Hurricane Season: Are you ready if the lights go out?

Virginia is smack dab in the middle of the Eastern Seaboard, an area often threatened by hurricanes.

Are you ready, should a storm threaten our region?

The time is right for planning. Virginians are offered a sales tax holiday May 25-May 31, 2014, in time to prepare for the Atlantic Hurricane season which starts June 1.

Purchases of designated items—like portable generators and flashlights—are exempt from Virginia sales tax during the seven-day tax holiday. Portable generators must be priced at $1,000 or less, and other eligible items must be priced at $60 or less each. For details, visit Hurricane Preparedness Equipment Holiday

Along with items to help through an emergency, consider making a family plan including considerations for shelter options, evacuation, and emergency power needs.

This year’s hurricane season is expected to produce eight to 13 named tropical storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. Only those with wind speeds of 74 mph will be called hurricanes.

It takes only one storm making landfall to cause hardship. Are you ready?

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Masks Help Stop the Spread of Flu

Most flu this season is caused by the same virus that caused the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. And this year, we’re seeing some of the same groups not normally hit so hard by flu having severe complications.

Pregnant women and middle-aged adults are some of the hardest hit this flu season. Regrettably, these groups also have historically low vaccination rates, which could help reduce flu symptoms.

We’re asking for your help to help limit the spread of flu.

Since vaccination is not 100 percent effective, we urge you to take a mask when entering Sentara hospitals, urgent care centers, emergency departments, branch clinics and physician practices. Your help this flu season could help us protect others seeking care, staff, visitors and others.

Stations are set up at major entrances with hand cleaning and masking supplies for your use. For more information about what you can do to prevent flu this season, watch this video or visit the seasonal flu page on our website.

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Seeing is believing

Doctors are seeing more breast cancer than ever with new 3D mammography offered at Sentara Comprehensive Breast Centers. The innovative technology allows physicians to see the breast “layer by layer.”

How it works
It is well known that screening mammography saves lives. Although mammography has been the best tool we’ve had for decades to find breast cancer, it has limitations.  Mammography shows a 3D object—the breast—as a 2D image. Normal breast tissue can overlap and obscure cancers, making them difficult or impossible to see.

Now think 3D
With 3D mammography or breast tomosynthesis as it is sometimes called, hundreds of images are gathered from different angles allowing radiologists to view the breast “layer by layer.” This revolutionary advancement makes it possible for radiologists to see inside the breast in greater detail and detect cancers that may have otherwise been obscured.

Kelley Allison, M.D., a subspecialized radiologist, shares more about 3D mammography.

To schedule your appointment,or learn more about 3D mammography, go to or call 1-800-SENTARA

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How music can improve our lives

By Cheri Hinshelwood
Communications Advisor

Have you ever listened to music to improve your mood or step-up your exercise program? Has Mozart soothed your crying baby?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be aware on a deeper level that music is good for your soul. Now consider that your body reacts to music in ways that are also good for your health.

Science is proving the connections we’ve known intuitively existed between music and well-being, and Sentara neurologist Kamal Chémali, M.D. is at the forefront of experts using music in medicine. In Hampton Roads, he partners with Sentara certified music therapist to work directly with his patients.

“Our patients are impressed with the progress they make during Music Therapy. We’ve used Music Therapy to help patients who have had strokes make significant recovery. Music helps them increase walking speed, stride length, speaking ability, and decision-making skills,” says certified music therapist, Tracy Bowdish.

“It’s so rewarding to turn the rhythm, melody, and harmony in music into tools to improve people’s lives,” she continues.

Dr. Chémali, founder of the Sentara Music and Medicine Center in Norfolk, Va, and music therapist Tracy Bowdish have recently contributed to the Spring 2013 edition of the Steinway Chronicle which details countless ways music can improve our lives.

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The healing powers of music

Music Therapy offers promising option for stroke patients

(L-R) Prisca Beniot, artist in residence, and Kamal Chémali, MD, perform a piece together.

Sentara Neurologist and musician Kamal Chémali, M.D. knows first-hand the power of music. He has collaborated with Music Therapists to help stroke patients reactivate the language areas of their brains using Music Therapy.

