schools (there are three) and otolaryngology residency programs (there are none). In the background is Rick Kelley, MD. Photo by Susan Keeter.

antibiotics; a huge portion of the population lives a rural life, walking everywhere. Untreated, ear infections can lead to perforated eardrums, which cause hearing loss of 45 to 50 percent. Caught early, surgery can repair perforated eardrums and restore hearing.

Woods realized “if we did nothing else but train some of the otolaryngologists there to repair eardrums, that would make a huge different for these people.” So that’s what he has done.

Kelley, Woods and other physicians become mentors to the physicians from Ethiopia, teaching the fine points of how to examine and diagnose ear disease and hearing loss. They are developing training programs in audiology for hearing testing, and they are supporting surgical training in otolaryngology.

Partners for Global Hearing – the name of their nonprofit – acquires equipment for training and care centers and is working to establish ear/hearing clinics in different zonal capitals. The organization’s largest expense is for shipping equipment and supplies to Ethiopia. Doctors pay their own travel expenses, and there are no administrative costs.

Woods says he volunteers mostly because “these people are so thankful.”

Kelley feels likewise. “It kind of reinvigorates why we went into medicine in the first place,” he says. “You get there, and it boils down to you and the patient and your ability to help.”

Learn more about Partners for Global Hearing at HLP-Ethiopia.org. HLP stands for Hearing Loss Prevention. The group also has a Facebook presence.

Hear an interview with Drs. Kelley and Woods about their outreach to Ethiopia

Teaching students about ear anatomy and disease at Hawassa University during a trip in 2011.

Teaching students about ear anatomy and disease at Hawassa University during a trip in 2011.

Posted in community, ENT, Health Link on Air | Tagged | Leave a comment

Confusion in elderly may signal epilepsy

The symptoms of epilepsy may appear differently in senior citizens than in younger people, which makes the diagnosis tricky and can lead to incorrect treatment, says Rebecca O’Dwyer, MD, a neurologist at Upstate Medical University’s geriatric epilepsy clinic.

She says the incidence of epilepsy in older adults is on the rise, more than half of the cases caused by strokes. Tumors, metabolic disorders and neurodegenerative diseases can also lead to epilepsy. About 10 percent of people with Alzheimer’s disease also have epilepsy.

Symptoms do not always include convulsions.

“The brain can manifest many different behaviors that are also seizures. It can be something very subtle, like the inability to talk or just staring off. It could also be confusion, especially in the elderly,” O’Dwyer says.

She says seniors are less likely than young people to experience auras before their seizures – and they are more likely to be treated successfully with medication.

Reach the geriatric epilepsy clinic at 315-464-4243.

Listen to an interview with Dr. O’Dwyer about epilepsy in older adults.

Posted in community, Health Link on Air, neurology | Leave a comment

3 things to do before getting pregnant

Family planning expert Renee Mestad, MD, gives this advice to women before they begin trying to conceive:

  1. Stop smoking. Smoking interferes with ovulation, the ability of the egg to move through the fallopian tube, and it affects implantation. It also increases the risk of miscarriage and preterm delivery.
  2. Start taking prenatal vitamins. The folic acid helps prevent birth defects that develop in the first four to six weeks, before most women realize they are pregnant.
  3. Talk to your medical provider. Some common medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, decongestants and antihistamines, can affect fertility.
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6 things you might not know about Upstate…

Volunteers contribute mightily to the operation of Upstate University Hospital, logging 82,528 hours in 2013. Learn about volunteer opportunities by calling 315-464-5180 or visiting upstate.edu/hospital/volunteers.

sharps* Bar codes on sharps containers — where needles are disposed after use – allow for the containers to be tracked as they are sterilized and reused up to 600 times. The new Stericycle containers are expected to save money as well as improve safety for nurses and other medical care providers, says Jason Rupert, assistant director for outpatient operations and materials. The lids on previous containers opened like post office boxes. The new ones have holes on top, a design that Rupert says has been shown to reduce accidental needle sticks by up to 80 percent.

* Upstate University Hospital receives about 12,000 packages per month, ranging from letters to new pieces of research or medical equipment.

