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in good Meet Your Doctor

May 2017 • Issue 31

Cremated Ashes

Bill Hale has logged more than 12,000 hours as a hospitality ambassador at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport since retiring from his job with Catholic Health Systems 11 years ago. He and others talk about why they like to volunteer. See inside

You’ll be surpised by the number of ways you may scatter the cremated remains (ashes) of a loved one — including sending them into space


Why I Work as a Nurse

Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper

Why I Volunteer

Thomas J. Foels, the top doctor at Independent Health, talks about medical reimbursement, consolidation of practices, the role of primary care and why concierge medicine doesn’t provide the benefit that a highperforming practice does

Saltiest Foods May Surprise You


‘Not Tonight’ People who were married or lived together had sex 16 fewer times a year in 20102014 than in 2000-2004, according to a survey by San Diego State University. It shows married couples over age 65 had sex 20 times a year vs. 80 times a year among people in their 20s. page 7

National Nurses Week, May 6–12


Why eat buckwheat? Well, it’s tasty, easy to prepare, inexpensive and — above all — a nutritional powerhouse. It is gluten-free and safe for those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities.


Pedestrian Deaths Surged to Record Levels Partial blame: Widespread smartphone use by walkers, drivers

Americans Are Spending Billions Nipping and Tucking Breast augmentation is the most popular plastic surgery procedures


re Americans actually trying to keep up with the Kardashians — the celebrity family focused on looking good? Maybe, because people are spending more than ever before in the quest to look younger and more attractive. A new report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) found that Americans spent $16 billion on cosmetic plastic surgery and minimally invasive procedures in 2016. The most popular surgical procedures and their national average costs were: • Breast augmentation — more than 290,000 procedures at a cost of about $3,700 each; • Liposuction — about 235,000 procedures at $3,200; • Nose reshaping — 223,000 procedures at $5,000; • Tummy tuck — almost 128,000 procedures at around $5,800; • Buttock augmentation — nearly 19,000 procedures at about $4,400. But what if you’re lacking that Kardashian cash? Are there ways you can boost your looks without emptying your wallet?

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The most popular minimally invasive cosmetic procedures and their national average costs were: • Wrinkle treatment injections (botulinum toxin type-A, or Botox) — 7 million procedures at a cost of $385 each, • Hyaluronic acid fillers — 2 million procedures at $644 each; • Chemical peel — 1.3 million procedures at $673 each; • Microdermabrasion — 775,000 procedures at $138 each; • Laser treatments — more than 650,000 procedures at $433 each. The cost of most procedures went up from 2015 to 2016. The only exception was the national average cost of breast augmentation surgery. This surgery was nearly 3 percent cheaper, the report found. Liposuction costs went up 6 percent, and nose reshaping surgery costs increased by nearly the same percentage. Botox injection costs went up less than 1 percent. Hyaluronic acid and chemical peel costs went up around 5 percent or more, the report said.

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • May 2017

More than 290,000 procedures involving breast augmentation took place in 2016, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. It was the most common procedure for cosmetic surgeons, beating liposuction, nose reshaping and buttock augmentation.

GET FIT Get Informed Exercise in older adults is very important for balance, heart health, muscle strength, blood circulation and more. You can benefit from physical activity even if you already have a condition such as osteoarthritis or heart disease. Being more active may improve your quality of life and can prevent or delay disability.

Partner with Your Provider It’s never too late to start getting active. Your first step toward healthy living is to get a handle on your health status right now. Make an appointment with your primary care physician. Talk to your primary care physician about the exercise plan that is right for you.

Start Now Healthy living isn’t just about your personal habits for diet and activity. It’s also about your connections with other people – your social network. Take a class, volunteer, play games, see old friends or make new ones. Stay social!

New to Medicare? Let WellCare help you live healthier. Jason Hollister, Sales Manager 1-716-846-7900 |

Always talk with your doctor(s) about the care that is right for you. This material does not replace your doctor’s advice. Sources:,, and


WellCare (HMO) is a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in WellCare (HMO) depends on contract renewal. A sales person will be present with information and applications. For accommodation of persons with special needs at sales meetings, call 1-877-MY-WELLCARE (TTY 711). There is no obligation to enroll. Please contact WellCare for details. WellCare complies with applicable Federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex. ATTENTION: If you speak a language other than English, language assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-877-374-4056 (TTY: 711) ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-877-374-4056 (TTY: 711). 注意:如果您使用繁體中文,您可以免費獲得語言援助服務。請致電 1-877-374-4056(TTY:711)。 Y0070_NA029064_WCM_ADF_ENG CMS Accepted 05242015 ©WellCare 2015 NA_03_15 May 2017 •

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper

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Most Remaining U.S. Smokers Are Poor, Less Educated Behavioral health doctor says new interventions are needed to get these people to kick the habit


moking rates in the United States have been falling for decades. Yet, about 15 percent of adults — more than 36 million — continue to smoke cigarettes. And of those smokers, half to three-quarters have at least one of the following disadvantages: low income, no college education, no health insurance or a disability. The findings come from a national survey done in 2012. The data show that smoking is concentrated among the least advantaged Americans, according to the researchers. “In the last half-century, public health efforts helped cut the smoking rate by more than half, but we probably need to change our strategies for helping smokers quit. The methods that worked for the upper half of society don’t seem to be working well for the other half,” said study author Arnold Levinson. He’s an associate professor of community and behavioral health with the University of Colorado Anschutz. “Americans with lower socioeconomic status today are suffering from epidemic smoking rates, and they make up nearly three-fourths of all our remaining smokers,” Levinson said in a university news release. “Now the nation’s public health system has a dual moral obligation toward smokers of low socioeconomic class. We must eliminate the disparity in smoking rates, and we must provide cessation-supporting services to the new majority of smokers,” he concluded.


May 4

Breast Cancer Network offers free seminar The Breast Cancer Network of WNY (BCN) is conducting the first of its planned 10-part educational seminar series at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, May 4, at its facility, 3297 Walden Ave., in Depew. The seminar will feature physician Jennifer Jennings of Cardea Health Integrative who will be speaking about integrative health and medicine. The program is free. Registration is available by calling 716-706-0060 or online at www. BCN, a local nonprofit organization, has scheduled monthly seminars which focus on wellness for breast cancer survivors. A complete list of the Breast Cancer Survivor Wellness Seminar Series can be found at The seminars are a result of a grant BCN received from the New York State Department of Health which promotes support for breast cancer survivors.

May 6

‘Momsgiving taking place at Schofield Care Just in time for Mother’s Day, Schofield Care is hosting “Momsgiving,” an event that will feature crafters, food trucks, door prizes every hour and a spring raffle extravaganza. The event will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, May 6, at Schofield Care, 3333 Elmwood Ave. in the town of Tonawanda. There’s plenty of free parking and three food trucks with items available for purchase. During the event, guests can make a craft to take home for Mother’s Day and purchase tickets to win one or more spring raffle baskets. In addition, the NYS Erie County Sheriff’s Department will offer its free Yellow Dot kit that alerts first responders that vital medical information is stored in the glove

compartment of a car. Proceeds from raffle items benefit the activities department of Schofield Residence and the Schofield Foundation.

May 7

Any questions regarding the hiking club, contact Joe Rizzo at 716-636-5205 or via email at: With over 9,000 members, the Amherst Senior Center is open to anyone 55 years of age or older from anywhere in Western New York. 

May 11

‘Party at the Beech’ to benefit foundation’s auction.

The Bruno Groening Circle of Friends, a nonprofit organization, will present a free screening of the film “The Phenomenon of Health.” It features healing testimonies from around the world from people of all ages and backgrounds, who share their healing experiences from cancer, arthritis, depression and addictions by following the teachings of Bruno Groening (1906-1959), a native of Poland who became a controversial person in Germany, where he was known as a “Miracle Doctor.” The screening will take place at 12:30 and 6:30 p.m., May 7, at Complete Wellness Arts & Science Center, 1515 Kensington Ave., in Buffalo. For more details, visit or www.northamerica.

Grab your flip flops, don your favorite Hawaiian shirt and join the Beechwood/Blocher Foundation auxiliary board for the fifth annual Party at the Beech from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Thursday, May 11 at Beechwood Homes, 2235 Millersport Hwy., in Getzville. The gift-gathering party is to benefit the 2017 Auction and Food Extravaganza, a fundraiser benefiting the foundation’s living care fund. Attendees are asked to bring a gift card for a store or restaurant (minimum $25 value) to be used for auction gifts and baskets. There will be food, wine, beer and desserts from BW’s Smokin’ Barrels Barbecue; Buffalo Wild Wings; Lebro’s Restaurant; Bronco Wines; Flying Bison Brewing Company, Sweet Melody’s and Beechwood’s own kitchen. The public is invited; casual attire is encouraged. Reservations can be made by calling Eileen at 716-810-7371 or via email at elew@

May 8

June 1

Amherst Senior Center starts hiking club

Adult basketball aerobics offered in Buffalo

Screening of film ‘The Phenomenon of Healing’

Looking for a little exercise and some fresh air?  Join the Amherst Senior Center new hiking club, which will hold an outing starting at 10:15 a.m., May 8, at the Lockport Nature Trail located at 6822 Slayton Settlement Road. The first outing of the series took place in April and included hiking in Ellicott Creek Park, which is located at Niagara Falls Boulevard. Those interested in the May event can meet at 9:30 a.m at Amherst Senior Center (370 John James Audubon Parkway in Amherst, behind the Audubon Library) to carpool or meet at 10:15 a.m in the parking lot of Lockport Nature Trail.

Odds2Beat, Inc., a basketball skill development company in Western New York. that offers basketball skill development for all ages, will presents its adult basketball aerobics class starting June 1 at Park School of Buffalo, 4625 Harlem Road, Buffalo. A great way to burn those extra calories and get a great cardiovascular workout through the game of basketball , the classes will involve cutting, running, jumping, squatting and so much more. For more information, visit www.

University Express Kicks Off With An Expanded Series Of Free Classes Nearly 150 free academic classes available and open for registration-


egistration is now open for the spring semester of University Express, a series of 150 academic classes, available at no cost to Western New York residents 55 years and older. Based on the popularity of the program, and increased attendance each year, the Erie County Department of Senior Services, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, Excelsior Orthopaedics, and Wegmans are teaming up again to offer a broader selection of topics to encourage healthy activity and Page 4

lifelong learning for seniors. Up from 100 classes in 2016, the program has expanded this year by 50 to include 150 free, one-hour classes that feature lively discussions, covering more than 60 different topics, including current events, health, science and medicine, the arts, and history. Scheduled instructors include Rick Falkowski, founder of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame and Buffalo Music Awards; Ryan Wilkins, an orthopedic surgeon; and Stephan Lewy, a child survivor of the

Holocaust and lecturer. The University Express spring semester kicked off April 3, and continues throughout the summer at convenient locations throughout Western New York including, the Amherst Senior Center, Baptist Manor in Buffalo, Canterbury Woods in Williamsville, Cheektowaga Senior Center, City of Tonawanda Public Library, Clarence Senior Center, Grand Island Golden Age Center, Hamburg Senior Community Center, Orchard Park Senior Center, Springville-Concord Elder Network,

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • May 2017

and Town of Aurora Senior Center. Individuals can register for a specific class by calling the respective location. The course catalog—which includes all course locations—can be viewed on the Erie County Department of Senior Services website — www2. php?q=university-express-classes. Paper copies are available at all University Express sites, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, Wegmans stores, Excelsior Orthopaedics, and Buffalo and Erie County Public Library branches, or by calling 716-858-7548.

