AirCare embarks on collaborative program with new aviation partner

Published on Tuesday, January 21, 2020

By: Ruth Cummins, [email protected]

AirCare, the University of Mississippi Medical Center program using the state’s most advanced medical helicopter transports, made its maiden flight in February 1996 and has since served almost 30,000 patients from all corners of Mississippi and flown more than a million miles.

A cornerstone of health care at UMMC, AirCare has recently established a new, collaborative program with an aviation partner that will help enhance the helicopter operation’s clinical, research and education expertise.

Med-Trans, a leading national medical transport provider in its 36th year, will focus on the business side of the program, including providing three of four helicopters, pilots, equipment and maintenance services.

AirCare flies throughout the state from bases in Greenwood, Meridian, Columbus and Jackson. UMMC owns AirCare 1, the helicopter that operates out of the Jackson base.

Med-Trans has relationships with health systems and medical centers in 26 states and operates from more than 95 bases, and its 1,200 employees make a difference in the lives of patients in hundreds of communities.

Portrait of Damon Darsey

“In the last six or seven years, AirCare has experienced a dramatic increase in our research and education missions in addition to our traditional clinical transport mission,” said Dr. Damon Darsey, associate professor of emergency medicine and pediatrics. UMMC is the state’s only academic medical center, housing the state’s only Level I trauma center and Level IV neonatal intensive care unit, the highest levels possible for both, and the only hospital dedicated solely for children, and the only organ and tissue transplant programs.

“Med-Trans is an aviation partner that can help us match our aviation innovation and service to the clinical advances we have experienced,” Darsey said. “It’s more than transporting a patient or flying life-saving care to wherever it’s needed. It’s improving the system of care to make sure that the right patient gets to the right place.

“We’re combining the expertise of a company that does this often with our academic medical center, and using the lessons they’ve learned to help improve health care in the state of Mississippi,” said Darsey, who also serves as medical director of the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services.

AirCare brings the intensive care unit capabilities of an academic medical center to critically ill patients of all ages and backgrounds, in every corner of the state. That could be the side of a road or interstate, another hospital, or the scene of a disaster, where seconds can sometimes be the difference between life and death.

All of AirCare’s clinical flight crew members are specially trained by UMMC’ s faculty on the latest life-saving techniques and provide care through advanced treatment protocols. All flights are staffed at minimum by a critical care paramedic, registered nurse and pilot.

UMMC's AirCare brings the intensive care unit capabilities of an academic medical center to critically ill patients of all ages and backgrounds, in every corner of the state.

UMMC’s AirCare brings the intensive care unit capabilities of an academic medical center to critically ill patients in every corner of the state.

AirCare is the only medical helicopter program in Mississippi that flies patients of any age, including infants. AirCare has the state’s only neonatal-trained air transport team, flying the most acutely ill newborns to the Medical Center for intensive care. It’s the only program utilizing isolettes for premature and ill infants.

And, AirCare is the only medical helicopter transport program operating in the state, and one of few in the nation, that stocks and administrates prothrombin complex concentrate to reverse anticoagulant drugs in the systems of patients with acute major bleeding. It is the sole program that carries whole blood, liquid plasma and an ultrasound.

Med-Trans is part of a much larger company, Global Medical Response, that transports more than five million patients annually by ground and air.

“Med-Trans is incredibly pleased to be partnering with AirCare to help further air medical transport services for patients in the state of Mississippi,” said Brian Foster, vice president of operations for Med-Trans. “We are privileged to be able to provide the medically configured aircraft and the highly trained pilots and aircraft maintenance technicians who will work alongside the outstanding medical professionals at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.”

Med-Trans will be in charge of customer billing. Med-Trans offers a comprehensive membership program through the AirMedCare Network that covers all members of a household for the entire self-pay portion of their air transportation services bill, including co-pays and deductibles.

Portrait of Stephen Houck

Med-Trans “will focus on the business of aviation and maintenance,” said Stephen Houck, director of the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services. “AirCare will focus on clinical care, research and education. “Together, we will leverage each other’s experience and resources to continue to develop an amazing program. You will still see the same type aircraft, the same clinicians, and we will continue to develop our protocols to make them among the most advanced in the industry.

“We want people to know that AirCare is here doing what we do best, serving our Mississippi communities through advanced pre-hospital medicine, education and research,” Houck said.

AirCare is part of the Mississippi Center for Emergency Services at UMMC, created in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to expand the state’s ability to maintain medical services during unanticipated disasters and emergencies. It’s a clearinghouse for emergency communications in the state and a key provider of clinical and classroom training for first responders, public safety officials and other health care providers.

MCES in September 2018 broke ground on a new 20,000-square foot home that will combine all its services under one roof. The facility will provide a second Jackson-campus helipad for AirCare, which will still land on the roof of UMMC’s critical care hospital to deliver patients for treatment, but will be staffed and deployed from the MCES.

“We are doubling down on clinical care, education and research, and our partner will focus on the aviation side,” Darsey said. “Med-Trans will not only match our clinical expertise, but challenge us to do better.”



State’s 2020 CMNH Champion keeps the beat with a mended heart

Published on Thursday, January 16, 2020

By: Annie Oeth, [email protected]

As a competitive dancer and tumbler, Sybil Cumberland of Preston moves to a musical beat.

Thanks to Children’s of Mississippi cardiologists and surgeons, she steps to that beat with a healthy heart.

Named Mississippi’s 2020 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion during a celebration in Meridian Wednesday, Sybil has been a patient of Children’s of Mississippi’s Children’s Heart Center since she was an infant.

Sybil is shown in one of the routines she and her fellow dancers perform.

Sybil performs a routine with her fellow dancers.

Born with a congenital heart defect, Sybil underwent two surgeries at the state’s only children’s hospital, recovering in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit.

