Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Family spends Christmas Eve caroling at Cox

Every year, the extended Johnson family does a service project at Christmas. They’ve performed skits at a local nursing home, prepared meals for families at the Ronald McDonald house and more. This Christmas Eve, the family chose to share their time and talents with staff, patients and visitors at Cox South.

Richard and Avanell Johnson (above) both spent a significant amount of time at Cox South over the past year and a half, as first Avanell, and then Richard, recovered from heart surgery. One of their daughters, Sara Guest, says, “The whole family was so happy with the personal care our parents received from the nurses, staff and doctors. We just wanted to find a way to give something back.”

Fourteen members of the Johnson family, ranging in age from 8 to 76, sang traditional Christmas carols on 300 East and West, and in Inpatient Dialysis, Surgery Waiting, Surgery Holding and the SICU/NTICU waiting room. Some family members even provided accompaniment with flute and guitar.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

CoxHealth volunteer paints ornament for White House Christmas tree

Dr. Rebecca Burrell, long-time CoxHealth volunteer and adjunct art professor at Drury University, recently attended a eception hosted by first lady Laura Bush to honor the artists who decorated ornaments for the White House Christmas tree.

Senators and representatives from every district in the country selected an artist to paint an ornament for the tree. Burrell was selected by Rep. Roy Blunt to create an ornament in keeping with the first lady’s request for a “Red, White and Blue Christmas.” Burrell’s ornament not only incorporates the first lady’s wishes, it also includes elements reflecting our southwest Missouri heritage.

The ornament’s design includes the Missouri symbols of dogwood blooms and a bluebird, and a farm scene. Burrell says the farm was actually inspired by the old barn on her family’s farm in Barry County, where she grew up.

Developing the design required a lot of thinking and planning. “The challenge was to
design in the round and make the ornament beautiful to be seen from any angle,” she says.

Burrell says attending the reception for the artists was a “beautiful time,” and the
event reaffirmed for her the role of the arts. “Despite all the discord and uncertainty, the economy and our current political climate, all the areas of our country were represented at the White House that night, through an old-fashioned Christmas symbol,” she said.

Burrell received the six-inch blank ornament from the White House in July, and returned the finished artwork in October. The ornament will remain at the White House. At Cox, she volunteers with the Healing Through the Arts program.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Experts, friends, neighbors on parade

CoxHealth took its “Be Heart Smart” message to the streets Saturday, Dec. 13 for the annual Springfield Christmas parade, whose 2008 theme was “At the Movies.”

The Heart Smart Kids band, which originally appeared in a promotional video now playing at Campbell 16 and Hollywood Theater, joined representatives from Marketing and Planning and Pre-Hospital Services to remind parade spectators to “Get up and exercise!” Christmas treats of heart-healthy popcorn were an extra crowd pleaser.

To view the Heart Smart video, visit

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

North ED sends holiday surprise to soldiers

Several soldiers stationed in Iraq will get something extra this Christmas thanks to donations from the staff at the Cox North Emergency department.

In late October, unit secretary Sherry Phillips (left, alongside unit secretary Jen Brunner) began an effort to create a Christmas surprise for her son’s Army unit. Phillips’ son, Sergeant First Class Shane Johnson, is stationed with 29 soldiers at a patrol base in Iraq. Phillips saw a list of commonly needed items for soldiers at a local bank, and soon she and the staff knew what they needed to do.

“Not every soldier is in Baghdad,” Phillips says. “They’re in an isolated patrol base – it’s desert, rocks and them. They don’t have access to the things people might assume they do.”

The department collected eight large boxes full of supplies – including an assortment of personal and hygiene items not readily available where the unit is stationed. Items include envelopes, paper, toothbrushes, hand sanitizers, razors, soaps and sunblock.

The ED also donated $120 to cover shipping for the boxes, which were sent on Nov. 1. Phillips says the donations have been a great way to offer support to a cause that’s affecting many employees.

“There are a lot of our own employees who are in the reserves and are over there,” she says. “Everyone knows someone who has family in Iraq.”

Breakfast with Santa at Cox South

The annual “Breakfast With Santa” event will be held at the Cox South cafeteria Saturday, Dec. 13, from 9-10:30 a.m.

Children’s breakfasts will include a pancake, one strip of bacon and a small drink for $1.89. Photos with Santa will also be available for $3.

