Friday, December 30, 2011

Departments give back to the community

Departments at CoxHealth have been working this holiday season to find ways to give back to the community we serve. In recent weeks, staff members in Case Management and the F300 unit at Cox North have made Christmas brighter for children in the Springfield area.

For the second year in a row, Case Management purchased coats for students in Springfield Public Schools. The Case Management team worked with school officials to identify students in need, then they went shopping. They made the most of the funds CoxHealth employees donated by working out discounts with Kmart and Kohl’s.

Just prior to Christmas, the department delivered 75 coats, along with hats, gloves and other winter necessities. They were even able to provide a few extra coats for schools to have on hand throughout the winter.

Staff members on F300 donated dozens of presents for students at Robberson Elementary. Shown with the gifts above are: Terry Earnhart, Shanna Stafford, Dr. Edgar Galinanes and Brittney Day.

Meanwhile, staff members on F300 at Cox North adopted 21 children from kindergarten through fifth grade at Robberson Elementary. Robberson’s counselor and principal identified students most in need and the F300 staff went to work fulfilling their wish lists. 
By the week before Christmas, the adopted children all had presents and stockings filled with goodies. The staffers also donated 35 new coats. Char Biamonte Stockl, Assistant Administrative Director in Psychiatric Services, says the staff members were so eager to help, the effort won’t end with the holiday season.

“We aren’t going to stop at Christmas, we want to make this a year-long, employee-engaged effort. I would like to see Easter baskets, a summer gift and fall events for these children,” she says. “We want them to always know that someone cares.”

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Free infant massage classes at CoxHealth

Infant massage helps parent and baby bond, builds baby’s coordination, language development and muscle tone, and may provide relief when baby experiences colic, muscle tension and more. It even helps baby sleep, lowers stress hormones and may decrease the “baby blues.”

Why wouldn’t a parent want to learn more?

The Women’s Center at CoxHealth will offer free Infant Massage classes in January. Classes will be held 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 12, and Wednesday, Jan. 18, in suite 130 of the Turner Center, 1000 E. Primrose.

New parents with their babies, and expectant parents, are invited to attend. Call 269-LADY for more information.

Have diabetes? Need to lose weight? LeanerLife is for you

LeanerLife is a diabetes-focused weight loss program, sponsored by the CoxHealth Diabetes Center. This 12-week program will help you learn to make healthy lifestyle changes and develop a support network for successful weight loss.

Classes are held on Thursdays from 5-6:30 p.m., beginning Jan. 12. Topics covered include emotional eating, portion distortion, eating out, recipes and substitutions, and much more.

LeanerLife is held in the CoxHealth Diabetes Center, suite 203 of the CoxHealth Surgery Center, 960 E. Walnut Lawn. There is a $170 fee for this program and registration is required. Call 269-3900 to register. Learn more about LeanerLife by visiting

CoxHealth offers smoking cessation classes

Start 2012 off right and kick your smoking habit with the help of TIPS (Tobacco-free Individual Program) smoking cessation classes at CoxHealth.

Lifelong smokers have a 1 in 2 chance of dying from a smoking-related disease. Smoking can cause heart disease, cancer, respiratory problems, and even osteoporosis. But if you quit, you begin to experience health benefits in as little as 20 minutes.

TIPS classes will be held 5-6 p.m., Tuesdays, Jan. 10-31, and 7:30-8:30 p.m., Tuesdays, Feb. 7-28, in the CoxHealth Diabetes Center, suite 203 of the CoxHealth Surgery Center, 960 E. Walnut Lawn. Each four-week course is designed to offer you the support you need to quit. There is a $50 fee, but the program may be covered by your health insurance.

For more information or to register, call 269-4847. To learn more about TIPS and the benefits of quitting, visit

CoxHealth announces executive leadership advancements

Steven D. Edwards, incoming President & CEO of CoxHealth, announced the following executive leadership advancements effective Jan. 1, 2012:

John Duff, MD,
Senior Vice President, Chief Hospital Officer: Duff’s responsibilities will include oversight of four hospitals (Cox South, Cox Walnut Lawn and Cox North in Springfield, and Cox Monett Hospital in Monett, Mo.), as well as Oxford HealthCare (home health services), Home Parenteral Services (home infusion therapy), and Cox College.

