Change, collaboration, scholarship … these were a few of the topics covered during the bi-annual Alumni National Board meeting on Saturday, April 10. Vice Dean Jeff Miller spoke about new and continuing efforts underway at the medical school, and Bruce Scharschmidt, MD ’70, shared progress on the Nathan Smith Davis Club Scholarship efforts.
Jeff Miller, who retired from his medical school position in June, represented Dean J. Larry Jameson (who missed the event for the first time due to a conflict with a Council of Deans meeting) to provide an overview of the school’s progress. Change was the theme of his presentation, with curriculum reform, One Northwestern, Northwestern Medicine, and NuVentions cited as programs to help elevate education and keep collaboration thriving at the medical school.
“We have to dramatically change what we do,” said the school’s chief operating officer. “Medical schools are always changing curriculum and faculty tracks; we’re doing both at the same time. Beginning very early in the new curriculum, our students will be introduced to clinical activity.”
In its third year, NuVentions, a program created by students in the engineering, law, medical and business schools, is enabling unique team collaborators to develop and commercialize new medical devices. Along the same vein, One Northwestern is the intersection of medicine and science. With many grants now involving more than one investigator, students and faculty on both campuses are learning to break down silos that once existed between the disparate disciplines, according to Miller.
Continuing the theme of working together, Northwestern Medicine is fueling a new spirit of collaboration between the medical school and Northwestern Memorial Hospital in areas such as finance, IT, communications/marketing, and development. “This brings the clinical aspects of the enterprise closer together, creates synergy in research and education, and will help us derive benefits from each of the parts being engaged in one another’s mission,” explained Miller. “This doesn’t happen unless you force it ….”
Bruce Scharschmidt, MD ’70, president of the Nathan Smith Davis Club, updated the board on the direction of the NSD Club Scholarships, of which there were three inaugural recipients in 2009, each receiving $12,500 per year for four years. With 160 lifetime club members ($35K cumulative), and 300 to 400 annual members ($1K or more), approximately 25 percent of alumni participate. NSD total contributions were $2.9 million in 2009, enabling the new scholarships for students based on merit and need. Dr. Scharschmidt noted that things are going well but he wants to enhance the Club’s visibility. His goal is to establish well planned, interactive communication channels, keeping messages short and direct, to share progress and enlist more alumni talent.
Following Dr. Scharschmidt, Julie Melchior, MD ’91, reported on participation in the student mentoring event that occurred on Friday, April 9. First-, second-, third-, and a few fourth-year students took advantage of the opportunity to talk with alumni about their specialized areas of medicine. More than 108 students registered for the event. Fourteen alumni, representing 13 specialties, spent time answering their questions. “Internal Medicine was the most popular specialty, which has been a change from the past,” explained Dr. Melchior. Emergency Medicine, Ear, Nose and Throat, Neurology, and Ophthalmology were the next most popular areas of interest. Looking to include as many specialties as possible in future mentoring events, Dr. Melchior invited other alumni who might be interested in participating to contact Ginny Darakjian in alumni relations.
The Office of Development recounted two unique events that occurred earlier in 2010 — in California — held in the homes of Richard Ferkel, MD ’77 (Los Angeles) and Gene Bauer, MD ’67 (San Francisco). The receptions allowed alumni and current students to interact with prospective students from the area who had been accepted to the medical school’s Class of 2014 but had not yet committed. Dean J. Larry Jameson and Dr. James Schroeder, senior associate dean for external relations, each attended one of the events, which were well received by the prospective student guests, according to development’s Larry Kuhn, senior associate director for academic initiatives.
In the last order of business, Assistant Dean Ginny Darakjian thanked outgoing board members for their years of service and provided each with a gift. Departing members were Steven Azuma, MD ’70, Laura Mikhail-Malek, MD ’00, GME ’03; Sonja Boone, MD ’90; and Yvette Cua, MD ’94, GME ’97. New and re-elected board members include: (new) Carla Hightower, MD ’87, GME ’91; Paul Bonucci, MD ’96; Kerry Humes, MD ’90; (re-elected) Carlos Flores, MD ’78; Alan Micco, MD ’87; Julie Melchior, MD ’91.
Being a Good Samaritan
50 million people
in the U.S. are without health insurance
8 out of 10 people
come from working families
18,000 people in the U.S.
die each year because they don’t have health insurance.
