Live Healthier and Lower Your Risk for Heart Disease

Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States?

February is American Heart Month, and Mercy Health would like to encourage you to care for yourself, and your loved ones, by reminding you of the importance of preventive care.

According to the National Health Information Center, in the United States, the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). The great news is that you can greatly reduce your risk for CAD through lifestyle changes and preventive care, including embracing a healthy spirit.

To keep your heart healthy, the American Heart Association recommends the following:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
  • Control your cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation.
  • Get regular exercise and eat healthier.
  • Ask your doctor about taking aspirin every day (if you are a man over the age of 45, or a woman past menopause)
  • Manage stress.

While controlling physical risk factors is obviously a great way to help prevent any condition, so is maintaining a healthy spirit. For example:

  • Remain optimistic. Research shows that happiness and a positive attitude are associated with lower rates of disease.
  • Control stress. Stress relievers like deep breathing and muscle relaxation exercises, as well as keeping a journal, can be helpful in controlling the impact stress has on your body.
  • Do everything in moderation. Don’t try to do too much at one time — make sure to have time for proper nutrition, sleep, work and play.
  • Create a network. Maintaining a close circle of family and friends can provide you with emotional support when you need it.

Last, getting annual physicals and tests from your doctor is key in sustaining your health and preventing heart disease. Having a primary care physician (PCP) who can coordinate your care is vital to your good health. A PCP typically specializes in Family Medicine, Internal Medicine or General Practice.

If you don’t have a PCP, finding one is easy! Just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.

If you have any changes in your health and you’ve got questions, call the nurse line offered by your medical plan.

As your employer, Mercy Health is committed to helping you Live Your Whole Life by nurturing well-being through body, mind and spirit.

Find a Mercy Health doctor.

The Top Five Ways for Women to Prevent Heart Disease

By Prerana Manohar, MD

Mercy Health Physician Partners Cardiovascular

The No. 1 killer of both men and women in the United States is heart disease, and nearly the same number of men and women die of heart disease each year.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Despite increases in awareness over the past decade, only 54% of women recognize that heart disease is their number 1 killer.2 Heart disease is the leading cause of death for African American and white women in the United States.”

The good news is that with today’s technology, innovative procedures, medications and expert training of specialists, people have access to high quality care for dealing with heart disease. However, disease prevention is always the preferred course of action, and the sooner the better.

If you are a woman who tends to put the needs of your loved ones first — even when it comes to establishing healthy routines — please remember that if we women do not have good health ourselves, we will not be able to care for others.



Know the Signs and Symptoms of Heart Disease

More often in women, heart disease presents with atypical symptoms. Examples of symptoms we often see in women follow:

  • Chest and/or arm pain
  • Jaw discomfort or toothache
  • Ear discomfort
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Hot flashes
  • Indigestion
  • A flu you can’t shake

Any person could have these symptoms, but if you have them and cannot identify a good reason for them, you might want to speak with your primary care provider (PCP) about heart disease.

Know Your Numbers

Talk with your PCP about your key numbers to maximize your health and reduce your risk of heart disease. Specifically, you should know your:

  • BMI (body mass index)
  • Cholesterol and the breakdown of its components, including:
    • Total Cholesterol
    • LDL (low-density lipoproteins)
    • HDL (high-density lipoproteins)
    • Triglycerides
  • Fasting glucose or hemoglobin A1c
  • Top (systolic) and bottom (diastolic) numbers of your blood pressure

If you are a smoker, talk with your provider about your smoking and programs that might help you to quit. Even if you are not ready to quit, a conversation about the options is a good start.

Manage Your Stress

We know that about 85 percent of heart disease is preventable, and the number one recommendation I make to patients in order to prevent heart disease is to reduce their stress. If you don’t manage it, your stress might manage you.

Everyone has stress, and there are no right or wrong ways to reduce stress. It’s a matter of finding what method works best for you when it comes to relaxing and emptying your mind of worries. Here are some examples of stress-reducing activities you may want to incorporate into your daily schedule:

  • Take time to pray or meditate.
  • Take a walk in nature.
  • Listen to soothing music.

