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Communicare Northeast Georgia Health System

Improving the health of our community in all we do

In This Issue: Heart History-Makers: NGMC Braselton's First STEMI Patient Victory Rings: Patients Claim Victory Over Cancer First Resident Physicians On Their Way to NGMC NGMC's Bariatric Weight Loss Center Changes Lives


contents From Our President Heart History-Makers

743 Spring Street NE Gainesville, GA 30501 770-219-9000

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Victory Rings


Lose Today, Win Tomorrow


First Physician Residents On Their Way to NGMC


From Head to Toe


“Improving the health of our community in all we do” OUR THANKS TO BOARD CHAIRS Rich White


NGHS Set for Big Future in Lumpkin County


NGMC Barrow Continues Enhancements


NGHS Gives

Hospital Authority of Hall County & City of Gainesville


RK Whitehead

Northeast Georgia Health System, Inc.

John Nix

Northeast Georgia Medical Center, Inc.


LeTrell Simpson

Ruby Thornton claimed victory over breast cancer with the help of Northeast Georgia Medical Center's Cancer Services.

The Medical Center Foundation, Inc.

Ellen Toms

The Medical Center Auxiliary, Inc.

Semuel Maysonet

Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) is a non-profit on a mission of improving the health of our community in all we do. Our team cares for more than 1 million people across the region through three hospitals and a variety of outpatient locations. Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) has three hospital campuses – NGMC Gainesville, NGMC Braselton and NGMC Barrow – with a total of 713 beds and more than 800 medical staff members representing more than 50 specialties.

Northeast Georgia Health System Advisory Board

If you would like a free subscription, please call 770-219-3840 or visit This organization does not discriminate against any patient because of race, religion, creed, color, national origin, age, sex, disability or because a patient is covered by a program such as Medicare or Medicaid.

Communicare is a health education magazine published by the Public Relations department for the community to support the organization’s mission of: “Improving the health of our community in all we do.”

EDITORIAL STAFF: Sean Couch, director Beth Downs, manager 2 |

Michelle Oleson, specialist & editor Kristin Grace, specialist

Abigail Carr, coordinator

from our president I’m proud to know Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) has a rich history of serving the healthcare needs of our community and plays a critical role in the economic success of our region. In an ever-changing healthcare landscape, we strive to develop creative ways to enhance our patients’ experiences and make a positive impact on their lives. As we begin 2019, I’m pleased to share exciting news about several initiatives that will help us continue this legacy. I also want to highlight several stories about a few of our patients who overcame adversity and serve as an inspiration to us all. You can read about Otis Jones, for example, the first STEMI patient at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) Braselton (pages 4-6). STEMI stands for ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction, and is the most severe type of heart attack. We began offering the life-saving process needed to treat STEMIs and other heart attacks at NGMC Braselton last year, and Otis’ story is a testament to why we work tirelessly every day to provide such life-saving care. If you’re not sure what palliative care is, don’t miss the story of one of our patients with a chronic illness who found relief from physical, social and emotional suffering with the help of our Outpatient Palliative and Supportive Care team (pages 16-17). You may be surprised about how we can help patients using holistic approaches to treatment.

For those keeping an eye on what’s happening with healthcare services in Lumpkin County, you’ll want to read the latest update on page 18 about our plans to serve patients in that area. You can also stay abreast of the many enhancements completed at NGMC Barrow on page 19, and see how we continue to work with many amazing people and organizations in our community to raise money to provide vital services (pages 20-25). Last, but certainly not least, I hope you’re as excited as I am about the NGMC Graduate Medical Education (GME) program’s inaugural class of resident physicians, who will begin their careers here in July (pages 14-15). These individuals will be the next generation of physician leaders who will advance the field of medicine, right here in Northeast Georgia. Look forward to learning all about the new residents in our next issue this fall. Happy spring, and enjoy this issue!

Carol H. Burrell President & CEO Northeast Georgia Health System | 3

HEART H i s t o ry- M a k e r s

An Unforgettable “First” For NGMC Braselton and One Special Patient

Despite a successful business career and impressive portfolio of hobbies, Otis Jones says he had never been first at anything in all of his 70-plus years. Then came that fateful day in early 2018 when Otis learned he would indeed be number one – though at something most people would rather avoid. "It was February 6, and I pulled into my garage around dinner time. My left arm, from my elbow to my shoulder, began hurting," says Otis. "At first, I wasn't sure what it was. But, since I had a heart attack in 1999, I remembered what my doctor told me to do if I had heart trouble again. I took a nitroglycerine tablet and laid down.” When the pain wouldn’t go away, Otis and his wife decided he needed to get to Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) Braselton. It turned out to be a smart and pivotal decision for Otis – one that he talks about to this day. "I told the lady in the emergency room that I thought I was having a heart attack, so they took me back to a room and conducted an electrocardiogram (EKG)," says Otis. "The first EKG didn't show anything abnormal, but the nurse was suspicious.” Given Otis’ symptoms, the medical staff conducted a second EKG that showed signs a heart attack was developing. So a third EKG was conducted, and it confirmed what medical staff suspected. "The nurse took one look at the printout of