141025 - 0986* The roof of the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital is marked with a red H in a big white cross symbol (above, center) so that helicopter pilots can locate their landing target in the midst of the downtown buildings in Syracuse.

* Upstate’s College of Graduate Studies conferred 27 degrees in 2014, including 14 doctorates, 10 masters and three MD/PhD degrees. Programs of study include biochemistry and molecular biology, cell and developmental biology, microbiology and immunology, neuroscience, pharmacology and physiology. Learn more at upstate.edu/grad/

Upstate’s prostate cancer team helped raise money for prostate cancer research at Upstate Medical University through a Movember Mustache Challenge involving the Syracuse Crunch hockey team. The men grew facial hair throughout the month of November, and fans voted by making online donations which totalled $4,467.58. Participating in the check presentation at the hockey game are, from left, Upstate’s Gennady Bratslavsky, MD, Michael Lacombe, MD, Dmitriy Nikolovsky, MD, and Srinivas Vourganti, MD. Joining them is Jim Sarosy of the Syracuse Crunch.

Participating in the check presentation are, from left, Upstate’s Gennady Bratslavsky, MD, Michael Lacombe, MD, Dmitriy Nikolovsky, MD, and Srinivas Vourganti, MD. Joining them is Jim Sarosy of the Syracuse Crunch.

Twenty Upstate doctors joined Syracuse Crunch players in growing mustaches to raise money for prostate cancer research and spread awareness of the disease which affects about one in seven men. Fans voted online for their favorite mustaches during the month of November by making donations, and a check for $4,467.58 was presented at the Nov. 28 Crunch game.

Posted in education, Golisano, hospital, urology, volunteers | Leave a comment

Cystic fibrosis drug helps people live longer

kalydecoA new medication may allow some people with cystic fibrosis to live near full lifespans, says Ran Anbar, MD, director of Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine at Upstate University Hospital.

People with CF have thick mucus that plugs the lungs and digestive tract, because their bodies either do not make a particular protein or make a defective version of the protein. In the 1950s, babies born with CF lived only a couple of years. Statistics today project a lifespan of about 40 years. Anbar says this is continuing to improve.

Ivacaftor (Kalydeco) is the first drug to treat the underlying cause of CF, a disease that is inherited when both parents carry defective genes. Since it was approved by the Food and Drug Administraiton in 2012, the drug has been used to help thin the mucus in patients with a small number of CF protein mutation. More than 150 different mutations cause the disease.

“For the 4 percent of patients who received it, it’s been marvelous. Their lung function improved. Their weight has improved. They feel better,” Anbar says. “This drug is powerful, and we’re still learning how it works.”

He says ivacaftor is being researched in combination with another drug, lumacaftor, for people with other types of CF. Recently, this combination was shown to be effective for patients with CF who carry the most common mutation combination, which affects about half of patients with CF. Ivacaftor/lumacaftor may be available for prescription to CF patients in early 2015. In combination with a third drug that is under development, this pair may be even more effective.

Of the estimated 30,000 Americans with CF, 225 live in Central New York and receive their care at Upstate.

Hear an interview with Dr. Anbar about Ivacaftor

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‘Physicians Practice’ magazine packed with information about Upstate

Upstate’s prostate cancer team helped raise money for prostate cancer research at Upstate Medical University through a Movember Mustache Challenge involving the Syracuse Crunch hockey team. The men grew facial hair throughout the month of November, and fans voted by making online donations which totalled $4,467.58. Participating in the check presentation at the hockey game are, from left, Upstate’s Gennady Bratslavsky, MD, Michael Lacombe, MD, Dmitriy Nikolovsky, MD, and Srinivas Vourganti, MD. Joining them is Jim Sarosy of the Syracuse Crunch.

Upstate’s prostate cancer team helped raise money for prostate cancer research at Upstate Medical University through a
Movember Mustache Challenge involving the Syracuse Crunch hockey team. The men grew facial hair throughout the month
of November, and fans voted by making online donations which totalled $4,467.58. Participating in the check presentation
at the hockey game are, from left, Upstate’s Gennady Bratslavsky, MD, Michael Lacombe, MD, Dmitriy Nikolovsky, MD, and
Srinivas Vourganti, MD. Joining them is Jim Sarosy of the Syracuse Crunch.

