Meet TRU-D, the germ-killing robot

When she joined our infection control team, we knew immediately that bringing her in was the right call. Staff and patients loved her. It seemed like she never left the hospital and could work 24/7. We knew she was great, but we didn’t realize what a valuable employee she was until the United States had its first confirmed Ebola case.

This employee’s name is TRU-D, or Total Room Ultraviolet Disinfection. TRU-D is a robot that produces natural ultraviolet (UV) light to target common germs found in hospitals. The UV light modifies the DNA structure of a cell so that it cannot reproduce, and a germ that cannot reproduce cannot harm patients or employees.

“There is increased evidence in scientific literature that UV light disinfection technology can sterilize entire rooms and render common hospital pathogens harmless,” explained Mario Soares, director of infection prevention and control at Houston Methodist Hospital.

 

Currently, TRU-D, often mistaken for R2D2 of Star Wars, sanitizes patient and operating rooms at Houston Methodist after they have been cleaned with the traditional cleaning processes. She rolls in to the room, and we close the doors behind her.

While the light TRU-D produces is natural, you don’t want to be in the room while she’s working; she likes to work independently. Using a handheld remote, TRU-D’s boss activates her from outside the room, and her sensors analyze the shape, size and contents of the room. She calculates the amount of time needed to sanitize the room (usually 20-25 minutes) and bathes the room in UV light before shutting off automatically when the germs are dead.

TRU-D is working around the world to fight hospital pathogens. In addition to Ebola, TRU-D’s light can also kill influenza, norovirus, and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

TRU-D can sanitize an entire hospital room in less than 25 minutes Click To Tweet

“While TRU-D is already a core member of our cleaning and disinfecting team at Houston Methodist, we are adding more TRU-D robots to our arsenal,” Mario said. “We want to use TRU-D to disinfect more rooms to increase the level of protection for our patients.”

The next time you’re at Houston Methodist, keep an eye out for TRU-D. She might be rolling to a room near you.

Debunking breast cancer myths

Women are constantly bombarded on what they can do to prevent breast cancer. However, there is no definitive known way to prevent the disease. One in eight women in the United States will develop some form of breast cancer.

I had the opportunity to sit down and talk to several medical experts to address a few common breast cancer myths.

Myth: Mammograms cause breast cancer

Fact: Annual screenings are the key to finding breast cancer early. A mammogram is currently the best screening tool for finding breast cancer. It uses extremely low levels of radiation to create detailed images of the breast.

Mammogram
These mammograms show a normal breast (left) and a breast with cancer (right, white arrows). Image via Wikipedia.

On average, the total dose for a typical mammogram is about 0.4 mSv. People are normally exposed to an average of about 3 mSv of radiation each year from their natural surroundings. The dose of radiation from a mammogram is about the same amount of radiation averaged from natural surroundings over about 7 weeks.

The Mammography Quality Standards Act was created by the American College of Radiology (ACR) and passed by Congress to mandate rigorous guidelines for x-ray safety during mammography. The MQSA guidelines assure that mammography systems are safe and use the lowest dose of radiation possible. Patients should make sure they are being imaged at an ACR-accredited facility.

Dr. Correna Terrell, medical director of the breast imaging center at Houston Methodist West Hospital, recommends that women with an average risk of breast cancer begin annual mammograms at age 40. If you have additional risk factors, your physician may recommend mammograms beginning at an earlier age.

Myth: Sugar feeds cancer

Fact: Sugar does not spread cancer. However, if you have too much sugar in your diet, specifically simple sugars found in baked goods, this can cause weight gain. Weight gain overtime can lead to obesity and obesity has been linked to an increase risk of several cancers.

“Our bodies do need simple sugar, for energy,” says Renee Stubbins, registered dietician at the Houston Methodist Cancer Center. “The average American consumes over 130 pounds of sugar per year, or an extra 500 calories per day. The key to any healthy balanced diet is moderation,” Stubbins said.

80% of lumps are caused by non-cancerous changes in the breast Click To Tweet

Natural occurring sugars like those found in fruit, vegetables and whole grain are all needed to help maintain muscle and weight during cancer treatment and have been shown to help fight cancer. Avoiding processed sugars that are found in cakes, baked goods and desserts and sticking with fruits and vegetables helps maintain a healthy weight and prevents health issues in the future.