Ken Powell, MD, Chairman JOC, Chief Integrated Physicians: Powell will be responsible for integrating physician operations for CoxHealth’s Regional Services (employed physician clinics), Ferrell-Duncan Clinic (multi-specialty physician clinic), and Springfield Neurological and Spine Institute (SNSI).

Ron Prenger, Vice President, Chief Clinical Officer: Prenger’s responsibilities will encompass all hospital inpatient clinical services.

Brian Williams, Vice President, Chief Business Development: Williams will be responsible for CoxHealth Network, (managed care contracting arm for CoxHealth), Marketing and Planning, and Occupational Medicine and SNSI clinic operations.

Edwards says the changes will enhance continuity of care for patients through increased efficiencies, standardization and improved access to physician clinics.

CoxHealth is Springfield’s only locally owned, not-for-profit health system. It is accredited by The Joint Commission and distinguished as one of the nation’s Top 100 Integrated Healthcare Systems (2006-2011).

Friday, December 23, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

From caroling staffers to a visit from St. Nick himself, everyone is in the holiday spirit at CoxHealth. Here are a few scenes of holiday merriment as the CoxHealth family celebrates Christmas:
The team at the Cox Family Medicine Residency (above) caroled at Cox South Thursday night. They visited patients on all floors, beginning on 9 and working their way down to Labor & Delivery!
Santa and an elf were spotted in the hallways at Cox South Friday, transporting patients around the hospital and visiting children on Pediatrics.
Santa was actually transporter Bill Kezerle who has been growing out his white beard so he could play Santa for his wife Pamela’s Christmas party in the Sleep Lab. His supervisor, Eric Uffman, asked Kezerle if he would dress as Santa during his shift Friday. When transporter Katelyn Kramme heard that Bill was going to be Santa for the day, she volunteered to dress as an elf.
“We have had a wonderful time. It’s been very well received,” says Kezerle. “We have encountered several children in the hallways and their eyes get big when they see us. We went up on Peds and had a good time up there, too.”
Brownie Troop 60129 from Sherwood Elementary in Springfield visited the Cox South lobby on Thursday to sing carols for our patients and visitors.
Staff members at Ozarks Dialysis recently took the time to gather and sing Christmas carols for patients in the unit. The caroling has become an annual tradition for the staff. 

"We have 28 patients at one time and we go to each and every chair to spread joy and love," says nurse manager Maggie Seiser. "For us, this is a part of what Cox is all about."

From the CoxHealth family to yours, here's wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Robert Bezanson: A legacy of service

When Robert Bezanson wakes up on Jan. 1, 2012, his world will have shifted beneath him. It will be the first time in three decades when he hasn’t had responsibility for CoxHealth as one of the top concerns on his mind. Since he announced his retirement in August, he’s been working on the transition to new leadership and making final preparations to take a step back from an organization he has served since 1981 and helmed as CEO since 2004.

“People have been asking me, ‘What are you going to do?’ and I just say, ‘Anything I want,’” Bezanson says with a chuckle. “It’s going to be fun when the biggest challenge is ‘will I catch a fish at Bennett Springs?’ as opposed to ‘let’s get that contract finalized.’”

As Bezanson prepares to launch his retirement, he’s ready to devote some time to hobbies like fly fishing, wood turning and photography, but he knows he’ll miss the daily efforts both large and small that are required to run a health system.

Over the last 30 years, Bezanson has honed his passion for business in service of the public good into a career that has featured him presiding over much of CoxHealth’s greatest expansion.

His arc, from a new administrator all the way to chief executive officer, parallels the trajectory of Cox from a single Springfield hospital to a multi-hospital system serving a large region. It’s a career marked with milestones – from ribbon cuttings on Medical Mile construction projects to the adoption of organizational foundations such as the Baldrige business model and the strategic plan.

When he first arrived at Cox North for an interview on a rainy day in March of 1981, he wouldn’t have predicted he’d be retiring from CoxHealth in 2011. In fact, he wouldn’t have predicted he’d be here for more than five years. He recalls visiting a field at the end of the interview and peering into the freshly excavated void that is now the foundation of Cox South. He had interviews at hospitals across the country, but there was something about the people here and the potential to get in on the ground floor of a growing system that led him to take a chance.

