Press Releases

Get the latest news on the double.

Fri, Nov 3, 2017

Marshall Medical receives statewide award for Project SEARCH disability-support program

October was National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and Marshall Medical was recognized with an award from the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.

The award recognized Marshall Medical’s participation in Project SEARCH, an international program that targets students with intellectual and developmental disabilities with a goal of helping them become employable. The awards program also recognized a local business and their employee from the Project SEARCH program.

Marshall Medical earned the Media of the Year award for work done by its marketing department to spread awareness of Project SEARCH. The program partners with Marshall North and South to place young people with learning disabilities in internships. Six students have been hired to work at Marshall Medical since the hospitals started participating in Project SEARCH three years ago. 

This year is the first time the Governor’s media award was given to an organization other than a newspaper or radio. Rose Myers, marketing coordinator, accepted the award on behalf of Marshall Medical Centers. 

“Rose has taken a personal interest in promoting awareness and helping change attitudes toward people with disabilities,” said Beth Hanner, Project SEARCH instructor, in presenting the award. “After visiting and observing our interns in both the classroom and work rotations, she has written several amazing articles for local newspapers.”

The publication of those articles made other businesses familiar with the program, she said. 

“When we would go out in the county looking for jobs for our interns, it was amazing how much more successful we were in having businesses willing to participate in a program they already knew about.”

Much credit for the success of Project SEARCH students at Marshall Medical goes to the many directors who agreed in 2015 to put interns to work in their deparents. 

“Our opportunity to promote this program was due to our staff stepping up and accepting interns into positions throughout the hospitals,” said Marketing Director Claudette DeMuth. “It was their willingness to work with Project SEARCH students that paved the way for the success of this partnership.”

Albertville employee and business also recognized

Awards for Employee of the Year and Employer of the Year went to Albertville High School graduate Jackson Munroe and Wendy’s in Albertville, where Munroe went to work following high school. Munroe takes the bus to the fast food restaurant where he picks up trash in the parking lot and cleans the dining room to get it ready for customers. He’s been a Wendy’s employee for five months. 

“He loves it,” said Kira Gilarza, Project SEARCH instructor, in presenting the award. “It’s something he enjoys every single morning.”

Wendy’s was honored because of the restaurant’s determination to make the job work for Munroe. For example, when Munroe had difficulty handling plastic wrap, the restaurant replaced it with an easy-to-handle cover. 

“They always try to find ways to work as a team,” Hanner said. “And they treat our intern as one of their team.”

At Marshall Medical the students work three 10-week rotations during the school year in the hospitals’ housekeeping departments, cafeteria, day surgery, TherapyPlus gyms, maintenance departments and information technology. They can be hired at any time during the training. 

In Marshall County the program is a partnership between the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, Marshall Medical Centers, Alabama Department of Mental Health, Alabama Council of Developmental Disabilities, the state and county boards of education and ARC of Jackson County. The Marshall County school system provides a teacher and ARC provides job coaches, who stay with students until they become skilled enough to work independently.

Fri, Sep 1, 2017

Have breakfast and learn about the state's struggle to treat its mentally ill

It’s a sad state of affairs for mental health in Alabama. If you want to know just how bad things are for this fragile population and how our state got to the point of crisis, attend a presentation in Guntersville next month.
Lake Guntersville Chamber of Commerce hosts a Healthcare Breakfast every year to keep residents informed with news about healthcare. Marshall Medical Centers sponsors the event. It’s an opportunity to gather with neighbors and friends for a free breakfast and learn something about healthcare.
This year’s breakfast will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 13 at 7:30 am at Gunter’s Landing in Guntersville. Keynote speaker will be Dr. Jim Dill, who will discuss the current climate of mental health in Alabama. Dr. Dill is the executive director of the Alabama Council of Community Mental Health Boards, a position he has held since 1982.
A little background on the issue first. Dr. Dill said a movement began in Alabama when mental health boards were created by the legislature in 1967 to de-institutionalize large state mental hospitals. From the mid-1980s mental health professionals have been working to increase the number of community-based facilities in order to reduce the size of large mental hospitals. The national Right to Treatment lawsuit (Wyatt v. Stickney) fueled similar efforts all over the country.
In 2004, Dr. Dill and his associates thought they had achieved the necessary amount of downsizing. Their efforts were sufficient to reach a settlement of a federal lawsuit. 
They feared, however, that once pressure from the federal lawsuit was gone, the state legislature would no longer fund the system at an adequate level.
“That was exactly what happened,” Dr. Dill said.
From 2004-09, the state legislature provided the department of mental health level funding, which was acceptable. But then in 2008-09, legislators cut the mental health budget by $35 million. It went from $140 million to $105 million.
“We were faced with making the cuts in the community,” he said.
But cuts to community services would send people through the court system to be committed to mental hospitals that had no available beds.
“It becomes a domino effect,” Dr. Dill said.
So rather than let the community facilities suffer the $35 million cut, the department of mental health proposed closing three hospitals:
* Searcy Hospital in Mobile - a 250-bed facility
* Greil Memorial Psychiatric Hospital in Montgomery – a 75-80 bed facility
* North Alabama Regional in Decatur - 75-80 beds.
Money saved by closing hospitals was re-invested to pay for more crisis centers. Acute care was contacted out to hospitals. But funding cuts and no increases have created a mental health system that is not adequate to move people through in a timely fashion like it was designed to do.
“So we’ve just been backing up and stacking people,” he said.
Bryce Hospital was slashed from a 5,000-bed hospital to a 269-bed hospital. Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility – the state hospital for those found guilty by reason of insanity - shrank to about 120 beds.
“So Bryce is about half full of people who should be in Taylor Hardin and there are not that many beds for civil commitments available anymore,” Dr. Dill said. “So we’ve gone further into cutting hospitals than we ever intended and we have inadequate funding for the programs that are out there. That’s where we are today.“
Is it a crisis? That depends on whether you are mentally ill.
“If you have a loved one who needs to get into a program because of a severe mental illness and you can’t gain timely access, it’s a crisis for those individuals.”
The state legislature was warned last year that services for the mentally ill were reaching a crisis situation and that Alabama was possibly headed back to federal court intervention.
“We got no response. It’s been that way since the court order ended in 2004. And we don’t see relief coming.”
Sign up for the Lake Guntersville Chamber of Commerce annual healthcare breakfast by calling (256)582-3612 to sign up. There is no cost and it is open to all residents of Marshall County.

Fri, Sep 1, 2017

Marshall Medical tests its own ability to evacuate patients safely in emergency

Marshall Medical Centers tested its own ability to evacuate patients in an emergency this week, complicated by the fact that all generators in the area had been shipped to Texas for hurricane relief.
The fictional emergency had Marshall Medical North sweltering on generator power for three days after the failure of “Scant City Electrical” power grids. The hospital was operating on 20 percent of its air conditioning capacity. High temperatures and humidity were making patients and staff very uncomfortable, as well as halting surgeries.
“If it’s 90-something degrees and 100 percent humidity outside, the walls are going to start dripping within four to five hours,” said Bill Smith, facilities manager for Marshall North. “It’s a very real possibility.”
A Code Triage drill pulled together a roomful of decision-makers at North and their counterparts at Marshall South, who were connected by webcam. The employees together with the help of EMA Director Anita McBurnett and reps from the State Department of Public Health Center for Emergency Preparedness Area 2 figured out how they would evacuate patients at North to South.
Planning included:
* Transportation, including school buses, small buses and ambulances
* Determining which patients are ambulatory, in wheelchairs and bedbound
* Patient escorts including staff and law enforcement
* Sufficient oxygen tanks
* Water to send with patients
*  A receiving area at South staffed by an admitting nurse matching up information on patients’ bracelets with a list sent ahead
* Where to send patients from the Behavioral Health Unit, who must be in a secure facility
Transportation and beds were found for every patient, including BHU patients who would be accompanied by law enforcement officers to a secure place in Cullman.
The hospital’s public information officer was posted in the EMA office where news updates could be shared with media outlets. Once empty, the hospital’s doors were locked.
The drill was determined to be a success.
“We did everything except physically move people,” said Audra Ford, director of the emergency department at Marshall North, who oversees at least two drills a year.

Sat, Aug 19, 2017

Chef brings New Orleans flair and healthy heart cooking classes to Marshall South

Joseph Vance was still a teenager when his enthusiasm for cooking prompted his training manager to point him to a career in food.
“He saw the eye I had,” Vance remembers. “He saw how much passion and love for food I had. He suggested I go to culinary school.”
That was cool with Vance. He didn’t know what kind of work he wanted to do at the time.
“My first love was basketball,” he recalls. “Anytime I wasn’t in the kitchen, I was on the basketball court.”
Thirty years later, Vance, 50, is executive chef at Marshall Medical Center South in Boaz. As executive chef, his mission is to elevate meals for patients and staff to fine restaurant dining quality.
“My staff members and I want to give the hospital more than just hospital food,” he says. “It’s a restaurant experience. You can’t get this caliber of cooking just going to anywhere, in just any restaurant or just any hospital. We’re bringing the restaurant to the hospital.”
Born in New Orleans, Vance grew up around what is arguably the best food in the country. His father worked as a body and finder mechanic and his mother was a seamstress at Gus Mayer department store. On the side, she crafted magnificent costumes for parades, Krewes and Indians, all carnival revelers in New Orleans who dress up for Mardi Gras in ceremonial apparel.
At 19, Vance was working at Copeland’s of New Orleans, a well-known restaurant chain in Louisiana, when the executive chef noticed a talent blooming in the teen. He steered Vance toward Delgado Community College, where he earned an associate’s degree in culinary arts. He received the Culinary Excellence Award in 1992 from the National Restaurant Association in Chicago, where he had the honor of meeting culinary legend Julia Child.
Vance’s first chef position was at City Park Country Club in New Orleans, where he cooked for weddings, art exhibits, concerts and festivals. Next was the Westin Hotel and then on to Commander’s Palace, a New Orleans landmark where he worked alongside the Brennan family and Chef Jamie Shannon, who are credited with fostering a rich culinary tradition widely considered the epitome of New Orleans fine dining.
“It was very eventful,” he says.
After that, Vance went to work for Sodexo/Marriott, a worldwide company that manages Marshall South’s food services. His first appointment was as executive chef at Loyola University. In 1996, he left his beloved ‘Big Easy’ to move to Huntsville to work with the Marriott Space and Rocket Center Hotel.
The following year he applied for the same position as his future wife, Arnetta. Vance got the job and eventually got Arnetta’s hand in marriage.
Now, Arnetta is a food services director at Signature Health Care in Huntsville. The couple lives in Bailey Cove and has two daughters, a son, one grandchild and a second on the way. 
Vance said he enjoys cooking at home but his wife and granddaughter often beat him to the kitchen.
“She likes to play around with great meals, too,” he says.
Vance spent a couple of years as executive chef at Troy University then Oakwood University before returning to a hospital setting.
“I have my niche to do things the way I like,” he says.
It’s been a positive experience at Marshall South since he arrived in February.
“It’s a wonderful staff,” he says. “They’re sponges. They feed off all the information you give them and they run with it.”
The kitchen has increased its entrees, vegetables and soups. Sales are up and patient satisfaction has increased.
“The patrons walk out with a smile,” he said. “We give the customers what they ask for.”
One example of giving customers what they want is the coffee shop that opened last year in the Women’s Center of the hospital. Sunrise Brew serves Starbucks beverages along with sweet and savory foods.
“Food is a common language, I don’t care who you are,” he says. “I love what I do.”

Chef Joe introduced Healthy Heart cooking demonstrations in June. The classes are free to the public and samples are served.

Fri, Aug 18, 2017

Clearing up confusion about hospice and palliative care

Many people are confused when it comes to hospice care – what it offers, when it should be used and where the care is delivered. That is why Marsha Farrell spends her time teaching groups about hospice in hopes of making it a little less frightening.
“Hospice is for anyone of any age with limited life prognosis,” she explained to Marshall Cancer Care Center’s support group LIFE, Lean In For Encouragement.
Farrell, a hospice educator, worked as a nurse for 37 years before becoming a consultant. Nursing schools in the 1970s did not teach anything about death and dying. Fortunately, now it is a specialty known as palliative care, despite the fact that seven out of 10 people have never heard the word.
It comes from a combination of two words. Palliate means to make better and hostel is a place to recover.
“So palliative care is all about living,” she said. “It’s all about taking care of living people.”
What is the difference between hospice and palliative care?
“The purpose of both is quality of life,” she said. “It’s looking at the whole person.”
Palliative care is a medical specialty for people with a serious illness. It focuses on pain control, symptoms and management of the illness. Most palliative care is done in a hospital.
Hospice goes to wherever the patient lives, whether at home or in a nursing home. It is for those with six months or less to live.
Farrell recommended people interview three hospices before choosing one. Ask questions, such as:
* How often will my loved one be seen by staff?
* How many staff members will be working on weekends?
* Will a staff member be available to sit with a patient who is ‘actively’ dying?
“Everybody does things differently,” Farrell said. “Choose on that fits you best.”
Marshall Cancer Care Center’s LIFE group is open to all cancer survivors. It meets on the second Tuesday of each month at noon in the classroom of the Professional Center next door to the Marshall Cancer Care Center, just south of Cracker Barrel in Guntersville. Lunch is provided and there is no charge. A reservation is required and can be made by calling (256)571-8000.

Tue, Jul 25, 2017

Doctors agree, the best equipment allows them to do the best job for patients

You may have seen promotions about Marshall Medical Centers’ advancements in technology now available at both hospitals. That’s not bragging. That’s informing our friends, neighbors and families that our mission is to reinvest in the community to provide the finest medical care available anywhere.  That’s worth repeating.

Having the latest equipment available locally is critically important to patients, of course, but it also makes a big difference to our doctors. See what they have to say about working in a hospital that lets them pick the equipment they believe will allow them to best do their jobs.

"During the 26 years I have been performing laparoscopic surgeries, Marshall Medical Centers has provided the highest quality of support for its surgeons so that I and other surgeons may, in turn, provide the highest quality patient experience available,” said Dr. Thomas Downes, general surgeon at Marshall Surgical Clinic. “This commendable investment in state of the art technology demonstrates their commitment to our united objective of continual improvements for the patient care process."

Dr. Cynthia Monk, a surgeon with Cornerstone General Surgery Clinic in Guntersville, agrees.

“It’s exciting that this hospital continues to upgrade equipment to provide better service to the community.”

So, to recap, some of the most recent upgrades include:

4K Laparoscopy – 4K laparoscopy is video technology representing the latest generation of high definition or HD. It is now being used in all operating rooms at Marshall Medical North and South.

“The picture is much brighter and gives a clear image of even small vessels,” said Tim Bean, director of surgery for Marshall Medical Centers. “The equipment also has a green light feature which helps to identify cancer cells in the bladder and uterus.”

The Olympus 4K Ultra High-Definition 55-inch video system changes the way surgeons operate, offering the same immersive experience in the operating room as people enjoy in their living rooms. Surgeons are not limited by resolution or image quality, only by the limits of the human eye. Precise visualization enables the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

At Marshall Medical Centers, 4K Laparoscopy is being used in general surgery, as well as gynecological, orthopedic, urology and ear, nose and throat procedures.

Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) enables the Marshall Cancer Care Center to use advanced imaging techniques to deliver a targeted radiation dose to a tumor. The radiation focuses on the tumor with millimeter precision, resulting in less damage to healthy tissue. Protecting tissue is important for cancer patients whose tumors are near or in essential organs.

SBRT creates a 3D image of a tumor and matches the radiation to its exact size and shape. The technology is used primarily on tumors in the lung, spine, brain and liver.

Called the single greatest break-through in breast cancer detection in the last 30 years, 3D Mammography takes multiple images or X-rays of breast tissue to recreate a 3D picture of the breast. It’s different from traditional mammography which obtains just a single image. Due to overlapping layers of tissue inside breasts, those 2D images could produce unclear results causing false alarms or allowing cancer to be missed altogether.

3D mammography, which is able to detect 41% more invasive cancers, is now the exclusive method for breast cancer screening used at Marshall Medical Centers.

Another important capability available with the addition of 3D mammography is stereotactic breast biopsy, which is a procedure that uses mammography to precisely identify and biopsy an abnormality within the breast. It is normally done when the radiologist sees a suspicious abnormality on a mammogram that can’t be felt in a physical exam.

Stereotactic core biopsy was developed as an alternative to surgical biopsy. It is a less invasive way to obtain the tissue samples needed for diagnosis. This procedure requires less recovery time than does a surgical biopsy, and there is no significant scarring to the breast.

This equipment represents investments of millions of dollars. As a community-hospital, it is our mission to re-invest so that we have the best product to deliver to those we serve.

“Marshall Medical has always tried to stay out front with ‘best-in-class’ equipment,” said Marshall North Administrator Cheryl Hays. “Having so many new high tech tools only further increases accuracy in making diagnoses, doing surgical procedures and providing good patient care.”


Mon, Jul 24, 2017

One in five folks will develop skin cancer – protect yourself

There’s a good reason why it’s hard to get an appointment with a dermatologist – skin cancer patients keeps them busy.
“Everyone here is at risk for skin cancer,” Dr. Josh Wharton told a group of seniors. “One in five of you will develop skin cancer.”
Wharton, whose practice is Dermatology of North Alabama in Guntersville, spoke to members of GoldCare55+ at a lunch n’ learn. The GoldCare55+ program is sponsored by Marshall Medical Centers.
Skin cancer is by far the most common form of cancer – more than breast, lung and colon cancer combined. The deadliest form of skin cancer – melanoma - most often strikes white men over 50. But it is also the most common form of cancer for 25-29 year olds and the second most common in adolescents. It shows up most often on the backs of men and the lower legs of women.
“Melanoma doesn’t have to be a death sentence though,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be disfiguring.”
Twenty or so years ago that was often the case but advancements in treatment and education about early detection have improved survival rates.
Other types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma – are related to sun exposure and most often appear in areas hit by the sun, such as head, neck, ears, arms and hands. Melanoma can appear anywhere. Dr. Wharton said he recently had a female patient with a melanoma on the sole of her foot. It was so advanced she will probably lose part of her foot.
“One American dies from melanoma almost every hour,” he said. “It’s important to look for the signs. Most are curable if caught early enough.”
A place on the body that is irregularly shaped, has a scalloped border, has an odd color, changes or grows should be checked out by a doctor.
Prevention is key, of course. Many forms of protection from the sun are available. Use them.
* Wear a broad-brimmed hat to cover head, ears and neck if you will be outdoors for a while. Use sunscreen and use it correctly.
* Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Both are harmful.
* UVB are the ‘burn rays’ of the summer sun. UVA are the ‘aging rays’ that are year-round.
* Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 but SPF 30 is better.
* Apply sunscreen 15-20 minutes before you go outside to give it time to soak into skin. Re-apply every 3-4 hours and more often if in water.
* Apply generously. The recommended amount is one ounce – the equivalent of one shot glass – to cover exposed areas.
* Sunscreen should have an expiration date. If you don’t see one, write the purchase date on it. If you think it may be two or more years old, throw it away and replace it. It’s most likely ineffective.
* Don’t forget to protect lips.
* Normal clothing has an SPF of about 4. It offers little protection from the sun.
* Stay away from tanning beds.
“Tanning beds are kind of like they are the new cigarettes,” Dr. Wharton said. “We know cigarettes are bad. We know tanning beds are bad.”

Sat, Jun 24, 2017

SBRT spells advance for radiation therapy

Used in conjunction with the Varian Linear Accelerator, Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) enables the Marshall Cancer Care Center to use advanced imaging techniques to deliver a targeted radiation dose to a tumor. The radiation focuses on the tumor with millimeter precision, resulting in less damage to healthy tissue. Protecting tissue is important for cancer patients whose tumors are near or in essential organs.
SBRT creates a 3D image of a tumor and matches the radiation to its exact size and shape. Dr. Thomas Payne, radiation oncologist at Marshall Cancer Care, said the technology is used primarily on tumors in the lung, spine, brain and liver. Procuring this important technology is part of Marshall Medical Center’s commitment to provide the very best care to patients.
“I have had the opportunity to be involved with the hospital as we investigated new MRI machines, as well as in choosing the Varian Trilogy linear accelerator for our new cancer center four years ago,” said Cindy Sparkman, director of the Marshall Cancer Care Center. “I have always been impressed by the level of support given by the administration and hospital board in encouraging us to seek the very best in technology for our community.  I have found that our hospital system is often ahead of the curve when it comes to new technology to treat our patients.” 
SBRT is a non-surgical procedure that delivers radiation at much higher doses in only a single or few treatments as compared to traditional radiation therapy. Three-dimensional imaging, such as CT, MRI and PET/CT, is used to locate the tumor within the body and define its exact size and shape. These images also guide the treatment planning—in which beams of radiation are designed to converge on the target area from different angles and planes—as well as the careful positioning of the patient for therapy sessions.
SBRT is an alternative to invasive surgery, especially for patients who are unable to undergo surgery and for tumors that are hard to reach or located close to vital organs/anatomic regions.
SBRT does not actually remove the tumor. Instead, it damages the DNA of tumor cells causing them to lose their ability to reproduce. Following treatment, benign tumors usually shrink over a period of 18 months to two years. Malignant and metastatic tumors may shrink more rapidly, even within a couple of months.

Fri, Jun 23, 2017

New hyperbaric oxygen chambers make a difference in healing wounds

Seeing James Oody two-stepping across the dance floor, there’s no clue that he came close to a leg amputation. He credits the doctors and nurses at Marshall Wound Healing Center for fighting a raging infection that took two toes and required many skin grafts.
“When I came here, I came in a wheelchair,” the 71-year-old security/law enforcement retiree said. “I barely could walk. Now I go dancing.”
It started innocently in late 2014 when Oody stubbed his toe, knocking a toenail loose. It became infected. Poor circulation contributed to the problem so Dr. Alan Willis performed surgery to bypass the blocked portion of the main artery in the leg using a piece of another blood vessel.
“Dr. Willis told me he didn’t know if he could save my leg but he sure would try,” Oody recalled.
In January 2015 Oody’s big toe and middle toe were amputated, and Dr. Willis sent him to the Marshall Wound Healing Center. The staff trained him how to take care of his wound. Every Friday for about 10 months, he spent time at Marshall Wound Healing Center and completed 30 hyperbaric oxygen treatments to promote healing.
It paid off. Oody now is the picture of health and is enjoying life. Originally from East Tennessee, Oody served in the Army from 1962-1975. He retired from the provost office on Redstone Arsenal in 2013. He has no intention of slowing down now.
“I credit all I can do now to the people in the Wound Center,” he said. “I was able to keep my leg and my foot. I lost two toes so I’ll never be a kicker for the University of Alabama but that’s okay.”
Two new hyperbaric oxygen chambers were recently installed at the Marshall Wound Healing Center. Hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBO, increases the amount of oxygen to wounds allowing them to heal from the inside. 
Patients receiving treatments watch television while relaxing on an encased bed as they are surrounded by 100 percent oxygen at higher-than-normal atmospheric pressure. Under hyperbaric conditions, oxygen is transported throughout the body to speed healing. 
HBO treatments are used for wounds that have not responded to traditional treatments.  Treatments are typically covered by Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance plans. 
Chronic wounds affect more than 8 million people in the U.S. and the incidence is rising fueled by an aging population and increasing rates of diseases and conditions such as diabetes, obesity and the late effects of radiation therapy.
From hyperbaric oxygen therapy to specialized wraps and dressings, the Wound Healing Center offers many specialized therapies to help wounds heal faster.
The Marshall Wound Healing Center is located at 11491 US Highway 431 in Albertville inside the Marshall Professional Center. No physician referral is required. For more information, call (256)894-6976. Hours of operation are Monday – Thursday 8 am - 4 pm and Friday 8 am - 3 pm.

Fri, Jun 23, 2017

Flowers have to wait while Arab woman fights ovarian cancer

Anita Ryan is known for her yard full of flowers. Across from the intersection of 12th Avenue and Third Street, the abundance of blooms, bushes and trees almost hide her house.
For the past two and a half years, though, Ryan has hardly been able to do the yard work she loves so much. That’s because she is fighting a devastating battle against ovarian cancer.
“I don’t worry about it,” she says, sitting on her front porch. “What good is it going to do when you’ve got so much to be thankful for? I don’t know if I’m going to get worse or if I’m going to get better, but I do know I’m fine right now.”
Amazingly, despite two years of chemotherapy, Ryan says her only complaint is feeling tired and a lack of energy. She has no shortage of smiles and laughter, though.
“I feel great,” she says.
Ryan was doing yard work in July 2014 when she started hurting in her lower abdomen, and thought she had pulled a muscle. She went to the doctor twice and got two different diagnoses before a CT scan revealed Stage IV cancer in her ovaries. A hysterectomy 40 years ago left her ovaries in place.
“At first I was in shock,” she recalls.
It got worse. Ryan went to a surgeon in Huntsville who opened her up and sewed her up immediately. He told her family she had at most six months to live. That was tough, she says.
“I just believe in God enough that it concerned me but it didn’t tear me all to pieces,” she says. “That’s just the way it is and I have to accept it.”
She accepted it but she didn’t give up. Instead, Ryan went to the Marshall Cancer Care Center and met with Oncologist Dr. Jonathan Storey. He didn’t agree with the first opinion and started Ryan on strong chemotherapy treatments.
“He was very encouraging,” she says. “I just love him to death. They’re all wonderful there.”
She took one treatment a month for six months. Though she lost her hair right away, she has not been sick from the treatments. Some medicine given along with chemo causes drowsiness, making Ryan is unable to drive herself. That has led to a team of wonderful friends volunteering to take turns driving her once a month to her three-treatments a month schedule.
“It’s been wonderful,” she says “They pick me up and sometimes we eat afterwards. Words can’t say how very much I appreciate people driving me, bringing me food and praying for me, most of all.”
Ryan, who has lived in Arab since 1986, has been active at the Senior Center. She worked at Syncro for eight years and at BMTC until she retired in 1999. She then worked seven years at KFC and was a hospital volunteer for 14 years at Marshall Medical North.
“When peopled asked what I did I told them I love what I do because I tell people where to go,” she says, laughing at her sauciness.
Born in Fayette County, Ryan’s family moved to Birmingham when she was 10. After graduating high school, she went to work for a hardware distributor, where she met her husband, Wendell Ryan, now deceased.
The couple moved to Huntsville and eventually built a house on family land in the Ryan community, near his parents. They raised two daughters. Rhonda, a nurse, lives in Birmingham and Rita, who lives in Indiana.
Ryan had to give up work and volunteering after her diagnosis for fear of infection. She said many people have asked her if she moved because her yard doesn’t get the grooming it used to, though she still does what she can.
“I can’t say enough how good people have been to me and how much I appreciate it,” she says. “People are still bringing me food after two and a half years.”