After just a few minutes, one patient who had difficulty saying a simple sentence was able to sing one instead. After a month, the same patient was able to say the sentence without music.

“This is kind of spectacular,” says Chémali. “Some people say it’s a miracle, and indeed it is. It’s the power of music,” he continues.

Neurologic Music Therapy is an evidence-based treatment by a qualified professional using music to achieve a non-musical outcome. For some, it’s used for gait training; for others it’s used to regain language or better manage pain.

With Music Therapy, a board certified Music Therapist relies on music, melody and rhythm, but not a patient’s musical ability, to help that patient.

Chémali, who created a similar music and medicine program at the Cleveland Clinic, founded the Sentara Music and Medicine Center in Norfolk, Virginia and serves as the center’s medical director.

He is sharing his thoughts and experiences with neurologists all over the world at the 22 annual European Stroke Conference in London, UK May 28-31.

Health care provider uses steinway to help unlock healing power in music.



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Recent news of double mastectomy brings many questions to surface

If you’ve learned about Angelina Jolie and her recent breast removal surgery, you may have a few questions.

While only five to 10 percent of breast cancers are hereditary, a Sentara Cancer Network genetic counselor shares that it’s important to identify families with hereditary cancers. These can be breast cancers but also colon, pancreas, prostate or other cancer. By identifying families at higher risk, we are able to help prevent future cancers from occurring in these families with a strong history of cancer.

Here are several questions you can ask yourself to understand if you may be a candidate for genetic testing of the BRCA genes.

  • Have you or a family member (mother’s or father’s side) been diagnosed with breast cancer at age 50 or younger?
  • Have you or a family member been diagnosed with ovarian cancer at any age?
  • Do you have a male family member who has had breast cancer at any age?
  • Do you have Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry, and a personal or family history of breast, ovarian, or pancreatic cancer at any age?
  • Do you have a previously identified BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation in your family?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, please call the toll-free Sentara Cancer Network resource line at 888-220-2214 to be connected with a breast expert who can help you with a more thorough discussion of your risk.

“Even though I realize finding out you have a gene that increases your risks of cancer is concerning, helping my patients begin to see that knowledge is power helps them reclaim some control,” says Jessa Blount, MS who is a certified genetic counselor with Sentara Medical Group.

The new information patients learn through genetic testing helps them make better decisions about their health.

Learn more about Sentara Cancer Genetic Services. 



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Doctors at Sentara Heart Hospital study heart light

Cardiofocus 2008. Ablation tool
The system uses a laser to treat atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder affecting about 2.3 million people in the U.S.


Heart doctors at Sentara Heart Hospital can now look inside the beating hearts of patients involved in an investigational study. Researchers at Sentara Cardiovascular Research Institute are among 23 leading heart centers in the U.S. involved in a randomized clinical study to test a new device called HeartLight ®. The HeartLight Endoscopic Ablation System uses a laser to treat atrial fibrillation, the most common heart rhythm disorder affecting about 2.3 million people in the U.S.

The purpose of the study is to test the safety and effectiveness of this device in treating intermittent atrial fibrillation or irregular heart beats .

Among those who have seen into a beating heart is Ian Woollett, M.D. a cardiologist who specializes in the heart’s electrical system.

Dr. Woollet
Ian Woollet, M.D.

“It’s phenomenal to see inside a beating heart,” says Dr. Woollett, who is the principal investigator of the study at Sentara Cardiovascular Research Institute. “Actually seeing the inside a beating heart in real time is very different from anything I’d ever imagined,” he continues.

“As a leading heart center in the nation, we’re pleased to offer this treatment to our atrial fibrillation patients who are part of this study and to contribute to the knowledge that could change heart care for more A-fib patients around the globe,” he continues.

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Heart smarts: Passing it on

Virginia Heart Doctor Trains Nationally Recognized Experts to Implant Device used to Prevent Sudden Cardiac Death

A cardiologist and researcher with Sentara Cardiovascular Research Institute travels today to  top-ranked heart center Cleveland Clinic to train its doctors to implant a new defibrillator. As a top enrolling physician in the clinical research study that brought this new S-ICD widely to patients, Allen Ciuffo, M.D. is passing on what he’s learned.