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the third EKG, tore it off the printer and ran out of the room," says Otis. "The next thing I remember, several people were getting me into bed and the doctor was telling me I was having a heart attack." Otis was suffering the most severe type of heart attack, called an ST-Elevation Myocardial Infarction, or STEMI. Fortunately, NGMC Braselton began offering percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI, one week earlier. PCI is a life-saving, catheter-based procedure that restores blood flow to the heart without open heart surgery – and Otis needed it. "At that point, one of the nurses began explaining each step of the procedure to me. He was calm and informative," says Otis. "And then he said, 'Mr. Jones, you are the first STEMI patient we've had here at NGMC Braselton.’” "That caught my attention because I’ve never been first at anything. I’ve never even had my named called out for prize drawings.” While having a heart attack is often a whirlwind experience, Otis says he was part of a very measured and controlled approach to cardiac care at NGMC Braselton – an approach that saved his life. "When someone has a heart attack, time is muscle,” says Nima Ghasemzadeh, MD, an interventional cardiologist at The Heart Center of NGMC and who performed Otis’ life-saving procedure. “The faster the artery is opened, the less damage occurs to the

WHAT IS PCI? Percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI, is a catheter-based procedure that opens blocked arteries to the heart. A catheter – which is a thin, flexible tube – is gently inserted into a blood vessel in the patient’s wrist or groin. The catheter is guided to the blocked heart artery. Once in place, the catheter is used to deliver special tools, such as balloons or stents, to open the artery.


Otis was NGMC Braselton’s first STEMI patient.


Patient and doctor maintain a close partnership as part of Otis’ recovery.

''My artery was 100 percent blocked when I had this heart attack, and reflecting on that makes me wonder how I was able to survive.'' Otis Jones

To watch a video about Otis’ story, visit stemi-system

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heart. At NGMC, our heart attack response times are some of the fastest in the nation – and that gives our patients the best chance of having a great outcome," says Dr. Ghasemzadeh. The PCI program at NGMC Braselton treats patients with blocked arteries before a heart attack happens or in emergency situations. It is modeled after the same PCI program of excellence that has been available at NGMC Gainesville for nearly two decades. “Even before NGMC Braselton opened in 2015, we worked with our cardiologists to leverage our renowned heart program at NGMC Gainesville in Braselton,” says Anthony Williamson, president of NGMC Braselton. “By offering PCI and other advanced heart treatments in Braselton, we provide the community a higher level of heart care typically found only in larger cities.”

Today, Otis continues to improve his heart health by following a cardiac rehabilitation exercise program and visiting Dr. Ghasemzadeh regularly. He's still a member of the Board of Directors of Jackson EMC, works part-time and is active in his church and a variety of outdoor activities. "My artery was 100 percent blocked when I had this heart attack, and reflecting on that makes me wonder how I was able to survive,” says Otis. “Dr. Ghasemzadeh said I was very blessed, and he’s right. Of course, the miracle of modern medicine, a great doctor and my faith, friends and family all play a role, too. I am truly a blessed man!” To request an appointment with a cardiologist at one of The Heart Center of NGMC's 15 locations, call 770-534-2020 or visit


"Cancer changed my life; the experience is now a constant reminder to find joy in every day." Nicole Curtis

Victory is often defined as a triumph against an opponent. For many cancer patients at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC), however, their victories look – and sound – a little different.

Bronze plaques adorn the walls in several NGMC cancer treatment areas – each one proudly displaying a small bell. When someone pulls the rope to ring the bell, its message becomes clear: another patient has claimed victory over cancer. For Nicole Curtis, victory looks like a day spent with her three boys, enjoying their time together and taking advantage of each moment. As a young mother diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 31, these are moments she wasn’t sure she would have with them just a year ago. For Ruby Thornton, who also recently claimed victory over breast cancer, it means cooking for her family and spending precious time with her grandchildren. In fact, she brought one of her grandchildren with her to ring the bell after her last treatment at the Toccoa Cancer Center. While each cancer patient has a different story to tell, it’s the same consistent, expert care at NGMC that brings them together. NGMC cares for more than 2,000 new cancer patients each year. Like Nicole and Ruby, these patients are supported by a skilled cancer team they can trust each step of the way as they work toward

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the same goal: to ring the bell upon completing treatment for cancer. It’s that personal care that stood out to Ruby. “All of my doctors were so good to me,” she says of her cancer team at NGMC. “When I was scared and didn’t know what to expect, they went the extra mile to put me at ease. They treated me like more than just one of their many patients. They made me feel like family.” “Our community is extremely fortunate to have access to nationally-recognized


From left: Frank Lake, MD, Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Radiation Oncology; Priscilla Strom, MD, Longstreet Clinic General Surgery; and Andrew Johnson, MD, Longstreet Clinic Cancer Center are three of the many highly-skilled members of NGMC's Cancer Services team.


