Sarah Thach Steers Preventative Care for the Elderly

Sarah Thach PortraitIn western North Carolina, the number of adults aged 65 and over is expected to double in the next 40 years, becoming the largest demographic by 2030.

Sarah Thach, a Bernstein Fellow alumni, helps pilot programs aimed at helping primary care doctors prepare for the influx of elderly patients. “We are never going to have enough geriatricians so it falls to the primary care doctor to manage care for older adults.”

Care for the elderly requires a team-based approach. As our population ages, the framework for care delivery will adjust to include communication among a team of professionals including nurses, physician assistants, pharmacists, and behavioral therapists.

One of Thach’s areas of interest is preparing doctors for a team-based approach to care delivery for aging patients. She works for the Center for Healthy Aging, a program of the Mountain Area Health Education Center (MAHEC) in Asheville, North Carolina.

Thach and her colleagues hosted focus groups with primary care physicians in the region about the joys and challenges of working with the elderly. There was a constant theme—doctors need more time with elderly patients.

[box type=”bio”] Care for the elderly requires a team-based approach.[/box]

If an elderly patient visits the doctor because their shoulder hurts, then the doctor will address the shoulder, and may not have time to address the other needs of the patients. And elderly patients tend to have many health complications.

As we age, our illnesses tend to become more chronic and complex. Most of us will need more medication. “The average older adult is on eight medications,” said Thach. It takes time to help a patient manage their medications. To free up time for primary care doctors, Thach, along with her Bernstein Fellowship mentor Dr. Suzanne Landis and colleagues implemented a system of team-based care to increase the number of older adult patients receiving Medicare Annual Wellness Visits, an annual preventative care checkup for older adults. Nationwide, only 14 percent of older adults get this service, but MAHEC’s team has been able to reach 45 percent of older adult patients.  They have accomplished this by having a clinical pharmacist or a licensed practical nurse provide the visits and calling patients to invite them in for the visit. “Medicine is moving from reactive to proactive scheduling to enhance patient care,” said Thach.

These yearly wellness visits address preventive services, screening and vaccinations for the elderly, so that the primary care doctor can focus on acute and chronic needs, like a hurt shoulder.
Wellness Team Photo“Doctors can focus on patients’ priorities, knowing prevention issues are being addressed by their colleagues,” said. Thach The Center for Health Aging also encourages older adult patients to think about and document their end-of-life preferences. “Most people don’t want to be on chemotherapy at the end of their life, and they want to die at home and not in a hospital,” said Thach. “And it’s helpful for families to know their loved one’s wishes, so it’s not all on them when the time comes.”

Thach recently graduated from the Foundation’s Jim Bernstein Community Health Leadership Fellowship, a program that engages emerging health leaders and encourages their work with funding and development training. The Foundation is proud to support innovative leaders like Thach, who champion new ideas and assist communities in cultivating better health outcomes.

Bernstein Supporters GroupA warm thank you to everyone who made the 10th annual Jim Bernstein Health Leadership Fund Dinner a success. Due to the support of our friends and partners, we were able to raise over $55,000 for our Fellows program.

The Jim Bernstein Community Health Fellowship is a two-year leadership training program that supports emerging health advocates in rural and underserved areas in North Carolina. The purpose of the Fellows program is to foster strong leadership and enable collaboration.

The dinner, sponsored by Mission Health, convened 325 of the state’s health and community leaders to celebrate the five graduating Bernstein Fellows and honor the legacy of the Foundation’s founder, Jim Bernstein.

We’d like to recognize retiring program Director, John H. Frank, for his leadership in the program since 2010. During his time as Director, he strengthened the curriculum, increased the number of programmatic partnerships, and guided thirteen Fellows through completion of the fellowship. The Foundation is extremely fortunate and grateful for John’s leadership and dedication to the Fellows Program.

This year, Gene Cochrane, President of the Duke Endowment, was the recipient of the Career Achievement Award, a testament to his many years of engaging with community health issues.

Ron Gaskins, a former Bernstein Fellow, was awarded the Distinguished Fellow Award, honoring his work as the Executive Director of Access East Inc., a not-for-profit organization that strives to increase access to care for underserved populations across Eastern North Carolina.

Through the generosity of our sponsors who purchased mentor tickets, we included 39 students from UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University, Campbell University and East Carolina University at this year’s dinner. The mentor tickets reflect our commitment to fostering young health leaders.

