Check out our top stories of 2015

December 29th, 2015

2015 was a big year for the U-M Health System. We improved lives through custom-made vocal cords, lung transplants, valve replacements, and an artificial heart. One of our nurses saved a stranger on a plane and our innovative diagnoses and treatment gave new hope to stroke patients.

From groundbreaking research to life-changing care, here are our top stories of 2015!

1.) Life-changing surgery for three-year-old Ugandan boy
One of our most heartwarming stories involved little Jonathan and the giant tumor on his neck. Branded as “diseased” and shunned by his community in Uganda, Jonathan was a lost cause until a ray of hope from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital broke through. Watch his amazing story.
2.) 3D printing breakthroughs
3D printing breakthroughs at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital received international attention this year. Two of our biggest stories of involved little Kaiba (video below) and baby Conan. Learn about these remarkable kids and the technology that saved their lives.

3.) Boy born without vocal chords gets them “built” by U-M doctor
Born with no vocal cords and given less than a 5% chance of survival before coming to C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, today Grant Hasse is full of life and working on his first words!

4.) Stanley Larkin is back in the game
Without a human heart, Stan Larkin was able to visit a water park and play basketball this summer. An artificial heart from UMHS and a backpack-sized power supply let him go home from the hospital and gave him independence while he waits for a heart transplant.

5.) Miracle machine keeps lungs alive outside the body
“Time to wake up. We got new lungs!”  Kyle Clark, his transplanted lungs, and the amazing Perfusion System keeping lungs “alive” outside the human body, combine to make this one of our best stories.

6.) Taubman Health Sciences library gets $55M transformation
The 35-year-old building on the U-M medical campus has emerged from a metamorphosis, making it into a new kind of library, and much more. The transformation turned the 143,400-square-foot facility into all-digital, light-filled, dynamic learning space for future physicians, scientists and other health professionals.

7.) Study finds perceptions about impact of double mastectomy
A survey of women with breast cancer found that nearly half considered having a double mastectomy. But of those who considered it, only 37 percent knew that the more aggressive procedure does not improve survival for women with breast cancer. Read more>>doublem

8.) Frankel Cardiovascular Center marks 500th valve replacement surgery
The U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center performed its 500th transcatheter aortic valve replacement, a minimally invasive procedure that’s transforming aortic care for elderly adults. The U-M participated in the early stages of studying the survival benefit of TAVR and is testing the next generation of heart devices designed to allow doctors to replace an aortic valve without opening a patient’s chest. Read more>>CVC_003

9.) New Hope for Stroke Treatment
A new specialty called neurointervention is helping to make huge strides in stroke diagnosis, treatment and care. Neurointerventional radiologist Neeraj Chaudhary, M.D., MRCS, FRCR, an Dr-Chaudhary_imagesassistant professor of radiology and neurosurgery, explains how this new specialty is successful in treating stroke patients. Dr. Chaudhary works with neuroradiologists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, emergency physicians, vascular surgeons, physiatrists, neurointensivists, physical and occupational therapists, and speech and language pathologists to provide the best possible stroke treatment and care. Read more>>

10.) U-M nurse saves stranger on a plane
When Rosemarie McDonald boarded a flight with her husband to San Diego, she didn’t know she would be putting her 35 years of nursing practice into action just minutes after leaving the ground. A passenger began experiencing a miscarriage and inflight staff asked if any medical professionals were on the plane. Rosemarie sprang into action, selflessly displaying her willingness to help others at all times. Read more>>


Want even more? Check out some of our coolest science stories of the year.Coolest-Stories-2 (1)


365 days infection free: Congrats to the Brandon NICU & 4A/4AS Unit!

July 30th, 2015

Every year, central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) lead to thousands of illnesses and deaths throughout the U.S. These serious, but common infections are caused when the catheter tube (central line) used to give patients medicines and fluids or collect blood samples, lets germs into the bloodstream.

Although CLABSIs are prevalent, they are still preventable. Last week, two of our units were recognized for going more than an entire year without one. The Nick and Chris Brandon Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and the 4A/4S Unit received the “365 Days of Safety Award” in a ceremony hosted by Jeff Desmond, M.D., interim chief medical officer, and Marge Calarco, Ph.D., RN, senior associate director and chief of nursing services.

