This year, we asked readers to nominate exceptional healthcare professionals in the western suburbs. A panel of judges helped us select the best of the best. For lending their time and insight, Main Line Today thanks Tammie Souza, chief meteorologist, NBC10 First Alert Weather; Gregory R. Seitter, director of marketing and communications, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter; Wendy Monaghan, founder of Ryan’s Hope at Peter’s Place and a co-creator of Families Against Drug Deaths; and Alyson Ferguson, MPH, director of grant-making at Thomas Scattergood Behavioral Health Foundation.
Please join us on May 16 at Springfield Country Club for a luncheon honoring this year’s Healthcare Heroes. For tickets and more information, click here.
Senior Vice President, Chief Medical Officer and Clinical Care Transformation Officer, Independence Blue Cross
The opioid-heroin epidemic is lethal. Locally, help is coming from an unlikely place: a health insurance company. Over the past four years, Independence Blue Cross’s policy reforms resulted in a 40 percent decline in inappropriate opioid prescribing and use among members. The chief agent of change is Dr. Richard Snyder. Now, Independence monitors and restricts the duration of opioid prescriptions and sends advisory letters to physicians who prescribe opioids outside the guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Independence covers addiction medications like Suboxone and Narcan, but it has implemented policies to curtail their abuse. By January 2019, Snyder wants to expand coverage of chiropractic, acupuncture and other therapies that can treat chronic pain. “There’s a rapid evolution as we move away from relying on opioids for pain management,” he says. “If there are things in [our] control to change, we’re changing them.”
Vice President of Medical Affairs, Community Volunteers in Medicine
For all the good work Independence Blue Cross does, health insurance is still unaffordable for many people. Community Volunteers in Medicine, a free medical and dental clinic in West Chester, has seen its patient roster grow by double digits since the Affordable Care Act was passed. Dr. Mary Brennan Wirshup leads a team that cares for thousands of uninsured Chester County residents. “My patients are people all around us,” Wirshup explains. “They are the bus drivers and waitresses, Ph.Ds. who lost their jobs, entrepreneurs who can’t afford healthcare, and previously wealthy women who got divorced and now have entry level jobs with no medical benefits. In a second, it could be any one of us.”
Director, Saint Joseph’s University Institute of Clinical Bioethics
Father Peter Clark provides care for people dealing with the double dangers of being uninsured and undocumented. Those immigrants get medical services through a program Clark created with Mercy Health System, the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and Saint Joseph’s University. Clark transforms local church basements into monthly free clinics where people access prenatal care, preventative medical screenings, dental and ophthalmologic services. While these services cut down on ER visits, the program cannot receive any city, state or federal funding because patients are in the U.S. illegally. “We will never call ICE,” Clark affirms. “We will help people get the care they need.”
Lankenau Medical Center
A recent survey showed that more than 85 percent of human-trafficking victims receive healthcare while in captivity and over 60 percent are seen in hospitals. Lankenau Medical Center’s Michael Schwien has created a screening program to help hospital staff identify those being sexually exploited. Signs of physical violence are just one red flag. “Do patients hold their own identification?” Schwien poses. “Do they have their own money? Is the person with them controlling and answering for them?” If human trafficking is suspected, doctors and nurses enact a protocol that involves social workers, hospital security and law enforcement. Schwien’s program will go into effect throughout Main Line Health System.
Bryn Mawr Family Practice
Dr. Joseph Greco and Joanne Glusman advocate for the medical needs of LGBTQ patients. “Many people hit roadblocks when they are subtly or overtly made to feel invisible,” Glusman says. “We need patients to tell us the truth about who they are.” Greco and Glusman believe that ignorance—not intolerance—is largely to blame. Many doctors and nurses aren’t aware that LGBTQ patients may have unique medical needs. To remedy that, a new program, initiated at Bryn Mawr Family Practice and Main Line HealthCare Family Medicine in Paoli, has introduced LGBTQ-friendly medical forms, and trained doctors about where to refer patients for specialized medical, psychological and social support. The protocols will be implemented throughout Main Line Health System.
Medical Director, Devereux Advanced Behavior Health Services Pennsylvania Children’s Behavioral Health Services
Treating behavioral and mental health disorders is another healthcare crisis. Dr. Jacquelyn Zavodnick addresses those needs every day. The medical director of Devereux Advanced Behavior Health Services Pennsylvania Children’s Behavioral Health Services, Zavodnick oversees care for patients ages 2-18 at Devereux’s locations throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania and Delaware. “We have an increased understanding of mental disorders in children and improved, specific treatments for those disorders,” Zavodnick says. “But you can’t force people into treatment. The best we can do is identify them and provide options for treatment.”
