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Department News


Allergy Clinics Offer Care, Counseling to Manage COVID Vaccine Reactions

Thursday, December 16, 2021

As COVID-19 vaccines started to roll out, many people with a variety of health conditions wondered how their bodies would react to the vaccine. “If I have a food allergy, could I be allergic to the vaccine?” “I’m receiving chemotherapy, is it safe to get vaccinated?” Fortunately, the Allergy, Immunology & Rheumatology (AIR) division has been a haven of counseling and care for patients.

Getting People Vaccinated and Recovered

Emily Weis, M.D., M.S., clinical director for Allergy, and colleagues have been supporting patients who are concerned about vaccine reactions or had them after the shot. While the COVID vaccines are new, the premise for viral vaccines are not. The Allergy team evaluates safety on a case-by-case basis.

A major focus of the team’s work has been pre-consultation with patients concerned about their medical conditions that may put them at risk for reactions. They also help patients determine which vaccine is the best option for them. Staff have handled 20-30 referrals a week since the vaccines became available. “We’ve been nose to the grindstone to get people vaccinated as safely and timely as possible,” said Weis.

The Allergy team is available to people who report allergic symptoms after vaccination. However, “It’s exceedingly rare for patients to have a true allergy," Weis said.

For patients whose health conditions put them at risk for a negative reaction, the team sometimes vaccinates them on-site in the allergy clinics, prepared to provide immediate care.

The clinic has also served as a resource for staff at New York State vaccination sites when they encountered people whose health conditions prompted questions about whether to provide the vaccine. Staff directed individuals to seek consultation with the Allergy team to determine the best approach for vaccination.

A Winding Road to Vaccination

One patient, who is a mother and grandmother, had a long road to receiving a vaccine, but ultimately found a safe ending thanks to Weis and the clinic. When she arrived at a mass vaccine site, she reported that she had autoimmune issues, had previously had a reaction to an antibiotic, and she also has environmental allergies and was showing some slight symptoms that day. Not wanting to put her at risk of an adverse reaction, the site asked her to speak with an allergist before receiving the vaccine.

She went to an allergist, who did not feel comfortable providing a note for her to be vaccinated. Weeks later, her husband spoke to a doctor about his wife’s situation, and the doctor gave him Weis’s number. The patient and Weis had telehealth consultations to get the full picture of her health. They developed a plan to get her to a point where she was no longer displaying her baseline allergic symptoms.

They scheduled an appointment for her to go into the clinic and receive the vaccine under Weis’s supervision. Together, they decided that the Johnson & Johnson single shot was the best for her. The patient remained in the office for one-hour post vaccine administration with continual monitoring. She tolerated the vaccine well, and left the office feeling great.

“She gave me my life back,” the patient said. “I hadn’t been able to leave the house much. I’ve been able to babysit my grandkids again and celebrate birthdays. Dr. Weis gave me a lot of freedom in finding a protocol that worked for me. I trust her completely.”

Faculty Members Lang, Solky Establish New Endowed Fund for Division of Hospital Medicine

Friday, December 10, 2021

Thanks to the generosity of Valerie Lang, M.D., M.H.P.E. and Alexander Solky, M.D., faculty in the division of Hospital Medicine can soon apply for funding to enhance their career development. The endowed fund is named the Lang and Solky Hospitalist Faculty Development Award, and will be held in perpetuity within the department of Medicine.

Hospitalists teach every medical student and internal resident here, and as such improve the health care system for patients, as well as doctors in training. Lang and Solky created this fund to honor hospitalists who proved their dedication during the pandemic, and hope this annual award will support the University’s goal of promoting a diverse faculty and enhancing our educational missions. Solky is a graduate of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, who met Lang while both were residents in Internal Medicine at URMC. They are now a happily married couple, who are delighted to establish this fund.

Funding will be used for attending courses and seminars, travel and registration for conferences, supporting scholarly or educational projects, and much more. “Hospitalists are critical to the academic and clinical missions of the hospital,” said Lang. “We have long wished to establish the first endowment to support hospitalist faculty. As director of Faculty Development for Hospital Medicine, I have been inspired by the tremendous talent, energy, and dedication of our hospitalist faculty members. Our goal is to grow this fund over time and support more opportunities for hospitalists’ professional development.”

Information on how and when to apply will be communicated in the near future.