These are some of the statistics Kerry Humes, MD ’90, was concerned about as she saw patients without health insurance in her private practice. She decided to do something to make a difference for those in her community who were working hard but unable to afford high insurance premiums and unable to get government assistance. Along with two nurse practitioners in Moline, Ill., she devised a plan to open a free medical clinic to help some of the 50,000 uninsured people in the Quad Cities (once four, now five communities in Illinois and Iowa). Eighty percent are working in low-paying jobs and falling through the “cracks of the health care system.”
Thus was born the Good Samaritan Free Clinic, which first operated out of a church in May 2007 and then moved to a bigger facility in 2008 when space was donated by the Sedona Group, a temporary agency in the area. Open two half days each week, they have treated approximately 1,800 people, and have recently had to limit the number of patients they can see. Their goals are to provide free medical care through an all-volunteer staff and to provide free medications, or assistance in obtaining them at a much-reduced price.
“With more than 70 people, we have plenty of volunteers,” says Humes, the clinic’s volunteer director, to Northwestern medical students during her presentation in February. “We’ve even had to tell people that we’ll call when we need them.” Receptionists, nurses, and doctors are all giving of their free time. Each volunteer is asked to be there at least once a month and many are there consistently every week. “We have a number of retired individuals and stay-at-home mothers who help us out during the day and working health care professionals who assist on our evening shift,” explains Humes, who left her medical practice in 2004 to spend more time with her three young children and take up this cause. “The clinic is a wonderful place because all of the volunteers want to be there.”
Although she was armed with a medical degree and plenty of practical experience, without a background in business, fundraising, or law, there was much to learn about opening a free clinic and finding the support to remain viable. “It took awhile to get the pieces together,” she explains. “There were a lot of things we needed to know to make it happen.” To learn how to run operations, the three founders visited a number of free clinics in Illinois and Iowa.
“We realized early on that the hospital had to buy in to the process — we needed their support to make this work,” she admits. “For a hospital, it’s clearly a positive.” Trinity Hospital, where both Kerry’s primary care and her husband’s (Tim Humes, MD ’89) radiology practices were connected, realized the benefits and gave an initial grant of $40,000 to start the clinic off on solid footing.
“Because we were an unknown entity, once we had Trinity’s support, it was easier to get others to help us,” Dr. Humes continues. “The big thing was to find an appropriate space that was free.” One of the clinic’s founders attended Faith Lutheran Church, so they began operations in its education wing, which they were told they could use as long as they needed. Sharing this space with other programs, they had to set up and tear down equipment each day. Later on, one of the clinic’s generous board members donated an 18,000-square-foot space, where they created four exam rooms, a waiting area, a doctor space, and a nurses’ station.
In addition to the hospital, pharmaceutical companies, other health care organizations, and local foundations were willing to provide support. “I’ve been surprised at the generosity we’ve experienced,” she explains. “All of our furniture and equipment has been donated. A local lab has been evaluating our labs at no charge. My husband’s practice takes X-rays and reads them for free. And whenever we’ve had to admit a patient, Trinity has written off those expenses. It’s totaled approximately $80,000, but we’ve saved the hospital close to $2 million because we’re keeping many of these people out of the ER.”
Along with free doctor visits, patients get help obtaining free or reduced-price medications to keep health issues like diabetes, hypertension, and asthma in check. Chain drugstores like Target, Walmart, and Walgreens offer many generic medications for $4. And many pharmaceutical companies offer patient assistance programs, if you submit the required forms. One volunteer, who recently became the clinic’s only paid employee, helps patients fill out and send these forms, obtaining $150,000 worth of medication at no cost in one year. And for any medications that aren’t provided elsewhere, the local hospital will supply them at a $5 cost to the patient, charging the clinic the remaining fees.
“If patients take their meds, they’re going to stay out of the ER and be better off for it,” Humes explains. “Fifty-nine percent of the uninsured with chronic medical conditions missed at least one dose of medicine. Of that group, 33 percent visited the ER for an overnight stay. In Illinois, an overnight stay is $16,000 and in Iowa, it’s $18,000. It doesn’t take much to see what kind of an impact the clinic can make.”