“When I met Neil Wortley, Charlie Edwards and Larry Wallis, I knew I really wanted to work with those individuals,” he says. “There was a management team that was a great fit and there was a hospital that was looking to the future and building a new facility.

“There was an opportunity to make a difference in the delivery of care and ultimately to make a difference in people’s lives. That’s been my main motivation over the years.”

‘A dream position’

Bezanson’s path to being a health care administrator had begun 12 years earlier. As the Vietnam draft started in 1969, Bezanson, like other men of his generation, knew he’d be serving, it was just a matter of where. He had a business degree and he decided to apply for a direct commission in the Medical Service Corps.

“I was very fortunate. Hospital administration wasn’t something I originally aspired to, but it was an area that presented itself and I took the opportunity,” he says. “As I got into it, I realized that it was a very rewarding career.”

Bezanson had a mentor who encouraged him to pursue a master’s in health care administration, which he did at Washington University in St. Louis. During that time, he did a residency at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where he fell in love with the operations of a large hospital system.

After three more years of service to repay his Air Force-sponsored education, Bezanson started looking for his first job. Southwest Missouri hadn’t been on his radar before his interview, but the chance to grow with a health system was inspiring.

“At Cox, I saw opportunities for learning about new construction and that’s not something you always get the chance to do early in your career,” he says. “I felt like I could learn something here.”

He figured he could work at Cox for two or three years and move on to other challenges. Soon, new challenges here began to pique his interest. The direction of South shifted from a 220-bed women’s and children’s hospital to a 500-bed tertiary care center. When the facility was finished, Bezanson joined administrator Larry Wallis in opening the new hospital. One year later, he was offered the position of administrator of Cox South. That offer changed everything.

“For me, that job was a dream position,” Bezanson says. “That’s when I realized I really could be a change agent for health care in southwest Missouri.”

Leading Cox South

In the early days of Bezanson’s time as administrator, Cox South became a competitive tertiary care center with capabilities that rivaled hospital systems around the nation.

Bezanson had hoped for a learning experience when he accepted the job and he soon found many opportunities. From the beginning, he was taking on new challenges and finding his way in uncharted territory. He presided over a number of firsts for Cox that now stand out in his mind, including:

• The launch of the Lifeline program, which provided users with a call device they could use at home to summon medical help in an emergency. Bezanson remembers being in charge of the Lifeline press conference as his first taste of staying on message and working with the media. “Sometimes leading a press conference can produce some anxious moments, but it’s a chance to tell your story, too.”

• The first Children’s Miracle Network telethon: “It was exciting; it was the unknown, doing everything with no chance of a do-over,” he says. “It turned out remarkably well and the community really responded to it.”

• Cox’s first air ambulance: Bezanson recalls the months of planning that culminated in the final, tense moments of making a deadline to get a license for Cox Air Care. All the effort paid off when he traveled to Pennsylvania to see the helicopter as it arrived from Germany for final assembly. “That was a great day,” he says.

As Bezanson’s career grew, he found new opportunities to use his business acumen to drive ongoing improvements in patient care.

In the late 1980s, Cox helped bring the first outpatient MRI service to Springfield with Ozark Magnetic Imaging, a joint venture with St. John’s. Looking back, Bezanson is especially proud of how that partnership served a community need in a cost-effective way. He credits much of the project’s success to careful planning and a strong business agreement. The project also illustrates what he says is one of the biggest lessons of his career.

“If you enter a project with another partner, you need to make sure your partner has the same values and they’re in it for the same reason,” he says. “There has to be an alignment of values, just like a marriage.”

Forming successful partnerships and negotiating business agreements has been as vital to Cox’s growth over the last three decades as any of the new services or facilities brought on line. When he speaks about his work, it’s clear that Bezanson’s passion for a good deal is driven by the positive outcomes for people – both our patients and our staff.

“There’s so much that goes on in administration that the person on the front line might not be aware of,” he says. “You have to remain focused and try to do the best you can for the patient and for employees; you can never forget that.”