Is NY the Worst Place for Doctors?

Park Creek Senior Living Community Presents


Yes, according to a national survey; local medical society disagrees

Fundraising Event

MAY 21, 2017 1PM - 5PM

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

An Afternoon filled with music, fun & refreshments!


ew York ranks dead last as the most desirable places for doctors to practice, according to a March, 2017 WalletHub report. The study included 14 metrics, such as wage, punitive tendency of the state medical board, annual malpractice liability insurance rate and more. It drew information from the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Council for Community and Economic Research, Health Resources & Services Administration, Projections Central’s State Occupational Projections, WebMD, Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, Public Citizen, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Diederich Healthcare. Christopher Bell, executive director of the Monroe County Medical Society in Rochester, doesn’t take the study very seriously. “Anywhere is a challenging environment to practice medicine,” Bell said. He said that reform or repeal of the Affordable Care Act may or may not help. Regardless, physicians function like small business owners, which “is already very difficult,” he said. “Every small business owner faces struggles.” Bell thinks that patients shouldn’t worry about the quality of their care in light of the WalletHub report. It’s important to look at the listing in context, since many of the lower-ranking states, including New York, include large metropolitan areas that have higher costs of living and denser concentration. They include Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, New Jersey, and District of Columbia. New York’s ranking has to do with many different factors, according to Liz Urbanski Farrell, director, member services and government relations for Western New York Healthcare Association in Tonawanda. “A major factor is the cost of

5 areas of music Throughout the park Creek Facility! Chinese Auction Tickets for the baskets will be avaiable starting April 15th at Park Creek! Tickets at Park Creek $5 Donation Advance Sale or $7 Donation at the Door

For more information contact Jane (716)-632-3000

medical malpractice insurance, which is exceptionally high in New York State for more than a few specialties, as compared to other states,” she said. While the cost of medical malpractice insurance in Upstate ranges between $25,356 and $36,357 annually according to the Medical Liability Monitor’s 2015 survey, the higher rates in Downstate, topping $136,398 in Long Island, skews the statistics. “While physician compensation may look lower in Upstate New York than in other areas, our Western New York hospitals, nursing homes and medical groups in Upstate New York offer a very high quality of life for a comparatively lower cost of housing and living than in Downstate New York or other areas of the country,” Farrell said. She said that her organization’s hospital members tailor packages that oftentimes pays for their medical malpractice insurance, provides their preferred scheduling, and assistance with personal elements of moving to the area, such as helping the physician’s family with finding work and touring schools. “We greatly appreciate our physicians in Western New York and look forward to having more physicians look beyond words and numbers on a website to the communities where they and their families can have an excellent quality of life,” Farrell said.

Practicing in New York State

All proceeds go toward Park Creek Senior Living Community & The Alzheimer’s Association WNY

Park Creen Senior Living Community 410 Mill Street Williamsville, NY 14221

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According to WalletHub, here’s how New York ranked. (1=Best, 25=Average).


Average Annual Wage of Physicians (Adjusted for Cost of Living)


Average Monthly Starting Salary of Physicians (Adjusted for Cost of Living)

Owner & Weight Loss Coach


Hospitals per Capita


Projected % of Population Aged 65 & Older by 2030

46th Inside

Projected Number of Physicians per Capita by 2024


Punitiveness of State Medical Board


Malpractice Award Payout Amount per Capita


Annual Malpractice Liability Insurance Rate

For the full report, please visit:

(716) 320-1515

1515 Kensington Ave. Buffalo NY 14215 May 2017 •

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper

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Your Doctor

By Chris Motola

Thomas J. Foels, M.D. Top doctor at Independent Health on medical reimbursement, consolidation of practices, the role of primary care and why concierge medicine doesn’t provide the benefit that a high-performing practice does Q: Give us an overview of your position. A: I’m currently the chief medical officer at Independent Health. I oversee a number of things. I oversee our healthcare services department, which reviews medical policy, appropriateness of care. It also includes our case management department. These are individuals who work very closely with complex patients either residing in the community or transitioning from the hospital. They make sure all those transitions go smoothly. The other area I oversee is our pharmacy department. That also involves overview of policy, approval of new drugs, creation of our formulary. The pharmacy department also has case managers who outreach to individuals who are on multiple courses of medication. So we’ll try to make sure they aren’t on medications that conflict or react in adverse ways. The other area I oversee is our medical directors, who support both of those other sides. I also work with the physician community to help with delivery of care. Specifically, we’re working with the primary

care community to transform how they do care within their office and between offices. So I’ve been spearheading that effort. Q: Tell us about the testimony you gave to Congress a few years ago. A: I was invited to speak to the House Subcommittee on Energy and Commerce. They were debating whether to make major changes to how Medicare reimburses physicians. They wanted to move away from the fee-for-service model toward one that pays for value. So I gave testimony as to how Independent Health in particular spearheaded some very successful programs that rewarded quality, lower costs and better outcomes. Subsequent to those meetings, Congress voted in a bipartisan way — rare these days — to support a new program for Medicare payments that went into effect April 2016. It maps out an entirely different form for Medicare payments and physicians for the next 10 years.

So the testimony figured in their comfort with the idea that you could accurately measure and track quality, and the idea that physicians would respond to it in a proactive way. It was a really interesting opportunity. A lot of what we had talked about and had been working on made its way into the legislation. Q: So is it similar to the changes that are in the ACA with regard to reimbursement? A: Yes. The general and more global idea is a move toward valuebased payments. Private insurers, especially regional ones like us, have been working on those models for quite some time, which is why we were called on to testify. The government wanted to catch up with what experimenters had been playing around with volunteering providers. Q: What, in general, do you see as the role of private insurance in shaping policy? A: Health plans have had a history of being innovative, especially a plan like ours that has strong ties to its communities. Local physicians actually had a lot of input into the design of the plans, so it’s more of a bottom-up than top-down approach. It’s a combination of what we agree to prioritize and we feel we can be most effective in enacting. There’s a lot you can do with payments. The federal government looks to plans like ours because they have to make plans that work across all geographies and communities, which is a much more daunting task. It helps them to have an idea of what works and doesn’t work from smaller operations. Q: Does this tend to lead toward consolidation of practices? A: The movement toward alternative payment carries certain burdens. Tracking responsibilities, delegation of work within practices. That can be quite burdensome. What we’re finding though is that when these consolidations occur, the result isn’t what you’d expect. They have difficulty improving quality and tend to inflate cost. As consolidations occur through employment contracts, we’re finding it’s kind of a cobbled together network where physicians who are paid by salary are actually

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IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • May 2017

kind of removed from the goals of the payment model. We’re a strong proponent of independent practice and are trying to make it easier for physicians to maintain private practices. There are advantages to keeping hospitals and specialists downstream, because we can provide primary care physicians information about quality of care, outcomes and costs associated with them. It keeps the downstream entities competitive and incentivized to improve. Consolidated systems seem to be struggling with this as more data becomes available. Q: What is concierge care? A: Concierge medicine is an offshoot to primary care. It’s a niche that hasn’t really grown much. It requires members to make a large annual retainer fee for a one-to-one relationship with a physician. It’s a way for a practicing physician to decrease their patient panel. It’s not a scalable model since very few people can afford it. It exacerbates economic disparity issues. The second issue is that it doesn’t provide the benefit that a high-performing practice can. The benefit of the model we’re promoting is primary care-led, but it’s a team approach with nurses and pharmacists and therapists. As patients get increasingly complex, a team with a lot of core competencies can be a much more robust model than concierge care, which might look attractive to physicians on the surface.

Lifelines Name: Thomas James Foels, M.D. Position: Chief medical officer at Independent Health Hometown: Buffalo, NY Education: Tulane University (master’s degree in medical management); University of Rochester (medical degree); Canisius College (bachelor’s degree). Completed his residency program in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Buffalo Career: Joined Independent Health in 1994. Was previously in private practice as a pediatrician, and founded Western New York’s two largest pediatric group practices: Williamsville Pediatric Center and Tonawanda Pediatrics Highlight: In 2013, was invited to provide testimony at a hearing of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Subcommittee on Health in Washington, D.C. to discuss reforms to the Medicare physician payment system. Several of the points discussed were later incorporated into legislation. Organizations: Serves on the board of directors for the Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP) where he is the cochairmen for the Chief Medical Officers national forum. Serves on the national board of directors at the American Cancer Society (Eastern Division), and Evergreen Health Services of WNY (formerly AIDS Community Services of WNY). Also serves on the medical advisory committee for the American Diabetes Association, was co-chairman of the WNY Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Walk to Cure Diabetes, and is a board member at Asthma Partnership of New York Family: Married, one daughter, one granddaughter Hobbies: Cycling, running marathons

‘Not Tonight’

Biggest drop in sexual activity seen for those married or living together, survey finds “Not tonight” seems to be an increasingly familiar refrain in America’s bedrooms, according to a new study that found people are having less sex than they previously did. Researchers surveyed more than 26,000 Americans, and found that adults had sex about nine fewer times a year in 2010-2014 than in 1995-1999. For married couples, the survey had even more potentially discouraging news — people who were married or lived together had sex 16 fewer times a year in 20102014 than in 2000-2004. “These data show a major reversal from previous decades in terms of marriage and sex,” said study author Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University. “In the 1990s, married people

a year. And, at 65, that number is just 20 times a year. Each year after the peak of sexual frequency at 25, sexual activity decreases about 3 percent. “Older and married people are having sex less often — especially after 2000,” Twenge said. “In a previous paper, we found that the happiness of adults over age 30 declined between 2000 and 2014. With less sex and less happiness,

it’s no wonder that American adults seem deeply dissatisfied these days.” People might be quick to blame increased working hours. Surprisingly, the study found that people who worked more hours actually had sex more often. The findings were published March 7 in the Archives of Sexual Behavior.

had sex more times per year than never-married people, but by the mid-2000s that reversed, with the never-married having more sex,” she said in a university news release. And here’is another twist: younger Americans are having less sex than their parents or grandparents did when they were younger. “Despite their reputation for hooking up, millennials and the generation after them [known as iGen or Generation Z] are actually having sex less often than their parents and grandparents did when they were young,” Twenge said. “That’s partially because fewer iGen’ers and millennials have steady partners.” The researchers also found that age is a major factor. People in their 20s have sex more than 80 times a year. By age 45, that falls to 60 times

Healthcare in a Minute By George W. Chapman

Trumpcare —“Take 2”

There were 60 attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) while its namesake was president. The first attempt to repeal and replace the politically charged ACA under President Trump has failed. The Freedom Caucus of the Republican Party refused to cooperate with the president and replace the ACA with the American Health Care Act — call it TrumpCare — because they felt there were too many components of ObamaCare leftover in TrumpCare. So, a second attempt (take 2) to repeal ObamaCare and roll out TrumpCare is forthcoming. If the Freedom Caucus gets its way, states would be allowed to opt out of the ACA’s most important features. The first being requiring insurers to cover 10 essential benefits including: drugs, mental health, hospitalization and maternity care. The second being the prohibition of charging higher premiums to those at higher risk of getting sick. If insurers can charge the sick and injured more, then the guarantee of covering preexisting conditions (which Trump favors) is moot because the sick and injured won’t be able to afford the probably exorbitant premiums. Moderate Republicans will most likely be opposed to removing these important features of the ACA from TrumpCare: take 2.

