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02/01/17

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At 71, Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby is still focused on bringing Oklahomans economic prosperity.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

Ask Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby what he’s most proud of during a term of office that dates all the way back to 1987 and you’d better pull up a chair.
The bright-eyed, beloved 30th governor of the 12th-largest tribe in the U.S. oversees nearly 14,000 employees, more than 300 tribal programs and services and more than 100 tribal businesses.
The latest in that line is a joint venture that should breathe new life into the surrounding Lake Texoma area and Southeastern Oklahoma in the heart of Chickasaw Country.
Late last year the state of Oklahoma and the Chickasaw Nation announced plans to develop a resort hotel and other amenities at Lake Texoma.
It’s an effort to resurrect a failed project that aimed at privatizing the state resort 10 years ago when it was sold to out-of-state investors.
The project excites Gov. Anoatubby on multiple levels.
“This development is another component of our economic development initiatives designed to have a positive impact on the state and local economy,” Gov. Anoatubby said. “It will directly employ dozens of local residents in a number of occupations. We believe it will also have a kind of ripple effect which will strengthen existing businesses in the area as well as bringing other new businesses to the area as a result of increasing the number of visitors to the area.”
“Tourism affects businesses from gas stations and convenience stores to restaurants, sporting goods stores, fishing guides, antique shops and farmers’ markets – and the list goes on.”
The initial plans call for the Chickasaw Nation to construct a three-story hotel, a restaurant and gift shop, a casino featuring up to 300 electronic games and as many as 10 lakefront fishing/boating cottages.
The project covers 50 acres of lakefront property, overlooking Lake Texoma and the historic Roosevelt Bridge. It also involves about 11.5 acres of land acquired by the Commissioners of the Land Office (CLO) from the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation.
“We believe this new development will help launch a transformation of this area into a major tourism and recreation attraction,” Gov. Anoatubby said. “This is an incredibly beautiful area with so much to offer, it is really exciting to think of the long-term impact this project could have on the area.”
Gov. Anoatubby envisions the project as the kind of place seniors can take their families. There’s something for everyone.
The hotel will include a lounge and meeting rooms, an outdoor pool and recreation area, a fitness center, gift shop, restaurant and a business center, he said.
The development will be off U.S. 70, across from the Chickasaw Pointe Golf Course near the site of the old Lake Texoma State Lodge. Preliminary plans allow for future expansion of the hotel and the construction of additional waterfront cottages.
Gov. Anoatubby said the state has so much to offer with its natural beauty. It’s one of the reasons the tribe has invested in the state through its Adventure Road program, which highlights different areas up and down I-35.
Designed to bring more tourism to Oklahoma, the Adventure Road initiative generated more than 385,000 new trips to the area last year alone, bringing in approximately $647 million in spending from March to September, according to Gov. Anoatubby.
The tribe is also investing in a new information center in Tishomingo, closely located to Lake Texoma which will complement the project.
It’s another feather in the cap of an already stellar career.
“Our mission is to enhance the quality of life of the Chickasaw people so it is gratifying to see the results of our efforts,” Gov. Anoatubby said. “Many of our services are designed to offer opportunities to pursue a higher education, advance in one’s career, or start a business.”
There are countless examples of Chickasaws who have seized those opportunities and achieved success.
“It is gratifying to see Chickasaws who have utilized tribal services, make it a point to come back home to work for the tribe.”
Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin said she has been a long-time believer in the potential of the Lake Texoma area to be an economic driver in Oklahoma.
“This project will create jobs and revenue for southern Oklahoma while at the same time maintaining the beauty of the site,” said Fallin. “The Lake Texoma lodge and golf course for many years were a top tourist attraction in the region. This hotel and commercial development will be the catalyst to stimulate significantly greater economic development in the future. I appreciate Governor Anoatubby’s vision and willingness to partner with the state of Oklahoma to continue our joint efforts focusing on tourism in this beautiful and strategically located part of our state.”

