Each day, we are learning more about the social impacts of COVID-19 and the mitigation strategies, and it should be no surprise that these impacts are deleterious. Over a few months in early 2020, most of our lives became completely reoriented in an effort to manage the unknown effects of the new illness. Families with schedules that were structured around school activities, sports, and church suddenly found themselves sequestered at home indefinitely. When schools reopened, they did so with disjointed schedules subject to the randomness of positive COVID cases. While families felt increased stress, people without children or partners experienced an even more crushing isolation. With remote working, holidays cancelled, churches closed, community activities suspended, and restaurants carry-out only, individuals endured this period through Zoom and social media.
The Alabama Pediatric and Congenital Heart Center at Children’s of Alabama continues to achieve unsurpassed results and bring the latest technology and procedures to children and adults with congenital heart disease in Alabama and throughout the Southeast. Despite the challenges of the COVID pandemic, the volume of patients has remained steady, demanding adaptability among the 300 members of the Heart Center.
Diabetes is the epitome of “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That was the driving force behind our division’s advocacy efforts that led to a change in Medicaid coverage requirements for continuous glucose monitors (CGM) for children with type 1 diabetes.
A pediatric oncologist colleague of ours from Cornell Medical Center in New York posted a question to Facebook on March 23, 2020: How would the new COVID-19 pandemic impact the pediatric cancer population? We were asking ourselves the same question here at Children’s of Alabama. As social distancing and virtual meetings became the norm, we put our heads together – nearly 1,000 miles apart – to figure out how best to provide ongoing care for our oncology patients.
The result is the Pediatric COVID-19 Cancer Case (POCC) Report, a national registry of pediatric cancer patients diagnosed with COVID-19. It’s designed to better help our fellow clinicians provide vital care during an evolving pandemic.
Imagine a gently winding forest path stretching out before you, in sight of a place that feels friendly and familiar. Subtle sounds provide the soundtrack as you take slow, steady steps through the path’s vibrant color, light and shadow, followed by a deep inhale.
It is the most complex cardiothoracic surgery performed in newborns, one in which surgeons literally construct a new, larger aorta for babies born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). Called the Norwood procedure, it must be done within the infant’s first week of life, followed by a second surgery when the baby is three to six months, and a third at age four or five.
The journey toward mental health parity began in 1961, when President Kennedy directed the Civil Service Commission (now known as the Office of Personnel Management) to implement mental health parity. The Strengthening Behavioral Health Parity Act (“SBHPA”), which was signed into law on December 27, 2020 as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, represents a major milestone in that journey by adding ERISA plans to the plans that are covered by the Mental Health Parity Act of 1996 and by working to achieve parity in physical and mental health care management processes.
September is National Childhood Cancer and Sickle Cell Awareness Month. This year’s observance comes as we continue to learn more about COVID-19 and its effects, and we are fortunate that our pediatric hematology-oncology patients have not been severely impacted. Two of our faculty members, Julie Wolfson, MD, MSHS and Emily Johnston, MD, MS are involved in a national research effort to collect information on pediatric cancer patients infected with the virus.
The COVID 19 pandemic has thrown a wrench into all of our day to day routines, including going to work, taking our children to school, running household errands, exercising, and even going to see our doctors or dentists.
When Children’s of Alabama performed its Community Needs Assessments in 2013, 2016 and 2019, mental and behavioral health were found to be among the top priorities for pediatric health.
Pediatric office visits have declined by half during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Not only are children missing well-child checks, but also the vaccines that are given during these visits. Manufacturers are reporting a decline in vaccine orders and vaccine doses distributed through the Vaccines for Children program.
The holidays are a season of joy, gratitude, and family. However, for people with allergies it can be a difficult time. Class parties and homemade treats make it hard to check food labels and ingredients. Christmas trees and decorations can cause their own problems with those who are environmental or dust mite allergic. Having to say “no” to a thoughtful treat given by a neighbor due to your child’s nut allergy, but still remaining grateful for the gesture can be awkward.
As the new division director of the Pediatric Hematology-Oncology and Blood Marrow Transplantation program in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Pediatrics and Children’s of Alabama, my top priority is to build a well-rounded program; a program that is not only strong in its clinical mission – to provide the best treatment possible for children with cancer and blood diseases – but one that also has a strong research base, which includes clinical, basic and translational research.