Thu, Jun 22, 2017

Marshall Medical stays out front with 'best-in-class' equipment

Having the latest generation of high definition or HD technology available in all operating rooms at Marshall Medical Centers is praised by surgeons as a tool that transforms surgical procedures.
The Olympus/Sony 4K Ultra High-Definition 55-inch video system changes the way surgeons operate, offering the same immersive experience in the operating room as people experience in their living rooms. Surgeons are not limited by resolution or image quality, only by the limits of the human eye. Precise visualization enables the diagnosis and treatment of disease. At Marshall Medical, 4K laparoscopy is being used in general surgery, as well as gynecological, orthopedic, urology and ear, nose and throat procedures.
Dr. Thomas Downes, general surgeon at Marshall Surgical Clinic, considers 4K an advancement toward excellence in maximizing patient safety and achieving greater efficiency for surgical procedures. 
"During the 26 years I have been performing laparoscopic surgeries, Marshall Medical Centers has provided the highest quality of support for its surgeons so that I and other surgeons may, in turn, provide the highest quality patient experience available,” he said. “This commendable investment in state of the art technology demonstrates their commitment to our united objective of continual improvements for the patient care process."
Dr. John Groves, a general surgeon with Surgical Associates of Marshall County, praised the 4K technology he uses every day in laparoscopic procedures because it makes surgery much easier on patients.
“Visualization is much improved,” he said. “There’s less postoperative pain. They definitely have a faster recovery. Most patients go home the same day. You’ve got to have the best equipment to be able to do that.”
Dr. Stephen Britt, also with Surgical Associates of Marshall County, was in residency when laparoscopy began and has watched optics improve with each generation.
“The better we can see, the faster and more efficiently we can do operations,” he said. “Obviously, it’s safer. It’s less time under anesthesia. Each generation is head and shoulders above the last one. We can see things that you could never see before. We can see the tiniest of blood vessels. The quality is almost better than your own vision. That’s the main thing. It is a wonderful system.”
Dr. Cynthia Monk, a surgeon with Cornerstone General Surgery Clinic in Guntersville, praised the visual capability made possible with 4K technology.
“It helps with depth perception, which is great when you’re working with different organs,” she said. “The colors are brighter, more intense. It’s exciting that this hospital continues to upgrade equipment to provide better service to the community.”
Key benefits of the system include:
* Anatomical structures are physically larger when displayed through big screen surgery.
* The entire surgical staff is focused on one central reference point.
* 4K cuts the optimal viewing distance in half when using a 55-inch display monitor.
* The VISERA 4K UHD System delivers four times the resolution, better light and twice the color as regular HD, enabling surgeons to see images with greater clarity.
* The system provides additional light to illuminate bleeding in surgical fields, visualize deep surgical cavities, and enhance the endoscopic viewing experience.
* The system also delivers more vivid shades of red and yellow for better visualization, allowing surgeons to observe fine patterns and structures with high precision while delivering higher contrast levels with more detail to support greater accuracy.
Tim Bean, director of surgery, recalled that Marshall Medical was the first hospital in the entire country to implement the Olympus/Sony system, which is the only integrated 4K surgical system of its kind.
“From my prospective as a director of surgery for over 30 years, Marshall Medical System’s commitment to providing the highest level of technology to our providers is extraordinary,” Bean said.  “I have worked in at least nine different hospital settings with many health care corporations over the years, and have yet to see Marshall Medical Systems equal in its commitment to technological advances and quality of staffing.”
Marshall North’s administrator said it is the hospital system’s goal to making every improvement possible in order to provide the best healthcare.
“Marshall Medical has always tried to stay out front with ‘best-in-class’ equipment,” said Administrator Cheryl Hays. “Having so many new high tech tools only further increases accuracy in making diagnoses, doing surgical procedures and providing good patient care.”

Wed, Jun 21, 2017

MCYL students graduate with leadership skills, good memories

The Marshall County Youth Leadership class of 2016-17 graduated this week with a strong sense of what it takes to be a leader.
“I learned so much about what we’re capable of,” Madison Travis of Arab High School told the crowd of students, parents and sponsors.
“This program taught me to be brave,” said Emily Hicks, of Brindlee Mountain High School. “I’m so thankful I was able to be a part of it.”
Thirty-four students from nine high schools across Marshall County received certificates for completing the year-long program for juniors. They spent one day a month touring local industry and hospitals, meeting members of the law enforcement community, assisting in non-profits and seeing state government up close in Montgomery.
William McLaughlin of Guntersville High School called MCYL a “fantastic experience.”
“We met a lot of leaders from a lot of different fields,” he said.
Isaac Emanuel of Marshall Christian said his favorite part of the program was helping shop for children in the Christmas Coalition program, which was part of the Community Service day.
“We learned a lot about how we can contribute to the community,” he said.
Jessica Reyes of Asbury High School said MCYL opened her eyes to what is available locally.
“It helped me see things I never dreamed of being in Marshall County.”
 MCYL is sponsored by the Marshall County Leadership Challenge Alumni Association, Marshall Medical Centers and Citizen’s Bank & Trust.
Charlie Williams, president/CEO of CB&T, urged students to use the skills they gained from the program in whatever career they pursue.
“We have a vested interest in growing leaders,” he said. “We need leaders to lead well beyond business.”
Claudette DeMuth, director of marketing for Marshall Medical Centers, told graduates that all great leaders share a common trait.
“No matter how smart you are, how you get there or how hard you work, the common denominator among leaders is passion,” she said. “Have a passion for what you do.”


Fri, Apr 7, 2017

The nursing gene runs in this family

Many things run in families – hair color, height, dimples and freckles – but in one Arab family, it seems that list also includes nursing.
Nilda Stricklin is retired from a 46-year career that began at Arab Hospital, where she earned a scholarship to nursing school. Her sister, Lisa Wilks, also attended nursing school on a scholarship from the hospital. Stricklin’s daughter, Jamie Kelly, didn’t consider any career path other than the one she saw growing up. She recalls playing on wheelchairs in the old hospital while her mother cared for patients. The three even worked together for a time at Golden Living skilled nursing facility.
“You can tell we’ve had a ball in our nursing careers,” Stricklin said, telling stories and laughing with her sister and daughter. “It’s been fascinating.”
As a high school student in 1968-69, Stricklin worked half-days as a nursing assistant and during the summer after graduating. Her scholarship took her to nursing school in Gadsden, where she he had a lot to learn, she recalled.
“I didn’t even know you had to take a state board to be a nurse.”
Stricklin remembered just how strict the nuns were on their students at the Holy Name of Jesus nursing school. Every morning students were lined up for inspection to make sure their white shoes had no scuffs, their white stockings had no runs, their white uniform was pressed and their white caps were starched enough to stand up stiffly.
“We had to make sure everything was perfect,” she said. “They were very strict, but they were good.”
When Stricklin joined the small Arab Hospital staff, she learned that nurses did anything that needed to be done. They might be stationed in labor and delivery, but also help out in the emergency room. There was no staff doctor at the time. Instead, nurses assessed patients then phoned doctors in their offices or at home during the night. The doctor might then head to the hospital or just tell the nurse what to do for the patient.
“We just worked where we were needed,” Stricklin remembered. “We had a good time, but we were very professional.”
Wilks said she was off to nursing school at Wallace State within hours of graduating high school.
“I knew nothing else,” she said.
In 1982 she went to work at Arab Hospital as a nursing assistant. After graduating the following year, she was a nurse working alongside her sister.
“We did everything,” Wilks remembered.
The sisters recall re-packaging and re-sterilizing gloves, sterilizing glass specimen jars, washing then spinning glass thermometers to get the mercury down.
“Nothing was disposable back then.”
Wilks eventually went to work as an RN at the Guntersville Hospital. Nurses were expected to mix medicine, hook up traction and do breathing treatments. She was taught how to draw arterial blood gases by a respiratory therapist who didn’t want to be called in at all hours.
The sisters worked together once again when both hospitals closed and combined in 1990 into the new Guntersville-Arab Medical Center, now Marshall Medical Center North.
Stricklin was education director in the new hospital and eventually was in charge of infection control, earning her certification in Baltimore, Md. Wilks started on the second floor in medical-surgical nursing or ‘Med-Surg’ and pediatrics. She earned a Med-Surg certification in Chicago.
In 2007 Stricklin retired. Four days later she went to work for Golden Living. She retired again last fall, saying it’s for good this time.
“I do love nursing,” she said. “I’ve had a good career and I’ve worked with fantastic people. I’m thrilled that I had the opportunity to work here rather than driving to Huntsville or somewhere else.”
Some of the sisters’ dearest memories come from emergencies when the staff had to go the extra mile. They recalled staying at Marshall North for “days and days” after a tornado and during an ice storm that crippled the area.
“The comradery was just incredible,” Wilks said.
A bomb threat illustrated how close the sisters were and how protective they felt about each other. During evacuation, Wilks insisted on staying with her patients, so her sister stayed too.
“It was the right thing to do,” Wilks said.
She left the hospital in 2000. Acute care was all she had known so she decided to try long-term care at Golden Living in Arab. Now she works part-time for the state health department doing health screenings.
Wilks’ niece followed in her footsteps to Wallace State where she graduated as a nurse in 2008. Kelly first went to work at Marshall North. 
“Those two were already gone by the time I got there,” she remembered.
After a couple of years of working nights, Kelly left the hospital to practice long-term care at Golden Living with her mom and aunt. Professionalism was always top priority for the family so she referred to her co-workers as Mrs. Stricklin and Mrs. Wilks.
“People there didn’t even know we were related,” she remembered.
Kelly has no doubt that she followed her family members into the perfect career.
“I love what I do now,” she said. “I also do education. I still use all those skills today that I learned then. I love it. It’s still fun.”
The family learned firsthand that Marshall North is not only a good place to work, but also a great hospital after Wilks had a health scare in 2015. The outstanding care she received reinforced the devotion the family already had for the staff and facility.
“The experience was unbelievable,” she said. “I wouldn’t be anywhere else.”
“We have a great staff here and great physicians,” Stricklin added. “We always have.”
And, of course, it feels like family.
“We’ve grown up with a lot of them,” Wilks said.

Fri, Apr 7, 2017

Dawson man chose Marshall Cancer Care when he had to find treatment

A cancer diagnosis is terrifying. The news alone is very difficult to hear. Once the dreaded words sink in, there’s the challenge of figuring out where to go for treatment.
That’s where Nathan Roberts, 50, was in September 2015. He woke up from a colonoscopy to the news that he had a tumor. The next day he was told it was cancer.
Nathan’s wife, Shauna, naturally was determined to find the very best care for her husband. She spent hours researching cancer treatment facilities. She took him to Atlanta, where a team of doctors promised to cure him. But Nathan didn’t want to be that far from his home in Dawson, where he was born and raised.
“That’s a long way from home for six weeks,” he said.
The couple headed home to think and pray about it. Nathan had heard about Marshall Cancer Care Center in Albertville from his sister. During an appointment with a surgeon in Huntsville, Nathan brought up his dilemma. He asked what was the difference between radiation in his hometown and radiation in Atlanta. The surgeon said there is no difference. It’s the same radiation and doctors will give you the largest amount your body can tolerate, he was told. 
So Nathan made an appointment with Dr. Tom Payne at Marshall Cancer Care. During that first visit, Dr. Payne asked Nathan if he could pray with him. He knew then he was in the right place.
“I just broke down,” he recalled. “I knew this was the place God wanted me to be. He prayed with me and it helped me tremendously.”
In order to shrink the tumor before it was surgically removed, Nathan had six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation. He drove himself to Marshall Cancer Care five days a week. The time he spent there getting to know the staff really made an impression on him.
“The faith here is overwhelming,” he said. “You can tell God has got his hand on it because of the people. They’re experts. They’re professional. They’re caring. I knew they were praying for me. It takes special people to do what they do.”
Once Nathan finished treatments, it was time for surgery. He went to Huntsville Jan. 13, 2016, for what turned out to be a difficult procedure. Nathan’s doctor told him he expected the procedure to take a couple of hours but it lasted five hours.  After removing the tumor, the surgeon had to painstakingly do a resection by hand.
Afterwards, Nathan was the sickest he has ever been. He remembers wanting to die it was so bad. Instead, he prayed for relief and he got it. Despite six weeks with a colostomy bag, his condition has steadily improved.
“Everything has been good since then,” he said. “What God does, he does good.”
Nathan forced himself to go through eight more chemo treatments his doctors recommended as a preventive measure. Now he heads back to Marshall Cancer Care for blood work every three months and a scan every six months. He just hit the one-year mark for being cancer free.
“Dr. (Jonathan) Storey said my blood work looked like a man who had never had cancer,” Nathan said, alternating between smiling and shedding tears.
A friend stricken with colon cancer 16 years ago prompted Nathan to begin regular scans. A scheduling oversight caused him to miss a scan that allowed time for cancer to grow into a large tumor. If he had the scan he missed, his doctor told him the cancer would likely have been discovered as a polyp, requiring only a snip to remove.
“It’s important for people to realize how quickly it can go from a little snip to a five-hour surgery,” he said. “I want to encourage people to stay on top of that.”
Nathan feels good now. He’s back at work as a supervisor of a hosiery mill. He’s convinced he is a better man as a cancer survivor than he was before. It reinforced his faith and brought closer together his family, including his five daughters and four siblings.
“I give God the credit,” he said. “He has taken something bad and turned it into something good.”

Fri, Apr 7, 2017

Joint Academy class educates patients on all aspects of joint replacement surgery

Like many patients, Joan Parker delayed having knee replacement surgery until she could no longer take the pain.
“I had hurt off and on for 15 years,” she said.
And like most patients, her discomfort disappeared after the procedure.
“I haven’t had nearly the pain since the surgery as I had before. I could barely walk through Wal-Mart.”
Parker was told at age 55 she needed knee replacement. Instead, she quit walking for exercise. Then she tore the cartilage in her knee, known as the meniscus. After three repair surgeries, she finally told Dr. Matthew Smith that she was ready for replacement. Just a week after the March 7 procedure she was all smiles.
“I have done so well,” said the 71-year-old Albertville resident. “I dreaded this so bad but it hasn’t been anything like I thought.”
One part of the process Parker believes made a huge contribution to her success was attending Joint Academy, a free class offered to all joint replacement patients to help prepare them for surgery.
“That class was spot on,” she said. “I knew what to expect, I knew what they were doing and I knew why they were doing it. Knowledge is power.”
Parker’s husband Doyle, who attended the class with her, agreed.
“It was very confidence building,” he said. “You don’t wonder what’s happening – you prepare for it.”
All joint replacement patients scheduled for surgery at Marshall Medical are asked to attend a Joint Academy preoperative education class. Patients are encouraged to bring a “coach,” such as a spouse, friend or relative. During the session, a nurse, physical therapist and a care coordinator explain what to bring to pre-admission testing and what to expect from the day of surgery until you are discharged to go home or to rehab.
RN Robin Morgan Harper leads Joint Academy classes, along with social worker Amanda Lindsey, who handles discharge planning for the hospitals. They spend more than an hour walking patients through every step from preparing for surgery to recovering from it.
Harper starts by telling the class they will see her again on the day following their surgery. They will get a visit from Lindsey on the day of surgery and again before they go home. Each person is given a patient guide so they have all the information to take home.
Points covered in the class include:
* Knee or hip replacement surgery involves removing the damaged joint and putting in a prosthetic device, which takes about 45 minutes.
* Patients should make arrangements for someone to stay with them for a week or two weeks after surgery or plan to go to rehab.
* Patients should get a walker, bedside commode and shower chair ahead of time. A walker with wheels on the front is best.
* Bring walker to the hospital to use following surgery.
* Prepare to use a walker at home by removing throw rugs and putting often used items within reach.
* Prepare meals ahead of time.
* Remove clutter to decrease the chance of falling.

Physical therapist Rhonda Kilpatrick sees patients soon after they get back to a hospital room.
“We will be getting you up walking the day of surgery,” she told the class. “We want to get weight on the joint as soon as possible.”
After discharge, therapists go daily to patients’ homes for two weeks to help them with therapy. Then patients are ready to go to the gym for therapy.
Parker said a valuable piece of information she learned from the class was that she can do physical therapy in her recliner without having to get on the floor and back up again. She also recommends that caregivers attend the class as well, as Doyle did.
“We just thought it was the grandest thing,” he said.
The two met as teenagers on a blind date and have been married nearly 57 years. They raised five sons and cared for 43 foster children during that time. Doyle’s work with Archer Daniels Midland food processing company took them all over the country. He retired in 2006 and stays busy writing and substitute teaching. Joan stayed home caring for children and now enjoys getting to visit family and especially their eight grandchildren.
She is very happy to have gotten the surgery behind her and looks forward to soon being completely healed.
“I’m walking great,” she said.
Both commended the care they got at Marshall South and from Dr. Smith and his staff.
“I would not have gotten the care that I got anywhere else,” she said.
“It was very reassuring the way he handled everything,” Doyle said. “I like to have a plan and Dr. Smith measures every aspect before, during and after.”
Joint Academy is offered at four times in different locations every month.
* First Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m. in the Medical Plaza 3rd floor classroom next door to Marshall Medical Center North.
* Second Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m. in Dr. Matthew Smith’s office, just past Marshall Medical Center South at the corner of Corley Street and US Hwy 431.
* Third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Marshall Professional Building (next door to Marshall Cancer Care Center).
* Fourth Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m. in the Marshall Professional Building.
To sign up for a class or for more information, call the Joint Academy coordinator at 256.571.8615 or talk to your orthopedic physician.

Thu, Apr 6, 2017

3D mammograms now available at both Marshall North and South

Marshall Medical Centers is committed to offering the best and latest healthcare to its patients. Because of that commitment, women in Marshall County now have access locally to the very latest technology in mammography, which is being called the single greatest break-through in breast cancer detection in the last 30 years.
Known as 3D Mammography, the new technology takes multiple images or X-rays of breast tissue to recreate a 3D picture of the breast. It’s different from traditional mammography which obtains just a single image. Due to overlapping layers of tissue inside breasts, those 2D images could produce unclear results causing false alarms or allowing cancer to be missed altogether.
Now, thanks to the new technology, multiple images produced by 3D mammograms give doctors a clearer image of breast masses. It makes it easier to detect breast cancer and boosts the accuracy of mammography screening.
Women with dense breast tissue in particular may benefit from 3D mammography because it provides a clearer picture, making it easier for doctors to catch breast cancer early. It also makes the size of the cancer easier to see than it could be on a regular mammogram.
Exams done using the new equipment produce a series of detailed images allowing a better evaluation of breasts layer by layer. The radiologist views these images sequentially. A mass will stand out in the scan rather than being camouflaged by dense breast tissue as sometimes occurs with traditional 2D mammography.
Studies show that the exam has greater accuracy than 2D mammography for women across a variety of ages and breast densities. Greater accuracy means better breast cancer detection and a reduced chance of being called back for additional screenings.
A "callback" happens when a mammogram picks up something suspicious and the doctor wants to do additional imaging or a biopsy. For most women, it turns out to be nothing. According to the American Cancer Society, fewer than 10 percent of women called back for more testing are diagnosed with breast cancer. Researchers found a 15 percent dip in the number of women who had to return for more tests because of a suspicious mammogram finding after undergoing 3D mammography.
3D mammograms are now available at both Marshall North and South. The recently-installed machines - called Hologic’s Genius 3D Mammography - are the only 3D exam approved by the FDA as clinically superior to traditional mammography.
Women notice little difference between 3D mammography and traditional screenings. During the 3D part of the exam, an x-ray arm sweeps over the breast, taking multiple images in seconds. It takes about four seconds to obtain an image, just a little bit longer than a digital mammogram. 3D mammography produces more images, so it does take radiologists a little longer to read than a single digital mammography image, but the original procedure is much the same.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported that Hologic's 3D technology detects 41 percent more invasive breast cancers. False positives decreased by 40 percent using 3D technology, which reduces the anxiety caused when women are called to repeat their test due to a false alarm.   
The largest study of its kind, the JAMA study involved over 450,000 exams, 139 doctors and 13 leading academic and clinical sites using Hologic's 3D mammography technology.
During a 3D mammogram, women will experience a minimal amount of additional radiation, compared with a standard mammogram. However, this dose is below the FDA-regulated limit for mammography and no additional risk from an amount of radiation this small has been shown. The FDA studied the radiation issue before approving screening and diagnostic 3D mammography, concluding that the benefits outweigh any potential risk.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women, exceeded only by lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Detecting cancer at an earlier stage will influence a woman’s chance of survival. Talk to your healthcare provider about a 3D mammogram. When it is time for your regular annual screening, your doctor’s office can schedule it for you. You won’t regret it.

Thu, Apr 6, 2017

Marshall Wound Healing Center at Marshall Medical centers earns two national awards for excellence

Marshall Wound Healing Center at Marshall Medical Centers has earned two national awards for clinical excellence.
A Center of Distinction and a Center of Excellence award were presented by Healogics, which manages the Marshall Wound Care Center. The Center of Excellence award is given to centers in the Healogics network that have met the highest level of quality standards for a minimum of two consecutive years. The Center of Distinction award honors outstanding clinical outcomes for 12 consecutive months, as well as patient satisfaction ratings higher than 92 percent and a wound healing rate of at least 91 percent in less than 31 days. Out of 630 Centers eligible for the Center of Distinction award, 334 achieved this honor in 2017.
“We are thrilled to receive this award for the clinical excellence provided by the doctors, nurses and support staff at the center. This recognition highlights the level of care available at Marshall Medical Centers,” said Sarah Smith, Director of Marshall Wound Healing Center.
Marshall Medical’s Wound Healing Center is a member of the Healogics network of nearly 800 Centers offering highly specialized wound care to patients suffering from diabetic ulcers, pressure ulcers, infections and other chronic wounds which have not healed in a reasonable amount of time. Some of the leading-edge treatments available include negative pressure wound therapy, debridement, application of cellular-based tissue or skin substitutes to the wound, offloading or total contact casts and hyperbaric oxygen therapy.
Marshall Wound Healing Center offers specialized therapies to speed up healing. Slow-healing wounds can limit mobility and increase the risk of infection. The center’s specially-trained staff in wound science matches the right therapy to specific patients, from hyperbaric oxygen therapy to specialized wraps and dressings. Dr. Stephen Britt is the medical director of the Wound Healing Center.
Headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., Healogics is the nation’s largest provider of advanced wound care services.
The Marshall Wound Healing Center is located at 11491 US Highway 431, Albertville, AL, inside the Marshall Professional Center. For appointments call (256)894-6976. Hours of operation are Monday – Thursday 8:00 am - 4:00 pm and Friday 8:00 am to 3:00 pm. No physician referral is required.

Wed, Apr 5, 2017

Kidney stone patient becomes fan of lithotripter, thanks to urologist

Brandy Casey has been the victim of many kidney stones during the past several years and had always been able to get rid of them on her own. But the last one was a drastically different experience.
Blood in her urine was the first sign, then she fainted from pain and nausea. A CT scan at the emergency room detected a kidney stone measuring 6 mm. That’s big. An average ureter is 3 mm to 4 mm wide.
Obviously Brandy was not going to be able to pass this stone on her own so the hospital referred her to Urologist Dr. Mark Burson, who sent her back to the hospital for a date with a lithotripter, which blasted the stone into sand.
“It did the job very well,” she says. “If I ever have to have a procedure again, I will request that first.”
In addition to being a big fan of the lithotripter, Brandy also was very impressed with Dr. Burson, known around the hospitals for his cowboy hat and boots.
“I wish he were a family doctor,” she says. “He was amazing. Very personable. He makes you feel comfortable. No matter how much pain I was in he still made me laugh.”
It was not just Dr. Burson’s jovial attitude that won him over, she says.
“No matter the situation, he was great,” she says. “He’s very on top of everything. He can laugh and cut up but he’s serious also. I’m thankful he’s my urologist.”

Brandy was born in Dallas about three days before her parents planned to move back to Alabama. At 10 years old, Brandy began helping take care of her grandfather.
“I knew then that I wanted to work with patients,” she says.
She moved back to Dallas in 2008 and, during her six years there, she worked in an emergency facility and in a psychiatric hospital. Now, at 29, and living in Ruth, she works as a patient care tech.
“It’s very rewarding,” she says. “Any time I’m helping someone, it’s very rewarding.”

Wed, Mar 15, 2017

Entire Project SEARCH class hired before internship program ends

Savanna Barnard has a job and a clear career path ahead of her. Nobody is more surprised about that than the 19-year-old and her mother. Before entering the Project SEARCH program for students with disabilities, Savanna couldn’t figure out what she wanted to do or how to go about it. An internship changed all that.
“This is a wonderful program,” said Savanna’s mother Cherri Barnard. “It was a Godsend for her.”
Last year was the first year that Project SEARCH students did rotations inside Marshall Medical Centers and no one really knew what to expect. During the program’s second year in the hospitals, expectations have been shattered. All eight have been hired – two by Marshall South – months before the internship was scheduled to end. That has amazed everybody.
“We are very proud of each of the Project SEARCH interns this year,” said Instructor Beth Hanner, who helped throw a party to celebrate the students’ success. “They have worked so hard to reach their goals and have met or exceeded every expectation we had for them.”
Job Coach Ann Kennamer commended the students for their effort.
“We have seen the lights come on,” she said. “We’ve seen people come out of their shells. We’ve seen very shy students come into the program and grow into productive adults.”
Project SEARCH is an international program that targets students with intellectual and developmental disabilities with a goal of helping them get jobs. The high school students from all over Marshall County work for 10 months rotating between departments in Marshall North and South and TherapyPlus locations.
Savanna is working at the Children’s Place Daycare in Scottsboro. Because Marshall Medical doesn’t have a daycare, a new partnership was found so that Savanna could find out if she enjoyed working with children. Not only did she like it, she is planning to attend Snead State’s child development program. Her job coach said she is a natural.
“Her disability disappears when she is working with the little ones,” Kennamer said.
Mary Ramirez’ father said the program was great for his daughter because it taught her skills, gave her the chance to use them and see where she excelled. Mary was working at the Rock House Eatery in Guntersville when she joined Project SEARCH and did rotations in the cafeteria and housekeeping. She was hired to work in Marshall South’s kitchen.
“It is a very good program,” said her dad, Mario Ramirez. “It taught her what she needed to know.”
“It was an honor being able to work with Mary,” Cindy Martin, job coach for Marshall County Schools, told Ramirez about his daughter.
Internships are not made easy for the students, Hanner said.
“They work hard because when they get a job we want them to know it’s going to be hard.”
Hospital employees said the interns were a pleasure to work alongside.
“We have loved this experience,” Ruby Brown, director of environmental services at South, told the group at the party. “Ya’ll have been wonderful.”
Janet Alexander, kitchen supervisor, agreed.
“They’re good. It’s been wonderful.”
Kennamer gave the hospital a lot of credit for students’ success.
“Hats off to Marshall Medical Centers,” she said. “They’re the core of this program.”
Annie Spike, special education coordinator for Marshall County Schools, called it a “great partnership.”
The rest of the eight interns and their place of employment are:
* Allen Edward - Marshall South
* Tyler Baxter - Santa Fe restaurant
* David Martensen – Lowe’s
* Destany Farrington – Bubba Ritos
* David Cortez – Discount Building Supply
* Angela Barr – Arby’s in Scottsboro
Project SEARCH is a partnership between the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, Alabama Department of Mental Health, Alabama Council of Developmental Disabilities, the state and county boards of education and ARC of Jackson County. The Marshall County school system provides a teacher and Arc provides job coaches. Job coaches stay with students until they become skilled enough to work independently.