Here’s a roundup of news and information you’ll find about Upstate in the January issue of Physicians Practice magazine:

More long-time smokers may seek screening for lung cancer now that the federal Medicare program has indicated it will pay for the test.

Upstate’s lung cancer screening program began two years ago, with patients paying for the test out of pocket. The test consists of a low-dose computerized tomography scan designed to identify small tumors. Screening is designed for current or former heavy smokers who quit within the last 15 years, who are between 55 and 74 years old. Heavy smoking means a pack a day for 30 years, or two packs a day for 15 years.

A draft decision from Medicare in November said the annual screenings would be covered; the decision is expected to become final in February.

***

One page from the January issue of Physicians Practice. Click on the page to read all of the content.

One page from the January issue of Physicians Practice. Click on the page to read all of the content.

Spencer M. Wallace Jr., who has been living with Type 1 diabetes for an astounding 81 years, donated several diabetes-related items that he has collected over his years of care to Upstate’s Joslin Diabetes Center at a reception in November.

Wallace is the first recipient of the Joslin Diabetes Center’s 80-year medal. He is part of a study at Joslin that is aimed to understand why certain people who have had Type 1 diabetes for 50 years or more do not develop many of the serious complications associated with the disease.

The donation of diabetes-related books and devices will be displayed at the center.

***

Upstate University Hospital nurse Shannon Tilbe received an American Red Cross “Real Hero” award in December. Tilbe is credited with helping to save a young woman’s life in May. She was driving home from a soccer match with her daughter when she stopped to help care for a woman whose motorcycle catapulted off the road and into a muddy, water-filled creek.

***

Upstate received a 2014 Customer of the Year award from New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. The award recognizes Upstate for creating jobs for New Yorkers with disabilities through its partnership with NYSID and NYSID vendors that contract through New York’s Preferred Source Program.

During 2014, Upstate has employed 181 individuals with disabilities through NYSID member agencies.

***

One of Upstate’s most influential couples, Carlyle “Jake” F. Jacobsen, PhD, and his wife, Ellen Townley Cook Jacobsen, MD, were honored for their work and support of Upstate Medical University with the dedication of Weiskotten Hall’s first floor lobby as the Carlyle and Ellen Cook Jacobsen Foyer.

Carlyle was Upstate’s first president, from 1957 to 1965, and oversaw the construction of University Hospital. He married Ellen in 1958. She was the first woman resident in internal medicine at Upstate and the first woman faculty member of the College of Medicine. Carlyle died in 1974. Ellen retired in 1990 and died in 2013 at the age of 94.

***

A conference room was dedicated in October in the name of Nell Theresa Connor, who saved several of her coworkers from a deadly fire in Binghamton, at the Occupational Health Clinical Center of the Southern Tier. The center is affiliated with Upstate.

Thirty workers were killed in the 1913 fire at the Binghamton Clothing Company. Coming just two years after the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in Manhattan, the Binghamton fire aided in pressing New York officials to create the state’s Workers Compensation system and advance fire-fighting capabilities.

***

Upstate’s College of Nursing used its largest contribution in history to create an endowed lectureship.

Fay Whitney, PhD, a national leader and advocate for advanced nursing practice, and her husband Roy, gave $50,000 to create The Whitney Lectureship Endowment for the College of Nursing.

The Nursing Alumni Association pledged the match the gift, which will enable the college to invite nationally recognized speakers to campus. “This will expose our students to important national trends that are essential to health care,” says Joyce Griffin-Sobol, PhD, dean of the college.

The bachelor’s and master’s degree programs recently were received a 10-year reaccreditation by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education’s Board of Commissioners.

***

Richard Aubry, MD, established the RMB Aubry Motherhood Fund shortly before he died in a car wreck in October. He retired from Upstate’s obstetrics and gynecology department after 50 years of aiding public health efforts to improve maternal and infant mortality rates in Central New York. Contributions to the fund can be made through the Upstate Foundation at 315-464-4416.

Aubry also left a legacy gift for the department to endow a professorship, so that his life’s work will carry on in perpetuity.

