Healthy Conversations

Healthy Conversations with Saint Alphonsus

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Sophie and her Neonatologist: A NICU Success Story

Neonatologist Stewart Lawrence, M.D., was recently honored as a 2014 NICU Hero by Mead Johnson Nutrition and Hand to Hold, a national nonprofit Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Dr. Lawrence practices at Saint Alphonsus with Mountain States Neonatology, an affiliate of Pediatrix Medical Group.

Sophie Carney, of Meridian, nominated Dr. Lawrence for his compassionate and excellent care following the birth of her twin girls at 25 weeks and six days gestation. Her twins were born shortly after she underwent a procedure to treat a life-threatening fetal condition known as twin-to-twin syndrome, or TTTS.

TTTS is a rare condition that causes one twin to grow larger and another to fail to grow. The condition appears in less than 20 percent of identical twins and occurs when the blood flow through their placental connections become unbalanced. One twin does not get enough blood while the other becomes overloaded with too much blood and fluid. Babies who survive TTTS during gestation may face a range of health problems resulting from both TTTS and premature birth.  Carney says Dr. Lawrence became her constant source of communication as a NICU team cared for her girls for nearly 20 weeks.

Dr. Lawrence was involved in their day-to-day care, and he knew the big picture – the overall path to their long-term health. I realize that many people do not get this kind of care. Not only is he paying attention to all of the details, but he also has such a good bedside manner,” Carney says.

“Neonatal healthcare providers know how the trauma of a baby’s NICU stay can affect the entire family and the very real difference family-centered care can make for parents and their baby,” says Kelli Kelley, founder of Hand to Hold and mother of two preemies. The compassionate care Kelley received, and has also seen medical professionals give other parents, is the driving force behind creating the annual NICU Heroes Awards.

The NICU Heroes Award includes a $2,500 donation in the winner’s name to the pediatric healthcare charity of their choice. Dr. Lawrence designated St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to receive his honorarium. St. Jude is a research and treatment facility for catastrophic diseases in children, primarily pediatric cancers.

“I am in awe of Sophie and other NICU moms.  It is impossible for us to understand being a mom and having a baby in NICU. The gamut of emotions is incredible,” said Dr. Lawrence. “As NICU providers, we want to help them through these very difficult times. We play an intensive role that hopefully, in a very short time, will all be relegated to memories and a scrapbook.”

Mead Johnson Nutrition partnered with Hand to Hold to create the NICU Heroes Award to reward the experience, professionalism, support and deep compassion these NICU health care professionals give their patients and their families.  Families from 30 U.S. states nominated neonatal nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals who helped make a difference for their preterm or medically fragile newborns.

“As a mother to preterm twin toddlers, I was moved by the many inspiring stories of families and healthcare professionals coming together to provide extraordinary care to fragile infants who faced challenging situations during their early days of life,” said Ivonne Monteagudo, senior vice president and general manager, North America and Global Marketing, Mead Johnson Nutrition. “As a world-leading infant nutrition company, Mead Johnson is honored to recognize the dedication of healthcare professionals who perform heroics in NICUs across the country every day.”

“NICU heroes understand that in order for babies to thrive, they must have smart, informed parents who are capable of meeting their child’s needs after discharge,” explained Kelley. “We are grateful for the NICU heroes who reach beyond their job descriptions to provide comfort, understanding and words of encouragement to help parents navigate their NICU journey. Our NICU Heroes strive to integrate parents into the daily care of their baby to ensure they are ready to meet the needs of their medically fragile child.”

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Sisters Embrace the New in the Heart of Africa

Saint Alphonsus welcomes back Sisters Beth Mulvaney and Brenda Cousins who recently spent three weeks in Uganda. As elected delegates to the 2014 General Chapter of the Sisters of the Holy Cross, the Sisters traveled more than 14 hours and over 8,000 miles to Uganda where the meeting was held. Their experience in Uganda proved to be a milestone for the Sisters, as it displayed how multicultural the congregation has become. I’ve invited Sister Beth and Sister Brenda to tell us a little more about their recent journey:

Uganda 2014 073“The gathering (called a General Chapter) of the Sisters happens every five years with elected delegates from the whole Holy Cross community who come together and assess how they are doing and what their direction should be for the next five years. Once the direction is determined, they elect leadership that guides us to living the direction chosen by the Chapter. “

“This General Chapter was an especially unique experience because it was not held at its usual location at Saint Mary’sat Notre Dame Indiana. Instead, the chapter was held in Entebbe, Uganda, which highlighted both the intercultural and international reality of the Congregation. Thirty years ago, the Sisters of the Holy Cross were mainly a U.S. congregation with some missions in other countries. Now the Sisters have members who are citizens of Bangladesh, India, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Brazil, Peru and Mexico. There were delegates from each nation in attendance at the 2014 General Chapter, which further highlighted the evolving multicultural nature of the congregation. “Uganda 2014 088

“The Direction given by the Chapter reflects this intercultural and international reality by calling us to ‘adapt to the needs and reality of each place where we are’ and to ‘deepen our understanding and appreciation of distinct cultures, realities and persons’ as well as to assume ‘mutual responsibility’ in participating in God’s mission to all of God’s people.”