Wed, Mar 15, 2017

Marshall North wins award for Outstanding Hospital Partner

Marshall Medical Center North has earned a Gift of Life award from the Alabama Organ Center for being an Outstanding Hospital Partner in 2015. Only the top 13 hospitals out of 120 in Alabama that participate with the organ center received the award.

The commendation recognized the hospital for its referral rate, number of actual donations and timeliness of referrals.

“We are measured on all of those statistics each month,” said Kathy Woodruff, chief nursing officer at North. “This is the first time we have received an award from the AOC so it is very exciting. Organ donation is something that is a priority for our staff. We strive to make a difference in the lives of others.”

Marshall North had two organ donors during 2015 that saved four lives, said Alabama Organ Center’s Jennifer L. Hayes, RN and procurement transplant coordinator. The hospital also had tissue donors that helped up to 200 people. 

“The Gift of Life Award was awarded to recognize our outstanding hospital partners,” Hayes said. “The staff at Marshall North always goes above and beyond to help us when we are on the unit.”
 In 2016 there were 425 lives saved in Alabama because of organ donation, Woodruff said.
The mission of the Alabama Organ Center is to provide families an opportunity to donate organs and tissues. The goal is to facilitate the donor process by coordinating the recovery of organs and tissues for transplantation and research. The Alabama Organ Center is committed to increasing knowledge about organ and tissue donation and transplantation.

Mon, Mar 13, 2017


Cancer is complicated, helping is not. Sometimes it’s as easy as riding a bike!

ALBERTVILLE, Ala. – Mountain Madness Cycliad will roll through Albertville on Sunday, April 2nd  for one leg of a weekend fundraiser that includes biking more than 250 miles through North Mississippi and finishing in Anniston. A group of cyclists will leave from Marshall Cancer Care Center at 8 am Sunday. Any cyclists are welcome to join for a single day.

“What’s neat about this fundraiser is that people can choose their level of involvement from ‘virtual riding’ to a one-day ride or a full weekend experience,” said Andrea Oliver, director of the Foundation for Marshall Medical Centers. “We are so excited that all funds designated for Marshall Cancer Care Center will stay here in our community to help our friends and neighbors who are battling cancer.”
Marshall Cancer Care Director Cindy Sparkman encouraged bikers from the Marshall County area to join the ride in an effort to be a supporting partner in the fight against cancer.
“We are excited to host the riders of the Cycliad event again this year,” Sparkman said. “We hope some of our local cyclists will join in the fun for a day ride or even for the full weekend ride from Tupelo to Anniston. This event is just one of the many ways in which our local community can support their friends and neighbors who are faced with the struggles brought on by cancer. Participants can designate Marshall Cancer Care as the site they choose to support and all monies raised by them will remain here in our community to help with needs of our patients.“
Cycliad, sponsored by Deep South Cancer Foundation, is a fundraiser that helps local individuals and families overcome the daily obstacles that cancer creates. Necessities such as transportation, gas, groceries and lodging easily become barriers to everyday life.

“The reality is that with every diagnosis of cancer comes fear, anxiety and confusion. Patients are faced with critical decisions and need help overcoming the barriers and daily challenges that cancer creates. The patients are the reason we are so committed to Cycliad and the mission of the Deep South Cancer Foundation,” said Edward Partridge, M.D., Director of the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.
If you can ride for just one day, register by visiting and choose the day you want to ride. Riders are encouraged (not mandatory) to raise $250 for their designated hospital. Riders are responsible for round-trip transportation to/from the ride.  One hundred percent of rider-designated dollars goes to the site chosen by the participant.

Thu, Feb 16, 2017

Marshall Foot Clinic bring podiatric expertise to hospital system

People often take their feet for granted – until they have a problem. Then they might wonder where to get care for the so important but much ignored foot.
Marshall County residents now have two solutions to that question with the opening of the Marshall Foot Clinic in Guntersville and Boaz.
“This is a good opportunity for medical patients to start seeing a podiatrist on a regular basis,” said Dr. Dustin Grimmett, a doctor of podiatric medicine (DPM). “It was an underserved community.”
Dr. Robson Araujo, a DPM, Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons and of the American Professional Wound Care Association, points to the death of his wife’s aunt a decade ago that sparked his passion for treating diabetic ulcers. After stepping on a nail and developing an infection, complications caused her to lose her leg. She died soon after. Once a diabetic loses a lower limb, their life expectancy is only 3-5 years.
As a result, Dr. Araujo embraces evidence-based medicine which recommends treating diabetic ulcers with a team approach – each part working together to prevent further problems.
“It takes everybody, the whole medical community,” he said. “That is the way to treat diabetic patients.”
Three main causes of diabetic ulcers are neuropathy, foot deformity and trauma, known as the critical triad. Prevention is key to saving lives so it is crucial that diabetics regularly see a podiatrist. If the disease is well-controlled, diabetics should have their feet checked once a year. Others should get routine care every 10-12 weeks to check for complications.
Diabetic patients comprise close to half of the practice. Dr. Araujo expects that number to grow as the population ages.
Podiatrists diagnose and treat conditions of the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg. Before the clinic opened last fall, there were no podiatrists connected to Marshall Medical Centers. Now, both physicians are performing surgeries at each hospital.
Dr. Grimmett, who had extensive surgical training during his medical residency, said he is pleased with his new hospital colleagues.
“I really am so impressed with the caliber of people practicing here,” he said.
Surgical procedures commonly performed by the podiatrists include correction of deformities such as bunions, hammer toes and intervention with feet affected by rheumatoid arthritis.  In addition, Dr. Grimmett has had training on reconstruction of flat feet.
Arthritis also is a common complaint in the feet. Osteoarthritis can be treated with medications, injections, padding inside shoes or surgical procedures that can relieve pain. Another common pathology in the foot stems from rheumatoid arthritis.
“Most people don’t think of a podiatrist until they have foot pain,” Dr. Grimmett said.
An examination usually begins with an x-ray. Often an x-ray is done of both feet in order to compare them.
Both doctors bring their individual strengths to the practice. Dr. Araujo has had surgical training and has extensive experience while Dr. Grimmett recently completed his surgical residency.
“We definitely complement each other,” Dr. Grimmett said.
Dr. Grimmett, 35, grew up in Idaho and came to Alabama as a young man on a religious mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He fell in love with the area – particularly the lake and weather - and with a local girl from Georgia Mountain. He married her and went back up north for seven years to complete his medical training, then returned. Dr. Grimmett and his wife Bridgette now have five children: Evan, 11, Ellie, 10, Piper, 5, Grey, 4 and one-year-old Tallulah.
“It was an easy decision to move back,” he said. “It’s like home. I’m so grateful to live here.”
Dr. Araujo agreed. Born in Brazil, he moved to the United States in 1967 with his family led by his grandfather, who was on a diplomatic mission. They spent seven years in Bethesda, Maryland, went back to Brazil for a period then returned to Maryland where he completed his schooling and graduated from the University of Maryland.
“But I bleed crimson,” Dr. Araujo quickly points out.
Following medical school in Philadelphia, Dr. Araujo did his residency in West Palm Beach and back to Philadelphia to practice for a year. He came to Alabama in 1997 in search of opportunities. Although he engaged in some successful endeavors, he is now where he feels he belongs – the place he considers home.
“Timing is everything,” he said. “It’s very nice to be home. We had no family here when we came. Now we have a large extended family, including our Connect Church family.”
Dr. Araujo, 50, and his wife, Lisa Marie, who works as a computer programmer on Redstone Arsenal, have two children: Robert, 30, and Cierrah, 17, a senior at Guntersville High School. When he isn’t working Dr. Araujo enjoys golf and his boyhood passion, soccer.
Dr. Grimmett and Dr. Araujo rotate between the two locations. The Guntersville office is on Highway 69 near Marshall North. The Boaz office is at 601 A Corley Drive, near Marshall South. Both offices are open five days a week.
“There is always a podiatrist at both locations,” Dr. Grimmett said. “Our goal is to get people in quickly and provide exceptional care.”
All major insurances are accepted, including Medicaid and Medicare.
Call the South office at (256)840-4810, (256)571-8750 for the North office. Visit the website at

Mon, Feb 13, 2017

National Cardiac Rehab week highlights local heart-healthy programs

John Sherrick knows why he has had two heart attacks, two bypasses and open heart surgery. He smoked for 50 years, didn’t exercise, worked a high-stress military job and ate whatever he wanted.
“I was the poster child for what not to do,” says the 67-year-old who lives near Grant.
Not anymore. Sherrick changed his ways and now is the picture of health. He quit smoking, lost more than 50 pounds and gets plenty of exercise. He had a lot of help from the Cardiac Rehab program at TherapyPlus North after his cardiologist recommended it.
“The people in cardiac rehab understand,” he says. “This has helped me quite a bit. I feel great. I have a lot of energy.”
National Cardiac Rehab week highlights this very successful program for those with heart issues. The Cardiac Rehabilitation Program at both locations of TherapyPlus Fitness is a support program which includes exercise, education and counseling designed to strengthen the heart and lungs and educate patients about the risks of smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, inactivity, excessive weight, stress and heredity. The skilled professionals at TherapyPlus Fitness teach people how to manage these risk factors and how to take control through exercise to be able to return to a full, active and healthy lifestyle.
“Cardiac Rehab is for patients who have some form of heart disease – following a heart attack, stents, valve replacement, transplant – who need help getting back on their feet,” says Cardiologist Dr. Kathleen Evans, who is director of Marshall Medical’s cardiac rehab programs. “We teach them to live a healthier lifestyle and to feel safe and confident exercising.”
It also serves as a support group for patients, connecting them with others who have dealt with the same issues, she says.
“They come out more confident that they are able to live a healthier lifestyle,” says Dr. Evans.
Sherrick is retired from the military, which sent him to Vietnam twice and placed him in a stressful position at Fort Knox in Kentucky. He has a laundry list of health problems – diabetes, COPD, coronary artery disease and peripheral artery disease – but he has taken control of his health and lengthened his life in the process.
“I’ve really pushed my body to the limit and it caught up with me,” he says. “I see myself staying with the gym and doing what I’m doing now.”
That includes walking an average of 16,000 steps a day – more if he gets into a challenge with his Fitbit – and drinking 80 ounces of water a day.
With six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, Sherrick says he needs no more motivation than that to keep going.
“That’s why I do it,” he says with pride.

Wed, Feb 8, 2017

Students tour hospital, hear from doctors

Students in leadership training got a crash course in medicine as they toured Marshall Medical South and talked to doctors about local healthcare opportunities.
Dr. Andrew Vann, director of emergency medicine at South, told Marshall County Youth Leadership students there are many skills required to do the job well.
“You need to develop your people skills,” he said. “You’ve got to be a good listener and you’ve got to be able to communicate.”
Doctors must get their patient’s information, no matter what condition they’re in or what language they speak. Dr. Vann is fluent in Spanish, which he often uses with his patients and is frequently called on to interpret for the hospital.
The juniors from nine high schools in Marshall County were interviewed and selected for the program. They meet monthly throughout the school year to find out about their home county, as well as to practice the qualities of a leader.
MCYL is sponsored by the Marshall County Leadership Challenge Alumni, Citizen’s Bank and Marshall Medical Centers.
Dr. Vann told students the Boaz emergency department sees many patients with chest pains and pneumonia. Doctors do a lot of small surgeries, such as sewing up cuts. The most difficult part of the job, he said, is when you cannot help someone at all.
“You learn your limits,” he said. “Sometimes the best we can do is comfort the patient and their families.”
He warned students against going into the profession if wealth is their goal. While doctors are paid well, it is essential they enjoy treating patients or they will not like the job.
“If you do it to be rich, I don’t think you’ll be happy,” he said. “If that’s the reason you do it, you may not be a good doctor. At the end of the day, if you want to be a doctor because you like to take care of people then you’re probably on the right track.”
Dr. Kathleen Evans is a cardiologist with the Heart Center in Huntsville working full time at Marshall South. As a high school student, she knew she wanted to go into medicine but became discouraged in college because she had no connections to help her. Neither of her parents went to college. Neither of her two sisters finished college.
“If you really want to do it you just have to find a way,” she told students. “You don’t have to have a mommy or daddy doctor.”
Instead, Dr. Evans advised students to get involved in college. Do volunteer work. Sitting with a sick person in your church can be helpful. Any kind of experience is better than no experience.
“If you want to be a doctor, be prepared for what you’re getting into,” she said.
Dr. Evans also urged students to live frugally while they’re getting their education instead of taking all loan money available to them. Loans are difficult to pay back, especially after you have a family, she said.


Wed, Feb 1, 2017

Marshall Medical Centers Announces Relocation of Physicians’ offices, new coffee shop

Marshall Medical Centers is proud to announce the relocation next month of the offices of Medical Centers OB/GYN, Sand Mountain OB/GYN Associates and Marshall Medical Centers’ Mammography Department in the Women’s Center at Marshall South.
Coinciding with the relocation is the opening of a coffee shop in the Women’s Center called Sunrise Brew. The café will open Feb. 6 inside the Women’s Center located on the south end of the hospital. The new Sunrise Brew café will offer the Starbucks beverages and a selection of both sweet and savory food items.
 “Our intention is for Sunrise Brew to be one way to enhance the experience of a visit to Marshall Medical Centers.  We also hope a visit to Sunrise Brew will be one way the community can become better acquainted with the facilities at Marshall Medical Centers,” stated John Anderson the administrator of Marshall Medical Center South.
Visitors to the hospital will be able to pull into short-term parking available at the South entrance in the patient drop-off area to pick up refreshments to go. Coffee shop hours are 7 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.

Mon, Jan 16, 2017

Hi-tech ‘dummy’ to help teach nursing skills

The latest training tool at Marshall Medical Centers is no dummy. He has a pulse, tears, blinks his eyes, urinates, bleeds and has seizures, but he is not human. The SimMan 3G is an advanced patient simulator that displays neurological symptoms as well as physical ailments.
“It’s going to be excellent for teaching,” said Tami Howard, RN, director of staff development and education at Marshall South. “Simulation is the wave of the future.”
The high-tech and high dollar patient simulators at both hospitals were made possible thanks to a $188,500 grant secured by Dr. Amy Langley, director of Health Sciences at Snead State Community College. Dr. Langley said the effort started several years ago after a conversation with Ruth Bischoff, nursing director at South, about a simulation lab that could be used by nursing students as well as for professional development training.
“That opened the window to have the most current simulator for training,” she said.
The partnership between the hospitals and Snead’s nursing school ultimately will benefit patients.
“Better prepared nurses at the hospital spills over into quality patient care,” Dr. Langley said. “When nurses demonstrate really good patient care, students will mimic that.”
Howard said using a simulator enables instructors to teach in a realistic hospital setting.
“This will allow students to utilize critical thinking in a controlled setting,” she said. “They can make mistakes and learn from them in a simulated setting instead of in an actual patient care environment. A wrong decision can change a patient’s condition.”
Lisa Bearden, RN and director of education at Marshall North, said the simulator will make a big difference in her classes because of numerous features, such as audible lung and bowel sounds and a port in his arm where nurses can give medication.
“He is awesome,” she said. “It’s a big advantage over what we had.”
Marshall North Administrator Cheryl Hays agreed.
“He’s certainly the best simulator I’ve ever been exposed to,” she said, joking that he should be since he cost more than her first house.
Howard and Bearden will use the simulator while conducting training for new hires and to fulfill continuing education requirements for staff. Hospital staff will learn to use the manikin – the term for a jointed model of the human body used in anatomy - during a two-day class later this month.
Bearden was excited about SimMan 3G’s capabilities, including realistic coughing and vomiting sounds, as well as saying “yes” and “no.”
“He’s phenomenal,” she said.
Bischoff is happy to see the idea of a simulation lab in both hospitals finally become a reality.
“This is an interactive manikin that will allow us to replicate patient scenarios and provide healthcare providers the opportunity to troubleshoot and provide appropriate intervention based on what is assessed and observed,” she said. “We have been talking about the possibility of partnering with Snead to obtain this piece of equipment for several years, and it has finally materialized.”
According to the website for the Laerdal company, which manufactures of simulators for medical use, SimMan 3G uses innovative technology to increase realism and create more effective simulation. Some of the many features of SimMan 3G include:
* CPR performance can be measured and real-time feedback provided on compression rate, depth, release and hands-off time.
* Seizures and convulsions can be created
* Wound models can be connected to an internal blood reservoir which will bleed both from arterial and venous vessels.
* SimMan 3G will react appropriately to treatment.
* The eye secretions feature can simulate responsive reactions to chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear agents.
* The drug recognition system registers the amount, speed and type of drug automatically and applies the appropriate physiological responses
* Pupillary responses can simulate a wide range of neurological symptoms.
Responses include to light, blinking (at slow, normal and fast rates) winking as well as open, partially open and closed reactions.
* Students can perform a needle thoracentesis - a procedure to remove fluid from the space between the lungs and the chest wall - and insert a chest drain.
* The manikin simulates spontaneous breathing with chest rising and falling.
* Students can insert a chest tube.
* The manikin simulates bodily secretions.
* The manikin incorporates wireless technology.

Sat, Jan 7, 2017

One of the many benefits of Goldcare55+ program is travelling with other seniors

As many seniors in Marshall County can confirm, membership in Marshall Medicals’ Goldcare55+ program has its benefits. One of the most popular features is travelling with a group of local people around the same age without the responsibility of driving or planning.

A unique trip for members is coming up in the spring of 2017 and will take folks back in time to tour a life-sized model of Noah’s Ark. The two-day trip April 20-22 will travel through Tennessee and Kentucky.

“So many people love to travel but do not have anyone to travel with,” says Shirley Holland, coordinator of the program.  “This is what we love about offering travel as a part of our GoldCare55+ program.  Members can travel safely with no worries because we take care of every detail. By the time they return, new friends and memories are made.”

Few wooden ships have ever come close to the size of Noah’s Ark, according to the website for the Ark Encounter in Kentucky. It was almost one and a half football fields long and seven stories tall. The full-sized replica built according to the dimensions given in the Bible is the largest timber-frame structure in the world.

Visitors explore the massive Ark’s three decks of exhibits designed to make the pages of the Bible come alive and depict what life aboard may have been like.
The Bible describes Noah’s Ark as a safe haven during the flood for all kinds of air-breathing land animals and flying creatures God created. The Ark Encounter attempts to answer questions such as how many animals did Noah have to fit on board the Ark and how did he take care of them?

In addition to the Ark, the trip includes travel to the nearby Creation Museum, a 75,000-square-foot facility full of biblical history including the Garden of Eden, the Tower of Babel and a theater production of The Last Adam.

Marshall GoldCare55+ encourages area church groups to sign up for this unique travel opportunity. Detailed information will be mailed upon request by church group leaders. 

“We think seniors are special and have enjoyed putting together this exceptional trip at such an affordable price for them to enjoy,” Holland says.  “No driving, no planning.  Just read, chat and relax as we journey together making memories along the way.”

A motor coach will depart from both Marshall Medical Center hospitals. First stop is lunch at Calhoun’s on the River in Knoxville, across from Nayland Stadium. Dinner and first night’s stay will be at the Hampton Inn Hotel in London, Ky. The second day travelers will spend touring the Creation Museum. Dinner and overnight stay will be at the Hampton Inn Hotel in Hebron, Ky. The next morning has the group headed for its last stops: the Ark Encounter and on to Nashville’s largest flea market.

Registration is open now. A $100 deposit is due at registration and the balance is due by March 1. Price for double occupancy is $429 per person, triple is $419 per person, quadruple is $409 per person and single is $549. To sign up call (256)571-8025 or email

What’s included:  Transportation by modern motor coach, two nights lodging, two dinners, one lunch and two continental breakfasts plus Flea Market and admission to the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum. 

Also, Goldcare55+ has a Mystery Trip coming up March 23. Even though it’s a secret, you can be sure it will be an adventure you will not want to miss. And you can be certain to be home early that evening. Cost is $135 and full payment is due at registration.

Fri, Jan 6, 2017

Snead State Community College receives grant to train MMC employees

BOAZ – Snead State has been approved to receive $15,000 in grant money from the Alabama Community College System to provide training for Marshall Medical Center employees.

Snead State is partnering with the University of Alabama in Huntsville Office of Operational Excellence to provide the healthcare training. The training will target Lean Introduction, Problem Solving, and Root Cause Analysis for about 90 MMC employees.

“Marshall Medical employees are the winners in the awarding of this grant,” said Teresa Guess, vice-president of quality for MMC. "This training provided in conjunction with UAH will be focused on implementing Lean principles in healthcare. This will enable MMC employees to identify and eliminate non-value added activities through continuous improvement."

A popular misconception is that lean is suited only for manufacturing. Not true. Lean applies in every business and every process. It is not a tactic or a cost reduction program, but a way of thinking and acting for an entire organization.  Businesses in all industries and services, including healthcare and governments, are using lean principles as the way they think and do.  - Lean Enterprise Institute (
Guess added, "This pursuit of perfection will enhance their ability to provide quality healthcare to residents of Marshall County."
Director of Workforce Development and the Arab Instructional Site Teresa Walker expressed her appreciation to the American Community College System and the Northeast Alabama Workforce Development Regional Council, Inc., Region 2 for the funding to support the partnership with Snead State and Marshall Medical Centers.

“Snead State is delighted to assist Marshall Medical Centers with their workforce training needs. MMC is one of our largest employers in Marshall County, and we appreciate the opportunity to serve them as one of our business and industry partners,” Ms. Walker said.

Fri, Dec 30, 2016

MCYL students get a big dose of professionalism

Marshall County Youth Leadership students got a lesson in professionalism during their December meeting – from business clothes to proper manners and polished interview skills.
Head of human resources for Marshall Medical Centers, Sabrina Weaver, told students how important it is to dress properly for a job interview – that means no flip-flops, no shorts, tank tops, T-shirts or bare midriffs. 
“Make sure you’re clean, neat and dress appropriately for the situation,” she said.
She had sobering advice for teens considering body piercings, tattoos or dying their hair an unnatural color.
“You’re putting yourself at a disadvantage,” she warned. “It is legal for employers to discriminate against you for nose piercings or a gauge in your ear. That’s their right. When you make those choices you’re narrowing your options in the job market.”
Students learned about good manners from etiquette gurus Dianna Adams and Mary Shurette, then they practiced what they learned during lunch at the festively-decorated Lumpkin House in Albertville. They heard do’s and don’ts of business dress from Albertville businesses Whitten’s Town and Country and Whimsy Edge.
The juniors from nine high schools in Marshall County were interviewed and selected for the program. The meet monthly throughout the school year to find out about their home county, as well as to practice the qualities of a leader.
MCYL is sponsored by the Marshall County Leadership Challenge Alumni, Citizen’s Bank and Marshall Medical Centers.

Wed, Dec 28, 2016

Home for the holidays? Not necessarily if you’re a hospital worker

The joy of spending Christmas and New Year’s with the family is the focus of all the hustle and bustle that consumes the holiday season. Tearing open packages while wearing pajamas, eating together around the table, watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve – that’s the ideal for most of us.
Not everyone, however, gets to spend the holidays at home. Many people – especially hospital employees – work on holidays because the hospital never closes.
If you were off work for Christmas be thankful because the hospitals are fully staffed with doctors, nurses and patients. As sad as it seems, that included Christmas Eve night, Christmas morning, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.
Emergencies certainly don’t take a holiday.
Marshall South’s emergency room staff on Christmas Day consisted of about three doctors, two advanced practitioners, eight registered nurses, one secretary/tech and a partridge in a pear tree.
An additional seven nurses reported for work for the night shift. Between 20 and 25 people worked in the emergency department while Santa made his toy rounds to good boys and girls.
A quick poll at Marshall North calculated that about 130 folks staffed the hospital on Christmas day/night. That included everyone from lab staff to ambulance drivers to housekeeping and food service workers.
That’s a lot of your neighbors, friends and possibly family members and co-workers who missed the holidays with their loved ones in order to be on the job at our hospitals.
Unfortunately, some people must spend Christmas in the hospital because they’re sick, which is why floor nurses will be at work, as well as intensive care nurses. Patients have to be fed and rooms must be cleaned.
Even call center employees – those nice ladies who answer your calls to the hospital – must staff their department on a 24-hour basis.
Of course, it’s not just healthcare employees who will be ringing in the holidays at work. A quarter of Americans will be required to work on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day or New Year’s Day this year, according to a study published in USA Today.
Police officers have to be on the job, as do firefighters. Retailers famously have to show up for holiday sales.
Others include 911 operators, news reporters and utility workers. We especially don’t want to forget military service personnel stationed all over the world.
Of course, people who accept these jobs are well aware that sacrifice is required. A doctor, for example, knows up front to expect emergencies to interfere with free time.
Nurses certainly realize that accepting a job caring for the sick is one that cannot be abandoned. They take the job along with the understanding that patients come first.
They make a commitment to be there and to make sure patients have the care they need.
And they’re OK with it because that is the profession they chose because they love nursing or they love being part of the world of healthcare. It’s a passion. It’s a calling.
It’s their home away from home, even on holidays.

Mon, Dec 26, 2016

Student gets early Christmas present – a job

Nineteen-year-old Allen Edwards got something just in time for Christmas without even bothering to ask Santa Claus.
Edwards is the newest employee at Marshall Medical Centers and is the first student from this year’s Project SEARCH class to get a job.
“It was exciting,” Edwards said of his first day as a cafeteria working helping with Grab n’ Go meals, doing dishes, making salads and serving plates.
Edwards, who graduated from Douglas High School last year, went to work in the cafeteria at Marshall South Dec. 19. He was one of eight students from local high schools doing rotations in the hospitals as part of Project SEARCH, which helps students with disabilities become employable.
“He’s real good,” said Ed West, director of food services at Marshall South. “He’s conscientious about what he does. He’s a steady worker. He’s looks for something to do.”
Edwards has worked at the Rock House Eatery since July 2015. He said the Project SEARCH job coaches helped him land that position.
“I think it is a great program,” he said. “It has helped me find a job, get skills, get the job here. The teachers are great. They help you a lot. Even after you’re hired they’ll still check on you.”
Allen, who likes to go bowling and skating with friends when he’s not working, said good-bye to his Rock House co-workers at a Christmas party this week.
Project SEARCH is an international program that targets students with intellectual and developmental disabilities with a goal of helping them get jobs. This is the second year for Marshall Medical to participate in the program. The first group of students worked for 10 months rotating between departments in Marshall North and South and TherapyPlus locations. Two students were hired to work permanently at each hospital, and five students landed jobs elsewhere.
The current group went through training classes and orientation in August before beginning their rotations. They stand out throughout the hospitals and gyms wearing their brown scrubs monogrammed with ‘Project SEARCH.’
“We are so excited to have Allen be our first intern this year to be hired by Marshall Medical Centers,” said Beth Hanner, Project SEARCH instructor. “He will make a wonderful addition to the cafeteria team and we know he will be a dedicated employee that will make a positive impact. We are so happy for him and thankful to Marshall Medical Centers for giving our interns these amazing opportunities.” 
West said a second Project SEARCH student is going through the hiring process to work in the cafeteria at South. He is a great supporter of the program.
“It has been a big boost in our area,” he said. “It really has helped us. It’s a win-win for both sides.”