Nicole rings the victory bell after completing radiation treatment for breast cancer.

cancer care – right here at home,” says Charles Nash, III, MD, medical director of NGMC’s Cancer Services and medical oncologist with Longstreet Clinic. “NGMC offers patients a full spectrum of services – from expert physicians and advanced diagnostic and treatment technologies to national clinical trials and cancer rehabilitation.” In fact, NGMC recently received two national recognitions for its Cancer Services. After an extensive review of its program, the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer awarded NGMC the highest level of accreditation possible – three-year accreditation with commendation at the gold level. Additionally, NGMC was ranked in the top six percent of hospital cancer programs in the nation by CareChex, an independent healthcare ratings organization. “These rankings and accreditations are further proof that our patients can trust NGMC for their cancer care,” says Jayme Carrico, executive

director of Cancer Services at NGMC. “What patients also experience here is a deep-rooted and personal level of commitment and compassion that we challenge any other hospital to match. I believe that’s truly what sets us apart – advanced cancer care provided by specialists who are as skilled at treating the person as they are at treating the disease.” Nicole also says that, while the journey has been a challenging one, her care team and those closest to her are what helped her push through. “It’s too easy to lose sight of what brings you joy in life,” Nicole says. “Cancer changed my life; the experience is now a constant reminder to find joy in every day. I had an incredible team supporting me on my journey to victory, and I want them to be proud of how I am living my life now – because they helped get me here.” To learn more about our nationallyranked Cancer Services, call 770-219-8815 or visit

PAVING THE WAY FOR BETTER PATIENT OUTCOMES AND HIGHER LUNG CANCER SURVIVAL RATES Innovative technology for lung cancer diagnosis now available at NGMC Braselton Lung cancer causes more deaths in the U.S. than colon, breast and prostate cancers combined. Fortunately, patients in the area now have access to the most advanced lung cancer detection services with the addition of NGMC’s new lung navigation system. Provided by funding through The Medical Center Foundation, NGMC’s physicians can use the lung navigation system for easier access and sampling of lesions located within the lungs. Dr. Kimtuyen Nguyen, a physician with Pulmonary and Sleep Specialists of Northeast


Now cancer-free, Ruby enjoys making memories with her grandchildren.

Georgia, PC, performed the first navigational bronchoscopy at NGMC Braselton last November, making it the first hospital in the area to provide this new minimally invasive diagnostic technology. “We are excited to be at the front line of lung cancer diagnosis and management,” says Dr. Nguyen. “This technology can be used to diagnose and stage lung cancer at the same time, while also advancing our ability to localize and treat the tumor with pinpoint precision.” “This is just another step toward our goal of directly impacting outcomes and survival rates for our lung cancer patients,” adds Jayme.

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800 50 health 1system

more than


specialties Find your doctor at



Before having weight loss surgery, Courtney Emory says her weight was always at the forefront of her mind. “Can I?” became the first question the former high school athlete, who went to college on a basketball scholarship, would ask herself before taking on any task or activity. But, that changed after she had bariatric surgery. “My weight went from the top thing on my mind to something I don’t even think about anymore,” Courtney says, seven years after gastric bypass surgery at Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) Gainesville. “Now, I can do anything I want to do.” Defined as having a body mass index (BMI) at or above 35, obesity presents a tough problem for millions of people. It’s a disease that affects nearly 40 percent of all Americans, approximately 93 million, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and certain cancers that are some of the leading causes of preventable and premature death. “Obesity is a disease of excess fat storage that can impact the patient’s whole health and wellbeing,” says

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“I was very fortunate to work with NGMC and NGPG to figure out the best way for me to lose weight,” says Penny. “It was a solution personalized for me – not one formula that was created for everyone.” Last May, she chose to have an intragastric balloon procedure – a reversible treatment option that uses balloon technology to help patients achieve lasting weight loss results. Inserted into the stomach during a short, outpatient procedure, it remains there for six months – serving as built-in portion control so people may feel full and less hungry. So far, Penny has lost 50 pounds.


Penny chose to have an outpatient, intragastric balloon procedure to help her lose weight.


Courtney lost 100 pounds after having gastric bypass surgery at NGMC.