Myth: All breast lumps are cancerous

Fact: In general, 80 percent of lumps are caused by non-cancerous changes in the breast. This percentage tends to fluctuate with age. As a woman ages, her risk of breast cancer increases. While the percentage of benign breast lumps in older women may be much lower than in younger women, it is still important for women to report breast abnormality to their physician. Only a small percentage of breast lumps turn out to be cancer. If you discover a persistent lump in your breast or notice any changes in breast tissue, it should never be ignored.

Join us Saturday, May 2, 2015 at the Rice University Tudor Fieldhouse for a morning to kick-start a healthier lifestyle. Special guest, Ilona Carson of ABC-13, will be emceeing. Registrants will get the opportunity to learn healthy tips from primary care physicians, OB-GYN’s, breast care and health experts. The morning will also include a yoga session, menu ideas and giveaways.

CLICK HERE to register.

Gut health: Exploring the rainforest within

Imagine a lush tropical rain forest filled with a rich diversity of plant and animal life. This represents the complexity of our gut microbiome, an ecosystem residing in our digestive tract. Scientists are only beginning to unravel the far-reaching effects of gut health.

With surprising roles ranging from influencing our waistline and mood to promoting dental health and a clear complexion, the microbiome is a promising new frontier in medicine.

Increased awareness of how certain foods keep gut flora flourishing has sparked shifts in grocery store shopping and there’s a rising demand for probiotic-powered foods. Here’s what you need to know to nurture your gut microbiome.

Know the difference between probiotics and prebiotics

This dynamic duo has a harmonious relationship in the gut, working together to promote digestive health. Prebiotics are power food for probiotics. Probiotics are beneficial, living organisms that improve our immune system by helping to crowd out bacteria that can make us sick.

In addition, probiotics enhance absorption of nutrients from food and even help make energy-producing B vitamins.

Prebiotics are fibers in food that resist digestion in the upper digestive tract but are used as fuel by probiotics in the lower digestive tract. Probiotics rely on a steady supply of fuel from prebiotics so they can flourish. The best way to ensure that your probiotic population is happy and well-fed is to load up on fiber-rich plant foods.

Top sources of prebiotics include bananas, garlic, onions, leeks, artichokes, asparagus, whole grains and legumes like lentils, beans and peas. Be sure to gradually incorporate these foods into your diet and drink plenty of water to help your digestive system adjust to the increased fiber intake as it helps move things along.

Separate health from hype when shopping

Foods that are cultured or fermented naturally contain probiotics, but food companies are adding probiotics to processed foods such as energy bars and frozen yogurt. The potency of probiotic cultures can be drastically weakened when they are removed from their original source and added into these processed foods.

Kefir
Kefir has diverse probiotic strains that may improve lactose digestion among those who are lactose intolerant.

Sip the champagne of dairy

Cultured dairy products such as yogurt and kefir reign supreme as the most potent probiotic sources. Known as the champagne of cultured dairy because of its slight fizziness, kefir is a low-lactose, creamy drink made by adding “kefir grains” to milk, which cause a very unique fermenting process. 

Originating centuries ago in Eastern Europe, keifer has only recently become commercialized in the United States. While yogurt and kefir both contain beneficial bacteria, kefir hosts a more diverse population of probiotic strains, meaning it could offer added probiotic benefits, such as improving lactose digestion among those who are lactose intolerant.

Check the yogurt container

To make sure your yogurt really does have probiotic power, check for the “Live and Active Cultures” seal. Yogurts that say “heat treated after culturing” on the label mean the yogurt was pasteurized after the live strains were added, which deactivates the beneficial bacteria.

Check sugar content since sugar can work against probiotic benefits. Flavored yogurts that list sugar as the first or second ingredient can pack more sugar than a candy bar.

Choose food over supplements

Think twice before choosing a supplement over food. The journey probiotic supplements make from the lab to the gut is long and full of variables. The best and least expensive option for promoting good gut health is to enjoy foods that naturally contain live cultures.

