VMC blazes trail to spinal cord injury cure with assist from Supes

Here’s the vision: Years from now, we’ll look back on the video below and say “This was the moment; the moment where it all became real.”

Let me explain, because this is going to be BIG. It needs to be.

A year ago, you might remember that Valley Medical Center was chosen to be the first place in the nation to conduct a trial of embryonic stem cells on real patients. In the video, you’ll meet both who got them—Richard and Katie. They are the only two in history west of the Mississippi to participate in this trial.

The company who sponsored the trial is Geron, and they discontinued the program due to funding considerations…and here’s why we must keep the work going: The stem cells that Katie got were just supposed to test whether the procedure could be done safely. We weren’t expecting her to improve her functioning and mobility.

But that’s what happened.

So three cheers to the Board of Supervisors of Santa Clara County for supporting our creation of an “Institute of Regenerative Medicine”. The video captures the first vote, and it’s only the first step…but again, years from now, I hope we can look back and recognize it as the moment where a whole new field of medicine was created, right here at VMC: Not just spinal cord injury rehabilitation, but spinal cord injury cure.

 Now we need YOUR help. If you would like to talk about supporting this critical work at this crucial time in history, please call me directly at 408-885-5299.

Electronic medical records: It’s going to be Epic!

Jeff Scarafia of Epic, presenting June 5 to a group of county health leaders. His slide shows just a few of the medical centers using Epic.

Yesterday I got to learn a bit more about Epic, the system being implemented here at Valley Medical Center to catapult us into the 21st century!

That’s not even hyperbole: Epic is truly epic. Once it’s fully implemented, we’ll be part of a growing national network of medical systems using the same electronic medical record platform…and we’ll all benefit.

I’ll be able to make appointments or change them right from my computer at home or iPhone. Accessing lab results, re-ordering medications? All a snap. History of my constant, frustrating battle to lose weight? The info is at my fingertips.

But most importantly, if I’m visiting Epic’s HQ in Wisconsin, and I’m wandering through a field and get hit by a cow*, the local trauma center using Epic will have instant access to my medical history and know that I’m allergic to Bovinabutanol.**

This is technology that will truly save lives – maybe mine, maybe yours. And just another great innovative step being taken by our public hospital. Learn more at www.epicsystems.com

* This is unlikely to happen.

** I totally made up that medication.

VMC’s Healthier Living Program makes the Wall St. Journal!

The team of VMC's H.E.L.P. program, nationally recognized!

Every day, teams of dedicated men and women run great programs at Valley Medical Center…but it’s not every day that the news makes the  Wall Street Journal.

This week, it did! The article (read it here) features photos from a VMC Healthier Living Class, and talks about this growing nationwide movement .  Our Healthier Living program has graduated over 800 participants since 2006.

Healthier Living is staffed by the SCVMC patient association HELP: Health, Empowerment, Leadership People which consists of SCVMC patient-volunteers. The VMC Foundation is proud to support this great program (and I’m proud to be part of the photo above!)

Free Chronic Disease Self Management Program “Healthier Living” Classes are available for all VMC patients and staff, regardless of insurance or non-insured status.  This program was developed at Stanford University Patient Education Research Center.  The Chronic Disease Self-Management Program is a workshop given two and a half hours, once a week, for six weeks.  The program was developed for people with chronic health problems and their significant others. People with different problems attend the same workshop together. Workshops are facilitated by two trained leaders.

Subjects covered include: 1) techniques to deal with problems such as frustration, fatigue, pain and isolation, 2) appropriate exercise for maintaining and improving strength, flexibility, and endurance, 3) appropriate use of medications, 4) communicating effectively with family, friends, and health care professionals, 5) nutrition, and, 6) how to evaluate new treatments. There is also great emphasis on three process skills: action planning, disease related problem solving, and decision making.

What to do with your OLD iPad…

Debbie Bursdall, on the left, helps a rehab patient with tech access. Be a part of the solution(s) with us!

Tomorrow the new iPad is released. If you’re like me, you’ll be lining up overnight  in the rain outside the Apple Store to get yours!

Okay, not really. But I WOULD if I had the time, because like most Apple products the New iPad is sure to be an amazing device. If you’re excited about your New iPad, you may not yet have decided just what to do with your old one.

May I humbly suggest: Donate it to the Technology Access Program at the VMC Foundation! We work every day with Valley Medical Center patients who have spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries to set them up with web access, voice activation, and other technological needs…which helps them in so many ways.