Project SEARCH is a partnership between the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, Alabama Department of Mental Health, Alabama Council of Developmental Disabilities, the state and county boards of education and ARC of Jackson County. The Marshall County school system provides a teacher and Arc provides job coaches. Job coaches stay with students until they become skilled enough to work independently.
This year’s students are:
* Allen Edwards- Douglas High School
* Savanna   Barnard   - Geraldine High School
* David  Martensen- home schooled
* Tyler Baxter- Boaz High School
* David Cortez - Douglas High School
* Mary Ramirez - Douglas High School
* Angela Barr- DAR High School
* Destany Farrington - homeschooled

Fri, Dec 23, 2016

Marshall Medical gets award for patient safety

Marshall Medical Centers has earned an ‘Outstanding Performer’ award for safety from the Partnership for Patients, a national initiative led by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to reduce rates of hospital-acquired conditions and readmissions.
“It is this kind of commitment that is helping reduce patient harms while fundamentally changing how care is delivered,” wrote Dr. Keith Kosel, senior vice president of government affairs and project director for Vizient HEN. “These achievements are making a profound difference in the lives of the people who choose to use your hospital.”
The Partnership for Patients is focused on making hospital care safer, more reliable and less costly through the achievement of two goals:
* Preventing hospital-acquired conditions.
* Preventing complications during a transition from one care setting to another will reduce all hospital readmissions.

In order to apply these goals at Marshall Medical Centers a team concept is used to improve performance, along with efforts to engage patients and families in their care.  Because patients are essential partners in the effort to improve the quality and safety of health care, their participation is an essential component of making care safer and reducing readmissions.
One particular area of emphasis as part of this partnership at MMC was a program designed to reduce readmissions for patients who undergo total hip or knee replacement.  The implementation of "Joint Academy" helped to engage patients and their family or caregiver. 
Joint Academy is a class that teaches patients what to expect before, during and after surgery. It explains how patients should prepare their home for safe return and best recovery. It allows opportunity for the team to discuss with patients their prescribed medications that are unsafe to take before surgery, how to prepare for surgery and warning signs to look for afterwards. The team leaders, a case manager and care coordinator, also make phone contact with patients to as their surgery date approaches, to ensure readiness for the procedure.
Following hip or knee replacement procedures, team leaders RN Robin Morgan Harper and Social Worker Amanda Lindsey make rounds with Orthopedic Surgeon Dr. Matthew Smith to visit patients and discuss questions that the patient may have, and to plan for care after discharge from the hospital.
Because educating patients is crucial to the healing process, Harper and Lindsey serve as ‘care navigators’ and teach patients about what they should be doing at home after being discharged from the hospital. Instructions are explained in a way patients can understand then patients are asked to repeat them to ensure their understanding.
The nurses and other team members also use white boards in patient rooms and keep them updated with goals for the day, the latest status on medications and pain levels. Whiteboards keep patients and family members updated with the latest information on the patient’s rehabilitation and level of independence.
Because falls are a common problem with joint replacements while a patient is in the hospital for the procedure and once they return home, the MMC nursing staff works to encourage patients’ mobility while helping prevent falls. In the hospital, patients are counseled not to try to get out of bed without a nurse or someone else with them. While many patients want to be independent and they don't want to bother a nurse to go to the bathroom, they are educated to understand the risk of falls and the best way to prevent them.
Infection Control Nurses Gloria Clemons and Casi Thompson tackled another initiative as part of this partnership. Their team received recognition for accomplishments in the national initiative of preventing hospital acquired conditions.  The specific team goal is to reduce the occurrence hospital-acquired catheter-associated urinary tract infections. They work closely with the nursing staff and facilitate unit-based teams focused on identifying possible causes and prevention of infections.
The nurses begin each day with “morning huddles,” where they evaluate every urinary catheter to determine whether it should be removed. Clemons said most infections result from a catheter being left in too long.
“Basically we’re trying to remove the catheter as early as possible,” Clemons said. “The sooner we get it out the more likely we are to prevent a catheter-related infection.”
At the core of this nationwide Partnership for Patients initiative are 16 Hospital Improvement Innovation Networks (HIINs), which partner with more than 4,000 hospitals, working with healthcare providers and institutions, to identify best practices and solutions to reducing hospital acquired conditions and readmissions.
Vizient is the nation’s largest member-owned health care services company. Backed by network-powered insights in the critical areas of clinical, operational and supply chain performance, Vizient empowers members to deliver exceptional, cost-effective care at every turn.

Mon, Dec 12, 2016

Christmas Blood Drive a big success

Marshall Medical employees and many folks from the community rolled up their sleeves to make a Christmas blood drive successful.

“The winter blood drive is extremely important to LifeSouth and Marshall Medical Centers,” said Derek Daugherty, LifeSouth Regional Manager. “It is strategically placed in early December to help ensure that we have enough blood to adequately supply our hospitals during the holidays and winter months when blood usage typically increases.  The terrific turnout for this blood drive will go a long way in making sure we are able to meet our hospitals’ needs, which is to make sure that their patients are taken care of.”

During the two-day drive at Marshall North, a total of 115 units of blood were collected. It would have been higher but 19 people were unable to donate for various reasons.

Marshall Medical gave every donor a gift certificate for a 12-14 pound turkey from Foodland in Guntersville. Jessica Strange won a $100 gift card to Foodland and MMC employee Randy Humphries won a Yeti cooler gift basket donated by LIfeSouth.

“We are so pleased with the amount of people who donated at the last blood drive,” said Greg French, director of food and environmental services at Marshall North. “We saw numerous new faces which tell us our continuing effort to get the word out to the community is working. The free turkey for each donor was a big bonus as well.”

Marshall Medical Centers host four drives at each hospital every year. In Marshall County alone, the two hospitals use more than 2,300 units of blood a year and 180 platelet products annually. Dates and locations of blood drives can be found on the MMC website at under the heading Upcoming Events.
All blood types are needed, but the greatest need is for negative blood types, especially O-negative which is the universal donor and can be used by all patients in an emergency. Donors must be at least 17 years old or 16 with parental permission, weigh a minimum of 110 pounds and be in good health. A photo ID is also needed.

A healthy donor may donate red blood cells every 56 days. Although about 38 percent of the population is eligible to give blood, only about 3 percent do.
In 2002, at the request of 15 hospitals in North Alabama, including Marshall Medical Centers, LifeSouth Community Blood Centers began collecting and supplying blood in our community. LifeSouth is a 501(c)(3) non-profit community blood supplier for more than 100 hospitals in Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
LifeSouth is a community blood center, meaning the blood supply collected from local donors directly serves the needs of patients in our community. The blood donated here will stay here for local patients. Only after the local needs are met will LifeSouth share the blood supply with other communities.
Growth at Marshall Medical means more demand for blood. The Marshall Cancer Care Center has increased the need for platelets, while red blood cells are essential for surgery.
LifeSouth considers itself partners with Marshall Medical. With two buses in Marshall County, 14 employees plus couriers who transport blood to hospitals, the company tries to meet the needs of the hospitals. In addition to being the community blood provider, LifeSouth picks up blood samples for testing and couriers are available 24/7 for blood deliveries. It conducts educational programs in schools to teach youngsters the importance of being a blood donor.

Tue, Dec 6, 2016

Marshall Medical earns high praise in Joint Commission survey

Marshall Medical Centers once again got a favorable review from a very intense survey that evaluates healthcare organizations and the care they provide.

“We are so very grateful for the efforts of all our employees to make MMC a healthcare system that can be trusted to provide safe and high quality care to our community,” said a statement from hospital administrators for North and South. “The Joint Commission surveyors verbalized high praise for the individuals that they interacted with – using adjectives e.g. competent, friendly, knowledgeable, confident, sharp, helpful, etc. Expertise within respective areas clearly showed, and altogether as a team, the result was impressive.”

The Joint Commission accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 healthcare organizations and programs in the United States, and is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards.

Findings by the Joint Commission are called ‘recommendations for improvement.’
Bill Smith, accreditation officer for Marshall Medical Centers, said the average single hospital receives 19 RFIs. Following the Joint Commission survey in November of the two Marshall Medical Center hospitals and its outpatient facilities, MMC received a total of 10 RFIs, eight of which were corrected before the survey team had finished.

“While we take every opportunity for improvement seriously, we were gratified to hear from the surveyors that they did not feel any of the findings indicated that we were not providing the highest level of care,” he said. “Our survey team was very complimentary of our facilities, staff and medical staff. They stressed we should be proud of the care we are providing.”

Hospitals also can receive ‘conditional level’ and ‘immediate threat to life’ findings, which are very serious and can show a problem with the care provided.

“MMC did not have any condition level findings or immediate threat findings,” Smith said.

The purpose of the Joint Commission survey process is to continuously improve healthcare for the public by evaluating healthcare organizations and inspiring them to excel in providing safe and effective care of the highest quality and value. The survey process also serves as a licensing or certifying inspection to allow the facilities surveyed to maintain licensure as a hospital and to bill insurance companies and Medicare.

Marshall Medical Centers are surveyed by Joint Commission every three years in a completely unannounced visit to the hospital. The Joint Commission notifies the hospital at 7:30 am on the day the survey will begin at 8 am. This means the hospital must always be prepared to show compliance with standards, he said. In addition, the survey team can look at records going back three years to ensure that the required quality of care is always being provided.

“The survey lasts about four days and covers every aspect of the operation of the Medical Centers,” Smith said. “The surveyors are physicians, nurses, hospital administrators and engineers and are leaders in their fields, usually with years of experience. During this survey we had a total of six surveyors come to MMC.”

During the survey staff members are interviewed and “traced,” with a surveyor following them through the performance of their duties to ensure that policies are being followed appropriately. 

“Surveyors also speak to patients and ask them about their stay and the quality of care they receive,” Smith said. “When they are interviewing patients they do so without Medical Center staff present to help ensure the patient is comfortable providing accurate information. Surveyors review patient medical records looking for proper documentation and to see that the patient received the most appropriate care.”

They also review employee files to ensure that staff members receive proper education and that hospitals are educating and testing employees to make sure they are competent to perform their duties, Smith said. Surveyors meet with department heads to ensure they receive the ongoing education needed to stay current with the ever changing practice of medicine. They also meet with the hospital board to discuss how leadership supports the mission of the facilities and to ensure leadership has involvement in improving the quality of care provided. 

“During the survey all areas of the hospitals are visited from the ICU all the way to the kitchen and everywhere in between,” he said. “In each area hospital employees are interviewed about their responsibilities and their knowledge of their duties.”

Even the buildings themselves are closely inspected during a Joint Commission visit to ensure the hospital maintains a safe environment. An engineer reviews documentation of all aspects of building maintenance from the fire alarm and sprinkler systems to the way oxygen is provided to patients.

“In addition to reviewing hundreds of pages of documents on testing and maintenance for the past year, he will also spend the majority of two days touring the building and checking to see that it is being properly maintained,” Smith said. “He will climb into the ceilings, crawl under the floors, go anywhere and everywhere to see how the building is being maintained.”

Marshall Medical did especially well regarding the hospital’s preparedness to respond to disasters, security issues and how it plans to provide care during these incidents, according to Smith. 

“The surveyor commented that she thought our group had done some of the best work she had seen in these areas,” he said.

While the main focus is on the hospitals themselves, surveyors also looked at out-patient facilities including centers for physical therapy, wound care, sleep, pain and the Marshall Cancer Care Center to ensure the care those patients receive is the same excellent quality given to patients in the hospitals, Smith said.

Mon, Dec 5, 2016

Volunteers encouraged to be Big Brother/Big Sister

Seth Sawyer is a busy young man. He works two part-time jobs and is in nursing school, but he still found time for a little brother.
Seth signed up for Big Brothers Big Sisters after a co-worker passed around a flyer at work. Coincidentally, Seth was paired with the grandson of that same co-worker. The two started getting together a couple of months ago and have spent their time playing basketball, seeing a movie, playing arcade games and eating out.
“He seems like a really nice, well-mannered kid,” Seth says of his little brother, 10-year-old Aiden Johnson. “He’s more outgoing than I guessed he would be. He’s very outgoing and just a lot of fun.”
Brenda Johnson, Aiden’s grandmother and Seth’s co-worker, says the two turned out to be a great match.
“They’ve hit it off,” she says. “Aiden loves him. He says Seth is cool.”
Brenda signed up her grandson for the program because he doesn’t see his dad and she knew he needed a positive male role model in his life. When he sees a boy out with his dad or an older brother, Aiden always says, “He sure is lucky.”
The 5th grader at Boaz Intermediate School was born with a cleft palate and has gone through many surgeries. His grandmother helped raise him and he lives with her now.
After she entered Aiden into the Big Brother program, Brenda, an emergency department nurse at Marshall South where she has worked for 21 years, started distributing materials about it around the hospital hoping her co-workers would join. She didn’t know Seth signed up until she got a call from the organization saying Aiden had been matched up with Seth.
The program coordinator for Marshall County, Alisha Collier, says it has worked out great.
“Seth is an awesome Big Brother to his Little Brother Aiden,” she says.
The program provides responsible, caring adult mentors to children who have only one parent in the household or whose parents work full-time and the child needs stability.
The process to become a Big Brother or Big Sister includes an in-person interview, an application, a valid driver’s license, proof of insurance, a home assessment and a background check. Volunteers must be at least 19 years old. A minimum of four hours per month is required with a one-year commitment.
Seth tries to spend more time with Aiden than the required amount. With two busy schedules they manage to spend 3-4 hours together every two weeks or three times a month.  He sees it as a way to give back after he was fortunate enough to be raised in a family with a lot of good people in his life.
“It’s knowing that you can give somebody something that you had and have an opportunity to do a good thing, make a difference in somebody’s life, hopefully for the better,” he says.
Seth, 21, a graduate of Guntersville High School, just entered the nursing program at Snead. He plans to graduate in 2018. He works as a tech in the emergency room at South, where he met Brenda.
Seth has watched Aiden grow a bit more confident during their time together. He talks to his big brother about girls and his friends. Seth encourages others to get involved with the program to be a friend to a youngster.
“If you really want to do it, you can,” he says. “It needs to be something you feel in your heart and not a burden.”
Children must be ages 5-13 to participate. Parents who believe their child would be a good candidate for the program may call the office at (256)660-5556 weekdays. There is no charge. Adults who would like to volunteer may call the office or visit it at 101 North Carlisle Street in Albertville.

Thu, Dec 1, 2016

Marshall Medical’s ambulance service wins award for second time

Marshall Medical Centers’ Emergency Medical Services has earned the 2016 Mission: Lifeline® EMS Silver Level Recognition Award for the second time. The hospital system’s EMS department runs 10 ambulances and employees 50 people.
“This award reflects the high level of care provided to cardiac patients by Marshall EMS as recognized by the American Heart Association,” said Bill Smith, director of facilities management for Marshall Medical. “AHA is the universally recognized authority on standards of cardiac care.  This recognition uses data that genuinely reflects upon the quality of care provided to those patients who are experiencing a cardiac problem.” 
The American Heart Association developed Mission: Lifeline to improve chances of heart attack patient by connecting healthcare providers, pre-hospital providers and community stakeholders in a system of care that saves and improves lives—from symptom onset through cardiac rehabilitation.
The American Heart Association recognizes the vital importance of EMS providers to the overall success of Mission: Lifeline STEMI Systems of Care. The correct tools and training allow EMS providers to rapidly identify the STEMI, promptly notify the destination center and trigger an early response from the awaiting hospital personnel.
The criteria to achieve the Mission: Lifeline EMS Silver award is based on meeting the achievement measures aggregated annually for one year with no single measure scoring below 75%. Marshall Medical Centers’ EMS achieved that goal. 

Wed, Nov 16, 2016

Project SEARCH and MMC win awards for program

Project SEARCH and MMC win awards for program
By Rose Myers
Marshall Medical Centers

Kayla Hodges thought she was just doing her job. Turns out she was doing award-winning work.
“I just buckled down and tried my best,” says the 20-year-old Marshall Medical North employee.
Apparently that was the winning formula because Kayla was awarded the Student of the Year award by the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
“I was very excited,” she says.
Kayla was one of the original nine students who interned at Marshall Medical with the Project SEARCH program in 2015-16. Project SEARCH is a national program that targets students with intellectual and developmental disabilities with a goal of helping them become employable.
“We are so proud of Kayla and all she has accomplished,’’ says Project SEARCH Instructor Beth Hanner.  “She has truly overcome so much and is reaching her goals through hard work and perseverance.”
The students from high schools all over the county worked for 10 months rotating between departments in Marshall North and South and TherapyPlus. Two students were hired to work permanently at each hospital, and five students landed jobs elsewhere.
Marshall Medicals’ partnership with Project SEARCH earned three awards from the Governor’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities, a program of the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Service or ADRS. The mission of ADRS is to enable Alabama’s children and adults with disabilities to achieve their maximum potential.
“We at Marshall Medical Centers have found the Project Search partnership to be a very worthwhile program,” says Sabrina Weaver, director of Human Resources for MMC.  “It has been very satisfying for members of our staff to work with these interns to help them learn job skills to better prepare them for future career opportunities.  And, it has provided us with some terrific employees, like Kayla, who have proven to be dedicated, hard-working and very appreciative of the opportunity.  I would highly recommend the program to other employers in the area.”

Marshall Medical Centers won Partnership of the Year for 2016 for recruiting people with disabilities, meeting the special needs of employees with disabilities and for demonstrating a genuine concern for the well-being of people with disabilities.

“The Marshall Medical Centers piece of this partnership formed through Project SEARCH is so important,” Hanner says. “They provide not only a facility but also a staff that mentors, guides and helps us lead our interns toward their goal of employment.” 

The Marshall County Project Search Team won the 2016 Collaboration Award “in appreciation of your true spirit of cooperation via collaborative resources and networking on initiatives that contribute to the employment of individuals with disabilities.”

Kayla, a graduate of DAR High School, lives in Grant and is planning to get married next year. She works in the environmental services department performing housekeeping duties. She said she likes working in a healthcare environment much better than her previous job in a fast food restaurant.

In Marshall County Project SEARCH is a partnership between ADRS, the state and county boards of education and ARC of Jackson County. The county school system provides job coaches to supervise students on the job. Job coaches stay with students until they become skilled enough to work independently. Students were selected from DAR, Albertville, Brindlee Mountain, Asbury and Douglas high schools.

Fri, Nov 11, 2016

Flagpole honoring veterans dedicated Nov. 11

Betty Holsonback likes to get things done. When she heard about an idea to install a flagpole in honor of veterans at the Marshall Cancer Care Center where she volunteers, she went to work.
“I thought that would be something I could do for my special veteran that he could see while he was living,” she said.
Betty went to work mailing letters to the couple’s friends, asking for donations of $1 and up. Betty and her husband, LaDon, are retired rural mail carriers. Many donations came from carriers throughout the state and even out of state in honor of LaDon, who was stationed in Japan during the Vietnam era. LaDon was in the Air Force and his two brothers served in the Army. At 69, he is battling dementia.
Mrs. Holsonback’s efforts raised a substantial amount of the needed money. Other generous donors also contributed to the effort. The flagpole will be dedicated on Veteran’s Day Nov. 11 in a ceremony at 3 pm. The public is invited.
“It will show veterans that people care about them,” Mrs. Holsonback says. “Veterans had to fight for our country, just as people with cancer have to fight for their health. As people drive past the flagpole on 431, I hope they will see that we’re proud of our veterans.”
Cindy Sparkman, director of the Marshall Cancer Care Center, said the idea for a flagpole was first raised when the Cancer Center was located inside Marshall South. A patient’s wife suggested something patriotic was needed in the clinic.  Her husband, who was not expected to live much longer, was a veteran of the Vietnam War. It was near Memorial Day, so before he returned for his next treatment, the staff made sure to place some patriotic decorations in the chemo area. 
“It was such a little thing, but it seemed to make a big difference to this patient and his wife,” she recalls. “That event helped me begin to recognize just how many veterans we serve and how important it is to honor their service while we have the opportunity.” 
After moving to the new location, Sparkman said she often thought about the need for a flag on the campus – one that everyone could see driving by, but also one that patients, particularly the veterans, could see from the lobby or chemo area as they receive treatment.  However, there was always another need that seemed to take precedence. 
“I was so excited when The Foundation for MMC agreed to help us promote this project and raise the needed funds to see it come to fruition,” she says. “I am particularly appreciative of the amazing effort Betty Holsonback has put into ‘raising funds to raise the flag’.  Within 24 hours of hearing me say we were going to do this, Betty had brought me several donations.  She has continued to collect money ever since. I have had many donations mailed to us in honor of her husband, LaDon because of her efforts. Through her efforts, Betty has certainly shown her love and devotion for her husband, and her respect for all veterans.”
The Veterans’ Flagpole at Marshall Cancer Care Center will honor veterans with a permanent monument at the base of the illuminated 40-foot flagpole engraved with names of the honorees.
“The Foundation is honored to be able to play a small role in raising the flag and recognizing our local veterans,” says Andrea Oliver, director of The Foundation for Marshall Medical Centers. “Much like the construction of the Cancer Care Center, this was a one-time opportunity we knew our community would rally around and we were not disappointed.”
If you would like to show your support and honor your veteran with a Stars or Stripes contribution, call (256)571-8026 or visit

Wed, Nov 9, 2016

Better Breathers Club makes living with COPD a little easier

Don Latham of Arab was diagnosed with emphysema 43 years ago, but it significantly worsened in the past few years.
“I have a tough time breathing,” said the 76-year-old. “As long as I’m sitting, I’m okay.”
He blames it on a combination of heavy smoking, working around harsh chemicals and some science that shows the condition can be inherited. Whatever the cause, he’s doing everything he can to breathe. That means using portable oxygen, going through rehab and taking breathing treatments when it gets really bad.
Another thing he does that seems to help – at least to lift his spirits - is attending monthly meetings of a support group called Better Breathers Club.
“Being with other people who have the same condition helps a lot,” Latham says. “You get to meet people that you can relate to.”
Marshall Medical’s Better Breathers Club shares information on lung disease for patients with chronic lung conditions, including COPD, defined as any lung disease that is considered chronic, as well as asthma, pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer. Monthly meetings help patients better manage their conditions and offer the support of being with patients facing the same diagnosis. Family members and caregivers are encouraged to attend.
“Better Breathers is a countywide service that offers support not only for the patient that has recently been diagnosed with COPD but also for ones who have lived with the diagnosis for years,” says Kaye Dean, director of the Respiratory Therapy Department at Marshall Medical Center North.
And it’s not only a sufferer who may benefit from the support group.
“We also provide support for the caregiver,” Dean says. “COPD includes a number of lung-related diseases and our hope is to provide the latest information on medications and treatment.   We believe that the more you know the better equipped you are to live with COPD.”       
The Better Breathers Club meets every month and features educational presentations on a wide range of relevant topics, including:

• How COPD affects the lungs
• Breathing techniques
• Exercise
• Talking with your physician
• Medications & other treatment options
• Medical tests
• Supplemental oxygen
• Home healthcare
• Lung transplants
• Air pollution

The purpose of the club is to offer patient-centered, community-based educational opportunities and support to people with chronic lung disease and their families, friends and support persons.

The goal of the group is to improve the quality of life for club members by providing disease-specific education and emotional connection. This may prevent the need for additional medical care, thereby reducing the health, economic and social burden of lung disease.

1. Provide those with lung disease the education and skills needed to achieve the highest level of functioning given the severity of their disease.
2. Teach club members and their families the basic concepts and techniques of pulmonary self-care, including coping skills.
3. Introduce new concepts in the care and treatment options for people with chronic lung disease.
4. Provide an opportunity for club members to share ideas and solutions to common problems on an ongoing basis.
5. Provide club members with an opportunity to share the psychological and social benefits of group interaction and problem solving.
6. Promote awareness about warning signs and symptoms and when to seek help.
7. Review and reinforce any prior education about lung disease and its management.
8. Increase community awareness about the Better Breathers Club, COPD and other lung diseases, and the work of the American Lung Association.
9. Review, reinforce and refer to the American Lung Association’s Lung HelpLine and Freedom From Smoking® resources when appropriate.

Here is the schedule for upcoming meetings, which are free and open to anyone:
* November 7 – Exercise/Breathing techniques
* December 5 – Energy conservation
* January 9 – Communicating with your physician/Ask the doctor
* February 6 – Medications
* March 6 – Emergencies and exacerbations
* April 3 – What the American Lung Association can do for you
* May 1 – End of year party

Better Breathers Club meets at 11 am in the Marshall Professional Classroom next door to the Marshall Cancer Center on U.S. 431. For more information or to register for a meeting, please call 256.571.8145 or email

Mon, Oct 3, 2016

Help raise a flag to our veterans

Honoring the many veterans who have fought a different kind of battle.

In addition to serving their country, many veterans have fought the battle of cancer. The Veterans’ Flagpole at Marshall Cancer Care Center will honor these men and women with an engraved monument plaque, which will be dedicated at a special ceremony on Veterans’ Day, Friday, November 11. We invite you to show your support with a Stars or Stripes contribution. Located in a convenient, highly visible setting, this is one flag that will wave with appreciation for decades to come.

A permanent monument at the base of the illuminated 40-foot flagpole will include engraved names of the honorees. For more information on giving, please call (256)571-8026 or visit

Fri, Sep 30, 2016

Cancer program to explain chemobrain - all survivors welcome

Cancer survivors talk about chemobrain – a term referring to confusion and forgetfulness that seems to strike chemotherapy patients. But what is chemobrain and is it real?

Experts from UAB will answer those questions Oct. 11 in a free presentation called Healthy Living to Improve Cognitive Function. It will be presented to the Marshall Cancer Care Center’s monthly survivor support group known as LIFE, Lean in for Encouragement. Jacqueline B. Vo, BSN, RN, a research nurse for the UAB School of Nursing, will explain how to think well using nutrition, exercise, coping strategies and stress management.

Vo is pursuing a PhD in nursing with a focus on improving the lives of cancer survivors. Think Well is a healthy living program developed from the UAB School of Nursing and funded by Susan G. Komen North Central Alabama. The goals of Think Well are to increase knowledge on cognitive changes that may occur after cancer diagnosis. These changes may be related to cancer treatment, aging, or other factors. Healthy living tips will be shared to improve cognitive function. All cancer survivors are welcome to attend this free event.