Live Mindfully

Listen to your body. You know your body best, so pay attention to how you are feeling and what it is telling you.

  • Keep moving, whether that involves a walk during lunch or after work, working out at a fitness center or parking in the farthest parking spot in a lot near your destination. There are endless ways to keep moving during your day.
  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Eat a balanced diet that limits fats, salt, sugar and preservatives.

If you suspect you are having a heart attack, call 911.

Both men and women tend to hesitate to call for help when they think they are having a heart attack. We know that there is no substitute for immediate medical care when it comes to a heart attack. Don’t wait. Make that call.

So in this new year, I challenge women to make one heart-healthy gift to themselves each month. Make your gift simple, such as eating only one cookie each week instead of two or skipping that sugary drink at the coffee shop. You could also add something special, such as a massage to your monthly routine. By the end of the year you will have given yourself 12 presents and begun practices to keep yourself strong and healthy.

This article was written by Cardiologist Prerana Manohar, MD

Mercy Health Physician Partners Cardiovascular

1000 E Paris Ave SE # 200, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Telephone: 616.685.3450

Learn more about Dr. Manohar

A “Giant” Among Us – Bill Manns Receives William Glenn Trailblazer Award

Bill Manns, president, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, will be honored with the William Glenn Trailblazer Award on February 3, 2018.

Congratulations to Bill Manns, president, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, who will accept the William Glenn Trailblazer Award on February 3, 2018. Manns will receive one of only 13 Giants Awards given annually by Grand Rapids Community College to individuals or leaders who shape the history and quality of life in the greater Grand Rapids community.

The William Glenn Trailblazer award specifically is given to an individual who blazes a trail for others and is a leader in his/her particular field or area of consideration. The award is named for William Glenn, who was one of the first African American employees in a Grand Rapids war production factory. Glenn was very instrumental in getting all Grand Rapids war production plants open to hiring African Americans.

“I am so honored to receive this award,” Manns commented, “and especially proud that our organization is blazing a trail in the community through our nationally recognized recruitment, hiring and retention process.  Over the past four years, Mercy Health has increased our hiring of diverse colleagues from 18% to 38% in a region that has a 21% minority population. We have doubled our diverse colleague population. This award is for our entire organization.”

According to Grand Rapids Community College’s website, since 1983,13 African American individuals and/or organizations are recognized annually through the Giants Awards for their exceptional contributions shaping the history and quality of life of greater Grand Rapids. The Giants awards recognize the contributions from all aspects of community life, with each award named after local individuals as a perpetual memorial to their notable contributions.

Proceeds from the event will support the Grand Rapids Community College Foundation’s Milo M. Brown Memorial Scholarship and the Jr. Giants Fund. Two or more scholarships are awarded annually and are presented to African American students as perpetual memorials to Mr. Brown.

Manns will accept the award on Saturday, February 3, at the 36th Annual Giants Awards and Banquet, located at DeVos Place, downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Hope Was His Message

Dave Baumgartner, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s

Dave Baumgartner, MD, Reflects on Three Decades of Caring for People With HIV and AIDS

Imagine the year is 1987. You are a young physician, fellowship-trained in Infectious Disease, and there is a disease that is killing people by the thousands, a disease that there is no cure for, a disease whose name strikes fear in everyone’s hearts. Imagine that you dream of stopping  this disease and providing hope for those who are affected.

That disease was AIDS, and that doctor is Dave Baumgartner, MD, infectious disease specialist. Baumgartner faithfully served people who were HIV-positive for nearly 30 years at the Mercy Health Infectious Disease McAuley Program, a community benefit ministry of Mercy Health. The McAuley Program has now become one of the nation’s highest-achieving treatment centers for people living with HIV and the largest clinic on the west side of the state. Today, the McAuley Program treats more than 1,100 patients annually with HIV with excellent results, thanks to steadfast its high quality clinical care provided by a dedicated, interdisciplinary team.