“When elections took place, Sister Brenda’s gifts and talents were recognized and she was elected to the General Leadership Team. This full time position is a five year commitment and requires Sister Brenda to relocate to South Bend, IN. She will leave Saint Alphonsus at the end of July.”

“The Sisters hope to bring the multicultural nature of the congregation back to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center with the hopes that all colleagues will adapt a multicultural mindset so that Saint Alphonsus can move in the Direction decided at the General Chapter. They hope that Saint Als will assume the mutual responsibility of creating a positive healing environment for the residents of Boise as it becomes an increasingly intercultural community.”

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Happy Birthday Idaho, and America!

I love the 4th of July! We are so blessed to live in a free country and I love the opportunity to celebrate our nation’s birthday.  It might be because I grew up as an ‘Army brat,’ living on post, and waking up to reveille being played every morning.

It was impressed upon me at an early age what a privilege it is to live in the United States and to have a military that is devoted to keeping our freedom.  I made certain to pass this patriotism along to my family. I think it worked, as you can see by the photo I received of my granddaughter, Siena, who is ready for the 4th of July.

I just love her boots!

July 3rd is also the 124th birthday of Idaho.  This is truly a great state and I am so happy to live and work here.  It was a mere four years later after statehood was granted that Saint Alphonsus was established in Boise by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, in 1894.

So please enjoy the 4th of July holiday, and remember to thank those who are currently serving, and honor those who have served, in our U.S. military.


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Meet Me Monday: A 2 Year Recap

IMG_8916The 2nd anniversary of Meet Me Monday was celebrated June 9 with an enthusiastic crowd of 165 participants. Of course, the Orth family (Brian, Toni, and twins Taylor and Tyler) was on hand for their 104th Meet Me Monday in a row!  They haven’t missed one yet and even celebrated the twin’s 4th birthday on June 9.  The family has been recognized by the American Heart Association Heart Walk with their Lifestyle Change Award for their perfect attendance and Brian’s 80-pound weight loss since they started Meet Me Monimage 2day.  Congratulations!
Meet Me Monday is spreading throughout the Treasure Valley.  Meet Me Monday in Kuna recently celebrated their one-year anniversary under the leadership of Saint Alphonsus Dietitian Liz Warhurst.  Meet Me Monday in New Plymouth will be celebrating their first anniversary in September.

It is exciting to see people becoming more engaged with their health and we will continue to encourage and support people in their quest to live healthier lives.  We want to be your trusted partner for life and together we can make it a long and vigorous life.image

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32nd Annual Capitol Classic

It was a splendid day for the 32nd annual Capitol Classic Children’s Race, the one-mile race from just below the Boise Train Depot to the Idaho State Capitol.  The sea of orange shirts was quite the sight as over 1,300 kids, ages 6 through 14, ran or walked their way down Capitol Boulevard.

Saint Alphonsus is dedicated to the importance of physical fitness for our young people, and this race is one way to get kids excited about running and participating in physical activity.  Who knows, maybe someday one of these race participants will be in an Ironman Boise 70.3!Alphonzo

The proceeds from the race entry fees are used to purchase “Alphonzo”, a stuffed bear given to kids who come into
our emergency department and are in need of some special comfort.  It is heartwarming to know that besides getting exercise, kids are helping kids in their time of need.

Please enjoy some photos from this year’s Capitol Classic:

Porcaro Crowd 8-1 Porcaro Crowd 11-1Porcaro Dog 1-1 Porcaro Girls and Medals-1 Porcaro Girls Bench 2-1 Porcaro Medals 1-1 Porcaro Pacific Source 3-1Porcaro Peeps 3-1Porcaro Peeps 30-1Porcaro Peeps 42-1
Porcaro Steps 9-1Porcaro Peeps 41-1
Porcaro VIPs 12-1

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What’s Not to Love About Mondays?

I am always pleased when we can provide opportunities for better health and involve the whole community in doing so.  One of our fun programs to do just that is Meet Me Monday.

I have asked Corey Surber, Director of Community Health Initiatives for Saint Alphonsus, to share her insights from Meet Me Monday as the program celebrates its upcoming second-year anniversary.

