LHAS Grants to Support UPMC Presbyterian, Community Projects

By Martin Kinnunen

The purpose of the Ladies Hospital Aid Society (LHAS) is clear and succinct.

“The money we raise in our gift shops at UPMC Montefiore and UPMC Presbyterian, in the LHAS Café on Seventh, and at the various sales we conduct is dedicated to one purpose — to help our patients and support programs that improve lives in our communities,” said Dee Dee Troutman, executive director, LHAS.

That sense of helping others in need and shaping lives for the better resonates in the projects that were recently selected to receive LHAS 2013-14 Grant Program funding.  The LHAS has awarded more than $50,000 in grants for the following projects:

Creating a relaxing environment for patients
Unit 4D at UPMC Presbyterian serves patients awaiting heart transplants or recovering from various cardiac procedures. During their extended hospital stays, most patients are on monitors and cannot leave the unit. To reduce stress and relieve boredom, the staff on Unit 4D requested LHAS funding to create a patient and family relaxation room, explained Susan Sweeny, clinical resource specialist.

The existing family lounge on Unit 4D has ample windows and sunlight, but it can be improved to become more inviting and have a less institutional feel. A number of ideas are being discussed. “We like the concept of bringing the outdoors into this room,” says Ms. Sweeny.

With financial support from the LHAS, new color schemes using earth tones, window treatments, comfortable reclining chairs, and perhaps smoothing audio recordings featuring natural sounds are being considered.

Ms. Sweeny would like to rename the area the LHAS Relaxation Room. “This space will become a place where patients and their families can experience a quiet and refreshing change of pace without having to leave the unit,” she says.

Protecting the health of the city’s young athletes
The UPMC Concussion Outreach Program will use LHAS funding to provide baseline testing to approximately 500 young athletes through a partnership with the Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Athletes of any sport who are 11 years of age or older will receive a free computerized concussion baseline test developed through UPMC. Additionally, all participants will receive a neck strength kit that includes instructions.

“Athletic-related concussions are a major recognized risk to youngsters. Young athletes in urban areas often have scarce resources and opportunities to access the necessary preventive computer program for concussion management, so this LHAS grant is very much appreciated,” said Michael“Mickey” Collins, Ph.D., director of the UPMC Sports Medicine ConcussionProgram.

The risks of an undiagnosed and untreated concussion are potentially severe. Repeated concussions, as can happen in many sports, increase the risks. The effects on the developing brain of a young athlete are likely to be even more severe.

Computerized baseline testing of an athlete’s non-concussed neurological state can provide objective data to clinical personnel diagnosing a concussion, ensuring a safer return to play and possibly averting catastrophic injuries. The baseline test will be made using ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing), which was developed by UPMC.

Helping patients understand the complexities of their disease and treatment options
The newly integrated departments of the Starzl Transplantation Institute and the Center for Liver Diseases received LHAS funding to help patients better understand the complexities of organ transplantation and chronic liver disease.

“We strongly believe that one way to accomplish this goal is to focus on patient and family education,” the department stated in its grant application.

Construction of a dedicated space for a patient and family education room has been completed. The LHAS funding will provide furniture and audiovisual equipment. Those to be served in the patient education room include all new patients (more than 120 a month), all patients beginning hepatitis C treatment, all recently transplanted patients, and all long-term patients in need of ongoing patient education.

It also will provide information about the option of living donation for kidney and liver patients, as well as individuals who are interested in learning about the living donation process. At least 250 patients a month (and their families) will use the patient education room.

“Providing superior patient and family education is essential to exceptional care and, at the same time, empowers and comforts both patients and their loved ones,” the department stated.

Funding to discuss medical ethics
The LHAS will continue its tradition of providing funds for the Medical Ethics Update/Annual Messer Lecture presented by the University of Pittsburgh Center for Bioethics and Health Law.

This event brings together the academic community and the Pittsburgh community to discuss topics in bioethics, health care and patient care. It provides an opportunity for health care professionals, lawyers, clergy, and lay people to discuss how to best support the sick and poor living in Pittsburgh and surrounding communities.

This year’s keynote speaker is Kathleen M. Foley, M.D., of Memorial Sloan-Kettering/New York, who will speak on “Ethical Issues in Pain Management.” The Medical Ethics Update/Annual Messer Lecture will be held Friday, April 4, in the Biomedical Science Tower Conference Center.

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