The iPad, it turns out, is a fantastic rehabilitation tool. It is light-weight, light-touch, large-screen, and perfect for people living with paralysis. The iPad can even help them regain functionality as they stay connected with loved ones and the outside world. An endless supply of apps, voice recognition, games…well, you get it.

Our Technology Access Program, led by the VMC Foundation’s Debbie Burdsall, is so successful that she travels around the country telling other hospitals how we do it. But to do it as well as we can, we need a steady stream of the latest and greatest – or close to it. Therefore, if you have an older iPad or even a gently-used laptop, give us a call at 408-885-5299 (or reply to this post) and claim a tax deduction by donating it. Our patients will benefit, and you’ll feel even better about standing in the drizzle all night waiting for the Apple Store to open tomorrow!

Comedy Night Fundraiser for AIDS Care @ San Jose Improv- March 6th

Natasha Leggero

Natasha Leggero- Headlining Comedian for the PACE Clinic Comedy Night Fundraiser

Come join us for the Second Annual PACE Clinic Comedy Night, Laugh*Sing*Dance*Care featuring Natasha Leggero, March 6, 2012.

Proceeds from this event go to the Valley Medical Center PACE (Partners in AIDS Care and Education) Clinic, Santa Clara County’s only resource for HIV/AIDS patients without insurance. The PACE Clinic will use this money to carry out a special HIV/AIDS prevention education campaign in 2012.

This year we are featuring headlining comedian, Natasha Leggero.

When: Tuesday, March 6, 2012 @ 7:45 PM; dinner service available

Where: The San Jose Improv, 62 S. Second St., San Jose, CA

Tickets: $45

[button link=”http://www.laughstub.com/improv/buy.cfm?id=101426″ size=”large”]Purchase Tickets Now[/button] or call 408.280.7475

Click Here to Download Flyer

Natasha Leggero is an actress and comedian who can be seen regularly on E!’s top rated show Chelsea Lately. Natasha is an accomplished stand-up comedian with appearances on The Tonight Show w/ Jay Leno, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Last Call w/ Carson Daly and a Comedy Central special which premiered in March 2011. Her record “Coke Money” has been in the top 10 on iTunes since it’s debut on Comedy Central Records in March 2011. Natasha tours the country headlining packed comedy clubs across the US with her own brand of sophisticated writing, physicality and glamour.

Featuring Comedian Jimmy Ouyang

Featuring Comedian Jimmy Ouyang

Jimmy Ouyang is a Chinese American stand-up comedian best known for his sharp observations and his confident swagger on stage. He was recently selected by FunnyorDie as one of the top 30 comedians under 30 to watch in the nation, along with Amy Schumer and TJ Miller. Jimmy made his television debut on CBS’s hit series “2 Broke Girls”. He has also been a writer/consultant for the Harlem Globetrotters. Jimmy was born in Hong Kong to a traditional Chinese family from Shanghai. At the age of thirteen his family moved to Los Angeles. He later graduated from UCSD with a Management Science degree. Jimmy now spends most of his time in Los Angeles.



The #1 Cher Impersonator in the Bay Area Sasha Stephane

The #1 Cher Impersonator in the Bay Area, Sasha Stephane

Opening up the show on Tuesday night will be the #1 Cher Impersonator in the Bay Area, Sasha Stephane. She has performed along side Yara Sofia, Raven, Mimi Imfurst from RuPaul’s Drag Race plus Mimi’s own Band “XELLE”  She has performed in Hollywood, Portland, Reno, Vegas, Hayward, Sacramento, San Francisco and San Jose’s Finest Nightclubs and have also performed at The Napa Valley Wineries where I currently have my own show with my girls Jackie, Dannie and Fey. The ladies are a team of 4 professional female illusionists portraying Marilyn Monroe, Tina Turner, Celine Dion and Of Course The Diva Herself CHER plus their amazing back up dancers.  

[button link=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i23OmWvQ9Z0″ color=”silver”]Check Out One of Sasha’s Videos![/button]



The PACE Clinic offers patients in all stages of HIV infection state-of-the-art primary care in a friendly and compassionate environment. At the clinic they offer a variety of programs that allow doctors and patients to work together to address the increasing complexity of HIV treatment, as well as the real-life challenges of dealing with the disease.The clinic stresses a holistic approach that includes a comprehensive range of on-site services, from clinic treatment to nutrition and psychotherapy.