He points to the partnership with Ferrell-Duncan Clinic in 1996 and the 1998 acquisition of Columbia HCA, which became Cox Walnut Lawn. In both cases, leaders were able to smoothly transition the employees into Cox.

“We managed to transfer all of those employees and keep them whole,” he says. “I’m proud of that and I think we did a great job.”

Since he became CEO in 2004, Bezanson’s career has been notable for the new construction he has led. He earned the local moniker of “Bob the Builder” as he presided over the opening of the Cox Surgery Center, the Meyer Orthopedic Center, the Cox South Emergency Department and, most recently, the critical care expansion at Cox South.

“Every ribbon cutting has been pivotal,” he says.

While each of those expansions are visual landmarks of CoxHealth’s growth, their power lies in something much deeper than bricks and mortar. The projects Bezanson has led – from new facilities to partnerships like the Clinic at Walmart – have all been based in the desire that has driven his career: to make a difference in people’s lives.

That desire is also clear when Bezanson discusses what it has meant to serve as a leader for employees.

“At employee orientation, I always tell new employees, ‘We hope to be your last employer,’” he says. “Our culture cares about the employees; we truly are a family. We believe in promoting from within; I’m a perfect example of that.”

A high point of his career was participating in CoxHealth’s centennial celebration in 2006. At the time, he had been present for one quarter of the hospital’s history. He’s proud of being a leader for the CoxHealth family and being an advocate for change within the system, even when that change wasn’t easy.

“It was a bold move to go smoke free, but it was the right thing to do,” he says. “ETO was initially controversial, but it was quickly embraced as people had more control over their time.”

He also mentions the importance of employee engagement and the value he sees in the We Want to Know survey.

“If you don’t ask them, you won’t know what’s important to employees,” he says. “You’ll never know where to set your priorities. I’m glad we’ve been able to do that and we’re still doing it every year.”

Bezanson says it’s been his commitment to the people who make CoxHealth a success that has guided him through some of the biggest challenges of his career.

“One of the worst parts of the 3-year federal investigation we went through was the fact that we weren’t allowed to be as transparent as we wanted to be with employees, medical staff, volunteers and our community,” he says. While the investigation was a challenge, Bezanson says CoxHealth has become a national model of compliance. “All of our employees and medical staff remained committed to the organization and at the end of the day we’re much stronger. When you have that kind of adversity, you pull together.”

Bezanson says that ability to pull together is key to dealing with a changing health care landscape.

“We’ll be challenged, just as we have been in the past, like with the balanced budget act and situations where the revenue stream isn’t as predictable,” he says. “We have to be agile and we have to be creative, but we persevered in the past and we’ll do so in the future.”

The foundation

Predicting the future can be tricky, especially in a field that evolves as rapidly as health care. The prospect of growth inspired Bezanson during his 1981 interview, but it would have been impossible to imagine where Cox would be in 2011. Seeing the future is just as difficult, but Bezanson does have a sort of secret weapon.

“See my crystal ball?” He gestures to a glass globe perched on a bookshelf across his office. “Now you’ve seen the secret of Bezanson; he’s got a crystal ball in his office!

“Someone gave me that crystal ball when I started this job and let me tell you, it doesn’t work nearly as well as it should,” he says with a grin.

Whatever changes may come, Bezanson says CoxHealth has the advantage of a clear vision that will guide all of our decisions.

“We don’t make widgets, we take care of people when they’re at their most vulnerable,” he says. “Our work is about people and taking care of their needs. In the end, it’s all about the patient.”

Bezanson says he’s proud to be leaving CoxHealth with a strong framework that will allow us to provide the best care for our patients in the coming years.

“When I came into this position, I encouraged management to embrace a Baldrige model and the foundation is now in place for that,” he says. “We’re moving forward with deploying a lot of the components of Baldrige, which will make this an even better organization.”

Just as the past three decades have grown from the foundation being poured in a field during his first interview, Bezanson says the future of CoxHealth will be built on the work being done today by everyone who serves the organization. He says his greatest accomplishment of the last 30 years can be seen in the management team he’s developed – a team he knows has the health system well prepared for future challenges.

“I’m extraordinarily proud of being associated with CoxHealth. I know it sounds corny, but you really are only as good as the people around you,” Bezanson says. “Eighty percent of management is who you hire and we have a great team in place. That is what I’m most proud of. It’s not the buildings, it’s the people.”