“Sybil’s life was saved by Children’s of Mississippi care,” said her mother, Tara Cumberland. “Anything we can do to support the children’s hospital, we will do.”

Sybil couldn’t agree more. During December, she collected toy donations to give to children’s hospital patients. Tara, Sybil and older brother Davis delivered wagonloads of Barbie dolls, action figures, stuffed animals, games and books to Children’s of Mississippi in time for the gifts to brighten Christmas for patients.

The Cumberland family includes parents Tara and Jason and their children, Davis and Sybil.

The Cumberland family includes parents Tara and Jason and children Davis and Sybil.

She’s also been a regular at the annual Mississippi Miracles Radiothon, a Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals fundraiser that benefits Children’s of Mississippi, broadcasting her story with Meridian-area stations. During the 2019 college football season, Sybil was the Kid Captain for Mississippi State University when the Bulldogs hosted Alabama. She’s also active in supporting other causes, serving as an ambassador for the March of Dimes’ March for Babies and modeling in fashion shows for the American Heart Association.

“Children’s of Mississippi keeps my heart healthy,” Sybil said, “and I will do my best to represent the children’s hospital and the patients there.”

Every year, 170 local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals identify a Champion in each of their local communities to serve as the face for children treated at their local children’s hospital. These ambassadors spend their year advocating for the charitable need of children’s hospitals across North America.

Tara said Sybil’s Champion year will combine “two of her loves, dance and Children’s of Mississippi.”

With her healthy heart, Sybil performs with a dance company from Carol Merrill Academy of Dance in Meridian, competing in dance forms as varied as ballet, tap and jazz, among others.

Surrounded by fellow dancers, Sybil gets a hug from her dance teacher, Carol Merrill.

Surrounded by her fellow dancers, Sybil gets a hug from her dance teacher, Carol Merrill.

“Dance is in Sybil’s heart,” said studio founder Merrill. “It just pours out of her. Sybil always strives to do her best, and she is all about learning her craft.”

Merrill includes an improvisational time during dance lessons, and she had put on the Kidz Bop version of “Fight Song” to inspire choreography by her students.

Sybil heard the words, “This is my fight song, take back my life song,” and told Merrill, “That’s my song!”

“She is a fighter,” Merrill said, “and she’s a very special little miracle.”

Today a healthy second-grader at Kemper Academy, Sybil sees pediatric cardiologist Dr. Aimee Parnell to make sure her surgical repairs grow as she does.

Portrait of Dr. Aimee Parnell

“Sybil has always been a precious little thing,” said Parnell, associate professor of pediatric cardiology. “Every time she comes to see us at Children’s of Mississippi, she’s really sweet and friendly. She’s more reserved now, but as a younger child, she loved to run around the exam room.”

Sybil has known Parnell as long as she can remember, since she was just 9 months old when Parnell became her cardiologist.

Surrounded by dancers and Children's of Missisippi supporters, John Clark Packer announces Sybil as the state's 2020 Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Champion.

John Clark Packer announces Sybil has been selected as the state’s 2020 Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Champion.

“I don’t remember having my heart surgeries because I was a baby then, but I am happy to be healthy now,” Sybil said. “I see my doctor once a year so she can check my heart.”

Sybil entered the world at a healthy 7 pounds, 5 ounces, but unbeknown to her family and physicians, she arrived with a broken heart.

The first sign of trouble: Sybil didn’t take her first breath until several minutes after birth. “They put her on a CPAP immediately,” Tara said.

Sybil had a healthy weight, so she went home after two and a half weeks in a neonatal intensive care unit. However, she was growing weaker by the day.

At first, her feeding problems were blamed on reflux, but when Sybil, about 2 months old, went into distress, the Cumberlands knew they needed a higher level of care. Tara and husband Jason took Sybil to Children’s of Mississippi, where they were told their daughter was suffering from congestive heart failure. Holes in her heart were stealing blood from the rest of her body and sending it to her lungs.

Sybil and her mom, Tara, look over well-wishes and drawings from her friends and fellow dancers.

Sybil and her mother, Tara, look at well wishes and drawings from her friends and fellow dancers.

Children with congenital heart defects spend so much of their energy on breathing and on circulating blood through their bodies that they fail to thrive because there’s little energy left for eating.

About one in every 100 babies born has a congenital heart defect, making it the most common type of birth defect. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 million children live with congenital heart defects. Because of medical advances, there are now more adults – about 1.4 million – than children with congenital heart defects.

Once Sybil’s heart defects were discovered, she was too weak for the surgery to close the holes. At 2 and a half months, a band was placed on Sybil’s pulmonary artery to restrict blood flow to her lungs.  Sybil then regained her strength for a more extensive surgery at 6 months that closed the holes in her heart and removed the band on her pulmonary artery.

“Children’s of Mississippi not only treats children. They treat the entire family,” said Tara. “The treatment she received was unbelievable. Jason and I were new to the heart world, but the doctors and nurses were beside us, answering our questions.”

Both surgeries went well, but Parnell said Sybil will need to see a cardiologist throughout her life to monitor her heart’s condition.

“She has a low risk of ever needing more surgery,” Parnell said, “and she should have a healthy life ahead.”Source


Taking care of yourself? That can be messy for millennials

Published on Thursday, January 9, 2020

By: Ruth Cummins, [email protected]

When mom tells her millennial “Take care of yourself,” eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep and exercise might seem like it’s enough.

But for true self-care, young adults in the millennial age group of about 23-38 must also take care of their mental and emotional health. That can be a tall order for a population that’s big on technology, but perhaps not so big on routine preventive care and consistently good decision-making on health issues.

