‘Mindful Physicians’ aim to know patients’ whole stories 1051

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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WVU hosts first-ever IDEA Hub Demo Day 16

MORGANTOWN — Maybe it’s because it was held in the sleek, contemporary confines of the Evansdale Crossings complex. WVU’s first-ever IDEA Hub Demo Day on Thursday did have a chrome-and-glass feel about it.

The school’s Office of the Provost created the IDEA Hub in 2015 as a platform for showcasing the creative collaborations between professors, students and others from the Morgantown community and region.

Inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs need apply.

The Hub’s built-in experts are there with resources and expertise to help the startup, well, start up.

There were student-created video game pitches, customized “stomp pads” for snowboards (to make exiting the lift that much easier) and interactive display after interactive display.

The high-tech stopped when Hub-goers hit the 5th floor.

There, it wasn’t artificial. It was organic.

Primordial, even.

That was where the landscape architecture students of Vaike Haas were stationed, to talk about their master plan proposal for the Core Arboretum.

Haas is a professor, researcher and activist known for her work, which melds urban climes to green spaces.

She’s an avid bicyclist who in recent weeks has also taken up the mantle of pedestrian safety, following a spate of accidents involving students struck by cars in crosswalks.

The students in her Landscape Design 331, 351 and 360 classes have taken that into account with some of the things they have in mind for the arboretum.

“I’m proud of their work,” Haas said. “I’m impressed by their ideas.”

“We’ve been working on this for a couple of months,” said Jack Bauer, a landscape architecture major from Huntington.

“The idea was to incorporate some additions without making it seem so jarring,” he said.

Arboretum dreams

Their suggestions include flora-and-fauna covered roundabouts and walkways — plus other ambiant and aesthetic turns.

“All of this is real-world,” Bauer’s classmate, Donovan Price said.

“You could actually do this.”

Price is a Washington, D.C., native who moved with his parents to Martinsburg when he was a youngster.

He knows all about real-world, urban encroachment: Martinsburg is now officially part of the Washington Metro area, with all the green-eating subdivisions to prove it.

“All the farms, all the orchards are gone,” Price said.

That’s what Earl L. Core didn’t want to see happen in 1948, when WVU bought two large family farms to build the Evansdale campus.

Core, a respected botanist and then-chairman of biology, successful lobbied for 91 acres of old-growth forest that made up the farmland.

The arboretum that now bears the late educator’s name is tucked behind the WVU Coliseum.

Zach Fowler, also a WVU biologist and the arboretum’s current director, said he can’t wait to explore the possibilities.

The Hub suggestions, he said, could make the arboretum even more accessible to the community.

“We’ve never had a master plan,” he said, as he regarded the proposals.

“You look at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the University of Virginia, and you see they’re doing so much more with their arboretums. We’re dreaming big here.”

Prosecutors rest their case in the Lunsford trial 56

WESTON — Prosecutors in the murder trial of Lena Lunsford rested their case Friday, buoyed by emotional testimony from a second daughter recalling how Lunsford dumped the body of Aliayah Lunsford, 3, in the woods and concocted a cover-up.

The witness, identified as KC, was 11 at the time of Aliayah’s disappearance on Sept. 24, 2011, and took the stand at the Lewis County Courthouse as an 18-year-old.

Testifying just a few feet from her mother, KC joined younger sister DC, who testified Monday, in claiming they were made to “promise that we wouldn’t tell” about finding Aliayah unresponsive hours after their mother struck the toddler in the head with a wooden bed slat.

The sisters say they kept the secret for five years, out of fear for their mother, as Aliayah’s missing persons case turned cold. KC sobbed upon recalling Lena Lunsford’s favorite line: “I brought you into this world, I can take you out.”

Authorities still have not located Aliayah, though the child is presumed dead.

Describing the wooden slat as a foot-long piece broken from a set of bunk beds, KC called it “a common punishment” when Lunsford disciplined Aliayah. Whereas DC testified to witnessing the blow police deemed fatal, KC said she heard it from a room away and came in time to see their mom walking away as Aliayah struggled to get to her feet.

KC testified Aliayah’s head “felt soft” after the strike and she had difficulty remaining upright when their mother ordered the child to stand in a corner. Told to put Aliayah in bed, KC provided some Flintstones vitamins because Aliayah wasn’t always allowed to eat when she got in trouble.

Prosectors asked if Lena Lunsford was particularly mad at Aliayah that night?

“Yes,” KC said.

Angry? “Yes.”

Very angry? “Yes.”

The next morning, KC found Aliayah unresponsive in bed. The daughters claim Lunsford tried to revive Aliayah’s breathless body via CPR before putting the child in a tub of cold water. Through the panicked and futile moments, KC suggested her mother call for help but said “every time she blew it off.”

Instead, Lena Lunsford allegedly placed Aliayah’s body in a hamper and concealed it with clothes. KC testified their mother put the hamper in the family van and drove to a remote dirt road accompanied by the other four children.

KC, the oldest, said she walked only part way into the woods before her mother, carrying the hamper, trudged further out of sight. She returned after “quite a while,” and KC said they drove away with her mother periodically tossing out some of the clothes that had been piled atop Aliayah’s body.

Back at home, KC remembered her mother “cleaning a little bit” before calling police.

When Lena Lunsford told investigators of awaking to find Aliayah missing, it set off a multi-agency hunt for the child with community volunteers pitching in. Throughout the search, KC testified she and DC were told by their mother to relate only “the storyline she had told us about Aliayah being sick all week, going to bed and waking up she wasn’t there.”

Defense attorney Tom Dyer’s cross-examination focused on Aliayah’s vomiting in previous days, raising the possibility she may have succumbed to sickness rather than the blunt force trauma prosecutors allege. Dyer pointed out how KC told police in 2016 about opting to sleep on the couch instead of the bedroom the daughters shared because Aliayah “was sicker than usual” that night.

The defense also highlighted KC clarifying her account of the fateful night after being foggy during previous interviews with police.

“That was a few years ago and memories change,” KC said. “The things that I tried to block out have come back.”

The jurors were dismissed several hours early, given the weekend to contemplate KC’s impactful testimony before the defense calls its first witness Monday.

UHS students experience Civil War Reenactment 88

MORGANTOWN  — Students at University High School learned all about the Civil War during the UHS Civil War Encampment at the school on Friday. It’s the second time the school held the program, led by social studies teacher Phil Caskey.

While Friday’s events were open only to students, the encampment will continue from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. today, and the public is invited to visit to learn all about a Civil War-era soldier’s life.

Caskey said a mock-skirmish will be held at 1 p.m. today, as long as there are enough reenactors available. If not, they will still engage in a firing line.

Caskey is known for his hands-on approach to teaching the Civil War. Last year, he won the Outstanding Teacher of American History award from the West Virginia Daughters of the American Revolution, and in 2016, the Civil War Trust named him National Teacher of the Year.