Thursday, June 14, 2007
Many things have changed over the past 35 years

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

May 30th was the 35th anniversary of my graduation from medical school. June 23rd will be the 35th anniversary of starting my life as a pediatrician. A lot of things have changed over the last 35 years. The most interesting change has been in the area of infectious diseases. During my first year as a pediatric resident, there were relatively few antibiotics that we could use. Amoxicillin had just been invented. It soon became the primary antibiotic. Very few bacteria were resistant to it. Over the years we have developed a lot more antibiotics. We have used them a lot. The result has been that now there are bacteria that are resistant to many antibiotics. In the past we didn't have many in existence to use. Now we often don't have many that are effective because of resistance. The only immunizations we had when I graduated were DPT (diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus), polio, smallpox and MMR (measles, mumps and rubella). We had just started using the MMR a few years earlier. I have seen many cases of measles. Most of our younger physicians have not. We have made natural smallpox extinct. We do not even use the vaccine any more. We have many more vaccines to use now. Some of them prevent the primary causes of meningitis. There was a time when I could depend on seeing several cases of meningitis a year. Now I have not seen a patient with meningitis in a number of years. Vaccines help prevent pneumonia. They help prevent a serious throat infection called epiglottitis. Newborn infections are serious and used to be relatively common. Now we check mothers for the most common cause of newborn infections at 35 weeks of pregnancy. If they are positive, we give then antibiotics during labor. The result has been a significant decrease in newborn infections. Another thing that has been beneficial is the length that antibiotics last. Old antibiotics like penicillin are metabolized very quickly by the body. They need to be given every 3 to 4 hours. Many of the newer antibiotics are metabolized more slowly. They can be given once a day. In the past we would have to put patients in the hospital. They would need an IV to get their antibiotics frequently. Now we can give one dose of a long acting antibiotic. We can then see the child in 24 hours. It allows us to put less children into the hospital. Parents tend to take a lot of these things for granted. However, we did not always have it as good as we do now. We have come a long way in treating infectious diseases in 35 years.

NMH offers Stroke Support group
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital is starting a Stroke Support Group. The support group is designed for individuals who have survived a stroke as well as their families and caregivers. Modeled from the American Stroke Association, the hospital is engaging with speakers to provide education, community resources and emotional support to those who have been affected by this life-altering event. The first meeting will be held on June 29th at Nanticoke Cancer Care Center, from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. Monthly meetings will be held the third Thursday of each month. The two-hour support group meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and stroke survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support and networking. Pre-registration is not required for this free support group. For more information, call the hospital at 629-6611, extension 5121.

New medicare programs could cause problems for Delaware residents
Insurance Commissioner Matt Denn is warning Delawareans about potential problems with Medicare Advantage programs, which have generated a number of complaints in recent months. Medicare Advantage plans are offered by private companies that sign a contract with Medicare. Medicare Advantage plans provide Medicare covered benefits to Medicare members through the plan, and may offer prescription drug benefits as well as extra benefits that Medicare doesn't cover, such as vision or dental services. "The complaints I have received have alleged that beneficiaries, after enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan, discovered that their doctors do not participate in the Medicare Advantage plan even though the doctors participate in the traditional Medicare program," Commissioner Denn said. "A doctor is not required to accept a Medicare Advantage plan simply because he or she is a participating doctor with the Medicare program. Before enrolling into any health insurance program, you should make sure that your doctor is a Medicare participating physician who accepts assignment. Your provider will advise you as to whether he or she is willing to accept the terms of your plan's payment." In a number of instances where Delawareans have called the Department of Insurance to report that their doctor was not part of a Medicare Advantage plan they signed up for and that they felt misled, the department staff has intervened and asked companies to allow the consumers out of the plans. For more information about Medicare Advantage plans, Delaware residents can contact ELDERinfo, a counseling service for Delaware residents with Medicare at 1-800-336-9500 (in-state only) or (302) 674-7364; or the federal government centers for Medicare & Medicaid at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).

Look Good... Feel Better
Look Good... Feel Better, a program designed to help women overcome the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment, will hold its next session on Monday, June 18 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at The Wellness Community- DE, Sussex facility. Classes are taught by professional cosmetologists and are open to all women undergoing cancer treatment. Look Good...Feel Better is co-sponsored by the American Cancer Society; the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association Foundations; and the National Cosmetology Association. Classes are free but you must register by calling The Wellness Community- Delaware at 645-9150. The Sussex facility has newly relocated to 18947 John J. Williams Highway, Medical Arts Building at the Beebe Health Campus, Suite 312 in Rehoboth. The Wellness Community-Delaware is part of a national nonprofit organization that provides support, education and hope to people with cancer and their loved ones. Through participation in professionally led support groups, educational workshops and mind/body classes, people affected by cancer learn vital skills that enable them to regain control, reduce isolation and restore hope regardless of the stage of disease. At The Wellness Community-Delaware, all programs are free of charge. More information about The Wellness Community is available on their website at Beebe Medical Center will offer Bone Density Screenings, as well as Berg Balance and Fall Risk Assessments, on Tuesday, July 10, at the CHEER Center in Georgetown on Sand Hill Road. Bone Density Screening will be done from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and Berg Balance and Fall Risk Assessment will be done from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Tribute Awards nominations
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital is seeking nominations for its third annual Tributes For Healthcare Leadership Recognition Dinner, scheduled for November 1, at Heritage Shores Clubhouse in Bridgeville. Awards will be presented in three categories. The Founders award will be presented to an individual who has made significant contributions in furthering the mission of the hospital to improve the health status of our communities. This award will recognize a person who has contributed their time and talent to the hospital and community in a leadership role. Nominees will demonstrate a concern for the well-being of the citizens of our communities and have had an impact in the provision of healthcare services to the community. Current employees of Nanticoke Health Services and active medical staff are not eligible. The Leadership in Philanthropy Award is presented to an individual or a group who has made support of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital and community health a philanthropic priority in their lives. Through example and advocacy, nominees will have inspired others to participate in the philanthropic activities of the hospital. The Physicians Hall of Fame will recognize physician(s) who have served Nanticoke Memorial and the community with distinction and selflessness. Nominees for this award must be physicians who have retired from the Nanticoke Medical Staff or have served at least ten years on the medical staff. Nominees should demonstrate professionalism, service to the community and leadership at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. The deadline for submission of nominees is August 1. "We are reaching out to the entire community in search of as many names as possible," explained Mrs. Maria Lehman, Tributes coordinator. "There are so many people that have contributed so much through the decades to create this extraordinary health care facility and we don't want to overlook anyone." Nominations in each category can be made by calling 629-6611, ext. 2405 or in writing to Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, corporate development, 801 Middleford Rd., Seaford, DE 19973, or e-mailing The name of the nominee should be accompanied by a few words about their qualifications or a personal anecdote. Please direct questions to Renee' Morris at 629-6611, ext. 2404.