Back in 1988, newly  fellowship-trained in Infectious Disease at the University of Michigan, Baumgartner opened a small private practice for Infectious Disease in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He quickly began seeing patients with HIV/AIDS and decided to expand to meet this demand, focusing on this patient population. To help him fight this disease, he called upon Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, where he had served as Chief Resident in 1985-1986, when the cause of HIV/AIDS was just being discovered.

Through an $87,000 grant from the State of Michigan, Baumgartner and Mercy Health Saint Mary’s opened their clinic for people with HIV/AIDS, called the McAuley Clinic. Together, they began their work with the help of only a case manager, an RN and an outreach worker.

“We saw more than three dozen patients the first two months, whereas the initial goal was to treat 35 patients in the first year,” recalled Baumgartner. “Word spread quickly.”

Hope was his message. During a time of widespread fear and anxiety regarding AIDS, he would tell his HIV-positive patients, “Let’s focus on keeping you healthy today, then tomorrow, and then next week. The next treatment will be out there, and then we can get you on it.” The prognosis for someone with HIV in the late 80s was grim: Only half of the people who contracted it lived one year after diagnosis, and only 10 percent after two years.

The fear of HIV wasn’t felt just by those who had contracted it; it was widespread.

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“Some in the community didn’t want to go to the same hospital where we treated people with HIV and AIDS,” said Baumgartner. “It came at a cost to Mercy Health. I want to commend Mercy Health Saint Mary’s for stepping up. It was the only hospital at the time who would take care of people with AIDS and HIV, during a time when it was not highly looked upon to do so.”

Back in the 90s, Baumgartner and his infectious disease counterparts scattered across the country  “learned as they went.” During a time before the Internet, in order to receive timely information, Baumgartner and other experts personally attended clinical conferences.

“Medical journals took six months and medical books took two years to get published,” he said.” My patients didn’t have that much time to wait for this information.”

Each new treatment provided new hope for both patients and providers. “At first, the medications only slowed the progression of the disease.”

Two breakthroughs occurred in the mid-90s for treating HIV. One was the process of treating patients with a combination of three drugs, rather than just one at a time, and the second was the use of blood tests to quickly monitor the virus level in someone’s blood to track how well the drugs were working.

Patients who traveled elsewhere for treatment came back to Grand Rapids because of the level of personalized and respectful care. “Other clinics were overloaded with patients, and our local people would come back to us,” said Baumgartner. “Since we were all learning togethern about HIV, our patients in Grand Rapids had access to the same medical treatments as they did in San Francisco or New York.”

One of the proudest accomplishments for Baumgartner is the treatment of pregnant mothers who are HIV-positive. “We have virtually eliminated the transfer of the virus from mothers to their babies,” said Baumgartner, “and I especially thank Dr. Minerva Galang  and her entire team of medical assistants, nurses, pharmacists, case managers and office coordinators for their clinical focus and work on reducing these transmissions. As a team we spent a lot of hours working with our pregnant patients to meet their needs and protect their unborn babies. It exemplifies compassionate, accessible and personalized care.”

For Baumgartner, the past three decades weren’t just about the clinical aspect — it’s personal. “It’s been a joy to see my patients have children at the same time I had my kids, and then for them to have grandchildren when I have had mine.”

When he stopped practicing infectious disease medicine in November 2017 to focus on his role as Chief Medical Officer at Mercy Health Saint Mary’s, Baumgartner had to say goodbye to a patient that he had been treating since 1988. Due to his clinical aptitude and care over the past 30 years, many of his patients have become geriatric patients, in need of care for many chronic conditions that one would see in a general aging patient population —  heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.

“HIV is no longer a death sentence, rather a chronic illness.”

Learn more about the McAuley Infectious Disease Program.

Go Red for Women National Wear Red Day Helps Fund Cardiovascular Research

You can support Go Red for Women by participating in National Wear Red Day® on Friday, February 2, 2018.

Cardiovascular disease in the U.S. kills approximately one woman every 80 seconds. The good news is that education and lifestyle changes may prevent 80 percent of cardiac events. Go Red for Women advocates for more research and swifter action for women’s heart health.