Thursday, December 8, 2011

CoxHealth, American Lung Association partner to present COPD class

CoxHealth and the American Lung Association of the Gulf Plains Region (Springfield office) have partnered to present “COPD 101,” a free class for people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and their caregivers Wednesday, Dec. 14, from 1-2 p.m.

COPD occurs when damage to your lungs blocks airflow when you exhale, making it difficult to breathe. It is most commonly caused by smoking, and is the only leading cause of death with rates that are not declining – in fact, rates of COPD are rising by approximately 16 percent each year.

While damage caused by COPD can’t be reversed, patients with this condition can take steps to improve their quality of life. This information and more will be covered in “COPD 101,” and there will be time for questions.

The class will be held in the CoxHealth Surgery Center, 960 E. Walnut Lawn. For more information, call Glenda Miller with CoxHealth at 269-3907, or Terri Stafford with the American Lung Association at 883-7177.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas toy drive to benefit hospitalized children at CoxHealth

This Christmas, you can help the thousands of children that are cared for at CoxHealth each year by donating to the CoxHealth Child Life Christmas Toy Drive.

Donations of a variety of newly purchased items for all ages are appreciated, including coloring books, playing cards, board games, action figures, personal care items, DVDs, video games, scrapbooking and art supplies, and more. For a complete list, visit

CoxHealth’s Child Life staff work closely with hospitalized children and their families, helping kids stay calm so medical care can be provided and helping parents cope with the stress of having a hospitalized child. Donated items will be used throughout the year as rewards, prizes and gifts for these children.

Toy drive collection bins are located at Cox South, 3801 S. National, in the North Entrance lobby and in the West Pavilion lobby. For more information, call 269-6784.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Anti-gravity training gets athletes moving

What if you’re an athlete, but due to an injury you can’t work out? What if you want to lose weight, but exercise is difficult and painful. What do you do?

You use the Alter G Anti-Gravity Treadmill.

It looks like a treadmill with an oversized plastic bag attached to it. And, essentially, that’s what it is. But don’t get hung up on what it looks like – it’s what it can do that makes it truly unique.

“What makes the Alter G different is that we’re able to safely and comfortably unweight a person, down to 20 percent of their body weight,” says Andy Compton, Outpatient Therapy manager. “The Alter G uses the air pressure created in the chamber to gently raise the user up without limiting their ability to move. So, a person can exercise as they normally would, but with reduced stress on their joints or on an existing injury.”

For years, therapists have had access to equipment that would allow them to remove a percentage of a patient’s body weight. But there were issues with it.

“The old equipment was a lot more cumbersome – you had to use straps and painstakingly adjust them to get the patient in the proper position, without restricting the patient’s respiratory system – to be honest, we didn’t use it much because it was uncomfortable for patients and difficult to use,” says Jason Pyrah, Sports Medicine coordinator.

With the Alter G, there is no restriction. The user dons special shorts with a zipper around the waist – this zipper is then connected to the zipper on the Alter G “bag,” creating an airtight seal. The therapist uses the treadmill’s electronic controls to set the percentage of body weight to “remove,” and as the bag fills with air, the user is gently lifted until the proper unweighting is achieved. After that, it’s just like using a regular treadmill, whatever your fitness or rehabilitation goal.

While the Alter G can be used by patients and the public with a number of different goals in mind, the staff in Outpatient Therapy uses it primarily while helping athletes recover from injuries.

“In the past, injured athletes were usually told to rest, or maybe get in the pool for exercise while they recovered. This technology is a great alternative where they can continue to run while they heal, with decreased stress on their bodies. They can recover while doing something they love to do,” says Compton.

“Our biggest goal is to get them to return to play,” says Pyrah. “Controlling how much weight they bear on their injury helps us help them recover faster.”

Another benefit to athletes is that the Alter G allows them to maintain their fitness level while they recover. Says Pyrah: “If an athlete sits out for 3 or 4 weeks to recover from an injury, when they get back on the field or the court they often can’t play for long because their fitness level has decreased – it doesn’t have anything to do with the injury that sidelined them in the first place. With this, we can allow the injury to heal while keeping their cardiovascular health up. Then when the injury is fully healed they are at the same fitness level as before.”