“The focused work of these teams truly shows their true commitment to keeping our patients safe,” says Calarco.

“The 365 Days of Safety Award recognizes the tremendous efforts made by our teams in decreasing or eliminating hospital acquired infections,” adds Dr. Desmond. “It also provides an opportunity for teams to share improvement practices and opportunities.”

‘Scrubbing the Hub’


The 4A/4AS unit has been CLABSI-free since 2012. Staff on the 32-bed unit care for patients in Neurology and Neurosurgery services. 4A also includes a six-bed stroke unit.

Floor 4A2

Staff from 4A/4AS unit with Marge Calarco, Ph.D., RN, senior associate director and chief of nursing services; and Jeff Desmond, M.D., interim chief medical officer.

“We are always striving to improve patient safety and outcomes,” says Cinda Loik, RN, BSN, MBA, nurse manager on the floor. She emphasized the culture of cleanliness that employees apply to their work area, specifically for CLABSI prevention.

One of the most important behaviors for their team members is cleaning the ‘hub,’ which is the cap at the end of central lines that comes in contact with the patient.

“’Scrubbing the Hub,’ seems to be engrained in our culture. It is stressed in orientation and even patients will comment, ‘oh, I see you’re scrubbing my hub.’”

During Multi-Disciplinary Rounds, nursing and medical staff in the unit also collaborate to decide whether a device or line could be removed. This includes central lines and Foley catheters.

“A culture of infection prevention”


The Newborn Intensive Care Unit at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital is a 46-bed NICU caring for premature and sick newborn infants. Many patients require very specialized treatments.


Staff from the NICU pose with Marge Calarco, Ph.D., RN, senior associate director and chief of nursing services; Jeff Desmond, M.D., interim chief medical officer; and Paul King, executive director of C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital.

A CLABSI can cause serious complications for an infant including increased length of stay, problems requiring longer use of a breathing machine, and even death of the patient. Because CLABSIs are fairly common, they were considered almost an accepted side effect in the field of neonatal medicine at one point in time.

“In 2008, we started a quality improvement initiative to reduce CLABSIs that focused on culture change,” says Sarah Poley, RN, leader of the initiative to reduce CLABSIs in the NICU. “We worked to change the belief that CLABSIs were inevitable to the mindset that just because a patient has a central line does not mean they will get an infection.”

“Our unit’s culture has evolved into one supportive of best practices for infection prevention,” she says. “We are receptive to new practices and modifications and regularly share lessons learned from past infections.”

Part of the unit’s improvement program was encouraging parents to join in the effort. Healthcare providers wore buttons with a caricature of a germ that said “Ask Me.” The buttons encouraged parents to ask about the button and to remind providers to wash their hands when they came in the room. Parents and visitors are also reminded to wash their hands frequently.

“When we distributed the buttons to our teams, each one included a card with the story of a patient who had a CLABSI,” she says. “That helped remind staff of the risks and potential complications. It helped everyone stay focused on reducing the number of infections. We are now invested in the belief that CLABSI’s truly are preventable.”

Nurturing Mind, Body and Spirit

July 30th, 2015

Our care goes beyond medicine

Many know us for great care and research, but we’re also home to employees who help patients in unique and unexpected ways.


Just being there
Social Worker Rhonda Fields always knew she wanted to help others.  She began her career helping children get a better education and now works to comfort families in the health system’s Children’s and Adult Emergency Departments.

“Our patients and families go through so much emotionally and physically,” she says.  “My job is to just be there for them, listen, and make sure they get the best care possible.”

Rhonda remembers meeting a mother of a nine-month-old girl who was having trouble breathing. The girl’s older brother was at the hospital too and scared for his sister’s life.

“All of a sudden this boy walked over and hugged me. He didn’t need medical care or a toy, he just needed comfort,” Rhonda says. “Being able to help a family at a traumatic moment like that has been really powerful for me. I may never see them again, but I made a lasting impact.”

Journeying with the patient
Chaplain Rev. Jamie D. Hawley also helps others deal with difficult emotions that often come with being sick.