The event is Tuesday, Oct. 11 at noon in the Marshall Professional Center classroom, next door to the Marshall Cancer Care Center. Please call (256)571-8000 by Oct. 7 to register for the event.

Mon, Sep 26, 2016

Best medicine for a stroke: get to the hospital fast

The most important thing to know when a stroke happens is to move quickly. That’s the message shared by Marshall Medical Center’s stroke coordinator speaking to the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) group in Albertville.

“If you get to the hospital soon enough, we can reduce the risk of those long-term effects,” warned Allison Trammell, a nurse at Marshall North who is working to educate our community about strokes.

The numbers are scary. Every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke. It is the fifth highest cause of death in the country.

“It’s a very common thing we see happening these days,” she says.

That’s why Marshall Medical joined the North Alabama Stroke Network, which connects 10 hospitals with a group of neurologists in Huntsville. The network makes 24-hour access to a neurologist possible for rural communities.

Called teleneurology, the network allows a physician in Huntsville to evaluate a patient miles away using a high-definition camera. If the patient qualifies, the neurologist can order a clot-bursting drug called TPA to be administered.  Patients who receive TPA are three times more likely to recover with no debilitating effects than stroke patients who don’t get it, Trammell says.

The key is that the drug can only be given within a short time after symptoms begin, requiring stroke victims to get to the closest emergency room as soon as possible. “We want to act fast when it comes to a stroke,” Trammell says. An acronym makes it easy to remember how to recognize a stroke – FAST.

F – Face drooping

A – Arm weakness

S – Speech difficulty

T – Time to call 911

Trammell also shared Life’s Simple 7 to help prevent a stroke:

Manage blood pressure

Control cholesterol

Reduce blood sugar

Get active

Eat better

Lose weight

Stop smoking

Fri, Sep 23, 2016

Foundation is critical part of Marshall Medical’s success

If you’ve ever wondered why a hospital operates a foundation, you are not alone. Many people don’t know that Marshall Medical Centers is a community-owned, not-for-profit hospital system. Dollars raised by a foundation can make a big difference in the quality of healthcare rural medical centers are able to offer.

“The Foundation and fund raising are major parts of our hospitals,” Andrea Oliver, director of The Foundation for Marshall Medical Centers, told a group of seniors at a GoldCare55+ lunch n’ learn Thursday.

Medical providers everywhere are struggling financially. With healthcare costs rising and reimbursements declining, hospitals must go after every dollar they can get to continue operating.

“There’s not much more than fundraising we can do to keep our doors open,” Oliver said.

In Marshall County, 27 percent of residents are uninsured. They still require medical care whether they can pay for it or not. Marshall Medical is committed to caring for all people, regardless of their ability to pay. That translates to 11 percent of hospital patients being treated for free, she said.

One third of hospitals lose money every year and slowly are being forced to close their doors. Fortunately, that is not true for Marshall Medical, which contributes an economic impact of $277 million every year to the county, including the employment of more than 1,300 people. 

It is a tremendous resource for a community of 80,000 people to have two hospitals, a cancer center, and a professional center with wound, sleep and rheumatology clinics.

“We are really well served here,” Oliver said. “We are very proud of that at Marshall Medical Centers. We like to say we can compete with any hospital in the world.”

The Foundation serves as a bridge between the hospital system and the community. Its mission is to bring the resources necessary for MMC to take care of its patients and their families. To do that, it hosts four annual events:

  • Pink Pumpkin Run

  • Fishing tournament

  • Winter Ball

  • Women’s Guild Health Luncheon

Oliver encouraged the group to attend the upcoming Pink Pumpkin Run at Civitan Park on Oct. 29. It’s not just for runners, she said.

“You can just show up and eat pancakes.”

The Foundation also is known for its extensive community outreach efforts, including:

  • Scholarships for high school seniors planning a career in healthcare

  • Co-hosting an annual dinner for cancer survivors

  • MAP – free mammograms for women who cannot afford one

  • Quality of Life Program – paying for necessities like food or crutches for needy people leaving the hospital

  • Facility enhancements – purchasing equipment for hospitals

Oliver said reports show that last year Americans gave more money to charity than ever before. Of the more than $373 billion in donations in 2015, 71 percent was given by individuals.

“People are as generous as ever, especially in our community,” she said.

For more information on The Foundation for Marshall Medical Centers visit the website or contact Andrea Oliver at (256)571-8026 or email

Mon, Sep 19, 2016


Marshall Medical Centers was recently recognized as a top-ranked hospital by Cleverly + Associates.  Cleverly + Associates, a leading healthcare financial consulting firm specializing in operational benchmarking and performance enhancement strategies, released the findings as part of its new publication:  State of the Hospital Industry – 2016 Edition.

For the thirteenth year, the 2016 State of the Hospital Industry reports on its exclusive measure: the Community Value Index (CVI).  The CVI is a proprietary index created to offer a measure of the value that a hospital provides to its community.  The book outlines the data used to calculate the CVI as well as provides a list of the Five-Star (top quintile) hospitals – on which Marshall Medical Centers’ hospitals appear.

The topic of healthcare value is increasingly being discussed in the media.  Recent in-the-news highlights about hospital performance and pricing have driven the dialog, yet left interested parties in the hospital industry looking for objective information regarding the issues.  In response, the CVI was created to provide an assessment of a hospital’s performance in four areas: 

1. Financial viability and plant reinvestment
2. Hospital cost structure
3. Hospital charge structure
4. Hospital quality performance

Fundamentally, the CVI suggests that a hospital provides value to the community when it is financially viable, is appropriately reinvesting back into the facilities, maintains a low cost structure, has reasonable charges – and- provides high quality care to its patients.  Each of the four areas contains metrics that compare a hospital’s performance to an appropriate peer group.

Measurement in these areas suggest that hospitals operating with a high degree of community value are those that are low cost, low charge and use a strong financial position to reinvest back into the delivery of high quality patient care.  The combined performance in each of the four areas is used to calculate the Community Value Index score.  The hospitals with scores in the top twenty percent are designated as “Community Value Five-Star hospitals.
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Marshall Medical Centers
September 19, 2016

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The data used to derive this year’s CVI findings came from four sources:
1. 2014 Medicare Cost Report
2. 2014 Medicare Inpatient Claims
3. 2014 Medicare Outpatient Claims
4. 2011-2014 Hospital Compare Data

“It’s important to recognize that a large number of hospitals throughout the county may perform well in one or two of the core areas of the CVI.   However, the hospitals that are afforded the distinction of “Community Value Five-Star” have achieved positive performance in each of the four measurement areas,” stated Gary Gore, CEO of Marshall Medical Centers.

We are delighted to make this announcement to our community and hope this designation translates into a strong confidence in the value Marshall Medical Centers brings to our community, in the investments we are making in our facilities and in our ability to deliver quality health care.  ”

Wed, Sep 14, 2016

Students learn to be leaders in new year of Marshall County Youth Leadership

Marshall County Youth Leadership students kicked off the 2016-17 year tackling a ropes course, protecting eggs from a two-story drop and building a house of cards to practice what it takes to be a leader.
Juniors from nine high schools in Marshall County were selected after interviews to participate in the year-long program designed to increase their knowledge of their county and to hone their ability to lead. The program is sponsored by the Marshall County Leadership Challenge Alumni Association, Marshall Medical Centers and Citizens Bank & Trust.

Tuesday’s session at LifePoint Church started with students competing in basic exercises designed to teach leadership skills and team work, says Nick Longshore, worship arts pastor at LifePoint. Activities go beyond fun, he says. There are serious lessons behind them.
“They’ve done great,” he says. “Students usually do better than the adults we’ve done this with.”
Teams of students spent the afternoon seeing who could build the tallest house of cards. The winner reached 18 inches high. Then they were given balloons and plastic wrap to prepare an egg before it was dropped from a window. The eggs fared very well. They also build a tiny shelter designed to withstand a storm. The key was to work together, according to Longshore.
Monthly sessions will focus on community service, etiquette, healthcare, industry, law enforcement and local government. Students also will visit state legislators in Montgomery.
Students from each school are:

Jacob Barksdale

Mary Kathryn Pankey
Madison Smith
Mason Prince
Mercedes Childers
Bessie Gaspar
Thomas  Eubanks
Lexi Pace
Kayla Moon
Mark Washington
Madison Travis
Zachary Stewart

Brindlee Mountain
Kaylo Jimenez
Emily Hicks
Alyssa Grayson

Caelyn Wigley
Ruby Dendy
Seth Hawkins
Sara Coe
Jessica Lange
Savannah Sims

Marshall Christian
Isaac Emanuel
Parker Rose

Jessica Reyes
Marili Zurita

Alan Holderfield
Gunnar Pollard
Chesley Bristow
Kelsey Dumas

Alyssa Bolt
Taylor Corbin
Ashton Brook Dennis
Charles Montgomery

Emolee Milligan
Abbey Willis
Caroline Sellnow
William McLaughlin
Jack Clay

Mon, Aug 29, 2016

Have breakfast with a world-class geneticist – on Marshall Medical

Next month residents of Marshall County have the unique opportunity to have breakfast with a leading expert in the world of genetics.

Dr. David Bick, MD, PhD, a clinical geneticist with more than 20 years’ experience diagnosing and treating children with genetic disorders, will speak at the Lake Guntersville Chamber of Commerce Annual Healthcare Breakfast on September 8. All residents of Marshall County are invited to attend the free event held at Gunter’s Landing in Guntersville and sponsored by Marshall Medical Centers.


Dr. Bick is the medical director of the Smith Family Clinic for Genomic Medicine on the HudsonAlpha campus in Huntsville. The clinic, which opened last fall, is believed to be the first in the world designed solely for providing diagnoses to patients with undiagnosed disease through the exclusive use of whole genome sequencing data. That is a revolutionary development in the way doctors treat patients.


“Physicians know that establishing a diagnosis is essential to choosing or developing a treatment,” Dr. Bick says. “Our purpose is to bring whole genomics into the practice of medicine so physicians have more effective tools to identify and understand the underlying causes of disorders.”

Dr. Bick comes to HudsonAlpha from the Medical College of Wisconsin where he was professor in the department of pediatrics and the department of obstetrics and gynecology. While there, he also served as director of the Clinical Sequencing Laboratory, director of the Advanced Genomics Laboratory at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, medical director of the Genetics Clinic at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and chief of the division of genetics in the department of pediatrics.


Dr. Bick received his medical degree from George Washington University School of Medicine in 1981 and completed his residency in pediatrics at Yale-New Haven Hospital in New Haven, Conn. At the Yale University School of Medicine, he completed a fellowship in human genetics and pediatrics in 1986, followed by a postdoctoral research fellowship in human genetics in 1987. Dr. Bick is board-certified in pediatrics, clinical genetics and clinical molecular genetics.


During Dr. Bick’s tenure, the laboratories at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin were the first in the world to offer whole genome sequencing as a clinical test.

Dr. Bick has made the list of Best Doctors in America five times.


While at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Dr. Bick was asked about what motivates him.

“The best part of my day is seeing kids and parents and helping them understand something about the genetics of their situation and, where we can, helping them change the outcome of what’s happening with their kids.”

HudsonAlph offers genetic testing through requests from physicians for their patients. The most common reasons for wanting genetic testing are cancer diagnosis and risk, investigation of diseases suspected to have a genetic link and investigation of risk when family members have diseases with genetic components.

Mapping a person's DNA now takes days rather than the traditional weeks or months. According to HudsonAlpha scientists, it will get even faster soon. 

Since it was founded in 2008, HudsonAlpha’s research scientists have made advancements in the field of detection, progression, drug responses and new drugs.

“These advancements, I truly believe, will knock out these diseases in the next few years – certainly within the next 10 or 20 years,” said HudsonAlpha President Dr. Rick Myers during a luncheon last fall. “That’s our goal.”

To learn more about the world-class and world-changing research being done in the next county, make a reservation to hear Dr. Bick. This is truly a rare opportunity.

To reserve your seat at the breakfast, call the Lake Guntersville Chamber of Commerce at (256)582-3612. Deadline for reservations is Sept. 1. The breakfast will start at 7:30 am in the Gunter’s Landing Clubhouse at 1000 Gunter’s Landing Road.





Mon, Aug 29, 2016

Exercising and socializing fight off depression, dementia in seniors

A Marshall Medical psychiatrist schooled senior citizens about depression and dementia, explaining the difference between the two and how to avoid both.

“Aging, tragic events and retirement are normal life events,” said Dr. Rachel Pope. “Sadness is a normal response. It doesn’t mean you have depression, but it may lead to that.”

Dr. Pope repeatedly urged those attending a GoldCare55+ luncheon to exercise, socialize and eat a healthy diet to stay clear of these disorders.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless and crying

  • Decreased interest and isolation

  • Appetite and weight change

  • Sleep changes

  • Feeling worthless or excessively guilty

  • Poor concentration

  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Dr. Pope said older adults living in community settings such as independent living apartments or assisted living homes have been shown to have the lowest rate of depression in the country. Those people are more likely to socialize, get exercise and eat well, she said.

Dementia generally describes disorders that include memory problems as a symptom, such as Alzheimer’s. More than 5 million Americans and 89,000 people in Alabama over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s, Dr. Pope said.

Staying active, along with engaging in new tasks, learning a new skill or playing memory games, also help prevent Alzheimer’s.

GoldCare 55+ reaches out to area seniors by promoting a healthy and independent lifestyle. Members benefit from free health screenings, discounts on wellness events and better access to Marshall Medical Center services.

If you are 55 or older and would like to take advantage of all the benefits GoldCare 55+ has to offer, download an application from Marshall Medical’s website. If you have any questions, please call (256) 571-8025 (for Arab area residents: (256) 753-8025).


Thu, Aug 11, 2016

Project SEARCH students back for new year of on-the-job training

A new group of students from area high schools got started this week as Project SEARCH interns working in Marshall Medical Centers.

Their first day of training class involved learning proper handwashing, establishing an email address and getting their official Marshall Medical badges.

“They were very excited to get their badges,” says Instructor Beth Hanner.

Project SEARCH is an international program that targets students with intellectual and developmental disabilities with a goal of helping them become employable. Last year was the first time Marshall Medical participated in the program. Those students worked for 10 months rotating between departments in Marshall North and South and TherapyPlus locations. Two students were hired to work permanently at each hospital, and five students landed jobs elsewhere.

The second day of class had students practicing an ‘elevator speech’ so they know what to say when asked a question, such as where to find a doctor’s office. They prepared to explain to anyone who asks that Project SEARCH is a program that assists young people in acquiring job skills.

Another exercise students did was to review emergency codes that could be announced in the hospitals. To help them remember, one student drew flames to represent Code Red.

After completing training classes and an orientation session, students will begin working Aug. 22. They can be recognized in their brown scrubs monogrammed with ‘Project SEARCH.’

In Marshall County the program is a partnership between the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services, Marshall Medical Centers, Alabama Department of Mental Health, Alabama Council of Developmental Disabilities, the state and county boards of education and ARC of Jackson County. The Marshall County school system provides a teacher and Arc provide job coaches. Job coaches stay with students until they become skilled enough to work independently. Students were selected from DAR, Albertville, Brindlee Mountain, Asbury and Douglas high schools.



Mon, Aug 1, 2016

Thank-you letters serve as inspiration to do even better

Despite the best intentions and the most professional efforts, no person or organization is perfect.

However, judging by the number of cards, notes and letters of thanks frequently showing up in our hospitals, it appears that patients and their families leave Marshall Medical Centers with an enormous feeling of gratitude for our caring professionals who give their best to treat them or their loved ones

The following letter written after a scary episode with her elderly mother is a sample of the heart-warming correspondence sent by a thankful patient:

“I would like to commend Marshall Medical on my 92-year-old mother’s experience there recently.

I brought her to the ER on a Saturday afternoon with extreme pain in her stomach. 

There was no one in the waiting room so they got her right in. The gentleman who triaged her was super nice and knew what he was doing. The doctor saw her right away and immediately put her on a morphine pump to help ease her pain.  He ordered an x-ray and CT scan and explained that she would likely be referred to a surgeon.

A surgeon came in on a Saturday just for her. 

By 7:10 that evening, mother had already had surgery and was in her room.  In six hours, we had diagnosis, treatment, surgery and admission.  It really couldn’t have gone any smoother.

Everyone we came in contact with from the ER admission to the surgery to the inpatient admission - the whole staff was caring and concerned and professional. The physicians were very compassionate and responsive and everything was so clean. And just when you think it can’t get any better, the doctor’s office called to check on her the following morning after her discharge to schedule a follow-up visit for her.

I couldn’t have been more pleased with Marshall North and our whole experience and I wanted to express my appreciation.”

Military veterans often have a world of experience thanks to living and serving all over. Their travels usually expose them to a variety of healthcare. When we receive a letter such as this one from a retired Army colonel saying Marshall Medical provided the best medical treatment he ever had, we really are moved.

“I would like to express my appreciation for the truly superb care I received in while in Marshall Medical for a colonoscopy and endoscopy.

The performance of each and every one on the team must be classified as outstanding in every respect. From start to finish each made a presentation of being a skilled professional with pride in the hospital and pride in doing the job well.

 At the same time every possible courtesy was extended to me as the patient. Every step was explained to me in detail and my understanding and comfort seemed to be of paramount importance.

As a senior citizen and a veteran I have had ample opportunity to undergo and reflect on the hospital care experience.  None have had the uniform level of excellence encountered in this facility.”


The following letter writer realized that healthcare is more than medicine and machines. Real people took care of her parent in a calming way that made the whole experience better for everyone involved.

“Customer service is huge to me. I always take the time to commend and not just complain.

My father was transferred to Marshall Medical Center North from the nursing home.  When he was discharged he was doing so much better. Thanks to the terrific doctors; they were WONDERFUL. They were so good to my father.   

While he was on the 2nd floor the staff assigned to him could not have been more kind. 

My father is usually very agitated, but he was very calm while he was in the hospital.  I am very grateful to everyone who helped take care of him.” 


Beyond basking in the glow of such feedback, these letters of gratitude serve as inspiration to all our staff to try even harder to be the best we can be. We want to provide world-class healthcare close to home, but we also want those we treat to remember us as friends and neighbors. Because we are. That, in itself, is thanks enough.

Fri, Jul 15, 2016

Don’t be afraid of PSA test, prostate cancer survivor urges

George Thorne can’t think of a better time than Men’s Health Month to encourage men to get the simple test for prostate cancer.
“One out of every 6 men will have prostate cancer,” he says. “Most don’t die from it; they die with it.”
Thorne knows what he is talking about. In April of 2013 he went to his doctor for his regular physical. A PSA test showed high levels, up from 3 to over 5. A biopsy was next. That test came back positive for cancer.
“Fortunately, we caught mine early,” Thorne, 66, says. “Praise the Lord for that.”
Prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland. The PSA test measures the level of PSA in a man's blood. For this test, a blood sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis.
A normal PSA level is considered to be 4.0. For men in their 50s or younger, a PSA level should usually be below 2.5. Older men often have slightly higher PSA levels than younger men.
Thorne was given the option of surgery – having his prostate removed – or treatments. He chose radiation. He went to the Marshall Cancer Care Center every morning, five days a week for radiation, which took 15 minutes. After 44 treatments, he was done.
“It seems like a long time, but there was nothing to it,” he says. “I got to looking forward to coming here – I still do.”
Thorne would like to ease the minds of men who may be scared to have the PSA test. It’s a simple blood check, he says, and nothing to be afraid of.
“There’s no pain,” he says. “That’s what men like.”
It’s natural to be scared when you hear the word cancer – Thorne knows that all too well.
“But you don’t realize how easy it is on you,” he says. “It’s just a period in your life you have to manage but it doesn’t stop you from enjoying life.”
Thorne is originally from Muscle Shoals. In 1978 he moved to Albertville to coach football at the high school. He also taught history and health, and coached baseball, track and golf before retiring after 37 years.
Thorne’s wife, Ann, is an infection control nurse for Marshall Medical Centers.
Thorne can’t say enough about how nice the doctors and staff at the Cancer Center treated him.
“I felt that by coming here I would get individualized care more than Birmingham,” he says. “These are hometown people. We see them all the time. We see them at church.”
He recalls arriving a few minutes early for treatments to chat with his fellow patients in the waiting room.
“We had a bond,” he says. “We developed a relationship with one another. We became friends.”
And there was one more thing that he likes about the place.
“It helps that Cracker Barrel is next door,” he laughs.

Mon, Jul 11, 2016

Nurses get an extra hand to teach blood pressure checks

Instructors teaching new nurses how to take care of hospital patients just got an extra hand in the classroom, literally.
A human arm is the usual tool used to teach the skill of checking blood pressure. Because some people have lower and quieter blood flow than others often makes it difficult for first timers to know what they are listening for. A new mannequin just donated by Marshall North’s hospital auxiliary, lets teachers program a simulated arm to a specific blood pressure rate and to adjust the volume to a level easy to hear.
“I love it,” says Lisa Bearden, director of education at Marshall Medical Center North. “I’ve struggled for years teaching students who have never heard a blood pressure before. Now if they don’t hear it, I can turn up the volume.”
Bearden shared her need for the high-tech piece of equipment with the Hospital Auxiliary, the group that raises money through jewelry and book sales, as well as the hospital gift shop. They purchased the $1,300 arm and donated it to the hospital.
Diane Butler, director of volunteer services at Marshall North, says the group was happy to help.
“The Auxiliary designated giving funds back to the hospital when it was established,” Butler says.  “We have fundraising events and we make a profit from the gift shop sales.  Departments send in requests for a particular item. When it is approved by administration, the auxiliary votes and, if approved, it is bought.”
 Before the hospital got the simulated arm, they used a blood pressure cuff with a double-ended stethoscope, which allowed two people to listen at once. Now with the simulator, Bearden can clearly see if her student is hearing the blood pressure and whether they can correctly determine the rate. 
Emily Woodruff, a nursing student at Jacksonville State University, took CPR Certification from Bearden and got the opportunity to learn to check blood pressure using the simulated arm. 
“The arm was very helpful because it allowed her to learn how to take a manual blood pressure easily,” says Chief Nursing Officer Kathy Woodruff, who is also Emily’s mother. “Lisa was there to monitor her but the machine actually told her whether she got the correct numbers or not.”
Bearden teaches the basics of patient care to all new nurses and patient care assistants hired to work at Marshall North. Every two weeks a new set of nurses and assistants come through the classroom.
“I make sure they know the basic skills involved before they start providing patient care at the bedside,” she says.
Many skills are taught to new employees during orientation, including personal hygiene, bed-making, vital sign assessment and how to operate a hospital bed.

Fri, Jul 8, 2016

Douglas stroke victim helped by teleneurology network

Beverly Ann Ivey is living proof that a network linking hospitals to neurologists makes a huge difference in how much damage results from a stroke.
Ivey was the first patient at Marshall Medical Centers to use the telestroke network put in place in April to help stroke victims who live a distance from a neurologist.
“It was a miracle,” said Beverly’s husband Larry, who watched his wife begin moving her limbs soon after receiving a clot-busting drug that works only during a short window following a stroke. “Immediately after they gave her the shot she moved her arm and leg.”
When it was determined at Marshall South that Ivey had suffered a stroke and met the qualifying criteria for teleneurology, the emergency doctor initiated a ‘stroke alert,’ which relayed her vital information to the network,  and sent her for a CT scan. Upon arrival at the ER, patients with symptoms of stroke are first evaluated to determine if they are a candidate for the teleneurology system. 
Dr. Amit Arora, a Huntsville Hospital neurologist and director of the stroke network, assessed Ivey in the emergency room using a video-capable computer. Although he was on a computer screen, he could see Ivey along with all her family and ask them questions.
“It was just like he was personally there,” Larry Ivey said. “He was looking at her, looking at her records and scans. It was neat.”
Ivey’s daughter, Courtney Easterwood, is an OB nurse at Marshall South. She was very impressed to see the stroke network in action.
“It was very smooth,” she said. “There were no hiccups. We didn’t have to wait. He was right there. He could see and assess her. It was not just a phone call.”
Arora ordered the tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) be given to Ivey. The reaction was immediate. Larry Ivey said hospital staff members were gathering to witness the event and exclaimed as she was able to respond to commands to lift her arm and leg.
“Her right side was completely flaccid before,” Easterwood said. “I know her speech is affected but I hate to think how she would be without the tPA.”
“It’s not as bad as it could be,” Ivey, 69, said in her halting speech.
Dr. Scott Kelley was on duty in the South ER when Ivey came in.
“She was a really good candidate,” he recalled.
That’s because her family was with her and knew exactly when her symptoms started. Often a stroke strikes when a person is sleeping and may go on for hours before being noticed. Ivey had had no previous brain bleeds from her first stroke and that is a good sign. Also, her blood pressure was well controlled.
“It all went very smoothly,” Kelley said.
The neurologist was reached quickly and saw for himself the lack of movement in one side, affected speech and facial drooping. He recommended using tPA, and within 30 minutes she was moving her arm and leg with no difficulty.
Kelley said that is very important because loss of mobility is much more difficult to regain than speech.
“Speech will keep improving for six months to a year,” he said. “Mobility is the key.”
Kelley said the telestroke network worked very well for Ivey. Before, time was wasted trying to locate a neurologist. Most physicians will not administer tPA without a neurologist first recommending it.
“The issue really is time,” he said. “It helps having a conduit like this. It’s a good system.”
Ivey is in the unique position of being able to compare the effects of a stroke with and without the drug. She previously had a stroke in August 2015, before the stroke network was established. She did not receive tPA. After 10 days in the hospital, she couldn’t walk or talk. She went to rehab for 21 days to regain some mobility and speech. Larry Ivey said he began noticing improvements in her writing, talking, thinking and cooking in late January and February of this year.
The recent stroke, which occurred on May 6, was much less damaging. She regained mobility right away and her speech is gradually improving. She did not need rehab.
“I honestly believe if that first stroke had been treated like this one she would have hardly any deficits,” Easterwood said. “She would probably be at 90 to 95 percent.”
Ivey said she wants to speak out to urge people to get stroke victims to the hospital as fast as possible. She knows how much difference time makes.
“If you could see how I was and could see how I am now,” she said. “The ragged edge of my speech is the only thing lacking.”
Like her daughter, Ivey also worked as a nurse at the hospital when it was known as the ‘B&A.’ That was before she and Larry travelled and lived abroad during the 22 years he spent in the military. They built their dream home in Douglas 16 years ago, filling it with furniture they collected while living in Germany.
Easterwood, her son Bryce and her brother Matt, along with their Dad, were all at the house with Ivey when the recent stroke occurred. Easterwood had brought lunch and was feeding Bryce when Ivey started speaking gibberish.
“The little one looked at me like I had two heads,” Ivey recalled.
Easterwood asked her mother to move her arm. When she couldn’t, they knew it was another stroke. She called for her brother, who carried Ivey to the car.
“That’s how fast it happened,” Easterwood said. “I turned around and she couldn’t get her hand to her mouth.”
When they got Ivey to the hospital, her right arm and leg were dragging.
Easterwood was well aware how crucial the time factor is to a stroke victim. She knew her hospital had recently joined the stroke network and she was hopeful.
“Everything turned out good,” she said.