ObamaCare 2017

Until it is repealed, the ACA remains law of the land and Americans are changing their tune about the ACA. A recent Gallop poll shows 55 percent of us approve of the ACA. That is up 13 points from survey taken before the election. A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds 75 percent of us prefer we keep the ACA but continue to make it better. The biggest criticism of the ACA is insurers

are exiting, leaving only one insurer in some markets. Congress can easily stabilize the insurance markets and draw insurers back in by continuing to subsidize the premiums and waive some of the deductibles and copayments of those who qualify based on income. Under section 1402 of the ACA, the government is required to reimburse insurers for the cost of these subsidies. This impacts the 7 million of us who purchase insurance on the exchanges. However, last year a district court enjoined HHS from continuing to reimburse the insurers. So, fearing they will be left holding the bag, insurers naturally fled the markets. Congress can also support/fix the ACA by negotiating process for drugs. Other countries pay 40 percent less than we do for the same drugs. If Congress could lower drug prices 40 percent, that would cut premiums about 8 percent.

Psychiatrist Shortage

Two thirds of primary care physicians report having trouble arranging for psychiatric services for their patients. It often takes three to six months to get in and it is far worse in rural America vs. urban. There are about 40,000 practicing psychiatrists in the U.S. or one per 8,000 people. Fifty percent of psychiatrists are over 50. Other than revamping how they are paid, (typically 45-60 minute increments) there needs to be much better integration of “step child” psychiatric and mental health services into developing hospital systems. Twenty percent of Americans have some sort of mental health disorder.

Healthcare Spending

The office of the actuary for Medicare projects total healthcare spending in the US will average 5.6 percent growth per year between now and 2025. The total gross domestic product for the US is expected

to grow at 4.4 percent a year. By 2025, healthcare will account for a staggering 20 percent of the nation’s total GDP. The projection is based on current healthcare law and does not speculate on growth should the ACA be amended or repealed and replaced altogether.

Urgent Care Facts

More and more consumers are ignoring/avoiding their primary care physician in favor of free standing urgent care centers. There are about 7,400 urgent care centers in the US and that number continues to grow. That’s up from 6,700 centers in 2015. According to their trade association, 92 percent of the centers had an average waiting time of 30 minutes or less. Twenty-seven percent of us visited an urgent care center in the last two years. The most common diagnoses were: acute upper respiratory infection, acute sinusitis, acute pharyngitis and cough/acute bronchitis. All could have been taken care of by their primary care provider. Most users of urgent care centers claim they could not get a timely appointment from their regular provider.

Daily Hospital Cost

Based on information from the 2015 American Hospital Association survey, the Kaiser Family Foundation has compiled a list of daily inpatient costs for nonprofit hospitals by state. The national daily average is $2,413. The five states with the lowest costs per day are: Alabama, $1,664; Arkansas, $1,649; Iowa, $1,481; Mississippi, $1,391; and Montana, $1,280. The five states with the highest costs are: Idaho, $3,241; Massachusetts, $2,965; Oregon, $3,397; Washington, $3,592; and Colorado, $2,922. New York is just above the national average at $2,456. The US spent $3.4 trillion on health care in 2016: $1.1 trillion or 32 percent inpatient; $638 billion or 5 percent on

May 2017 •

physician services and $348 billion on drugs.

Pomco Sold

The East Syracuse based third party administrator (pays and manages claims for self-insured employers) was sold to United Healthcare. Pomco employs approximately 400. While Pomco is not an insurance company per se, the acquisition by United further reduces competition/choice in the market.

Overall MD shortage

There have been numerous predictions of a worsening physician shortage. Recently, the Association of American Medical Colleges projected the shortage to be anywhere between 40,000 and 103,000 by 2030. Most predictions do not account for the impact of physician assistants, nurse practitioners, advanced technology and miracle drugs, telemedicine, and significantly reduced times for major operations, consumerism, etc. Physicians are not fighting the battle alone. The dire predictions are also based on past and present fee for service reimbursement which rewards pure volume of services resulting in unnecessary utilization. Demand for services tends to decrease as insurance deductibles and co-pays increase. George W. Chapman is a healthcare business consultant who works exclusively with physicians, hospitals and healthcare organizations. He operates GW Chapman Consulting based in Syracuse. Email him at gwc@

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper

Page 7

Live Alone & Thrive

By Gwenn Voelckers

Practical tips, advice and hope for those who live alone

Dreams Dashed: Finding Your ‘Happily-ever-after’ On Your Own


met Lauren several years ago, when she attended one of my “Live Alone and Thrive” workshops. Below, she plaintively recalls the raw feelings she experienced following her divorce:

marriage of many years unravel is not unlike becoming the victim of an unwelcome catastrophe. No matter what, and even though more Americans are waiting longer to walk down the aisle, most of us still hold on to the dream of “happily ever after.” That dream is powerful. Letting go of it can seem next to impossible. While getting and being divorced can feel overwhelming, most women and men press on and, lo and behold, experience a change in attitude and perspective that ultimately enriches their lives and opens up possibilities — possibilities they couldn’t imagine when they were in pain and the throes of loss. Lauren continued:

“I opted to end my unhappy marriage and initiate a divorce about five years ago. Since then, I’ve been on my own. It wasn’t easy back then. I was surprised to discover that many married friends no longer wanted me around, fearing I might be interested in their husbands. Plus, I made my daughter the singular focus in my life, and lost contact with people. Over time, I developed the attitude that I had nothing to offer and slid into a very deep rut. Finances were another issue. I had stayed home to take care of my daughter but, after my split, found it necessary to get a job to make ends meet.” - Lauren Lauren, like many divorced men and women, found herself bewildered and fearful of the future after her marriage ended. For many, the experience of having a

“It’s taken me a long time to get it together. I went back to college and graduated with an advanced degree in nursing. It keeps me busy, but now my only child is preparing to leave for college. Life will be very different (and a lot quieter) without her here, so I am being proactive. I’m running, I joined a rowing club, and I’m an active member

of Meetup, the online social networking program that gives members a chance to find and join others who share common interests — things such as hiking, reading, food, movies, pets, photography, hobbies ...well, you get the idea. I also make a point of getting out more with my colleagues at work. And, I’m no longer waiting for an invitation; I’m initiating the get-togethers. That feels good! Attending Gwenn’s Living Alone workshop was the jump-start I needed to get moving. Listening to others made me realize that we were all struggling with the same issues. I no longer felt so alone and benefited from hearing how others dealt with similar problems.  When the workshop was over, I made several small, but meaningful changes at home. I now create a nice place setting for dinner, indulged my long-standing desire for flat screen TV, and put fresh flowers in my foyer to welcome me home. I cleaned up my ever-present junk pile on the kitchen counter and made myself a quiet reading corner in my bedroom. These small changes made the house much more of a home, rather than simply a house.” While few women and men consciously decide to live singly, more and more are finding themselves on their own in midlife. The good news? Like Lauren, they are making healthy choices and learning to like it. While she acknowledges that there are tradeoffs to being single, she has created a life that meets her needs and supports her new dreams. “After my divorce, I had this dreaded thought that I would be alone for the rest of my life. I identified with Whistler’s

KIDS Corner 1 in 3 Teens With Autism Licensed to Drive, Study Finds Pediatricians suggest discussing adolescent’s capabilities with doctor first


any teens with autism want to hit the open road on their own, and new research shows that about one-third are following through on those dreams and getting a driver’s license. “We know that driving can increase mobility and independence for adolescents with ASD [autism spectrum disorder], but little was known about their rates of licensure,” said study principal investigator Allison Curry. She’s a senior scientist at the Children’s Hospital Page 8

of Philadelphia’s Center for Injury Research and Prevention. “Our results indicate that a substantial proportion of adolescents with ASD do get licensed, and support is needed to help families make the decision whether or not to drive before these adolescents become eligible for a learner’s permit,” she added in a hospital news release. For the study, researchers reviewed data on New Jersey teens. The investigators found that one

Mother, in a dowdy dress and rocker. I now realize that just because I choose to live alone does not mean that I am alone: I have many people around me, and I am very content. I am no longer frantically seeking the next relationship or the next big thing that will cause excitement in my life. I am happy to spend time at home alone, or to go out with friends. I even date from time to time. As I’ve discovered my contentedness, I have also realized that I am responsible for the positive changes in my life. That realization is empowering. I’m active, and I’m having fun for the first time in many years.” On her own, Lauren has fashioned a life that works well for her. You can, too. Being single can give you the time you need to sustain a diverse and interesting network of friends, to date, to pursue your professional or personal aspirations, and to experience adventures yet to be imagined. Some final words from Lauren: “My advice? Don’t close yourself off from people. It’s so easy to stay home, dig a rut and furnish it — but that’s a big mistake. Grab the weekend section of the newspaper and pick out something to do. Go ... even if you have to go alone. Who knows what you might discover?!” Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of “Live Alone and Thrive,” empowerment workshops for women held throughout the year in Mendon, NY. For information or to contact Voelckers, call 585-6247887 or email: gvoelckers@rochester.