Called an S-ICD or subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator, the new device gained FDA approval this fall. It’s used to restart hearts in patients with potentially fatal irregular heart beats.

S-ICD or subcutaneous implantable cardioverter defibrillator

Ciuffo already trained physicians in Boston at Massachusetts General Hospital, ranked 5th in the country for heart care by U.S. News & World Report 2012-2013 and Brigham and Women’s Hospital, ranked 9th.

Sentara began enrolling patients in the study October 2011 to evaluate the investigational device.

Lisa Callis Williams

First to sign up through Sentara was 35-year-old Lisa Callis Williams. She’d been faced with the possibility of having a life threatening incident for most of her life. At age nine, her older brother collapsed and died while they were playing outside together. In 2005, Williams was diagnosed with the same condition as her brother and she sought out centers involved in the study as an option. Now this device is available to more patients following FDA approval.

Learn more about Sentara Heart.




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Assortment of fruits and vegetables

Do you have trouble feeding your teen?

Feeding your teen healthy choices (or getting them to eat those options) can put any parent to the test. Many of us may not realize that what our teens or tweens eat today can affect their health as adults.

Casey Beeghly

Teens’ bodies are growing at incredible rates. On average during puberty teens will gain about 20 percent of their height and 40 percent of their adult body weight.

So what can you do?

According to Casey Beeghly, registered dietician at Sentara Leigh Hospital, helping your teen find the link between what they eat and what they care about could be a good motivator.

What teen doesn’t want beautiful skin or a muscular build? Most teens aren’t aware that low zinc is linked to acne. Sources of zinc are olives, mangoes, pumpkin seeds, fish and eggs. Guess what? These foods have other great nutrients too.

To build more muscle, iron is essential. Iron is found in lean meats like tuna, chicken, turkey, and chicken. Red meats, beans, lentils, oatmeal and raisins are also good sources.

Beeghley also offers a smart swap list for teens when they are out with friends.

Here are some highlights.

Swap grilled chicken for fried chicken, apple slices for fries, baked chips for regular, milk for soda, nustard for mayonnaise and vinaigrette on salads instead of creamy dressing. These options can cut fat and replace empty calories with more nutritious options.

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New tool helps roadmap body

Dr. Robert Pu, pathologist with the Sentara Cancer Network, confirmed diagnosis using a microscope to examine the cells during the procedure.

Doctors at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital and Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center are using new tool, similar your car’s GPS, to navigate the lungs of their patients.

One morning, a 72-year-old woman went into a procedure room at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. A spot on her lung, called a nodule was questionable and doctors wanted a closer look.

Using a new tool called an electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopy (ENB) Sentara doctors can help diagnose and plan to treat abnormal tissue found in the lungs.

Known as lung nodules, most abnormal tissue found in the lungs is out of reach of a normal bronchoscope, a minimally invasive way of getting that closer look.

A Navigation System Like Your Car’s GPS System

Now, Sentara doctors like pulmonologist and critical care physician Fletcher N. Pierce, MD, use this navigation system much like your car’s GPS system to provide a road map to precisely locate and test hard-to-reach spots on the lungs.

The electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopy helps to precisely locate and test hard-to-reach spots on the lungs.

After navigating her airways and collecting a sample through a catheter, Dr. Pierce waited briefly for the results. Within minutes a pathologist in the same procedure room confirmed the diagnosis using a microscope to examine the cells. Cancer.

Using this tool, doctors at Sentara can diagnose and mark a mass to allow for precise treatment, either via surgery to remove the mass or through radiation therapy using CyberKnife ® .

Previously a patient may have had two or more procedures to determine her condition. Now, this new tool is used in fight against cancer to help doctors within the Sentara Cancer Network speed care to their patients.

Dr. Pierce placed gold dumbbell shaped markers to pinpoint the location of the mass. Once a treatment plan is decided, either surgeons or radiation oncologists will use those markets to precisely treat this cancer.

Read more about the electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopy tool.

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