Tue, Jul 5, 2016

Germs are everywhere! Our best defense against them is to wash our hands

Germs are everywhere! Our best defense against them is to wash our hands. That’s the take-away from a Germ Clinic taught to young campers by an infection control nurse at Marshall Medical Center North.
“I help prevent infections,” RN Gloria Clemons told students. “Infections are caused by what? Germs.”
Clemons demonstrated how germs are spread by shaking hands with each child after she rubbed glow powder on her hands. Then the children looked at their hands under a black light – called the Germ Buster – and saw how the substance spread from her hands to theirs. Clemons then showed them how it also had spread around the room.
After discussing the lesson and the importance of hand washing, students washed their hands and enjoyed lunch. The program was the idea of Heather Epperson, director of children’s ministry at Guntersville United Methodist Church, who requested the hospital offer a lesson for the 4-year-old to second-graders in her Kids in Motion summer camp. 

Fri, Jul 1, 2016

Designed like a horse’s tendon, brace helps stroke victim walk again

Billy Lemaster is living proof of a new technology that has ‘kickstarted’ his ability to walk again after suffering two strokes.
“I feel comfortable with it,” Lemaster says of the Kickstart brace he wears on his left leg. “I feel stable. Before, when I stood up, I felt like I was going to fall. This stopped that.”
Following an announcement in March that Lemaster was the first person in Alabama to use the new technology, calls started coming in to the Lemasters and to their daughter, Shay Wisener, who found the patented device on the internet. One couple came from Florida to see it and try it out. It’s a big topic of conversation at TherapyPlus North where Lemaster and his wife Carolyn work out every morning. He encourages others to try it and hopes it will help many people.
Previous braces had proved unsuccessful for Lemaster. When Wisener, an employee at TherapyPlus, discovered Kickstart on the Internet, she contacted the company for more information.
“It was the maker of the brace who contacted me right back,” Wisener recalls. “He said it was meant to be because the very next week he would be visiting Alabama for the first time.  He himself brought the Kickstart for dad to try.”
As soon as he put it on Lemaster could tell an immediate difference.
“He hadn’t been able to get up without assistance in a long time,” she says.
It was the legs of a horse that inspired Kickstart’s inventor to design a brace that mimics those long and powerful tendons, and uses spring-based technology to encourage proper walking. According to the website for Cadence Biomedical, maker of Kickstart, the wearable rehabilitation device stabilizes the hip and leg while using power from an “exotendon” to gently lift and move the leg through a safe, guided and proper step. In addition to stroke victims, the technology can help those with spinal cord injuries and other neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis.
Lemaster compares the look of the brace to a compound bow with its pulleys and cables. A ratchet near his hip bone controls the tension on a cable that leads to a spring near his calf, which helps him pull his foot upward. The custom-made device is molded specifically for his foot.  He says he can tell a big difference even when he takes the brace off.
“I can pick up my leg a lot better,” he says. “Eventually it gets to dragging.”
Lemaster had the first stroke in 2011 and the second exactly two years later. He and the family were at the beach when he woke up with a headache. He became very tired on the drive home, he recalls. When they got home, Lemaster couldn’t lift his leg to get out of the car. The following morning, he couldn’t lift his arm and finally went to the hospital, where he stayed three and a half weeks.
He had made a lot of progress with his recovery when the second stroke hit. This time Lemaster was home alone when he realized he couldn’t lift his arm to open the refrigerator. He waited for Carolyn to get home to go to the hospital, where he stayed for two and half weeks.
“It really knocked me back,” he says, affecting his speech and leaving him weak on his left side.
Born and raised in Albertville, Lemaster, 67, lives on Georgia Mountain, home of the Stoney Mountain Golf Course he has owned for the past 15 years. Previously he worked for a Pennsylvania company travelling and buying golf courses. He had been a longtime golfer at Stoney Mountain when he got a chance to buy it.
“I never wanted to retire,” he recalls. “I love weed-eating and mowing there. I played golf every other day.”
Although he can’t do those things any more, he can still mow his yard, drive a car and fish. He fishes with his brother who helps him climb in and out of the boat.
“I can still fish as good as I ever could,” he says.
Lemaster has been a regular at TherapyPlus since his first stroke. Carolyn retired in December from teaching special education at Evans Elementary and now the two start every morning with a workout there. Lemaster has nothing but praise for his physical therapist, Jessica Martin.
“She’s something else, you better believe it,” he says.
She also speaks highly of her patient.
“He works hard,” Martin says of Lemaster. When he started therapy, he had to have two people to help him walk or he had to sit in a wheelchair and be pushed. From there, he progressed to needing only one person to help him. He then became able to use a walker and then a cane. Since getting Kickstart, he’s advanced to walking on his own, she says.
“Even with a stroke, the more you work at it, the better results you get,” Martin says.   
 Wisener, one of the Lemasters’ two daughters, says her dad also benefits from the way the brace helps him rise from a seated position.
“He can pop up out of a chair,” she says.
Carolyn stresses that stroke victims improve at their own rate. She has watched her husband gradually get better. Though everyone wants it to happen quickly, she advises patience.
“It’s not a quick fix,” she says of the Kickstart. “It’s a training tool to assist with the process. With a stroke, it just takes a long time. It’s still a lengthy process.”
Still, she’s thankful of the progress her husband of 50 years has made.
“We’re very fortunate,” she says. “It could have been a lot worse.”

Mon, Jun 27, 2016

Hospital helps students become scientists for a day

Marshall Medical Centers helped make scientists out of 20 students attending English Learners Camp this week.
Wearing blue lab coats donated by the hospital, the kindergarten through 6th-grade students performed scientific experiments that made them giggle and then left them speechless.
“The goal is for them to practice speaking English,” says Anjanette Arnold, the EL teacher at Guntersville Elementary who led the two-week camp. This is the second year of the camp, which Arnold hopes to stretch to three weeks next summer.
Arnold first showed students that oil and water doesn’t mix by adding baby oil to water that had been tinted blue. Students shook their water bottles then watched the liquids separate again. They turned the bottles on their sides to create waves.
The next experiment demonstrated what happens when you mix baking soda and vinegar. Arnold put the two in a clear bottle, then stretched a balloon over the mouth of the bottle. Her students were awed when the balloon inflated.
Then students created their own “flubber,” a visco-elastic material inspired by the movie of the same name.  They combined glue with green coloring, water and borax to make gooey, stretchy, sticky blobs. They loved it.
Before Science Day, campers toured Citizen’s Bank, Domino’s, Cathedral Caverns and a petting zoo. They learned about the life cycle of a butterfly, planted seeds and visited the Guntersville Public Library.
“We want to give them experiences they would not otherwise get,” says Arnold.
Campers are selected from the school’s English Learners class, whose members speak a language other than English at home. The group includes Haitians, Hispanics, Vietnamese, Chinese and Indian.
Arnold works with EL students 30 minutes each day during the regular school year. They practice English, reading, vocabulary and blending words.
“I’m just supporting what the teachers do in the classroom,” she says.
When asked what they liked best about camp, Amy picked computers. Emely said her favorite part was going to Domino’s where each student got to make their own pizza.
EL Camp ends at noon with students being fed lunch. Each got to take home a lab coat, flubber and a lanyard donated by the Foundation for Marshall Medical Centers.

Thu, Jun 9, 2016

New MRI larger, quieter, better images

A new MRI just installed at Marshall North is more comfortable for patients because it is roomier and quieter.

“It’s capable of accommodating larger patients and hopefully will reduce claustrophobia because the opening is larger,” said Wade Wright, director of diagnostic imaging for Marshall Medical Centers. “Patients won’t feel squeezed so it will be a more relaxing environment.”

It’s also produces images faster and they are higher quality than older MRIs it replaces.

The Optima* MR450w MR system weighs 13,000 pounds and had to be brought in with a crane. A large hole was cut into the outside wall of the hospital to get the machine inside. The opening is being repaired as the rest of the room is renovated with fresh paint, new flooring and cabinetry. It will be ready for patients in mid-June.

“It’s a nice little facelift to the entire area,” Wright said.

The previous MRI – which stands for Magnetic Resonance Imaging – was installed in 2004. As technology develops, health providers must choose whether to upgrade or replace aging equipment. In this case, Wright said it made more sense to buy new.

One reason for that decision was that the weight capacity on MMC’s older machine was 350 pounds. The new one can accommodate a patient up to 500 pounds. That means more comfort for all patients. The older machine was sold to a company that will refurbish it, which reduced the price tag of buying new.

Another feature of the new system is advanced vascular and neuro imaging, which improves visibility of the blood vessels, brain and skeletal systems. Previous systems required an injection of contrast dye into the bloodstream to make blood vessels visible; the higher quality possible with the new system makes contrast unnecessary. It also provides advanced imaging for breast MRIs, if mammography reveals a mass that needs further testing. It also scans faster than older models.

“Patients may not have to be in as long because it’s faster with better imaging,” Wright said.

The MRI at Marshall South will be replaced in late June or July with the same system just installed at North. Marshall North was done first because less construction was required. The current MRI at South is housed in an area of the hospital without an exterior wall to cut through.

Wed, Jun 8, 2016

New hospital board members from Arab, Douglas

Marshall Medical Centers’ newest board member feels like he’s already part of the hospital family.

Stan Chaffin, a lifelong resident of the Horton/Douglas area, recalls his grandmother going to work in the early 1960s in the OB department at Marshall South. He often visited her there.

“Some of my fondest memories as a child were going there,” he recalled. “I’ve had an interest and a love for that hospital ever since then.”

His grandmother eventually died in the hospital following a tragic car wreck when she was just four months away from retirement. Both his parents have been patients at South and Chaffin himself has had surgeries there. He is very proud of the facility that has grown up with him.

“It is certainly a wonderful thing to have a hospital of this caliber in this area,” he said.  “To be locally owned, in my opinion, is even more of a plus.”

Chaffin said he couldn’t be more proud to become a part of the Marshall County Health Care Authority Board of Directors, and to do his part to continue the legacy created by the body.

“I hope to continue to see more growth and to help maintain and improve services,” he said. “I really feel honored to be asked to serve on this board.”

Chaffin, 58, works as the assistant general manager of the Douglas Water Authority and is an adjunct professor of accounting and business at Wallace State Community College. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business management at Jacksonville State University and master’s degree at Alabama A&M University.

He has been married for 32 years to his wife Sandra, who recently retired as a Douglas schoolteacher. The have three children and five grandchildren.

Another new board member also has family ties to the Marshall Medical system. Alabama Appeals Court Judge Liles Burke is an Arab native. His stepdad, the late State Sen. Sid McDonald, was a member of the Healthcare Authority 1984 to 1989. Burke recalled McDonald being on the board when Marshall North was built.

“As a child I visited relatives at the old Arab Hospital and I’ve been treated at Marshall North,” he said. “I recognize how truly important it is to a county to have this kind of quality healthcare here. If you look around at other counties they’re losing their hospitals.”

Burke lauded the board’s reputation for serving the county as a whole.

“They don’t fight wars on politics or turf or this side of the county versus that side of the county,” he said. “I hope I can do my part to continue that.”

Burke is the son of Arab attorney Claud Burke and his mother is Jane McDonald of Union Grove. He received his undergraduate degree from The University of Alabama in 1991 and, in 1994, his law degree from The University of Alabama School of Law. While there, he served as the student member of The University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

Burke began practicing law with his father in the firm now known as Burke, Beuoy & Maze. He served as Arab's city attorney and prosecutor, and in 2001 was named municipal judge. He held that office until 2006 when he was appointed as district judge of Marshall County by Gov. Bob Riley. He was elected to the position in 2008.

While serving in that post, Burke started Marshall County's first family drug court and, along with District Judge Tim Riley, implemented one of Alabama's first domestic violence courts.
In 2011, Burke was named by Gov. Robert Bentley to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, filling the office left vacant by the election of a judge to the Alabama Supreme Court. He was elected to a six-year term in 2012.

Burke is currently serving as president of the Alabama Appellate Judges Association. He also serves as an officer in the Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps of the Alabama Army National Guard, and is assigned to the 122nd Troop Support Command in Selma.

Burke and his wife Natalie have two children.

Burke and Chaffin are replacing two longtime board members who stepped down in April. Randall Ferguson, who is retired from Ferguson Williams, became a board member in 1998. Norman Spear, owner of Albertville Discount Pharmacy, also joined the board in 1998.
The board was created originally on April 17, 1950.
Current board members are:
* Michael W. Alred, chairman
* Nancy Stewart, vice chairman
* Roy Rollings, treasurer
* Pat Allen, secretary
* Joe Abercrombie
* Wayne Crews
* Dr. Donald Slappey
* Dr. Winter Wilson
* David Walker

Mon, Jun 6, 2016

Black belt faces the fight of her life

Gladys Holley has two black belts but she faced the fight of her life in knocking out a wound that would not heal.
“I was a fighter,” she says. “I could take pain. I’ve had a broken foot, hand, fingers and ribs. But this is the worst pain I’ve ever been though in my life.”
Her painful journey began in late 2014 when she found a knot under her arm that turned out to be cancer in her lymph nodes. Before long, she had 29 lymph nodes removed, a double mastectomy and nearly 30 radiation treatments.
In January a spot came up on her chest that turned out to be a staph infection requiring another surgery, which was done in Cullman, same as all her previous surgeries. For help in healing Holley turned to the Marshall Wound Healing Center, which required her to wear a wound vac for weeks. A wound vac applies negative pressure (a vacuum) at the wound site through a dressing, which helps draw the edges of the wound together and remove infectious materials.
“Mother, at one point, was in so much pain she was not sleeping and her personality changed,” says Holley’s daughter, Marlene Treece, a nurse at the Veterans Clinic in Guntersville. “It was unbearable to be around her. She was just in misery.”
When the wound vac was removed to allow the skin to heal on its own, it was determined that a skin graft was necessary. Having skin taken from her leg and applied to her chest left her with two wounds to heal. Holley once again had to use a wound vac to encourage tissue growth at her wound site. She also began a course of hyperbaric oxygen therapy at the Marshall Wound Healing Center to promote healing. The staff there came to know Holley very well when she came for her daily treatments. They realized Holley is a fighter in more ways than one.
“She always had a smile on her face,” says Sarah Smith, director of the Wound Healing Center. “She brightened our day.”
Belinda Howard, a certified registered hyperbaric nurse at the Wound Center, says Holley had a remarkable sense of humor. She even named her wound vac and said she looked forward to divorcing him.
“She always said, ‘Today is better than yesterday. I’m getting better,’” Howard recalls.
Holley, 63, who lives in Arab, believes her history of fighting has helped her survive the painful battle that is almost won. It also has strengthened her faith.
“A lot of people couldn’t have gone through what I went through,” she says. “It was God. If it hadn’t been for God, I wouldn’t have made it.”
Growing up poor, Holley recalls being picked on and called a ‘hillbilly’, which she says created the tough fighter she became.
“I just got mad at the world,” she recalls. “You had to be tough or die when I was coming up.”
So she quit school and went to work in a poultry plant. When she saw a newspaper ad for karate lessons she knew that’s what she wanted – to learn how to fight back.
“I thought, ‘I’m going to get into that and nobody’s going to pick on me anymore.’”
Holley excelled at karate, soon earned a black belt and started teaching. Ironically she taught in the same school gym where she had been bullied. She eventually taught lessons at the Arab Rec Center. She studied Tang Soo Do, a Korean martial art, and earned a black belt in that too.
“I tested with a broken foot,” she laughs.
The highlight of her fighting life was when she went to the Battle of Atlanta where she met martial artists turned screen stars Chuck Norris and Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace, who worked out with Holley.
“That was the greatest thing in the world that ever happened to me,” she says.
Holley won three championships before giving up karate after her husband died nine years ago.
“I just lost interest in everything,” she remembers.
She still works out in the hallway of her small apartment in Arab. Her kicks are impressive and her arm strikes and punches are fast.
Holley is grateful to the staff at the Wound Center, which she still visits weekly, for diligently working to help her heal. She also appreciates her daughter for changing the dressing on her wound every other day.
“I don’t know what I’d do without her,” she says. “And I’m thankful for my sweet nurses and good doctors.”
Treece says she is thankful that her mother’s suffering is almost over. She still tires easily and can’t do her own grocery shopping or attend church but she’s improving all the time. Treece calls her mother every day and does all she can for her.
“She’s getting there,” she says of Holley. “She’s on the mend. I love that little woman.”

Mon, May 23, 2016

MMC's lung nodule clinic opened one year ago due to high demand

The high occurrence of ‘spots on the lung’ prompted Marshall Medical Centers to open a clinic to treat lung nodules one year ago so residents could get diagnosis and treatment within 48 hours of a diagnosis.

Dr. Chris Manganaris, a pulmonologist, recognized the need to start the Marshall Pulmonary Lung Nodule Clinic, giving sufferers somewhere to go locally.

By far the largest cause of lung nodules that are determined to be cancerous are from smoking, he says. That’s because Alabama and Marshall County in particular have more smokers than the national average. About 20 percent of local folks are addicted to tobacco. That’s why Dr. Manganaris includes counseling as part of the treatment at the clinic. Patients who are smokers get additional counseling aside from discussion about their pulmonary nodule diagnosis. 

“The risk of cancer makes people fearful,” he says. “Lung cancer mortality is very high. Most of the time the only cure is resection – removing a lobe of the lung. I had one patient lose an entire lung. He managed fine with only one lung. I’ve seen cancer in smokers as young as 25 years old.”

A pulmonary nodule is a small, round growth of tissue in the lung. They can range in size from less than 1/5 inch (4 mm) to a little bigger than an inch (25 mm). Most pulmonary nodules are detected when imaging tests of the lung are being performed for a different problem. Pulmonary nodules are usually not cancerous. Follow-up treatment or testing is based on the size of the pulmonary nodule and your risk of getting lung cancer. A thoracic surgeon cannot operate on a lung nodule smaller than 8 mm, which is less than half an inch. It takes months to double in size. 

Malignant pulmonary nodules can result from lung cancer or from cancers that spread to the lung from other places in the body.

Benign pulmonary nodules can be caused by various things. Some of the causes include:

  • Bacterial, fungal, or viral infections. This is usually an old infection that is no longer active, but it can sometimes be a current, active infection.
  • A benign mass of tissue.
  • Inflammation from conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.  
  • Abnormal blood vessels in the lungs.

One source of a lung nodule is Histoplasmosis, an infection caused by breathing in spores of a fungus often found in bird and bat droppings. A person can be exposed from walking along the lake where ducks and geese live or from exploring caves, home to bats, giving the infection the nicknames “spelunker’s lung" and "caver's disease."

Histoplasmosis causes flu-like symptoms, including fever and cough. The body fights off the infection leaving scar tissue, which later shows up on an x-ray or CT scan as a lung nodule.

“I’ve had to hospitalize several people for histoplasmosis,” Dr. Manganaris says. “It’s rare – less than 5 percent of people can't fight it off and require hospitalization and treatment.”

Another case a few weeks ago involved a woman who was rolling her own homegrown tobacco and got the infection. It apparently came from fertilizer used on the plant.

“She’ll likely need a year of treatment,” he says.

Dr. Manganaris estimates he sees about 10 cases a year of histoplasmosis in the hospital or clinic.

Pulmonary nodules that are benign normally do not require any treatment because they usually do not cause symptoms or breathing problems, but may be monitored with follow-up CT scans. The frequency of these CT scans will vary based on the size of the nodule and the risk factors for lung cancer

The Marshall Nodule Clinic is staffed by a group of physicians who take a team approach to treatment. They are:

Dr. Gideon Ewing - Medical Oncology

Dr. Tom Payne - Radiation Oncology

Dr. Jenna Carpenter - Pulmonology

Dr. Christopher Manganaris - Pulmonology

Dr. Dustin Bright - Interventional Radiologist

Dr. Jonathan Storey - Medical Oncology

The Marshall Pulmonary Lung Nodule Clinic schedules patients on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It is located in the Marshall Professional Center, next to the Marshall Cancer Care Center.

If you have been diagnosed with a lung nodule, your doctor may refer you to the Clinic.For more information call 256.894.6910.

Tue, May 17, 2016

Project SEARCH students celebrate graduation

The graduation of nine Project SEARCH students drew a big celebration at Marshall Medical Centers.
Hospital staff, state officials, parents, grandparents, teachers and job coaches watched as the group previously considered unemployable young adults graduated from a year of learning skills on the job.
“Today is about you and the opportunities you’ve been given,” Micah Williamson of the Alabama Department of Rehab Services told the group. “I want to thank the hospital for the opportunity for these young peoples’ lives to be changed.”
The high school students worked for 10 months rotating between departments in Marshall North and South and TherapyPlus. Two students were hired to work permanently at each hospital, and five students landed jobs elsewhere.
Project SEARCH is a national program that targets students with intellectual and developmental disabilities with a goal of helping them become employable.
The significance of the milestone was not lost on the students. Cassie Cook, who works in the cafeteria at South, couldn’t hold back tears as she thanked her grandparents and her job coaches.
“Each one of you has impacted my life in some way,” she said. “I am blessed to wake up every morning and know I will have a great day at work.”
David Turley, who now works at Classic Car Wash, said he was a ‘nobody’ before joining the program.
“Before Project SEARCH, I was just a video game geek,” he said. “Project SEARCH opened up a world I never knew. It helped me go from a nobody game geek to a person that the community knows and loves. Thank ya’ll.”
Crystal Richardson, program coordinator for special education services for the state board of education, said there are 10 Project SEARCH sites in Alabama. Statewide 70 percent of those students are employed, which exceeds the national average.
Job Coach Beth Hanner said the interns received warm welcomes at each training place.
Ann Kennamer, also a job coach, said the students blossomed during the experience.
“We’ve seen them transform because you were focused on their abilities, not their disabilities,” she said.
Jim Perdue, Alabama Commissioner of Mental Health, said people with disabilities average an unemployment rate of about 75 percent.
“These graduates have an employable rate of about 75 percent,” he said. “You are winners.”
In Marshall County the program is a partnership between ADRS, the state and county boards of education and ARC of Jackson County. The county school system provides job coaches to supervise students on the job. Job coaches stay with students until they become skilled enough to work independently. Students were selected from DAR, Albertville, Brindlee Mountain, Asbury and Douglas high schools.

Mon, May 16, 2016

Hospital employee for 50 years still going strong

When Diane Butler started working for Marshall Medical centers, the old Guntersville Hospital was just three years old.

When patients went to the emergency room, they entered at the back of the hospital and rang a buzzer to let a nurse know they were there.

Four doctors rotated being on call. They were in the hospital only when they were called in or when they saw their own patients in the hospital.

A hospital room cost $10 a day for an adult and $2 a day for a baby to stay in the nursery.

Lyndon Johnson was president of the United States.

Butler started work on May 16, 1966 – 50 years ago Monday – and she has no intention of retiring any time soon.

“I will retire when I feel I’m no longer helping people,” she said. “I just appreciate being able to work at the hospital all this time.”

Butler, 72, is director of volunteer services at Marshall North. She has cut back to part time but still supervises about 50 hospital auxiliary volunteers, as well as the junior volunteer program for high school students and the Angels for Special People program, where volunteers read to patients who may be alone. She also runs two large jewelry sales and two book sales a year – both of which fill the hospital’s main lobby and raise money for hospital furnishings. She even helps out in the gift shop and information desk when needed, and puts together a budget for her department every year.

“Diane works tirelessly to promote good customer service and to provide leadership for our many volunteers,” says Cheryl Hays, administrator at North.  “Her life-long dedication to patients and to MMC is evident daily in her interactions with patients, families, employees, and managers.  She is loved and respected by all.

Butler feels the same way about her co-workers.

“I love it here,” she says. “The people make all the difference. They’re so polite. “It’s ‘Miss Diane this’ and ‘Miss Diane that.’ They’re really good to me.”

Butler moved to Guntersville from Alabama City in 1964. The Guntersville hospital was built the year before and was impressive, she recalls.

“It was really something,” she says. “Our hospital stayed full.”

Butler started out in accounts receivable at a time when every billing statement was written by hand and put in the mail monthly. She remembers when the hospital got its first computer.

“It took up a whole room,” she laughs. “We finally got an IBM.”

In the business office, the switchboard operators answered calls on a PBX machine. Butler and others had to train to use it too so they could fill in when the regulars were having lunch in the cafeteria. They also had to be able to work the window where patients were discharged. She enjoyed all of it.

“It always made you feel good to see the patients feeling better,” she says.

Later Butler did public relations for the hospital, then customer service. She handled patient concerns, mailed surveys and compiled results.

“When you took care of problems you could see it in their eyes that they knew someone cared,” she recalls.

 When the hospital closed and combined with the Arab staff to form the Guntersville-Arab Hospital in 1990, the auxiliary volunteers came too. At least one of the original group is still donating her time regularly. Nada Hornbuckle of Arab has been a hospital volunteer for 44 years.

The auxiliary volunteers – recognizable in their pink smocks - stay busy. In addition to manning the stations where they’re assigned, they create tray favors for six holidays a year to decorate patients’ food trays. Many blue ribbons adorn Butler’s office from the state competitions her volunteers have won.

They also sew teddy bears at home to comfort young patients in the hospital. At one time, volunteers crafted tiny baby bonnets, one of which is displayed in a shadow box alongside a blue ribbon. Likely the most meaningful craft volunteers ever made is a quilt hanging in Butler’s office. Stitched together out of pink smocks – some worn in the old Arab Hospital – it was a Christmas gift from longtime volunteer Pat Henry of Arab, who runs the gift shop. It means the world to Butler.

“She put hours into that,” she says. “I couldn’t believe someone would give me something like that.”

Henry, part of the auxiliary for 16 years, said the smocks were turned in when volunteers passed away or became unable to work. They stacked up until she had an idea. The smocks bore embroidered names of their original owners and changed in style over the decades. For example, longtime Arab schoolteacher Lola Boyd’s smock was a pinafore-type with a square neckline like candy stripers wore. The late Bertha Phillips of Guntersville wore a smock with sleeves.

“I thought, ‘There’s a lot of history in these,” Henry says.

She took the fronts off the smocks and attached them with squares. She never expected Butler to hang it for everyone to see.

“I wanted to do the quilt as a remembrance of all her years of dedication to the hospital where she made an impression,” she says. “It’s my way of giving back to her for all she’s done for us.”

Auxiliary members do much more than sew and deliver flowers. They also make significant financial gifts from their fundraising efforts. The Marshall North Auxiliary contributed $50,000 toward the construction of the Cancer Care Center, and it awards scholarships annually to junior volunteers. They have bought recliners, chairs and food carts, along with countless items to make staying in the hospital a little easier.

“It all comes back to the hospital,” says Butler, who personally gives a scholarship each year in honor of her late grandson, who died as a kindergartener.