BARIATRICS 101 Learn more about weight loss surgery at NGMC by attending Bariatrics 101, a free informational class offered two times per month. Visit for more information.

Alex Nguyen, MD, bariatric surgeon at Northeast Georgia Physicians Group (NGPG). “It leads to other chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, joint pain and more. Most patients seek treatment for obesity to get chronic conditions such as these under control, and to get their lives back.” NGMC’s program emphasizes there is no one-size-fits-all approach to weight loss. Identifying the correct treatment plan or procedure for each patient is key to long-term success. That approach helped Penny Moore find success on her weight loss journey, which began more than 20 years ago when she was hospitalized for months with Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare neurological disorder in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks part of its peripheral nervous system. With her mobility severely affected, her struggle with weight gain began. “After years of trying to commit to a weight loss program or incorporate an exercise program, it was apparent I needed medical help,” Penny says. That’s what led her to contact NGMC two years ago. She hadn’t decided whether weight loss surgery or a non-surgical approach was best for her, so she started a monitored diet under the guidance of NGPG registered dietitian, Jennifer Way, and certified bariatric nurse, Leslie Painter.

For both Penny and Courtney, it’s an ongoing journey that takes a happier, healthier path. Courtney says, seven years later, she’s 100 pounds lighter – but it’s her overall health that has seen the biggest impact. She no longer needs medications for high blood sugar or high blood pressure. “This surgery added 10 to 15 years to my life,” she says. “Patients with obesity have a condition that shortens their life expectancy,” says Dr. Robert Richard, bariatric surgeon with Longstreet Clinic Center for Weight Management who performed Courtney’s surgery. “Like any other condition, it deserves treatment.” Dr. Richard says patients who seek help through the program come to understand that there is no “quick fix.” They are looking for safe, effective weight loss to improve their quality of life. He notes the almost 30-year history NGMC has in performing bariatric surgery – from balloon procedures to surgeries such as the gastric sleeve, gastric bypass and more complicated procedures such as the duodenal switch. “The medical staff here are experts in caring for bariatric patients,” he says. | 13



WHAT IS A RESIDENT PHYSICIAN? A resident is a physician who is participating in training in a specific area of medicine. A resident physician will participate in the care of patients under the supervision of a faculty physician. The resident physician will take medical histories, perform physical examinations, order and interpret diagnostic studies, diagnose medical conditions, and perform medical or surgical procedures appropriate for their level of training. The resident physicians will work in conjunction with more senior residents, faculty physicians, and other health care team members to develop appropriate management and treatment plans for our patients. Resident physicians have a Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree and are licensed by the Georgia Medical Board as a resident training physician.

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On March 15, teaching hospitals and medical school graduates across the country celebrated Residency Match Day, the one day each year new physicians learn where they will complete the next level of medical training, or residency. Twenty Internal Medicine and six General Surgery graduates will kick off their careers as part of Northeast Georgia Medical Center's (NGMC) Graduate Medical Education (GME) program beginning July 1. “The applicants who matched with NGMC are all truly passionate about providing excellent care,” says James Kruer, MD, Internal Medicine program director. “After a successful recruitment season, we’re certain these physicians will be invaluable to our community for years to come.” The residents come to NGMC by way of the National Resident Matching Program, the organization that places medical school graduates into residency programs in U.S. teaching hospitals. The graduates go through an extensive interview process with various teaching hospitals and rank their top choices. The hospitals rank their applicants, too, and the physicians and hospitals are “matched.” Applicants for NGMC’s inaugural resident class come from a diverse set of schools and backgrounds, with NGMC program leaders emphasizing the importance of attracting physicians focused on growth, process improvement and making a difference in the community.

“We are eager to begin training our first class of General Surgery residents,” says Charles Richart, MD, General Surgery program director. “They will have a unique opportunity to deliver surgical care to a large, underserved region – and to truly make an impact.” The residency programs are expected to impact areas that reach far beyond health care. Research conducted by the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government found that NGMC’s programs will provide a tremendous benefit to the Hall County economy. Over the next four years, they are expected to provide an economic output of $66 million – with an additional $18 million local economic impact for each subsequent year. In addition to generating more than 90 jobs by the end of 2019, the report anticipates as many as 300 total new jobs by 2023. As NGMC prepares to welcome residents, planning for future phases continues. In February, NGMC earned accreditation for its Family Medicine program, meaning interviews for this first class will start later this year, and those new residents will arrive in 2020.