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Oklahoma Heart Hospital South’s Shawn Watts, RN, traveled to one of the most dangerous regions in Mexico during a November medical mission trip.

story and photos by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

The state of Guerrero, Mexico is a juxtaposition of two worlds.
The resort city of Acapulco, backed by the Sierra Madre Del Sur mountains spills into the Pacific Ocean.
Cliff divers entertain throngs of sunbathing tourists daily plunging some 136 feet into the crashing waves below.
But travel a few miles in any direction and you run the risk of becoming entangled in the violence and death associated with what you might expect from Mexico’s heroin capital.
Oklahoma Heart Hospital RN Shawn Watts walked that fine line a few weeks ago, going on a medical mission trip that provided help and hope for hundreds of families.
Watts realized the world is a very different place outside the walls of Oklahoma Heart Hospital South.
An outdoor covered basketball court served as the mission trip’s staging ground surrounded by a dense urban population eager to seek medical care.
Watts served as triage nurse sending patients to either a dentist, optometrist, pharmacist, family practice doctor or pediatrician based on their needs.
“They’re so worry about their kids staying healthy they wanted their kids to get vitamin shots and even antibiotics when it wasn’t appropriate,” Watts said.
At OHH all Watts has to do is walk into a supply room to get whatever he needs to take care of patients.
“They gave me a box of IV catheters, tubing and medication,” Watts said. “It’s field medicine. That’s exactly what it is.”
Fifteen minutes away was storied Acapulco.
“You hear that and think ‘Oh, how nice.’ It’s not,” Watts said. “In Mexico they develop a resort community and you go two miles beyond and it’s gone. That whole culture is gone. You have true Mexico. They have chickens hanging for sale gutted in the streets. They burn their trash in the streets at night.
“Fish are laying out all day long for sale not even iced in the market. You drive whatever direction you want to. It’s just the culture.”
So Watts assumed when he arrived he’d bunk up in a corner in someone’s house on the floor.
Little did he know he would find a resort hotel room for $43 a night.
People from all over would line up early in the morning to catch the clinic as it opened. Some rushed out the door without even taking their morning medication.
“I would check their blood pressure and it would be 180/110,” said Watts, who traveled with the medical-based Fishers of Men. “We couldn’t tell if their medicine was working for them.”
Multivitamin IV solutions, or banana bags, flowed freely for most of the day as the group did what it could for whomever showed up.
Despite residents not always having access to medical care or the medicines they needed, Watts said the culture had a few things working for it.
“You have no choice but cardiac health there because everything was uphill and you walk to everything,” Watts said. “These little old ladies their blood pressure was well controlled just on basic medicines. They didn’t use medications like we do. They used medicines that were more basic, been around for years and didn’t require monitoring afterwards. Long-term they weren’t the best but they were the most practical for that area.”
Diabetes, malnourishment and dehydration were all issues.
In the hot Mexico sunshine, Watts would go through 6-7 bottles of water daily with no access to a restroom.
“We left there at 6 p.m. and we all went to the restroom after that,” Watts said.
The days flowed for Watts.
“I triaged them so fast that I made the doctors and the dentists mad because I set up extra lines,” Watts laughed. “I had a couple CNAs with me and we did blood pressure, scales, temperatures, measurement. I started slotting them so fast the director of the mission board said ‘You come back. You organize. You’re good. You get everything done. You come back.’”
That’s no surprise. ER, ICU and now CCU at Oklahoma Heart Hospital have been Watts’ sandbox for the past 17 years.
His first calling was in applied ministry as a youth minister in an inner city.
He started doing home health on the side.
“It flowed,” Watts said. “I became an aide and did home health for four years and went to nursing school and worked three jobs during that.”
He would go to class for three hours and see patients on his lunch break before repeating the cycle in the afternoon.
“I love it. It just fits,” Watts said. “I’ve tried to slow down and thought about an office job since I’m 50. I just don’t have the gears for it.”
That’s a good thing not only for the people of Oklahoma City but the residents of Guerrero as well.

