Our readers suggest some of the region's standouts in medical care.
Thousands of people work in health care across the region, all helping patients get healthy and stay that way. Who is exceptionally good at doing so? We asked our readers for nominations in our second annual compilation of Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly Health Care Honors.
Advancements in Health Care
IU Health La Porte Hospital Arrhythmia Center
Arrhythmia is a problem with the heartbeat–a rhythm that's too fast, too slow or irregular. Indiana University Health La Porte Hospital is advancing care for arrhythmia through its Arrhythmia Center.
“The Arrhythmia Center delivers a model of care not often seen” explains Chris Atherton, a nurse who is director of electrophysiology services. “We provide a continuum of care–from the initial consult through continued treatment after procedures or medical therapy. All colleagues are cross-trained to all areas of the center: the clinic, holding areas and procedural areas. This results in greater patient satisfaction and outcomes.”
The nomination spotlights the advanced electrophysiology lab, “which allows physicians to study the heart to determine the source of and potential treatment options for arrhythmias. Other treatments that are available onsite include pacemaker placements, ablations and defibrillators.” Among other advances cited by the nominator is the Sensei X robotic catheter system, one of few such installations in the state. “I have worked in the field of cardiac electrophysiology for over 20 years,” Atherton says. “I was able to fulfill the ‘wish list' that I had compiled all those years with the completion of the Arrhythmia Center.”
Cancer is scary enough wherever in the body it develops–and it's even worse if it spreads to somewhere else. It's important to be able to detect what are known as circulating tumor cells in cancer patients, or CTCs, but is very difficult to do. Current methods “only give modest catching efficiency and high false positive rates,” according to a Health Care Honors nomination.
The nomination puts the spotlight on IVDiagnostics, which is developing a better way to detect CTCs. “The process is non-invasive, which is much less traumatic for the patient and much less expensive,” reports another nominator. “More important, results are ready in real time rather than having to wait a couple of days.”
The concept involves essentially labeling tumor cells with special fluorescent aptamers, which are DNA, RNA or other nucleic acids. Once the tumor cells are labeled, they can be detected by a fiber-optic-based scanner focused on one of the patient's surface blood vessels. According to one of the nominators, “clinical trials are about to begin, and it is fully expected that the way cancer is treated will changed.”
Honorable Mention: Methodist Hospital Emergency Room Renovation & Expansion
An $8 million renovation to the emergency department at Methodist Hospital's Southlake Campus will boost quality and decrease wait times. The improved ER features online bedside charting and state-of-the-art cardiac monitoring, and all monitors connect directly to the hospital's computers. The project also created easier connections to radiology, the catheterization labs, nuclear medicine and laboratory services. Noise levels are lower in the new facility, and there's a child-friendly waiting area.
Dr. Jennifer Pallone
The health-care reimbursement system tends to encourage doctors and other providers to minimize time with patients and seek shortcuts. Dr. Jennifer Pallone of The Neurological Institute & Specialty Centers in Merrillville will have none of that. According to her nominator, she'll take whatever time is necessary to understand patients' personal needs, to educate them on treatment options, to convince them that they are not alone, and to provide encouragement which will create in them a determination to overcome their illness.”
Dr. Pallone is director of the institute's Movement Disorders Center, and “has developed a distinguished reputation for treating the unusually demanding needs of this patient population,” her nominator says. Her reputation has attracted patients not just from Northwest Indiana, but from across Indiana and from other states.
Patient satisfaction surveys confirm the high esteem in which her patients hold Dr. Pallone, her nominator says. “She has dedicated her professional life to treating a special patient group with respect and dignity.”
Dr. Arshad Malik
Cardiologist Dr. Arshad Malik goes above and beyond the call of a typical physician, according to his nominator. “Dr. Malik gives extraordinary care for his patients. He cares for his patients as if they were his own family members.”
That means spending more time with patients than is common, according to the nominator, while always acting with kindness and respect. “Dr. Malik is always pushing forward with new technology in peripheral angioplasties to get the best results possible,” according to his nominator. “Dr. Malik will do cases that other physicians will turn down because of how difficult they might be. He will stand at the table for hours if necessary to try and save someone's leg or foot. Dr. Malik is one of the most talented cardiologists in the area and is still very humble.”
Dr. Michael Olden
In keeping with the tenets of osteopathic medicine, Dr. Michael Olden treats the whole patient, and he does so in a way that has attracted a lot of fans through the years. “His charm and wit are as equally sought-after as his professionalism and expertise,” says his nominator, a nurse. “The patients I see often refer to him as ‘so wonderful.'”