“It’s an exciting time for our program and for the community as we prepare to welcome our residents,” says John Delzell Jr., MD, vice president of Medical Education for Northeast Georgia Health System and Designated Institutional Official for NGMC. “They will provide energy and expertise, as well as establish a culture for our program as we expand into additional specialties.” The residency program is a strategic initiative for NGMC to encourage doctors to stay in Georgia to practice medicine. Research conducted by the Georgia Board of Physician Workforce found that medical students from Georgia who complete medical school and a residency program in Georgia have a roughly 80 percent chance of staying in the state to practice. As Georgia's population grew faster than the number of physicians, former Gov. Nathan Deal set a goal of adding 400 residency training slots in Georgia and was instrumental in bringing the GME program to NGMC. To learn more, visit

Former Gov. Nathan Deal (top, right) visits one of NGMC’s simulation laboratories, where residents will receive hands-on training. Jody Bahnmiller, MD, (left) is a core faculty member for the Family Medicine residency program, and one of the physicians residents will work with as part of the program.

IMPROVING THROUGH TEACHING Medical research shows that academic or teaching hospitals provide better care than non-teaching hospitals. Residents’ curiosity and commitment to learning encourages attending physicians to stay up to date with the latest medical discoveries and literature, and to follow best practices more closely. | 15



Treating symptoms, managing pain and uplifting spirits through palliative care

WHAT IS PALLIATIVE CARE? Palliative care is a medical specialty focused on the holistic relief of physical, emotional, social and spiritual suffering associated with a serious, often chronic, illness. It focuses on providing comfort for the patient and his or her family through pain management and treatment of symptoms. Palliative care is available to all patients in need, is provided at any stage of serious illness and can be provided alongside

It seems hard to believe now, but 68-year-old Daniel Russo once dreaded his drive to Gainesville. “The first time I came to Northeast Georgia Physicians Group (NGPG) Palliative and Supportive Care in Gainesville, my sister drove me. I didn’t know where it was, and I was afraid of the unknown,” says Daniel. Now the monthly journey from his home in Dacula – combined with the support waiting for him at his destination – act as psychological and medical salvation for a man living with cancer for almost five years. Thanks to NGPG Palliative and Supportive Care, however, Daniel says he discovered a renewed strength and determination – as well as a positive outlook despite the often excruciating challenges he faces.

Daniel says the Palliative and Supportive Care team helped him fight the pain he has from cancer, but they also listened to his struggles and helped him develop a plan for the future. Through it all, they talked about how his illnesses affect his family, friends and financial resources. “The word that comes to mind for me is ‘partnership,’” says Dr. Goldmann, who works with primary care and other specialty-trained physicians to treat patients at the NGPG Palliative and Supportive Care clinic. “Palliative care is a tool that helps patients take control of their diseases so they can live a fulfilling life.”

curative treatment – unlike hospice care. Hospice care is for people with a limited life expectancy, usually six months or less, and is provided after all curative treatments have been considered. HOW CAN I RECEIVE PALLIATIVE CARE? Outpatient palliative care requires a physician referral. For more information, call 770-219-9179 or visit

“It was a like a revelation to come here,” Daniel says of his first visit last March, where he met Robert Goldmann, MD, and licensed clinical social worker, Donna Martin Moss. “I was surprised and overwhelmed by the people here who could help me,” Daniel says. “I was battling depression, and that was the first time I found resources that could really help the situation.” ROBERT GOLDMANN, MD, DANIEL RUSSO AND DONNA MARTIN MOSS talk during one

of Daniel’s visits to NGPG Outpatient Palliative and Supportive Care.

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"Palliative care is a tool that helps patients take control of their diseases so they can live a fulfilling life." Robert Goldmann, MD, NGPG Palliative and Supportive Care

The outpatient office opened in February 2018, offering symptom management and supportive counseling to people who are living with serious illnesses.

patient – back to the forefront. That process allows a chronically-ill patient, his or her family and doctor to make decisions together that will provide the best quality of life.

“Our national healthcare system has accomplished amazing things, but we also have diseases that didn’t exist 40 years ago,” Dr. Goldmann says. “Now, people are living with long-term illnesses. We treat the symptoms and diseases to extend patients’ lives, but living with a chronic illness can cause stress physically and psychologically.”

That focus made an immediate impact on Daniel.

With that in mind, NGPG Palliative and Supportive Care aims to bring old-fashioned medical care – in which doctors not only treat diseases, but also listen and get to know the

“I developed a trust in them during our first meeting, and I’m richer for knowing these medical professionals. They tell you the truth and present the facts, but they don’t judge. They don’t just give you a prescription and send you away. They walk you through everything.” It goes to the heart of what palliative and supportive care is, as Dr. Goldmann, Donna and the team

strive to spend as much time with patients and their families as is necessary. That shows in the design of the practice spaces, where cozy rooms allow for traditional medical exams, but are also more often used for family meetings and frank dialogue. In Daniel’s case, the support meant not only getting his pain under control, but also assessing goals and helping him cope with the stress and anxiety that comes with living with a serious diagnosis. “The uncertainty can be terrifying at times, but that’s what I’m working through, and that’s what these incredible people have helped me to do,” says Daniel. | 17