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What gets you out of bed in the morning? AllianceHealth Seminole

I enjoy volunteering. I wanted to for years. I volunteer other places because when you work for free you’re in demand. Bettie Conn

I feel very much at home here at AllianceHealth Seminole. I worked here a long time ago. Mary Jo Lofgren

I get to spend time with patients on the front lines. Sharon Carr, RN

I guess it’s that certain satisfaction I get when I help people out.  Dedra Johnson

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Oklahoma has a rich agricultural history thanks to dedicated farmers. In 1998, the Governor’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Agriculture was created to recognize those who have helped lead the industry while demonstrating exemplary personal values and pursuing agricultural achievements in Oklahoma. Through Feb. 10, the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) is accepting nominations for a total of four Oklahoma Excellence in Agriculture Awards.
The award winners will be announced at a recognition ceremony on March 29, 2017 at the state capitol as part of the state’s annual Oklahoma Ag Day celebration.
Examples of eligible agriculture enterprises for the Governor’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Agriculture nominee are: livestock and crop production, agribusiness, forestry, horticulture and nursery management. In addition to considering the nominee’s production agriculture involvement, the application also recognizes leadership in agricultural and state organizations as well as additional awards and honors. The winner will be someone with at least 25 years in agriculture who derives the bulk of his or her income from agriculture or has retired from an agricultural enterprise.
Previous award-winners have represented different areas of Oklahoma as well as a variety of agricultural groups and commodities. Past recipients have guided their families and communities to success by excelling as dairymen, cattle ranchers, pork producers, wheat farmers, conservationists and educators. Uniting previous Hall of Fame inductees is their service to their communities in addition to their contribution to the agriculture industry.
In addition to the Governor’s Outstanding Achievement Award in Agriculture, ODAFF also presents the Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Award, Outstanding Legacy in Agriculture Award and Outstanding Public Service in Agriculture Award. The Legacy in Agriculture Award is the only one strictly for posthumous nominees.
Governor Fallin’s Agriculture Environmental Stewardship Award recognizes Oklahoma agriculturalists who are leaders in developing and adopting outstanding environmentally innovative agricultural practices. This award will highlight the efforts of an Oklahoma agriculture producer who is a steward of the environment and is dedicated to conserving the natural resources of Oklahoma while helping to ensure a continued supply of food and fiber.
Governor Fallin’s Outstanding Public Service in Agriculture Award honors an individual who has made outstanding contributions of public service to Oklahoma agriculture. The recipient will be someone who works diligently to improve public perception of agriculture in Oklahoma. The recipient should be a person who has given time and talent unselfishly to advance the Oklahoma agricultural industry.
Governor Fallin’s Outstanding Legacy to Agriculture Award posthumously honors someone who made significant life-long contributions to Oklahoma agriculture. The unique or extraordinary contributions the individual made to Oklahoma serve as a role model for the agriculture industry.
“The Oklahoma Excellence in Agriculture Awards give us the opportunity to recognize those individuals who have made a positive and lasting impact on agriculture in our state,” said Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Jim Reese.
The deadline for all nominations is 5 p.m., Friday, Feb. 10. The recipients will be selected by a committee of representatives from agricultural commodity organizations and farm and ranch organizations. Any questions regarding the nomination procedure or completion of the official nomination form can be directed to Jason Harvey at (405) 606-1477. The nomination forms can be found at www.ag.ok.gov/odaff-halloffame.htm .

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Debbie Hancock, RN, MSN, serves AllianceHealth Seminole as the Chief Nursing Executive.