All proceeds go to Children’s Miracle Network, so gather the kids and come out for a morning of holiday fun!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Metal is latest focus of recycling efforts

As part of CoxHealth’s ongoing environmental efforts, metals are now among the items being recycled at Cox.

Large bins for metal were added to the waste disposal area at the back of Cox South in September, joining the bins for paper and pallets of cardboard set for recycling.

Dieter Reichmann, plant facilities coordinator in Engineering, says the department is already providing a steady stream of metal with leftover bits and pieces from construction projects throughout the system.

The excess metal comes from large and small projects alike. Reichmann points to a few dozen discarded fluorescent light fixtures sitting near the dock.

“We normally take this to the Dumpster, but if we’re careful we can just take the glass out and put the metal frames in the bin for recycling,” he says.

In addition to metal created by engineering and construction projects, the recycling efforts also include streams from food services (containers for canned food, for example). Soon, containers for aluminum cans will be placed on floors at Cox South.

The metal is being handled by Commercial Metals Company Recycling, a national firm with local offices. CMC picks up the full bins and hauls them away for sorting and processing.

“The good thing is, we don’t have to pay for stripping insulation off of wire and things like that,” Reichmann says. “They do all of that, do a tally at the end of the month and cut us a check.”

With metal recycling in place, efforts are now under way to develop plastic recycling in the near future.

CoxHealth celebrates Veterans Day

CoxHealth celebrated Veterans Day today by thanking employees who have served their country in the military.

A reception was held at Cox South to recognize active duty personnel, veterans of past wars and those who have served during times of peace. The system also recognized employees who have a spouse, son or daughter in the armed forces.

Employees representing all branches of the military stopped by the reception at Cox South to share stories of their service, including Tracy Mitchell, QRD performance improvement manager, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard from 1983-1988.

“Most people I work with are surprised I served in the military,” says Mitchell. “It’s important not to lose sight of the sacrifice people have made and are making for the security of our country.”

Dr. Martin Sellers, Cox College vice president of academic affairs, served as a Sergeant in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. Sellers appreciates Cox for taking time to honor employees for their military service.

“All of the achievements of our nation are due in part to the contributions made by people in the military,” says Sellers. “So many people have given their lives for their country. I can’t think of anything more honorable than that.”

“We wanted to thank our employees who have served their nation to keep us all safe and to protect our freedoms,” says veteran John Hursh, vice president of Human Resources. “We all owe them a debt of gratitude.”

“The number of CoxHealth employees who are also veterans is amazing,” says veteran Bob Bezanson, president and CEO, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1970-1981. “We are proud to salute our veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice.”

Friday, October 17, 2008

Robot offers less invasive surgery

For surgeons who perform life-saving procedures daily at CoxHealth, a new, high-tech tool has now been added to their arsenal. The daVinci-S Surgical System was unveiled in mid-August and since early September it has been used in several surgeries.

Doctors say the robotic technology offers a viewpoint superior to an open surgery combined with the minimally invasive incisions of a laproscopic procedure. It’s a combination that means shorter recovery times for patients and unprecedented levels of control for surgeons.

Drs. David Anderson and Howard Follis, urologists at Ferrell-Duncan Clinic, performed the first surgeries with the daVinci robot.

“We’re pleased with the technology and the OR team did a phenomenal job adapting to the new techniques,” Dr. Anderson says.

Dr. Anderson says the first few surgeries with the da Vinci system have been exciting, albeit lengthy. The first and second surgeries – both prostatectomies – lasted seven and five hours, respectively. Dr. Anderson says the first procedures often take longer than normal because of the learning curve and adjustments that are made in the operating room to accommodate robotic surgery.

After those adjustments are made, however, the technology is a major advantage in a delicate surgery such as the prostatectomy.

“The difference between this and an open setting is the level of precision,” Dr. Anderson says. “You’re trying to preserve nerves right along the prostate. The camera offers 10x magnification and you can see the whole neurovascular bundle as you peel it off.

“It’s impressive to see things I’ve never seen before in an operation I’ve done a hundred times.”
Dr. Anderson says that precision is making robotic surgery increasingly popular – with 60 percent of radical prostatectomies in the United States being performed robotically. Prior to the da Vinci’s arrival, many patients in the Ozarks were seeking less invasive robotic treatments in St. Louis and Kansas City.