Portrait of Dr. Danny Burgess

“A lot of times, millennials will talk to me and say that when they’re overwhelmed or stressed, they will watch Netflix for two or three hours, or thumb through Facebook on their phones,” said Dr. Danny Burgess, associate professor of psychiatry and director of University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Center for Integrative Health.

“There’s nothing wrong with disengaging, but it’s a passive coping behavior. With self-care, you need to recognize what your body needs, and you need to be intentional about it.”

Taking good care of your body at any age is a key to good health, but in young adults, getting into a mindset of self-care might be necessary in order to achieve health goals.

“Self-care has to do with your physical body, your emotions, and your spiritual, social and leisure time needs,” Burgess said. “I want my patients to think of care in all of those areas, and then ask themselves: ‘What is it that works for me, and how can I intentionally incorporate that into my life?’

“For some people, it might be going to yoga, or going for a run. For some, it might be journaling. It’s not just going home and crashing on the couch,” Burgess said. “You deliberately engage in activities that are good for you.”

Third-year internal medicine resident Dr. Meredith Sloan is preparing to go into study mode for her boards. She finishes her residency in May, but is continuing for another year as chief resident.

“It’s definitely not something that I’ve given up on,” she said of practicing self-care as a millennial, and at one of the busiest times in her life. “I’m about six months out from finishing, so self-care is taking a back burner.”

She has several favorite ways to de-stress. “Sometimes, it’s just taking the evening off and watching Netflix,” said Sloan, who lives in Ridgeland. “I enjoy running whenever there’s a nice day, and to just get out of the hospital and enjoy the outdoors.”

Portrait of Dr. Daniel Williams

Millennials would do well to practice boundaries between work and their personal life, said Dr. Daniel Williams, division chief in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior. Williams also is associate director of UMMC’s Office of Well-being. 

“This balance may be slightly different for different people and different jobs, but having a way to separate yourself from work is important,” Williams said. “Consider some boundaries such as not answering the phone or texts during dinner, or not checking work emails after hours unless it’s a true emergency”

The biggest hurdle to millennials practicing self-care, Burgess believes, is the guilt they might feel. However, “self-care is not selfish,” he said. “Taking time for yourself isn’t a selfish thing to do. That might be treating yourself to a nice dinner, or taking a bubble bath, or just cocooning in your bed. You’re not doing something at the expense of someone else, but instead, taking care of yourself so that you can be productive in life and in relationships.”

Sloan understands the guilt thing. “I call it study guilt,” she said.

“It starts in med school, when any time you’re not studying, you feel like you should be. You have to forgive yourself for not getting everything on your to-do list done in a day,” she said.

It can be hard to achieve a guilt-free balance, Sloan said. “It’s something you have to learn, and some people come by it more naturally than others.”

Even small, quick actions can contribute to self-care, Williams said. “Learn fast-acting ways to relax. Practicing mindfulness, deep breathing or meditation can be done in several-minute blocks and can significantly improve how you feel,” he said.

“Taking a few minutes between meetings, at lunch or when you get home from work to center your thoughts and bodily responses can make a surprising difference.”

And if running or a yoga class seem impossible in your schedule, you can still move toward fitness – at the office, Williams suggests. “A good first step is to take a few minutes at work to get up, out of your chair, and move your body in a gentle way,” he said. “Stretch your muscles to let your body get out of your usual computer posture. Walk down the hall and get a drink from the water fountain. Maybe even take the stairs to your next meeting.”

Self-care in millennials, Burgess said, “is not always well-modeled for us. It’s always, ‘How are you helping other people?’ or ‘Are you working as hard as you can?’ There’s not enough emphasis on the balance. You need to pause and be deliberate about your self-care and not feel guilty.”

Burgess advises planning self-care into your schedule, just like a doctor’s appointment. “You need to say that on Wednesday at a certain time, I’m going to read a book. That’s you planning and being deliberate about your self-care, and making it as much of a priority as going to a doctor’s appointment. Treat it as if it’s just as important.”

Reschedule your self-care if you have to delay it. “If your bath time gets interrupted, reschedule your bubble bath to tomorrow. Make sure you keep your self-care behaviors as a priority, and not something easily canceled or dismissed,” Burgess said.

“You want to feel good about those behaviors, and feel good about yourself and taking care of yourself.”

“It’s natural for our time and attention to focus on our problems, worries and concerns,” Williams said. “Sometimes, this means that we don’t take time to savor our accomplishments, appreciate our successes, and be grateful for good things in our lives.

“Write down a few things you are grateful for, tell a friend or family member why you appreciate them, and take stock of progress you have made recently. You may be surprised at what you find when you intentionally appreciate positive things in your life.”Source


Is weight loss your New Year’s resolution? What’s next when you lose the weight?

weight loss resolution next steps

Body contouring can help put the finishing touches on your 2020 weight loss goal and keep you motivated. Shedding excess weight, whether by diet and exercise or bariatric surgery, improves your health as well as your appearance.

However, major weight loss can result in excess skin and stubborn pockets of fat that no amount of dietary changes or exercise seem to touch. For this, body contouring procedures can help eliminate the excess skin and sculpt your curves, giving you your desired appearance, improving your motivation to keep the weight off and give you the self-confidence you deserve.

What body contouring procedures are available?

Whether to remove or tighten excess skin or help to repair stretched and lax muscles due to years of excessive weight, there are a variety of different surgical body contouring procedures available. These procedures include:

  • Tummy tuck – This procedure can remove excess abdominal skin as well as help to repair stretched and lax abdominal muscles.
  • Breast lifts and augmentation – Breast lifts can improve sagging tissue while augmentation can increase your bust line and breast appearance.
  • Thigh lifts – This procedure addresses sagging and excess skin on the inner thighs.
  • Upper arm lifts – An upper arm lift addresses excess, sagging skin and tissue in the arms.
  • Facelifts – As you lose weight, you may experience sagging in the mid-face, jowls and neck. Facelifts after weight loss can address these issues, giving you a younger, more defined look.
  • Lower body lifts – Lower body lifts address excess skin and sagging in the abdomen, buttocks, and inner and outer thighs.