by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer

As AllianceHealth Seminole’s Chief Executive Officer, Debbie Hancock, RN, MSN has learned to always carry a set of scrubs with her just in case.
High heels, slacks and pearls are generally the order of the day but then again, like every nurse knows, things tend to hit the fan when you least expect it.
But it’s not a big deal for the 17-year nursing veteran who feels as comfortable in the boardroom as she does in the emergency room.
“It’s a smaller hospital than the one I came from … and there’s really a family atmosphere. Most of the people that work here have worked here forever and that’s dedication right there,” Hancock said. “They want to work here. They want to be here.”
“The people here just make it,” Hancock continued. “They’re proud of their hospital. They’re proud of their community. They could go anywhere but they choose to be here.”
Hancock has served the Seminole population as AllianceHealth Chief Nursing Executive for more than half a year.
She came from a similar role in Texas at Hill Regional Hospital.
Looking to make a move to get closer to her grandchildren, Hancock was able to move from a seven-hour-drive to her grandkids in Wichita, Kansas to just three hours.
WEARING LOTS OF HATS
The experience of a rural hospital is a new one for Hancock, who leads a facility licensed for 32 beds. Her last hospital in Texas had more than a 130-bed capacity.
“With it there’s more challenges here because you wear more hats. You’re responsible for more because you don’t have the people,” says Hancock, who’s worked a couple days each week on the floor for the past few weeks.
On given days, Hancock has found herself serving as the emergency room director or the medical-surgical director.
There’s no flex pool or staffing office to call up when someone is sick.
And the small town of Seminole isn’t one that’s attracting a lot of medical professionals.
“We try to breed them from within,” said Hancock, whose hospital sits a stone’s throw away from Seminole State College. “You have to have people with a different mindset.”
That means showing people that they have ownership of the hospital and their individual unit. After all, they are there to make a difference and stepping up to a leadership role can often be the best and fastest way to improve outcomes.
So far, Hancock has been amazed by staff that have shared leadership roles among them.
“In a bigger hospital you have so many other people you can lean on to take care of things,” Hancock said. “Here you have to lean on nurses that you have.”
That’s why, on occasion, she ditches her desk, puts on her scrubs and hits the floor.
“I see what they’re going through and the struggles that they do have,” Hancock said. “When they tell me we can’t do that … when I work down there with them I find out why.”
THE VISION AHEAD
The wheels are already in motion at AllianceHealth Seminole, which is working to expand offerings.
“I want to see it grow. We have new programs, a sleep lab that’s opening and we’re working on chest pain accreditation,” Hancock said.
February is the expected chest pain accreditation timeline. Soon after the hospital will pursue stroke certification.
“All of AllianceHealth is working towards the same goals and initiatives,” Hancock explained. “It’s important for us to be able to meet our goals. It makes it easier on our nurses when we transfer. When we have the same chest pain and stroke protocols it’s an easy transfer.”
“I just want to see us grow and get the people in place that need to be here.”
She has a feeling most of the pieces are already in place. A couple more hires and she expects a full staff.
Mentoring and moving up within are the order of the day as is Hancock’s willingness to accept suggestions from staff.
“Our goals are the same, it’s just how we get there,” Hancock said. “We’re excited. Good things are happening here.”
AllianceHealth Seminole currently serves more than 30,000 residents in Seminole County and the surrounding area. Seminole is a licensed acute care hospital with two large operating suites, one endoscopy suite, one post anesthesia recovery room, and 32 private rooms. AllianceHealth Seminole began serving the community in October 2007.

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Photography and Text by Terry “Travels with Terry” Zinn  t4z@aol.com

