Community Health: A Conversation About Lung Cancer Awareness

Lung Cancer awareness

On The Valley Today this afternoon, host Janet Michael had a conversation with Dr. Shalini Reddy, Thoracic Surgeon and Medical Director of Thoracic Surgery at Valley Health’s Winchester Medical Center. November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. As part of a community health partnership with Valley Health, the conversation this month focused on lung cancer screenings, the importance of having them BEFORE symptoms appear and the changes to who “qualifies.” Click here to listen to the conversation.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 236,740 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2022. Lung cancer remains the number one cancer killer, accounting for more cancer deaths than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined. The ACS estimates that more than 4,600 people in Virginia and West Virginia combined will die of lung cancer in 2022.

Dr. Reddy explained that in February 2022, Medicare expanded coverage for lung cancer screening for qualifying beneficiaries. Plus the screening criteria was expanded. Screening is recommended for adults without symptoms who are at high risk for developing lung cancer. Screening eligibility criteria include:

  • Adult smokers and ex-smokers age 50 and older (previously, eligibility began at age 55)
  • Current smokers with a 20-pack year history (previously 30 pack years) of tobacco smoking
  • Former smokers who have quit within the past 15 years

Low dose CT screenings are available at all six Valley Health hospitals. It is one of the easiest screening exams to have, and it takes less than 10 minutes to perform. If criteria for a low dose lung CT screening are met, Medicare and most insurance plans will pay for yearly screenings. Financial assistance may be available for individuals who meet screening criteria but do not have insurance to cover this screening. For more information about lung cancer awareness screenings:

The discussion included information about Valley Health’s Lung Cancer Program. In 2019, Winchester Medical Center was the first hospital in VA to be designated a Care Continuum Center of Excellence for lung cancer care by the GO2 Foundation for Lung Cancer. Valley Health has one of the most comprehensive pulmonary/thoracic programs in the region for the diagnosis and minimally invasive treatment of lung cancer. The program’s multidisciplinary team includes specialists in thoracic surgery, radiology, interventional radiology, pathology, pulmonology, interventional pulmonology, medical oncology, radiation oncology and thoracic patient navigation.

Lung Cancer Screening – Valley Health hopes to find lung cancer at its earliest, more treatable stage and work towards eliminating late-stage lung cancer. Low dose CT lung screening is available at all Valley Health hospitals for adults with a history of smoking who are at high risk of lung cancer. The screening program also includes patients who have an incidental lung nodule found during routine or emergency imaging.

Valley Health’s multidisciplinary Lung Nodule Clinic specializes in expediting care for patients with lung nodules or lesions and provides assessment and options for further testing and follow-up. The clinic’s team of pulmonary and thoracic specialists also includes specialists in diagnostic radiology, interventional radiology, radiation oncology and medical oncology.

Advanced Diagnosis – WMC interventional pulmonary specialists use robot-assisted technology combined with endobronchial ultrasound (EBUS) for diagnosis and staging in one procedure. This technology is also used to accurately mark lung lesions for more targeted radiation therapy as well as surgery. In 2019, WMC was the first facility in the broader region to acquire Intuitive Surgical’s ION™ Endoluminal System to perform robotic-assisted bronchoscopy. The ION system enables minimally invasive biopsy in difficult-to-reach peripheral areas of the lung. The Valley Health team has completed more than 250 ION cases.

Minimally Invasive Surgery – The hospital’s thoracic surgeons are experienced in minimally invasive video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) and robot-assisted techniques using the da Vinci® XI™ Surgical System. Coupled with remarkable improvements in post-operative pain management and enhanced recovery protocols, these techniques help patients feel better and return home sooner. Dr. Reddy and the Valley Health team have completed 685 robot-assisted thoracic procedures since the surgical robotics program started at WMC six years ago.

Cancer Treatment and Support – Patients who receive treatment for lung cancer at the Valley Health Cancer Center at WMC will have the personal support of a thoracic patient navigator and access to treatment options such as advanced chemotherapy, radiation therapy and interventional radiology if indicated.