Photo -- teen driving ThinkstockPhotos-AA010760

in three teens with autism but no intellectual disability obtained an intermediate driver’s license. Most did so when they were 17 years old. Nearly 82 percent of teens with autism who obtained a learner’s permit received their intermediate license within one year. For teens without autism, the rate was 94 percent. Within 24 months of getting a permit, the rates were nearly 90 percent for kids with autism and 98 percent for those without the disorder. An intermediate license permits drivers to travel with restrictions. These rules vary by state, but usually include driving curfews and regulations on the age and number of passengers. “For teens on the autism spectrum, the decision to pursue a driver’s license is one of several milestones that other families might take for granted,” study co-author Benjamin Yerys said. He’s a scientist at the hospital’s Center for Autism

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • May 2017

Research. “Independent means of transportation contributes to other long-term opportunities, such as post-high school education or employment, and being socially involved and connected within their community,” he said. But Yerys pointed out that “ASD can affect decision-making, information processing and attention to varying degrees.” Yerys said experts need to understand what resources, specialized instruction, and other support might help teens with ASD who want to drive. Study co-author Dr. Patty Huang suggested that parents of teens with autism spectrum disorders should talk to their child’s doctor about any concerns, such as attention issues, that might interfere with driving ability. She’s a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at the Philadelphia hopsital.

The Phenomenon of Healing

Participants in last year’s AIDS Walk, sponsored by Evergreen Health. Organizers are hoping to attract more than 600 walkers to raise at least $90,000

Free film screening

Healing testimonies from around the world; people of all ages and backgrounds, nationalities and religions share their healing from cancer, arthritis, serious depression and addictions by following the teachings of Bruno Groening (1906-1959)

May 7, 2017 -12 :30-6 :30 PM (2 breaks) Complete Wellness Arts & Science Center, 1515 Kensington Ave, 14215 For Rochester, NY: June 10 (see link below) Donations welcome! For more details:

AIDS Walk: May 6

Change Two Lives... Yours and a Child’s

Fight Against HIV/AIDS Continues: ‘Keep Walking, Keep Talking’ By Tim Fenster


e have come a long way since Evergreen Health held its first-ever AIDS Walk in Buffalo in 1992. At the time, the HIV/AIDS epidemic was at its height. More than 70,000 Americans were being diagnosed with the immunodeficiency virus every year, and more than 40,000 were dying in a given year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the quarter-century since, rates of HIV/AIDS diagnosis have dropped by more than half. And more significantly, treatment has improved vastly. While nearly 40,000 are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS a year in the U.S., only 6,721 people died from the diseases in 2014, according to the CDC. But with that progress has come an unintended, if predictable, sideeffect — the diseases receive much less attention, as public concerns turn to more recent public health crises, such as opioid addiction or Ebola. “An HIV diagnosis is no longer the death sentence it used to be,” said Rob Baird, director of fundraising and events for Evergreen Health. “But it’s something we need to keep talking about.” That’s why, for the AIDS Walk’s 25th year, organizers have adopted the theme/slogan, “Keep Walking, Keep Talking.” Baird said that while attitudes toward AIDS and LGBT populations have improved greatly over the past two and a half decades, there is still a strong stigma attached to the disease. He hopes that with more conversation and advocacy, they can chip away at those prejudicial attitudes. “Back then there was a lot of fear, a lot of misinformation. There’s still a lot of stigma,” said Baird, adding that many HIV/AIDS patients are afraid to disclose their diagnosis even to their doctors.  “I think there has been a lot of progress, but we still have a long way to go,” he added. For the AIDS Walk, which is set for 9 a.m., May 6, Baird and other organizers are hoping to bring out more than 600 walkers and raise at least $90,000. Last year Evergreen saw similar attendance and raised $100,000; so the goal is to beat last year’s numbers.

That funding will go toward Evergreen Health’s efforts to eradicate HIV/AIDS in the Buffalo and Western New York. A nonprofit, multi-agency service group, Evergreen Health prides itself on its open and inclusive attitudes. Many of their patients — particularly those with HIV/AIDS — have issues with poverty, addiction and homelessness, and Evergreen makes efforts to let these populations know that they will be welcomed there. They offer free-HIV/AIDS testing, a harm reduction center with a clean-needle exchange, a wellness center where patients can talk openly of their struggles with disease or social isolation, and care coordination, to help connect impoverished patients with doctors, health care and social services. “While this isn’t typical of people with HIV, a lot of our clients have other issues, [such as] homelessness or addiction,” Baird said. Evergreen Health also operates a mobile HIV/AIDS testing service, conduct community outreach, distribute free condoms and encourage high-risk populations (men who have sex with men, intravenous drug-users and African Americans) to take PrEP— a medication that’s more than 95 percent effective in preventing HIV/ AIDS infection. “We try and do a holistic approach to healthcare,” Baird said. For the AIDS Walk, participants walk five kilometers and end at Hoyt Lake. Music will provided by the Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus, and the event will be capped with a moment of remembrance for those who have died from HIV/AIDS. Baird said many of the walkers are themselves battling HIV/AIDS, and many have lost loved ones to the disease.  “It’s really a special moment in the day. All the craziness stops and everybody takes a moment to reflect,” he said. “There’s quite a few people for whom the walk is a very personal experience.” For more information about the AIDS Walk, search for “AIDS Walk Buffalo 2017” on Facebook. To learn more about Evergreen Health, visit May 2017 •

Become a Foster Parent Today

Visit us at or call (716) 862-4212 to learn how you can be a hero in a child’s life

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper

Page 9

National Nurses Week, May 6–12

Why Work as a Nurse? By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant


ursing is a field brimming with opportunities and challenges. Though to many outside nursing, it may seem more of the latter, many of those called to nursing find it personally rewarding. Laurie Laugeman, a registered nurse, received her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2013. She is the chapter leader of the Western New York Chapter of American Holistic Nursing Association ( She said her mother inspired her to become a nurse. “I learned a lot about nursing from hearing her stories,” Laugeman siad. She wasn’t sure about becoming a nurse until she gained experience in the Army Reserves as a medic. She realized that making connections with people is what nursing is all about. “I have my heart in nursing for the care and compassion I can provide and ability to make a difference in people’s lives,” Laugeman said. She works at an area hospital on a medical unit. Laugeman said she is pleased with the many positive aspects of the increased technology in health care; however, documenting in the electronic medical records (EMRs) can be time consuming. She stays positive throughout her day by being mindful and present with each patient interaction and supportive colleagues. She also enjoys networking with other nurses, such as at the American Holistic Nurses National Conference. In June 2018, the conference will be held in Niagara Falls. Compassion for others also drew Renee Peterangelo, a registered nurse into nursing. She works at Cardea

Health Integrative in Buffalo. A lot has changed since she started nursing in the early 1990s. “You had more time with patients and now it’s systembased,” she said. “You have procedures and Coles expectations that the health care systems want you to do. You lose connections with patients.” She views the emerging community health movement as a way to re-engage with patients. She doesn’t view herself as ever having a bad day. “My patients need me,” she said. “I can be there for them. It’s not about my bad day, but their bad day, their bad time. I don’t have Peterangelo it as bad as they do.” Tiffany Coles earned a master’s in nursing and is working on her PhD. She works at Sisters of Charity Hospital and teaches at Trocaire College and UB. She began nursing

Beyond the RN: Furthering Your Education By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant


ome registered nurses view furthering their education as a means of opening doors of opportunity such as working in an area of particular interest, commanding a higher salary and increasing their skill set. Tiffany Coles, who passed her RN board exam and began nursing in 2009, quickly realized that she wanted to learn more, not just for advancing her career, but also to help her develop her ability to educate patients and other caregivers. She earned her bachelor’s and then master’s degree. “I enjoy taking care of patients and educating them on the importance of health,” Coles said. Page 10

She wants to impress upon patients the value of taking charge of their own health to prevent health problems down the road. Coles works as a nurse at Sisters of Charity Hospital, and also teaches at Trocaire College and UB. She believes furthering a nurse’s education can broaden the health care roles the nurse can undertake. “It’s amazing the amount of things you can do as a nurse,” she said. “Complete at least a bachelor of science in nursing after the RN. For most of the other opportunities, you need at least a BSN.” The opportunities for nurses are so vast — including hands-on, administrative and educational — that some nurses may find it difficult

in 2009 because she enjoyed patient care and educating them on the importance of health. “I think we have gotten away from the patients, she said, echoing Peterangelo and Laugeman. “It’s become more of a business.”

She wishes she had more time to “actually be a nurse. The tasks related to time are insurmountable.” She de-stresses by talking with other nurses about strategies to improve healthcare and knowing they understand her daily struggles.

Nursing at a Glance • “Nursing is the nation’s largest health care profession, with more than 3.1 million registered nurses nationwide. Of all licensed RNs, 2.6 million or 84.8 precent are employed in nursing. • “Registered nurses comprise one of the largest segments of the US workforce as a whole and are among the highest paying large occupations. Nearly 58 percent of RNs worked in general medical and surgical hospitals, where RN salaries averaged $66,700 per year. RNs comprised the largest segment of professionals working in the healthcare industry. • “Nurses comprise the largest single component of hospital staff, are the primary providers of hospital patient care, and deliver most of the nation’s long-term care. • “Most healthcare services involve some form of care by nurses. In 1980, 66 percent of all employed RNs worked in hospitals. By 2008, that number had declined slightly to 62.2 percent, as more health care moved to sites beyond the hospital and nurses increased their ranks in a wide range of other settings, including private practices, health maintenance organizations, public health agencies, primary care clinics, home health care, nursing homes, outpatient surgi-centers, nursing-school-operated nursing centers, insurance and managed care companies, schools, mental health agencies, hospices, the military, industry, nursing education, and health care research. • “Though often working collaboratively, nursing does not “assist” medicine or other fields. Nursing operates independent of, not auxiliary to, medicine and other disciplines. Nurses’ roles range from direct patient care and case management to establishing nursing practice standards, developing quality assurance procedures, and directing complex nursing care systems.” Source: American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

to choose a specialty to pursue. For these, Coles recommended shadowing other nurses and interning in different positions to discover what stokes a particular nurse’s passion. For example, she shadowed in the operating room and found she preferred her current specialty, cardiac/neurology. “Most hospitals will allow you to explore other things,” she said. “If you don’t like it, you don’t like it.” Some teaching hospitals will at least partially reimburse RNs who further their education, usually with stipulations about working in their health system for a specified length of time. Nurses can also pursue online degrees for some career paths so they can continue working while they learn. Laurie Laugeman became an RN in 2008 and completed her bachelor’s degree in nursing in 2013. She continued her education and became board certified in holistic nursing, which focuses on good self-care for nurses and whole being health for patients, not just treating their

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • May 2017

disease process. “Holistic nursing is that opportunity to bring in modalities that have been around a long time,” Laugeman said. That could include guided imagery, mindfulness, healing touch and aromatherapy. She feels that as a holistic health nurse, she blends science, knowledge and the “art” of compassionate nursing. “Having a specialty practice really improves patient outcomes, patient satisfaction and it gives the nurse more satisfaction,” Laugeman said. “There’s such a focus on the nurse caring for herself and for the patient. Holistic nursing started because nurses wanted to return to why they became nurses: taking care of patients.” Laugeman serves as chapter leader of the American Holistic Nurses Association WNY Chapter. She is looking forward to the American Holistic Nurses National Conference in Niagara Falls in June 2018.


