Health

Joseph Volavka, far left, stood alongside Dolan Family Health Center and Pink Aid members to celebrate the $25,000 grant. Photo from Dolan Family Health Center

Woman can receive free mammograms, sonograms and breast biopsies at Huntington Hospital’s Women’s Center and the Charles and Helen Reichert Imaging Center at Huntington with the help of a new grant.

On Friday, Aug. 7, Pink Aid, an organization that aims to help women receive and survive breast cancer treatment, gave the Dolan Family Health Center a one-year, $25,000 grant.

According to Joseph Volavka, senior administrative director of the Dolan Family Health Center, around 23 percent of the center’s patients pay out of pocket for their regular appointment. The purpose of the grant is to encourage women who may not have health insurance to receive free breast screenings, which can be costly. Most patients usually have enough money to pay for their regular appointments, so the grant gives more women the opportunity to get additional health care than they would otherwise receive due to financial limitations.

“We are very grateful for this grant, which will help so many women to get the medical care that they need, and it will also help their families.” Kathy Giffuni, RN, nurse manager of the Dolan Family Health Center, said in a press release.

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A military report has concluded that one in three Americans are currently too overweight to enlist in the armed services.

According to Still Too Fat to Fight, a military study, at least nine million Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are too overweight to serve in the military. The Army Recruiting Station of Smithtown has witnessed this problem in some of their applicants.

Still Too Fat to Fight and its predecessor Too Fat to Fight, both released by Mission: Readiness, are studies that discuss the problems with overweight citizens and the military force.

“Being overweight or obese is the number one medical reason why young adults cannot enlist,” according to the study. “The United States Department of Defense spends approximately one billion dollars per year for medical care associated with weight-related health problems.”

Mission: Readiness is a national security organization, and their mission calls for smart investments in America’s children. It operates under the umbrella of the nonprofit Council for a Strong America.

“I’ve seen, in my experience, it’s been consistent that a certain amount of applicants have been too overweight to enlist,” Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Carmack said.

Retired Army Gen. Johnnie E. Wilson said, in Too Fat to Fight, that the threat could become much bigger.

“Childhood obesity has become so serious in this country that military leaders are viewing this epidemic as a potential threat to our national security,” he said. “We need America’s service members to be in excellent physical condition because they have such an important job to do.”

While Carmack said he does not foresee the issue becoming too threatening, he said it does “put us in a situation where we need to be more selective.”

Carmack, a senior ranking official at the Smithtown recruiting station, has been working in recruitment for the past four years, and has been on Long Island, at the Smithtown office, for the past two. He said he has found success with the Future Soldier Physical Fitness program.

The Future Soldier program is a training program that is “designed to get future soldiers ready for basic training,” Carmack said. The program includes information about basic training, general military orders, military time, and physical exercise.

The program is meant to make future soldiers more prepared, and also help motivate and train citizens who are interested in joining the military but are unable to due to issues like their weight.

“Most of the time, young ladies and men want to join the program, and they typically stay with us until they can enlist,” Carmack said. “I have worked with quite a few men and women to help them achieve their goal and get to that acceptable weight limit for Army standards.”

Future Soldier Anthony Troise, of Smithtown, has benefitted from this program.

When Troise was in high school, he discovered his interest in the military, and learned he would need to improve himself in order to enlist. He started training on his own, and once he was 17, met the standards and began attending the Future Soldiers program.

“I’ve lost a few pounds, and am benefiting physically and in my health overall from this program,” Troise said. “It’s a lot of physical fitness and a lot of cardio and core. Every time they want to improve different aspects.”

According to Still Too Fat to Fight, during the Iraq war, Congress expanded the number of military recruiters. The Army also experimented with accepting physically fit recruits who had more excess body fat than those previously allowed.

The Army discovered that overweight recruits were 47 percent more likely to experience a musculoskeletal injury, such as a sprain or stress fracture. Since then, the Army has stopped accepting overweight recruits.

Carmack said that the Future Soldier program is making positive success against this issue.

“A structured program is the best way to combat it.”