Butler met her husband of 27 years in the hospital. Otis Butler started work at the hospital as director of inhalation therapy and later became director of materials management. The co-workers went to see The Platters in concert on their first date and got married in 1988. He retired three years later.

There’s no question Butler loves her hospital, and is proud of the progress made since the early days of her five decades of service.

“We’ve grown so much,” she says. “All this state of the art equipment. I’m thankful for all the specialties we have and the cancer center so people don’t have to go somewhere else. I think God has blessed this community. I’m so proud of our hospital and the system. It’s just been a blessing to work here.”

Fri, May 13, 2016

Cancer Survivors Dinner offers hope

Marshall Cancer Care’s annual dinner for survivors is always bittersweet. Those who are able to attend are thankful to be alive and are an encouragement for others. It’s impossible, though, not to be reminded of the many who did not survive.

About 250 people gathered in the ballroom of the Guntersville State Park Thursday to celebrate life. A poignant video set the stage for the night, capturing the horror of first hearing the dreaded diagnosis and the rigors of fighting the disease told by local folks who were able to offer hope to others.

“What you saw in that video were the faces of cancer and what you see tonight are the survivors of cancer,” said Cindy Sparkman, director of Marshall Cancer Care and herself a survivor. “I’m so happy you’re here and have come as far as you’ve come.”

Milestones were recognized. Chet Rowley of Arab had the oldest diagnosis. He first heard he had cancer in 1957. Rowley demonstrates his gratitude for surviving that long by writing letters to others with the disease, and, at the age of 88, has penned 5,000 letters to date, said his wife, Dee.

The most recently diagnosed was Bob Pickard, who heard the news in March, just two months ago. He was moved to tears at his first survivors’ dinner.

Keynote speaker for the night was Arab’s own Nancy Stewart, who has never been diagnosed with cancer, but has suffered the devastation of the disease and has battled her own crippling obstacles. She was celebrated for her instrumental work in making Marshall County’s own cancer treatment center a reality.

“What she gave was literally the gift of life for many people,” said Andrea Oliver, director of the Foundation for Marshall Medical Centers, as she introduced Stewart, who serves as vice-chairman of the Healthcare Authority and was on the board tasked with raising money to build the cancer center.

The effort began when the group noticed the “staggering” number of cancer diagnoses in Marshall County and began discussing the possibility of constructing a cancer facility locally that was state of the art, she said.

At the same time, Stewart’s sister was struggling with throat cancer in Tennessee. She lived 50 miles from Vanderbilt Hospital, where she drove daily for treatments. She told Stewart that she was tolerating the treatments but the travelling was wearing her out.

“I just wish it were closer to home,” Stewart recalled her sister saying.

When she realized “closer to home” had been chosen as the motto for raising money for Marshall Medical’s cancer center, she knew it was a “God thing.” She was all in.

“We didn’t approach any person that turned us down,” she said. “That’s very unusual.”

Stewart’s sister succumbed to the disease last year after fighting it for 28 years.

“She taught me to be a warrior because she was a warrior,” she said.

That lesson was invaluable when Stewart herself faced the battle of a lifetime. Sixteen years ago she was the lone survivor of a horrific car accident on Highway 69 that killed four young people.

“It’s a miracle that I’m standing here tonight,” she said.

Stewart was in a hospital bed for nine months, had eight surgeries and spent two years learning to walk again. She received more than 400 cards and letters, all of which she kept and still reads when she has a bad day. The message from one of them sticks with her and she shared it with the survivors listening to her story.

“Make the most of every hour, day, week,” she encouraged. “Know that you are a work in progress.”

“She may not be a cancer survivor, but she’s certainly a survivor,” Sparkman said of Stewart.

Fri, May 6, 2016

Marshall Medical first hospitals in country to have 4K surgical systems

New monitors installed in operating rooms at Marshall Medical North and South – which are the first hospitals in the United States to own the Olympus medical monitors – allow surgeons to see blood vessels, tissue and organs better than ever before.

“They have a much better picture, much more clear,” Dr. Cynthia Monk said just after removing a gall bladder laparoscopically guided by an image on 4K monitors. “The colors are brighter, more intense. It’s exciting that this hospital continues to upgrade equipment to provide better service to the community.”

4K has four times more resolution than high definition, meaning it captures more details of an image. The sharper, more detailed picture helps improve surgical vision, making it ideal for ORs.

“This system has the clearest image and produces a wider color gamut than any other product on the market,” said Ward Smallwood, representative for Olympus America, Inc., which sold the equipment to Marshall Medical. “You are the first hospital in the country to own this equipment.”

Dr. Melvin Thornbury, Jr., an OB/GYN, was the first doctor at Marshall South to do a surgical procedure using the monitors. He said the monitors’ ‘narrow band imaging’ helps doctors distinguish between different kinds of tissue.

“It makes endometriosis show up more clearly,” he said. “If you are not looking real close you might miss it.”

Clearer pictures are especially helpful when doing gynecological procedures laparoscopically.

“It’s definitely an improvement over what we had,” Thornbury said.

The hospital’s previous high-definition system was at least 10 years old, said Jonathan Smith, director of surgical services at South. The 4K system is a long-term investment expected to last at least 6-8 years, he said, until technology improves even more. The hospital had the option of upgrading to a less expensive, new HD system, but opted to make the substantial investment in the more advanced 4K system instead.

Dr. Stephen Britt was one of the surgeons who tested systems and unanimously recommended the Olympus system for purchase to the hospital board.

“The picture resolution is incredible,” he said. “It really helps in laparoscopic surgery. The better we can see, the safer we are. It’s phenomenal.”

Tim Bean, director of surgery for both hospitals, said other benefits to the 4K system include the ability to download images from other parts of the hospital – such as radiology - and view it on a monitor during a procedure. Also, pictures can be uploaded to doctor’s offices for use during patient visits, he said.

Smallwood called it “the perfect storm” as to how Marshall Medical became the first hospital in the country to own the 4K monitors. The hospitals’ aging equipment was nearing the end of its life at the same time that Olympus was ready to release its new 4K equipment. Company representatives knew that MMC surgeons do the type of procedures in which they would appreciate having enhanced visibility – such as colorectal and gastric sleeves.

“We knew your surgeons would recognize the value in being able to see more clearly,” he said. “Many places don’t do as many minimally-invasive procedures as here. It was a very good fit.”

That’s because it works well for all different procedures, including the variety of specialties offered at both hospitals.

“All specialties agreed this is the best system,” Smallwood said. “That is not common.”

 Rose Myers is a journalist working for Marshall Medical Centers.

Thu, May 5, 2016

Marshall County Youth Leadership 2015-16 graduates

The 2015-2016 Marshall County Youth Leadership class graduated this week with nothing but praise for the program.

Thirty-six juniors from eight high schools in Marshall County completed the year-long class designed to instill the skills of a leader into the younger generation. During the monthly classes they toured local industries, visited the Alabama State House, heard from agencies that serve the poor and homeless, along with lessons in professional dress and manners.

School sponsors, parents and representatives from Citizens Bank & Trust and Marshall Medical Centers, both of which provide funding for Marshall County Youth Leadership, attended graduation Tuesday. The Marshall County Leadership Challenge Alumni Association also is a sponsor.

Students expressed their gratitude for having been exposed to many aspects of the county, as well as doctors during a tour of Marshall South. One student said she made a career choice after listening to physicians talk about their work.

Students for the 2016-2017 MCYL class have been selected from numerous applications and will begin the program in September.

Thu, Apr 28, 2016

Protect yourself from the sun, skin cancer

There’s a good reason why it’s hard to get an appointment with a dermatologist – skin cancer patients keeps them busy.

“Everyone here is at risk for skin cancer,” Dr. Josh Wharton told a group of seniors. “One in five of you will develop skin cancer.”

Wharton, whose practice is Dermatology of North Alabama in Guntersville, spoke to members of GoldCare55+ at a lunch n’ learn. The GoldCare55+ program is sponsored by Marshall Medical Centers.

Skin cancer is by far the most common form of cancer – more than breast, lung and colon cancer combined. The deadliest form of skin cancer – melanoma - most often strikes white men over 50. But it is also the most common form of cancer for 25-29 year olds and the second most common in adolescents. It shows up most often on the backs of men and the lower legs of women.

“Melanoma doesn’t have to be a death sentence though,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be disfiguring.”

Twenty or so years ago that was often the case but advancements in treatment and education about early detection have improved survival rates.

Other types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma – are related to sun exposure and most often appear in areas hit by the sun, such as head, neck, ears, arms and hands. Melanoma can appear anywhere. Dr. Wharton said he recently had a female patient with a melanoma on the sole of her foot. It was so advanced she will probably lose part of her foot.

“One American dies from melanoma almost every hour,” he said. “It’s important to look for the signs. Most are curable if caught early enough.”

A place on the body that is irregularly shaped, has a scalloped border, has an odd color, changes or grows should be checked out by a doctor.

Prevention is key, of course. Many forms of protection from the sun are available. Use them.

  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat to cover head, ears and neck if you will be outdoors for a while. Use sunscreen and use it correctly.

  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects skin from both UVA and UVB rays. Both are harmful.

  • UVB are the ‘burn rays’ of the summer sun. UVA are the ‘aging rays’ that are year-round.

  • Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 but SPF 30 is better.

  • Apply sunscreen 15-20 minutes before you go outside to give it time to soak into skin. Re-apply every 3-4 hours and more often if in water.

  • Apply generously. The recommended amount is one ounce – the equivalent of one shot glass – to cover exposed areas.

  • Sunscreen should have an expiration date. If you don’t see one, write the purchase date on it. If you think it may be two or more years old, throw it away and replace it. It’s most likely ineffective.

  • Don’t forget to protect lips.

  • Normal clothing has an SPF of about 4. It offers little protection from the sun.

  • Stay away from tanning beds.

“Tanning beds are kind of like they are the new cigarettes,” Dr. Wharton said. “We know cigarettes are bad. We know tanning beds are bad.”



Wed, Apr 27, 2016

Disaster preparedness is key for hospitals when the worst happens

When natural disasters happen – and residents of Marshall County know all too well they do happen – medical experts have to trust their disaster training to kick in to handle the demand.

“I think we’re exceptionally prepared,” said Bill Smith, facilities management director for Marshall Medical Centers. “We’re constantly drilling and teaching to make sure we can meet the needs of our patients under the worst circumstances.”

The hospitals are required to conduct two disaster drills a year. Both have to push the system as far as it can go, even to worst-case scenarios Marshall Medical would not be expected to handle, such as providing security or bringing in supplies for the community.

“It lets us know how long we can sustain,” Smith said.

The hospitals educate their staffs annually in all aspects of disaster preparedness. It is not tornado specific, he said, even though hazard vulnerability analyses done each year show that the most likely danger is from tornadoes. Ice storms are another threat. For example, officials have to know how long the hospitals’ stock of food will last and how long the generators will run, which is a minimum of eight days at Marshall Medical, according to Smith.

Emergency operating procedures assume things will go back to normal when a disaster winds down. But officials also have to plan for a scenario with hospital buildings being damaged. Plans must be in place for keeping patients safe if facilities are compromised. The hope is, Smith said, to recover from any disaster within 24 hours.

“There will be occasions where we’re going to be overwhelmed,” he said. “but we do our best to plan for how we will deal with it. That’s all you can do.”

Five years ago when a band of tornadoes bore down on Marshall County, the hospitals’ disaster plans were put to the test. Neither hospitals had electricity but they did have generators, medicine and food.

Fortunately, the number of reported injuries from the storms was relatively low. Marshall North saw 14 storm-related patients in the ER that Wednesday. Marshall South saw 13 storm victims, of which three were critical and transferred. Those emergencies were in addition to the 86 other people who went to the ER on the day of the storm, which is a fairly average day.

Disaster planning and a big generator were keys to why both hospitals operated efficiently on the day of the tornadoes as well as during three days of power outage and four days of water concerns.

 “We never were concerned about the adequacy of the power,” said Claudette DeMuth, director of marketing for Marshall Medical. “To be honest, our generator was under-whelmed running the entire hospital. We had plenty of power and diesel fuel to run for 300 hours. We had backup planned if needed.”

When Marshall County EMA said that pumping enough water up Brindlee Mountain would become a challenge because Arab Water Works was operating at only half-speed on generators, the hospital conserved water mainly by cutting back on showers for employees staying over in the labor pool facilities.

After the height of the whole situation, MMC critiqued its performance. The bottom line to MMCN’s response during and after the tornadoes was that the medical staff did a fine job, she said.

“We all felt positively about the way it went down.”


Wed, Apr 20, 2016

Facing a joint replacement? Educate yourself with academy

 Linda Blevins’ knee pain stemmed from osteoarthritis and was aggravated by the extra pounds she carried around. Her physician, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Matthew Smith, recommended injections for temporary relief. The only fix, he told her, was joint replacement.

Blevins, who lives in Crossville, endured the pain as long as she could before she scheduled knee replacement surgery at Marshall Medical Center South. Eight weeks later, she was back at work, having no pain and planning surgery for her other knee.

“I had a very positive experience with everything,” she says.

Before her surgery, Blevins, 59, signed up for Marshall Medical Centers’ Joint Academy. She learned all about the do’s and don’ts, what to expect and how to prepare. It made all the difference to her successful outcome.

“It was very helpful to me,” she says. “If you do just like they tell you, you come out the other side doing very well.”

Surgeons replace more than a million hips and knees each year in the U.S. Studies show joint replacements can significantly relieve pain and increase mobility in about 90% of people who get them.

People with knees worn out by arthritis - which deteriorates cartilage in the joints - may live pain free after joint replacement surgery.

Who needs a hip or knee replacement? Surgeons look at a few basic criteria. They include:

  • Pain and stiffness. Most people who need joint replacement have severe pain that makes it difficult to walk, climb stairs, get up from a chair or carry on with other normal activities. The pain is also chronic, lasting at least six months, according to a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

  • Poor quality of life. It's not only pain itself that matters, but how the pain affects your daily life. Do your joint problems limit what you can do? Do they affect your mood?

  • Bone damage. X-rays and other imaging may show severe joint damage from osteoarthritis or other conditions.

  • Non-surgical treatment failure. Medication, injections or devices – such as a walker -- aren't helping enough.

  • Deformity. Your knee is severely swollen or your leg is bowed.


    At Marshall Medical Centers Joint Academy patients bring a “coach,” either  friend, spouse, relative or neighbor to attend the class.  A nurse, physical therapist and care coordinator explain how to ensure a successful surgery.

    These experts offer suggestions to help at home, what to bring to pre-admission testing, what to expect on the day of surgery until you are  discharged to your home or to rehab.

    Patients who attend Joint Academy are better prepared for surgery. Research shows they typically:

  • have less anxiety

  • are more likely to complete their pre-surgery exercises

  • have fewer, if any, infections

  • leave the hospital sooner

  • use less pain medication

  • have smoother rehabilitation


Classes are free and can be scheduled as follows:

First Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m. in the Medical Plaza 3rd floor classroom next door to Marshall Medical Center North.

Second Tuesday of each month at 10 a.m. in Dr. Smith’s Office, just past Marshall Medical Center South at the corner of Corley Street and US Hwy 431.

Third Tuesday of each month at 6 pm in the Marshall Professional Building (next door to Marshall Cancer Care Center) at 6 pm.

To sign up or for more information call the Joint Academy coordinator at (256)571.8615 or talk to your orthopedic physician.

Tue, Mar 15, 2016

Marshall Wound Healing Center recognized with national award for clinical excellence

The Marshall Wound Healing Center earned a Center of Distinction award for providing outstanding care, achieving a rate of more than 92 percent of patients expressing satisfaction with their care and for healing 91 percent of wounds within 30 days.

 "We are very proud of this accomplishment,” said Sarah Smith, director of Marshall Wound Healing Center. “We are dedicated to helping patients get the healing they need in order to have better quality of life.”


                    Marshall Wound Healing Center is part of a network of specialties offered by Marshall Medical Centers. Through a partnership with                     Healogics, the center provides highly specialized wound care to patients suffering from diabetic ulcers, pressure ulcers, infections and other                     chronic wounds which have not healed in a reasonable amount of time. Advanced treatments include negative pressure wound therapy, bio-                    engineered skin substitutes, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, biological and biosynthetic dressings and growth factor therapies.

 More than 500 centers were eligible for the Center of Distinction award, but only 221 achieved the honor.

 Healogics is the nation’s leading wound care management company, providing high-quality wound care and consulting services to nearly 800 hospitals across the United States. Member hospitals have access to advanced healing technologies including hyperbaric oxygen therapy.

Smith said Marshall Wound Center’s partnership with Healogics offers many advantages, including:

  • Specialized training for physicians, clinicians and team members

  • A network of wound care specialists to assist with challenging cases

  • The world’s largest accumulation of wound data

  • Recruitment of physicians as well as staff
  • The largest reimbursement support in the industry
  • Community education programs
  • Excellent wound healing and patient satisfaction rates
  • Comprehensive and proven Clinical Practice Guidelines for chronic wound treatment

For more information on Marshall Wound Healing Center visit or call (256)894-6976.

Wed, Sep 9, 2015

State Health Officer warns about health killers

Alabama’s chief health officer told a crowd of Marshall County residents at the Lake Guntersville Chamber of Commerce Annual Healthcare Breakfast that two killers attacking the state are smoking and obesity. As a result, today’s children are expected to have shorter lifespans than their parents.

“This is the first time in history that has happened,” said Dr. Don Williamson, head of the Alabama Department of Public Health.

While strides have been made in lowering the rate of smoking in the U.S., it has not happened because of people’s efforts to be healthier. Rather, it is a result of second-hand smoking laws and the high price of cigarettes, Dr. Williamson said. Alabama has close to the lowest tobacco tax in the country, and almost the highest number of smokers.

Obesity is at 65 percent in the nation, and one out of nine Alabama residents is diabetic. “It’s not getting better,” he said, recommending that incentives for eating healthier could be the answer. That could mean cutting taxes on healthy food or tax breaks for those who exercise.

Despite the political controversy swirling around Medicaid, Dr. Williams was emphatic about Alabama’s reliance on it.

  • 53 percent of all births in the state are from mothers on Medicaid
  • 45 percent of all Alabama children are insured by Medicaid
  • 62 percent of people in nursing homes are supported by Medicaid

“Medicaid is built into the whole healthcare infrastructure of the state,” he said. “If you’re going to have a healthcare system in Alabama, you are going to have to fund Medicaid.”

The Annual Healthcare Breakfast is sponsored by Marshall Medical Centers.

Wed, Sep 9, 2015

Youth Leaderships starts new year, new students

A new crop of future leaders in Marshall County started their training Wednesday.

The 2015-16 group of Marshall County Youth Leadership had their first meeting at Snead State Community College. The 36 juniors from eight high schools in the county participated in a virtual scavenger hunt and performed skits based on lessons from the book, The 7 Habits of a Highly Effective Teens by Stephen Covey.

Marshall County Youth Leadership is designed to prepare and build leadership resources in high school students from Marshall County. MCYL is an educational opportunity through participatory experiences. Students will learn leadership skills from communication and teamwork to self-esteem and values. MCYL is a cooperative effort between Marshall Medical Centers, Snead State Community College and the Marshall County Leadership Challenge Alumni Association with support from Citizens Bank in Guntersville, as well as many other businesses and organizations throughout Marshall County.

This year’s students are:

  • Albertville High School: Alan Battle, Andra Williams, Anna Clay Adams, Lauren Martin, McKinley Williams, Jericho Hallcox.
  • Arab High School: Darby Huguley, Hannah Black, Kate Fleming, Riley Jordan, Summer Kelly, Jared Luke Ridgeway.
  • Asbury High School: Anna Upton, Lawren Brinley.
  • Boaz High School: Kaitlyn Williams, Morgan Allen, Pamela Rivera, Joseph Holbrook, Emma Roberts.
  • Brindlee Mountain High School: Jacklyn Protz, Rowan Rosewarne, Amber James.
  • DAR High School: Ann Marie Early, Leeann Myers, Elisa Medina, Ragan Stanfield.
  • Douglas High School: Aaron Spears, Garrett Peppers, Katelyn Warner, Anna Woods, Pauline Landers.
  • Guntersville High School: Brady Rutland, Cade Dollar, Abigail Glenn, Ross Chandler, Nicklaus Hester.

Monthly sessions will focus on team building, community service, etiquette, healthcare, industry, law enforcement and local government. Students also will visit state legislators in Montgomery.

Fri, Jul 24, 2015

Marshall Medical Center’s Diabetes Management Classes work

Sam Smith was the kind of guy who never got sick, never missed work and never went to the doctor.

That all ended last spring when he began feeling tired and weak. He went to the doctor and found out he was diabetic. Not only did the diagnosis shock him but the level of glucose in his blood was 337 – which is literally off the charts, and his A1C level was 13.4 – almost twice as high as recommended.

Smith knew he had to make some changes. Dr. John Crider of Arab referred him to Diabetes Self-Management Training classes at Marshall Medical Center. He started right away.

“The goal of the program is for them to become an expert on themselves,” said Julie Drzewiecki, a Registered Dietician and a Certified Diabetes Educator. “We want to give them the tools so they are able to manage their diabetes.”

Class saw 86 percent improvement in A1C scores

Three months after Smith registered an A1C level of 13.4 he tested again. His blood glucose level was 6.3, well below the recommended range of 7. A year after his diagnosis, it’s 5.8.

“I may not get it to the point where I’m not diabetic anymore, but I can keep it at a minimal,” Smith said.

Not only did Smith see tremendous benefit following the class, so did his classmates. In fact, 38 of the 44 people who got a follow-up A1C test after the class lowered their number. That’s an 86 percent improvement. The average A1C for students at the beginning of class was 8.97. That dropped to 7.2 afterward.

“It shows what we’re doing works,” Ms. Drzewiecki said. “I’m just bursting with pride at the improvement in his A1C.”

The Diabetes Management program starts with a four-hour class, in which Ms. Drzewiecki teaches carb counting and a meal plate planning method. Carb counting is more exact and time consuming while plate planning is simpler. Students can use either one. RN Lisa Bearden, who is director of education for Marshall North, then teaches students about the disease. She covers what diabetes is and its complications, along with eye care, foot care and kidneys. She explains there will be sick days and how to manage them.

Ms. Drzewiecki warns students they will have days with high blood glucose levels, but she says that’s a learning opportunity. That’s why diabetics should test daily. Students are urged to set personal goals, such as eating more vegetables, exercising and losing weight.

The Smiths, of Union Grove, started immediately. Because their youngest son, Anthony, 25, cooks for the family, he attended diabetes classes with his parents. “He revamped everything we eat,’’ Donna Smith said. “Sam Jr. and Anthony now watch everything we eat. Those classes helped immensely.”

Smith, 59, who works for Umicore and gardens for fun, said before diabetes he was a big fan of sweet tea. That’s been replaced by unsweetened tea and water. They eat steamed vegetables instead of fried. Bread is almost gone from the menu and salads show up quite often. When grocery shopping now, Sam checks the carb count on every item and compares it to the guide before tossing it in the cart.

“Julie stressed don’t worry about sugar – just worry about carbs,” Mrs. Smith said. Diabetes Support Group meets quarterly

Marshall Medical’s diabetes program started in 2007. The American Diabetes Association officially recognized the program in 2010. The hospital created its own Diabetes Advisory Council to give direction to the program. Made up of RNs, dieticians from both hospitals, a volunteer and a member of the Lions Club, the board meets annually.

“The purpose is how we can better serve the diabetics of Marshall County,” said Ms. Drzewiecki.

One way diabetics are served is through a support group that meets quarterly. Mr. and Mrs. Smith attend the support meetings. She said they are very helpful, especially one that included a ‘foot check’ to emphasize the importance of foot care to diabetics. It’s also nice to meet other families dealing with the same issues.

“I really enjoy the support groups,” she said.

Entire program is free and open to all diabetics and their families.

Smith assumes that his diabetes was inherited because his mother and several family members also had it. Now he and his wife are worried about the health of their sons. That’s another reason the education classes are important to them.

“Now our boys have diabetes on both sides,” Mrs. Smith said. “Maybe they won’t be diabetic, but if they are they will know what to do.”

Ms. Drzewiecki said Alabama has the second highest diabetes rate in the nation. The national rate of diabetics is 22.8 percent of the population. In Marshall County, 26.8 percent of residents are diabetic. As one of less than 50 certified diabetes educators in the state – along with Dietician Sheri Gaskin at Marshall South - she is motivated to work even harder to educate residents.

“We have a lot of work to do,” she said.

Sat, Jul 18, 2015

As rural hospitals struggle to stay open, Marshall Medical remains strong

Rural hospitals are more important than ever. And they are struggling harder to keep their doors open than ever before. Ten Alabama hospital closed their doors in the past three years; 17 statewide since 2000, reported a recent article. Fewer than 100 acute care hospitals remain viable in the state now, 50 of which meet federal criteria to be considered rural, according to the Alabama Hospital Association. These hospitals treat 110,000 patients annually and deliver 10,000 babies every year. In a recent study called ‘Rural Hospitals at a Crossroads,’ AHA offers many reasons why rural hospitals are the lifeblood of the state: • They provide emergency medical care to those in need • They provide preventative health care to rural communities • They employ thousands and drive local economies • They help attract and keep local businesses because most major employers won’t locate in a community without a hospital In other words, rural hospitals are essential in a state like Alabama where 40 percent of the population lives outside an urban area. Fortunately for the 130,000 people living in the communities of Marshall County and the surrounding area, the two hospitals here remain healthy and viable. Marshall Medical Centers are modern, efficient hospitals. Marshall North and South are community-owned, not-for-profit hospitals which make it their mission to provide world-class health care locally. The goal is to offer the health care people need close to their home so they don’t have to travel to a large city to get it. Having to travel for medical attention is a large cause of people going without health care. Citizen’s Bank & Trust President Mike Alred is chairman of the Marshall County Healthcare Authority, which is the governance board responsible for the hospitals. He credits Marshall Medical Centers' staying power to its ability to maintain the small hospital atmosphere while staying competitive in the ever-changing world of medicine. “We’ve kept that smaller community touch you don’t always get in a big-city hospital,” Alred said. “At the same time, the quality of the medical care we provide is at least equal to, if not better than, the services you would get in Huntsville or Birmingham. We don’t try to do everything, but the things we do, we do them very well. We have excellent physicians, dedicated staff and modern equipment and facilities. And, it’s provided right here, at home, by people you know.” Convenient access to healthcare is not only beneficial, but at times can be crucial, especially in emergencies like natural disasters. At such times when treatment must be immediate, rural hospitals can save lives. Sometimes, this may mean stabilizing the patient for transportation to a trauma center or facility with more specialized services. Other times it means caring for someone until their family can be reached. Marshall has helped bring many new medical specialties to the community in recent years. Oncology, vascular surgery, pulmonology and dermatology are just a few. However, primary care remains the backbone of any medical community. “Primary care is at the core of what we do,” said Gary Gore, CEO of Marshall Medical Centers. “We are blessed to have the quality and number of great primary care doctors in this area. Our goal is to maintain a balance of primary care and specialties appropriate for the size of our community”. Many causes are responsible for the fact that 45 percent of rural hospitals operate in the red. Alabama’s rural hospitals average an operating margin of 1.1 percent, according to the AHA. The state has the lowest revenue-per-discharge rates in the country. The result is that when reimbursements do not cover the costs of hospital services cuts have to be made. Hospital budgets are being hit hard from three areas: • No Medicaid expansion in Alabama • $220 billion in Medicare cuts to hospital services • Alabama’s low wage index which helps determine Medicare reimbursement rates. Regrettably, these factors compound the difficulty of trying to keep a hospital going against the odds. It’s often simply impossible to successfully provide health care in a rural environment. But the leadership of Marshall Medical Centers is proud that it has been embraced and supported by a community that recognizes the importance of nearby medical services. As the second-largest employer in Marshall County and with a $140 million budget, the economic impact of two hospitals with 1,200 employees is extremely important. “A community focus is very important,” Gore added. “We may not be perfect and we may not be able to do everything, but you can be assured that we are going to do everything possible to make Marshall Medical Centers the best it can be. We live here too and there’s no greater motivator than that.”