The skinny on healthy eating

completely absorbed. While humming, add stock, about 4 oz. at a time, and simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly until liquid is absorbed between each addition. Continue until buckwheat groats are creamy but al dente, about 15 to 20 minutes. You may not need all the stock. Remove from heat and stir in cheese, edamame, and toasted nuts. Top with additional shredded cheese and serve.

Health Secrets of Buckwheat


ention buckwheat and many of us zero in on pancakes and waffles, perhaps soba noodles. In this neck of the woods, we might also think about Penn Yan, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of buckwheat products. Before I became hooked on buckwheat, I, too, only considered buckwheat in those terms. Fact is, I also thought it was a class of wheat. But buckwheat is neither a wheat nor a grain: it’s the seed from a plant related to rhubarb. And when it’s hulled, it’s known as a groat. While buckwheat is not a “true grain” — it’s often referred to as a whole grain — it is used like one in cooking, and boasts similar health benefits. A key difference, however, between buckwheat and some whole grains, is that buckwheat is glutenfree and safe for those with celiac disease and gluten sensitivities. Why eat buckwheat? Well, it’s tasty, easy to prepare, inexpensive and — above all — a nutritional powerhouse. One cup of cooked buckwheat provides a healthy dose of both soluble and insoluble fiber — nearly 5 grams. Insoluble fiber promotes regularity, while soluble fiber helps

keep our tickers in tip-top shape by ferrying cholesterol out. What’s more, numerous studies have shown that fiber helps slow down the rate of glucose absorption after a meal, an effect that might lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Buckwheat is also a mineral superstar, with notable amounts of manganese, copper and magnesium. Manganese is important for bone health, collagen production and blood sugar control; copper helps the body form red blood cells and maintain and repair connective tissues; and magnesium promotes a healthy cardiovascular system by helping to control blood pressure. And similar to other plant-based foods, buckwheat is loaded with phytonutrients — those remarkable compounds that work to ward off a host of maladies, from heart disease to diabetes to cancer. Phytonutrients do a body good by helping to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and fight free radical damage. Lastly, one cooked cup of low-fat buckwheat has only 150 calories and about 6 grams of complete protein, a vital nutrient we need to have energy, build and repair muscle, and boost immunity.

5 Y

Bread is one of the top five types of food loaded with salt, according to a new government report.

Buckwheat Risotto with Mushrooms and Edamame Adapted from Wolff’s Buckwheat Risotto (serves 4-5) 1 ½ tablespoons olive oil 1 small onion, chopped 8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced, hard stems removed 2 cloves garlic, minced ½ cup dry white wine (optional) 1 cup buckwheat groats 2½ cups chicken or vegetable stock ½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese 1 cup frozen edamame, thawed ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted (or nut of choice) Turn on some music, light a candle, get your groove on: risotto takes time. In a heavy skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and mushrooms and sauté until both are soft and lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Stir in garlic and buckwheat groats and cook for two minutes. Add wine (if using) and simmer until liquid is

Helpful tips Buckwheat comes in many forms: hulled raw groats, hulled roasted groats (referred to as kasha), flour and soba noodles. All can be found packaged; and raw groats can often be found in bulk bins. Place whole buckwheat in an airtight container and store in a cool dry place for up to a year. Always store buckwheat flour in the refrigerator. Rinse raw groats before using. Anne Palumbo is a lifestyle

columnist, food guru, and seasoned cook, who has perfected the art of preparing nutritious, calorieconscious dishes. She is hungry for your questions and comments about SmartBites, so be in touch with Anne at

Saltiest Foods May Surprise You U.S. report names major and unexpected sources of sodium in the American diet

ou probably know that Americans consume way too much salt, but a new U.S. government report points the finger at some surprising sources of salt in the diet. The report said the top five culprits were: • Bread • Pizza • Sandwiches • Cold cuts and cured meats • Soup Surprisingly, potato chips, pretzels and other obviously salty snacks didn’t make it into the top five, though they did ring in at No. 7. “Most Americans are consuming too much salt and it’s coming from a lot of commonly consumed foods — about 25 foods contribute the majority of salt,” said lead researcher Zerleen Quader. She’s an analyst

from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Knowing which foods contribute the most salt is important for reducing your salt intake, she said. Sodium is an essential mineral that helps the body maintain fluid balance, according to the American Heart Association. But, too much in the diet increases the risk for high blood pressure, which in turn boosts the risk for heart attack and stroke. Table salt contains about 40 percent sodium. One teaspoon of table salt has 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium, which is the maximum amount recommended by health experts. The new CDC report found that in 2013-2014, Americans consumed about 3,400 mg of salt daily. That far exceeds the recommended amount, and is more than double the American Heart Association’s “ideal” intake of 1,500 mg daily. And, clearly, all that salt doesn’t come from the salt shaker. Most comes from packaged, processed and

May 2017 •

restaurant foods, the report said. Many of these foods contain moderate amounts of salt, but are eaten all day long, Quader said. It’s not necessarily that foods such as bread are high in salt, but eating several slices a day quickly adds to the total amount of salt you consume. One way to reduce salt is to pay attention to food labels when shopping and choose the lowest salt option, Quader suggested. “When cooking at home, use fresh herbs and other substitutes for salt. When eating out, you can ask for meals with lower salt,” she added. Quader said the food industry can help by lowering the amount of salt it adds to its products. Gradually reducing salt in foods can help prevent high blood pressure (“hypertension”) and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and won’t even be noticed by consumers, she said.

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper

Page 11

Golden Years


ammy Violante, a 63-yearold motivational and inspirational speaker, looks a dozen Mount Saint Mary Academy journalism students in the eyes and exclaims, “Today, I receive $1,500 per month in Social Security Disability benefits but 25 years ago I was making over $10,000 per month. Today, I am the happiest I have ever been because I have found my true purpose in life.” The young ladies at the town of Tonawanda private Catholic girls’ high school were mesmerized by “The Sammy V Story,” as he spoke about growing up a few blocks from the school, playing basketball at the Phillip Sheridan playground, and always wanting to be a teacher. That was until a Kenmore West High School guidance counselor said there are more jobs in the business field. Reluctantly, he attended the University at Buffalo and after receiving a degree in management, he began a long, distinguished and profitable career as an investment broker in Buffalo for nearly 30 years. Making high six-figure salaries annually, Violante had it all in his late 20s, 30s and 40s — money, a model for a wife, a flashy car with “Sammy V” vanity plates, the ability to travel the world, dinners at top restaurants and late nights of dancing and entertaining. Violante had reached his nirvana back then and he had no intention of stopping this addictive rush of success. However, in the early 1990s, he felt something coming over him that was extremely odd and eventually would crash his world to the ground. It would strip him of every tangible possession and lead him to the deep, dark hole of depression with many thoughts of suicide running through his mind before he says he finally heard the call from God. “I began to exhibit excessive doubting and checking on everything I was doing,” he says as his voice lowers during an interview over lunch recently. He finally went to his doctor, and in 1992, he was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive behavior. OCD is a biochemical disorder that disrupts brain chemistry and causes high levels of anxiety. OCD inhibits the function of everyday life and the obsession continues to rattle itself in your brain. “You cannot relax until you do an act to lower the anxiety level,” he notes. “At one time in my life, eight to 10 hours of my day were consumed by paralyzing doubting and checking.” The effects at work were noticeable as he spent most of the time shuffling papers, unable to complete minimal tasks. In a termination letter from his employer, M&T Bank Securities, it stated “Reason for termination: unable to perform minimal job functions adequately.” Ultimately, this effectively blackballed him out of the industry. Hits rock bottom Devastated, Violante was lost. He stayed at home and soon thereafter, Page 12

Spiritual connection

Sammy Violante, his wife, Ellen, left, and Kenneth Houseknecht, executive director of the Mental Health Association of Erie County.

The Sammy V. Story

After losing everything due to obsessivecompulsive behavior (OCD), man fights back from oblivion By Michael J. Billoni on Christmas Eve, his wife told him she would always love him but she could not live with him anymore and she left. “How could my best friend leave me when I needed her the most?” he asks with mist forming in his eyes. During that time, he visited 18 different doctors, was prescribed 14 different medications and was in and out of many hospitals, treatment centers, doctor’s offices and rehab facilities. Nothing worked until his father, who came here from Italy, told his No. 1 son, “Sammy, get on your knees and pray and then look in the mirror. That is the only person who is going to help you. A quitter gives up. You are not a quitter. You are a winner.” Those words hit home. While many of his friends stopped calling or visiting, his father came by his house several times a week and called often. Soon, Violante found Hahnemann University in Philadelphia for the treatment and management for anxiety and it

specialized in OCD. It was led by a world-renowned specialist, physician Edna Foa. He had himself admitted. “I went out and began to attack my OCD and quickly became an expert of this mental illness,” he recalls of those days in the late 1990s. The recovery was not easy. Twice he came home from Philadelphia and relapsed because he tried to go back to his former life, similar to an abusive drug user or alcoholic. “I would return home and get into what I thought was my comfort level. After the second relapse, I returned to Philadelphia and before I left for the third time, they sat me down and said, ‘Sammy, your past comfort level must end. Everything in life that was important before, you must block out of your mind. You must forget about your ex-wife, your life as an investment banker and you must look into the mirror and at 50 years old, you must tell yourself you have to begin a new life.’” It was a long ride home from Philadelphia to Williamsville, filled with prayers and thoughts about what lay ahead of him.