Go Red for Women is a movement that starts with you. Lead by example and make the time to “Know Your Numbers.” It’s knowledge that could save your life. Five numbers that all women should know to take control of their heart health are: total cholesterol; HDL (good) cholesterol; blood pressure; blood sugar; and body mass index (BMI). Knowing these numbers can help you and your health care provider determine your risk for developing cardiovascular diseases.

The American Heart Association created Go Red for Women to raise awareness of heart disease and stroke as the number one killer of women, and also to encourage action to save more lives. The movement harnesses the energy, passion and power of women to band together and collectively wipe out heart disease.

Having a primary care physician (PCP) who can coordinate your care is vital. If you don’t have a PCP, it’s easy to find one. Just visit your insurance carrier’s website, look for the “find a doctor” area and follow the instructions.

Also, your health plan has a team of care managers ready to assist you. As part of the team’s services, you may receive an outreach call from a nurse. Please remember to return the call if you miss it.

Mercy Health is committed to helping you by nurturing well-being through body, mind and spirit.

A Story of Transformation: Mercy Health Imaging and Lab Departments in Muskegon Share How They Improved Patient Experience During a Time of Change

Lindsey Kenter, Imaging Manager, and Chris Halberda, Non-Technical Lab Manager discuss brainstorming during transformation process

As a mission-driven, innovative health organization, Mercy Health is committed to patient-centered care. This fundamental goal spurred Imaging and Lab Patient Services at Mercy Health in Muskegon to be among the first to embrace change and transformation efforts as part of the consolidation work happening at and around the Mercy Campus location.

The team’s work, led by Lindsey Ketner, imaging services manager, and Chris Halberda, non-technical lab manager, has resulted in less registration time and the ability to see more patients in a day. The spotlight of their success is just the first in our series of stories that highlight best practices centered around “engaging colleagues while embracing change.”

Their story of transformation begins here:

In October 2014, Lindsey Ketner and Chris Halberda learned the Mercy Health Pavilion campus at 1150 East Sherman Boulevard would soon have vacant space. The relocation of dental and optometry offices offered them an opportunity they couldn’t pass up – improving outpatient care.

“We wanted to remove outpatient services from the main hospital and relocate them all in one location to help streamline the patient’s medical needs,” says Ketner.

Renovated and expanded registration area

With that vision, Lindsey and Chris got to work. They acquired the existing floor plan and, with pencils in hand, literally sketched their idea for integrating all outpatient services into the available space. Drawing the plan only took a day. Pitching their idea involved several meetings and presentations on how the space would be utilized. By the end of 2015 they got the green light to map out their goal of creating an efficient, one stop, stress free medical facility that included shorter wait times. The plan also included allowing outpatients to have multiple services like lab work, X-rays and CT Scans all in one building.

But Lindsey and Chris’s vision wasn’t just about infrastructure. It was also about streamlining staff. Currently , patients were tended to by each service line. That would mean placing an emphasis on cross-training colleagues.

This was a big change, and Chris was committed to making sure everyone felt included, “We had lots of meetings; transparency is key. I wanted to make sure they (colleagues) had all the information they needed to understand that this is not only going to make our outpatient services better, but also their jobs easier.” And that included asking what was working and what wasn’t and implementing their ideas. The inclusive process helped build excitement about the new space and the new work flow.

Registration and Lab Techs were cross-trained to do both jobs. For example, a nurse who is there to recover a patient may help start an IV for CT or the X-ray tech may come help hold a child for a lab draw, which allowed the Imaging Lab and Outpatient Services to function as a cohesive team.  As a result, Chris says registration times were cut from 10 minutes to two. Patients seen also increased from 150 to 200 a day. Moving Outpatient services away from the hospital environment did something else too: It allowed each tech to focus on one area at a time, providing a better overall outpatient experience.

New expanded waiting room

The process was faster than anticipated – just over two years – from sketch to implementation to re-opening in early January 2017.

It also inspired Chris and Lindsey to keep thinking big while embracing change. “Eventually we’d like to move Hackley Outpatient services over here and also add an EKG.” says Chris.