The Psychiatric Intake Response Center (PIRC) at Children’s of Alabama has completed its inaugural year of operations, assisting more than 5,000 patients and callers seeking mental health expertise for children, adolescents and their families in central Alabama. The PIRC, established in March 2018 as a collaboration between Children’s and the Anne B. LaRussa Foundation of Hope, is one of only three centers of its kind in the U.S. We are dedicated to identifying the right care at the right time and at the right place.
It is that time of year again - pool parties, camping, hiking, yard work, and picnics. Along with increased time outdoors comes the risk of an insect sting. While insect stings occur regularly, only about two to three percent of patients will experience an anaphylactic reaction. These anaphylactic reactions occur more commonly in adults than in children. A majority of these patients do not seek medical care.
The “just right” theme repeated in the classic fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears hits close to home at Children’s of Alabama’s Pediatric Imaging Center (PIC), where services are tailored especially for kids. Every inch of the PIC, located at Children’s South Pediatric Outpatient Center in Birmingham, is designed with children in mind to ensure their experience is “just right.”
As the temperatures spike this summer, the risk of heat-related injury such as heat stroke and heat exhaustion also rise. While the temperatures are hard to avoid, there are ways to recognize symptoms and prevent heat-injury. People who tend to be more at risk are young children and infants, people over the age of 65 and those who are overweight or have a preexisting illness. It is important to note that some medications can also make you more sensitive to sun exposure and heat.
Millions of patients around the world wear contact lenses to correct their vision.1In fact, research suggests that contact lenses provide patients with benefits such as better perceived cosmetic appearance, better social acceptance, and a better ability to play sports compared to glasses.2-4While most contact lens wearers use soft contact lenses for cosmetic reasons, some patients wear specialty hard contact lenses because they are the only way that they can achieve functional vision without undergoing surgery to correct a visually debilitating eye disease like keratoconus (a degenerative disease that results in an irregularly shaped cornea).5In other cases, patients who suffer from moderate to severe dry eyes wear specialty contact lenses because they have the ability to make their eyes comfortable enough to effectively function.6While there is more than one type of specialty contact lens that can help patients with these conditions, scleral lenses have emerged over the past few years as the contact lens treatment of choice for these difficult-to-treat patients.7
Teen Health Week, a global campaign to raise awareness of the unique health issues adolescents and young adults face, is observed every year during the first week of April. However, raising awareness is an everyday reality for the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Division of Adolescent Medicine at Children’s of Alabama, where our team of specialists provides a comprehensive array of services to help patients transition into a healthy adulthood.
What if a microscopic amount of food protein you accidentally ingested quickly resulted in life threatening symptoms such as hives, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, wheezing, or difficulty breathing? This is a serious reality for patients with food allergies and results in a constant anxiety and fear of accidental ingestion. Many are never able to eat out at restaurants, go to baseball games, fly on planes, attend movies, or simply have the option to eat at any table in a cafeteria without fear. This not only affects the patients, but their families as well.
The numbers tell the story.
Vince Lombardi once said football is not a contact sport. Dancing is a contact sport. Football is a collision sport. He was right. And when you or your family members are involved in collision sports like football (or soccer, wrestling, basketball, mountain biking, etc.) your shoulders may pay the price. Contact injuries to the shoulder are a common cause of down-time and occasionally result in surgery. What is the best management for these injuries?
The dawn of a new year is often a time to reflect on what has been and what is to come. At the Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders, we are excited about the opportunities to improve patient care, and we never cease to be amazed by a community determined to change things for the better.
Two years ago, the Children’s of Alabama Community Healthcare Education Simulation Program, or COACHES, launched with a mission of improving pediatric care in community hospitals throughout Alabama.
On Sept. 6, representatives of Children’s of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Division of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine and the Lakeshore Foundation gathered to cut the ceremonial red ribbon for the grand opening of Children’s at Lakeshore – the latest chapter in a partnership among the institutions.