While the benefits to athletes are clear, Compton points out that this treadmill can benefit patients and members of the public in a number of different ways.

“For our neurological patients who often have weak muscles, it allows us to help them build endurance and work on their gait while placing less stress on their bodies,” he says. “We also see benefits for post-op patients, and even for people with back pain who are told to walk, but in a normal setting can’t because of the discomfort caused by the exercise.” Seniors also benefit greatly from the reduced joint pain the Alter G offers.

A steady flow of patients have been taking advantage of the Alter G, but the treadmill is also available for community use at certain times of the day. Free trials are available so people can experience the nearly weightless feeling, and passes can be purchased by anyone who would like to use the machine.

Everyone who has been on the Alter G says you have to experience it to understand what it can do. “I think people are amazed by it,” says Compton.

Want to try it?

The Alter G is available for community use. Call 269-5500 for a current schedule, or to schedule a free trial. Passes are also available.

Day pass - $20 (good for one 30-minute session)

12-visit pass
- $144 (good for 3 months from date of purchase)

20-visit pass - $200 (good for one month from date of purchase)

MRI is a new frontier in breast cancer imaging

MRI technologist Stephanie Grandestaff and the Breast Care Clinic’s Nancy Frericks test the setup of the new Aurora Breast MRI System, which recently went into service at Hulston Cancer Center.

The physicians and staff at the Breast Care Clinic now have a new tool to help them care for women diagnosed with breast cancer. Earlier this month, they began using the newly installed Aurora 1.5T Dedicated Breast MRI System.

The Aurora is the only MRI made specifically for imaging breasts, and it is the only system cleared by the FDA specifically for this purpose. For the 23,000 women screened for breast cancer at the clinic each year, the presence of the Aurora – the only one in the area – means that if cancer is found the physicians will be able to identify it and monitor it more accurately than ever before.

“The Aurora offers 3D imaging, and can routinely find a tumor as small as 2 mm in size,” says Susan Smith, director of the Breast Care Clinic. “This is significantly smaller than what you routinely find using other MRI systems.”

The Aurora will be used primarily to help stage patients who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, and to screen those at high-risk for the disease.

MRI is used following a positive breast biopsy but prior to surgery. “We want to look closely at the other breast and check it for cancer as well,” says Smith. “Most patients will have multiple MRIs – in addition to pre-surgery appointments, we bring them back in to see what their therapy has achieved.”

Breast Care Clinic staff will also use the Aurora as a screening tool for people with a high risk of breast cancer – especially those with a strong family history of the disease. New screening guidelines for women with breast implants also require an MRI every third year, with mammograms in intervening years.

Prior to the Aurora, patients who needed a breast MRI were scanned at The Martin Center, on a traditional MRI with a dedicated breast coil. The Aurora offers enhanced patient comfort and quicker scan times on a machine with software written specifically to better image breast tissue. “We’re committed to having the most advanced care available for our patients,” Smith says.

CoxHealth receives donation to help ALS patients

Representatives from the Jeff Julian ALS Foundation present a check for $15,000 to CoxHealth Foundation president Lisa Alexander. Pictured are (left to right) Tyler Watskey, Jeff Julian ALS Foundation board chair; Lisa Alexander, CoxHealth Foundation president; J.R. Hutcheson and Jeremy Loftin, Jeff Julian ALS Foundation board members.

The CoxHealth Foundation has received a $15,000 donation from the proceeds of the 2011 Julian Golf Classic and auction, hosted by the Jeff Julian ALS Foundation.

This year’s donation will be used to support the care of ALS patients at CoxHealth through rehabilitation, emergency care and speech therapy.

The Julian Golf Classic honors the life of Jeff Julian, a PGA pro who was diagnosed with ALS in the prime of his career. His wife’s family is from Branson, and the couple returned to the area to seek care for Jeff near the end of his life.

ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord, and affects muscle function. There is no cure.

The yearly golf tournament and auction is held at the LedgeStone Championship Golf Course in StoneBridge, near Branson. The event is scheduled for Sept. 9 and 10. For more information on the tournament, visit To learn more about the CoxHealth Foundation, visit