Corey-Headshot-2012-e1380982281305Sure, Mondays aren’t known for being the most popular day of the week.  Garfield the Cat famously despised Mondays for whatever reason, and in the 1960’s the Mamas and the Papas sang “whenever Monday comes, you can find me crying all the time (in Monday, Monday).”   Despite the bad rap, Mondays have really grown in popularity in the Treasure Valley over the past two years – WHY??  Meet Me Monday, that’s why!

Meet Me Monday began in Boise in June 2012 as a health partnership between Saint Alphonsus and Bandanna Running & Walking – offering a free, weekly family fun run/walk EVERY Monday year-round, through sun, rain, snow, sleet, wind and even holidays.  There are suggested routes of 1, 2, and 3 miles but participants can choose to walk or run wherever they prefer, and it’s not a timed competitive race so our athletes just sign in and head out when they arrive.  The MMM movement has now spread to Kuna and New Plymouth and more communities across the valley have plans in the works! 


The Orth Family haven’t missed a Monday in two years!

 While Mondays do tend to be a tough day for most of us mentally —  going back to work or school, getting back into the weekly routine – our Meet Me Monday (MMM) athletes have found if they commit to starting each week off on a healthy foot, it’s easier for them to set a healthy pattern incorporating physical activity and fun throughout the whole week.  Take the Orth Family as an example – Brian and Toni Orth have brought their twin boys Taylor and Tyler to EVERY SINGLE MMM since we started in June 2012.  When MMM began, the boys wheeled along in a stroller as their parents walked or ran their MMM route through downtown.  Nowadays, the boys run along ahead of their parents on their route, excited to see the “Water Monster” (the fountain at Boise City Hall), and Brian has lost an incredible amount of weight since the family started getting out with MMM every week. 

What keeps individuals and families coming back to MMM?  Whether it’s the opportunity for social time and support for living a healthy lifestyle, the free prize drawings, discounts at downtown businesses, the beautiful walk or run downtown, or the incentives for repeat participation, the great thing is that people DO keep coming back.  When MMM celebrated its 100th consecutive Monday in May, the Orth family were the first to receive their 100-timer shirts and couldn’t wait to put them on to show their accomplishment as a family. 


Connie Pond staying in shape!

Since then, more 100-timer shirts continue to be awarded each week and we continue to be amazed by stories of health transformation among our MMM athletes.   Connie Pond proudly stepped up to receive her 100-timer shirt recently with her husband Dwight, and she has a lot to be proud of.  She modeled in the Festival of Trees Fashion Show last November and was a finalist for the American Heart Association Red Dress Award this past February, recognizing her healthy lifestyle makeover and amazing 30-40 pound weight loss since starting MMM. 

Mondays are so special to our MMM athletes, they even take their 8-timer, 16-timer, 50-timer and 100-timer MMM
gear on vacations with them, and if they are somewhere other than Boise on a Monday, they put on their shirts, take photos and post them to the Meet Me Monday Facebook page to show they are still with us in spirit, getting out for a walk or run to start the week even though they are far away.  Their photo posts from China, Africa, Alaska, Washington DC and elsewhere are an awesome demonstration that Monday is far from the least popular day of the week, at least for those who have tried Meet Me Monday!

Please come join us June 9th as we celebrate two years of marvelous Mondays, and make MMM a part of your weekly recipe for good health!  Sign in starts at 5:15pm every Monday at Bandanna Running & Walking, with announcements, prize drawings and the “GET OUT” cheer at 6:45 pm.  For more information about MMM including start times and locations for Kuna and New Plymouth, please visit and “like” our Meet Me Monday Facebook page!

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Hospital & Healthcare Worker Week

This week is National Hospital and Healthcare Worker week, which provides a great opportunity to reflect on the impact hospitals and the people who deliver health care have on their communities.

At Saint Alphonsus, we see our hospitals as more than a collection of buildings where people come for their health care.  Our hospitals and healthcare providers are involved in the community, engaging people in living healthy and full lives.

 One good example of this is our Meet Me Monday program in downtown Boise, where we invite the community to walk a one, two, or three mile route with us each Monday evening. This fitness program combines healthy physical activity with social interaction, and fosters an environment that promotes longevity and disease prevention.

The same goes for our 32nd annual Capitol Classic coming up on June 7. This one-mile foot race is open to kids of all abilities from ages 6 to 14.  Thousands of kids experience the unique opportunity to run down Capitol Boulevard, starting from the Boise Depot and finishing at the State Capitol, enjoying the benefits of exercise with kids their own age.

Our hospitals host free screenings and discussions on health issues, as well.  Skin cancer, mammography, bone density, and lipid information are just some of the screenings offered throughout the year.