Fri, May 29, 2015

Food can be fun for diabetics!

Food can be fun for diabetics! To prove that food can be delicious and fun for diabetics, Marshall Medical’s dieticians will do a cooking demonstration and a nutrition scavenger hunt at the Guntersville Farmer’s Market next Saturday. Registered Dietitian Stacey Hyde will cook a fast and easy meal made of foods gathered from the Farmer’s Market. Julie Drzewiecki, also a Registered Dietician and a Certified Diabetes Educator, will lead a nutrition scavenger hunt based on recipes passed out to attendees. “The event is free and will be geared toward diabetics, but, of course, anyone is invited to attend,’’ said Ms. Drzewiecki. A “bonus” feature will introduce attendees to the concept of “Root to Frond” cooking, which explores culinary strategies to reduce food waste. “For example, cooks may throw out chard stems,” she said. “This talk will show attendees how food items that they previously threw away can be incorporated easily into delicious, nutritious dishes.” The event will start at 9 am on Saturday, June 6 at the Farmer’s Market located at 1500 Sunset Drive in Guntersville.

Mon, May 25, 2015

GHS student’s essay about Vietnam visit earns $500 scholarship

By Rose Myers Marshall Medical Centers Guntersville High graduate Jessica Hoang is the winner of a $500 scholarship from Marshall Medical Centers to help finance her trip to national HOSA competition this summer. Miss Hoang plans to attend Snead State Community College in the fall before transferring to UAB to pursue a degree in biology. Her ultimate goal is to become a pediatrician. Students interested in applying for the scholarship were asked to submit an application along with an essay explaining what healthcare career he or she would like to pursue and why. Miss Hoang’s essay described her 2006 visit to Vietnam, her parents’ homeland, where she visited a medical clinic. The doctor and nurses she met there inspired her toward a career as a physician. “Jessica is a very kind-hearted young lady who is intelligent and who also has an impeccable work ethic,” said Health Sciences Teacher Beth Nixon. “She is well liked among her peers and the staff at GHS.” Mrs. Nixon said Miss Hoang won first place in Health Education, which was made-up of a team of three other students. The team went to Guntersville Elementary in the spring and taught about the importance of hand-washing. Their project was called "The Clean Cat Club", for the school’s ‘wildcats’ mascot. Mrs. Nixon will take five GHS students to the HOSA National Leadership Conference in Anaheim, Calif., in June. It will cost approximately $1,500 for each student’s flight and hotel expenses. Marshall Medical Centers is proud to support HOSA students in the national competition. “We are pleased to offer our encouragement to students who are excelling in the HOSA programs in our area schools,” said Claudette DeMuth, director of marketing for MMC. “Investing in the future of our local healthcare is just the right thing to do.”

Tue, May 19, 2015

Couple keeps hospital stocked with books for children, whether sick or waiting

By Rose Myers Marshall Medical Centers Two educators can build up quite a collection of books by the time they retire. A Union Grove couple, who prefers to remain anonymous, figured out a good use for their stockpile of books when he was hospitalized at Marshall North for hip replacement earlier this year. They were dismayed to find that none of the waiting rooms had any books. They imagined children stuck there when a family member is sick. Or, even worse, when a sick child is lying in a hospital bed with no books for entertainment. The couple thought about all the books they had at home and hatched a plan to share them with the hospital. They filled a box with mostly elementary level books and delivered them to the hospital administration office. “We thought it would be a good thing to do for the kids,” she said. “Even if they disappear because that means somebody wanted it.” After a few months passed, they were at the hospital again. The books were dwindling so they decided it was time for another delivery, she said. They have done that three times now. She estimated that more than 200 of their paperback and hardback books have been donated to the hospital. “We appreciate the hospital’s attitude in allowing us to do it,” she said. “We just take the books and let them place them where they think would be best.” Nancy Johnson, administrative assistant at Marshall North, said the couple enjoys sharing their love of books with children to encourage reading. “They are genuine, generous and have never asked for anything in return,” she said. “They are the most delightful couple.” Johnson sees children come into the waiting areas and their eyes immediately spot the books on the little table. “Their attention is drawn to the story and pictures, helping to take their mind off of their illness or having to “sit still” in an otherwise adult environment,” she said. “Having the books available for the children who have to come to the hospital -either with their parent or especially if they are the patient- is a blessing.” Johnson said the donors desire to share their passion and encourage reading seems very well received. “The books slowly disappear from the lobby, which is exactly what the donors hope for - a child to enjoy the book so much they want to take it home,” she said.

Mon, Apr 20, 2015

See your medical information on Marshall Medical’s Patient Portal

Tony Sorcic is the kind of guy who likes to stay up on the latest things. He keeps up with current events. He’s very active in his church. And he stays in touch with friends. So when Sorcic heard that Marshall Medical Centers was offering a new service that would allow patients to see a portion of their medical record on their home computer, he checked into it. After he was signed up for the Patient Portal through the Health Information department at Marshall North, the 77-year-old was impressed. “That’s neat,” he said when he saw the screen listing his clinical information back to 2011. “It’s quick and very easy.” What is a Patient Portal? A Patient Portal is a secure online website that gives patients convenient 24-hour access to their personal health information. It can be used anywhere with an Internet connection using a web browser on your home computer, Smartphone or tablet device. What information can I find in the Patient Portal? The information on the portal is from Marshall Medical Centers’ electronic health record. Using a secure username and password, patients can pay their bills online and view a summary of their health records. “You can see your lab results, pay your bill online…Those are things you can do from the comfort of your home,” said Jeff Stewart of MMC’s Information Technology Department. “You can see how your labs have improved over time.” How do you get signed up? Anyone who has been a patient at Marshall North or South or has been there for testing has records on file and can obtain access to the Patient Portal. Simply stop by either of the two hospitals and ask to be directed to the Health Information Management department. Staff there will ask you to sign a consent form, present a form of identification, and then login information will be given to you. If you need help getting started, a staff member will assist you. Where is the portal? When you visit Marshall Medical’s website at, the home page has a Patient Portal button. When you click it, a screen pops up for login and password then takes you inside the portal. You will be asked to enter your name, address, date of birth and email address, followed by a series of security questions. What is on the portal? The portal does not contain the complete medical record. It lists medications, procedures and lab results, such as cholesterol levels from a blood test. It does not include nurses’ notes or doctors’ notes, but it does contain diagnoses. Patients also may view outstanding balances and make payments using VISA, MasterCard, American Express and Discover. Payments made on the portal are immediately reflected on your account. Sorcic said he likes having the ability to pay hospital bills online, just as he does other bills. Keeping up with his medical information is very important to Sorcic, who retired in 1995 due to heart issues and recently battled pneumonia. The Sorcics were one of a group of families who moved to Arab from Wisconsin in the early 1970s to work at Cutler-Hammer. His wife Beverly, who passed away just over a year ago, volunteered at the old Arab Hospital. She was a candy striper and helped set up the gift shop when Marshall North was built before being hired to work in purchasing. They have three children and five grandsons in the Arab area. Sorcic first encountered a patient portal earlier this year during an appointment with his cardiologist in Birmingham. He signed up for that one and found it interesting. Then, after an appointment at Marshall Pulmonary Associates, he learned that office also has a portal, so he signed up for it too. He hopes to see all medical records available in one site eventually for convenience. Stewart said with the increased interest of people wanting access to information online, it’s just a matter of time. Thousands of people who signed up while hospitalized already are on Marshall Medical’s portal, he said. “More and more people are using it,” Stewart said. Sorcic said his only concern is privacy so that no one else can get access to his medical records. Stewart assured him that extensive security measures have been built into the portal. “I will definitely use it,” Sorcic said. “I was very impressed with what was there. It’s very informative. I’m confident enough to use it.”

Tue, Mar 3, 2015

New clinic will help in early detection of lung cancer

The opening of a new medical clinic in Marshall County this week offers faster diagnosis of spots that could be early lung cancer. Marshall Medical Centers announces the opening of the Marshall Pulmonary Nodule Clinic March 3 to provide early detection and expedited care of lung cancer. “This clinic will provide a standard approach for lung nodules and act as a community resource for ER doctors and community doctors that identify lung nodules in their patients,” said Dr. Christopher Manganaris of Pulmonary and Sleep Associates of Marshall County. “It will ensure adequate follow up and counseling for patients and family members with lung nodules.” A lung nodule –commonly called ‘a spot on the lung’ – is a small mass of tissue in the lung that appears as round, white shadows on a chest x-ray or CT scan. When a lung nodule diagnosis is made, doctors can refer the patient to the Nodule Clinic to meet with one of the pulmonary specialists within 72 business hours. There, the patient’s scans can be reviewed in an office setting. While 80 percent of pulmonary nodules are found to be benign and can come from an infection or scar tissue from an old infection, some are early signs of lung cancer and require prompt evaluation. Dr. Manganaris said treatment of lung nodules has become very standardized over the last several years and is tailored to each patient’s circumstances. “Risk assessment based on age, smoking history and the number of nodules determine how aggressive we need to be,” he said. If a lung nodule is new or has changed in size, shape or appearance, a doctor may recommend further testing to determine if it is cancerous. Testing could include any of the following which are available in Marshall Medical’s Nodule Clinic: • Bronchoscopy - a procedure used to see the inside of the airways and lungs. • Tissue biopsy - a procedure to remove a piece of tissue or a sample of cells to be analyzed in a laboratory. • Low dose CT scan - special X-ray tests that produce cross-sectional images of the body. • CT guided biopsy - uses real-time CT images to ensure biopsy samples are accurately taken from the desired part of the lung. • PET scan - an imaging test that assists in the diagnosis of cancerous lesions. • Endobronchial ultrasound or EBUS - a technique to obtain tissue or fluid samples from the lungs and surrounding lymph nodes without conventional surgery. Medicare covers lung cancer screening with Low Dose CT once a year for Medicare beneficiaries who meet all of the following criteria: • Age 55-77 and are either current smokers or have quit smoking within the past 15 years; • Have a tobacco smoking history average of one pack a day for 30 years; • Receive a written order from a physician or qualified non-physician practitioner that meets certain requirements. Medicare coverage includes a visit for counseling and shared decision-making on the benefits and risks of lung cancer screening. The Marshall Pulmonology Nodule Clinic is located in the Professional Center next door to Marshall Cancer Care Center, just south of Cracker Barrel in Guntersville. The Clinic is staffed by a group of physicians who take a team approach to treatment. They are: • Dr. Christopher Manganaris – Pulmonology • Dr. Jenna Carpenter – Pulmonology • Dr. Gideon P. Ewing - Medical Oncology • Dr. Jonathan A. Storey - Medical Oncology • Dr. J.T. Payne - Radiation Oncology • Dr. Dustin Bright-Interventional Radiologist

Mon, Mar 2, 2015

Local nurses get disaster training

Running a hospital emergency department exposes nurses to a lot of urgent situations, but nothing like the dirty bombs, earthquake, smallpox and chemical plant explosions Marshall Medical Center nurses had to handle during a hi-tech training exercise. “It was very intense,” said Audra Ford, director of the emergency department at Marshall North. “We were all exhausted after it was over.” Mrs. Ford, along with charge nurses Joanne Ray, Shelia Blackmon and Renee Jordan, director of the emergency department at Marshall South, went through the intensive training at the Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston last week. The CDP is located on former Fort McClellan property. In 1999, Noble Army Hospital was converted into a training site for health and medical education in disasters, including both acts of terrorism and manmade disasters. The Noble Training Facility is the only hospital in the nation dedicated solely to training. The facility includes classrooms, exercise/simulation areas, a computer lab and two prototype mass casualty decontamination training lanes. Mrs. Ford, Mrs. Jordan and Mrs. Blackmon were part of the Healthcare Leadership for All-Hazards Incidents course, where they learned about decision-making during mass casualties, communicating with the media and public as well as managing medical supplies. The 45 people in the class acted different roles in disaster scenarios with mass casualties. Trainers threw almost everything at their students. “In the middle of all that we had to deliver a baby,” Mrs. Ford said. Mrs. Jordan called the training “a very eye-opening experience” that taught her the need to practice the hospital’s emergency plan so that everyone knows how to prepare, who the other players in the county are and how to contact them. “Overall it was a good exercise that trained us to see where our weaknesses are and how we can improve on them,” she said. The same fast-paced triage required with a large number of patients - some with special needs like hearing loss - can be applied to tornadoes, she said. It was also helpful to be challenged with new scenarios, like the drill they did Friday that involved poisonous sarin gas, she said. The students arrived on the scene of that exercise to find bleeding bodies everywhere. They had to think through how to begin and then walk through the mock disaster. “It makes you think, ‘What I will do if it happens in my hospital,’’’ she said. Mrs. Ray was part of a team charged with ‘protecting the house’, which required decontaminating patients before they were brought inside the hospital. Practical information also was covered, such as how to keep a hospital running during a disaster. Mrs. Ford said the best thing about the training was that it was hands-on. “This is the worst case scenario, yet it’s in a controlled environment so you can learn from it and bring it back to your staff.” Disaster triage is very different from what nurses do every day in the hospital, she said. That’s why training is so important. MMC already has plans to add active shooter drills to their ongoing training schedule in order to lessen the risk if the worst does happen. The week-long training session culminated with an Integrated Capstone Event (ICE) where all the students worked together on a massive incident. Mrs. Ford said it was a very helpful part of the training. “We all had to work together,” she said. More than 100 healthcare workers from all over Alabama participated in one of three courses depending on their jobs. They included emergency managers, physicians, nurses, public health officials and emergency medical technicians. In addition to students, as many as 40 role players portrayed survivors and patients, along with mannequins that pushed the casualty toll to around 200. The CDP is a resident training facility run by FEMA. The Department of Homeland Security funds the training, lodging, travel and meals for state and local responders, including all of those who trained there last week.

Mon, Mar 2, 2015

Marshall Medical Centers one of country’s 100 SafeCare hospitals

Marshall Medical Centers has earned a place on the list of “100 SafeCare” hospitals in the country delivering the finest level of care. MMC was recognized for healthcare quality in the group of hospitals between 100-400 beds for the “best processes of care, best outcomes of care and best efficacy of care.” “If all U.S. hospitals attained the 100 SafeCare Hospitals level, there would be improvement in the more than 400,000 hospital deaths and close to 5.1 million preventable complications that occur each year,” stated the group in announcing the achievement. The SafeCare Group analyzed hospital data to make the 2014-15 ratings. Areas looked at included: • Lowest mortality rates • Lowest readmissions • Lowest complication rates in medical and surgical care • Lowest in-hospital medical and surgical infection rates • Highest medical and surgical processes of care • Highest patient satisfaction scores Only the 100 hospitals between 100-400 beds with the highest scores made the 100 SafeCare Hospitals list, according to the announcement. “This distinction is one that Marshall Medical receives with pride because it was borne out of hard work,” said Gary Gore, CEO of Marshall Medical Centers. “Our staffs take very seriously the extensive requirements that make up the standard of quality patient care. They deserve national recognition like this.” The SafeCare Group was founded in 2010 to help hospitals excel in the areas of patient safety, quality and efficiency. The SafeCare Group software helps hospitals comply with regulatory standards. It has published a 12-point surgical checklist as well as several checklists to avoid hospital falls and bedsores.

Sat, Feb 28, 2015

What is a blog? At MMC, it’s your friends, neighbors and relatives

You already know that Marshall Medical Centers works hard to offer the very best healthcare to our community. Many requirements come with being responsible for providing medical care to a county’s entire population. One of those is supplying useful information to residents so they have the tools needed to maintain their health. A big storehouse of information is our website,, which is packed with details on what we do, where we do it and how to find it. You may also have seen our Facebook page which is chock-full of the latest events and photos of what is happening in and around the hospitals. One source of information you may not have seen is Marshall Medical’s blog. It’s been around since 2011 but we have just revamped it and made it easier to find. Look for a button on our website called “Health News!”. Click it and it will take you right to the blog. For those who may not be familiar with a blog, let’s start with some basic info. What is a blog? "Blog" is an abbreviated version of "weblog," which is a term used to describe websites that maintain an ongoing stream of information. It’s regularly updated and is written in an informal or conversational style. A person who maintains a blog is known as a blogger and the activity of keeping a blog is known as blogging. For example, ‘It's been a week since I last blogged." There is every kind of blog imaginable: cooking, child-rearing, dating, car repair and travel, to name just a few. The focus of MMC’s blog is simple – the people who use our medical services. That’s the reason we exist. We are here solely to serve the community. For example, a recent blog features an Albertville bus driver who had a heart attack and got back in shape by working out at TherapyPlus five times a week. Another blog post spotlights an elderly lady who found that a support group really does help in surviving cancer. And you can read about a man who couldn’t maintain a healthy weight due to Crohn’s disease, but learned to manage it through exercise and nutrition. We might blog about a new treatment being offered locally, such as the Lung Nodule Clinic opening next month. Doctors there will be able to determine whether a spot on the lung is benign or early lung cancer. We’ll introduce and profile new doctors, such as our area’s newest audiologist, Dr. Hannah L. Nixon. We’ll tell you about fundraising opportunities, like the ones offered by the Marshall Medical Foundation, which funded construction of the Marshall Cancer Care Center and recently purchased new furniture for the Marshall North and South Intensive Care Units. In short, we will post things we think will be of interest to the community, from inspiring stories about patients to an article introducing a team of Athletic Trainers who keep an eye on student athletes playing sports in area schools. The best thing about a blog is that you are a part of it. Each blog post has space at the bottom for your comments. Feel free to share what you like to see and what you hope to see in the future. You can submit questions or share a good experience that you think might benefit others. It’s the casual tone and the interaction with readers that make a blog worth the time it takes to maintain it. Please take a moment to look at it. Hopefully you will find some friends, neighbors and relatives spotlighted there. Rose Myers is a journalist working in the marketing department of Marshall Medical Centers.

Mon, Jan 19, 2015

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Marshall North

For three days the board room at Marshall North has been turned into a gigantic photo album. Employees have circled the conference table laughing at the hairstyles of their coworkers years ago and sharing about others who are long gone. They supplied names for unmarked photos and many memories were shared during the process. One photo that drew a ton of giggles was taken in the mid- to late-1990s and featured Ken Bass and Lisa Reaves dressed as Fred Flintstone and Betty Rubble. Ken went so far as to try to sneak the picture into the back pocket of his scrubs and steal away with it before being caught. Ken said their costumes were part of a fundraiser held in 1996 or ‘97. Facilities Management Director Bill Smith was a dead ringer for Barney Rubble and Joby McCully, then dietary director, dressed the part of Wilma Flintstone. Another photo that was a big hit featured retirees Dwight Hayes and Ralph McCollum portraying The Blues Brothers. Dwight stopped by Tuesday to look at photos and said the pair played the duo over and over for hospital events way back when. “We were kind of running out of material,’’ he says. CEO Gary Gore says the Saturday Night Live wannabes were very popular. “No matter what the theme was the Blues Brothers made an appearance,” he says. Dwight worked at Marshall Medical for about 37 years. He put his photography hobby to work during his later years at Marshall North. Staff members joked that Dwight was either in every photograph or had taken it. Many folks got a kick out of looking at Gore as a young administrator. They referred to him as “a baby” and “just a kid,” as well as very slender. Gore informed everyone that he was not that young when he started the job – he had just turned 30. Betty Martin remembered very well the first time she saw Gore walk into the cafeteria at the old Guntersville Hospital before Marshall North opened. “I thought, ‘There’s no way that little boy can handle two hospitals,’’’ she recalled. “He was so young.” Betty distinctly remembers when the old hospital was shut down and patients were moved to the new one at North. The move was planned for a Saturday in hopes that employees would finish most of their work on Friday night. Every patient who could be discharged was sent home. They took a total of 44 people from Guntersville and Arab hospitals to brand new beds at North on the morning of Jan. 13, 1990. Betty, who is retired but still works in pathology, started work in April of 1976 and worked as a lab tech when the old hospital closed its doors. She recalls it being a sad occasion. “It was heartbreaking,” she remembers. “I was the one who closed the door on the Guntersville Hospital Lab. When I closed that door we shut the door on a lifetime, but we were excited to have a new building.” Mammographer Michelle Hicks was looking through old pictures when she spotted one that really hit close to home. It was a photo of her late grandparents, Elsie and Doyle Holloway of Arab. Mrs. Holloway was a hospital volunteer for at least 10 years, Michelle recalls. “I was surprised to find that picture,” she says.

Fri, Jan 2, 2015

There’s no place like home

Being at home takes on extra significance for most people when they’re sick, especially during the holidays and especially after a stay in the hospital recovering from an illness or injury. That universal desire to be at home in comfortable surroundings when a person is less than healthy gave rise to an industry based on the idea that sometimes the best medicine is being at home. It is called simply – “Home Health.” Approximately 7.6 million people currently receive care at home because of acute illnesses, long-term health conditions, permanent disability or terminal illness, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. By comparison, there are just over 1.8 million people in nursing homes. Home care is the long-term care option that promotes the individual's independence and ability to continue with their normal, daily routine as long as possible. The goal of home care is to provide in-home care for those who need it, regardless of age or disability, so they can remain living at home. It may also include personal care services to help with the activities of daily living, including home care services like bathing, dressing and grooming. The National Institute on Aging has predicted that in 2050 – just over 40 years from now – there will be an estimated 33 million people in the 65- to 74-year-old age group, 30 million in the 75- to 84-year-old age group, 18 million in the 85- to 99-year-old age group and 2.5 million in the 100 years and older age group. With senior citizens increasing at such a healthy rate, home health will likely continue to grow right along with them. Marshall Medical Centers has partnered with the LHC group to create HomeCare, a team of 45 employees who serve our current 307 patients. Licensed home care organizations provide a wide range of services to include catheter and tube care, cardiac and respiratory monitoring, diabetes management, wound care, in-home therapy and rehabilitation and pain management. With mobile technology and specially-trained staff available for in-home visits, patients are assisted and encouraged to regain strength and independence. In addition, your care is provided under the direct supervision of your physician. And another important part of home health is offering guidance and support to caregivers. The emergence of new medical treatments and technologies has made home health care a viable, cost effective option for high-quality, professional care for a wide range of medical conditions. Medical Centers HomeCare strives to provide the educational tools and resources to help families make an informed decision when the time to plan for the care of a loved one arrives. For more information, you may visit Medical Centers HomeCare on the web at or call (256)-878-5811.

Tue, Dec 16, 2014

Marshall Medical Centers earn recognition for achievements in electronic medical records

Marshall Medical Centers is in the top 17 percent of national hospitals when it comes to using the latest technology in keeping electronic medical records. MMC was just awarded Stage 6 Recognition, which ranks it as one of the 930 U.S. hospitals reaching this level of information technology and one of only two in Alabama. This is good news for residents of Marshall County who can know that when they go to their county-owned hospital for care, their records are being maintained and safeguarded by the latest technology. “Marshall Medical Centers is committed to utilizing information technology to the fullest to ensure patient safety and achieve efficiencies,” said Kim Bunch, Marshall Medical’s Director of Information Technology. “I am very proud of the hard work and dedication of Marshall’s team and that they are committed to improve the overall patient experience and ensure patient safety. Accomplishments like this really set us apart in that Marshall has achieved what few hospitals have done nationwide.” Bunch said Marshall Medical’s two hospitals had many requirements already in place to ensure patient safety and efficiency, and staff worked hard over the past 12 months to implement the rest. “That’s what pushed us up from Stage 5 to 6,” Bunch said. “IT focused on the latest advances to ensure patient safety and the best clinical outcomes.” Hospital staff converted patient medical records from paper to electronic data. Physician order entries and physician documentation are now electronic. Verifying that all medications given are the correct ones is done at the patient’s bedside and requires medicines to be scanned, along with the patient and the orders. Records also confirm that patients take the correct meds at home. “The outcome is that it improves patient safety,” said Bunch. “All the patient information from either facility is in electronic form and available at either hospital site. It can be obtained from any source with Marshall Medical Centers.” HIMSS Analytics tracks more than 5,400 U.S. hospitals in electronic medical record adoption. There are eight stages for hospitals to climb as they build the technology necessary. Stage 7 represents an advanced electronic patient record environment. “HIMSS Analytics congratulates Marshall Medical Centers for leading the way toward health IT adoption,” said John Hoyt, executive vice president of HIMSS Analytics. “Stage 6 represents a level of sophistication that only 930 U.S. hospitals have reached to date.”

Tue, Nov 18, 2014

Marshall Medical Centers earns ‘Top Performer on Key Quality Measures' recognition

Marshall Medical Centers has earned the rank of ‘Top Performer’ in quality, according to The Joint Commission’s annual report on America’s hospitals. MMC is being recognized for quality service in the care of heart failure, pneumonia and surgical care. The Joint Commission is considered the gold standard in accrediting hospitals. "We have made it a top priority to continuously improve care by measuring our performance and comparing to nationally recognized measure sets," said Teresa Guess, vice president of quality and clinical information. "Being accredited by The Joint Commission is a nationally recognized symbol of quality for health care organizations. We are proud to be named a 2013 Top Performer by The Joint Commission. This reflects our commitment to providing safe and high quality care to our patients." As a Top Performer on Key Quality Measures for 2013, MMC is included in the annual report America’s Hospitals: Improving Quality and Safety. MMC was one of 25 hospitals in Alabama to meet or exceed the target rates of performance last year. These hospitals are leading the way nationally in using proven treatments that increase the chances of healthy outcomes. The Joint Commission’s Top Performer on Key Quality Measures® program recognizes accredited hospitals that attain excellence on accountability measure performance. The program is based on data reported in the previous year about evidence-based clinical processes that are shown to be the best treatments for certain conditions, including heart attack, heart failure, pneumonia, surgical care, children’s asthma, inpatient psychiatric services, stroke, venous thromboembolism, immunization, and perinatal care.

Our Vision: To provide world-class healthcare with a personal touch.