Rebeca Monk Named Highland Hospital Chief of Medicine

Friday, December 10, 2021

Rebeca Denise Monk, M.D., FACP, professor of Medicine, has been appointed as the new Chief of Medicine for Highland Hospital. Dr. Monk succeeds Robert McCann, who has been with our health system for almost 30 years. "Dr. Monk will be an excellent addition to the already strong team at Highland Hospital," says Ruth O'Regan, chair of Medicine. "Her decades of experience as a leader, both at URMC and throughout our health care community, will add to the kind and compassionate care patients and their families have come to expect from Highland."

Read the full article.

Robert McCann, M.D., MACP, Steps Down as Highland Hospital Chief of Department of Medicine

Friday, December 10, 2021

Robert McCann, M.D., MACP, has chosen to step down as Highland's Chief of Medicine this fall, having served as the department's leader for more than 20 years. He will continue to serve as the Chief Executive Officer of Accountable Health Partners (AHP) and maintain his medical practice at Highland. His successor is Rebeca Denise Monk, M.D., FACP, a University of Rochester Professor of Medicine, who has served the health system for almost 30 years, most recently as Chief, URMC Nephrology Division at Highland Hospital and Medical Director of the Highland Hospital Inpatient Dialysis Unit. Her appointment takes effect January 1, 2022.

During his tenure, Dr. McCann made impressive contributions to grow and develop the department of Medicine and enhance collaboration among Highland and URMC departments and providers. He developed inpatient and outpatient Geriatric services, an Acute Care for Elderly (ACE) Unit, and worked with Orthopaedic surgery to develop a co-managed Orthopaedic/Geriatric hip fracture service as well as an educational program that has gained international recognition. 

Dr. McCann developed educational programs for medical students and residents the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry which have consistently achieved the highest ranking. He also enhanced academic ties between the hospitalist service and subspecialty units of Highland and the University of Rochester Medical Center and significantly increased the number of University of Rochester faculty providing care at Highland. In 2012, Dr. McCann helped form AHP, a network of more than 2,500 physicians and eight hospitals, including Highland and its employed physicians, with a focus on delivering superior patient care, improving provider experience, and aligning incentives to make health care more affordable.

His outstanding service to Highland and its patients has been honored multiple times during his tenure as chief. In 2019, he was the recipient of the Highland Hospital Foundation Heritage Award for his philanthropic stewardship of the hospital. In 2018, he received the University of Rochester Division of Geriatrics Mentorship Award. He was awarded Mastership in the American College of Physicians and Fellowship in the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh. Additionally, he has written numerous articles published in national medical journals. 

Dr. McCann is board certified in Internal Medicine, Palliative Care, and Geriatrics, and is a leader in the Geriatrics field. His compassion and respect for the elderly led him to help develop the Independent Living for Seniors program at Rochester General Hospital where he served as Medical Director prior to joining Highland. This program of All-Inclusive Care of the Elderly (PACE) has received international recognition as an effective method of delivering care to frail elderly persons who wish to avoid institutionalization. 

Dr. McCann received his undergraduate degree from Concordia University (Loyola of Montreal) and his medical degree from the State University of New York Health Science Center in Syracuse. He completed an Internal Medicine residency at Rochester General Hospital where he then served as Medical Director of Independent Living for Seniors as well as Geriatric Unit Chief. He joined the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry as Faculty and Chief of Internal Medicine at Highland in 1999. 

“Bob McCann’s impact on Highland, the Department of Medicine, and Geriatric care has been groundbreaking,” said Steve Goldstein, President/CEO Strong Memorial Hospital and Highland Hospital. “His accomplishments will continue to impact those faculty and residents who have worked with him, those he has cared for, and future generations to come. In particular, he has had a profound impact on untold numbers of residents and students in understanding the complexities of medicine and opportunities within the medical field. We are delighted he will remain in the health care system in this pivotal role at AHP where he can continue to enhance the delivery of health care.”

Dr. McCann is looking forward to the next chapter in his career. “I have always regarded Highland as the best of both worlds—with the patient-family centered culture of a community hospital and the resources of a world class medical center. Highland has grown so much over the years and I am proud that I have been able to recruit over 70 wonderful faculty members who are known as excellent clinicians, educators, researchers, and mentors. The department of Medicine will continue to thrive and deliver outstanding care to our community.”

Foodlink and URMC Announce Partnership

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Having a healthy diet with nutritious food can work wonders for our well-being. Food plays a vital role in overall health. However, across our region, there are many people who are “food insecure,” meaning they do not have stable access to healthier foods. This is why Foodlink and URMC have partnered up to provide an emergency food pantry located within Strong Memorial Hospital.

Strong Internal Medicine and Golisano Children’s Hospital are piloting the program. Patients are screened with questions to determine if they are food insecure, and if so, they are directed to the pantry where they can access three days’ worth of food.

