ImproveCareNow psychosocial


Interview with Laura Mackner


Laura, can you give us a professional snapshot of who you are?


I have several roles and titles etc., as you can see by my signature. I primarily conduct research as an Investigator in the Center for Biobehavioral Health at Nationwide Children's (NCH). That's about 85% of my job.  I also do some clinical work, primarily with children with IBD, as a child psychologist working with the IBD team and in the Division of Pediatric Psychology at NCH.  This is primarily outpatient psychotherapy, although in the past I have also done inpatient consults and work in the GI Clinic.  Finally, I have an academic appointment at Ohio State University, in the College of Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics, providing training and supervision to psychology and GI interns, residents and fellows. What will you be sharing at the Community Conference?



I'll be leading a breakout session on peer mentoring and giving a presentation on psychosocial issues in pediatric IBD.


For the session on peer mentoring, I'll (1) discuss some of the research on mentoring programs and some of the "best practices" that have been developed from this research, (2) identify some practical resources for developing a mentoring program that exist, and (3) we'll spend most of the session discussing challenges specific to developing a peer mentoring program for youth with IBD.  I'll discuss the peer mentoring program I've been running at NCH, and I hope to brainstorm with the participants in the session about some of the challenges that all mentoring programs face (e.g., recruiting male mentors) as well as some of the challenges specific to IBD mentoring programs (e.g., confidentiality, mentor-mentee matching issues).  Jennie David and Isabelle Linguiti will be joining me to sharing their experiences with formal and informal mentoring and help with brainstorming as well.


For the presentation on psychosocial issues, I'll be discussing psychosocial issues that affect patients and families living with IBD, and how psychosocial issues can also affect health outcomes in IBD.   We know that IBD can affect pretty much any area of life, so I'll be reviewing the research on overall quality of life, emotions, social life, school, and family.  I'll also review research on the risk factors that have been identified that suggest which children are more likely to experience problems in these areas.  Then I'll discuss how psychosocial factors can affect IBD, and things we can do to address psychosocial issues that may also affect IBD. How does this session/focus pertain to parents?  Or how can parents use the information as part of our mission to help improve care.


For peer mentoring, we initially ran focus groups to develop our program, and our NCH parents had a lot of great ideas.  I'd love to hear from the ICN parents, and I hope the information provided in the session will be useful for any parents who are interested in developing a mentoring program.


For the presentation on psychosocial issues, parents certainly play a role in the psychosocial health of their children, and I'll specifically be discussing ways we might be able to improve psychosocial and physical health.




Brain Science, Stress and IBD

When I was diagnosed with moderate to severe Crohn’s disease 7 years ago, I wanted a simple and straightforward “cure all” treatment. To my dismay, I learned that relying on one silver bullet drug, would not suffice. Controlling this disease was like trying to tame a wild animal and would require balancing many factors. I became attuned to how psychological stress and poor diet negatively affected my symptoms. With a careful combination of transient targeted steroids, immunomodulatory drugs, vigorous exercise, and lifestyle changes, I regained my ability to thrive. I returned to my former state of athleticism, regularly tackling the intense and unforgiving northern California waves with my surfboard.Andrew and his surfboard getting ready to tackle the northern California waves

 

I soon entered the University of California, Santa Cruz’s neuroscience and psychology programs. While I was intensely focused on my academics and extracurriculars, the foundational nature of the human brain became seemingly more important. Comprised of approximately eighty billion neurons or brain cells, the vast intricacy of this three pound organ is extraordinary: The relationships or “connections” between these neurons –– called synapses –– outnumber the stars in our home galaxy. These small spaces are in actuality busy microcosms of information transfer between neurons. Minute chemical messengers called neurotransmitters serve as the communicational media. It is widely believed that the way in which brain cells are connected and their chemistry determines our psychological state.

 

An image of a neuron

 

I took note: under times of intense pressure or stress my physical symptoms manifested. Was this just a mere coincidence? Or was there really something going on? With a neuroscientific lens, I investigated.

 

I found that the connection between the brain and body and its interactions in disease are well-recognized by the scientific community.1 Modern day stress is seemingly connected to our most primal of reactions – activating a “fight or flight” response – that would be more useful to us in prehistoric times in our interactions with predation. A stress hormone called Cortisol serves to direct our body’s resources (in the form of glucose) away from non-vital functions like digestion and immune activity. For this reason, scientists believe that prolonged stress plays a pivotal part in a myriad of autoimmune conditions.