Now, patients wanting robotic prostate surgeries or hysterectomies have the option of being treated locally, thanks to the efforts of physicians and administrators who made the $1.6 million robot a major 2008 priority.

“We’re excited to be the first in town and I think that it’s very important that Cox is leading the way in bringing this type of technology,” says Dr. John Duff, CoxHealth’s senior vice president.
Inside the operating room, the robot sits adjacent to the operating table with three praying-mantis-like arms poised over the patient. Each arm has a scope that is inserted into the body through the same dime-sized incisions used in laproscopic surgery.

The scopes on each arm include two high-definition cameras set at eye-width apart. The cameras provide two separate images that the surgeon views in a console a few feet from the patient. The two images combine like the images from binoculars to give the surgeon a three-dimensional view – a view that approximates what a surgeon would see if he or she were eye-level with the surgical field.

Dr. Anderson, who had experience with robotic surgery during his residency at the University of Iowa, says the 3-D view is a tremendous advantage.

The daVinci system also offers more articulate surgical tools than a traditional laproscope. While a conventional scope has the ability to open and close and rotate in a single plane, the da Vinci robot features articulated instrument tips that have the same motion capability as the surgeon’s wrists. Inside the console, the surgeon’s fingers operate individual controls that transmit their hand movements directly to the robotic arms.

“The movements of that robotic arm are exactly like the movements of my wrist,” Dr. Anderson says. “The movements I can do sitting at the console are much more precise and accurate than in an open setting.”

Dr. Albert Bonebrake, who began performing hysterectomies robotically in September, says the addition of the da Vinci robot represents an important step forward for surgeons and their patients.

“I see it as a very appropriate evolution for our surgical group,” he says. “Younger people who are finishing training are doing a lot of this. Most fellowships have it and for recruiting the best physicians, it’s something we’ll need.”

Dr. Bonebrake says the months of work that went into bringing the system to Cox are also an example of physicians, staff and administration banding together to do what’s best for patients.

“Everyone had a common goal in making this happen,“ Dr. Bonebrake says. “We were motivated, the administration was motivated; we had the support of Nursing and Surgery. It’s the kind of exemplary cooperation we all strive for.”

Gastric-band surgery now available at Cox

CoxHealth now offers a comprehensive surgical weight loss program using the laparoscopic adjustable gastric band system.

Program coordinator Toni Smith, RN, BSN, HN-BC, says, “The laparoscopic adjustable gastric band surgical technique differs from other weight loss surgeries in that there is no cutting or stapling of the stomach or intestines. This procedure promotes slow, healthy weight loss, and we are excited to be able to provide this valuable and needed service to our community.”

During the procedure, an adjustable silicone ring is inserted through a small incision around the upper part of the stomach, like a belt. An access port, connected to the ring by thin tubing, is placed below the skin. The surgeon is able to adjust the tightness of the silicone ring through the port, decreasing the size of the stomach and allowing a person to feel full while eating less.

Program participants will work closely with the surgical weight loss team, as well as a registered dietitian before and after surgery. They will also consult with a psychologist prior to the procedure; can access the Sleep Disorders Center to diagnose suspected sleep problems; and can access programs with an exercise specialist and registered nurse at The Meyer Center.

Program candidates must meet several requirements. Some include: being at least 18 years old; having a body mass index of greater than or equal to 40 or a BMI of 35-39.9 with severe medical conditions; no drug or alcohol addictions; and being willing and able to make significant eating habit and activity level changes.

The CoxHealth Surgical Weight Loss Program team consists of surgeons Timothy Woods, Daniel Cardwell and Thomas Moffe; physician assistant Meredith Cunningham; coordinator Toni Smith; nurse Lisa Hamilton; and medical assistants Muriel Booyer and Kellie Whitaker.

“For people interested in the program, the initial step is to attend one of our educational seminars,” says Smith.

For additional information on these seminars and other requirements or restrictions, call 875-3593.

Seminar information can also be found at

Friday, August 29, 2008

Cox EMS responds to Tropical Storm Gustav

On the third anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina hit the Louisiana coast, two CoxHealth Emergency Medical Services crews left Springfield to respond to the threat from another storm in that same region.