The clinic serves more than 1,250 patients per year with medical treatment to prevent or delay the progression of HIV/AIDS and to treat other medical conditions. For patients without health insurance, the PACE Clinic is their only resource for HIV/AIDS treatment in Santa Clara County. Services include medical evaluation, treatment and management of HIV/AIDS, nursing triage, access to clinical trials, psychiatric and mental health counseling, nutritional assessment and counseling, dental services, and a pharmacist for medication adherence issues.
[twitter_follow username=”scvmcPACEclinic” language=”en”]
If you are unable to make it to the event, but would like to donate to a great cause, click here:
[button link=”https://ssl.charityweb.net/vmcfoundation/pace.htm “]PACE Clinic Donation[/button]

[hr] A special thank you to our sponsors…

Amazing device improves patient/doctor communication!

Most medical devices can't be found at REI. This one can.

Dr. Gary Lee is Valley Medical Center’s director of palliative care, and he’s using a new high-tech wonder in his daily communication with his patients.

Yes, I know it may not look that amazing. But consider: This portable, light-weight camping stool allows Gary to carry it wherever he goes, and when he’s ready to speak with a patient at the bedside, he unfolds it and sits at eye-level with the person in the bed.

Barbara Zahner, Chaplain here at VMC, puts it like this: “the presence of this simple, low cost piece of equipment changes the environment from clinical to remembrances of comforting campfires, cozy conversations, and the grandeur and spirit of nature and creation.”

Gary first read about this in the New England Journal of Medicine, and has found it a real game-changer: The national statistics are that a patient is interrupted by their doctor (at most) 18 seconds into being heard…and in Gary’s practice, that just won’t do.

You see, Gary’s work involves end-of-life discussions with patients and families, where listening is a critical part of delivering care. If done right, the alert reader of this blog will remember that palliative care can not only provide dignity, it can actually extend life.

A simple camping stool! How wonderful to slow that hurry-up dynamic between doctor and patient, letting both feel more present and “in the moment”. Anyone can do this, right Gary? “Well, it requires training”, he told me…and remember, VMC is the teaching hospital for Stanford: “We teach medical students that the most important part of the stethoscope is the six inches between the ear pieces. By the same token, the most important part of the camping stool is – well, you get the idea.”

We’ve all heard it before, and it’s so true: Before they care how much you know, they have to know how much you care.

Stem Cell Research – a promise we must keep

"I want to be an advocate for stem cell therapies and other types of spinal cord injury treatment that can make a difference in someone’s life." SCVMC patient Katie Sharify is one of only five people to receive stem cell treatments to treat her spinal cord injury.

The Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) Rehabilitation Center, in partnership with Stanford Hospital, launched a groundbreaking study in 2011 to establish the promise of embryonic stem cells in treating spinal cord injuries. However, the momentum of this historic collaboration is threatened and your help is needed to continue this valuable research.

In November 2011, Geron announced that it would close the Spinal Cord Injury Clinical Trial to new enrollment. Dr. Steven McKenna, principal investigator for the research at SCVMC, said, “We’re still in the very early history of what amounts to creating an entirely new field. With effective stem cell therapies we have an opportunity to actually reverse the disease process itself.” However, Geron’s decision threatens to derail our progress toward an important milestone in curing spinal paralysis.

The VMC Foundation and the SCVMC Rehabilitation Center have created a special fund to support the continuation of these highly promising trials – to reach the first milestone in achieving a cure for spinal cord paralysis. The Treatment Innovation Fund allows those who understand the importance of such a cure to make a contribution.

[button link=”https://ssl.charityweb.net/vmcfoundation/Treatment Innovation.htm” size=”large” color=”orange”]make a gift[/button]

About the SCVMC Rehabilitation Center

The Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Rehabilitation Center is a world leader in rehabilitation services for people suffering from spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and many other injuries. The Center also serves as the teaching hospital for Stanford Hospital rehabilitation students, and as the primary rehabilitation facility for Stanford Hospital patients.

Because of their neuro-impairment, the lives of the Rehab Center’s patients are changed in the most fundamental ways, including physical functioning, communicating and even mental functioning. For the past 40 years, it has been the mission of the doctors, nurses and therapists at SCVMC Rehab Center to improve patients’ quality of life, increase their independence, and reintegrate them into their communities. The Center, located at SCVMC in San Jose, is operated by Santa Clara County and serves anyone, regardless of their ability to pay. The Rehab Center is considered one of the most comprehensive and trusted rehabilitation facilities in the western US, and draws patients from across the state and beyond. High-visibility patients are often referred to SCVMC’s Rehab Center by physicians who could send their patients to any facility in the world.