Mission: Readiness, an organization of retired senior military leaders, focuses on 17 to 24 year-olds in the Unites States that can’t serve in the military due to a variety of reasons including poor education, being overweight, and having a criminal history.

Tommy the chimp looks through his cage upstate. Photo from Nonhuman Rights Project

The two chimpanzees housed at Stony Brook University will not be granted the personhood necessary to allow them to challenge their captivity, a state Supreme Court judge ruled in an animal rights advocacy group’s lawsuit against the school.

Justice Barbara Jaffe ruled in her July 30 decision that Hercules and Leo, the two male chimps used for research at Stony Brook University’s Department of Anatomical Sciences, would not be granted a “writ of habeas corpus,” as petitioned for in the Nonhuman Rights Project’s suit against the university. The animal rights group had petitioned the judge with hopes of forcing the university to move the chimps to the Florida-based Save the Chimps animal sanctuary.

“The similarities between chimpanzees and humans inspire the empathy felt for a beloved pet,” Jaffe said in her decision. “Efforts to extend legal rights to chimpanzees are thus understandable; someday they may even succeed. For now, however, given the precedent to which I am bound it is hereby ordered that the petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied.”

Jaffe cited previous suits the Nonhuman Rights Project had headed up, including one referencing a chimpanzee named Tommy who was being held through Circle L Trailers in Gloversville, NY. In that case, the Fulton County Supreme Court dismissed the Nonhuman Rights Project’s appeal to have the chimp released.

Steven Wise, president of the Nonhuman Rights Project, said his group was still looking forward to appealing Jaffe’s decision to the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division’s first judicial department.

“Unlike Justice Jaffe, [the first judicial department] is not bound by the decision of the Third Department in Tommy’s case,” Wise said in a statement.

Despite the judge’s ruling, Susan Larson, an anatomical sciences professor at SBU, previously said both Hercules and Leo will retire from the facility’s research center and be gone by September. Larson did not return requests for comment.

The Nonhuman Rights Project, however, said it would work to ensure the chimps are released to a sanctuary nevertheless.

“We applaud Stony Brook for finally doing the right thing,” Lauren Choplin of the Nonhuman Rights Project wrote on the group’s website. “We have made it clear that we remain willing to assist Stony Brook in sending Hercules and Leo to Save the Chimps in Ft. Pierce, Florida, where we have arranged for them to be transferred, or to have an appropriate member sanctuary of the North American Primate Sanctuary Alliance, as we did in Tommy’s case. We have made it equally clear that, if Stony Brook attempts to move Hercules and Leo to any other place, we will immediately seek a preliminary injunction to prevent this move pending the outcome of all appeals, as we succeeded in doing in Tommy’s case last year.”

New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana owns the chimps, and their next destination was not clear.

The court first ordered the school to show cause and writ of habeas corpus — a command to produce the captive person and justify their detention — but struck out the latter on April 21, one day after releasing the initial order, making it a more administrative move simply prompting the university to defend why it detains the animals.

In an earlier press release from 2013, the Nonhuman Rights Project said the chimpanzee plaintiffs are “self-aware” and “autonomous” and therefore should have the same rights as humans. Hercules and Leo are currently being used in a locomotion research experiment in SBU’s Department of Anatomical Sciences.

Catholic Health Services’ Patricia Hulmes lauded for her dedication and positive and caring attitude

Alan Guerci, president and CEO of Catholic Health Services, left, presents Patricia Hulmes, right, with the Living the Mission Award during a small ceremony at Catholic Health Services. Photo from CHS

Charismatic, caring and ambitious, that’s how Patricia “Pattie” Hulmes’ co-workers describe her. Hulmes, of Rocky Point, never thought her positive attitude was anything to fuss over, until she was awarded the Living the Mission Award in early July, by her co-workers at the Catholic Health Services.

As the office manager of revenue cycle at CHS, Hulmes oversees several employees. She joined CHS in 2007 and despite her workload, Hulmes always makes the time to ensure the well-being of those surrounding her and she does it with a smile on her face.