Tropical Storm Gustav is expected to be a major hurricane when it comes ashore Tuesday. Pre-Hospital Services director Mark Alexander says Cox is sending two ambulances with three crew members each to the staging area at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio. From there, the crews will get their specific assignments.

“Our two teams will be helping to evacuate people from nursing homes and hospitals,” says Alexander. “We all remember the sad stories coming out of hospitals in New Orleans with Katrina. The idea is to get there early and get people who can’t leave on their own out of harm’s way.”

One ambulance crew is stationed in Webster County. It includes supervisor Darrelene Smallwood, Ed Noland, EMT; and Fred Osbourn, who is a paramedic.

The second ambulance is stationed in Dade County. Its crew consists of David Compton, supervisor in Dade County; Sharon Baker, EMT, and Gerald Ellis, EMT. Baker and Ellis are stationed in Springfield.

CoxHealth EMS is a subcontractor of the American Medical Response, an agency contracted by FEMA to coordinate ambulance deployments to all natural or man-made disasters.

“Katrina demonstrated that these storms can be catastrophic,” says Alexander. “With that hurricane, the call for help came days later. This response is very different thanks to the lessons learned three years ago.”

Alexander says the loss of two ambulances will not put a strain on the EMS system because Cox utilizes staffing and vehicles in its regional system to make deployments to other parts of the country possible.

“Disasters like this require a nationwide response and we are part of the system that responds,” says Alexander. “We have to be ready to deploy to any disaster, no matter what kind or where it is.”

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A promise fulfilled at 10,000 feet

Dr. Robert Carolla knows how to drive a hard bargain. And he knows how to follow through when his staff holds up their end of the deal ­– even if that means hurtling toward the ground at
120 mph.

That’s the position Carolla found himself in on July 4, when he did his first tandem skydive, just like he’d promised his staff when they were raising funds for Relay For Life.

“It was even more fun than I expected,” Carolla says. “It didn’t even seem like I was in the air, I just felt detached; it’s wonderful.”

The trip was the final payoff in Oncology-Hematology Associates’ fundraising efforts for the American Cancer Society.

In the spring, nurse Kelly Paulie and OHA’s Relay For Life team suggested that Carolla consider jumping if they met their goal of raising $1,000.

That figure seemed low to Carolla.

“I said, ‘You’re nuts, I’m not doing that for 1,000 bucks.’ I jokingly told them, ‘I’ll do it for $10,000’ – they did it and here we are,” he says.

Over a six-week period, the staff raised $13,327 – a figure bested by only three other teams in Springfield. And, for the cause, Carolla agreed to make the jump at Skydive Skyranch in Siloam Springs, Ark.

Paulie and Carolla traveled together to Arkansas, where they met skydiver and former OHA patient Steve Babin. Paulie and three of her co-workers had made their first jumps with Babin and the crew at the Skyranch last summer.

Carolla had postponed a jump in the spring as he prepared for his daughter’s wedding in late June. Even with the extra time to prepare, he admits he was nervous as the time drew near.
“I was a little ... well, there was a small chance I might chicken out,” he says with a laugh. “Not really, but driving down I worried I might back out.”

Carolla joked with the crew before the jump that he had hoped for rain. But by the time he was in the partly cloudy skies with tandem instructor Christian Grill and pilot Wolf Grulkey, he says he was struck by the tranquility of it all.

“It’s really interesting going up to 10,000 feet, everyone is very quiet in the airplane,” he says. “It’s almost a Zen experience.”

Above the drop zone, Grill opened the door and he and Carolla leaned forward and jumped into position, belly down and parallel with the fields below. Carolla says he was struck by the rush of wind during the first half of the dive.

Once the main parachute opened, Carolla and Grill were brought upright and they were able to steer the parachute to the airstrip below.

“It makes you really excited and pumped,” Carolla says. On the ground, Fourth of July foods like hamburgers and hotdogs were available, but he says he was too excited to eat. “I was so revved up!

“It was thrilling, but there’s a sense of peace, too. I can see why people do it.”

Carolla says the jump was everything he had hoped it would be, and it’s an illustration of the opportunities that await him as he enters retirement this month.

“This is something I secretly always wanted to do,” he says. “I’m a cautious person, yet I have an adventurous streak.

“Sometimes people retire and they feel like they’re over the hill and there are no new challenges. That’s not the way I’m planning to retire. I’m ready for more challenges.”