 

The extent to which psychological states influence the disease progression of IBD is still somewhat unclear. Numerous studies and review articles, however, suggest that these psychological states play a role in both direct disease progression and how patients deal and cope with their disease. 2, 3, 4, 5

 

Reducing stress is just one of many changes that help me live with Crohn’s Disease. Further, just as important is staying informed and imaginative. This blog and the entire ImproveCareNow community represent a beautiful medium for these concepts to flourish. Thank you for your part in this community.

 

References:




    1. Sternberg E, Gold P. The Mind-Body Interaction in Disease. Scientific American Special Edition. 2002:82-9.




    1. Mawdsley JE, Rampton DS. Psychological stress in IBD: new insights into pathogenic and therapeutic implications. Gut. 2005;54(10):1481-91.




    1. Mikocka-Walus AA, Gordon AL, Stewart BJ, Andrews JM. A magic pill? A qualitative analysis of patients' views on the role of antidepressant therapy in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). BMC Gastroenterol. 2012;12:93.




    1. Peters S, Grunwald N, Remmele P, et al. Chronic psychosocial stress increases the risk for inflammation-related colon carcinogenesis in male mice. Stress. 2012;15(4):403-15.




    1. Sajadinejad MS, Asgari K, Molavi H, et al. Psychological issues in inflammatory bowel disease: an overview. Gastroenterol Res Pract. 2012;2012:106502.

 


Hi, I'm Randa and this is my story.

Randa Samaha was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis at age 5

I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis (UC) at the age of 5. Or at least that’s when my doctors were finally able to figure out what had been going on for years. As a 5 year old I learned, in simple terms, that my body was “overreacting and attacking itself.


Hello Andrew

Andrew Kornfeld surfing at ocean beach in San FranciscoIt was the spring of 2007, and I was finishing up my junior year of high school. It had been the hardest year of my life with classes becoming increasingly more difficult and a mysterious illness plaguing my body.  With daily diarrhea, debilitating stomach cramping, anemia, and other severe problems (which I will spare you from) it became clear that something was seriously wrong –– it was more than just the gluten sensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome I was previously diagnosed with.  My illness was at a tipping point and my quality of life had decreased dramatically.

 

I was finally given a colonoscopy and subsequently my mystery was solved: I had moderate to severe Crohn’s colitis.  While I remember feeling relieved to finally have a diagnosis, I was also extremely disappointed that it had taken nearly a year. How much needless suffering had I endured?  Soon after my diagnosis and one failed surgery later, I made the transition to the UCSF pediatric IBD clinic with Dr. Mel Heyman. This may have been the most important decision of my life. Dr. Heyman, along with Laura, the nurse practitioner and a team of other medical professionals, identified the right medications for me, referred me to an exemplary surgeon at UCSF and ordered additional tests. Over the following months, the substantial decrease in my symptoms was nothing short of miraculous. To me it felt like being released from a confining and painful space, into one that was warm and safe.

 

Over the years, I have felt truly empowered by the team at UCSF to take an active role in the treatment of my illness. Some of the modifications I’ve introduced into my care plan have involved: a gluten and dairy free diet, the intake of potent probiotics, and getting plenty of exercise. I am an avid surfer, and feel really energized by the rough waves at Ocean Beach here in San Francisco. I have also recently become interested in how psychological stress may negatively impact patients with IBD, and would like to investigate this further. I am grateful beyond words to have had Dr. Heyman as my pediatrician and to be currently volunteering my time as part of the UCSF IBD team.

 

Andrew Kornfeld Andrew graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz with majors in Neuroscience and Psychology. He is currently volunteering with the UCSF IBD clinic, and plans to attend medical school starting in the fall of 2015.


Some Time With My (Gutless) Friend

I had the pleasure of picking up a friend at the airport a few months ago. She had flown in, carefree and light on luggage (literally one 5 X 7 envelope contained everything she brought, including her bedding), to spend some time with me, my curious wife, and my even-more-curious daughters. She had also come to root around in my office and make new friends at the hospital where I work – OU Children’s. I loved showing her my cool office, the gizmos we have to help our patients learn and have a good time, and the terrific staff and providers that see our patients on a regular basis.