How to decide if you are ready for body contouring surgery?

When you have lost a large amount of weight, you may be extremely eager to jump into body contouring surgery to help eliminate your excess skin and complete your weight loss journey. However, there are some important things to consider before you take that step.

  1. You need to be at or near your ideal body weight. If you are continuing to lose weight, now is not the time for body contouring. Additional weight loss after a surgical procedure can result in additional excess skin and the need for additional procedures.
  2. Your weight loss needs to be stable. You may have lost a double or even triple-digit number of pounds, but, as you know, weight loss can fluctuate and keeping weight off is often the hardest part of your weight loss journey. Before you are a good candidate for body contouring surgery, you need to be able to maintain your weight loss and show weight stabilization.
  3. You must be healthy enough for surgery. If you have lost weight naturally through diet and exercise, chances are you are already following a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you lost weight through bariatric surgery, you may need time to adjust to your new dietary restrictions and make sure you are meeting nutritional needs before surgery. If you are a smoker, you will be advised to stop smoking as this can impair healing and recovery.

What added benefits does body contouring provide?

Body contouring procedures address physical concerns such as the removal of excess skin and the repair of stretched muscles. But they do far more than that. After all the work you put in to lose the weight, the excess and hanging skin can create a different set of concerns. While you should be celebrating your success, this excess skin and tissue may leave you feeling self-conscious or even uncomfortable.

Many people who have lost significant amounts of weight report discomfort due to their excess skin. It can interfere with normal activity, including exercise necessary to maintain your new weight loss. Excess sagging skin is also prone to ulcers and infections. Body contouring procedures remove this skin, reducing the risk of infection and giving you the ability to get back to life.

What is your next step?

Once you meet the criteria for body contouring surgery, your next step is to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon that specializes in body contouring procedures. Together, you and your plastic surgeon will determine which procedures will help you achieve your contouring goals and put a surgical plan in action.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.



New Ph.D. in research program resonates with radiologists

Published on Monday, January 13, 2020

By: Gary Pettus, [email protected]

When he was a medical student deciding where to train as a specialist, Dr. Elliot Varney had his eye on Texas, but his heart in Mississippi.

A 2019 graduate of the School of Medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Varney was determined to do his residency in radiology, but hoped, at the same time, to earn his Ph.D. in radiology research, an option not available at UMMC then.

“I wanted to stay at UMMC,” said Varney, who grew up in the Gluckstadt/Madison area near Jackson, “because of my relationships here – the personal ones, but also the ones with the faculty and the ones I had throughout medical school.

“But I had interviewed at the University of Texas at San Antonio, which had the only radiology residency/Ph.D. program in the country.”

In mid-December, that changed, and Varney is now the first-ever trainee in a new program at UMMC: the Biomedical Imaging/Bioengineering Ph.D. track.

“When we started the program, I thought he was the perfect inaugural candidate for it,” said Dr. Candace Howard-Claudio, associate professor of radiology, vice chair of research in radiology and director of the new program.


Varney is a “known entity in the department,” said Dr. Timothy McCowan, professor and chair of radiology. “He was one of our top choices for our residency program. This is a great fit for him and for us.”

Varney is now fusing his training in radiology – the use of radiation, including X-rays and ultrasound, to diagnose and treat disease – with research: He is exploring the applications of biomedical imaging/engineering in the cause of helping doctors, therapists and others develop ways and equipment to better serve their patients.

“As an undergraduate, I fell in love with the research surrounding nanotechnology,” said Varney, who attended Mississippi State University before graduating from Millsaps College. In particular, radiology lit him up once he discovered how the field had started using microparticles and nanotechnology to treat and diagnose cancer.

Radiology is also wielded to treat and/or uncover liver and kidney problems, heart disease, back pain and more.

“A big reason I wanted to do the Ph.D. is that I have a fascination with the possibility of changing the status quo,” Varney said. “That’s where my love of research is. Instead of reading someone else’s work about patient care, why not be a part of that work, no matter how big or small your contribution may be?

“At one time, I had thought I would do surgery, but I became interested in radiology and imaging,” he said, meaning such technologies as MRI and CT. “So this program was a no-brainer choice.”

The choice had existed before, but not officially, or at least formally, said Dr. Richard Summers, associate vice chancellor for research and Billy S. Guyton Professor of Emergency Medicine.


“The concept for the program started a few years ago with Dr. Andrew Smith,” said Summers, referring to the former UMMC associate professor radiology and director of radiology research who is now at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

As a faculty member, Smith gave radiology residents an opportunity to do additional years in of research in their specialty. “But there was no formal degree attached to it,” Summers said.

Dr. Kevin Zand was the first to do perform such research, which he finished recently before joining the University of California, San Francisco, in the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Engineering as a clinical fellow.

But Dr. Howard-Claudio is responsible for integrating a formal Ph.D. program into radiology, Summers said. “Through her, it’s even more substantial now; it has legs and I have great hopes for it.”

Those hopes lie in the potential of the Biomedical Imaging/Bioengineering track – the second track in Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program, which had a pathology track in place already. In fact, Varney set out on that track in August before switching to the new one after its official approval in December.

That approval came about after Howard-Claudio discussed it with Summers and Dr. Joey Granger, Billy S. Guyton Distinguished Professor and dean of the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences.

“Dr. Howard has done a fantastic job,” McCowan said. “This program goes beyond radiology because, in order for it to be successful, it will require the collaboration of other departments, such as neurology or biostatistics, depending on the trainees’ research.”