What is it about a destination that you are forbid to visit that makes it that much more interesting? Just say “no” and the object or experience is on the top of your bucket list. For decades Cuba was out of bounds for United States visitors, unless you were with some special cultural program or association. Not the case today, as Cuba has been opened up to American tourists.
You hear all the time to hurry up and go to Cuba before it changes. Changes, meaning bright fancy new hotels and resorts, over shadowing the quaint colonial town. Cuba has been open to international businesses for decades, and yet when visiting today, you see very little recognizable modern infra structure. Why has not the international community invested in Cuba with tourist amenities? One reason might be that Cuba still all the whole, does not allow ownership of property. Who wants to invest in property that they do not own? Until this Cuban policy changes, Cuba will not quickly be spoiled by outside developers.
So there is no real need to hurry up and see Cuba. As a slowly developing country, Cuba is stymied in the atmosphere and development of the 1950’s. The classic cars that are the icon of Cuba today is still in abundance and for a fee you can ride around the streets in one, or have your photo made by one. The fee you pay may help the up keep of these classic 1950’s and 60’s cars.
And while there are horror stories of tourists booking their own rooms in hotels without the expected tourist amenities, right now it might be best to book a cruise as your floating hotel and see several Cuban cities, not just Havana. This can be accomplished with Fathom Cruises. They promote their cruises as interaction with the locals through preplanned tours taking you either in a walking tour of an area with stops at local pre-approved locations, or a bus tour visiting several approved tourist spots. They promote interaction with the locales, but on a recent tour the time restrains for personal interaction was minimal.
One such attraction was visiting a concert of local singers in a classic Cuban auditorium set up just for visiting tourist. The music was enjoyable but the scheduled interaction time with the local singers was nonexistent, and the tour was hustled out of the auditorium. No reason was given just that we had to move on. This was the case on many tours. I’m not sure this was a government mandated restriction, more like poor planning on the part of the local tour operator, and an over scheduled day. Being only the eighth American cruise ship to arrive in Havana may be the answer. While the tour guides were always congenial their Spanish accents and lack of professional tour guide experience was less than optimum. While the tour guides were officially trained and licensed by the government, they need more experience in their chosen field. This, hopefully, will be remedied with more practice, and then reflected in generous tipping.
Of course you don’t go to Cuba expecting the Little Cuba neighborhoods of Miami, but you do expect to have an enjoyable, pleasant and memorable experience. What you may bring back from Cuba is only a glimpse of the architecture which needs renovating and preservation, a few grand plazas, and food while edible, not especially memorable. Even the Cuba Libre, the iconic rum and coke drink, may be watered down.
Well known for its gourmand cigars, you will no doubt be escorted to an approved tobacco shop. We were advised to look for the official cigar stamp/label on the cigars we purchased as there may be some offered that are not official Cuban cigars. Now with trade agreements open on Americans buying and bring back Cigars, the Cigar trade for tourist might be diminishing, but probably not anytime soon. While the prices are premium in Cuba, the price offered by your bell person at Miami Hotels behind the counter were doubled, and perhaps that might change with the free import restriction lifted..
Another commerce challenge is that Cuba has two currencies, one for locals and one for tourists. That may hinder you once you have exchange your dollars in to tourist dollars, and find that the store you happened upon or street vendor only takes local currency. Exchanging money in Cuba is quite simple and except if there is a line, very efficient, friendly and fast.
As with any tropical destination in a developing country, don’t expect air conditioning, bring your own bottled water on tours, protect yourself with sunscreen and an ugly wide brimmed hat. And in a group of tourists don’t be surprised to be approached by semi well-dressed pan handlers, either giving you a sob story (“My wife is very sick, expecting a child and I am out of work”) or simply a hand out for you to fill. We were discouraged to give in to our humanitarian instincts, as this would only encourage the population to do likewise. A simple no or wave of the hand, or such is sufficient to dismiss the well intentioned local.
These reflections of my recent trip is not to discourage your interest, but just to report that Cuba is still a developing country for tourists and there is no need to rush to see it. Any booked tour of Cuba is an adventure, and as with any adventure you may find the summer heat and glaring sun a challenge. Going with Fathom Cruises (https://www.fathom.org/cruise-to-cuba/ ) may add the convenience with amenities that are good fit for senior travelers. More about a Fathom cruise next month.

Mr. Terry Zinn – Travel Editor
Past President: International Food Wine and Travel Writers Association
http://realtraveladventures.com/author/zinn/
www.seniornewsandliving.comwww.martinitravels.com

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Infection Prevention Specialist Julie Smith, RN, MS, CIC, has a new weapon in the war on infection at the Norman Regional Health System.

