MusiCorps: Helping Wounded Warriors Play Music and Recover Their Lives

Ibloomn 2007 Arthur Bloom was invited to visit a soldier recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The soldier, a drummer who had lost his leg to a roadside bomb, was concerned about whether he would ever be able to play the drums again.

Bloom, a Juilliard- and Yale-trained composer and pianist, didn’t have any previous experience with wounded service members. However, during this initial visit to Walter Reed Bloom promised to do whatever it took to help the soldier play again.

Stepping back from the situation, Bloom recognized that the need was great, with Walter Reed overflowing with injured service members. He also saw that the injured had very little to do at Walter Reed outside of their medical appointments during recoveries that could last for years. Bloom quickly realized how he might assist with the growing crisis of thousands of severely wounded service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. (more…)

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Dear Provider – Your Image Matters!

Jane O. Smith

It’s been almost eight years since my mastectomy – since then I’ve dealt with an array of side issues and preventative health procedures.  As someone who helped launch one of the nation’s first case management models 25 years ago – the “ROSE” program – my sensitivities to the communication, behavior and appearance of my physicians and allied healthcare professionals have become more acute – especially through my journey with cancer.

ROSE taught us that in order for patients to comply and to flourish, they needed to trust whomever they worked with – and the keys were civility and self care.  It’s still somewhat of a secret, it seems.

Prior to ROSE, in 1984, I served as the first director of marketing for a rehabilitation hospital during the advent of HMOs.  I was tasked to grow referrals from insurers, reinsurers and employers.  My heart usually skipped a beat when I toured them through our facility, as one of our more vocal physiatrists was overweight and gruff, and her staff was in disarray.  It felt a bit disingenuous to talk to our payers, patients and families about healthy habits and our commitment to “guest relations” at events and board meetings. (more…)

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Cinderblocks 2016: Bring on the Patients!

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Regina Holliday

The irrepressible Regina Holliday is doing it again. This week will be the third time the mighty patient advocate, author and founder of the Walking Gallery of Healthcare is holding the “Cinderblocks” conference, a patient-led art and medical forum which has become sort of a revival meeting for patient advocates. Among headliner presenters is our friend and colleague, patient engagement advocate and kidney cancer survivor e-Patient Dave deBronkart. But the force behind the conference is Regina. (Read a recent USA Today profile of her work here.)

I remember attending the very first Cinderblocks conference in Kansas City, Missouri, and finally getting a chance to know Regina, whom I’d spotted during a previous conference in her customary venue – bellied up to her easel, clad in a smock, paints splayed in front of her. Labeled “Little Miss Type-A personality” by one of the doctors who treated her late husband, she proudly sports a big letter “A” she painted on the back of her own signature red jacket, as a key reminder of her own health care journey. For the uninitiated among us, Regina leverages her passion for storytelling and artistic talents to paint wildly expressive paintings on the back of business jackets.

walking-gallery-300x219The coveted jackets are worn at medical conferences and other events, where they’re guaranteed to prompt conversations. 44 artists have since participated, but most of the jackets (about 350 out of more than 400) were painted by Regina herself. She continues to churn out jackets, in between delivering keynote speeches, volunteering in her community, raising funds to buy and build a home for the Walking Gallery in her hometown, and raising two boys on her own.

Launched into patient advocacy by the death of her beloved husband Frederick from kidney cancer, and struggling to get him good care as he was moved from facility to facility, Regina fought to get his medical records. She was told it would take 21 days and she would have to pay 73 cents per page (there were 162 pages).  “73 Cents” became the name of the mural she painted on the side of a garage in Washington, DC, depicting the full array of both shameless and heroic acts by the medical team that surrounded her husband in his final days. The Walking Gallery became an extension of this work.

The Cinderblocks conference will always be extra special to me and Diane Stollenwerk. It’s there we met, in 2012, cabbing together with e-Patient Dave from the airport to the hotel. We reveled in the energy, enthusiasm and brainstorming at this aptly named “unconference”. And it was on the very last day, departing for home, that  Diane and I first sketched out the idea for what would become PVI on the back of a cocktail napkin.

This year’s Cinderblocks is in Grantsville, MD. Here’s how to get tickets, and here’s the full agenda. Through the miracle of technology, PVI will be able to visit with our friends virtually.

We’re looking forward to checking in. Patient advocacy is often lonely work; these regular infusions of energy, optimism, community and creativity help keep us going. You can be sure Cinderblocks, and the community built by Regina Holliday, will bring it, in spades.

By . This post originally appeared in Patient Voice Institute.