Of course, as a research program, also falls into the realm of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, and the School of Graduate Studies in the Health Sciences, as noted by Granger.



“We believe it will significantly add to our growing pipeline of programs to enhance clinical investigation at UMMC,” Granger said.   

As McCowan put it: “This is good for our department and for our institution.”

Varney, too, had lobbied for a program similar to the one in Texas. “At the beginning of my fourth year of medical school, I asked if there was anything like it or the chance to start it here,” he said.

Before all this, he had considered entering UMMC’s M.D./Ph.D. program, which trains medical students to become physician-scientists. But it’s a seven-year pursuit that the learner must begin in medical school.

“Part of me regretted not doing that,” Varney said.

He had done research as a medical student and thought he could do it as a physician; but, as he realized toward the end of medical student years, with a graduate degree in research “the opportunities would be broader.”

He looked for a way to stay at UMMC because, among other reasons, “the leadership is super supportive,” he said. “I can’t say enough about them. I couldn’t go anywhere else because of that support.”

In turn, Varney and the learners who join him in pursuit of the Ph.D. will be supporting radiology, which Howard-Claudio describes as “the most technologically advanced field of medicine.” Among its high-tech trimmings are artificial intelligence and deep learning – a technique that teaches computers to learn by example, the way humans do.

“Radiologists need to be drivers of the technology, not driven by it,” Howard-Claudio said. “It’s critical that we are well-versed in research, particularly in biomedical engineering. It’s a burgeoning field. We need this program so academic radiologists can be more competitive when searching for funding opportunities.

“I want [Varney] to be the strongest candidate when he applies for funding; so, it would be a shame for him not to have that [degree] behind his name.”

The price of achieving greater competitiveness is an extra year or two tacked onto the radiology residency, which is normally five years. Candidates for the degree will set out on the Holman Research Pathway, a model that ensures the program meets certain standards, and one supported by the American Board of Radiology.

The length of the journey down that research road depends on the pace of the learner, Howard-Claudio said.

More learners are on the way. At least two have asked her about the Ph.D., and one has applied to the program. “I would love to have at least two students per year,” Howard-Claudio said.

The number will depend on the funds available to support the research portion of the program; Summers’ office is providing the funding.

“This program presents us with a good strategy for recruiting and creating physician-scientists,” Summers said. “Rather than trying to recruit them to UMMC from, say, Harvard or Duke, we’re trying to grow our own.

“These are usually native Mississippians who have family here, so we hope they stay for a long career.”Source


What kind of scar can you expect after a tummy tuck?

tummy tuck scarring

The tummy tuck (also known as abdominoplasty) is one of the most popular plastic surgery procedures performed in the United States. It is ideal for patients who have excess skin and tissue in the abdominal area. A tummy tuck also addresses the separated abdominal wall muscles (diastasis recti) that can occur after weight fluctuations and pregnancy.

If you are considering a tummy tuck, along with reviewing the benefits of the procedure and the expected recovery time with your surgeon, it will be important to understand the incision scar that will remain after surgery.

Types of tummy tuck incisions

Incisions for a tummy tuck most commonly extend from hip bone to hip bone as well as a small incision around the belly button. This allows your surgeon to remove all the tissue below and just above the belly button. Any stretch marks in that area will be removed as well. The belly button is brought out through a new opening but stays in its original place on the abdominal wall. If liposuction is part of your procedure, these additional incisions are very small and generally made in an area of tissue to be removed.

The mini tummy tuck is best for those who have minimal excess skin or roundness that is limited to the area just below the belly button. This can be done with a shorter incision – often the same length or a bit longer than a typical C-section scar. The incision and recovery for a mini tummy tuck are often less than that of a more traditional abdominoplasty.

For patients with a lot of excess skin due to multiple pregnancies or a large amount of weight loss, an extended incision may be recommended. Patients who have successfully lost weight with gastric bypass or diet and exercise in excess of 100lbs can have laxity and excess tissue that extends both horizontally and vertically. The procedure is sometimes referred to as a fleur-de-lis tummy tuck. In addition to the standard tummy tuck incision, it includes a vertical incision from the lower breastbone to the pubic bone. The final scar will resemble a large upside-down T.

Caring for your incision to minimize scarring

No matter what incision you plan to have for your tummy tuck it is important to review your plastic surgeon’s aftercare program so that your incision heals with the best scar possible. Most surgeons use surgical glue and steri strips or paper tape at the time of surgery. They may transition you to a scar cream after two weeks and some will incorporate laser therapy to optimize scar remodeling following surgery.

It will be important to keep your incision out of the direct sun and use sunscreen for the first several months after surgery to help your scar heal to its best potential. It will take a full year for the scar to completely fade.

Next steps on your tummy tuck journey

Tummy tuck surgery should be tailored to your individual body type and may include additional procedures such as liposuction to achieve the best results. It is important to seek a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon to determine whether you are a candidate for a tummy tuck procedure and discuss the surgical plan that best meets your needs and expectations.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.



If obstructive sleep apnea makes rest elusive, a new device can help

Published on Thursday, January 9, 2020

By: Ruth Cummins, [email protected]

Susan Walters didn’t realize how much sleep she wasn’t getting until her University of Mississippi Medical Center specialist team gave her the therapy to get a full night of restful slumber.

Since the late 1990s, Walters said, “I was waking up several times a night, gasping for breath and snoring. I didn’t think there was anything to it, and that everybody snores.”

Her sister thought otherwise. “She was using a CPAP mask, so I got tested for one,” Walters said of continuous positive airway pressure, a ventilator therapy for sleep apnea patients that uses mild air pressure delivered through a mask to keep airways open.