“Even dealing with all her staff and work, she took the time to [ask] ‘Are you okay? What’s going on?’” Paula Palazzo said, recounting a time when she began transitioning into a different position at the company. “She always has a smile on her face and she’s always there to cheer you up.”

Palazzo and Hulmes have known one another for seven years and Palazzo, like other individuals working alongside Hulmes, believe she is the perfect candidate for the award.

CHS created the Living the Mission Award several years ago with the goal of acknowledging employees for exemplifying the company’s values of respect, integrity, justice and excellence.

“I think in the day-to-day working environment, it’s so easy to become drowned in the minutia of the details, and we forget that behind all of those details are people. We’re not running through a field of daisies everyday, so there are things that we become so engrossed with,” Hulmes said. “We forget the people around us are drowning in that same minutia. So it’s important for us to treat each other with respect and to acknowledge people when we pass them in the hall.”

Saying good morning and greeting people throughout the building is second nature for Hulmes, so receiving the award was a shock.

“She’s quite surprised because that’s her way of life, and the sad part is, not everybody is like she is,” Susane Lim said about Hulmes. Lim is one of Hulmes’ system directors at the company. Within the seven months they have known one another, Hulmes is one of Lim’s favorite people at work.

To nominate an employee for this annual award, employees must select one of their peers and discuss why they embody the company’s values on an online application. A small ceremony is held for recipients of the award. CHS President and CEO Alan Guerci presented Hulmes with the award during the ceremony.

Although Hulmes does not deal with CHS patients, she helps patients receive affordable care. CHS helps members of the community that can’t afford traditional health care. The company helps find sources that can offset the cost of an appointment for the patients it serves.

According to Lim, the company has a variety of plans for those who can’t afford health care. The plans also take the individual’s income into consideration.

But working at CHS isn’t the only way Hulmes likes to give back to her community. Hulmes is also a member of St. Anthony’s Parish in Rocky Point. She reads at mass and also teaches religion to children preparing for confirmation. While Hulmes said she tries to “sit back and have things come to [her],” she checks the parish’s bulletin to see where she can help her community. The bulletin has led her to unique experiences like Clown Ministry, where church members or those who work at nursing homes or day care centers dress up like clowns and visit different parts of the community. Hulmes said dressing up can help people who struggle to communicate. The costume may help them relax and be more comfortable.

“We have different layers of relationships in life … but I think once we figure out how to go beyond that and love the community, to love the people we work with, to love the people we don’t know or haven’t met yet, I think that’s when … we can truly grow and evolve and make a difference in the world, and I think that’s what’s most important to me,” Hulmes said.

Hulmes’ attitude has made a difference in the lives of some of her co-workers as well, as she reminds her co-workers to enjoy themselves and that they can count on her if they need anything.

“She helps us remember that we’re all human and that we all need to laugh and we have more important reasons for being here,” Lim said.

The Errante family celebrates with a cake to mark 10 years since a life-changing surgery. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Ten years ago, at Stony Brook University Hospital, a life-saving operation was performed on a mother of triplets.

Michael, Samantha and Joseph Errante were born on Aug, 29, 2005, in an emergency cesarean section, after it was discovered that their mother, Roseann, had an aortic dissection.

“Technically, they saved my life,” Roseann Errante said. “I would’ve never felt the amount of pain if I wasn’t pregnant.”

The family gathered at the hospital on Monday, Aug. 10, so that the triplets could meet the doctors and nurses that saved their lives, and also have a surprise tenth birthday party thrown in their honor by the hospital.

Roseann Errante said she felt overwhelmed and grateful being back.“We never thought we’d be here 10 years later.”

In 2005, Roseann and Joe Errante arrived at Stony Brook University Hospital because she was complaining of intense chest pains. They had already been sent home from another hospital after being told it was just heart burn, however once the pain persisted, the couple decided to go to Stony Brook.

“They told us ‘we don’t know what’s wrong with you, but you’re not leaving until we find out’ which was so reassuring,” Roseann Errante said.

Dr. Frank Seifert, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Stony Brook, was soon operating on her for an aortic dissection, which is a tear on the inside wall of the aorta. If untreated, this disease can kill within the first 48 hours, and 95 percent are dead within a month.

