‘Mindful Physicians’ aim to know patients’ whole stories 1000

MORGANTOWN — As a longtime volunteer usher at WVU’s Creative Arts Center, medical student Ogaga Urhie sees a lot of plays. So he wasn’t really seeking a revelation when he happened to watch a particular performance in the fall of 2016.

But he got one anyway: An insight into practicing medicine that goes beyond the boundaries of medicine itself. The insight led him to form a student group called Of the Mindful Physician to explore that greater realm.

The play was David Mamet’s “Race,” put on by the School of Theatre & Dance, about a bigotry-tainted investigation and legal defense of a murder suspect.

He was a second-year medical student at the time.

Individually, he said, the subtle elements of the story didn’t necessarily make sense. It was only taken together that they formed the full story.

“I’m guessing many patients have their own stories to tell but no one asks them for their stories.”

That’s how he became interested in listening to what other people have to say and formed the group.

Its initial aim was to expose students to issues patients face outside the medical setting that influence how they interact with healthcare. But the purpose grew, to discover the contributions of other disciplines toward health and healthcare, and to explore how the arts and humanities can help build stronger relationships with patients.

That mindfulness, he said, is important in the 20-minute patient visit model that drives much of healthcare.

“I think that given the pace at which we have to see patients we can miss things, we can forget to ask things — go to the story. With the pace we can just miss opportunities.”

Group meetings acquaint students with patients, with other health care providers and with professionals in other fields who help people in other ways.

“I think having that knowledge in the back of their mind would make them more prone to seeing those opportunities and not missing them.”

Presenters have opened their minds to such topics as music therapy; hippotherapy; eating disorders during pregnancy; death and mortality; addiction, recovery and reintegration into college life; animal therapy; homelessness and healthcare; and domestic violence and healthcare.

ALS patients came and shared their perspectives on living with that disease.

Group members also do volunteer work in fields that contribute to health care but not directly in the realm of medicine. Most recently they’ve lent hands to the Hearts of Gold therapy dog nonprofit — holding a fundraiser and building a playpen for puppies.

“What can a physician do? We’ve had that question many times,” Urhie said. And the answer from the presenters has always been, “We want you to know what we do so that when the time comes that you need us, you know where we are.”

First-year medical student Farha Khan has been involved since the beginning. She met Urhie, she said, during her first week of medical school at an involvement fair. His message clicked.

“I don’t think health care is a solitary thing,” she said. A doctor can’t just diagnose, hand them their medicine and send them on. “Everything that a patient goes through is part of their life. We are just one aspect of that. … It’s in the name itself. It’s about mindfulness.”

A person with a movement disorder, for instance, may need exercise, but that doesn’t address how that patient needs to get there, she said. Of the Mindful Physician helps them identify areas where a patient might need additional help.

“OMP sets up a really nice paradigm,” she said. “I think OMP is all about that social, emotional, mental, environmental aspect of medicine.” You’re not just dealing with a patient but a person.

Urhie and Khan aren’t alone in their vision. Clay Marsh, WVU vice president and executive dean for Health Sciences, has preached that broader view and commends the group for its work.

“Medical students must learn the fundamentals of science and technology to become capable and skilled care providers,” he said. “They must also nurture a compassionate relationship with their patients, and connecting through the avenue of the arts and humanities provides an opportunity for mutual understanding and respect which can facilitate better communication and ultimately better care.”

Also with that view in mind, said Health Sciences spokeswoman Tara Scatterday, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences is offering a new minor in medical humanities and health studies. The program’s description says it “teaches the social and cultural contexts of health, illness and medicine. It demonstrates how perspectives of the humanities and social sciences can help future health care participants — patients and professionals alike — think of health and medicine as more than just science.”

Asked about the 20-minute visit model and the possibility of a culture change among providers, Urhie talked about teamwork and physicians learning to see themselves as leading a team that extends beyond medicine. The group’s outside presenters can help that.

“If they are going to take on the role of leaders, they are going to have to know who all the other members of the team are,” he said. Many people, inside and outside healthcare, have roles to play in the issues patients face.

The group has morphed since Urhie first founded it, he said. Last semester it was just for medical school students. This year, meetings are open to all. They typically draw five to seven people, with a couple of them being med students.

The next step he wants to pursue is to take the group out of the medical school and make it more accessible to all of Health Sciences by putting it under the auspices to the Interprofessional Education office. It would still run by students, but with representatives from each Health Sciences school.

Urhie himself will be stepping out soon. During his second year in medical school he took a break to pursue a master’s degree in clinical research. Next fall, he resumes medical school with a clinical rotation in Charleston. So he’s hoping that by the end of this year, capable hands will step forward to take over the group and keep its mission going.

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Hillside collapse closes off River Road 1122

MORGANTOWN — Part of a hillside has collapsed on River Road about a couple hundred yards from the entrance to the Monongalia County Dog Pound.