The CPAP wasn’t for Walters; much newer technology offered by an implant that uses a gentle electric pulse to open up her airway was. “I thought I was sleeping, but I’d get up and feel like I hadn’t rested at all,” she said of the CPAP. “The machine cord was inconvenient when I turned over in the bed. I used a chin strap, and I had to keep my mouth closed and breathe through my nose. It was difficult.”

Walters coped with obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which a person suffers disrupted sleep and low blood oxygen levels because their tongue is sucked against the back of their throat. That blocks their upper airway, often causing the patient to snore, be unusually sleepy during the day, and sometimes suffer cardiovascular problems, depression or loss of concentration.

Trying to better troubleshoot the problem, 77-year-old Walters underwent a sleep study conducted by Dr. Allen Richert, division chief in the UMMC Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior and medical director of UMMC’s Sleep Center, located at Select Specialty Hospital in north Jackson.

The majority of studies involve patients spending the night at the Sleep Lab so that their breathing, snoring, movement and oxygen levels can be monitored. Some patients, though, take part in an in-home study that records air flow, oxygen levels and chest movement.

Portrait of Dr. Allen Richert

Richert said that the large majority of the sleep studies performed at UMMC are to determine if a patient has obstructive sleep apnea.  The most common treatment is CPAP or a newer version of that machine that adjusts during the night. “If the machine notes apnea, it will increase the air pressure on its own,” Richert said.

Richert suggested Walters visit Dr. Andrea Lewis, an associate professor in the Department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences. Lewis determined that Walters was a candidate for a sleep therapy device that delivers mild stimulation to the hypoglossal nerve that controls movement of the tongue and some airway muscles. How much stimulation can be controlled by up and down buttons on a small, hand-held remote control.

Lewis implanted the small device in Walters’ chest as an outpatient procedure, then activated it about a month later after giving the three small incisions time to heal. Walters said she felt immediate relief.

“I was surprised the first time that it worked,” Walters said. “I felt so different when I got up in the morning. I was rested and could stay up later without being drowsy the next day. I realized what I hadn’t been getting all those years.”

The FDA-approved device, designed to provide long-term relief, has a battery life of at least 12 years. It works inside the body to address the root causes of obstructive sleep apnea, Lewis said. An electrical impulse delivered to the tongue via a coil running from the hypoglossal nerve to a battery acts much like a pacemaker, she said. A sensor placed between the muscles in the rib area detects when the patient takes a breath, activating a gentle pulse that opens the airway.

“The patient uses a remote control to turn the device on before they go to sleep, and off again after they get up,” Lewis said. “It takes about 30 minutes for it to start working,” which gives the patient time to fall asleep, she said.

The patient hears two beeps when they turn on the remote and a green light shows to indicate it’s been activated, Lewis said. “The patient feels a single pulse on their tongue when it connects,” she said. Patients turn off the device by pressing a gray button, then listening for two beeps. “A status ring on the remote will turn white,” Lewis said.

Susan Walters of Clinton uses a surgically implanted device, activated by a remote control, that works to open up her airway, allowing her to sleep soundly without interruption caused by snoring and loss of breath.
Walters uses a surgically implanted device, activated by a remote control, that works to open up her airway, allowing her to sleep soundly without interruption caused by snoring and loss of breath.

Walters is among the first patients to receive the implant surgery from Lewis, who began performing it in 2017. Lewis works with patients to find the right setting to give them the best sleep. “You can step up the setting by one level to increase the stimulation, or you can step down if it feels uncomfortable,” she said.

Most patients tend to slowly increase the stimulation during the first two months of use “until they aren’t snoring, or feel that they are sleeping better,” Lewis said. “Some people feel like they get so much benefit that they don’t turn it any higher, but when they have a follow-up sleep study, the find that they could use more.

“The purpose is to find the setting that gives you comfortable sleep,” Lewis said.

UMMC’s sleep team strives to find a solution for all patients, whether it’s the device implanted by Lewis; surgery ranging from removal of tonsils to the more uncommon breaking of the patient’s jaw to move it forward and stretch the face; to CPAP or the use of mouthpieces that hold the mandible forward and mouth closed.

And, weight loss is an important treatment, Richert said. “As the body mass index goes up, the incidence of sleep apnea goes up,” Richert said. “It’s becoming more common. We’re more aware of it.”

Lewis has performed 30-plus procedures, more than any other provider in the state. Lewis has served on the American Academy of Otolaryngology’s national sleep committee and holds certification in sleep medicine from the American Board of Sleep Medicine. UMMC is an ABSM-accredited sleep center.

She’s collecting data at the Medical Center as part of her committee duties. “I was on staff at the University of Pittsburg when this device was originally researched,” said Lewis, who also is a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Walters said the device, manufactured by Inspire Sleep Apnea Innovation, has helped her both physically and mentally. The mother of three grown daughters, Walters retired to Clinton after working for 21 years at an insurance company in Ohio.

“I’d fall asleep, but I’d be back up about an hour and a half later with the CPAP,” she said. “Then I’d fall asleep in my chair. This was such a big change.

“I should have done this long ago. I mostly did it to please my sister, but once I found out what a difference it made … She was right.”

To be evaluated for the sleep therapy implant, call the Department of Otolaryngology and Communicative Sciences at (601) 815-0821.



People of the U: Patrick O’Brien

Published on Monday, January 6, 2020

By: Gary Pettus, [email protected]

Former high school English teacher Patrick O’Brien left the classroom six years ago; but his classroom keeps coming back to him.

Now a senior administrator in the School of Medicine’s Office of Graduate Medical Education, O’Brien can name more than a dozen current students or employees at the University of Mississippi Medical Center who made it through his advanced English courses before setting out on their present-day callings.