An interview with MITIE’s Dr. Brian Dunkin

This is the third, and final, part of our three-part series on MITIE, the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation and Education. To recap, MITIE is one of the largest and most comprehensive surgical education and research facilities in the world. Our first blog was a photo tour of MITIE. In our last blog, we talked about how MITIE provides physicians with a comprehensive training facility to learn new surgical techniques.

To finish our time together, I sat down with Dr. Brian Dunkin, the medical director of MITIE, to ask him why MITIE and the work done there is so important. When Dr. Dunkin isn’t at MITIE, he is an endoscopic surgeon, which means he performs surgery through small incisions or natural body openings to make surgery safer and recovery faster.

Me: Why is MITIE so important and why are you so passionate about MITIE that you’d move your family and practice to Texas to build it?

Dr. Dunkin: Passion is the right word to describe MITIE for me. In medicine, we have a pressing need to support the ongoing training of practicing health care professionals. With how quickly things are changing and constant advancements in technology, it’s become a real crisis. You could be in practice after your training for a relatively short period of time and you’re not up to date anymore and you have nowhere to go.

Dr. Brian Dunkin headshot
Dr. Brian Dunkin is MITIE’s medical director and an endoscopic surgeon.

I’ve developed training programs at several institutions, but nowhere did I see the opportunity to develop an educational facility of the scope and scale available at Houston Methodist. That’s what convinced me to move to Texas and become a part of this. I don’t think anyone else on the planet, and certainly in the U.S., could have done what we did with MITIE. No one else had the resources, the space, the commitment from hospital leadership, the people – it took a lot of things coming together for MITIE to be what it is. For example, I recently had the opportunity to give my mentor, a worldwide leader in surgical education, a tour of MITIE, and he was completely blown away by the facility, the scope of programs available, and the timeline in which we accomplished this. Even with our initial success, we still have a lot of things we want to do in MITIE, so we aren’t done yet.

Also, some practicing surgeons don’t understand the importance of or the value of educating other clinicians. I’ve been taught that you teach others what you know. I’ve found that in the process of educating others, you learn, too.

Me: You have a lot of ongoing projects, but what are some of the bigger projects you are working on right now?

Dr. Dunkin: The educational project I’m most excited right now is the MITIE Lapco program, which teaches laparoscopic colon surgery. Learners spend four days in MITIE doing hands-on training with experts from around the world. In most courses, that’s where the learning stops, leaving an educational hole where the surgeon goes back to his or her home institution and is alone in the operating room when trying to start doing this new procedure. I’ve always thought technology was the way to fill this gap.

We added telementoring, or the practice of using a videoconferencing system in the operating room to allow an expert surgeon to virtually mentor another surgeon, to the MITIE Lapco program. Learners have an expert with them virtually for their first 10 cases at their home hospitals. We believe that telementoring will help the learning surgeons perform better, safer surgeries and will help increase the U.S. adoption rate of laparoscopic colon surgery.

Microsurgery training at MITIE
Microsurgery is commonly used to reattach severed nerves and blood vessels. Microscopes are needed for these procedures to ensure that the cells in the nerve ending or blood vessel are lined up properly.

Telementoring is doable and every bit as powerful as in-person mentoring. I have hospital CEOs asking for us to offer telementoring for more courses because they’ve seen the outcomes. They know their surgeons will be able to do these advanced procedures safely and effectively and will have happier patients. I think five years from now, we’ll look back on this conversation and laugh because telementoring will be so common.

Me: What’s your favorite MITIE class or research project so far?

Dr. Dunkin: I think the clear favorite is MITIE Lapco. It wasn’t just the course we put on for the learners, but it was the thoughtfulness, time and effort we put in to designing the program from developing the curriculum and organizing telementoring opportunities after the course. And the feedback we got from learners during the course was unlike anything we’d heard before. Almost everyone in our first MITIE Lapco course had been to a previous course on laparoscopic colon surgery at another institution, and they were just blown away with the difference in their confidence level in performing this surgery at the end of our course compared to the others.

Me: What are some upcoming MITIE classes or research projects that you’re most excited about?

Dr. Dunkin: I’m most excited about the next stage of growth for MITIE because we’re right at the threshold of it.

The first stage was designing and building a physical structure. The next stage was building an infrastructure that could support volume and a variety of programs. In the seven years that we’ve been open we’ve had more than 28,000 learners here.