Medications are the clinic’s biggest expense. To ensure that they can help patients pay for the prescriptions they need, Humes and the other two founders have become grant writers. “I don’t like asking for money, but it’s for my patients,” the physician says. Working within their community, they have secured nearly $200,000 from two fundraisers and a number of grants from private foundations. “Luckily, we don’t have many expenses because we operate on a shoestring, so we usually get everything we ask for.”
One premise of their successful operations is to order only the diagnostics that are necessary. “I won’t deny my patients what they need, but I won’t order tests that don’t make sense. In Illinois, our clinic is protected by the Good Samaritan Act, which means we don’t have to practice defensive medicine and can operate without malpractice insurance.” Humes approves all specialist referrals and expensive procedures.
“This health care model could serve our American system well and would save us money,” Dr. Humes continues. “The U.S. orders four times as many CAT scans as other countries at the same economic level, with no added benefit. And the expectations of our patients are different — they want to get better and take care of themselves. They don’t expect a lot of blood work and extra tests.”
Asked why she started the clinic when she did, Dr. Humes responds, “It was just the right timing. The hospital where I had my private practice was phasing out non-employees, my children were young and I wanted to spend more time with them, and because my husband has a good job, I was very fortunate to be able to do this. It’s hard not be intimidated by a project like this, but I just had to do it.”
Jeffrey Glassroth, MD, vice dean of Clinical Academic Affairs, presided as the master of ceremonies at the 2010 Reunion Ball, announcing three alumni award winners who were recognized for their service to the school, the profession, and the community.
Joseph DiCara, MD ’86, a pediatric hospitalist at Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago, received the 2010 Daniel Hale Williams Award for the Chicago Youth Program (CYP), which he founded with fellow medical students in 1984. It began as a recreational program to keep 40 Cabrini Green kids off the street. Space was donated by the medical school and funds were obtained by passing the hat. During his pediatric residency at Children’s Memorial, CYP became a non-profit, offering many medical students the opportunity to volunteer in the free clinic.
CYP now includes more than 50 programs that serve 400-500 youth, preschool through college, at three Chicago public housing sites. Six hundred volunteers provide health care services, injury and pregnancy prevention, safe recreation, cultural programs, education, career guidance, and one-on-one mentoring. For most of its history, Dr. DiCara has been the volunteer executive director and has continued his daily volunteer work.
The 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award was presented to Bruce Scharschmidt, MD ’70, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Hyperion Therapeutics, a specialty pharmaceutical company in South San Francisco. Dr. Scharschmidt has been active on the Medical Alumni Association national board for the past six years and is currently serving as president of the Nathan Smith Davis Club, as well as on the Scientific Advisory Board of NUCATS, a Northwestern organization dedicated to translational science.
Working with the medical school’s Alumni Relations and Development groups, he spearheaded the creation of Nathan Smith Davis Club scholarships for medical students. In November 2009, the first $12,500-per-year grants were awarded based on both merit and need.
Dr. Melvin Gerbie, MD ’60, professor emeritus of obstetrics and gynecology, received the 2010 Dean’s Award. A Northwestern faculty member since 1967, he has served on various hospital and university committees. In 1975 Dr. Gerbie founded the Colposcopy Clinic.
He has been honored for his student and resident education efforts, including an Outstanding Teacher Award, as well as three resident teaching awards. He has received the Medical School Service Award twice and in 1990, the University recognized his contributions with the Alumni Service Award. In 1996 he was the recipient of the Chicago Maternity Center Byford Award from Prentice. In March 2001, he received the Northwestern University Alumni Association Merit Award.
Dr. Gerbie is a supportive member and past president of the Northwestern University Medical School Alumni Association. Because of his strong alumni ties, he was tapped to chair the successful 1988-1993 Alumni Fund Campaign for Medical Research and the Life Sciences. He and his wife co-chaired fundraising efforts for the medical school’s Albert B. Gerbie Professorship in Obstetrics and Gynecology, in memory of his brother.
After the alumni awards, Michael R. Barratt, MD ’85, GME ’89, who returned from his mission on the International Space Station in fall 2009, presented Dr. Glassroth with the medical school’s Sesquicentennial Banner, which he carried in his official flight pack. While Alumni Board president Dr. Doug Carr and emcee Glassroth unfurled the purple and white, Dr. Barratt shared the travels of this special flag. “It was launched on Space Shuttle Discovery 119 in March 2009 and spent 180 days in space, logging over 75 million miles.”