Nurses, technicians, medical students, analysts and more: As students at Florence High School in Rankin County, some called him “O.B.”, but the initials stood for more than a last name – they also meant “advisor,” “supporter,” and, not least of all, the teacher who could make the Salem witch trials or a 19th century tale of revenge come alive.

In this photo taken when she was a junior at Florence High School, India Byrd displays a poster for an English class project.

In this photo taken when she was a junior at Florence High School, India Byrd Hemphill displays a poster for an English class project.

“He made English classes fun; and you could be yourself in his class,” said India Byrd Hemphill, a fourth-year medical student. ”He was always someone you could count on, even when you were no longer in his class. I think he was everyone’s favorite.”

Today, “everyone’s favorite” says reuniting with many of his former students at the Medical Center, especially in the School of Medicine where he works, is a satisfying, “full circle” sensation.

“It’s a source of pride for me,” O’Brien said. Also a source of pride: His teaching days. But they also became a source of frustration.

It was the “good schools” in his hometown of Ocean Springs that beguiled him in the first place. “In my high school and on the Gulf Coast in general, they really value education,” he said. “I believe that really encouraged me to be a teacher.”

A 2000 graduate of Ocean Springs High School, O’Brien earned a bachelor’s degree in English/Language Arts Teacher Education at Mississippi State University, where he stayed another year to enlighten the students of Starkville High School.

Patrick O'Brien, center, front row, celebrates Homecoming at Florence High School with his students in 2013.
O’Brien, center, front row, celebrates Homecoming at Florence High School with his students in 2013.

After a job in Florence beckoned, O’Brien became an Eagle for about the next eight years.

“I was very happy in the Rankin County School District,” said O’Brien, who was a two-time winner of the Mississippi Economic Council’s STAR Teacher award.

“Florence High School is a great place to work. The town is a quiet pocket in Mississippi, a tight-knit community. I was embraced there.”

He had planned to pour about 30 years of his life into teaching, but much had changed in education by the time he graduated from MSU. “I had paid for training that was no longer valid,” he said. “I had to teach to the test. I did not like the fact that a student’s performance, or lack thereof, was associated with the teacher’s performance.

“There was no autonomy. And one of the reasons I wanted to go into teaching was to be able to put my own spin on things.”

In this photo taken several years ago, Lexi Griffith roams the corridors of Florence High School as an 11th grader in Mardi Gras mode.

In this photo taken several years ago, Lexi Griffith roams the corridors of Florence High School as an 11th grader in Mardi Gras mode.

As much as he could, O’Brien did put his own spin on literature, and students like Lexi Griffith enjoyed the ride.

“O.B. would pick these books or plays and assign us roles from them; one was “The Crucible,” which is very intense,” said Griffith, a fourth-year medical student.

“I believe for “The Count of Monte Cristo” he had us pick a scene and act it out while it was recorded on camera. He was also known for decorating his classroom,” Griffith said. “I thought Halloween was the best: black neon paint, strobe lights; it was like a maze in there.

“He took us on field trips, too; for Halloween, we visited a haunted mansion, The Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana. And, after we had already studied “The Help,” the movie opened and he took the class to see it. That was fantastic.

“We did so many things in O.B.’s class. He’s good at showing how literature can impact you, not just your writing skills, but also you as a person.”

Such moments with his students amounted to a balm for O’Brien’s “burnout.” “I grew very close to them,” he said.

He also decided to “suck it up,” he said, “because I thought all I could do was teach, that I wasn’t prepared for a job doing anything else. That’s a very common misconception.

“Having been a teacher has paid off exceptionally well for me,” he said. “I realized if you can handle a classroom of high school students successfully, you can do anything. What works for one student may not work for the other. A classroom is a diverse ecosystem, and managing one – once you have that down, the rest is easy.”

Speaking of diverse ecosystems, the Medical Center has, among its 10,000-plus employees, a friend of O’Brien’s in talent acquisitions, Sara Yates, now the human resources director at Methodist Rehabilitation Center. “While I was still teaching, she explained to me one day the multifaceted environment that is UMMC,” O’Brien said. “It is a city unto itself.”

Helping that city run are people in positions that support education, jobs where the skill set of a teacher could be plugged in, Yates told him. O’Brien decided to search for an outlet.

His first interview at UMMC didn’t take, but about six months later, a job opened up in the Department of Emergency Medicine; beginning in January 2014, O’Brien filled it as residency coordinator for nearly six years. Just recently, he found his place in GME as administrator of all 69 residency and fellowship programs, overseeing compliance, accreditation and more.

After a day of meetings with program administrators or performing the favorite part of his job – “looking at systems procedures”— O’Brien spends his off-time working for Stewpot Community Services: He serves meals at the soup kitchen and serves on the board of directors. Or he’s at home reading a book, often Southern fiction.

Or, as a booster of his neighborhood, the Fondren community in Jackson, he is visiting some of his favorite spots there, photographing, in situ, his pet dachshund, a local Instagram celebrity in his own right.

“I named him Ready after I got him, because he was, and so was I,” O’Brien said. Ready for Ready, it seems, and ready for his current career.

At UMMC, Patrick O'Brien has discovered several of his former high school students working or studying here, including Lexi Griffith, left, and India Byrd Hemphill, right.

At UMMC, O’Brien has discovered several of his former high school students working or studying here, including Griffith, left, and Bryd Hemphill, right.

“I was surprised he had stopped teaching, because he was so amazing at it,” said Hemphill, who was in O’Brien’s classes with Griffith. “But I know working here has been an exciting next step for him. He’s still in education, even though it’s medical education. When I heard, I knew he would be great at it.”

Griffith was also surprised to find him at UMMC. “It was the weirdest experience,” she said. “I was on my emergency medicine rotation, and he walked in. I said, ‘O.B., what are you doing here?’”