Now, we are at the point where I want to create more programs like MITIE Lapco that address the full spectrum of surgical education. I can’t tell you how many people have told me that no other place is doing what MITIE is doing. What’s really great is that where we want to go with MITIE fits with Houston Methodist’s goal of leading medicine rather than just practicing it. There are a lot of great courses and research projects in MITIE’s future, but it’s the whole MITIE package that I’m most excited about.

The more I see MITIE evolve, the more confident I am that we are going to change the medical world by creating better educational tools and providing them to colleagues from around the world.

Cervical cancer: What women need to know

We all hate that dreaded “c” word. Yes, you know what I’m talking about: cancer. According to The American Cancer Society, an estimated 12,900 cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 2015. Cervical cancer can be successfully treated if detected early.

Dr. Anuj Suri, gynecologic oncologist at Houston Methodist Hospital, gives insight on the disease and explains a curative treatment option women can undergo.

What causes cervical cancer?

Although cervical cancers start from pre-cancerous cells, only some women with these pre-cancers will develop cervical cancer. The human papillomavirus (HPV) is responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. There are over 100 types of HPVs, 15 of which can cause cervical cancer.

While HPV can cause cervical cancer, there are other factors to consider. Smoking, a weakened immune system and giving birth at a young age are all risk factors.

How is cervical cancer detected?

One of the ways cervical cancer can be detected is by using a Pap smear. The goal of a Pap smear is to catch the pre-cancerous cells before they turn into an invasive cancer.

Radical trachelectomy
Radical trachelectomy is a minimally invasive procedure that involves the removal of the cervix, surrounding tissues and one-to-two centimeters of the vagina, but the uterus remains intact

Following guidelines by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Dr. Suri recommends that women between the ages of 21-29 get a pap smear every three years. For women between the ages 30-65, Pap smears should occur every three years (without HPV test) or every five years (with HPV test).

After the age of 65, pap smears are not needed unless the patient has a history of abnormal Pap smears. If a patient has an abnormal pap smear, the testing frequency changes.

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Symptoms typically do not appear until the cancer has spread to other organs in the body. Symptoms include:

  • Bleeding between regular menstrual periods, after sexual intercourse or after menopause
  • Menstrual cycles that are longer and heavier than usual
  • Excess vaginal discharge
  • Pelvic pain
  • Pain during sex

How is cervical cancer treated?

Cervical cancer is third most common cancer worldwide among women and can often be successfully treated if caught early. Most early stage cancers are treated with hysterectomy or radical hysterectomy. Since younger women who have not completed childbearing are being diagnosed with cervical cancer, fertility sparing options and treatments are becoming available. 

Radical trachelectomy, a robotic treatment, is a minimally invasive procedure that involves the removal of the cervix, surrounding tissues and one-to-two centimeters of the vagina. The uterus is then able to be re-attached to the vagina, allowing women to preserve their fertility and potentially bear children. Dr. Suri performs this procedure on women typically under the age of 35 who still want to have children.

Other treatment options include radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Know when to go: ER vs. primary care

When you or a loved one needs medical attention, you want to make the right decision and fast. Do you need to go to the emergency room? Will an urgent care clinic be able to help? Or can you wait and make an appointment with your primary care provider? It’s important to understand all of your options before it’s an urgent situation, so you don’t waste time during a medical emergency.

20% of Americans visit the ER at least once a year. With those odds, you need a plan. Click To Tweet

I recently spoke with Dr. Miles Varn, Chief Medical Officer of PinnacleCare, the world’s leading private health advisory firm. Dr. Varn is also a board certified emergency physician who spent 15 years at Inova Fairfax Hospital, a level 1 trauma center in Northern Virginia to get his advice on how to decide which treatment path to take.

There can be cost and time implications to going to the emergency room, which has a higher out-of-pocket deductible than a doctor visit. But in a life-threatening emergency, an emergency room (either hospital-based or freestanding) is your best option. Emergency rooms are always open, and have access to specialized care not available elsewhere. So when is it really worth it to head to the ER?

