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Telemedicine Extends Reach of Stroke and Neurological Care

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

UR Medicine neurologists are now providing remote acute and inpatient neurological care for 16 hospitals across upstate New York, creating one of the more comprehensive hub-and-spoke networks in the nation.   

“We are able to provide acute neurologic consultations for any patient who presents to any UR Medicine hospital, as well as some of our important partner institutions,” said Adam Kelly, MD, director of Teleneurology and Regional Development for the Department of Neurology.  “While some neurology programs provide remote consultations for patients in emergency departments, our team continues to follow patients longitudinally while they remain in the hospital. This is a major accomplishment that would not be possible without the hard work and dedication of a team of staff and providers, both at Strong Memorial and our affiliate hospitals, who are committed to the concept of delivering virtual care in our region.” 

24/7 Telestroke Care

UR Medicine telestroke program has existed for several years but grew substantially in 2018-2019 from a partnership to provide telestroke care to the Bassett Healthcare Network.  Curtis Benesch, MD, the medical director of the UR Medicine Comprehensive Stroke Center, led this initial effort prior to handing off directorship to Kelly in 2019. The program consists of a dedicated team of stroke specialists who are available 24/7 to interact with patients and families and consult with medical providers via phone or video. 

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Appointment of Dr. Blanca Valdovinos as Associate Chair of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

Friday, April 7, 2023

Dr. Blanca Valdovinos has been appointed as the Associate Chair of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice (DEIJ) in the Department of Neurology. Dr. Valdovinos is an Assistant Professor of Neurology who completed her undergraduate degree at Cornell and then completed her Medical Degree and Neurology Residency at the University of Rochester. She furthered her training in Rochester by completing a Movement Disorders fellowship and joined as faculty in 2020.

Dr. Valdovinos has had an early, impressive impact. She has completed the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) Diversity Leadership Program and is the Co-Director of the Parkinson’s Foundation Center of Excellence. In 2020, she established the Spanish Language Neurology Clinic, which has seen over 250 new Spanish speaking patients during its first two years. She is active in the Hispanic community in Rochester and has worked closely with Ibero, an agency that advocates for Hispanics and the underserved. She has given talks in Spanish on neurologic disorders at Ibero’s Centro De Oro (Spanish language day program) and is a member of its Community Advisory Board whose goal is to educate community members on how research is conducted while developing trust. Recently, Dr. Valdovinos was appointed as a member of the Editorial Board of Brain & Life en Español, the patient and care partner-oriented magazine published by the AAN.

She is a UR Medicine Geriatrics Faculty Scholar and has presented her work for local and national audiences. She is a frequent contributor to PBS and local radio shows and participates on national committees to guide research with a focus on Hispanic patients and caregivers with memory disorders. She was the education program director and speaker for the course Parkinson’s Disease: Assessment and Management at the AAN annual meeting in 2022. Her passion and strong track record of mentoring will enable her to build partnerships and excel in this role.

Dr. Valdovinos will Co-Chair the Department’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Antiracism, and Social Justice (IDEAS) Council with focused attention on 1) Enhancing Climate: transparency, education and awareness initiatives, 2) Learner and Workforce Development, and 3) Advocacy, Outreach and Community Initiatives. Dr. Nimish Mohile has served in this capacity for the past six years, literally defining the role of Diversity Officers within the Department of Neurology, while also leading national DEIJ efforts within our American Academy of Neurology. Nimish, along with Chennel Andersen, have been instrumental in leading our DEIJ efforts, most notably during the early phases of the pandemic where they prioritized and launched our Department’s Equity and Anti-Racism Action plan. Nimish will continue in his role as Associate Chair for Career Development and Leadership, spearheading innovative programs for faculty, trainees, and members of our clinical and academic teams. I am grateful for his past and continuing partnership.

Dr. Valdovinos will advance the Department’s vision and mission and provide leadership across all axes of inequity, across all missions, and across all intersectional measures of diversity. She will advance the evolution and implementation of the Department’s Equity and Anti-racism initiatives, and ensure goal alignment with the five pillars of the URMC’s Equity and Anti-Racism Action Plan: Build, Recruit, Nurture, Exemplify, Engage.

While we have made some progress in advancing equity and inclusion, we still have a long way to go. We have a committed group of DEIJ champions across our department who participate in multiple initiatives within our IDEAS council. Dr. Valdovinos has the ambition, curiosity, and courage to help us chart a continued, focused course of advocacy and change in the years ahead.