How often do you walk into a room and completely forget why you went into the room? Or do you struggle with remembering someone’s name a few seconds after they introduce themselves to you? It seems that these “senior moments” occur more frequently as we all get older. As a clinical neuropsychologist, I am often asked if this is normal aging or if it is a sign of a bigger problem such as Alzheimer’s disease. The field of neuropsychology is uniquely skilled to answer this very question. Clinical neuropsychology is a sub-field of psychology which examines the relationship between the brain and behavior. It uses neuroscience, neuroanatomy, cognitive psychology, cognitive science and clinical psychology to understand the structure and function of the brain in relation to behavior and the information processing aspects of the mind. Neuropsychologists help to assess, diagnosis and treat individuals with neurological, medical, developmental or psychiatric conditions across the lifespan. Neuropsychological testing can aid in understanding how different areas of the brain are working. Neuropsychologists use various standardized tests to objectively examine a person’s strengths and weaknesses in all areas of thinking or cognition. Tests may be paper-and-pencil, answering questions, computer-based or task oriented. Areas of cognitive impairment or deficit can be identified and placed within the context of the individual’s medical and psychological history in order to determine what condition may be impacting a person’s functioning and thinking.
What is the importance of occupational and physical therapy rehabilitation? Each discipline has its own unique benefits for clients of all age ranges with varying diagnoses and various settings. A common misconception regarding therapy in general is that treatment will elicit pain and discomfort. However, one of the primary goals of both occupational and physical therapy is to control pain in order to increase daily function and skill.
Children’s of Alabama in collaboration with the Anne B. LaRussa Foundation of Hope launched a new service in March 2018 targeting patients, families and providers who seek better access to mental health care resources. The Psychiatric Intake Response Center, or PIRC, located in Children’s Emergency Department, is staffed by licensed mental health clinicians who, via telephone or in person, assess a child or adolescent’s mental, emotional and behavioral needs, and recommend the best treatment options.
“We’re all wearing our team colors, but colors don’t matter when it comes to concussion,” says Dr. Jimmy Robinson, University of Alabama lead team physician. This year, at the Children’s of Alabama Annual Concussion Summit, a special science, vision, and engineering breakout session featured the insight of Dr. Robinson and others in the trenches of Division I sidelines. Led by UAB’s director of medical athletics, Dr. Heath Hale, and UAB Team Eye Doctor, Dr. Kathy Weise, lead team physicians and scientists from Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Clemson joined forces to weigh in on UAB’s advancements in concussion expertise. What if a contact lens could determine how much the eye sloshes around in the orbit to predict how much the brain moves in the skull when exposed to impact? What if retinal blood flow could predict cerebral blood flow following concussion? What if an objective pupil test could help predict prolonged concussion recovery?
Medical advancements through specialized programs and essential personnel are vital to the continued growth of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Division of Pediatric Neurology at Children’s of Alabama. Expansion is underway while the unremitting needs of patients are met.
2018 marks 23 years since Children’s of Alabama entered the primary care market, expanding our footprint and brand awareness outside of our main campus on Birmingham’s Southside and strengthening our relationship with doctors who care for kids.
Physicians serve on the frontlines of our healthcare system, and by extension the many social programs guaranteed by the Social Security Administration. It’s a large responsibility and we owe them a debt of gratitude. These dedicated care providers, across many areas of practice and at varied levels within our medical system, help more than 57 million children and adults who live with disabilities across the United States.
When Michele Kong was a little girl growing up in Malaysia, she knew the world was filled with both wonder and danger. She surprised herself and her family when she managed to kill a not-so-small python that slithered into their home. She laughs now remembering the incident, but she said someone had to do it to protect her family, and she had the shovel.
The Alabama Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s of Alabama actively works toward the goal of a total cure through research and development of innovative therapies. More than a dozen prominent pediatric hematology, oncology and blood and bone marrow physician-scientists provide exceptional programs in patient care, education and research. Currently, the Center provides care or treatment for 90 percent of the pediatric hematology-oncology patients in the state.