I was amazed to see, when I picked her up, that she was wide-eyed and ready to go. She had her arms up, food and drink in hand, and was ready for anything! Her spirit was catching; my daughters were immediately enthralled and showed her around our house, where she stayed at night, after going with me to the hospital each day.


DIGMA: Group Medical Appointments

In the decade I have lived with Crohn’s Disease, I have steadfastly steered clear of support groups. It always seemed as though I were resigned to a couple of options in talking about my Crohn’s: 1) stick with my private medical appointment with only my parents and doctor, or 2) cautiously venture into the mysterious world of support groups. I exclusively favored the first option, and carefully built my community of friends with IBD a la patient advocacy and volunteering. And while that strategy worked for me, I only recently realized there’s another way.When Sami and I were invited to participate in the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters (“CHKD”) team’s demonstration of the group medical appointment (better known in the medical community as Drop-In Group Medical Appointments, “DIGMA”) at the ImproveCareNow Spring Learning Session, we were happy to help. We were admittedly unaware of how a DIGMA session worked; and arguably incredibly naïve about the feasibility and sustainability of a model that – at first glance – seemed to be the very kind of ooey-gooey-woe-is-me support group we had intentionally evaded.

 

Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters at the Spring 2014 Learning Session during their DIGMA demoChampioned by the passionate team at CHKD in Norfolk, Virginia, the DIGMA model has enjoyed strong support from clinicians and families alike. Dr. Marc Tsou was introduced to the idea in the late 90’s when a parent gave him an article about the group model structure, about which he says, “It seemed to make so much sense. I thought of how many times in the day I’d say the same medical information to several families. Say that information six times, how inefficient, then think about how much that group appointment concept makes sense.” Dr. Tsou saw an opportunity to meaningfully build on the clinic’s collaborative culture; “Elements were there, the right type of people and group. The doctors were the ones who said we’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do this, the time was right, it was almost fate.” Fueled by his fearless nurse, Terri, Dr. Tsou and the CHKD team set about bringing the DIGMA model to their IBD families.

 

The first step was reaching out to a variety of clinicians – such as dieticians and social workers – to ensure that the group visits did not just include patients & families, but also a group of diversified care providers. After sending out an email to potential clinician participants, positive responses began to rush in. “For the most part all responded and had someone to come and participate,” Terri says. “Everybody was super receptive to it, they’ve showed up at every one since.”

 

Annette Kulzer, a mom of three boys including 16-year-old Kolin who lives with IBD, has been instrumental in running the group model appointments. “As a parent,” she says. “It opens doors to meet people we would have not met. If we were in another setting, we wouldn’t hear those stories.” An early adopter and believer in the DIGMA model, Annette has regularly provided a parent’s perspective into how the group appointments run. For example, after a group appointment with female and male patients, Annette suggested having separate groups for each gender and for different ages ranges to encourage comfort and participation. Annette and Kolin emphasize the sincerity of Dr. Tsou’s malleability in running the group sessions, and they always appreciate the weight their feedback holds.

 

In addition to the accessibility to a variety of clinicians and retaining certain elements of the traditional solo medical appointment (e.g., a one-on-one physical exam), the DIGMA model had a surprising but welcome impact; it provided novel insight for patients, parents, and clinicians alike through storytelling. Annette remembers a teenage patient who recounted having great difficulty taking the bus to sporting events with her teammates, since she was worried she might urgently need to use the bathroom. The story challenged Annette to reconsider Kolin’s hesitation to ride with his teammates to a game, as she came to understand that her son – who rarely complained – shared a similar fear that had gone unspoken.

 

Jill, CHKD’s social worker agrees that sharing stories can be incredibly eye-opening, and says, “It’s very, very different when you can look into the face of another mom or another dad or another kid, and say I understand this. Okay here’s somebody like me, they’re doing alright.” Dr. Tsou adds, “There was one mom who broke down into tears, she got very emotional, you think gee these sessions no one will share very much, but really they’re sharing their souls and baring their deepest fears. People might be skeptical but it really happens, but that’s super gratifying, a bit surprising, and confirmed to us that we’re on to something and something that deserves the attention and energy to keep it going.” When asked about group session attendees who were unsure at first, Annette says, “We’ve had many patients and parents who come in resistant, but within 15 minutes they’ve had the Kool-Aid.”