by Bobby Anderson
Staff Writer

Norman Regional Health System Infection Prevention Specialist Julie Smith, RN, MS, CIC has a new ally in the war on germs in her health system.
Actually, she has four new allies and not one of them is over four-foot tall.
Norman Regional Hospital recently invested more than $400,000 in new Xenex Germ-Zapping Robots, which have been credited by other healthcare facilities across the U.S. for helping reduce infection rates.
“We’ve begun to see an impact already,” Smith said. “Your typical day-to-day cleaner doesn’t clean C-diff spores so you have to use special cleaners such as bleach, which is the only thing that works. This will kill the C-diff spores and it cleans the air.
“We have already seen a decrease in hospital-acquired infections.”
Think R2D2 with the ability to emit UV light 10 times brighter than the surface of the sun.
Norman Regional has four new pulsed xenon ultraviolet (UV) disinfection robots that will enhance patient safety by destroying the microorganisms that cause hospital acquired Infections (HAIs).
These robots use UV light technology to quickly disinfect an enclosed space. The Germ-Zapping Robots emit a blast of UV light that kills bacteria and viruses in minutes within an enclosed area.
Depending on the size of the room, the Xenex robots can disinfect in just 5-10 minutes. The germicidal UV light disinfects a variety of areas and surfaces including bedrails, tray tables, machines, monitors, keyboards and computers.
“We’ve taken the approach that patients come first,” Smith said. “That’s our main stance. If it takes a little longer to turn over the room then we’re going to do it. It’s the right thing to do.”
The technology also provides a total kill of the Ebola and Zika viruses.
It has shown impressive declines in a number of organisms at various hospital sites around the country including:
*70% reduction in ICU C. diff infection rates
*53% reduction in C. diff infection rates
*57% reduction in MRSA infection rates
*100% elimination of VRE in isolation rooms
“The Xenex LightStrike, no-touch disinfection system uses pulses of full spectrum UV light to fuse the DNA of organisms. Once the organism’s DNA is fused it can no longer replicate or mutate, and is no longer infectious,” said Clyde Brawner, Director of Environmental Services at Norman Regional.
Two robots will be stationed at Norman Regional Hospital and two will be at the Norman Regional HealthPlex. After a housekeeper has completed the process of cleaning a room which includes removing trash and wiping surfaces with a disinfectant, the robot will be wheeled into the room to begin its work. The robot uses intense bursts of UV light to disinfect high-touch areas in patient rooms and operating room suites.
It can also be used to disinfect other areas such as utility closets, waiting rooms and more.
“The UV robots are another way that Norman Regional is making patient safety a priority,” said Darin Smith, Pharm.D., Vice President of Quality and Performance Improvement. “It’s both important and necessary to have multiple methods of effective disinfection in our arsenal to protect patients, visitors, and healthcare staff.”
Xenex’s patented Full Spectrum pulsed xenon UV room disinfection system is used for the advanced disinfection of healthcare facilities. Due to its speed and ease of use, the Xenex system has proven to integrate smoothly into hospital existing disinfection operations.
Norman Regional Health System is a multi-campus system that serves the healthcare needs of south central Oklahoma.
Norman Regional Hospital is licensed for 324 beds and offers a full range of services including emergency care, oncology, an intensive care unit, surgery and more.
The Norman Regional HealthPlex campus is licensed for 136 beds and features the services of cardiovascular, spine and orthopedics, women’s and children’s and more. The Norman Regional HealthPlex is also the home of the Chest Pain Center and the HealthPlex Heart Hospital.
It has grown to employ more than 2,700 people and have 356 physicians credentialed on the Medical Staff.
The burden of treatment costs has shifted from insurers and CMS to hospitals.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics show that in the United States, one in 25 patients will contract an HAI while in care, with close to 75,000 of these patients dying annually.
CDC figures also show that HAIs cost the United States healthcare industry upwards of $30 billion dollars.