Associate Professor, West Chester University
Page Walker Buck uses innovative animal therapy techniques to treat patients with complex emotional traumas. Buck, an associate professor in West Chester University’s graduate social work department, does equine-assisted psychotherapy with Gateway HorseWorks. She treats adolescent girls and adult women on parole or probation from Chester County’s prison system. Many experienced abuse in childhood, intimate partner violence, and the loss of family members. How do horses help? “Horses are prey animals hardwired to sense danger and anger,” Buck explained. “When people regulate their emotions to feel comfortable with a 1,200 lb. animal, their brains downshift, allowing them to engage in the therapeutic process.”
Founder, Autism Inclusion Resources
Allowing autistic kids to engage with the world is Dr. Wendy Ross’ mission. Through her nonprofit Autism Inclusion Resources, Ross works with professional sports teams, museums, airlines and other organizations to create sensory-friendly experiences for autistic kids. One of her recent innovations is a sports casting program featuring Eagles broadcaster Merrill Reese. “Doing interviews and telling stories increased their narrative skills and ability to interact one-on-one,” Ross says. “Because it was sports, it didn’t feel like therapy–but it was.” Next, Ross is speaking at a conference in Dubai about doing autism inclusion events for the 2020 Worlds Fair.
Project Consultant, Health Care Connect | Youth Career Exploration Programs
Marrea Walker-Smith engages a different population of kids. As a project consultant for the Chester County Economic Development Council, she provides educational opportunities for middle and high school students interested in medical careers. She also works with residents in low-income housing projects, creating paths for them to earn certifications needed for entry-level healthcare jobs. “There are a lot of job opportunities in healthcare and a lot of people who, with the right educational means, can get those jobs,” she says. “I want to provide those connections.”
Claytor/Noone Plastic Surgery
Dr. Brannon Claytor connected with underserved patients in Sylhet, Bangladesh, where the plastic surgeon traveled with Rotoplast International to surgically repair cleft lip deformities. Working with a team of volunteer anesthesiologists and nurses, Claytor performed eight to nine surgeries per day for 12 days. The grueling schedule was executed in facilities very different from those at Claytor/Noone Plastic Surgery in Bryn Mawr. For starters, there was a 10-minute electrical failure. “My head lamp was the only light in the entire OR,” he says. “The patients and their families were utterly overwhelmed at the medical care that could be provided. It was enormously fulfilling. This why a lot of us became physicians and nurses.”
(From left) Dr. Jacquelyn Zavodnick, Marie DeStefano, Page Walker Buck, Bob Bacheler and Dr. Mary Wirshup.
Managing Director, Flying Angels, Inc.
International medical travel is Bob Bacheler’s specialty. As managing director of Flying Angels, Inc., Bacheler oversees a crew of flight nurses who travel on airlines with patients suffering from dementia, strokes, spinal cord injuries and other medical problems. Insurance doesn’t pay for non-emergency medical transport and an air ambulance can cost $250,000. A typical Flying Angels flight is $40,000-$50,000. That’s worth the cost for patients seeking care for chronic conditions and those who need to get to family members. “We had a patient from India who had a massive stroke while visiting the U.S.,” Bacheler remembers. “He survived, but is ventilator-dependent. His family wanted to get him back to India and we were able to do that for them safely and affordably.”
Senior Administrative Director of Oncology, Crozer-Keystone Health System
Marie DeStefano’s patient focus is women in Delaware County. DeStefano organizes the health system’s annual Girls Night Out event, which has raised more than a half-million dollars. Through anonymous gifts, Girls Night Out pays transportation costs, mortgages, rent, utilities and groceries for Delaware County women diagnosed with cancer. “We paid a $1,900 electric bill for someone with terminal cancer who wanted to die at home, but it was the middle of the summer and she didn’t have electricity to operate her oxygen tank,” DeStefano remembers. “We authorized a check and took it to electric company.”
Lee Advanced Esthetic & Implant Dentistry
This region is rich in state-of-the-art, targeted cancer therapies. One local dentist applied those principles to prosthodontics. Dr. Ernesto Lee’s S.M.A.R.T. method and surgical tool kit makes dental bone grafting procedures less invasive. The instruments are used on patients who need dental implants but suffer from jaw bone loss explains Lee, who practices in Bryn Mawr and teaches at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Dental Medicine. Lee’s grafting technique adds bone to jaws so implants can be placed. “Instead of peeling away the gums, I make a small incision that is remote from site I will graft,” he says. “It’s basically a laparoscopic principle applied to dental surgery.” Recovery time is reduced from 3-4 weeks to days, and patients typically need only Motrin or Tylenol.
Balance & Vestibular Center
Ling Chang’s approach to physical therapy at Balance & Vestibular Center in King of Prussia makes use of integrative medicine. “I am an eclectic-minded therapist, so I borrow from acupressure, yoga and everything else I understand,” Chang explains. One of Chang’s most memorable patients is now 16-years old. She came to Chang with sensory motor issues, balance and vision problems, a concussion and trouble walking because of a birth defect. It took several years, but the patient made great strides, literally. She is able to walk with crutches and perform many tasks independently. That, Chang says, is her work’s best reward.