Don’t Wait

If someone is choking, has stopped breathing or is severely burned, call 9-1-1 and take an ambulance to the ER. The same is true for someone suffering from a head, neck or spine injury, or electric shock.

You should also head to the emergency room for severe chest pain or pressure, which could indicate a heart attack. Stroke symptoms – sudden numbness or weakness, confusion, blurred vision, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination – necessitate an emergency room visit. Seizures, deep wounds, severe allergic reactions, or poisoning are also best treated in the ER. 

 

Schedule An Appointment

If you think you have a common illness like the flu or an ear infection, or a minor injury, there is no need to go to the ER. In addition to the higher out-of-pocket cost, you’re likely to spend a long time waiting. Emergency rooms prioritize patients based on the seriousness of their situation. Those patients described above will need immediate attention. You and your ear infection will be forced to wait.

If you have an established relationship with a primary care provider, you can always call your doctor if you’re unsure about what to do. Even after hours, you should be able to speak with a doctor on call.

 

While we can all hope to never need to make that call to 9-1-1, the truth is that roughly 20% of Americans have at least one emergency room visit in any given year. With those odds, it’s a good idea to think ahead and have a plan in place.

To find the nearest Emergency Room, click here. To schedule an appointment with a primary care physician, click here.

Why the work done at MITIE matters

mitie2-featured
MITIE provides training to not only doctors, but law enforcement and emergency medical service providers, too.

elcome to part two of a three part series on MITIE – the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation and Education. To recap, MITIE is one of the largest and most comprehensive surgical education and research facilities in the world. The first blog was a photo tour of MITIE, and the next blog will feature a Q&A with Dr. Brian Dunkin, the medical director of MITIE.

If you don’t work in health care, you might be wondering why you should care about MITIE and the work we do here. Well, I’ll tell you! There are two main reasons:

  • MITIE is a medical education facility. MITIE provides surgeons and surgical nurses with an opportunity to learn, practice and perfect new surgical techniques.
  • MITIE isn’t just for health care providers. MITIE also partners with other organizations to provide classes with curriculum tailored to their needs. Think law enforcement, emergency medical service providers, etc.
You want surgeons to know the latest techniques and perform them safely. That's the role of MITIE. Click To Tweet

After nursing school or residency, there are few educational facilities surgeons and nurses can go to learn new techniques. Cue MITIE. New surgical techniques are being developed all the time that make surgeries safer and more successful while decreasing the amount of time needed for recovery. You want your surgeons to know these latest and greatest techniques, but to perform them safely and successfully, the doctors need to practice them.

The alternative to practicing in MITIE is practicing on you – any volunteers? I didn’t think so. One example is laparoscopic colon surgery. Laparoscopic surgery, also known as minimally invasive surgery, uses several small incisions instead of one large incision. A laparoscope, or camera, is inserted through one incision and special laparoscopic surgical instruments are inserted through the other incisions. Laparoscopic colon surgery has been practiced in the United States since the 1990s and has been proven to be less painful with less scaring and allows patients to get back to their normal lives faster.

However, the US adoption rate of this procedure hovers around 40 percent because performing a colon surgery laparoscopically is a difficult procedure that is tedious to learn. In October 2014, MITIE hosted a laparoscopic colon surgery course for seven surgeons and their operating room staff. After spending four days training at MITIE, these surgeons returned to their hospital and were mentored by an expert surgeon during their first laparoscopic colon surgery. Several of the learning surgeons noted that the hands-on class at MITIE coupled with mentoring during their first surgeries at home helped increase their comfort level with the procedure and has benefitted their patients with safer surgeries and faster recovery times.

MITIE also partners with other organizations to provide classes with curriculum tailored to their needs. MITIE recently collaborated with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Tactical Medicine Program to create the HCSO’s first tactical medicine school. Tactical medicine is the delivery of emergency medical care in a law enforcement special operations scenario. 

“Most people don’t know that the Sheriff’s Office is staffed with deputies who are physicians and paramedics who respond to emergencies to provide care to their fellow officers and citizens until EMS can arrive,” explained Dr. Aashish Shah, a HCSO deputy and administrator over the HCSO’s Tactical Medicine Program. 