But before Seifert could begin, Roseann Errante had to undergo a caesarean section, so that the triplets could be born as safely as possible.

“Forget Stephen King, this was much more terrifying than anything else I’d ever heard,” Joe Errante said of his wife’s diagnosis and emergency surgery.

The multi-hour surgery was a success, and while one of the triplets, Joseph, had to undergo two surgeries shortly after he was born to repair a burst intestine, all three babies and Roseann Errante returned home completely safe and healthy.

“I’m sure I speak for all the health care providers, seeing this right now is the ultimate satisfaction. Seeing patients go out and do so well, and then wanting to come back and express their thanks, it’s really heartwarming,” said Dr. Richard Scriven, who worked on the triplets and both of Joseph’s surgeries.

Both parents praised everyone in the hospital for how they treated them during that tough time, from the doctors and nurses to the workers in the cafeteria.

Now, as Michael, Samantha and Joseph turn 10, they have all grown into healthy kids, and enjoy playing sports, watching their favorite television shows and attending camps together, along with their older brother Anthony.

“We like the batting cages, playing European handball, running bases,” the triplets listed off together.

The Errante family resides in Hauppauge. The triplets are about to start their last year at Forest Brook Elementary School, and Anthony is in Hauppauge Middle School.

“I tell her, we’re never going to win the lottery because we used every bit of luck we had right then and there, and it was all worth it,” Joe Errante said.

Town board, hospital ink helipad agreement

The SkyHealth team. Photo from Huntington Hospital

Huntington Hospital is flying high.

The town board on Tuesday approved a license agreement with the hospital to use a portion of the town’s parking facility adjoining Mill Dam Park as a helipad. The agreement spans from August to July 31, 2017.

With the helipad, the hospital will be air-transporting, via helicopter, patients in need of urgent or emergent care to the most appropriate health care facility to address their needs. The hospital will also transport “harvested organs to and from the Huntington Hospital,” according to the town board resolution.

“North Shore – LIJ Health System has developed a new air medical service program called SkyHealth, which is staffed by highly skilled medical professionals,” Randolph Howard, vice president of operations at Huntington Hospital said in a statement through a hospital spokeswoman. “Developing a heliport in Huntington provides a key location from which SkyHealth can transport critically ill patients who require immediate medical transportation. Through this heliport, SkyHealth will provide a vital service to the residents of the greater Huntington area.”

James Margolin, an attorney with the firm Margolin & Margolin, said the helipad already exists, but it is in need of an upgrade — one that the hospital will undertake.

“We thank the town board for its continuing commitment to getting the lifesaving community service into effect,” he said.

SkyHealth is a partnership with Yale New Haven Health in Connecticut and the North Shore- LIJ Health System. Patients of both health systems in need of lifesaving care for major traumas, heart attack, stroke and other life-threatening brain injuries will receive emergency medical care by helicopter and be quickly flown to the most appropriate hospital, according to the North Shore-LIJ Health System’s website.

The helicopter would be staffed with a nurse, a critical care paramedic, all certified in New York and Connecticut, and a pilot. That would be the “standard crew,” according to Gene Tangney, senior vice president and chief administrative officer of North Shore-LIJ in a SkyHealth promotional video.

Huntington Hospital will pay the town $14,062 upon the execution of the license agreement, and another $14,062 at the end of the agreement, according to the resolution.

Councilwoman Tracey Edwards (D) requested quarterly reports from the hospital to ensure the volume is “consistent with what we agreed upon.” Margolin agreed to the request.

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By Matthew Kearns, DVM

“Ooooooh … those itchy ears. My dog or cat is constantly scratching or shaking its head. I feel terrible for them and it sometimes keeps me up at night. My vet calls it an ear infection. It clears up on the medication but once finished it keeps coming back. Why does this happen?”

That is the million dollar question (actually, I’m sure millions of dollars are spent on ear infections every year).  To call every dog or cat that comes in with itchy ears an ear infection is misleading. 