***

The National Institutes of Health awarded four grants of $1 million or more to researchers at Upstate in 2014, including Sijun Zhu, MD, PhD, Christopher Turner, PhD, Timothy Damron, MD, and David Pruyne, PhD.

***

fall2014ccA new publication for anyone touched by cancer is available for distribution in health and medical offices throughout Central New York. Cancer Care magazine is provided quarterly by the Upstate Cancer Center. Articles are designed to be educational and useful to patients.

Request copies by calling 315-464-4836 or emailing magazine@upstate.edu

***

Here’s an electronic version of the January 2015 issue of Physicians Practice.

Posted in cancer, diabetes, history, maternity, nursing, research | Leave a comment

Aubry’s 50-year career: 8000 babies, 8000 medical students and the transformation of maternal health care

Dr. Richard Aubry at Upstate, 1963 -2013

Dr. Richard Aubry at Upstate, 1963 -2013

In 1963 — a year before Upstate University Hospital opened — Richard Aubry MD, MPH began his 50+ year career at Upstate. He had been a medical resident and fellow at Upstate prior to joining the Obstetrics and Gynecology faculty in 1963. Over his career, Dr. Aubry oversaw more than 8,000 births and taught obstetrical care to 8,000+ medical students and 200+ residents.

Last summer, Dr. Aubry sent a note to the hospital anniversary committee, sharing his pleasure over the new maternity services available at Upstate, a result of the 2011 merger of  Community-General and Upstate University hospitals.

“Finally, SUNY acquired Community-General’s OB/newborn unit,” he wrote. “Amen, I could finally retire!”

Dr. Aubry did retire in 2013 but, sadly, died a year later. His longtime colleague and friend,  Robert Silverman MD, wrote this tribute, which was first published by the Syracuse Media Group on October 19.

The Upstate New York community has lost one of its most innovative and caring physicians.

Dr. Richard Aubry had an impact on women’s health and the care of newborns in ways that most of the public had no idea about unless they crossed his path, and his path was wide. He was one of a handful of physician leaders who developed the modern field of maternal-fetal medicine, a subspecialty that treats complications of mothers and their unborn babies.

He educated countless medical students and resident physicians in the nuances of obstetrical care and how to properly evaluate pregnant women. He took the Syracuse community and brought it to the forefront of medical care in United States, when he developed one of the first regional perinatal centers. The concept is based on the delivery of high-quality medical care for high-risk mothers and babies in centers staffed with subspecialty-trained physicians who could treat complications that in the past often led to death or major disability. His motivation always was to decrease and prevent problems in high-risk mothers and babies. To this day, Upstate New York through its Regional Perinatal Program continues to serve as the model of how centers of excellence can decrease maternal and newborn mortality, even 40 years after its inception.

Dr. Aubry was that rare combination of astute clinician and outstanding educator. He was the author of countless papers that helped to shape public policy in New York and across the country. He developed a model program that brought first-year medical students into the lives of mothers during their children’s birth and during their babies’ first year of life. He taught several generations of medical students and obstetric/gynecology resident physicians. He loved to see patients and learn about their lives. It was not unusual for him to spend an hour with a patient delving into their medical and social histories, counseling them on their conditions and explaining their treatment options. He served as the district chair for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists helping to direct obstetric care throughout the state.

When Dr. Aubry retired a year ago, I knew that a change in employment would not keep him still. Even in retirement, he worked to further the health of women and children with an expanded role in public health. In many ways, he was busier in retirement than when he was working full time at Upstate Medical University. Retirement allowed him to concentrate on the issues he was most passionate about, to expand his public health presence and help to guide the state in directions he knew were critical to the continued well-being of women and children. He brought enthusiasm and critical thinking into every meeting he attended. Days before his untimely death, he and I were working on grant applications to further the mission of the Maternal and Child Heath Care Center that he founded at Upstate more than 20 years ago. He had energy and drive that many of us hope to have when we reach our eighth decade of life.