We are grateful for the continued support from our partners in making this event special every year. Save the date for next year’s dinner on October 6, 2016!

The Foundation would like to congratulate the Bernstein Fellows Class of 2013-2015 on their completion of the fellowship program.

graduatedfellowsOur graduated Fellows include:

  • Sarah Brill Thach, MPH: The Center for Healthy Aging at the Mountain Area Health Education Center
  • Joanne Rinker, MS: Director of Training and Technical Assistance at the Center for Healthy North Carolina
  • Marian Sadler Aldridge, MPH: Community Development Specialist at the Buncombe County Department of Health
  • Jill Boesel, MPH: Project Coordinator for Physician Practice Services with Community Care of North Carolina
  • Amelia Mahan, MSW, Behavioral Health Program Manager at Community Care of North Carolina

The Foundation is pleased to welcome its newest class of Bernstein Fellows. Five dynamic professionals will participate in the fellowship program through October 2017, they are:

  • Bernstein Current FellowsPete McQuiston: Director of Food and Nutrition at Swain Community Hospital in Bryson City, NC
  • Rod Jenkins MHA: Deputy Health Director for Cumberland County, North Carolina
  • Erin Hultgren, MPH: Program Manager at Gaston Family Health Services, Inc.
  • Catherine Parker, MA: Director of Hertford County Student Wellness Center, a division of Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center.
  • Jamie Cousins, MPA: Program Manager for the Catalyst for Health Eating and Active Living

We’d like to thank retiring program Director, John H. Frank, for his leadership in the program since 2010. During his time as Director, he strengthened the curriculum, increased the number of programmatic partnerships, and guided thirteen Fellows through completion of the fellowship. The Foundation is extremely fortunate and grateful for John’s leadership and dedication to the Fellows Program.

We also welcome Tom Bacon, DrPH, as the new Director of the Fellows Program. Tom is the retired Executive Associate Dean and NC AHEC Program Director, and he continues to work as a part-time Research Fellow at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at UNC-Chapel Hill. The Foundation is excited and grateful for Tom’s commitment and leadership in continuing and developing the Fellows program.

Omisade Burney-Scott joined the Foundation for Health Leadership & Innovation as partnership manager on the Rural Forward NC team in October. She brings years of experience in community engagement to Rural Forward. Read more to learn about Omisade:

OmiQ:  What experiences or jobs have led you to work at the Foundation for Health Leadership and Innovation?

I think my ability to hold transformative spaces and support individuals, organizations and communities in navigating growth and deep change in an intentional and grounded facilitated manner brings me to the Foundation. My professional experience of working in rural communities around a myriad of issues such as community development, economic development and leadership development over the past 15 years is also a key factor. Additionally, I had the opportunity to support healthy eating and active living projects across the country in my previous role as a Program Officer with Active Living by Design (an intermediary of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation).

Q:  What role do you play in the Foundation?

I am a Partnership Manager with the Rural Forward NC team. I work with the director and associate director to design, organize, and implement capacity-building services for Healthy Places NC in rural central and eastern North Carolina.

Q. What is most rewarding about your job? What is most difficult?

The most rewarding part of my work is seeing community members and groups become self-sustaining in the ways they come together to do their work (self-facilitated, clear lines of communications and accountability). It’s also rewarding to see the long-term impact of shared leadership processes that lead to innovation and tangible outcomes. The most difficult part of my job is learning the alphabet soup of new health field lexicon (lol)

Fellows GroupThe 9th Annual Jim Bernstein Health Leadership Fund Dinner & Lecture took place on Thursday, October 9th, in Chapel Hill, NC.

Over 300 health professionals from all over the state came together for an evening of food and conversation, and to honor the Bernstein Fellows graduating class and the Career Achievement Award Recipient.

The keynote speaker was Jonathan Oberlander, PhD, who spoke about the Affordable Care Act and its impact on populations in North Carolina and around the country.

Four Bernstein Fellows completed their fellowships earlier in the year and were presented with plaques by John Frank, director of the Bernstein Fellows Program.

fellows-awardsThe 2014 Fellows class included Melanie Batchelor, Allison Lipscomb, Peter Rives, and Tim Smith.

The 2014 Career Achievement Award was awarded to Thomas Bacon, PhD, retired director of NC AHEC.  Dr. Bacon was presented the award for his years of service and dedication to preparing health care leaders to serve rural areas in North Carolina, and gave words of thanks for the continued work being done.