These pets have otitis externa, and “otitis externa” literally means inflammation (not infection) of the external ear canal. Although we veterinarians commonly dispense medications with antibiotics and antifungals in them, the bacteria and yeast we are treating are considered natural flora (in the ear canal at all times in lower numbers).

So why do we get “flora gone wild”?  Usually some other primary trigger is involved and the infection is secondary overgrowth. Examples are parasitic infections (ear mites), pets that swim or get baths and get water (and shampoo) in their ears, ear tumors (both benign polyps and cancerous tumors) etc.  However, the most common cause of recurrent otitis externa is allergies. I consulted with a veterinary dermatologist, and she estimated that between 80 and 90 percent of all recurrent otitis externa in dogs is related to allergies. 

To understand why an allergy would cause such problems in the canine and feline ear canal we first have to describe the anatomy. Unlike a human ear canal, which has a shorter external component in a horizontal direction only, the canine and feline external ear canal is much longer and has both a vertical and horizontal component. Therefore, there is a much greater distance from the opening of the ear canal to the ear drum. This shape and extra distance plays a critical role in otitis externa.

Also, the healthy ear canal is lined with three types of cells: epithelial cells (those similar to skin), ceruminous cells and apocrine cells (cells that produce earwax).  Just like the epithelial cells of the skin, these cells will be replaced every few days. The new cells push the old (dead) cells out to the entrance of the canal, and the small amount of earwax produced in the healthy ear migrates out with the dead epithelial cells.

However, if the lining of the ear canal becomes inflamed, it narrows due to swelling and excessive earwax is produced. This not only overwhelms the ability to clear the wax, it also leads to a warm, dark and moist environment and allows the normal bacteria and yeast to overgrow and a true ear infection is produced.

This will clear up with medication but, if your pet is exposed to the same trigger, it will come back again. Certain breeds such as Labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, cocker spaniels, shar-peis and many others may have complicating factors such as hair in the ear canal, floppy ears, narrow ear canals or a combination of these things. Now, this does not mean that every member of these breeds is guaranteed to have chronic ear infections, rather it means that if you have a member of these breeds and they have even low-grade allergies the ears can spiral out of control quickly.

In my next article I will describe how to manage chronic or recurrent otitis externa.

Dr. Kearns has been in practice for 16 years and is pictured with his son, Matthew, and his dog, Jasmine.

County: 26 samples collected last month bring total up to 46 this year

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Twenty-six mosquito samples and one bird have tested positive for the West Nile virus in various parts of Suffolk County, Dr. James L. Tomarken, the county’s health commissioner, announced on Friday.

The bird, an American crow, was collected on July 31 from Port Jefferson. All the mosquito samples that came back positive were collected on July 29, according to the county. Five of them were from West Babylon, four were from Farmingville and three were from Lindenhurst; as well as two samples each from Northport, East Northport, Huntington Station, Nesconset and Port Jefferson; and one sample each from Greenlawn, Selden, North Babylon and West Islip.

To date this year, 46 mosquito samples and four birds have tested positive for West Nile virus.

The virus was first detected in birds and mosquitoes in Suffolk County in 1999. It is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. No humans or horses have tested positive for West Nile virus in Suffolk this year.

While Dr. Tomarken said there’s no cause for alarm, he urged residents to take steps to reduce exposure to the virus.

Residents should eliminate stagnant water, where mosquitos breed. Popular breeding grounds include tin cans, plastic containers, ceramic pots, discarded tires, wading pools, wheelbarrows and birdbaths. In addition, residents can make sure their roof gutters are draining properly, clean debris from the edges of ponds and drain water from pool covers.

Minimize outdoor activities between dusk and dawn to avoid mosquito bites, make sure windows and doors have screens and wear clothing that covers you when outdoors for long periods of time, or when mosquitos are more active.

To report dead birds, which may indicate the presence of the virus, residents should call the county’s West Nile virus hotline at 631-787-2200 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Residents are encouraged to take a photograph of any bird in question.

To report mosquito problems or stagnant pools of water, call the vector control division at 631-852-4270.