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • May 2017

As a Catholic, Violante says he is a true believer that God does listen to prayers and his proof was in his new friend, Ellen, who supported him during his recovery. They were married in 2000 and 17 years later are happier than ever, he says. According to the OCD Foundation, only 2 percent of the world’s population that suffers from OCD is at the severe level that Violante must manage daily. Of that number, less than 5 percent ever truly recover. Why is he different and why does he consider these the best days of his life? “The meaning in life is to find the ultimate gift that God has given to us,” Violante tells the Mount Saint Mary Academy students. “The purpose in life is to give that gift away to those in need. When the Lord calls me, my legacy will read, ‘Sammy gave it all away to help the kids.’” Soon after returning from Philly the third time, Violante talked to a friend about what’s next. His friend was on the board of the Compass House, a transitional home for runaway kids located on Linwood Avenue in Buffalo. Violante met its former executive director, Sylvia Nadler, and instantly felt a connection. He agreed to volunteer and suddenly saw himself being pulled back to his original passion of being a teacher, coach and mentor. His first day at Compass House was on Valentine’s Day, 2004 and this past Feb. 14, they celebrated his 13th anniversary of volunteering each Thursday. He estimates over 4,000 young boys and girls have heard his message there. “Sammy had to overcome a great deal of anxiety and began here with great hesitancy,” Nadler recalls. “He was worried about being accepted by young people who were coming from such different life experiences. However, he is so genuine, loving and considerate that even the most difficult kids recognized his ‘solid gold’ heart. Sammy is one of the most beautiful people that I know.” Interestingly, he is using the same skills that led him to become an award-winning top investment broker to tell his story and mentor youth and students throughout Western New York. In 1990, Empire National Securities, Inc. recognized him as the No. 1 producing investment broker for the entire company. Gives of himself He volunteers at 15 youth organizations, facilitates an OCD support group at the Mental Health Association of Erie County, Inc. every other week and, most important to him, he has presented his story to more than 50,000 students in 152 grammar, middle and high schools throughout Western New York since 2014. Kenneth P. Houseknecht,

Golden Years executive director of the Mental Health Association of Erie County, has watched in awe as Violante runs his OCD support group. “The room is always packed for Sammy’s group and I see many of the same folks there, week after week, year after year. Many peer support groups come and go, but this one has lasted – and grown – for many years,” Houseknecht said. “That is due, in large part, to Sammy’s exceptional leadership. Sammy is a great motivator. He has a compelling personal story that he shares freely and completely. “More than anything, he disarms people, creating a safe place for them to share their own stories and find hope and healing. Sammy is one of the good guys — a real community treasure. Even more than that, I am honored to call him a friend. His story inspires and motivates me and many others.” Bridget McNally, a program assistant in the communication department at the MHA, has a photo of Violante on her wall and has watched him for years. “His group has grown expansively over the years and he never fails to go above and beyond for the members that need it,” she said. “He consistently attends and supports all of our agency events. We are blessed to have a volunteer as valuable as Sammy.” Sammy’s newfound passion is with young students in schools and it is because of a quote he read from Frederick Douglass three years ago: “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” “Volunteering and mentoring our youth became my purpose to get out of the house to make living with OCD easier,” Sammy explains. “Quickly, though, my purpose became my passion and ultimately my passion became my calling from God and that is why I have never been happier in life. “The two most important days in our lives are when we were born and when we find out why we were born. Through the recovery of my OCD, I have found why I was born.”

Sammy Violante at a Glance Lifelines

Name: Sammy Violante Age: 63 Hometown: Williamsville, NY Education: Bachelor of Science, Business Management, University at Buffalo, 1975 graduate Career: Investment broker; financial consultant; mentor, life coach, inspirational speaker Hobbies: Sports and music; making an impact on people’s lives Motto: “Remember a life is truly unimportant unless it positively impacts the lives of others” Things most people don’t know about him: A Buffalo Bills season ticket holder for 44 seasons; Master of Ceremonies of many disco dance parties throughout Western New York


Things You Need to Know About Protecting Your Hearing

By Ernst Lamothe Jr.


earing loss can be so gradual that some people don’t notice the effects until it is too late. Hearing is one of the five senses. It is a complex process of picking up sound and attaching meaning to it. The ability to hear is critical to understanding the world around us. Richard Salvi, Ph.D., co-founder, and director of UB’s Center for Hearing and Deafness Geissler — and SUNY distinguished professor — gives us not only tips but things to watch when it comes to hearing. “People should consider getting their hearing tested every five to 10 years,” said Salvi. “You don’t want to wait until something is wrong because your hearing is too important.”


Avoid loud sounds

It doesn’t have to be as loud as gunfire for damage to happen to your ears. However, being around sounds as loud as that can really cause problems. Many people participate in activities that produce harmful sound levels, such as attending loud sporting events and music concerts, and using power tools, which repeated over time will cause hearing loss. “People don’t understand the damage that can be done with loud sounds,” said Salvi. “It can be very intense, especially if you are in a job like a factory where you have to repeatedly hear those loud sounds year after year. I definitely recommend wearing ear protection if you have one of those professions. And even then, when it comes to certain higher decibels of sounds, ear plugs can only do so much”


See an audiologist

About 20 percent of Americans, or about 48 million, report some degree of hearing loss, according to the

Hearing Loss Association of America. That number increases to one out of every three people when you hit 65. Audiologists are healthcare professionals who provide patientcentered care in the prevention, identification, diagnosis and evidence-based treatment of hearing, balance and other auditory disorders for people of all ages. “Unlike vision, people almost never get a hearing test in their life until they need it unless it is required for your job,” said Salvi. “Everyone should have a baseline hearing test in their lives starting as early as their 20s.”


Certain drugs affect hearing

Many testicular cancer survivors experience hearing loss after cisplatin-based chemotherapy, according to researchers at Indiana University, who found that increasing doses of cisplatin were associated with increased hearing loss. Platinum-based cisplatin is one of the most commonly used drugs in medical oncology, which unfortunately is toxic to the inner ear.  “I would tell everyone who is going through this treatment that they should talk to their doctors about the possibility of moderating the amount of dosage given in treatment if it is causing significant damage to your hearing,” said Salvi.


Monitor your music

Salvi said whenever he walks past someone and can clearly hear someone’s music through their earbuds, he knows they must be doing a little damage to their ears. “When you are pumping loud to very loud music directly into your ear drum you are starting a recipe for disaster,” he added. “That type of noise exposure is something you should stay away from. I know on

Richard Salvi my Samsung phone it gives me a warning level when I am putting music over a certain level. You can recover from occasionally listening to loud music but not when it is constant.” He believes the situation must be worse for musicians. They are definitely paying a price for their art,” Salvi added. “Even though they wear earplugs, they are surrounded by loud music all the time during practices and performances. It would not be surprising if they have ringing in their ears.”


Monitor your environment

While you may not be able to control your situation if your workplace is loud, you do have control where you go after work. “Try to avoid being in environments where you feel you need to shout or yell to be heard when they person is right next to you,” said Salvi. “Usually 65 decibels is quiet enough for normal conversation that shouldn’t involve elevated voices. And if you are someplace that is incredibly loud try not to stay there too long.”

Is it Time to See an Audiologist? If you answer yes to some of the following questions, you may have a hearing loss • Often ask people to repeat what they say? • Have trouble hearing in groups? • Think others mumble? • Fail to hear someone talking from behind you? • Turn up the volume on the TV or car radio? • Have difficulty on the phone? • Have trouble hearing your alarm clock? • Have difficulty hearing at the movies • Dread going to noisy parties and restaurants? Source: Hearing Loss Association of America May 2017 •

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper

Page 13

Golden Years

Tennis group at Miller: A bunch of the regulars at Behr’s Thursday morning indoor tennis session. The informal league started in 2002 with four players. Now, more than 20 people play.

Tennis, Anyone? Locals find tennis is a good way to stay active, social By Jana Eisenberg


udy Behr, 74, and her husband Dennis, 75, have a tennis court on their Williamsville property — while their kids were growing up, no one in their family ever properly used it. Then, about 20 years ago, Dennis signed up for a tennis class at his local community center. He was soon hooked, and, while Judy was reticent about being a beginner and taking lessons, she soon followed suit, and fell in love. Judy Behr now not only plays tennis, she organizes it for others to play, too. Her group plays yearround, indoor and outdoor, at the Miller Tennis Center. “My group has grown from four people in 2002 to around 23 now,” said Judy. “I have friends who started tennis when they were in their 60s, and now they play several times a week. Playing with the group is fun and competitive. We often go out for coffee afterwards, and have tennis parties, too.” According to the USTA, tennis has the potential to improve people’s balance, coordination, speed, strength, flexibility and heart health. In addition, a common theme when speaking to seniors who play organized tennis is the social aspect — the camaraderie and fun. Tennis can be both beneficial and fun at any age, said Todd Miller, owner of the Miller Tennis Center in Williamsville. “Tennis is a lifetime sport,” he said. “Physically, it’s fun. There are not too many activities you can enjoy and still get a great workout into your 80s and beyond.” Miller said he notices two things about older people who play regularly. “They are all very fit, and very sharp. It’s great to keep going, even if it’s not the same tennis you Page 14

Tennis foursome at Miller Tennis Center in Williamsville is, from left, Faye Lueth, Tom Kalman, Judy Behr and Ernie Beck. Photo courtesy of Judy Behr.

played when you were in your 40s and 50s.” Places like Miller Tennis Center and Village Glen Tennis Club, also in Williamsville, offer memberships, court time, one-on-one and group lessons and other options for people of all ages to learn or improve their skills and game. The tennis groups are organized independently; many use these facilities. Tom Kalman, a retired professor, started playing later in life, mostly socially. Now, in addition to tennis several times week (especially during the summer), he swims, and works out with a personal trainer, doing Pilates exercise. He plays tennis with Behr’s group.

“Playing as part of a group is uplifting; it combines exercise and social activities,” said Kalman. “You get to know and talk with very nice people. It’s a positive experience that I believe contributes to my wellbeing. It’s a blessing being able to play at 81 years old.” Of course, people can and do get injured or develop health issues when playing any sport. Kalman said he avoided major injury when running into someone, and also that he has a chronic rotator cuff tear. “Because of my age, this injury is difficult to heal,” said Kalman. “I compensate by exercising; building up the muscles around it. I’m not incapacitated; I continue to

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • May 2017

look forward to and enjoy playing. The benefits outweigh the negatives.” Judy Behr agrees that any risks are worth the gains. When she had a shoulder issue, she went to physical therapy three times a week until it improved, and said that even when people have surgery, many come back afterwards. “Tennis is addicting, in a good way,” she said. “It gives you a lot of energy, and you feel so good afterward.” Faye Lueth has played tennis most of her life, starting when she was about 10, as a child in England, then as an adult living in Toronto and Clarence, and now as an 89-yearold. During the warmer months, she plays at friends’ outdoor condo courts; she also plays regularly at the Village Glen, and serves as a “sub” in Behr’s group at Miller when she’s available. “I love tennis!,” Lueth said. “All through the years here, the people I’ve played with are so nice. Another important thing is that we’re not dead serious; we want to have fun.” She and her husband, Werner, enjoy an active lifestyle, going to the Garden Walk, taking walks at Wendt Beach and in general choosing to be outdoors when they can. Lueth hasn’t been immune to the toll that time takes on a body. “I’ve had two partial knee replacements. I don’t know why, but I’m still in pretty good shape. I can run, and do anything I want to do. Keeping active does it,” she marveled. “When someone calls me to play, I just automatically ‘hoppity skip’ out of the house — it’s part of my life!” And remember that underused backyard court at the Behr’s place? Judy Behr, her husband and their friends now play tennis out there all summer long.