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#SpacesOfHealth: Aging in Place [Recap]

Can a city help improve your health outcomes? Can a hospital make you sick? The #SpacesOfHealth campaign, brought to you by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, seeks to answer these and similar questions in a series of live webinars around the relationship between environment and health.

call outGone are the days when the thought of aging meant slowing down, a sure retirement and eventual disability. This thinking is being rewritten by baby boomers who want to enjoy their homes, embrace their communities, maintain an active lifestyle and “age in place” — that is, remain in their home of choice for as long as possible. According to the AARP, 87 percent of adults age 65 and older want to age in place. By renovating their homes, engaging in the “village” model, and using innovative solutions, it is now possible for aging adults to safely stay in their homes longer. But more needs to be done on both the community and government levels to make this a reality for more people in all economic brackets.

To explore the issues surrounding the aging in place movement, the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University hosted a webinar as part of the #SpacesOfHealth series. Aging in place advocates and experts in the field of home care, long-term care and aging policy discussed the intersection of the nation’s aging population, and the innovations and opportunities that exist that will allow older adults to age on their terms. Below are the panelists who participated in the webinar and the key takeaways from the discussion.

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Improving Maternal Health in the U.S. and Around the World

Sophia Headshot_Sep15Since 1990, the United States is the only World Health Organization (WHO) region that has actually had an increase in maternal deaths. Although many think that maternal health problems are isolated to the developing world, challenges persist in our country. This is despite spending the most in the world on hospitalization for pregnancy and childbirth. In contrast, the countries that have been most successful in reducing maternal deaths have often achieved these results by using a midwifery model of care—an example that the U.S. may benefit from. Midwifery programs provide advanced education and training to support this model, and studies highlight the positive outcomes that result. Here, we’ll examine why maternal health may be getting worse in the U.S. and solutions that may offer better results. (more…)

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Money, Stress and Health: The American Worker’s Trifecta

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn

Financial stress impacts health, relationships, and work productivity and attendance for employees in the U.S. It’s the American worker’s trifecta, a way of life for a growing proportion of people in the U.S. PwC’s 2016 Employee Financial Wellness Survey for 2016 illustrates the reality of fiscally-challenged working women and men that’s a national epidemic.

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Sleep Drugs: What Every Woman Should Know

SWHR_Logo_Final_webThe post below first appeared on Law Street.

Sleepless nights; nights full of tossing and turning. It happens to all of us–but for some it’s more frequent than others. In fact, an estimated 50 to 70 million American adults suffer from sleep disorders like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea. Many turn to prescription sleep medications for relief– but women are more likely to take sleep drugs than men. About 3.1 percent of American men and 5 percent of American women report having used a prescription sleep medication within the last 30 days.

What does this use of sleep aids mean for women? Read on to learn more about sex differences in sleep and sleep drugs. (more…)

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Lessons Learned: Graduation Day Reflections

Robin Strongin

In honor of this past weekend, which for me included celebrating my daughter’s college graduation and Mother’s Day, I wanted to take this opportunity to share what I have learned along the way. Here is what Elise and I talk about:

  • Never let anyone else define you. No professor, no employer, no elected official, nobody. Sure it’s important to be open-minded and respectful. But remember, a grading system, an employer’s evaluation, a demographic, and a bank’s metrics tell only part of your story. While you need to operate, to some extent within existing systems, never ever stop questioning, refining, redefining definitions, metrics and systems that don’t capture your full contributions and awesomeness.
  • Learn to read a financial statement. Regardless of your major, do not leave college without a class or two that can help you negotiate a salary, fight for a budget, and demand your fair share of equity.  If you can’t read the financials, you cannot advocate for yourself and your team.
  • Don’t stress if you decide the degree you start with no longer seems to be your life long career choice.  Life is funny that way. We grow, we change, experiences and reality come crashing in to utterly upend our best laid plans.  Sometimes they are welcomed, and other times we wish they never happened. But you are young and just getting started. If nothing else, a girl needs to learn to stay flexible,  to adapt, and to see each challenge as an opportunity. Easier said than done but at the end of the day, survival takes chutzpah, a sense of adventure, and a sense of humor.  Don’t just take the road less traveled, design and map that road (allowing for all kinds of twists and turns) and then go roaring down it. (Please remember to buckle up–the ride will be bumpy.)
  • Life is not fair.  No matter where you are in life, there will be assholes.  Always do your best to avoid them, move away from them, and yes, not let them define you.  Remember, they are assholes.
  • Understand the value of compound interest.  Even an intern in a non profit can begin her financial planning.  Setting up a savings account, contributing regularly, learning about retirement planning.  I know, I know, getting a job is hard, earning a decent salary is harder, and the very idea that one day you will be old enough to retire is hardest of all to fathom. I am here to tell you: it pays to start now.
  • Relish this moment.  GRAD 2016


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Getting Ready for Mother’s Day

Disruptive Women in Health Care prepares for this upcoming Mother’s Day by revisiting its successful series on Maternal Health and Reproductive Justice.