About Katie Sharify

Katie Sharify, a USC student from Pleasanton, was injury last year in a car accident.  She become one of the first people in the world to receive stem cell treatment for spinal cord injury at SCVMC.  Learn about her amazing story with this short video from filmmaker David Alvarado.

The Verdict on Health Care Reform (the jury is still out)

It’s finally happened: I’m serving on a jury.

Disruptive? Sure – I’m a busy guy; most of us are. So I’ve quickly compiled a list of things that, as United States Citizens, we don’t have to do:

  1. Vote
  2. Join the Military (not now, anyway)
  3. Belong to a political party
  4. Pledge allegiance to the flag
  5. Worship one way or another
  6. Pay taxes (you can live in your buddy’s warehouse and eat burritos every day. Believe me – I know)
  7. Say only nice things about the government
  8. Limit the number of kids we have

I could make this list longer, but you get the point: About the only thing we MUST do, when called, is serve on a jury. That’s a pretty good deal, so as I try not to complain I also try not to be too angry with fellow prospective jurors who are obviously trying to get bounced.  After all, we’ve gotten used to a lot of free will in this great country.

And this may be why so many folks are still steamed up about Obama’s health care reforms. Some parts of them sound compulsory, like everyone paying into an insurance product of some kind…a lot of people heard that and freaked out, because it sounded MANDATORY. Americans don’t like mandatory.

But after reading today’s LA Times Op-Ed piece, it became clear about what also is mandatory: Cancer. If you have it, you can’t opt out. You can’t say “As an American, I choose not to have this disease.” As the author found out, sometimes your choices are terrifyingly limited…and that’s when options on health coverage and treatment start to sound a lot less political and a lot more life-saving.

The author apologizes to the President, which of course she didn’t have to do. If you have an opinion, feel free to share it. Or not; it’s a free country. I’ll reply, once I catch up after my service.

VMC Foundation Holiday Fundraiser to Help Homeless Patients

As you celebrate this holiday season with your friends and family, remember those who have less to be thankful for. The VMC Foundation is raising funds for New Directions, an innovative program that helps break the cycle of homelessness by providing access to a doctor, treatment, transportation, food and even housing to homeless patients.

[button link=”http://bit.ly/tbiUl4″ size=”large” color=”orange”]Make a gift[/button]

Since 2002, New Directions has provided support to homeless men and women with the goals of securing a home, assuring that clients have access to food and appropriate nutrition for their health conditions, assistance in applying for Food Stamps, MediCal, and Social Security, providing access to transportation for health visits, and facilitating the provision of other treatment as needed.

Each client is assigned a case manager who helps them to achieve stability in key areas to help them transition to independent self-care and employment. Clients are taught life skills, provided with access to financial assistance, and educated in tenant-landlord relationships.

Our goal

Our goal is to raise $10,000 for New Directions by the end of the year. Please support the New Directions program with a tax-deductible donation that will help our homeless patients achieve a healthy, safe, and stable way of life.

VMC wins national award for diabetes care

Valley Medical Center has received the prestigious American Diabetes Association (ADA) Education Recognition Certificate for having an excellent diabetes self-management patient education program. The certificate is awarded to programs that offer high-quality education, which is an essential component of effective diabetes treatment.

“We are proud and honored to receive this national recognition. Education is a key component of our program and this recognition confirms what our patients know – that they are getting high-quality services at our Center,” stated Dr. Tyler Aguinaldo, Director of the Diabetes Center at SCVMC. “We use a variety of innovative strategies and components of the Chronic Care Model to help manage this ever-increasing and deadly disease. These strategies include self-management support, electronic registries, care management programs, and evidence-based protocols. We also use cutting-edge technologies such as insulin pumps and sensors, retinal camera screening and tele-medicine.”

Santa Clara County, like the much of the United States, is facing a growing epidemic of diabetes. Driven by obesity, poor nutrition and lack of exercise, diabetes related illness is a leading cause of death and hospitalizations. The VMC Diabetes Center sees more than 20,000 patients a year. And the number keeps growing, as VMC officials believe nearly 1/3 of all Santa Clara County residents are at risk for the disease.

That is why the VMC Diabetes Centers deploys dietitians, social workers, pharmacists, case managers and others to help patients navigate a complete overhaul of their lifestyle. After all, the goal is not only to help the patient in the short-term, but to keep them from ever having to come back.