Northeast Georgia Health System Set for

BIG FUTURE IN LUMPKIN COUNTY When Chestatee Regional Hospital closed its doors last summer, the Lumpkin County community was without a hospital for the first time in 42 years. But today, the future of healthcare in the area is bright. That’s because last month, Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) announced plans to offer hospital services at the former home of Chestatee Regional Hospital later this year and begin developing a new replacement hospital along Georgia 400 in Lumpkin County, tentatively scheduled to open in 2022. “We’re thrilled to share this exciting news, which ensures people in and around Lumpkin County will have local access to the high-quality health care they need for generations to come,” says Carol Burrell, president and CEO of NGHS. “We appreciate the patience of the community as we’ve worked to create solutions that are high-quality, sustainable and deliver on our mission to improve the health of the community in all we do.” The NGHS team has already started working to open an emergency department – along with inpatient beds, imaging equipment and other services – in July 2019 at the existing building that was once Chestatee Regional Hospital. The facility will be called Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) Lumpkin. Complete emergency services will be provided 24/7/365 by the same group of physicians that care for emergency patients at all NGMC hospitals.

While offering services at the existing hospital site will preserve the Certificate of Need authority to operate a hospital in Lumpkin County and meet the short-term needs of the community, planning has also begun for a new hospital facility to sit on 57 acres NGHS already owns along Georgia 400, near the intersection with Highway 60. It is expected to provide emergency services, inpatient medical/surgical care, imaging services and a focus on outpatient surgery. “When we recently interviewed and surveyed people in the Lumpkin County area, the overwhelming majority told us three things – they need an emergency room, they want a new hospital that meets the needs of the community, and they trust and prefer NGHS to care for them,” says Louis Smith, president of Acute and Post-Acute Operations for NGHS. “We heard them, and we intend to deliver on all three counts.” The number of beds and operating rooms at the new hospital will be determined during the planning process, which will also explore innovative ways to deliver care.

While NGHS prepares to offer emergency department and other services in the former home of Chestatee Regional Hospital in July 2019, Lumpkin County residents can rest assured NGHS has taken steps to ensure quality health services in the area. This includes: EXTENDING HOURS at Northeast Georgia Physicians Group Urgent Care in Dahlonega from 8 a.m. to midnight, seven days a week.

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PROVIDING STAFF for Lumpkin County Emergency Medical Services (EMS), including loaning two paramedics for a three-month period – allowing Lumpkin County EMS to put another ambulance into service.

AIDING THE COMMUNITY HELPING PLACE, a non-profit entity dedicated to providing care for indigent patients, by providing additional funding and medical supplies.

19 9 NGMC Lumpkin Opening July 2019

19 115 NGPG Urgent Care Dahlonega 60


Future Site Opening 2022

NGMC Barrow continues enhancements with patients in mind Just two years ago, Barrow Regional Medical Center became Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) Barrow, joining the Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) family as the System’s third hospital serving patients in Northeast Georgia. After a successful first year, the hospital and its leadership team kicked off year two by listening to feedback from the community and building on its success. “Our second year was just as impressive as the first,” says NGMC Barrow president Chad Hatfield. “We continued to add healthcare providers to our medical team and strive toward our goal of providing high-quality healthcare services right here in Barrow County.” Among NGMC Barrow’s many achievements during 2018, the biggest strides came in the emergency department. Beginning last spring, NGMC Barrow’s emergency department hired 18 new staff members – something that’s making a critical difference in the lives of people in the community. “Patients have been extremely pleased with the care they’re receiving in our emergency department,” says Chad. “They’re receiving better, compassionate care, and wait times have been cut in half.” What’s more, NGMC Barrow’s nursing staff in the emergency department is more robust than ever. The team has reduced the length of stay for less urgent patients from 132 to 75 minutes and enables patients to immediately see a nurse upon arrival. The new staff features a veteran group of 14 nurses with an average of almost 10 years of experience. “There are many urgent care centers that can’t see patients in two hours or less, and we’re doing it in the emergency department,” Chad says. “We’ve done so well that we’ve received requests to speak at national gatherings about how we’ve been able to be so efficient, yet thorough.” The accomplishments don’t end there, though. Thanks to NGMC Barrow’s advancement in several areas of stroke care in 2018, the hospital was designated a Remote Treatment Stroke Center in early 2019 by the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Office of EMS and Trauma.

NGMC Barrow is a district level Partner in Education (PIE) with Barrow County Schools (BCS), covering the medical supply needs of all 18 nurse’s clinics. NGMC is also partnering with BCS to implement “Tar Wars,” an education program that promotes an anti-smoking message to all fourth and fifth grade students in an effort to battle high rates of lung cancer.