Golden Years


Super Senior: Tony Agnello


A retired teacher who taught in Orchard Park hailed as a role model By Daniel Meyer


s an active and dynamic senior citizen, Anthony “Tony” Agnello credits his ability to keep up with his incredibly busy schedule to his ongoing maintenance of his physical and mental health. Whether he is mentoring high school football players, leading a senior fitness class or volunteering as a refugee services consultant, Agnello is always on the move — and he wouldn’t Agnello have it any other way. “I keep moving and stay busy and that’s the way I like it,” says Agnello. “If you can identify interests that allow you to give back to your community, that’s even better.” Agnello made such an impression that last year he received the prestigious honor of being named “Erie County’s Senior of the Month” in July 2016, a monthly recognition program overseen by the Erie County Department of Senior Services. Agnello was lauded at a ceremony held at the Orchard Park Senior Center that included testimonials from fellow senior citizens who view him as a role model. He also received an official proclamation from Erie County Executive Poloncarz that listed his many accomplishments as one of Western New York’s most active and engaged senior citizens. A retired teacher who taught more than 7,000 students in the Orchard Park Central School District during a nearly four-decade career as an educator, Agnello fondly recalls his days in the classroom as well as his stint as a member of the Orchard Park School Board. In both capacities, he was presented opportunities to directly influence the lives of children. “Helping a young mind grow is an incredible responsibility and something I took very seriously,” says Agnello. “I enjoyed my work because I truly cared about the kids.” A graduate of Buffalo State College, Agnello first taught in Lackawanna through the Teacher Corps program. He went on to teach students in Afghanistan through the Peace Corps before eventually returning to teach biology in Orchard Park. The time he spent overseas motivated him and his wife, Niki Gernold-Agnello, to establish what is known as Orchard Park Educational Outreach. The organization focuses on helping students expand their horizons and learn about other parts of the world, with Agnello serving in the capacity of refugee services consultant, where he coordinates their robust local outreach activities.

An original member of the Teacher Corps/Peace Corps program, Agnello helps oversee the training of young educators from Western New York to later work as mentors in Afghanistan. He also served in the past as a coach for Orchard Park’s football program, a volunteer youth sports coach and serves as a senior citizen group fitness coach at the Orchard Park Senior Center. “Tony is very wellknown in the community for his educational endeavors as well as for his commitment to his peers at the Senior Center,” said former Erie County Senior Services Commissioner Randy Hoak, who now serves as associate state director for AARP NY. “He is a dedicated volunteer who is always willing to help others.” A man who impresses most anyone he interacts with, Agnello is greatly admired by administrators and fellow residents at the Orchard Park Senior Center. “Tony is always willing to help others and loves to give back to his community,” says Anna Willems, who retired last year after 20 years as director of the Orchard Park Senior Center. “He is a role model for so many people in Orchard Park.” Agnello is also an adviser emeritus for the WNY Champion Model UN Group, an entity he formed in the late 1990s to encourage local high school students to enlighten themselves with views of the world from different cultural and national perspectives. Agnello also co-founded the Orchard Park Veterans Memorial Committee and is president of The Friends of Afghanistan, a national organization of Peace Corps volunteers who worked in that country during the 1960s and 1970s. His volunteer endeavors coupled with his previous accomplishments as an educator are regularly admired by people throughout Western New York. “Tony is a sensible guy who always speaks from a position of honesty, honor and integrity,” says Joe Wales, a trustee on the Orchard Park Village Board and a former student of Agnello’s. “He is incredible and was a positive influence on my life.” Agnello encourages other senior citizens to remain active and become involved with charitable causes that interest them. “Find something you care about, learn everything you can about it and then get involved,” says Agnello. “Life is too short to sit on the sidelines.”

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Page 15

Golden Years Want a Longer, Healthier Life? Volunteer Local retirees say they find a more meaningful life as a result of their volunteering By Nancy Cardillo


eri Mazur was a school librarian for 25-plus years before retiring 12 years ago. A year later, she began volunteering at the Darwin Martin House in Buffalo where today, she’s not only a docent, but also serves on the education committee and helps coordinate the annual summer kids’ camp and the docent training program. And she loves it. “I didn’t grow up in Buffalo, so I didn’t have that background that comes from being a native,” says Mazur. “But we fell in love with Buffalo when we moved here. So, once I retired, I wanted to really immerse myself in the community and give back in some way.” After considering the many volunteer opportunities available, Mazur went through the docent training program at the Martin House and realized it was something she’d enjoy. “It was invigorating because I had to learn about new things, such as art and architecture,” says Mazur. “It presented a whole new aspect of life for me. It’s fun, it’s challenging, it allows me to grow intellectually and it keeps me physically active. There’s also the social aspect, which I enjoy. It’s never boring!” Bill Hale has logged more than 12,000 hours as a hospitality ambassador at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport since retiring from his job with Catholic Health Systems 11 years ago. At a time when most of us are still snug as bugs in our beds, Hale is arriving in the predawn hours at the airport to begin a typical seven-hour volunteer shift. He does it four days a week. Hale responds to all kinds of situations — helping passengers who don’t speak English, who need

directions or escorts to their gates or have questions — most often about what they’re able to take through security checkpoints. Hale also offers suggestions for things to do or places to eat in Buffalo. “Retirement can be extremely boring and unhealthy,” says Hale. “I could feel myself beginning to decline, so I knew I needed to get moving again. I wanted to do something that would keep me active, where I’d be able to talk to and interact with people, and volunteering at the airport satisfies all that and more.”

Make most out of retirement Many people fear retirement. They’ve led a busy, productive life working full time and taking care of a family. But what happens after the kids have grown and you’ve retired? How do you fill those hours? How do you remain active? Connected? Mentally stimulated? One answer that’s proven to be a godsend for many is volunteering. Seniors — defined as those aged 55 and older — are very much in demand as volunteers, according to Pat Dowling, the director of Erie County’s Retired & Senior Volunteer Program (, which assists volunteers to find enriching opportunities that match their skills and interests at more than 90 nonprofit partner organizations. These include the Buffalo Zoo; Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper; Buffalo public schools; Buffalo Niagara International Airport and Meals on Wheels for WNY, just to name a few. Volunteer opportunities can include giving tours, tutoring or teaching classes, serving hot meals, transporting seniors, gardening and much more.

As a hospitality ambassador at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport since retiring from his job with Catholic Health Systems 11 years ago, Bill Hale starts his four-day a week volunteer work at the airport at predawn hours. “I wanted to do something that would keep me active, where I’d be able to talk to and interact with people, and volunteering at the airport satisfies all that and more.” “Senior volunteers bring valuable skills and expertise to organizations,” says Dowling. “They have a great work ethic and are very reliable. RSVP is one of the largest volunteer networks in the country for older adults, and in Erie County, we have more than 800 active senior volunteers who are invaluable to our partner organizations.”

Benefits of volunteering Older Americans who volunteer frequently live longer and report less disability, largely because volunteering provides social, emotional and physical health

Jeri Mazur giving tours at the The Darwin D. Martin House in Buffalo. She started volunteering there about 12 years ago after working as a school librarian for 25-plus years. “It was invigorating because I had to learn about new things, such as art and architecture,” says Mazur. Photo by Janet Akcakal courtesy of the Martin House Restoration Corporation Page 16

IN GOOD HEALTH – Buffalo & WNY’s Healthcare Newspaper • May 2017

benefits, including: • The satisfaction of giving back to your community and/or making a difference in the lives of others • Mental stimulation, which helps to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s • A sense of purpose, which combats isolation, loneliness and depression • Healthy physical activity, which can help manage many chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis • An outlet for grief • Intellectual stimulation • An important way to stay connected with people, your community, etc. How do you decide where and how to volunteer? Start by asking yourself some questions: “What causes or issues matter to me?” “Do I want to use the skills I applied in my career or do something completely different?” “What would I most like to get out of volunteering? “What don’t I want to do as a volunteer?” Volunteer opportunities abound in Western New York, and can offer countless rewards and benefits. Whether you work through an agency such as RSVP, or apply directly to an organization, find the volunteer opportunity that offers a fun, challenging way to spend your time, with the added benefit of helping others. Do your homework and choose carefully — the more you know about what you want to do, the more valuable you will be to the organization you join as a volunteer, and the more effective and happy you’ll be!

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What to Do with Cremated Ashes? Dear Savvy Senior, When my father passed away a few months ago we had him cremated, but are now wondering what to do with his ashes. My sister and I would like to do something celebratory for his life, but aren’t sure what to do. Any suggestions? No Instructions Left Dear No,

If your dad didn’t leave any final instructions on what to do with his cremated remains (ashes), you have a wide array of choices. They can be kept, buried or scattered in a variety of ways and in many locations. Here are some different options to help you decide.

Keep Close By For many people, keeping the ashes of their deceased love one close by provides a feeling of comfort. If you fit into this category, you could keep his ashes in an urn on the mantel or in a cabinet, or you could also scatter some of them into your lawn or garden, shake them into a backyard pond or dig a hole and bury them. Another possible option is eco-friendly urns (like UrnaBios. com or that contain a seed that grows into a tree or plant after being buried.

Cemetery Options If you want your dad’s final resting place to be at a cemetery, you have several choices depending on how much you’re willing to spend. With most cemeteries, you can either bury his ashes in a plot, or place them in cremation monument, a mausoleum or a cemetery building called a columbarium.

his ashes in a public location or on private land, you’ll need to get permission from the management, local government or the land owner. National parks, for example, require you to have a permit before you scatter ashes. If you wish to dispose of them at sea, the Environmental Protection Agency asks you be at least three miles from shore. Beach scatterings are also illegal in some states, including California, but are rarely enforced. And many public areas, like Central Park and Disneyland prohibit scattering ashes too, as do most professional and college sports stadiums.

If you want to do something truly unique with his ashes, you have many choices here too, but they can get pricy ranging from a few hundred to several thousand dollars. Here are several to consider. Scattering by air: This free-spirited option lets you spread your dad’s ashes into the sky so the particles can be taken by the wind. To do this, you could hire a private plane, helicopter or hot air balloon service, or use a balloon scattering service like or Or, you could even send his ashes into outer space with ElysiumSpace. com. Scattering by sea: If your dad loved the water, there are many businesses that offer ash scattering services at sea, especially close to coastal areas, or you could rent a boat and do it yourself. There are also companies like that offer reef memorials so your dad’s ashes can rest on the ocean floor. Ashes to keepsakes: If you want a keepsake of your dad, you can also turn some of his ashes into a wide variety of memorabilia, such as: diamonds (see or; jewelry or other handcrafted glass items ( and Memorials. com); vinyl records (; gun ammunition (MyHolySmoke. com); or an hourglass urn (

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Scatter Them If you want to scatter his ashes, to help you chose an appropriate location, think about what your dad would have liked. For example, did he have a favorite fishing spot, camping area, golf course, beach or park that held a special meaning? These are all possibilities, but be aware to that if you choose to scatter


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Send your senior questions to: Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior. org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” book.