Jamie“I try to journey with our patients without posing any beliefs on them,” he says. “We take a holistic approach to healing and what that means to each person. Sometimes just sitting and talking with someone is enough to lift their spirit.”

Jamie says UMHS chaplains work in a variety of faith traditions and even support those who don’t consider themselves religious.

“People often think that if prayer is not needed, then a chaplain is not needed. However, we feel we are sent to serve our patients and their families no matter what they believe or are going through.”

Jamie appreciates the scope of his work and the impact he makes in all phases of a patient’s life.“We are here to help whether that’s during the sacred moment a life enters this world or the sacred moment when a life leaves it.”

Helping with the bill
Like Rev. Hawley, James Goebel, U-M MSupport Coordinator, is used to seeing families in need.

Paul“I step in when patients are having trouble paying their medical bills,” he says. “This means catching them during one of the worst parts of their experience at the health system and attempting to make it one of the better ones.”

James works with U-M social workers, Patient Financial Counselors, the Patient Customer Service team, Guest Assistance, and outside agencies such as Washtenaw Health Plan, to make the payment process easier for patients and their family.

There was one patient Goebel remembers who sent him a Christmas card every year after he assisted with her balance and helped her to better understand Medicaid. Another patient insisted on coming to see James, even though he was suffering from terminal lung cancer. The patient was grateful his bills were one less worry for his family.

“Hearing how my efforts have given a patient hope or helped them with their debt makes the job worthwhile.” says James, who has been with the health system for 15 years. “Working here and making a difference in the lives of others is an integral part of who I am.”

Eating right and living well
Shirley Kadoura is a nutrition specialist at UMHS who gets her motivation right from the patients she serves.

Shirley“Our amazing patients are why I get up in the morning,” she says. “The people who work to improve their health and want to benefit from my coaching and support are why I work here.”

Shirley remembers one patient who was diagnosed with pre-diabetes that showed incredible initiative to do everything she could to get healthy.

“She was committed from the start and came to appointments with her mom who was also working on weight loss,” Shirley says.

“Together they were excellent support for one another—planning meals, tracking food daily and exercising together. After the patient lost weigh she ‘paid it forward’ by continuing to encourage and support others on the same journey to better health.”

“And did I mention she is no longer pre-diabetic? She is one of our many patients who got healthier through regular checkups and medical nutrition therapy.”

From social support and spiritual guidance to helping with bills and healthy eating, our employees stand apart from the rest by raising the bar on patient care.

Music in your room?

July 23rd, 2015

Greg Maxwell helps patients heal through music

While the U-M Health System is known for providing world class clinical care, there are many ways our non-clinical employees help patients heal.  Therapeutic music is near the top of the list. Greg Maxwell works for the Health System’s Gifts of Art program as a Certified Music Practitioner (CMP®), singing and playing his guitar in patients’ rooms.

“This type of music creates a space where patients can start feeling better,” says Greg. “All they need to do is relax and experience the soothing effects of live acoustic music.”

Greg began singing when he was only 7, playing ukulele at 8, and guitar by 11. But it wasn’t until he was driving home one day from his office job in Detroit that he considered playing music for a living.

“I heard a radio report about the Bedside Music program and had a light bulb moment,” he says. “Playing music for patients sounded like the greatest idea I had ever heard.”

He soon began playing as a volunteer musician in waiting areas at University Hospital. Then he took the 18-month Music for Healing and Transition (MHTP) program, where he learned how to bring therapeutic music right into a patient’s room. Greg started part-time at UMHS in 2008 and became a full-time employee in 2011.

“Ever since my first day, I’ve been motivated to continue because it’s the coolest job I could ever imagine.”

Bedside musicians are trained to monitor patients’ physical and vital signs as they play. Using a process called entrainment, they play music that is a close match to the patient’s breathing and heartbeat, as can be seen on their monitor. They also look for physical signs of stress like labored breathing or tense shoulders. As the music continues, patients often relax their breathing, have reduced heart rate and lower blood pressure. The musician responds by slowing the music to mirror the patient’s condition.

Greg works with a team of music practitioners, who are all gifted musicians and graduates from the MHTP program. Each one has a special skill that can help different patients including harp, viola, guitar and voice. On any given day, the team works from a list of about 50 patients who have been referred to them for a music visit.