Bed board wins innovator award

Since its implementation last year, the bed board at CoxHealth has helped improve service for patients by tracking bed occupancy throughout the hospital. Now the technology has earned Cox recognition with an Innovator Award from Hospitals & Health Networks magazine.

The bed board was recognized in the magazine’s July issue, which featured its 10th annual listing of the 100 Most Wired Hospitals and Health Systems. The Innovator Award specifically recognizes hospitals that have pursued technical advances related to their missions.

The bed board was developed in house by Information Technology’s eHealth team in 2007.

Chief information officer Bruce Robison says the team looked at applications from vendors, but nothing suited Cox’s specific needs. To be efficient, the system would need to be able to interface with other software applications and current systems used by departments ranging from Admissions to Environmental Services.

“The purchased product wouldn’t do that out of the box, so we had to develop something more specialized,” Robison says. “We were able to do it at a far lower cost, too. We would have paid four or five times more than the cost of development to purchase a product.”

The bed board system is monitored from an office in the tunnel at Cox South, where registration specialists monitor the status of more than 500 patient beds on two 55-inch flat-screen monitors. Like air-traffic controllers for the hospital, the registration team coordinates the flow of patients by tracking which beds are full and which are open.

Elise Jones, a registration specialist in Admissions, says the board also allows “bed ahead” planning, in which beds can be requested based on anticipated need.

“If a patient is having surgery and we know they’ll need to stay, this lets the floor pull up a report that shows how many patients we’re expecting,” Jones says.

The board also shows the registration team a large amount of at-a-glance information about the beds. Beds coded green are open; pink indicates a bed occupied by a female, blue by a male. Brown-coded beds are dirty; orange ones are blocked by a doctor’s order.

“The nice thing about this is there’s a lot of information, but there’s no personal information,” Jones says. “It works like a charm.”

On patient floors, information is featured on screens mounted at each nurses’ station. Graphics show the status of each bed and in the center, a traffic-signal graphic shows the overall status of beds throughout the system. Robison says it’s an improvement over the previous system, under which it was more difficult for staff to see the complete picture at a glance.

“This shows the layout of the floor, so we all know exactly where we stand here,” he says. “The system really benefits the patients because we can move patients in and out more quickly and accommodate their needs more effectively.

“It’s a win-win – we know more about what we’re doing and it’s better for our patients.”

Recycling efforts now include all paper

In an ongoing effort to expand recycling at CoxHealth, the Environmental Leadership Council recently announced that staff will now be able to recycle all paper via the locked bins located on patient floors and in various departments.

The bins, currently located near the transportation elevators in the main hospital, have long been used for some types of paper recycling. Now, through an agreement with Midwest Fiber, the bins will be able to accept any and all paper – everything from printouts to newsprint and glossy paper. The bins can also accept confidential paperwork without prior shredding.

“Everything in the bins is locked up and then shredded, so people can feel secure in putting things in there unshredded,” says Shana Tauai, co-chair of the Environmental Leadership Council.

While metal binding clips will need to be removed, stapled paper can be recycled with staples intact.

Midwest Fiber will continue to collect the bins regularly and Environmental Services director Ronnie Lightfoot says adjustments in the collection schedule will be made as need dictates.

“It will create some additional volume for the EVS team and we might have to accommodate some of the areas that do more paper handling with an additional bin or two,” Lightfoot says.
Tauai says she hopes the move will encourage employees to recycle and to think about waste reduction in general. She and Lightfoot say it’s important for employees to ask “do I really need to print this?”

“Using less paper in the first place helps even more than recycling,” Lightfoot says.

In other CoxHealth environmental updates:

• A plan is under way to remove the light bulbs in all vending machines on Cox campuses. Lightfoot says that at a similar-sized organization that change resulted in a $15,000 utility savings annually.

• Drury’s Students In Free Enterprise chapter is completing its analysis of CoxHealth’s carbon footprint and the results are expected soon.

• Tentative plans are under way to develop a recycling center at Cox South. Council leaders are working with the city on a plan to place bins for metal, glass and paper recycling on the south campus. The location would serve as a drop-off point for employees and the community.

Annual Wellness EXPO set for September 20

CoxHealth is hosting the 5th Annual Wellness EXPO, Saturday, Sept. 20, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m., at The Meyer Center.