 

The group session can also be liberating for patients, who perhaps fear that IBD will be an “albatross around their neck for the rest of their lives.” Kolin enthusiastically agrees, adding, “Telling people what you’re going through helps a lot.” Positive and on target support grows organically from the patient-driven and clinician-facilitated model, and Kolin says, “You’re going to get so much out of it.”

 

While the organizational burden was heavy at the beginning, the team has happily tackled logistical issues to provide this innovative practice to their patients. Dr. Tsou explains, “The group appointment allows for so much more sharing of feelings, fears, and that’s really what so many families want and need and it allows it in the framework of still providing care. We’ve all had to learn a little different way of doing it.” Terri adds, “No harm in trying something, and I would guarantee that if others tried this model, they wouldn’t go back, it really does impact patients and families.”

 

But the potential of the DIGMA model doesn’t stop there: the team sees practical applications to rural communities (i.e., being able to run a group session in a rural community to maximize patients who can be seen), and across medical specialties. Dr. Tsou says, “I think it’s going to be more mainstreamed. It is the way medicine will be practiced in the future, we’re at the leading edge of it, which is cool.” Kolin adds, “I really want it to spread. I was really skeptical of it at first, but I really do enjoy the DIGMA model.”

 

A group medical appointment is, at its core, a treasure chest for patients, families, and clinicians; the ability to offer a holistic, patient-centered, and team-approach to pediatric care is innovative and vital to the collaborative and transparent culture championed by ImproveCareNow. The passion, integrity, and dedication the CHKD team has for optimizing chronic illness care is not only evident, but most importantly completely contagious. “We’re all passionate about our patients,” says Terri. “We were born to do this, it’s been really wonderful. Everyone had the spirit, it was right for us.”

 

 Jennie


Sitting In It

Or "The Crystal Ball Method of Informed Consent"

Why didn’t I know how hard this was going to be?  When is it going to get better? Will it? Is it even worth continuing?’  I don’t know how much longer I can keep going, especially when I hear there isn’t an answer to this yet; my pain isn’t going away!’  As a child I felt that myself sometimes, and I think my patients feel that way sometimes, too.

 


Together

I met with up an old friend for tea. As we were standing in line, she asked about my college friends and how they were doing. I started talking about one, and she interrupted, asking, "Is that the girl with Crohn's?" "No," I said, and named another disease. My friend smirked, and said, "Do you have any healthy friends?"

It's an ongoing joke amongst my family and closest friends that, in order for me to know someone, they have to have a chronic illness. To an outsider examining those I have chosen to be 'my people,' it would indeed seem that having an illness is some form of a requirement - the vast majority of my close friends have chronic illnesses. The natural thought is that we're friends because of being young with chronic illnesses, but that is not completely true.

They did not choose me because of my illness, or in spite of my illness, but rather they chose me with my illness. Living with a pediatric chronic illness has been, in my experience, a simultaneous growing up and growing down: the growing up is bumpy and circuitous, while the growing down is shirking off the medical maturity and fumbling to fit in and understand peers without disease. I have several wonderful, empathetic, incredible friends who - surprise, surprise - do not have chronic illnesses, and these people have been unimaginably understanding, supportive, and encouraging. But, in light of a variety of challenges my friends with chronic illnesses have been facing, I wanted to write this post in explaining the beauty of a friendship steeped in chronic illness.

To my friends with chronic illnesses:

Thank you -

For understanding that when I say I'm having a 'bad day,' I'm really not feeling well but trying to be brave. For sending me funny pictures and sweet cards in the mail. For never replacing true empathy with an easy platitude.

Thank you for seeing the strength in my struggles, the determination in my pain, the resilience in my scars. For knowing that I am not my disease, but like a tree with a missing limb, I am whole even if my body is not.

I am better for being your friend - better for sharing my story with you and better for listening patiently to yours. I am so full of everything good because of your willingness to hear me when I'm terrified and upset, to celebrate my triumphs when I push on, to let me have a moment of fear before you tell me I can do anything.