During the first tactical medicine school, the HCSO Academy hosted the tactical trainings, such as gun safety, medical extraction, building clearing and distraction devices. At MITIE, the students covered a variety of tactical medical tactics, such as triage, airway management, hemorrhaging and burns.

After a week of lectures and practice, the students put it all together with a live High-Risk Operations Unit (HROU) exercise at MITIE. We simulated an active shooter in a hospital scenario to test the participants’ new understanding of tactical medicine. The learners were assigned to teams of SWAT officers. Each team entered the building and took the stairs to the 5th floor where MITIE is located, just like they would do in a real situation.

MITIE doesn't just educate doctors. The institute also trains law enforcement in tactical medicine. Click To Tweet

When they arrived on the 5th floor, they were greeted with a variety of scenarios, including blaring music, a sound track of dogs barking, rooms that were dimly lit or completely dark and random MITIE staff who would act like innocent people caught on the floor or the suspect the team was looking for. Their mission was to locate an injured Oscar or Mayer (you remember the SimMan patient simulators from part 1, right?), provide care to help stabilize the patient then continue to look for the suspect. At the end of the exercise, the students were credentialed by the HCSO to provide tactical medicine support. 

While you may never take a class at MITIE, the work done here affects you. Next week, we’ll sit down with Dr. Brian Dunkin, the medical director of MITIE, for a Q&A about his work and why he’s so passionate about the MITIE.

MITIE cool: An inside look

 admit it. I’m a huge nerd. I love learning about how things work and playing with new gadgets. That’s probably why I’m obsessed with MITIE – the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation and Education. Officially, MITIE (the acronym is pronounced mighty) is described as one of the largest and most comprehensive education and research facilities in the world. Unofficially, it’s a playground for nerds like me and practicing medical professionals who want to learn new surgical techniques and research new ideas.

Because I can’t fit all of my love for MITIE into one blog, this is the first of a three-part series on MITIE. We’re kicking it off with a photo tour, followed by a review of a recent MITIE class and how it affects average people like you and me, and wrapping up with a Q&A with Dr. Brian Dunkin, the medical director of MITIE (one of the smartest people I know).

Here we go! Please keep arms and legs inside at all times! 

1 - Lobby #1

MITIE spans the entire fifth floor of the Houston Methodist Research Institute. Obviously, the lobby is the first stop. You feel smarter as soon as walk in, and there’s a reason why. The designers wanted MITIE learners to feel like they were entering a professional, modern environment as soon as they stepped off the elevators. The entire floor gives you the smart people vibe with the floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Texas Medical Center and the bright wall colors.

2 - Lobby #2From the lobby, we go to the Med Presence Suite. It has three, 72-inch flat screens at the front of the room and three rows of seating for lectures. Monitors come up out of the desks if you need a closer look at what’s on the big screen. Most often the screens are used to observe a live surgery happening in an operating room at Houston Methodist Hospital or a training surgery in a simulated operating room in MITIE. The Med Presence Suite would also be a good place to watch the game. I’ll bring the chips and salsa. #GoTexans 3 - Med Pres

Next stop is MITIE’s newest addition: the hybrid operating room. It contains a robotically guided rotational fluoroscopy machine and an MRI machine. Having both imaging capabilities in a single operating room provides surgeons with better visualization inside the body to help them perform more complex procedures. The majority of the surgeries practiced in this room are to treat vascular issues. 4 - Hybrid OR #1

Other days, the hybrid room is home to one of NASA’s space suits. After an Italian astronaut almost drowned in July 2013 due to a leak in his helmet during a spacewalk, NASA set out to find innovative solutions to prevent future space suit malfunctions. They asked researchers at the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center to perform a fluoroscopic CT scan to better see the components inside the suit and help identify areas of concern. For more about the NASA and Houston Methodist collaboration, you can read this story or watch this video.