This event, which is open to the public, includes more than a dozen health screenings, informational booths, car seat checks, helicopter tours and more. For a complete list of activities and screenings, call 269-INFO or visit the “events & classes” calendar at

Cox North gets front-row seat for tour

Teresa Goodson isn’t necessarily a fan of professional cycling, but the secretary at the CoxHealth Library couldn’t resist joining dozens of other Cox North employees for a glimpse of the Tour of Missouri Pro Cycling Race as it sped by the campus last year.

“A huge group of us lined Jefferson Street to watch the race,” says Goodson. “When we finally saw the riders coming toward us, we started cheering. It was really fun.”

The cheers didn’t last long since the professional cyclists were traveling at high speeds on the straightaway down Jefferson Street towards the finish line at Kimbrough Avenue and East Trafficway.

Gail Lurvey, a graphic designer in the Marketing department, was able to take just a few photographs. “We saw the cyclists and then they were gone. They were going so fast, it was over so quickly,” she says.

The Tour of Missouri is an international cycling event that began in 2007 and attracted an estimated 370,000 spectators to Missouri over six days. This year’s race features one more day, more hills and three new courses to challenge the cyclists.

CoxHealth employees will get to see more of the action during the 2008 Tour of Missouri because of a slight change in the 126-mile Stage 2 route from Clinton as it rolls into Greene County Tuesday, Sept. 9. CoxHealth is once again the Stage 2 title sponsor.

The field of 120 world-class cyclists from 15 elite professional teams will enter Springfield on Division Street. Instead of veering onto Commercial as they did last year, the riders will continue on Division, passing along the north side of Cox North, and then turn south onto Jefferson before heading for three finish circuits around downtown Springfield.

Chris Flouer, director of Cox Fitness Centers who is helping to coordinate the events at Cox North, says the campus will get more attention this year. “We expect more spectators so we are adding more games and entertainment as well as another bleacher to our parking lot,” says Flouer.

Flouer says spectators can visit the Health and Wellness Expo at the Mediacom Ice Park lot, which will feature booths and entertainment from noon through the finish, which is expected around 4 p.m.

The second annual Community Bike Ride will take place on Monday evening, Sept. 8, for families to experience the circuit that the cyclists will be racing the next day.

CoxHealth employees have the chance to take part in the race as volunteers. Barb Baker, a member of the Tour of Missouri Local Organizing Committee, says 300 extra hands are needed to help with the second annual event. “The biggest need is for course marshals who will be manning areas along the course like intersections and driveways to prevent people from crossing the course before the cyclists come through,” says Baker.

Volunteers can view a list of available jobs and sign up to work during the 2008 Tour of Missouri by visiting

Employee picnic set for September 13

Make plans now to attend this year’s annual employee picnic, planned for Saturday, Sept. 13, at Lake Springfield. The family event will be held from 11 a.m.-6 p.m., and will feature a variety of carnival games and food from KFC and Rib Crib.

Employees interested in displaying or selling home-made crafts at the picnic can call Cheryl Dunn in Human Resources at 269-3016.

Doctor sells car, turns to bike for commute

Dr. Shelby Smith says he’s always been an advocate for energy conservation, but in the last few months he’s taken a bold step to be environmentally responsible and trim the family budget. Instead of driving to and from work, he has turned to cycling and jogging as his modes of daily transportation.

For Dr. Smith and his wife, the decision to become a one-car family has required a little extra planning, but he says the financial, health and environmental benefits are worth the trade.

The Smiths live about three miles from where Dr. Smith works at Cox Family Medicine Associates in Hulston Cancer Center. They’re the new parents of an 18-month-old son and, in examining their family budget, they asked themselves if two car payments were really necessary.

“If you have a car payment plus gas and insurance, giving up one car can save hundreds of dollars each month,” Dr. Smith says. Both of their vehicles got good gas mileage, but they decided to sell their Toyota Matrix.

“We sold it to a family that commutes to work, so we were able to help all of us with gas,” Dr. Smith says.

Since then, Dr. Smith has consolidated his daily exercise routine with his commuting, either riding his bicycle or jogging to and from work.

“You get the exercise and save money at the same time,” he says. He arrives at Hulston early and uses a shower in a second floor bathroom to prepare for work.