We are not friends because we are sick - it may be how we found each other, but we are friends because we are puzzle pieces that click together, choruses to the same song, hands that were meant to hold the other. I look at you and see you, not your disease, not your pills, not your doctors, not your prognosis. We see one another when sometimes everyone else can only see the mask.

I hurt when you hurt, but I will always be there for you, just as you are there for me.

This is a thank you, a celebration, a marking of how much your friendship means to me. Words will never do this justice, but I wanted to try.

For now and for always, thank you.

Jennie


Words Into Action

It was a Monday and I had a migraine.

The hospital room was grey and muted.  I was on my side with my eyes closed, trying to wish away the headache. A suave, slicked-hair doctor – the new GI for the week – strode into the room, the curtains whooshing slightly with his arrival, followed by his resident, and my mother stood up from her chair. They all stood at the foot on my bed, a semi-circle, as I pulled my legs closer to me and rolled onto my back.



 


Blast from the Past

After a morning GI appointment, my mom wanted to get a coffee before she took me to work. We drove to a local coffee shop and I decided to go in with her to grab a tea. We placed our orders, paid, and as we were leaving, I caught a glimpse of a customer sitting at a table and suddenly recognized him.

 

He was a clinician from my pediatric hospital – someone I had always thought of as particularly kindly, someone who had incredible bedside manner and a great comfort in speaking to me, and someone who I hadn’t seen since high school. Since I knew I would regret it if I didn't, I walked over and said hi. He promptly hopped up from his chair, reaching out his arms for a hug, and asked how I’d been.

 

Blast from the pastIt was this funny moment in which I was no longer a child or a patient but just someone else in a coffee shop - grown, with a hospital ID badge slung around my neck. He couldn’t believe how old I was – “How is it possible you’re done college?” – and grinned at me as I caught him up on my life. I had sent him pictures after I hiked Machu Picchu. He said he’d been to Peru since and thought about me, trying to notice any similarities between my pictures and the Peruvian surroundings. When I told him about graduating with double honors and wanting to pursue a PhD in clinical psychology, he looked at me, smirked, and said, “That does not surprise me one bit.”

 

He said he was going to a meeting with some of my other former clinicians, and asked if he could pass along the full update on me. Of course I said yes, feeling a little like a movie-star that people cared what I was up to. He will always be one of my favorite clinicians. He made me feel as a kid – and in our short coffee shop interaction – like a whole person with more to offer the world than an over-sized medical chart. I believed in myself not only because my parents were supportive, but because at my sickest I had clinicians like him who saw beyond the medicine to the person.

 

Monday was my first day back to work after a two-week hospital stay. I walked into my office, collected hugs from my lovely co-workers, and set about logging onto the computer and catching up on emails. The fabulous boost of seeing that clinician in the coffee shop stayed with me. At one point during the day, I saw a patient for one of our studies. He was a gentleman in his 70’s and was in the surgical clinic with his wife. Before I stepped into the room, I made sure to look through his chart and get a sense of who he was – not just what surgery he was having – so I could be engaging and receptive to him as a person and not solely as a patient. I had the loveliest conversation with him and his wife, going out of my way to be open, respectful, personable, and accessible. For example, in going over the study questionnaires, I wanted to be transparent and would turn the page around to show him and his wife what the pages looked liked, explaining what I was asking and writing down so that it didn’t seem secretive or hidden. He would laugh and noticeably relax, and as they saw me throughout the day, our relationship continued to grow so that when I see him after his surgery, I will be a familiar face.

 

This perhaps seems silly to write a post about. But this is what I hope you've read between the lines – the person inside the patient matters. You never know who’s sitting in front of you, because it’s never just a person of a certain age with a certain disease. Especially in pediatrics, your patients are like caterpillars waiting to become butterflies – you have future doctors and advocates and economists and dancers and athletes and poets in front of you. You have children who are blossoming into themselves, with diverse talents and abilities. As clinicians for children, you have a unique opportunity to build and strengthen relationships with them as they grow emotionally and physically. Your patients will never forget you – good or bad – but why not make the memories they carry with them about how much you supported them?

 

Because who knows, you just might run into them in a coffee shop one day.

 

Jennie


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