 6 - Hybrid OR #3

Next up, the Procedural Skills Lab, or PSL if you’re in the know. Think of the PSL as a massive room with multiple mini operating rooms inside. Each of the stations has a monitor connected to a camera at a teaching station. This allows a learner to stand across the room at another practice station and still observe what the teaching surgeon is doing. The PSL is used for surgeons to practice performing an operation, mastering a new surgical technique, and learning how to use new equipment safely on various types of anatomical and inanimate models. To simulate an actual operating room, the students will wear protective equipment, such as hairnets, masks, gowns and gloves. The PSL is one of the most important rooms in MITIE. Why? Because you want your surgeon to know the latest and greatest techniques, but you don’t want them to practice on you. At least, I don’t. Mitie8

From the PSL, we walk down the hall to the private operating rooms. The first one is a CT operating room. It’s based on the same concept as the hybrid operating room, but this imaging type is ideal for orthopedic surgeries because bones show up better on CT scans.Mitie10

Did you notice that several training rooms in MITIE have imaging capabilities? We have several imaging modalities available in MITIE because many Houston Methodist researchers are focused on improving visualizations inside the body to make surgeries safer and less invasive.

A few of these private operating rooms do not have imaging capabilities so that MITIE can have more flexibility in the type of work done in these rooms. For example, researchers can test a new product or surgical technique here in preparation for sending it to the FDA or other organizations for approval.

We can also set up the Da Vinci robot system in one of these private operating rooms. In this picture, the Da Vinci is set up for a physician to learn how to safely operate with it. We have three Da Vinci robot systems, and they’re super cool (if you can pretend that you’re not being operated on by a huge spider robot). Mitie11

Across the hall from these operating rooms are microsurgery training rooms. Microsurgery is commonly used to reattach severed nerves and blood vessels. Microscopes are needed for these procedures to ensure that the cells in the nerve ending or blood vessel are lined up properly.

13 - Microsurgery Room

Our next stop is a set of rooms that serve as a virtual hospital. Much like a flight simulator for training pilots, the virtual hospital is designed to put learners in a real environment to help them learn. The simulation rooms include typical equipment seen in a hospital or triage room. For training here, we have two SimMan patient simulators named Oscar and Mayer. A tech in a connecting room can control Oscar and Mayer to make them breathe, talk, laugh, cry, go into cardiac arrest, etc. The boys will even react when a trainee gives them medicine based on the scenario they have been programmed to run.Mitie14

At the end of the hall are our partial task rooms. This long room can be divided into several rooms for smaller courses. In this picture, we have airway models set up for a course on intubation.

Mitie16

Last stop – the conference rooms. Not super exciting because of everything we’ve just seen, but they are used for meetings and as staging areas for courses. Most of the walls in these rooms are covered with whiteboard for drawing illustrations or other creative things during meetings. In case you didn’t know, you can also use dry-erase markers on the floor-to-ceiling windows in these rooms. The marks will wipe off with an eraser for a whiteboard. In case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve drawn on almost every window in my house since learning this.    Mitie17

 

That’s it! Thanks for joining us on this tour of the Houston Methodist Institute for Technology, Innovation & Education. MITIE is a great place to learn and discover new things.

What a decade of recognition means to us

e’ve been pretty happy at Houston Methodist the past few days, ever since we learned our company has been ranked – for the 10th year in a row – by FORTUNE magazine among its “100 Best Companies To Work For.”

At the moment it’s just a big deal inside our own company, and in the three other Houston companies that also earned the distinction for 2015. But in coming weeks and months you’ll likely hear more about this distinguished list because ultimately, this is also a big deal for everyone.

It’s a pretty serious process to get on the FORTUNE list. The company polls employees about their opinions on a number of workplace issues like compensation, fairness, opportunities for advancement, and if they like their boss and their jobs. Once they get an idea how employees feel about working at a company, the auditors look at a company’s culture: the workplace atmosphere created by the people working there.

As a company, we have agreed to live and work by a set of values we call I CARE. Click To Tweet

Houston Methodist has always worked hard to create an environment that brings out the best in our employees. We want Houston Methodist to be a place that supports our employees both on and off the job by encouraging healthy behaviors and striving to balance work and life.

As a company, we have agreed to live and work by a set of values we call I CARE – an acronym for integrity, compassion, accountability, respect and excellence. We pack our I CARE values like our lunch kits, and we share them with our patients and visitors every chance we get.

We believe that’s a key to making our hospitals and care centers great workplaces. In other words, we believe very deeply in what we do and that’s why we like working at Houston Methodist.

We live by our I CARE values – an acronym for integrity, compassion, accountability, respect & excellence. Click To Tweet

As I said, it’s a big deal to all of us who work here. But what does it have to do with you?