“I have three sets of work clothes,” he says with a laugh, noting that shuffling clothes between home, the office and the cleaners is one of the adjustments the family has made. Now, though, they’ve settled into a routine.

“Once the details are set up, it’s just another thing you do,” he says. “It forces us to work together to plan out how we’ll use the car together.”

On the days when weather makes riding or running to work impractical, Dr. Smith says taking the city bus is another opportunity to multi-task.

“I’m able to pull out the newspaper instead of dealing with Springfield’s rush hour traffic,” he says.

His favorite days, though, are the ones when he gets a few extra moments of solitude riding through residential streets early in the morning.

“Springfield is a great town for biking because there are so many back roads to ride,” he says. “It’s really peaceful.

“And, it’s a relief to ride by Kum & Go and know that I’m not having to pay for gas today.”

Friday, June 13, 2008

Four friends find savings in carpooling

Deanna House of Food and Nutrition Services has some simple advice for anyone considering saving money by sharing rides to work: “Try it, you might like it.”

She and three of her neighbors who work in Purchasing, Janice Pride, Deb Powell and Anna House, have made carpooling a habit over the last few years. They say sharing the ride in from Billings has added money to their household budgets while reducing the number of cars on the road.

Anna and Janice originally started riding together in the spring of 2005, when gasoline was approaching what now seems like a bargain: $1.50 a gallon. By 2006, Deb and Deanna had joined in, taking turns driving the group to work and back.

“We had talked about it before, but when gas first started going up, we decided we needed to do this,” Deanna says.

The group says that while the environmental benefits are a nice side effect, the financial incentive was key to getting everyone on board.

“We’re four cheap women,” Deb says, laughing. She’s quickly corrected by Anna, who prefers the term “frugal.”

Depending on who is getting picked up, the trip is about 26 miles each way. All four women work the same shifts and they take turns driving to spread out the cost of gas.
“When I drove by myself, I was spending $60 per week,” Deb says. “Now, I usually spend about $20 per week.”

The group says carpooling is a lot easier than one might think. The group keeps in touch about their schedules and they make adjustments when someone can’t ride or needs to make a stop at the grocery store or pharmacy.

“Most people think they have too much going on to do it,” Deb says. With a little planning, though, the group has accommodated family schedules by doing things like dropping one another off at children’s sporting events. “Everything we do is between Springfield and Billings, so it’s not that hard.”

But what about giving up the 25 minutes of private time each way that their commutes used to provide?

“Well, we’ve never had a fight or anything!” Deanna says with a laugh.

“Unless it’s about the temperature of the car,” Deb grins.

“You may be used to driving by yourself, but the cost savings really offsets that,” Anna says.

All four of the women have noticed a savings not just on gas but in reduced wear and maintenance on their vehicles. They say it’s a good feeling knowing that they’re reducing the number of cars on the road during rush hour and freeing up parking spaces at work.

“Most cars you pass on the road have one person, but we look like a school bus!” Deb says. “If we could fit more people in, we would.”

Finding new ways to 'do no harm'

When it comes to caring for the environment, CoxHealth is taking steps to become a leader in good stewardship.

With an employee base the size of many Ozarks towns, there is plenty of room for even small changes to make a big impact on the environment and on the organization’s bottom line.

To pioneer those changes, CoxHealth recently formed the Environmental Leadership Council. The group will focus on practical ways to make the hospital more environmentally friendly – both through system-wide efforts and by cultivating the support of individual staff members who may want to change their own habits to be more “green.”

The council, which was formed early this spring, resulted in part from ongoing efforts to make Cox’s new facilities environmentally sustainable. The council’s 15 representatives from throughout the system are led by co-chairs Shana Tauai, director of support services at Hulston Cancer Center, and Collin Sherick, director of Environmental Services.

Tauai and Sherick are well versed in dealing with environmental challenges: Tauai’s master’s thesis dealt with environmental sustainability in hospitals and Sherick and his staff see firsthand the amount of waste the hospital produces.

The pair work closely with Rod Schaffer, vice president of Facility Services and one of the originators of the idea for an environmental council.

As Schaffer attended meetings on how to make new facilities sustainable, he began thinking about what Cox could be doing now to make changes in the hospital’s current facilities. Some of those changes, including the addition of an environmentally friendly floor covering on the skywalk and a switch to “greener” paper towels, have already been put in place.