The best way to prevent lung cancer is to stop smoking, and Valley Health provides resources to help. For information:

Camping for Hunger: A Conversation About Community Health

community health needs assessments valley health

Today’s conversation on The Valley Today with host, Janet Michael about Valley Health’s Community Health Needs Assessments was pretty eye-opening and insightful. It is part of a community health partnership with Valley Health where Janet talks each month with administrators, physicians, and other Valley Health staff about health topics, events, and the community. Click here to listen to the conversation.

Joining Janet today was Jason Craig, Director of Community Health for Valley Health. He highlighted his professional journey which includes direct experience in social service, education, behavioral health, and healthcare.

They discussed the value of Community Health Needs Assessments to identify and address all the needs surrounding community health. Every three years Valley Health conducts Community Health Needs Assessments for each of their hospitals, identifying priority health needs in the communities they serve. They work with health departments, United Way and other nonprofit agencies, local government officials and other key community stakeholders to learn where gaps in services exist and to identify priorities for action. Each hospital then develops implementation strategies for addressing the identified needs. The draft is expected to be finalized in the coming weeks at which time it will be made public. The results from previous CHNAs can be found by clicking here.

Jason gave examples of the many partnerships they’ve formed with nonprofits, Shenandoah University and other organizations across our communities. He talked of programs focused on workforce development, mental health, substance use, homelessness, and food insecurity. He highlighted a recent $1 million grant awarded to Page Memorial Hospital from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Emergency Rural Health Care Grant Program to remediate the impact of COVID-19 and improve health and access to care in Page County.

The pair also spent some time discussing all the social determinants that play a major role in community health. He spoke of a University of Wisconsin study that highlighted social determinants such as access to healthcare, health behaviors (tobacco use, diet and exercise, alcohol use); physical environment (access to healthy foods, quality of housing, crime and violence); and socioeconomic (education, job status, social support, family support, income, community safety.) He explained that those social determinants can be broken down into five major areas: neighborhood and build environment, health and healthcare, social and community context, education and economic stability.

VH sues insurer to recoup over $11 million in back payments

An email from Valley Health confirms that the Health system is suing an insurer to recoup $11.4 million in back payments.

On Oct.13 Valley Health Systems filed the papers in the City of Winchester Circuit Court against Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, now known as Elevance Health.

The lawsuit includes two counts of Breach of Contract and Violation of the Virginia Ethics and Fairness in Carrier Business Practices Act.

The filing follows two years of  VH quietly attempting to resolve significant reimbursement issues from Anthem Elevance for healthcare services provided.

VH felt that legal action was their only recourse against the insurer to recoup the funds owed.

The action taken by VH will in no way affect the service provided to the communities and patients they serve.

The nonprofit healthcare provider is simply trying to recoup the $11.4 million owed by one of the country’s largest healthcare insurers.

Where Anthem Elevance Health saw $6.1 Billion in profit in 2021 VH continues to struggle, especially with the delay in payment from the insurer.

VH will continue to provide the care that is expected and is deserved to their patients at all of their facilities no matter the out come.

Indiana, Georgia, Maine, Wisconsin as well as Virginia all have filed similar suits against the insurer.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

VH’s former CEO and President is honored for his past service

covid-19 vaccine arrival

Valley Health (VH) announced by email that their former President and CEO Mark Merrill has been awarded for his past services.

Sept. 22 the Virginia Hospital Healthcare Association gave Merrill the Distinguished Service Award.

The award is presented to a past or current Chief Executive Officer with a long record of performing outstanding valuable and unique services to the hospital and healthcare community.

After spending 11 of his 35 year long career in healthcare Merrill retired from VH in 2020.

During his 11 years at VH Merrill is credited with many significant achievements such as completing new facilities or renovations at VH’s six hospitals among other accomplishment.

Merrill was recognized by the Top of Virginia Regional Chamber in 2016 at the  Greater Good Awards.