For medical questions, call 631-854-0333.

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By L. Reuven Pasternak, M.D.

To keep health care strong across Suffolk County and Eastern Long Island, Stony Brook University Hospital and Eastern Long Island Hospital will move forward with next steps toward an affiliation — following a unanimous vote by ELIH’s board of trustees at a meeting held on July 9.

This affiliation will help both hospitals provide excellence in health care for the communities we serve. It would allow both hospitals to continue to bring new and strengthened clinical services to the North Fork of Eastern Long Island, including Shelter Island.

The best affiliations allow hospitals to make sure that each patient receives the right level of care in the right facility to match the right level of services needed. We believe this affiliation will do just that.

Our relationship with ELIH is a longstanding one with a history of the two hospitals working closely together to improve health care access and quality. Stony Brook Medicine clinicians have staffed and assisted in the development of ELIH inpatient behavioral health programs, cared for patients who needed specialty services not available at ELIH, and provided support and patient transport services during times of emergency. For example, following damage from Hurricane Sandy, Eastern Long Island patients were transferred to Stony Brook Medicine for care until the Greenport facility was restored.

The next step is for Stony Brook Medicine and ELIH to develop an integration and affiliation agreement. Then, the State University of New York board of trustees will need to approve the transaction. And finally, multiple regulatory steps must be approved through various New York State agencies.

We are grateful to SUNY’s support and visionary leadership for our continued work to establish affiliations with community hospitals in Suffolk County for the care of Long Island residents. On behalf of all of Stony Brook, we especially want to thank Thomas Murray Jr., chairman of the ELIH board of trustees, and the board for choosing Stony Brook as their strategic partner.

We look forward to strengthening our relationship with ELIH and working with Paul Connor III, president and CEO of ELIH, to fulfill our shared promise to meet the health care needs of the community for years to come.

L. Reuven Pasternak, M.D., is chief executive officer at Stony Brook University Hospital and vice president for Health Systems, Stony Brook Medicine.

A local effort to ban a popular ingredient in beauty products has support on the federal level.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman visited Long Island recently to announce the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015, a bipartisan federal bill that would ban cosmetics containing plastic pellets called microbeads, which are frequently smaller than 1 millimeter in diameter and are found in face washes, shampoos, beauty products and other soaps.

Because of their size, most wastewater treatment systems are unable to filter out the microbeads, so they are released into local waterways like the Long Island Sound. But microbeads accumulate toxins in the water, and fish and birds ingest them. Public health could be at risk if the fish are reeled in and eaten.

Schneiderman reported that about 19 tons of the small pellets pass through New York wastewater treatment plants each year.

Gillibrand’s bill has sponsors and co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle, most of them from the Midwest, according to a press release from the senator’s office. It is similar to a New York state-level bill of the same name, which is Schneiderman’s effort to prohibit the sale and distribution of products containing microbeads.

“These tiny pieces of plastic have already caused significant ecological damage to New York’s waterways,” Gillibrand said, “and they will continue to do so until they are removed from the marketplace.”

The state bill passed the Assembly in the last session but was not put up for a vote in the Senate, despite having more co-sponsors than the number of votes it would have needed to pass.

New York is not alone in pushing to ban microbeads — Illinois has already given them the axe, and other states are considering similar legislation.

Many local residents first heard about the issue when Suffolk County Legislator Kara Hahn (D-Setauket) led her colleagues to passing a law that required the county to study how a microbead ban would affect health and the economy.

She commended officials for their anti-microbead effort on the national stage.

“The threat posed by microbead waste is of national consequence,” Hahn said in the press release. “The cumbersome task of tackling this issue [from] municipality to municipality and state to state will never prove as effective as a federal approach.”

Adrienne Esposito, the executive director of the local Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said there are other effective alternatives to microbeads, such as apricot shells, salt and oatmeal.

“The public expects facial soaps and toothpaste to clean our face and teeth, not pollute our waters,” Esposito said. “Plastic microbeads pollute our waters, contaminate our fish and shellfish, and could end up back on our dinner plates. They are completely unnecessary.”