Read the full press release for more information.

DOM Launches DICE Board

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The DICE (Diversity, Inclusion, Culture, and Equity) Board is the first major project Marie Laryea, B.Sc., M.D.C.M. has taken on with new director of DEI, Laura Stamm, Ph.D. They immediately recognized the need to be able to tackle diversity and inclusion issues at a division level because of the department’s large size and variety of needs. Many of the DOM’s divisions have already been working to address DEI issues, but there wasn’t a way to combine resources and know-how as a unified department team. As a result, they determined a board of division representatives that meets regularly to share ideas and create action would help reduce silos and redundancy, as well as build cohesion across the DOM. This idea became the DICE Board.

The DOM DICE Board includes one or two DEI Champions from each division (listed below), as well as Champions for the Residency Program and Southern Tier Hospitals, for a total of 21 Champions. They meet every month to share ideas and go over the initiatives that Champions can take back to their respective divisions. Champions also serve as a division resource, a person who others in the division can approach with DEI-related questions or concerns.

As the DICE Board moves forward, they hope to include more APP and administrative Champions so they can include more voices and perspectives from within the DOM. It is strongly encouraged for division leaders to include their DEI Champion(s) in division leadership meetings so that there is a voice for diversity and inclusion at the table.

Meet your division champions:

Gastroenterology: Janice Cheong, M.D.
Infectious Disease: Cynthia Monaco, M.D.
General Medicine: Melissa Mroz, M.D.
Palliative Care: Paul Vermillion, M.D. and Chazet (Chay) Webb, division coordinator
Complex Care Center: Ariadne Lie, M.D.
Hospital Medicine: Julia Trumbo, M.D.
Pulmonary Care: Michelle Marks, M.D.
Nephrology: Tramanh Phan, M.D.
Highland Hospital: Emily Salib, M.D.
Southern Tier Hospitals: Bilal Ahmed, M.B.B.S.
Resident Education: Alec O'Connor, M.D., M.P.H.

Palliative Care Division Earns Joint Commission Certification

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

With safety top-of-mind, this year’s Joint Commission survey was held virtually, and the Palliative Care division earned its fifth biennial re-certification.

Surveyors praised the division’s exemplary interdisciplinary clinical team and educational opportunities for trainees and colleagues. The survey applauded their excellence in clinical care delivery and their continuous quality improvement initiatives. These have been a continuous theme since 2011 when URMC became the first academic medical center in the country to earn Joint Commission advanced certification in palliative care.

“Our fifth recertification affirms the incredible work and heart of our clinical, educational, research, and administrative teams, whose generous spirits imbue and define this special calling,” said Robert Horowitz, M.D., chief of Palliative Care. “It’s also testimony to our medical center’s administration, who have always been enthusiastically committed in heart and action to the Palliative Care mission for our community.”

A bright spot of the survey was a visit with David Korones, M.D., and a pediatric cancer patient. The child’s mother shared how much they love the “blood count dance” that Korones and the care team perform to celebrate when test results show positive changes.

Allen Anandaraja Named Department of Medicine Associate Chair for Wellness

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Allen Anandarajah MD, MSc has been named Associate Chair for Wellness in the Department of Medicine. In his new role, he will be working with department leadership and faculty to promote resilience and wellness across all of our missions.

Dr. Anandarajah joined the URMC faculty in 2003 and served as Clinical Director of Allergy, Immunology and Rheumatology from 2006-2017. His most recent research interests have been focused on improving the care of patients with rheumatologic diseases from underserved and rural communities and is the founder and Program Director of the RA CHAMP Program at URMC which improves access to care for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Dr. Anandarajah has had an ongoing interest in physician wellness for several years. He recently led a departmental retreat attended by representatives from all divisions to address wellness.

Daniel Lachant Awarded Research Grant to Study New Way to Monitor Pulmonary Hypertension

Monday, June 14, 2021

Daniel Lachant, DOPulmonary arterial hypertension is a rare, life-threatening disorder characterized by high blood pressure in the arteries of the lungs. Current methods for diagnosing this condition can be cumbersome, expensive and not entirely reliable. Daniel Lachant, DO, Associate Director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Program at Mary Parkes Center for Asthma, Allergy and Pulmonary Care, has been awarded a grant (URMC KL2 Scholars Award) to study whether cardiac effort (the number of heart beats required for a person to walk a given distance) is a more sensitive and reliable measure to monitor patients. Dr. Lachant will also develop a remote, mask-free assessment of cardiac effort and heart rate expenditure that patients can perform in the comfort of their own homes.