Because she hadn’t realized until then that O’Brien was at UMMC, the moment was a bit “embarrassing,” she said. “But it was also very nice.”

For former Florence High classmates Griffith and Hemphill, as well as first-year medical student Joshua Smith, things have also come full circle here at UMMC – in the guise of O’Brien.

“I even go to him for advice now, about things I’m writing, or just to see a familiar face at the Medical Center,” Griffith said.

For her part, Hemphill stayed in touch with O’Brien during her undergraduate days at Mississippi State. “Even in college, when I had a question, whether it was English-related or not, he would help me,” she said.

“He has done that now that I’m in medical school.”

This past August, the former India Byrd, now India Byrd Hemphill, expressed her gratitude with a special invitation: Among the guests at her wedding was her English teacher from Florence High.

“I’ve always admired him,” Hemphill said. “He’s been someone to look up to, once as a teacher and now as a friend.”



How to decide if you need a breast lift, breast implants or both

how to decide if you need a breast lift, breast implants or both

If you have considered having cosmetic breast surgery, there is a good chance that you have also wondered if you need breast implants and/or a breast lift.

A woman’s body goes through many changes throughout her lifetime, especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Breasts can lose their youthful perkiness and even start to sag on the chest. These changes are not only reserved for women with large, heavy breasts; small chested women can also experience deflated breasts or a downward droop.

So, how can you determine if the way back to a youthful-looking chest will be through breast augmentation, breast lift or both? Various factors will come into play when making this decision. The three most important points include nipple position, your desire for more breast volume and the overall breast size you would like to achieve. It is a combination of these patient-specific goals that should steer you in the right direction.

What you need to consider

Nipple position

If you look in the mirror and notice that your nipples point downward or sit below your breast crease, you may be a good candidate for a breast lift. Sagging tissue or the loss of volume can cause the nipple/areola to change position, stretch or become larger. When the breasts lose volume and become heavier in the lower pole, your nipple will sag, as well. While raising breast tissue, a breast lift will also reposition the nipple/areola to a more proportionate position. During the mastopexy, your surgeon can also reshape your nipple/areola, as well.


Breast volume refers to how round or full your breasts appear. Weight loss can leave the breasts looking flat or too small. Additionally, age or pregnancy and breastfeeding can cause the breasts to become larger and then deflate. In this situation, a breast implant can be used to restore volume to the chest, improving the shape of your breasts. A breast lift may also be needed to address any lax tissue.

Breast size

As the most common cosmetic plastic surgery procedure performed every year, there are many reasons women are unhappy with their breast size. You may have always wanted larger breasts or want to correct asymmetrical breasts. During your consultation, your plastic surgeon will explain all of your implant options. You will also have a chance to try on implant sizes, giving you a better idea about how you will look after the procedure.

Combining breast augmentation with a breast lift

A breast lift and breast augmentation can be performed alone or combined into one procedure. Combing procedures can save you both money and time spent in recovery. However, choosing to have a breast lift years after your breast augmentation will not normally be a problem.

Everything begins with a breast augmentation consultation

Start your journey with a consultation with a board-certified plastic surgeon, with years of experience. He or she will be a vital part of your team, walking you through this life-changing cosmetic procedure. When choosing a board-certified plastic surgeon, ask to look through their before and after photographs. These will give you a good idea of their style and skill level. The more pictures they have to offer can often be an indicator of their satisfied patients and their level of experience.

Your consultation should consist of an extensive, patient-centered evaluation where your surgeon will answer your initial questions, learn about your medical history and find out what your desired results will be. Next, the surgeon will evaluate breast shape, nipple position and breast size. Together, you will determine the right procedure(s) to achieve your desired results.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.



Dentistry alumnus to sponsor school’s effort to treat children during Give Kids a Smile

Published on Monday, December 16, 2019

By: Kate Royals, [email protected]

Dr. Lake Garner, a 1996 alumnus of the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry, is giving back in a big way to his school and the community it serves.

Beginning in February, Garner is committing $20,000 a year to help dental students and faculty members provide free treatment for elementary students in the Jackson Public School district. This will mark the 14th year of Give Kids a Smile, which makes up one day of the school’s annual Dental Mission Week.

The American Dental Association began the national Give Kids a Smile program in 2003 as a way for dentists to join with the community to provide dental services to underserved children.

In 2017, the School of Dentistry incorporated Give Kids a Smile into a new, weeklong effort providing care to underserved and uninsured adults and veterans from across the state. In its third year, students and faculty treated more than 1,300 – nearly 400 of them children – during Dental Mission Week.

Johnson Elementary student Darnell Geralds shows fourth year dental student Devin Stewart his brushing technique.

Johnson Elementary student Darnell Geralds shows fourth year dental student Devin Stewart his brushing technique.

“Throughout my career, I have treated a great amount of children, and adults, who were not given access to proper dental care early on,” Garner, the chief executive officer of Garner Dental Group, said. “To achieve a lifelong health smile, children must understand the importance of good oral hygiene and be offered the opportunity to achieve such at an early age. Every child deserves the chance at a healthy smile.”

Hattiesburg-based Garner Dental Group operates 15 locations in Mississippi and one in Mobile, Alabama, and employs 200 people.

Portrait of Dr. David Felton

Dr. David Felton, dean of the School of Dentistry, says Give Kids a Smile is an integral part of the school, and he is extremely grateful for Garner’s commitment to it.

“That Dr. Garner has stepped up to help sponsor GKAS enables the school to provide additional services to these children and help offset the expense associated with the week’s events,” Felton said. “We are extremely grateful to Dr. Garner for his support of the GKAS program and of his support of the School of Dentistry. His visionary gift should set the bar for future giving to the School of Dentistry and our outreach programs.”