“The most rewarding part of this job is the feedback we get from patients and clinical staff. Seeing my music make a difference in a patient’s well-being or having a staff member tell me how our music makes their unit better is the ultimate reward.”

“We often see patients lean back, relax their shoulders, or close their eyes while we play,” says Greg.

Greg still remembers the first time he saw a patient react to his playing.

“He was tense and in pain when I arrived.  As I played, he almost seemed to melt back into his bed,” he says. “One of the greatest compliments we get from a patient is putting them to sleep.”

Greg.Still004Therapeutic music can be requested for patients by nurses, doctors, social workers, palliative care staff, spiritual care or the patients themselves.  A bedside music visit can even be ordered through the MiChart system.

“Our program is different from other hospitals because of the wide range of services we cover,” says Greg. Bedside musicians can visit patients in most inpatient areas of UMHS as well as intensive care units, neonatal units and dialysis, burn/trauma and pre-and post-surgery areas.

The Bedside Music program is part of the Gifts of Art department, which through its many tailored programs, has brought visual and performing arts to UMHS for nearly 30 years.  To request a visit, call 734-936-ARTS (2787) or email bedsidemusic@med.umich.edu.  For a flier with information, click here.


Saving lives after work: U-M nurse helps fellow traveler during miscarriage on plane

June 11th, 2015

U-M Health System employees make a positive impact on the lives of our patients and families every day. Whether it’s through literally saving a life, providing clean and quiet accommodations, or offering a kind word of support, the Michigan Difference can be seen in each of our team members, sometimes even after their shift has ended.

Earlier this year, Rosemarie McDonald, Vascular Access Team registered nurse at U-M, boarded a flight with her husband to San Diego. She planned to visit their son, followed by a short vacation. Little did she know she would be putting her 35 years of nursing practice into action just minutes after leaving the ground.

A passenger carrying twins as a surrogate mother began experiencing a miscarriage just 45 minutes after takeoff. When inflight staff asked if any medical professionals were on the plane, Rosemarie sprang into action, selflessly displaying her willingness to help others at all times.

“I never had a second thought that I needed to assist this woman,” she remembers. “As soon as they made the announcement I went to the back of the plane and saw her near the bathroom, obviously in distress and white as a ghost.”

Rosemarie put her nursing skills to work, starting a saline IV for the woman while another nurse aboard the plane watched over vital signs. The two nurses took turns holding the woman’s hand while the other monitored her vitals.

“Once we were able to get her to lie down and be comfortable, her color totally changed and she began looking better,” says Rosemarie. The whole time, Rosemarie explained everything she and the other nurse were doing to help. Her goal was to make sure the woman was as comfortable and safe as possible.

“I continued to offer reassuring and comforting words as we watched over her,” Rosemarie says. “I tried putting myself in her position. She had to be so frightened for herself and her two small children who were also on the plane. This is the same kind of thing we practice every day at UMHS, always making sure our patients are comfortable and relaxed while receiving the care they need.”

The pilot landed the flight in Phoenix where paramedics were standing by, ready to take the passenger to the hospital. Rosemarie said her goodbyes, just happy she could help.

Weeks later, the woman who miscarried on the plane, Rebecca Sutcliffe, was interviewed by a San Diego news station. She expressed how grateful she was to have assistance from Rosemarie and the other nurse on the plane. She wished she could meet the heroes who helped save her life that day.

Watch the clip here.

Rosemarie heard about the news clip and contacted Sutcliffe through social media. The two connected and spoke for nearly two hours over the phone.

“It was like we had always known each other,” Rosemarie says. “It’s hard when you are a nurse because you often take care of people and don’t always know what happens to them when they leave the hospital. This has been a great outcome to something that was so terrible. I’m so grateful that everything turned out OK for my new found friend. We plan on meeting up in December when she’s back in town.”

Rosemarie has gone above and beyond her work duties by exercising clinical skills and a caring attitude outside of UMHS. Still she remains humble and doesn’t want to take all the credit. She’s searching for the other nurse on the flight so she can thank her for helping to save a life.