Most recently Merrill continues to serve the commonwealth being appointed to the State’s Transportation Board by then Governor Northam.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

VH’s President and CEO one of Virginia’s Top 500 people

Winchester based Valley Health (VH) announced their President and CEO Mark Nantz has been named one of Virginia’s top 500 people leading the Commonwealth.

Nantz is one of 13 hospital and health system leaders chosen from the Healthcare, Biotech, Pharmaceutical sectors.

Nantz joined VH in the third month of the pandemic with a focus on a culture of employee and patient safety.

As an advocate for VH caregivers he also secured board approval for two paycheck protection measures.

Nantz’s protection measures came at a time when many health systems were electing to layoff employees.

Nantz was also a leading voice in the debate regarding healthcare employees vaccinations among other accomplishments.

The listing as one of the top 500 comes from the Virginia Business magazine.

Those persons in the top 500 are selected and not nominated by the magazine’s editorial staff after extensive research.

The staff strive to inventory the most powerful and influential leaders and executives in Virginia across 20 major sectors.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

VH/PMH receives $1 million to help with health care

Valley Health (VH) announced that Page Memorial Hospital (PMH) will receive $1 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Emergency Rural Health Care Grant Program.

The funds are to remediate the impact of COVID-19 and Improve health and access to care in Page County.

Rooted in Rural Healthcare is a three year multi faceted initiative led by VH, PMH, Page County Public Schools, Page Alliance for Community Action and Page County.

The funding hopes to especially help older and low income households with both transportation and technological struggles.

Broadband upgrades will help with telehealth for outreach and monitoring.

The hope is through community gardens working with the PMH nutritional staff will provide access to nutritious foods and better health outcomes as well.

These and other advantages toward better health care will be funded by the grant money.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

United Way’s record breaking campaign

online charity auction

The United Way of the Northern Shenandoah Valley announced the 2021-2022 campaign was one of their most successful in the organization’s history raising over $1 million dollars to serve the community.

The majority of those funds were raised through workplace giving programs and individual donations.

The organizations that contributed the most through workplace giving include Trex, Valley Health, and Navy Federal.

The United Way had a huge increase in requests over the past year and would not be able to serve those community members without these donations.

The money will be used for the United Way’s Impact Grants as well as to expand and maintain their flagship program, the Valley Assistance Network.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

VH announces the launch of Project Elevate

Valley Health (VH) System announced the launch of Project Elevate in an email.

The 16 month project will implement a customized version of the electronic medical record or Epic system.

The Epic system documents care including tests and procedures, communications with patients, health care team and health care providers.

At a cost of approximately $50 million the upgrade Project Elevate will allow Valley Health more flexibility and independence improving response and create more platforms including laboratory, cardiology and home health.

Previously the Epic System was run through a system tied to INOVA Health System.

This upgrade will allow independence from the INOVA system.

Project Elevate is expected to be completed and fully operational by the fourth quarter of 2023.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

WMC is named a High Performing Hospital

covid-19 vaccine arrival

Valley Health (VH) announced that Winchester Medical Center (WMC) has been named a 2022-23 High Performing Hospital.

WMC was named a High Performer in 12 procedures and conditions by U.S. News and World Report.

High Performing is the highest award a hospital can earn for Best Hospitals Procedures and Conditions ratings.

In addition WMC was named best regional hospital in the Shenandoah Valley and ranked 6 in the state this year.

U.S. News and World Report evaluated More than 4,500 across 15 specialties and 20 procedures and conditions.

Fewer than half of all hospitals received any High Performance ratings.

Only four of those hospitals earned the High Performance rating in all procedures and conditions.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.

VH is recognized by the House of Delegates

Valley Health (VH) announced that they have been recognized by the House of Delegates.

The recognition is for their service to the community through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Virginia Delegate Wendy Gooditis was at Winchester Medical Center July 18 to present House Resolution 653 to VH personnel.

Gooditis told the officials that the resolution passed unanimously on bipartisan basis through the House of Delegates.

Gooditis added that she and her colleagues across the Commonwealth acknowledge and appreciated what VH does for the community often at great personal risk.

For more news from across the Shenandoah Valley, click here.