“This is another great example of how we’re working to improve the health of our community and provide life-saving care here for Barrow and surrounding counties,” Chad says. “This designation recognizes NGMC Barrow’s focus on everything from rapid screening, diagnosis and treatment for patients experiencing acute stroke – as well as prevention measures.” When it comes to renovations and equipment improvements, patients at NGMC Barrow are enjoying the hospital cafeteria’s new look and menu choices. From new fixtures and furniture to made-to-order omelets and a yogurt bar, the cafeteria is a point of pride. As NGMC Barrow begins 2019, Chad says the hospital will continue the course. “We’ve already added state-of-the-art medical equipment, including a 3-D mammography machine, and will continue to enhance patient care and increase staff,” Chad says. “It’s all part of a campus-wide initiative to provide the very best in what a community hospital has to offer, while working to implement programs important to area residents.” Visit to learn what's new! | 19


Because you care to protect

WHAT MATTERS MOST Marketplace benefits Safe Kids Gainesville | Hall County

Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death among children and teens in the U.S.? Safe Kids Worldwide and our local chapter, Safe Kids Gainesville | Hall County, are working to change that, and Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) offered additional support. Marketplace, the annual holiday shopping extravaganza presented by the Medical Center Auxiliary, made a difference in 2018 by donating all proceeds from Marketplace to Safe Kids Gainesville | Hall County. Our community is fortunate to have many volunteers, sponsors, merchants, event organizers and shoppers who work together to make Marketplace a reality. “Every year, I am honored to be part of something that’s so meaningful to local families,” says Bob Willis, president and CEO of Willis Investment Counsel. “Partnering with the Auxiliary for the past decade has truly been our privilege, and we look forward to sponsoring Marketplace again in 2019.” Through this fundraiser, Safe Kids Gainesville | Hall County serves a large number of people. In addition to a variety of education and outreach efforts, Safe Kids distributes smoke detectors, car seats, life jackets, helmets and carbon monoxide detectors to communities. In 2018, it launched a suicide prevention program with Gainesville City and Hall County Schools – a program that could not have come at a more critical time. “Mental health issues and suicide are increasingly becoming larger public health issues,” says Steve

McDaniel, director of Student Services for Hall County Schools. “The need for mental and behavioral health support in our community has increased dramatically in recent years.” What’s more, behavioral health concerns ranked as a top-five priority in Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s most recent Community Health Needs Assessment. A statewide survey revealed that approximately five percent of 6th to 12th grade students in Gainesville City and Hall County schools reported at least one suicide attempt in the previous 12 months. “We can’t ignore this,” says Sarah Bell, deputy superintendent for Gainesville City Schools. “That is why our school system has made a commitment to putting these issues at the forefront of our work.” To learn how you can join the fight and help protect what matters most, contact Erin Green to become a Safe Kids volunteer at 770-219-8095 or visit SAFE KIDS WORLDWIDE

Safe Kids Worldwide is a nonprofit organization that works with families and community organizations to keep kids safe from injuries. With a far-reaching network of more than 400 coalitions around the globe, Safe Kids focuses on reducing traffic injuries, drownings, falls, burns, poisonings and more. Since its founding in 1988, the organization has helped reduce the U.S. childhood death rate from unintentional injury by 57 percent.

Thank you to everyone who participated in Marketplace 2018! $201,598 was donated directly to the life-saving efforts of Safe Kids Gainesville | Hall County.

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2019 MEDICAL CENTER OPEN TO SUPPORT MENTAL HEALTH Given the mental health needs in the area, The Medical Center Foundation identified a mental health partnership as the beneficiary for the 2019 Medical Center Open. Proceeds from the golf tournament will go toward the creation of a Student Success Center located on the Gainesville High School campus. Open to all Gainesville and Hall County students and families, the center will address student needs, as well as those of the community at large. It will focus on academic and workforce development while increasing access to education about mental and behavioral health support. MENTAL HEALTH BECOMES A COMMUNITY INITIATIVE Last fall, more than 60 stakeholders gathered to identify priorities for community-based solutions. The effort aims to create a variety of mental health services that recognize and treat the needs of people where and when they need care, and destigmatize the need for behavioral health services. The Student Success Center is a giant step forward in realizing this vision.