Dr. Aubry’s footprint was large. He was always working for us, the people of Central New York. On the morning of his death, he was one of several volunteers picking up trash on the side of the road on Interstate 481. He loved doing his little bit for the community. He left to go home and enjoy the Syracuse University football game on the TV. He was happy. The events that followed were tragic. I lost a mentor and a friend. He always helped guide me in my career and served as a sounding board when I became chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. His was the voice of experience and reason. I — like many of my colleagues, his friends and his former patients — will miss him greatly. It was an honor to work with him. He was a true pioneer whose professional dedication and love for patients will be missed.

Drs. Silverman and Aubry

Drs. Silverman and Aubry

Upstate’s  RMB Aubrey Motherhood Fund  has been established in honor of Dr. Aubry. 

Posted in community, health care, history, maternity, medical student, public health, women's health | Leave a comment

Lecture focuses on recognizing medical innovation

Photo from iStock.

Photo illustration from iStock.

Thomas Krummel, MD, leads Stanford University’s Department of Surgery and loves the fresh perspective of medical students. He spoke about this connection, linking it to discovery, invention, innovation and entrepreneurship when he delivered the annual Pickett Lecture in Pediatric Surgery at Upstate this week.

Krummel, who directs Stanford’s Surgical Innovation Program, made the point that university laboratories, such as those at Upstate, are equipped to stimulate creative thinking.

Students who are new to the medical profession often share ideas that challenge the medical standards of the day. Such standards are relative, Krummel said, citing an example from the early 1800s, when doctors believed that the abdomen, chest and brain would never be accessible to surgeons.

grossKrummel pointed out that as a medical student, Robert E. Gross, MD – who became known as the father of pediatric surgery  – was not selected for residency training in surgery. His backup plan became a two-year pathology residency, during which time he dissected infants. He studied a birth defect in the heart that was killing babies and developed a surgical way to fix it.

Krummel also told of a scrub technician from the 1960s who routinely worked in operating rooms with top surgeons who would make incisions the length of a patient’s leg in order to remove blood clots – often followed by amputations. The scrub tech came up with a better way to remove clots, using a balloon catheter. Krummel said the idea was vilified at the time but wound up revolutionizing that type of therapy.

He spoke at the annual lecture named in honor of Lawrence Pickett, MD, the first pediatric surgeon in Syracuse. It honors the historical contributions of Pickett’s mentor, Dr. Gross, who wrote the textbook, “Surgery of Infancy and Childhood.”

Krummel concluded with this quote from the innovative surgeon who was a founding professor of John’s Hopkins Hospital: “The art of surgery is not yet perfect, and advancements now unimaginable are still to come. May we have the wisdom to live with this with grace and humility.”

“It’s as true today as when William Stewart Halstead said it 100 years ago,” he added.

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Upstate and the Bacons in the 1960s: two careers, one marriage and a baby girl who wants to be a doctor

Donell and Shirley Bacon are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, the same year that Upstate University Hospital celebrates its 50th anniversary. At left is Donell working in the lab at Upstate; at right is Shirley working as a nurse.

Donell and Shirley Bacon (center) are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary the same year that Upstate University Hospital celebrates its 50th anniversary. At left is Donell working in the lab at Upstate in the 1960s; at right is Shirley working as a registered nurse in the 1980s.

In the early 1960s, Shirley Graves was a hospital nurse in Greensboro, North Carolina. She responded to an ad in the American Journal of Nursing recruiting RNs to apply to Syracuse’s Good Shepherd Hospital to “fulfill your educational goals, broaden your skills and expand your horizons.”

“I was a diploma nurse,” explains Shirley, “and I wanted a baccalaureate degree.”

She and a friend decided to move to Syracuse — for one year — to work and earn their BS-RN degrees.

The two women got jobs in the general medicine unit of Good Shepherd Hospital (predecessor to Upstate University Hospital) and studied at Syracuse University.

Shirley and her friend were among the first African American registered nurses in Syracuse.

She describes the environment in the early 1960s: “We didn’t have any trouble integrating into the nursing community, but we had trouble finding a place to live in Syracuse. When we responded to vacancy listings, landlords told us the apartments were already rented, or they just wouldn’t open the door to us.”

Good Shepherd Hospital stepped in and provided Shirley and her friend with temporary housing.

At that time —1961— Donell Bacon was a high school chemistry and biology teacher in Homerville, Georgia. His move to SUNY Upstate was unplanned, but welcomed.