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Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist Holly Van Remmen, Ph.D.

story and photos provided

The National Institute on Aging has awarded a $9 million grant to the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation and three other institutions to study age-related muscle loss.
This collaborative effort is headquartered at the University of Michigan and includes OMRF, the University of Liverpool (U.K.), and core facilities at the Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. Over the five-year grant, OMRF scientist Holly Van Remmen, Ph.D., will receive $2.1 million to research mechanisms of sarcopenia, a disease in which the body loses skeletal muscle mass.
“Every institution involved is using the same model system and has the same basic questions about sarcopenia, but each of us has our own expertise and our own toolbox, so to speak,” said Van Remmen. “By combining different approaches, we can hit a problem from several directions.”
In her laboratory at OMRF, Van Remmen will study mice that exhibit muscle wasting and weakness. ”We believe that neurons and muscles play a coordinated role in age-related muscle loss, and that this process may be initiated by certain highly reactive oxygen radicals,” she said.
Van Remmen’s hope is that by pinpointing the triggers for sarcopenia, researchers may ultimately devise ways to disrupt the process.
The new grant is the third five-year grant for the four institutions, who have been working together for a decade to understand why the muscles atrophy as they age.
“We’ve had a good run of publications come out of this partnership, and it’s exciting to have earned a third round of funding. It certainly speaks to the progress we’re making,” said Van Remmen, who holds the G.T. Blankenship Chair in Aging Research at OMRF. “By better understanding these basic mechanisms, we can know where to target interventions. You have to know what is going wrong before you can treat a condition, and we are looking for the answers.”
The grant, 5P01 AG051442-01A1, is funded by the NIA, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

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DAYS TO HEAL: OKLAHOMA CITY BURN CENTER OFFERS HOPE

by Jason Chandler
Staff Writer

Nichole Harvey loves the critical care aspect of being a registered nurse and team manager for all the burn and wound services of the Paul Silverstein Burn Center at INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City.
“I love the satisfaction of seeing wounds heal,” said Harvey, whose father was former Oklahoma City Fire Chief Alan Benson. “I just felt like it was part of his legacy and I was just attracted to helping people, so that’s part of why I was drawn to this area.”
Harvey has been a nurse for five years since earning her nursing degree at OSU/OKC. She began her career at the burn center working as an intensive care unit tech in 2009. When she graduated as a registered nurse in 2011, she continued to work in the ICU before working in the Boston area of Cape Cod for three years. She returned to INTEGRIS two years ago.
Working at the burn center is interesting with high-profile technology that saves lives such as the large hypberbaric chamber, Harvey said. She is never bored when learning more about helping patients to heal.
“The chamber is actually built for mainly healing wounds, diabetic wounds, people who can’t heal after many, many tries,” she said. “We’ll have emergencies for people, not necessarily their burn wounds — we do that topical. It is actually for carbon monoxide poisoning. So a lot of times people don’t have burns when we put them in.”
The chamber has been used to treat firefighters and carbon monoxide poisoning from people painting inside enclosed rooms with high levels of toxic fumes.
“We put them in here and it helps to get those levels down to normal,” she explained.
One of the more challenging roles for Harvey as a burn nurse is responding to patients arriving in the burn center experiencing acute pain. She wants them not to be in pain but cannot give them so much morphine or other drugs that could stop them from breathing, Harvey continued.
“There has to be a fine line. You have to grow a tough skin to know that they’re going to feel pain; it’s going to be painful, and you try to do the best to make them pain-free as possible,” Harvey mentioned.
She also explains that sometimes pain is a positive indication that nerve endings are beginning to grow back to normal. So she helps educate patients and their families about the road to recovery and feeling better.
“Try to make a positive spin on it if you have to, so they can see past it,” Harvey said.
Years pass and the Paul Silverstein Burn Center has patients come back after they have healed. Harvey loves hearing their stories. One gentleman who lived through an oil fire returned to say how positive his experience was at the burn center.
“It may not have been when he left or during it, but he sees into the future and how glad he was we pushed him,” Harvey said. “That give us encouragement at this level of care because a lot of times we get down, and a lot of the nurses are down, because they feel like they’re not helping these patients. They feel like their patients are not feeling better and they’re sad.”
“So there’s that battle, and when we see them come back and say, ‘Thank you’ — you know it was worth something.”
Nurses help each other by exhausting all of their frustrations by verbally coming to Harvey or another friend on staff. To say it out loud through the process of debriefing helps the burn nurses to cope.
“Sometimes they think they are hurting the patient,” she said.
But being a burn nurse also reaps with feelings of validation by knowing they have benefited humanity. At the end of the day they know they’ve done something that day to help someone, sometime during the day, Harvey said.
“I think it takes a specific type of nurse. I think they need to be diligent, tough in pushing the patients, and being able to stomach a lot of the wound dressing changes, I think is a big aspect,” she said.
The nursing staff is constantly communicating to patients and their loved ones what to expect. What to do when they leave is vital knowledge, she said.
“We actually have an old fire bell from one of the museums donated. It symbolizes back when they didn’t have fire alarms on the truck. They had different bells for ringing they would use to tell everyone where they were in the process of a fire,” she said.
The bell at the burn unit symbolizes a fire is nearly extinguished but work remains.
“Every time a burn patient leaves we have them ring the bell,” Harvey said. “And that says we got most of this done, but you still have a lifetime of work to do in front of you.”
Education helps patients and families move beyond the psychological wound itself.
Harvey is wise to rejuvenate and find joy in life not only at work but during moments of leisure. She especially enjoys spending time with her family and their animals.
“I like art and music; doing things around the house,” she said.