Trees and mud have blocked off the road and brought power lines down.

The road has been closed off while Mon Power and DOH officials are at the scene working to clear the road.

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They are urging caution since the hillside is still moving and has not completely settled.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.

Preston officials declare state of emergency due to road conditions 7232

KINGWOOD — The Preston County Commission has declared a countywide state of emergency because of “deplorable” road conditions that exist all over the county.

The proclamation was made at 10 a.m. April 19.

“Enough is enough,” Preston County Commission President Craig Jennings said in a release.

“The road conditions in Preston County have gotten so bad that they pose a danger for motorists, commercial traffic and first responders,” Jennings said.

The problems go beyond available local resources, he said.

“Just a patch job won’t fix our problems. The roads here need immediate attention,” Jennings said. “It isn’t our local guys. They are working hard with what is handed them by the state. Our local crews can’t even put up a sign in the right-of-way to alert folks of what’s ahead without getting permission from District 4.”

“We are in a true emergency here,” Jennings said. County commissioners, “believe under the circumstances that our only option to get the help needed from the state is by declaring that Preston County is in a state of emergency.”

The declaration, “will stand until these roads are fixed,” Jennings said. “We are not backing down.

Under the declaration the county is asking the state to address these primary roads with black top, ditching and by removing the canopy above the roads:

  • W.Va. 92 north from U.S. 50 to Newburg.
  • U.S. 50 from Laurel Mountain to the intersection of W.Va. 72.
  • W.Va. 72 from Rowlesburg to the bottom of Caddell Mountain toward Kingwood.
  • W.Va. 26 South from the intersection with W.Va. 7 in Kingwood to Howesville.
  • W.Va. 7 through Terra Alta.
  • W.Va. 26 north from Bruceton Mills to the Pennsylvania line.

Mon Commission discusses county ambulance issue 1192

MORGANTOWN — WVU Hospitals (WVUH) does not intend to sign on to the countywide mutual aid agreement governing ambulance services unless it mandates emergency calls are dispatched to the closest available ambulance.

WVUH spokesperson Amy Johns offered the above in response to conversation held during Wednesday April 18’s regular meeting of the Monongalia County Commission.

A number of residents, largely representing the Blacksville area, addressed the commission in recent weeks asking that the newly formed WVU Hospital’s HealthTeam squads — stationed at  points around the county  — be allowed to respond to outlying areas instead of a Mon Health EMS squad dispatched from Morgantown.

Ambulance dispatch in the county is governed by a mutual aid agreement. It identifies Mon Health EMS as the county’s primary provider. If Mon EMS can’t respond, secondary providers JanCare or Star City Volunteer Fire Department Ambulance are dispatched.

The commission previously told Mon Health EMS that it had until April 6 to respond to WVU Hospitals’ request to reconsider the agreement, which, the commission said, it did.

“The HealthTeam has been given invitation to join the rotation,” Commissioner Ed Hawkins said, adding, “The ball is now in their court. It is up to them to sign the agreement, which they have not at this time.”

However, Johns said WVUH isn’t interested in being the third backup to Mon Health EMS — particularly if its vehicles are closer to the emergency. That, she explained, is why the money and effort were invested to place units in Westover, Blacksville, Clinton District and Cheat Lake.

“WVU Hospitals has urged both Monongalia Health System and the County Commission to adopt a new 911 system, which will call upon the closest available ambulance to respond to a 911 medical emergency.  WVU Hospitals will sign whatever agreements are necessary in order to put such a system in place,” Johns explained to The Dominion Post via email.

“WVU Hospital will not sign the Mutual Aid Agreement sent to it by Monongalia Health System, which would make WVU Hospitals the third back-up for Monongalia Health System’s ambulances, even if WVU Hospitals’ ambulances are seconds away from a 911 medical emergency.”

The current mutual aid agreement expires in June 2019.

In other news from Wednesday’s meeting, a proclamation from Gov. Jim Justice was presented in recognition of the recent passing of former county commissioner and longtime WVU Extension Services Agent Asel Kennedy. Kennedy died April 6.

Delegate Joe Statler, R-Monongalia, presented the proclamation to Kennedy’s widow, Nancy, after offering his own remarks.

“Everything he did in life was done with a great gusto. He really gave 100 percent to everything he done. That’s just the way did lived his life,” Statler said, adding, “Boy, how do you replace a guy like that?”

The commission also:

  • Pledged up $1,000 to assist county employees interested in sponsoring a flag in Cheat Lake Rotary’s upcoming 2018 Flags for Heroes program.
  • Heard from County Assessor Mark Musick, who said personnel from the assessor’s office are out doing field reviews in Granville, Osage and Westover and will soon be in Morgantown’s 4th and 5th wards as well as District 8 (Morgan).

Also, new construction is being reviewed countywide.

Musick said representatives from his office will be in county vehicles and wearing identifying attire.