An estimated 3.5 million people in the United States are infected with Chronic Hepatitis C Virus (HCV). Many of these people do not know they are infected and are not receiving care or treatment. The CDC estimates that while Baby Boomers (born 1945-1965) comprise only 27% of the US population, they account for approximately three fourths of all HCV infections. Therefore, they are at greatest risk for hepatocellular carcinoma and other HCV-related liver disease. HCV is now the leading cause of liver transplantation and liver cancer in the US.
Full scale recruitment is under way for the Alabama Genomic Health Initiative (AGHI), a partnership of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology and Children’s of Alabama. Funded by a $2 million appropriation from the Alabama legislature to UAB, the AGHI is one of the nation’s first statewide efforts to use genomic analysis to identify those at high risk for genetic diseases.
Sleep is a very important activity, that we often take for granted. It is especially important in children as it allows for proper neurological development. One disorder that is more and more common is sleep apnea, or interrupted sleep from breathing issues. We generally associate sleep apnea and distressed breathing while sleeping with adults, but it does occur with children - actually in 3-5% of children.
There is a lot of confusion about SSDI and SSI, the two types of disability benefits that can be received from Social Security. The definition of disability is the same under both programs, but that is where the similarity ends. The following is a very basic description of the disability programs provided under the Social Security Act, titles II and XVI.
What is myopia?
Myopia is a condition that results in distant objects appearing blurry to a patient when not being corrected with glasses or contact lenses.1 Myopic blur typically results from the eye being too long for its optical focusing components (cornea and crystalline lens), which causes distant objects to be in focus in front of the retina (back of the eye) instead on the retina, a requirement for the eye to be able to see clearly.1 About one third of Americans have myopia, and its prevalence is likely increasing because of factors associated with living in a developed country (e.g., decreased time outdoors).2-5 With that said, the scientific community only has a vague understanding of how genetics and the environment influence the development and progression of myopia.1 While myopia’s visual affects can be a costly nuisance and strain on the health care system,6 myopia also places the affected individuals at a greater risk for developing vision-threatening conditions like cataracts, retinal detachments, and glaucoma.1 Once present, myopia cannot be cured; therefore, preventing it or even reducing the amount of myopia that a patient develops is an upmost priority for the scientific community.7
Over 36 million American adults have some degree of hearing loss.
That is over 4 times the amount of people who live in New York City.
Every caregiver strives to expand the services they provide to their patients, while also improving quality of care and safety. These are certainly our goals at the Children’s of Alabama orthopedic clinic.
Albert Einstein once said, “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Moving is one thing the City of Opelika is determined to do…even on two wheels.
With the addition of two more physicians in the coming months, Children’s of Alabama will soon be able to expand the care we provide to pediatric patients with liver disease.
For years now, I have seen patient after patient frustrated with stubborn fat in areas that do not respond well (or quickly) to diet and exercise. Their concerns are very common, and certainly not something of which to be ashamed. Patients also frequently ask me for my recommendations on non-invasive cosmetic treatments designed to address these issues, like CoolSculpting®, Sculpsure®, Vanquish™ or Zerona™.
Summer is quickly approaching, a season that usually comes with warmer weather and, for many of us, vacation time. Vacations come in a variety of forms. You may prefer a staycation where you simply stay at home and avoid emails for a week. You may favor an once-in-a-lifetime trip to a place like Iceland, or you might head to the southern Alabama coast to catch some sun at the beach. While the travel possibilities are nearly endless, a contact lens wearer needs to be prepared for every situation.
Hearing loss is a common problem. 15% of American adults aged 18 and over report trouble hearing. Over the age of 65, one third of the population has significant hearing loss. Most people with Hearing Impairment suffer some social, psychological and physical problems. Social consequences of hearing loss include reduced social activity and problems communicating with family and at work. Particularly in the elderly Hearing Loss can be isolating.
Social Security Disability under Title II of the Social Security Act*
Surveys have shown that most Americans know little about Social Security law and the vital benefits it provides. By far, the least understood Social Security benefit is Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). This lack of knowledge has been measured through objective testing in various academic studies. Anecdotally, I know this to be true based on recurring questions and comments I have received from the public and clients alike over the last several decades of my work as a social security disability attorney.
As pediatric medicine becomes more specialized, the demand for specialists grows. One need look no further than the Division of Pediatric Neurology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) for evidence of this trend.
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