Brandy Bynum PortraitBrandy Bynum, Associate Director at Rural Forward NC, has a strong connection with the Tier 1 counties in which she works: she was born and raised in a neighboring Tier 1 county, Northampton County.  Brandy attended public schools growing up and especially enjoyed her creative writing and English classes, “because I got to talk a lot,” she says.

Brandy was also a driver for her school’s electric vehicle team, and raced electric cars across the country.  She raced wearing big overall suits, and says when she beat the guys she’d “take my hat off and say ‘you got beat by a girl!”  Brandy describes herself as being passionate, inquisitive, content, and strong-willed. “Once I set my sights on something, I can’t really put it down,” she says.

Brandy attended the University of North Carolina at Greensboro for her undergraduate degree, where she studied psychology and sociology.  She realized that, rather than working one-on-one with individuals, she was more interested in helping spur societal change.  This led her into public policy, first through pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration at N.C. State.  Brandy says that as soon as she started the program she knew that policy work was exactly what she wanted to do.

During her Master’s program Brandy interned at NC Child, and transitioned into a job as a policy analyst after graduating.  She continued for 12 years with NC Child, and served most recently as their Director of Policy and Outreach.  In her role as Director of Policy and Outreach, she supported Healthy Places NC, which included a lot of community outreach and helped her form relationships with some of the same communities that the Rural Forward is now involved.

Brandy thinks that the biggest challenge in her new role will be trying to fix everything, and keeping herself healthy while committing so much of her time and herself to communities.

This work excites her because she can go home at night knowing she was helpful, whether it was just by listening to someone’s concerns or challenges, or by having helped solve a challenge.  “I want to do good work that’s going to impact communities for the long-haul,” she says.

“I don’t just want a job.  It’s knowing that I’ve done something good for the day.  I woke up this morning for a reason, and I’m doing something that’s making a difference.”

Calvin_AllenCalvin Allen, Director of Rural Forward NC, has always liked challenges.  He grew up in Raleigh, NC, and attended public high school at Broughton.  His favorite class was public speaking.  “It’s funny because it always scared me.  I liked it because it was a challenge, to be a shy kid, and get up in front of a group and realize that I had something to say,” Calvin says.

Calvin attended Duke University, majoring in English with a concentration in cultural studies, and literature with a concentration in media studies, resulting mostly in film and video related classes.  He originally wanted to go into broadcasting, but ended up studying film theory.   Though he did not become a professional broadcaster, Calvin has done some voiceover work for the award-winning documentary film “The Life and Times of Joe Thompson.”

While at Duke, Calvin stumbled into the Interaction Committee, whose purpose was to promote interaction between any two groups on or off campus (i.e. students and professors, men and women, races, sexual orientations, etc.).  The group facilitated open mic discussions, lunches with the president, among other events.  Calvin says, “I realized that it was working with community groups, and working on the issues that were most important to people that drew my attention and energy.”

Calvin worked in several places, including the Southern Rural Development Initiative, the National Community Forestry Service Center of The Conservation Fund, and the Golden LEAF Foundation before coming to Rural Forward, but has always been based here in North Carolina.  While working for the Southern Rural Development Initiative, he helped small towns from Arkansas up to West Virginia figure out how to be sustainable without having to become big cities to do it.

Calvin says that balance will be one of the greatest challenges in his new role, especially figuring out how to make the larger strategy of Rural Forward NC a priority amongst all of the individual community priorities.  He says he and Brandy are lucky that many of their local community partners have offered them space to use while on the road, and knows it will still take time to strike balance between the strategy and on-the-ground efforts.

In terms of the rewards, Calvin reports there is no shortage in this role, and that every day and week bring new successes.   Just this month he was in the community and talking to someone who had a challenge around staffing.  Calvin was able to give them an idea that helped them find at least 10 hours of work per week from existing staff resources without having to spend more money, and made a great step towards a solution.  “That felt very good for the Rural Forward and for me personally.  We’re able to, just by connecting people and resources, have an impact.”

Calvin describes himself as constantly open to experiences, to ideas, and to people, and he credits others for his skills and success: “I am the product of a lot of great people.  I feel really lucky to have had a wide variety of experiences, and a lot of people who’ve trusted me when they didn’t necessarily have a reason to.  So, I’m really thankful for my mentors, and the people who have helped me get a position like this that feels so ideal for me.”