“Health care has some of the greatest opportunities to make a positive impact on the environment for patients, staff and our community,” Schaffer says. “Creating a health-based agenda for green operations throughout our facilities is a defining facet of excellence, quality and leadership.”

Narrowing down those opportunities and working on steps to take advantage of them are among the council’s first tasks.

“It can be hard to know where to start, there’s so much,” Sherick says.

At the council’s second meeting, members decided to focus first on the paper that is discarded throughout the hospital. While cardboard is currently recycled and there are locked bins for recycling confidential paperwork on most patient floors, there is still plenty of paper waste that’s headed for the landfill rather than to a recycling center. In the coming months, the council plans to explore ways to better handle paper waste.

Progress on this and other council activities will be announced on a new Environmental Leadership Council Intraweb page that recently launched. The page is a place for employees to see what the council is working on and read tips on things they can do to be more green, both at work and at home.

The page also features a link to an online registry for employees wanting to carpool to work — an option that has a big economic benefit as well as an environmental one.

“I think the desire to be more environmentally conscious is there for sure,” Sherick says. “More people are realizing that with issues of global warming and waste disposal, if we don’t change our ways, it will have an impact on our children and grandchildren.”

Sherick says that consciousness already guides many decisions made in Environmental Services, such as a switch to green chemicals last fall. Throughout CoxHealth, many of the efficiency-boosting projects developed alongside Wellspring consultants also have the double benefit of trimming costs and reducing waste. A few examples of recent efforts:

• Cardboard from throughout the hospitals has been recycled for several years — a move that actually produces a small amount of income when material is sold to fiber companies.

• Environmental Services has switched to floor scrubbers that use concentrated chemicals and require less water.

• Lights in areas that are not occupied 24 hours a day are now connected to motion sensors, allowing them to be off when no one’s around.

• CoxHealth now requires vehicles waiting to make deliveries to shut off their engines, rather than idling.

• IT has been phasing out CRT monitors for computers and replacing them with energy-saving flat screen monitors.

• Bed-change policies have been modified to reduce the total amount of linens washed, and the amount of water used.

Each change makes a difference, but council leaders are well aware that there is a long way to go toward making a system the size of Cox more environmentally friendly.

To get an idea of how big the problem is for health care, consider that only the construction industry is worse in terms of landfill usage. Tauai says it is “staggering how much impact our industry is having on our environment and ultimately our health in terms of landfill usage and water and energy consumption.”

That’s something that needs to change, she says.

“Health care should be held to a higher standard in all aspects of business — from the food we serve to the way we make purchasing decisions.

“Just the things we talked about in our first meeting, focusing on paper recycling and carpooling can change the way Cox does business,” Tauai says. “This can have a positive affect on our community and our employees and it’s just the right thing to do.”

Sherick says that because of the scope of such a project, employees’ individual actions will be key to making a difference.

“People will need to look in their areas and ask ‘What can I do?’” he says. “We can make all the policies we want, but this is everyone’s responsibility.”

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Make plans to run Medical Mile on May 31

The 17th annual Medical Mile race will be held on Saturday, May 31 on the Cox South campus. The event is open to everyone, from children to seniors, serious runners to casual walkers.

Pre-registration will be held from 7 a.m- 7 p.m., Friday, May 30, at The Meyer Center, Conference Room A. Registration the day of the race will be from 5:30-6:30 a.m. at The Meyer Center, Conference Room A.

Fees are $12 for adults ($15 day of race) and $6 for kids under 12 ($8 day of race). Family rates are $35 for immediate family members living in the same household and registering at the same time ($40 day of race). Cox employees receive $1 off individual fees.

All proceeds benefit the C.A.R.E. Mobile. For more information, call 269-3282.

CoxHealth employees star in new video promoting stroke awareness

May is National Stroke Awareness Month and several CoxHealth employees are starring in a sock-hop-themed public service announcement featuring Nick, Ruell and Ned the Band.

The video will be shown at Campbell 16 Cine prior to each movie beginning May 9. It will also show at select Springfield Cardinals baseball games. You may also visit to take a sneak peek.

CoxHealth is also holding a free stroke awareness screening May 22, 7:30 a.m. - 1 p.m., at the Northview Senior Center. Call 269-INFO to register.