Chris and Lindsey are excited to share what they learned about helping their team embrace change with the following tips:

Communicate often. Engage with staff and unions as often as possible to provide updates and solicit feedback. Get them involved. And be willing to give options to those who aren’t comfortable with change.

“By doing this our employees got excited about the idea of change. We didn’t want anyone to feel as if this was a take-it-or-leave-it-situation, ” said Lindsey. “We were willing to work with everyone for the most positive outcome.”

Accept the learning curve. Chris says you need to be able to check your ego at the door. It took about four months before we found our “groove.” We made adjustments along the way, but because we had worked hard on our communication with employees in the beginning, we were able to take their advice and implement those changes more quickly and smoothly.”

Lindsey and Chris stand next to the handwritten sketch about the Pavilion’s potential possibilities for the future

Be persistent. “This wasn’t an easy process, but it also wasn’t a difficult one.” Lindsey adds, “We didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. We went back to our managers four times. In the end they couldn’t say no to an idea that had so much momentum behind it and lived up to the Mercy Health standard of putting patients first.”

Regarding change, Chris said, “Change isn’t achieved in just one step; it’s a process.”










“A Fun Night In” – Acute Rehab Unit Organizes Activities for Patients in Muskegon

With winter blues on the horizon, acute rehab patients receive much-needed energy boost from coordinated evening activities.

Patient surveys and discharge phone calls revealed that patients of the Acute Rehab Unit were

Amanda DeRose, speech-language pathologist for Mercy Health Muskegon, helps a patient choose a game during Activity Night

dealing with loneliness and boredom in the evenings – particularly during times when it was hard for family to come and visit. To address this concern, the members of the Acute Rehab Unit Based Council began offering a monthly activity night – a welcomed distraction for patients who are in the Acute Rehab Unit after an accident, trauma or other serious injury. Mercy Health Muskegon Patient and Family Advisory Council (PFAC) collaborated with the Acute Rehab Unit colleagues to provide an “Activity Night” for their patients. The PFAC is part of the Relationship-Based Care framework at Mercy Health, a culture transformation model that improves safety, quality, patient satisfaction and colleague satisfaction by enhancing every relationship within an organization.

“I consider my time volunteering at our Rehab Unit’s BINGO Activity Night a true privilege,” said Chalie Weaver, Activity Night volunteer and operations coordinator for clinical engineering at Mercy Health Muskegon. “Over the course of the evening, I am able to engage with a variety of individuals of all ages. Some had family members joining them, and others did not. One individual who truly stood out was a patient named Mary. In a few short minutes, I don’t know who was having more fun – her or myself. Mary was studying my BINGO card and helping me as much as I was assisting her. As I stopped for a moment to take it all in, I looked around and witnessed such joy, fellowship and normalcy for those who might not have felt that way otherwise due to their condition.”

Patients enjoying fellowship and camaraderie during Activity Night

“As a Unit Based Council (UBC), we noticed through the discharge phone calls and Press Ganey surveys that patients were reporting the need for activities in the evening, or told us they were bored at night,”  said Amanda DeRose, Speech and Language Pathologist in the Acute Rehab Unit for Mercy Health Muskegon. As a UBC group we decided we wanted to start an activity night for the patients to give them something fun to do, keep their spirits up and offer fellowship and positivity for everyone on the unit.”

The events are overseen by Mercy Health Muskegon colleagues who volunteer their time outside of the normal work schedule. This connects with Mercy Health Relationship Based Care principles of providing a caring and healing practice environment, exhibiting exemplary management and leadership traits, and implementing system improvements.

The group is always looking for volunteers that would like to assist with the Activity Nights. “If we had more volunteers we would love to offer these activities bimonthly or even weekly,” said DeRose.

If you’d like to learn more about volunteering for the Acute Rehab Activity Nights, please contact Amada DeRose at

Patients playing BINGO during Activity Night

Available in Muskegon, Mercy Health and Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital work in collaboration to offer Inpatient Acute Rehabilitation, where they help patients achieve the highest level of independence and function after experiencing a life-changing injury, illness or surgery.

The staff’s two primary goals for all patients are to help them regain enough functional improvement and independence to allow for safe discharge from the unit and resume as many daily activities as possible, and to help identify the most appropriate setting for patients after their stay in the unit.