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U.S. Pedestrian Deaths Surged to Record Levels in 2016

The Social Ask Security Office

Experts point to widespread smartphone use as deadly distraction for drivers and walkers alike


or the second straight year, U.S. pedestrian deaths are setting alarming new records. The number of pedestrians killed on U.S. roads rose a projected 11 percent between 2015 and 2016, the largest year-to-year increase on record, according to a new Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) report. During the first six months of 2016, preliminary data show 2,660 pedestrian deaths nationwide, compared to 2,486 for the same period during 2015. The yearlong projection is based on those numbers. The report also projects a 22 percent rise in

pedestrian deaths from 2014. Both estimates are sharply higher than the 9 percent increase in pedestrian deaths between 2014 and 2015. “This is the second year in a row that we have seen unprecedented increases in pedestrian fatalities, which is both sad and alarming,” said report author Richard Retting, who’s with Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants. Pedestrians account for about 15 percent of U.S. road deaths. The report cited several possible reasons for the spike. They include Americans driving more due to lower gas prices; more people choosing to walk for

health, transportation, economic or environmental reasons; and widespread use of smartphones, a distraction for walkers and drivers alike. “Everyone walks, and we want to encourage that, but at the same time we want to make sure that we all get to our destinations safely,” GHSA Executive Director Jonathan Adkins said. “Unfortunately, this latest data shows that the U.S. is not meeting the mark on keeping pedestrians safe on our roadways. Every one of these lives represents a loved one not coming home tonight, which is absolutely unacceptable,” he said. One doctors’ group added that prevention — keeping your eyes and ears on your surroundings — is key. “Today’s projected pedestrian fatalities — the highest ever recorded — are an urgent wake-up call that we need to work harder at consistently focusing on where and how we are walking,” said physician Alan Hilibrand. a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “Pedestrians need to be mindful of their surroundings,” while walking, Hilibrand said. “Walking while looking at your phone or an electronic device can result in sprains, broken bones, and other serious, even fatal, injuries.”

From the Social Security District Office

Honoring Our Heroes On Memorial Day Service members can also receive Social Security in addition to military retirement benefits


n Memorial Day, we honor the soldiers and service members who have given their lives for our nation. Social Security respects the heroism and courage of our military service members, and we remember those who have given their lives in defense of freedom. Part of how we honor service members is the way we provide Social Security benefits. The unexpected loss of a family member is a difficult experience for anyone. Social Security helps by providing benefits to protect service members’ dependents. Widows, widowers and their dependent children may be eligible for Social Security survivors benefits. You can learn more about Social Security survivors benefits at www. It’s also important to recognize those service members who are still with us, especially those who have been wounded. Just as they served us, we have the obligation to serve them. Social Security has benefits to assist veterans when an injury prevents them from returning to active duty. Wounded military service members can also receive expedited processing of their Social Security disability claims. For example, Social Security will provide expedited processing of disability claims filed by veterans who have a U.S. Department of Veterans

Affairs (VA) compensation rating of 100 percent permanent and total (P&T). Depending on the situation, some family members of military personnel, including dependent children and, in some cases, spouses, may be eligible to receive benefits. You can get answers to commonly asked questions and find useful information about the application process at woundedwarriors. Service members can also receive Social Security in addition to military retirement benefits. The good news is that your military retirement benefit does not reduce your Social Security retirement benefit. Learn more about Social Security retirement benefits at retirement. You may also want to visit the Military Service page of our Retirement Planner, available at retire/veterans.html. Service members are also eligible for Medicare at age 65. If you have health insurance from the VA or under the TRICARE or CHAMPVA programs, your health benefits may change, or end, when you become eligible for Medicare. Learn more about Medicare benefits at www. In acknowledgment of those who died for our country, those who served, and those who serve today, we at Social Security honor and thank you.

Q: I suspect that someone I know is collecting Social Security disability benefits when they shouldn’t be. What is the best way for me to report fraud? A: You can report fraud online at or call the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271. Social Security has zero tolerance for fraud and uses many proven tactics to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse. Our Office of the Inspector General is relentless in its pursuit of people who conceal work activity while receiving disability benefits. We investigate and seek prosecution for people who receive benefits for a child or children who aren’t under their care, or who fail to notify Social Security of the death of a beneficiary and continue to receive and cash checks of the deceased. We also depend on you to help stop fraud.

Q: I got an email that says it’s from Social Security, but I’m not so sure. They want me to reply with my Social Security number, date of birth, and mother’s maiden name for “verification.” Did it really come from Social Security? A: No. Social Security will not send you an email asking you to share your personal information, such as your Social Security number, date of birth, or other private information. Beware of such scams — they’re after your information so they can use it for their own benefit. When in doubt, or if you have any questions about correspondence you receive from Social Security, contact your local Social Security office or call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800325-0778) to see whether we really need any information from you.


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Health News ECMCC earns highest patient safety rating

Matthew S. Gellert joins Inspire Dental Group

ECMC’s Grider Family Health Center earns PCMH

The Leapfrog Group, an independent, national nonprofit organization founded more than a decade ago by the nation’s leading employers and private health care experts, has rated Erie County Medical Center’s overall patient safety score at ‘A’ — which places it among one of only 14 hospitals out of 139 in New York state to receive ‘A’ Patient Safety Score. Nationally, 823 hospitals across the country received such a score. The Leapfrog patient surveys assess: medical errors, accidents, injuries, infections and patient experiences. The national organization is committed to driving quality, safety, and transparency in the U.S. health care system; their annual patient safety surveys assign A, B, C, D and F letter grades to hospitals nationwide. ECMC earned an ‘A’ rating by demonstrating, “its commitment to reducing errors, infections, and accidents that can harm patients.”  “Hospitals that earn top marks nationally in the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade have achieved the highest safety standards in the country,” said Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group. “That takes commitment from every member of the hospital staff, who all deserve thanks and congratulations when their hospitals achieve an ‘A’ Safety Grade.  Thomas J. Quatroche, Jr., Ph.D., ECMC President and CEO said, “On behalf of the over 3,000 dedicated and skilled caregivers at ECMC, we are thrilled to receive this exceptional rating from such a respected national organization. This rating confirms what we have worked toward repeatedly in recent years — the quality and compassionate care of our doctors, nurses, clinicians, dieticians, housekeeping, plant operations staff, our ECMC family, have all contributed to making ECMC a hospital of choice for patients seeking our care. The collective commitment of all of our caregivers is what led to this very important national recognition, which highlights ECMC’s success in providing true care.” ECMC has experienced volume growth across the board in its service areas, along with strong financial performance. 2016 proved to be a productive year for the hospital. The increased activity across service areas includes: total inpatient: from 15,007 in 2010 to 18,839 in 2016 or 22.5 percent growth; total surgeries by service, from 11,944 in 2010 to 14,552 in 2016 or 21.8 percent growth; total emergency department visits, from 58,090 in 2010 to 69,290 in 2016 or 19.3 percent growth; total outpatient visits, from 255,264 in 2010 to 306,564 in 2016 or 20.1 percent growth; and average length of stay, from 8.4 in 2010 to 7.5 in 2016. That service delivery growth and sound financial performance continues through the first three months of 2017. 

Inspire Dental Group, a multispecialty dental practice with offices in Amherst and West Seneca, has announced the addition of dentist Matthew S. Gellert to the practice. He practices general dentistry. “Dr. Gellert brings a level of personal care and compassion to his patients that exactly represents what we strive for in our practice,” says Gellert Inspire Dental Managing Partner Ron Sadler. “He is a most welcome addition to our group.” Before joining Inspire Dental Group, Gellert was an associate with Creating Dental Excellence/Dr. Thomas P. Stein and Associates in Cornwall, N.Y., and at Cornerstone Dental in Middletown, also in New York. A native of Lowville, Gellert received his Bachelor of Science degree in biomedical science from State University of New York at Buffalo and his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree (magna cum laude) from State University of New York at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine, where he received the Clinical Excellence Award and was accepted into Delta Sigma Delta Pi. He completed his advanced education in general dentistry residency at the U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Buffalo. Gellert is a member of Omicron Kappa Epsilon, the American Dental Association, the New York State Dental Association and the Eighth District Dental Association. He resides in the city of Buffalo. In addition to two existing offices, the practice plans to open a third office in Buffalo this spring.

Erie County Medical Center’s Grider Family Health Center has achieved level 3 patient-centered medical home (PCMH), according to the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA). ECMC’s Grider Family Health Center, which achieved a 92.87 out of 100 total points from NCQA, serves adults, children and the elderly. With a professional staff and access to the full resources of ECMC, the Grider Family Health Center makes care for the entire family possible, all in one convenient location. Featuring flexible appointment scheduling and a team of primary care and family medicine experts, the Grider Family Health Center makes better health possible for the community. The patient-centered medical home program reflects the input of the American College of Physicians (ACP), American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and others in extension of the physician practice connections program. It was developed to assess whether physician practices are functioning as medical homes and recognize them for these efforts. The patient-centered medical home standards emphasize the use of systematic, patient-centered, coordinated care that supports access, communication and patient involvement.  “We are very pleased that NCQA has now provided patient-centered medical home, recognized level 3 status status on both family health centers at ECMC,” said ECMCC President and CEO Thomas J. Quatroche Jr., Ph.D. “By recognizing the Grider Family Health Center, NCQA affirms ECMC’s position as a leader in delivering quality healthcare services in Western New York. The patient–centered medical home effort demonstrates that we are on the forefront of bringing the right care at the right place at the right time to the patients of our community to improve the health of the community.” 

Amherst Senior Center completes way-finding improvements The Amherst Center for Senior Services has just completed a wayfinding project in partnership with the State University of New York at Buffalo Center for Inclusive Design & Environmental Access (IDEA) that includes new color-coded interior signage and zones in the building for better navigation. “Good way-finding creates better access, increases satisfaction and reduces the stigma and isolation for users of all types and abilities,” said Heamchand Subryan, senior design research associate at UB’s IDEA. “It is important to design way-finding systems that will lessen visitor confusion, prevent accidents, employee errors, and save time and money.”

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Creating new stories of hope and healing. “After my car accident, I suddenly had lots of questions and fears about my future. But with the right team looking out for me at ECMC, it felt like I got back on the right track quickly.”

James Blackwell Collegiate Golfer, Ball State University ECMC Trauma Patient, 2009

As Western New York’s only Level 1 Adult Trauma Center, ECMC is the place our community turns to in the most critical trauma and emergency situations. Nearly 70,000 patients rely on us for emergency care each year, with a 30% increase in visits expected by 2024. From doubling square footage to offering more state-of-the-art technology, our new trauma and emergency center will help us continue to bring hope and healing to every patient who walks through our doors.

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