Dr. Emma Ciafaloni has been appointed as Associate Chair of Research in Neurology

Friday, April 7, 2023

Dr. Emma Ciafaloni has been appointed as the Associate Chair of Research in the Department of Neurology. Dr. Ciafaloni is the Robert C. and Roslayne H. Griggs Professor in Experimental Therapeutics of Neurological Disease and Professor of Neurology, Pediatrics and Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Dr. Ciafaloni completed her Medical Degree and Neurology Residency training in Milan, Italy, and then undertook a neuromuscular research fellowship at Columbia University and furthered her Neurology Residency training and Neuromuscular/Electromyography Fellowship training at Duke University, before joining the faculty in 2002. She is a nationally and internationally recognized neurologist, a pre-eminent scholar and clinical trialist, a world authority on integrated care delivery for pediatric neuromuscular disorders, and a leading educator of the next generation of clinician-investigators. She has played a leading role on issues relating to gender in neurology and neurologic disorders affecting women.

She is an inspirational team leader and the Director of the Pediatric Neuromuscular Disorders Program, one of the most exciting, academic programs at the University. She has been PI on many multi-site clinical trials for pediatric and adult diseases and understands the challenges related to the feasibility of designing and implementing complex clinical trials. She also has a strong understanding of what is important to patients and their families, and what strategies work best for successful and diverse recruitment. In 2022, she completed a sabbatical at Oxford University to study gene therapy application to muscle diseases, how to advance the case for newborn screening in DMD,  and how to best translate new, complex gene-based treatments from research into the clinic setting and maximize equitable access. She is passionate about mentoring and to pass her experiences forward by developing career pathways for junior faculty.

Dr. Ciafaloni will bring this experience and passion to provide leadership and oversight in the administration of the Department of Neurology’s research mission. She will oversee the Department’s research operations, Chair a re-vitalized Neurology Research Committee (and set a vision and strategy for this work), serve as a role model and provide research career guidance to junior faculty, and lead several new and exciting initiatives.

Inpatient Length of Stay Reduction - Gold Award for Team Excellence

Thursday, February 2, 2023

AwardThe URMC inpatient Neurology and Imaging Science departments were recently honored with the Gold Award for Team Excellence by the Greater Rochester Quality Council for a project which saved over 150 admissions from the ED and reduced inpatient length of stay. The GRQC, an affiliate of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce, recognizes teams from a wide range of industries that are committed to quality and performance excellence.

This collaboration implemented efforts to reduce a patient’s hospital stay when awaiting an MRI prior to discharge and to prevent unnecessary admissions from the ED beginning in February of 2021 Prior to the launch, data showed that patients who were medically ready for discharge waited an average of two to three additional days in the hospital for an MRI, and many patients were admitted for the sole purpose of an expedited MRI. For improved resource utilization, efforts were made to convert inpatient MRI appointments for patients who could safely be discharged home to urgent outpatient MRI visits.

The project team evaluated inpatient populations that could safely be discharged with their MRI study converted to an outpatient order and developed an alternative workflow whereby the ordering provider could indicate to the MRI team when a patient was considered appropriate for discharge and place a STAT outpatient order for expedited imaging at one of our Ambulatory sites. These efforts have resulted in 532 fewer bed days required for the targeted patient population. This further resulted in our ability to care for 93 incrementally more patients. Tracking shows this project has had a positive financial impact to date of over $465,000. The project is ongoing, and remains extremely successful.

NINDS Delegation Tours Neurology Research and Education Programs in Zambia

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Zambia Team

A team from the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) has travelled to Zambia and met with U.S. and Zambian researchers and clinicians who have been building a decades-long partnership to address the neurological burden of diseases like cerebral malaria, HIV, and stroke.

The constellation of research, education, and clinical activities that the NINDS team reviewed during their visit owe their origin to partnerships first formed by University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) neurologist Gretchen Birbeck, M.D., back in 1994.  Birbeck’s research in sub-Saharan Africa, primarily Zambia, aims at identifying risk factors and effective treatments for the neurological problems common in resource-limited tropical settings.  She also see patients in Zambia, where she spends five to six months per year, and serves as the director for Chikankata's Epilepsy Care Team in Zambia's rural Southern Province and principal for the Neurology Research Office at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka.

In partnership with the Zambian Ministry of Health, UTH, the University of Zambia, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, Michigan State University, and other institutions, these efforts have grown to include a wide range of complementary neurological research, training, and care programs based in Zambia.  The Neurology Research Office established by Birbeck on the main UTH campus serves as hub for many of these efforts, which have received more than $15 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health and other organizations and foundations over the past 29 years. 

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