Patient Describes DAISY Award Recipient Aaron Agrusa as “Friend”

Aaron Argusa, BSN, RN, DAISY Award recipient, proudly displays his award after a brief ceremony held in his honor.

Congratulations to Aaron Agrusa, BSN, RN, from 4 Lacks, who was selected as the DAISY Award recipient in November 2017. Due to his compassionate care for a confused, elderly patient, Agrusa was called a “friend” by this patient.

Below is an excerpt from his nomination form:

“One day, a confused, elderly patient wandered from his room and was unable to find his way back. He was upset and confused when Aaron kindly and calmly approached him and introduced himself. Aaron listened and walked with the patient back to his room, all the while establishing a compassionate rapport. Once in his room, Aaron sat with the patient for nearly 20 minutes to make sure the patient felt safe. Aaron asked the patient, ‘What can I communicate to the doctor for you?’

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“By using compassion and understanding, Aaron was able to de-escalate the situation and form a trusting relationship with this vulnerable patient. Aaron later used his break time to check on the patient. Aaron got a snack for the patient and sat with him to just talk. This patient was kept safe and the patient now refers to Aaron as ‘my friend.'”

Standing-Room Only: Mercy Health Town Hall Sessions with President Gary Allore

President, Gary Allore and Kim McElhaney, Director of Perioperative Services visit during the Hackley Campus Town Hall

Nearly 250 Mercy Health Muskegon colleagues showed overwhelming support for new President Gary Allore, as he offered open dialogue, networking and fellowship during last week’s Town Hall sessions at Hackley and Mercy Campuses. Colleagues filled every seat, and gathered together in standing-room only sessions to hear from their new leader.

Formerly known as Colleague Forums, the newly designed “town hall” format  featured a brief organizational update, answers to colleagues’ questions, and an opportunity for open dialogue and conversation focused on making sure colleagues are informed and understand how their specific role positively impacts the organization.

“One of my top priorities is really getting colleagues to the place where they’re comfortable in their position during this transition, so that we can begin celebrating what’s going to be an awesome opportunity for our community,” said Gary Allore when addressing the group of 130 colleagues in the Hackley Youngberg Auditorium on Friday, January 12. In addition to colleague engagement, other priorities on Gary’s mind include patient satisfaction and enhancing the relationships with our medical staff and the community. “We can do a better job of being visible in the community so that business owners, church leaders and local officials are aware of all the great work we’re doing on behalf of patients in West Michigan,” Allore said.

Standing-room only at Mercy Campus Town Hall

During the open dialogue, colleagues asked questions, shared ideas and thanked Gary for his transparency and willingness to be open about the status of Mercy Health Muskegon. Many questions were related to jobs, construction site logistics at the Mercy Campus, as well and transitions in departments and location moves once we come together under one hospital.

Some questions were answered on the spot, but others will be addressed in follow up communications from Gary to participants who attended. “I’m going to be closing the feedback loop so that there’s no gap in the communication cycle. Attending the Town Hall sessions will give colleagues a glimpse into where we’re at, and how well we’re doing meeting the needs of our patients, since they always remain at the center of what we do,” said Gary.

Kharisma Kitchen and Laura Fitzpatrick, both of the Health Project, share in fellowship at the Town Hall

Additional Town Hall sessions are being added to the 2018 calendar, with the next one being hosted at Mercy General Campus in February. If your department is interested in hosting a Town Hall, please contact Erin Patrick, PR and communications manager, at




West Side Neighbors Welcome Mercy Health Innovative Primary Care

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More than 200 neighbors, local community leaders, colleagues and patients gathered on Thursday, January 11 to attend Mercy Health Physician Partners Innovative Primary Care Open House. Located on the West Side of Grand Rapids, this office is accepting new patients.

Drs. Reyelts and Kline and their team will see a wide range of patients, from pregnant women and young children to young adults and older patients with more complex medical conditions. This welcoming space was designed with efficiency, patient access and team-centered care in mind.

Learn more about Mercy Health’s team-centered care