Dr. Olden is highly responsive and directive in his delivery of patient care, according to his nominator. “He makes you feel as though you have no boundaries in the conversation, with the ability to seek answers for your health care without trepidation.”
Calumet Orthopedic & Prosthetics Co. Inc.
“My father, Walter Pawlowski, a World War II veteran injured when his parachute didn't open, broke his back and was in a body cast for a long time,” says Ron Pawlowski, a certified orthotist prosthetist. “It was during this time that he became interested in the design and fabrication of orthotic devices, or braces, as they were called then.”
Calumet Orthopedic & Prosthetics Co. Inc. has been providing compassionate care for 60 years now, serving people across Northwest Indiana with physical disabilities. “The staff at Calumet Orthopedic & Prosthetics Co. is there to inspire and give hope when a person has had a life-changing experience, whether through illness or traumatic accident,” according to the nomination.
Pawlowski followed his father into military service, and also found it informative for providing compassionate rehabilitative care. “My own experience in a medical evacuation hospital while in Vietnam exposed me to more traumatic situations. I was able to apply that experience to enhance the family business in the prosthetic field.”
An amputation or other major physical disability tremendously challenging, both physically and emotionally, says Pawlowski. “But people can and do rebound amazingly when given sufficient care and appropriate rehabilitative tools.”
Paula Swenson is St. Catherine Hospital's vice president of patient care service and chief nursing officer. Says her nominator, she “leads the entire hospital in delivering the highest-quality, patient-centered care… leading to optimal outcomes and patient satisfaction.”
She has guided many committees focused on improving access to care and setting high standards of care, according to her nominator. “One recent committee is the patient advisory council, through which former patients and their families advise the hospital on how to improve safety for patients,” the nominator says. “This is one example of many where Ms. Swenson ensures that clinical services are operated with a patient-centered focus.”
Outstanding Health Care Worker
Dr. Manoj Bahl
“After a bad experience with a crown replacement at another dental office, I avoided going to the dentist for years.” The empathy this patient experienced at Excel Dental Studio led to a nomination for Manoj Bahl, DDS, as an outstanding health-care worker. “He sets the tone for the office and the staff is always professional and courteous because it comes from the top.”
“I feel the best way I can impact the health and well-being of my patients is to educate them,” says Dr. Bahl. “I want to empower my patients so they can make educated decisions about the smiles they have and the smiles they want. We use models, intra-oral photography and LCD flat-screen televisions, and simply take time listening to our patients' wants and desires.”
Dr. Bahl's roster of satisfied patients is not just in Northwest Indiana. “I worked in Roatan, Honduras, offering free dentistry with a team of dentists and auxiliaries,” he says. “Dental care was almost nonexistent on the island. Working abroad made me realize how lucky we are, not just to be able to receive health care in the United States, but how lucky I am to provide high-quality dental care. I feel privileged.”
Health-care volunteers don't typically have waiting lists, but Cynthia Fodness is not a typical volunteer. She's a clinical nurse specialist in adult psychiatry and mental health, and she's spent hours and hours volunteering her time to help St. Clare Health Clinic patients cope.
“The patients at St. Clare face many different stressors when they come to our clinic,” says her nominator. “Many have lost their jobs, homes, face financial struggles and have very limited resources or support. These stressors greatly impact their mental health, which in turn can also affect their physical health and well-being. Being able to provide a mental health counselor like Cindy gives them the chance to work on overcoming their personal struggles.”
Fodness, who teaches at University of Saint Francis, dedicates Thursday afternoons to her volunteer counseling work. She schedules four patients each afternoon, in order to provide each with ample time and attention. “She currently has a waiting list of two to three months for patients to get an appointment with her,” her nominator observes.
“I've volunteered in one way or another, most of my adult life,” Fodness says. “It's my way of giving to others what I've been given. If I can make other people's lives a little better, it matters a lot to me. It's my ripple in the world.”
“Judy Gresko is truly one-of-a-kind. While she is short in stature, her heart is huge beyond belief,” according to the nomination for Gresko, president of the St. Catherine Hospital Auxiliary. The auxiliary has the fewest active members of any area hospital, according to the nominator. But those 40 members together generate more fundraising dollars than just about any auxiliary.
“That large donation–almost always more than $100,000 each year–is due to Judy's energy, efforts, leadership, charisma and hard work,” her nominator says. “She is known as the energizer bunny, and whenever there is a need, she can be counted on.”
“I was raised in a large family with 11 children, and we were taught to help one another and share our talents,” Gresko says. “Volunteering is very rewarding, I get back more than I give. I've met a lot of wonderful people, who are now my friends. It just does your heart good, to know you are truly making a difference.”