NEWS BLOG from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Something to Bark About

UPMC staff and their canines can apply to receive free training through the Animal Friends Therapets program thanks to a grant from The Beckwith Institute.UPMC staff and their canine companions can now apply to receive free training through the Animal Friends Therapets program thanks to a grant from The Beckwith Institute.

Eight UPMC employees and their dogs will be selected for the initial round of training. If the pilot is successful, the institute will fund future sessions for additional staff members at later dates.

After successfully completing a six-week training program and a certification test, each new Therapets team will volunteer at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC, helping to brighten the lives of patients, their loved ones and staff.

“Pet therapy visits are certainly for patients, but the family members and staff are just as important,” said Melissa Saul, a clinical data scientist at UPMC Montefiore, whose dog, Blue Suede Shoes, is a certified Therapet. “It takes the atmosphere of the unit to a different level.”

UPMC Board President G. Nicholas Beckwith III and his wife, Dotty Beckwith, co-founders of The Beckwith Institute, suggested the Therapets training as a meaningful way to thank staff for their dedication while providing them with an opportunity to help others through pet therapy.

“I have seen the program change lives,” said Keith Zimmer, Magee’s volunteer coordinator, as he recounted how a recent visit from a Therapets team motivated a depressed oncology patient to get out of bed, something she refused to do for her care team.

Animal Friends’ existing relationship with UPMC continues to grow with the addition of the new volunteers. In 2016, Therapets teams helped 15,077 patients, families and staff in 11 UPMC facilities.

The Beckwith Institute annually provides grants to improve clinical outcomes by empowering both clinicians and patients to explore innovative ways of transforming health care.

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Inhibiting Certain Protein in Severe Asthma Patients Could Improve Treatment

Inhibiting Certain Protein in Severe Asthma Patients Could Lead to Better Treatment OutcomesThe U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that around 25 million Americans have asthma.

Of those, around 90 to 95 percent are considered to have mild or moderate asthma, which is generally well controlled by medications, including corticosteroids. The remaining 5 to 10 percent are afflicted with what is termed “severe” or “steroid-refractory” asthma, which is controlled very poorly, if at all, by the usual medications. Individuals with this form have a very poor quality of life, and severe asthma is estimated to be responsible for about half of the $56 billion in yearly economic impact attributable to the disease overall in the U.S.

Experts from the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC previously published work demonstrating that about 50 percent of the severe asthma cases are characterized by an immune system response that is different than in milder disease and involves an inflammatory protein called interferon-gamma.

Using mice with severe asthma, researchers found that interferon-gamma was responsible for promoting airway constriction as seen in human asthma leading to difficulty breathing. New research recently published in JCI Insight aimed at blocking the immune system’s response that leads to interferon-gamma production and poor lung function.

Corresponding study author Dr. Anuradha Ray from the University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute at UPMC and Pitt’s School of Medicine discussed the findings. (more…)

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Expert Highlights Benefits of Reading to Children

Expert Highlights Benefits of Reading to Children

Reading to young children is one of the best ways for them to develop their listening and speaking skills and grow their vocabularies.

Dr. Dawna Duff from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences discusses the benefits of reading to children.

Why should adults read to young children?

A. Reading to kids is a fun way for adults to spend time with the children in their lives. When children read books with adults, they are constantly learning how sounds fit together into words and how to put words into sentences. These language skills will help them excel in reading and writing once they start school, and they will become even more evident in third and fourth grade. Knowing more words also helps children communicate with others and explain their ideas, and it can help to eliminate communication-related frustrations. 

What kinds of books are best to read to young children?

A. The best books for young children contain flaps, things to touch and pictures of faces. Books with repetitive rhyming words and silly sounds help children learn that all letters make a different sound. For example, rhymes like “ball” and “fall” show children the difference between the “b” and “f” sounds. As children start to read and write independently, they will know to pay attention to the first letters in the word.

How can adults help children learn new words?

A. Children learn words from listening to adults speak, but books contain an even broader vocabulary. Studies show that young children don’t naturally look at text when they’re sharing a book with a grownup, so touching the text while reading helps them realize that the written words are related to what the adult is saying.

Rereading books can be tiresome for adults. Is it helpful for kids?

A. Rereading the same book over and over may seem redundant to adults, but it helps children commit new words to memory. Children who hear a new word repeatedly in one story learn more about that word than children who hear the word the same number of times in different books. As children get more familiar with a book, pause and wait for the child to finish the sentences. Explaining new words and asking children questions helps them expand their ability to communicate.

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UPMC McKeesport’s Rev. Matthew Elanjileth turns 96

For patients at UPMC McKeesport, the healing process is accomplished through more than just well-trained doctors, caring nurses and a team of enthusiastic health care professionals. Over the past 36 years, patients also have received the prayers and kindness of of the Rev. Matthew Elanjileth.

At a recent gathering, more than 100 hospital leaders and staff, local community members, as well as retired UPMC McKeesport doctors and colleagues celebrated, Elanjileth’s 96th birthday.

The Rev. Shawn Kirkland, UPMC McKeesport’s chaplain, Mark O’Hern, vice president of operations, Dr. Susan Rakfal, Dr. Ihsan Awan, and Rebecca Shaw McHolme, chairperson of the UPMC McKeesport Board of Directors, each shared their stories of working with Elanjileth over the years, and how his service had so greatly impacted their lives.

“We are here to celebrate Father Matthew’s dedication and commitment to UPMC McKeesport and our patients,” said O’Hern.

In recognition of his dedication to the community, and in honor of his birthday, the prayer room at UPMC McKeesport has been renamed the Fr. Matthew Elanjileth Prayer Room. Inside the prayer room will hang the hospital’s gift to Elanjileth — framed pictures of him with Pope John Paul II and one with Mother Teresa when she visited Pittsburgh at his invitation.

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UPMC East Emergency Department Team Receives DoD Patriot Award

UPMC East Emergency Department Team Receives DoD Patriot AwardsOn Memorial Day, family and friends across the United States gather to celebrate and honor members of the armed services.

UPMC East supports and recognizes the members of its team who are veterans and active duty service men and women. UPMC strives to create a welcoming and accommodating workplace for National Guard and Reserve personnel and others serving in the U.S. military.

In March, members of the UPMC East Emergency Department were recognized with the Patriot Award, presented through a Department of Defense program called the Employer Support of Guard and Reserve (ESGR), for their efforts supporting advanced patient care technician and seven-year U.S. Army reservist, Juliana Drye, who was ordered to spend over a year away from her job; three months of training and nine months stationed at Guantanamo Bay as a member of the 200th Military Police Battalion.

The Patriot Award reflects the efforts made to support National Guard and Reserve personnel through a wide range of measures, including flexible schedules, time off prior to and after deployment, caring for families, and granting leaves of absence, if needed.

Drye joined the UPMC East team in 2013 when she returned from a deployment to Afghanistan. After just a few short years working at UPMC East, Drye was again called upon for another deployment. Her UPMC East colleagues and leadership rallied behind her. (more…)

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