In fact, it’s all about you – our patients. When you come to one of our hospitals for medical treatment, we know you want the best care possible. And you will get that, as long we have employees who enjoy their work and are willing to give their best effort.

One person who’s seen it in action is Peggy Obert-Voitik, worked as a long-term care nurse and nursing home administrator in Illinois before she relocated to Texas last summer.

Shortly after moving here, she required medical treatment and hospitalization at Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital. “I’ve been a nurse for a while … I’ve seen a lot,” she says, “so I kind of had my guard up.”

But instead she encountered friendly, always pleasant caregivers. “People were tending to me every hour … I never once had to wait for anything I needed. Everyone was always pleasant, always willing to make sure I had the answers to all my questions,” Peggy recalls.

“I was extremely, pleasantly surprised,” she adds. “It was certainly not my typical hospital experience.”

After her discharge, Peggy went home and logged on to the internet to look for an open position for a skilled, long-term care nurse at Houston Methodist San Jacinto as a result of the great care she received.

Now Peggy Obert-Voitik, RN, is MDS coordinator for the Skilled Nursing Facility at Houston Methodist San Jacinto Hospital, a job she’s had since September of last year. She says she’s happy to be here.

Like Peggy, everyone at Houston Methodist is inspired and energized by our work at one of the “100 Best Companies To Work For.” For the past 10 years, we’ve been happy to be there.

Common injuries at RODEOHOUSTON

Rodeo has returned to Houston! Last week, we shared what a typical day was like for the RodeoHouston® sports medicine team. To recap, Houston Methodist serves as the official health care provider for RodeoHouston. The sports medicine team consists of medical volunteers from across the city, who take care of the rodeo athletes and their families before, during and after the competitions.

Just like any other elite athlete, @rodeohouston competitors deal with injuries. Click To Tweet

Just like any other elite athlete, rodeo competitors deal with injuries. But did you know the types of injuries vary by competition? I talked to Dr. Timothy Sitter, the lead orthopedic surgeon on the RodeoHouston sports medicine team, about the rodeo injuries he’s seen in his nearly 20 years working with RodeoHouston.

Tie-Down Roping and Steer Wrestling: The most common injuries in these rodeo athletes occur in the knee. “If you’ve ever wondered why the dirt on the stadium or arena floor is being tilled up between events, it’s to keep it soft for events like tie-down roping and steer wrestling,” Dr. Sitter said. “These cowboys are coming down off their horses fast, so they keep the dirt around one foot-thick and soft because hitting a hard surface, like packed dirt, can cause a lot of damage to the knee.”

DSC01702-XL

Team Roping: As part of this event, the cowboy or cowgirl must wrap the rope around their saddle horn a few times after they’ve roped the steer. Because the steer will pull on and tighten the rope, the competitor’s must wrap the rope around the saddle horn quickly and be sure to get their hands out of the way. Many riders have gotten their fingers caught in the rope while wrapping it around the saddle horn causing damage to or even losing a finger.

DSC01531-XL

Bareback and Saddle Bronc Riding: “Elbow and shoulder injuries are common in this event,” Dr. Sitter said. “The cowboys are holding on to the rope to stay on the horse, so their shoulder and elbow are under a lot of stress. These athletes deal with a lot of sprains, strains and ligament tears.” Dr. Sitter added that most of these cowboys also wear neck collars to help prevent whiplash.

Barrel Racing: The key to barrel racing is to make tight turns around the barrels. Dr. Sitter said many of the cowgirls will hit their knees on the barrels, which can cause ligament tears and even fractures.

DSC01555-XL

Bull Riding: One might think that the most common injury in bull riders is caused by whiplash or getting their hand caught in the rope, but the most common injury in these athletes is to the groin and hip. “The cowboys are holding on to the bull with their knees,” Dr. Sitter said. “The groin and hip muscles are straining because the knees are clinching on to the bull. Many bull riders work on increasing the flexibility in their hips to help prevent groin and hip muscle strains.”

No matter the event or injuries, the cowboys and cowgirls at RodeoHouston have a multi-disciplinary team at the ready to take care of them and get them back in the saddle.