We know and appreciate that not all moms are birth mothers–sending  love and warm wishes to all moms–be they biologic or otherwise.

And acknowledging the memory of mothers no longer with us.

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Concussions: A Girls’ Health Problem

Julie-PotyrajFor many people, the connection between sports and concussions will come as no surprise. Within the past few months, concussions have had a continued presence in the media, mostly as they pertain to professional football. Intentionally or not, the NFL has been leading the charge on concussion awareness for the past several years. In 2014, documents were brought to federal court saying that a third of all retired NFL players were expected to develop a “long-term cognitive problem” at some point in their lives as a result of head injuries from football. Recently, a court finally affirmed the deal for the NFL to compensate all players who had suffered neurological damage as a result of these injuries. While this represents an important victory for former athletes, the battle to improve concussion prevention has only just begun.

Because of the popularity of professional football in the United States, the NFL often dominates the public discourse on concussions. But by framing the conversation about concussions around football, we are alienating one of the most vulnerable populations: girls. (more…)

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Playing the Disruptive Woman Card

Glenna Crooks

Enough Said!

Enough Said!


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Nominate yourself or someone you know to attend the United State of Women Summit

We believe that today, we will change tomorrow.

That’s why the White House Council on Women and Girls will host the Summit on the United State of Women in Washington, D.C. on June 14. We will celebrate the progress we have made together throughout the Obama administration to improve the lives of women and girls here and around the world, and showcase innovative solutions to the obstacles women and girls still face.

We want to make sure that on the day of the Summit, the room is filled with the thought leaders, activists, community leaders, and citizens who are committed to bringing about gender equality.

That’s why we want you to help us find the real-life heroes who are showing their commitment to gender equity through action. (more…)

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TBT: February Man of the Month: Dan Miller

April is National Donate Life Month (NDLM) an entire month of local, regional and national activities dedicated to help encourage Americans to register as organ, eye and tissue donors and to celebrate those that have saved lives through the gift of donation. In honor of NDLM for today’s TBT post we couldn’t think of a more appropriate post than the one highlighting the selflessness of our February Man of the Month.

dan feb man of monthOn the topic of organ donation, Dan Miller had a consistent message: “Do the research.”

For Dan, a healthy, 20-year-old junior at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va., this meant seeking out the evidence needed to justify the life-changing decision of whether to donate a kidney to someone he’d never met.

Dan talked to his sister, Lauren Miller, who had successfully undergone the same procedure in December 2014 and had already overcome the judgement of skeptics, challenging her decision.

Dan read the statistics about how each year nearly 5,000 people die after being left on an 100,000-plus long waiting list for a kidney transplant. He visited specialists to determine if he had the physical, emotional and mental capacity to withstand the risks of living with one kidney. (more…)


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What it means to meet Mikey

Ellie_Dehoney_HeadshotYou know those really good people, the ones who are determined to make the world a better place?  I’m not one of those.  I live in the Nation’s Capital – a beehive for the cause-oriented – so I know a really good person when I see one.  I have colleagues who tithed their babysitting money.  Who spent their college downtime standing up global nonprofits. Who mentor and tutor and build habitats for humanity.

I spent my babysitting money on ill-considered teenage clothing.  I spent my college downtime playing quarters.  And until recently, my adulthood has been, for all intents and purposes, volunteerism-free.  I had my reasons for studiously ignoring any need that wasn’t my own: too busy, too tired, too poor.  The usual.

Then I met Mikey. (more…)

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12 Percent of People Will Be Diagnosed With This Life-Threatening Heart Disease

SWHR_Logo_Final_webThe post below first appeared on HuffPost Healthy Living on April 20.

Jen Hyde, a 30-year-old poet and artist living in Brooklyn, has a congenital heart defect. By the age of 25, Hyde had two open-heart surgeries, including a heart valve replacement.

“I know that heart disease is the number one killer of women in America,” Hyde said. “I’m currently in great shape, but part of staying this way means building a strong relationship with my cardiologist so that the care I receive is preventative, not reactive.”

Hyde is not alone in suffering from heart health issues — in the U.S., cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of both women and men, responsible for 25 percent of deaths annually. (more…)


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