(front row, left to right) Jenny Floyd, Morgan Wood and Katie Crumley with representatives of Presenting Sponsor Willis Investment Counsel | 21


Because you care to impact

SACRED MOMENTS ''There are not words to truly describe what is in my heart when it comes to the wonderful people at Hospice of NGMC. They have been such a blessing to me and my family and, from what I witnessed at the group's Veterans Remembrance Service, to countless other families, too. Thank you to each of you, and please ensure that your team knows how important and special each one of them is. They are truly one of the most valuable things that NGHS offers as a family deals with one of the most sacred moments in life.'' Sherry Griggs, daughter of a Hospice patient

 Hospice of NGMC focuses on patient comfort and quality of life. 22 |

NGHS GIVES "As a non-profit, community-based organization, this event shows what the Health System is – a place for hope, healing and togetherness." Kathy Lahiry, 2018 Love Light co-chair

BECAUSE YOU CARE TO HONOR LOVED ONES Love Light 2018 donations to benefit Hospice of NGMC totaled more than $168,865. More than $74,835 was donated to The Medical Center Auxiliary, mostly

during the holiday


season, and more than

Love Light co-chairs Dr. Anup and Kathy Lahiry

$94,030 was donated to The Medical Center

Every year, kindhearted individuals donate to Hospice of Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) in honor and memory of loved ones. Many of these tribute gifts arrive throughout the year as families and friends donate money in lieu of flowers when a loved one passes. But, many others arrive throughout the holidays as part of the annual Love Light Tree Lighting celebrations, presented by the Medical Center Auxiliary. These special Tree Lighting ceremonies, celebrated on all three NGMC campuses, recognize all Love Light and Hospice of NGMC donations. They truly illustrate the work of Hospice – a group dedicated to honoring and celebrating the sanctity of life. While there is often sadness with Hospice care, Hospice of NGMC is not focused on loss. Instead, Hospice of NGMC focuses on providing the best empathetic and compassionate end-of-life care to patients and their loved ones.

“It was so special to see the community come together in honor and love,” says Kathy Lahiry, 2018 Love Light co-chair. “As a non-profit, community-based organization, this event shows what the Health System is – a place for hope, healing and togetherness.” The spirit of donating in honor and memory makes much more possible through Hospice than most people realize. It allows the organization to provide more than basic care, offering therapeutic services, counseling and ongoing support not covered by insurance, free of charge.

Foundation throughout the year. One hundred percent of the total raised helps ensure the highest quality of care is provided to Hospice patients and family members.

To donate to Hospice of NGMC year-round, visit

“I know how many lives will be touched by these donations, and I was humbled to be a part of it,” says Dr. Anup Lahiry, 2018 Love Light co-chair and Kathy’s husband. “Helping Hospice of NGMC is really meaningful.” | 23



Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors, volunteers, donors and players, the 27th Annual Medical Center Open at Chicopee Woods Golf Course raised a record $320,000 to help purchase a mobile simulation unit. Soon, this unit will be traveling throughout northeast Georgia bringing advanced medical training to the region.



SAVE THE DATE This year's Medical Center Open will be held October 3, 2019, at Chicopee Woods Golf Course 24 |




What does “passion for excellence” mean to you? For many employees of Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS), it is more than a core value of the system; it is a way of life. In 2018, more than 3,500 employees demonstrated their passion by donating more than $800,000 to The Medical Center Foundation, the fundraising arm of NGHS. Beginning in 2019, the employee giving club of NGHS – called WATCH (We Are Targeting Community Health) – is pleased to fund new programs and services. These powerful changes, funded 100 percent through employee payroll deductions, are designed to help others, improve the patient and visitor experience and lend assistance to fellow employees.


Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC) Gainesville will soon be home to a new Therapeutic Music program. Currently, three certified music practitioners volunteer their time and talent on a limited basis by playing at the bedside of the most critically-ill patients. The results are is tremendous – for both the patient experience and healing process. Through WATCH funding, the program is now transitioning to a formal Therapeutic Music program. When fully implemented, therapeutic music at the bedside is expected to reach 1,800 patients each year. The program will also host special musical performances throughout the hospital, where patient families and staff will also benefit.


NGHS employees have a history of vision, thoughtfulness and excellent ideas. They see opportunities for change that could improve morale and customer service, or make life a little easier for someone else. These opportunities can now be made realities through WATCH Change Grants. The WATCH Change Grants program is a new, system-wide empowerment program that encourages employees to plan a project and submit it to The Medical Center Foundation for funding. Twice a year, donations to WATCH will fund employee created projects designed to help NGHS strive to continually be better tomorrow than we are today.


Another core value of NGHS is “deep interdependence.” WATCH members demonstrate this through their funding of an Employee Emergency Fund (EEF). NGHS’ new EEF is designed to provide immediate, short-term financial relief to employees who unexpectedly experience a catastrophic event that results in an emergency need for necessities. The EEF is intended to provide assistance for unexpected situations such as a fire, flood, earthquake, natural disaster or a prolonged serious illness. | 25

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Profile for Northeast Georgia Health System

Communicare - Spring 2019  

Communicare - Spring 2019