Our hospitals are also the place where meetings are held and plans are made with other community-minded organizations.  For example, Saint Alphonsus and the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health with their High Five Children’s Health Collaborative teamed up on GoNoodle, a desk-side physical activity program for school kids – provided free of charge to southern Idaho schools.

In addition to our community events, our hospitals put a priority in providing compassionate and quality care to everyone who comes through our doors.  We continually invest in training, resources, and technology to offer the best care possible.

20140512_142808_resizedOur biggest investment is also the most important – our people.  The healthcare workers in our hospitals, clinics and other facilities take great pride in providing compassionate care.  These men and women are dedicated to improving health – and they are extremely good at it, I might add.

While having a new facility like the Birkeland Maternity Center and the Heart Center we opened earlier this year at I-84 and Garrity Boulevard is wonderful, it is only a start to great care.  That comes from all of our people who work to deliver a healthcare experience that exceeds a patient’s expectations, and keeps the health needs of their community a priority.

So please take the time to thank your health
care provider for the work they do on behalf of so many.  They deserve it.

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Nurses Week Appreciation

During Nurses Week, I would like to take the opportunity to celebrate and thank our nurses for their commitment, knowledge, and compassion.  As a former nurse myself, I recognize the significant contribution nurses provide to ensure the delivery of excellent patient care.  It’s something Saint Alphonsus values not just during Nurses Week, but every day of the year.

Over the past year I have personally witnessed the dedication and passion our nurses live every day, as they either facilitate or directly provide personalized and meaningful patient care.

My heartfelt thanks go to our dedicated nurses, for all they do each and every day!

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Breast Cancer and Genetic Testing

A few nights ago, KTVB Channel 7 ran a story on Annie – one of Dr. Prier’s patients at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.  At the age of 28, she faced a positive BRCA diagnosis, and had to make some tough decisions.  See the full story here.  


Photo courtesy of

With the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure coming up, this story helps in reflecting on how many people have been affected by breast cancer.  Most could instantly think of someone they personally know that’s had to face the disease.  Breast cancer doesn’t really play favorites – it impacts mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and sisters.  It’s diagnosed in career women, stay-at-home moms, students, and otherwise healthy people.  In fact, hundreds of thousands of strong women across the U.S. are affected by breast cancer each year – women that are forced to battle for their lives against a disease that still has no cure.

Fortunately, science and technology are progressing.  We now know that certain types of people are more susceptible to breast cancer through their genetics and family history.  By isolating the “BRCA” (or “BReast CAncer) gene, doctors and laboratories are able to take a pre-emptive strike against the disease.  

This is bitter-sweet news for those that undergo genetic testing.  A positive BRCA test often means a mastectomy, which can be a frightening thought for some.  On the other hand, a positive genetic test means that a mastectomy surgery will exponentially lower the chances for developing breast cancer.  And with incredible advances in plastic surgery, the mastectomy is a safer and more appealing option than ever before.  

While there is still no cure, we have found ways to more precisely diagnose, treat, and put breast cancer into remission.  We must continue our journey to finding a cure, as hundreds of thousands of women’s lives depend on our support each year.  

To show your support, join the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure by clicking here.  You may also be a candidate for free genetic counseling at Saint Alphonsus, depending on your family history – find out more by calling (208) 367-8787 or by clicking here to find out more.  

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Healing Through Music

One of our Chaplains, Ben Chon, has been sharing his musical talents with cancer patients in the infusion clinic a few times a week for quite some time.  He sings, plays his guitar, and talks to them while they receive treatment.  The patients are so grateful for his presence, and they always express how his music takes their mind off of their pain, eases their anxiety, and gives them hope.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Chaplain Ben’s musical contribution to patients at the Cancer Care Center is a testament to the importance that a full music therapy program can provide in the healing process.  The Integrative Care Team was inspired by Chaplain Ben’s healing approach through music and decided to develop a complete music therapy program.  They began by applying for a LIVESTRONG grant, in hopes of funding a full music therapy program for the Cancer Care Center at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.  To win the grant, they needed to garner the most votes out of over 100 hospitals and other competing organizations who also applied for grants.  It was a long shot, but the Cancer Care Team and Chaplain Ben had hope.

Over the last few weeks, they experienced something amazing – an overwhelming outpouring of support from both the community and the Saint Alphonsus staff.  The votes were enough to win a $15,600 grant from LIVESTRONG, making a new music therapy program possible!

I’m so proud to join them in celebrating this achievement.  It touches me to know that they are so continuously passionate about the well-being of our patients facing cancer.  With this LIVESTRONG grant, the Cancer Care Team and Chaplain Ben will have brought the healing presence of music to people facing life’s toughest health challenges.

To see more about the program, check out KTVB’s great report on our LIVESTRONG grant and the music therapy program at Saint Alphonsus (click here)