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Dear Savvy Senior,

Does Medicare cover 100 percent of all preventive health care screenings? I’m due to get a colonoscopy and a few other tests, but I want to find out if I’ll have to pay anything before I proceed.  New to Medicare

Dear New,
Medicare currently covers a wide array of free preventive and screening services to help you stay healthy, but not all services are completely covered.
You also need to be aware that the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) – which helps financially support Medicare – may very well cause these free preventive services to be eliminated in the future. But in the meantime, here’s how it works.
Free Preventive Services
Currently, most of Medicare’s preventive services are available to all Part B beneficiaries for free, with no copays or deductibles, as long as you meet basic eligibility standards. Mammograms; colonoscopies; shots against flu, pneumonia, and hepatitis B; screenings for diabetes, depression, and heart conditions; and counseling to combat obesity, alcohol abuse, and smoking are just some of Medicare’s lengthy list of covered services. But to get these services for free, you need to go to a doctor who accepts Medicare “on assignment,” which means he or she has agreed to accept the Medicare approved rate as full payment.
Also, the tests are free only if they’re used at specified intervals. For example, prostate cancer PSA tests, once every 12 months for men over 50; or colonoscopy, once every 10 years, or every two years if you’re at high risk.
Medicare also offers a free “Welcome to Medicare” exam with your doctor in your first year, along with annual wellness visits thereafter. But don’t confuse these with full physical examinations. These are prevention-focused visits that provide only an overview of your health and medical risk factors and serve as a baseline for future care.
For a complete list of services along with their eligibility requirements, visit Medicare.gov and click on the “What Medicare Covers” tab at the top of the page, followed by “Preventive & screening services.”
Hidden Costs
You also need to know that while the previously listed Medicare services are completely free, you can be charged for certain diagnostic services or additional tests or procedures related to the preventive service. For example, if your doctor finds and removes a polyp during your preventive care colonoscopy screening, the removal of the polyp is considered diagnostic and you will likely be charged for it. Or, if during your annual wellness visit, your doctor needs to investigate or to treat a new or existing problem, you will probably be charged here too.
You may also have to pay a facility fee depending on where you receive the service. Certain hospitals, for example, will often charge separate facilities fees when you are receiving a preventive service. And, you can also be charged for a doctor’s visit if you meet with a physician before or after the service.
To eliminate billing surprises, talk to your doctor before any preventive service procedure to find out if you may be subject to a charge and what it would be.
Cost Sharing Services
Medicare also offers several other preventive services that require some out-of-pocket cost sharing. With these tests, you’ll have to pay 20 percent of the cost of the service, after you’ve met your $183 Part B yearly deductible. The services that fall under this category include glaucoma screenings, diabetes self-management trainings, barium enemas to detect colon cancer, and digital rectal exams to detect prostate cancer.
Medicare Advantage Members
If you have a Medicare Advantage plan, your plans are also required to cover the same free preventive services as original Medicare as long as you see in-network providers. If you see providers that are not in your plan’s network, charges will typically apply.

Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit SavvySenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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