“It was summer and I was visiting my sister, Inez,” explains Donell. “She worked in a lab in the state office building on Water Street and introduced me to some people at Upstate.”

Cardiopulmonary surgeons John Neville and John Meyer learned of his background — Donell was a Korean War veteran and a graduate of Savanna State College — and asked him meet with them at Upstate.

“I had the job before I walked out the door,” remembers Donell. He was hired as a laboratory technician in the department of cardiopulmonary surgery, working in the lab and assisting in the operating room.

In Georgia, degrees in biology and chemistry put Donell at the head of the classroom, but a degree in medicine proved out of reach. “Medical schools in my home state wouldn’t accept me,” he explained. “It’s just the way things were.”

But, this offer from Upstate put him in the operating room, where he’d long dreamed of working.

Donell Bacon worked on this  electronic console in the operating room. Pictured is his colleague,  Larry George. Syracuse Newspapers, 9/5/65.

Donell Bacon worked on this electronic console in the operating room. Pictured is his colleague, Larry George. Syracuse Newspapers, 9/5/65.

The work proved varied, and interesting. Donell ran the heart-lung and monitoring machines during operations and ran experiments on blood acids in the cardiopulmonary laboratory. He designed a unit that controlled and regulated the temperature of exhaled gasses for analysis during surgery.

Shirley and Donell developed friendships in the same social circle and saw each frequently at events. Shirley smiles at her husband as she describes those days, “Sometimes it takes a while to find just the right dance partner.”

Donell and Shirley married in North Carolina on August 22, 1964, one month after the opening of the outpatient clinic at Upstate University Hospital. Their wedding photo hangs in their living room.

A year later, their daughter, Donna, was born. By the time she was 3 years old, she told her parents she planned to be a doctor and a teacher.

“She never wavered,” explained her father.

Donna Bacon Moore MD '93

Donna Bacon Moore MD ’93

Donna graduated from Corcoran High School in Syracuse, did her undergraduate work at Hobart and William Smith, and attended Upstate Medical University, where she earned her MD degree in 1993. Today, Donna Bacon Moore MD is an associate professor of pediatrics at Georgia Regents University in Augusta.

Donna has fond memories of Upstate, a place where she found like-minded people, and of two professors in particular: Barry Berg PhD, who taught the summer anatomy course, and Gregory Threatte MD ’73, whom she describes as “an awesome support person.”

What about the career goals that Donna set at the tender age of 3? “I am a doctor,” chuckles Donna, “and I teach every day…medical students, residents, families, patients.”

And, she is proud to note that Georgia Regents University opened its Children’s Hospital of Georgia in 1998, much like Upstate opened the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital  in 2009.

The Bacon family has come full circle. Donell Bacon left Georgia for Upstate in 1961. His daughter left Upstate for Georgia in 1993.

What does it mean to Donell to see his daughter, the doctor, working in Georgia?

“My parents have always been very supportive,” Donna replies. “Dad would have been behind me 100 percent no matter what choices I made.

“But,” she pauses. “I guess it means more than I’ve really thought about.”

 (Ada Prettyman was the first African American registered nurse in Syracuse. She was hired at Good Shepherd Hospital in 1944 and became a head nurse and clinical instructor at Upstate. Ruby Brangman, mother of Sharon Brangman MD, began working at Upstate in 1967, and became one of the first nurse practitioners in 1973.  Shirley Bacon’s friend, Shirley Alton Edge, was a nurse manager at Upstate University Hospital for 25 years.

Left to right: Ada Prettyman was the first African American registered nurse in Syracuse. She was hired at Good Shepherd Hospital in 1944 and became a head nurse and clinical instructor at Upstate. Ruby Brangman, mother of Sharon Brangman MD ’81, began working at Upstate in 1967, and became one of the first nurse practitioners in 1973. Shirley Bacon’s friend, Shirley Alton Edge, was a nurse manager at Upstate University Hospital for 25 years.

Donell and Shirley Bacon are the proud parents of two children. Their son, Byron, is an information technology development manager in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Posted in alumni, community, education, health care, history, hospital, human resources, medical student, nursing, surgery | 1 Comment