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With bone marrow donation, a brother’s ‘greatest gift’ saves his older sibling

May 24th, 2017

Derek Gropp, left, with his younger brother Christopher.

Despite their age gap presenting unique challenges, a 3-year-old’s bone marrow proved to be a lifesaving resource for his teenage brother.

After 16 years fighting a rare, life-threatening disease, Derek Gropp finally met the organ donor who would save his life — his 3-year-old brother, Christopher.

Derek was born with Kostmann syndrome (commonly known as severe congenital neutropenia), which prevents the body from producing white blood cells critical to fighting infections and makes even a common cold or an ear infection potentially fatal.

Because the disease can transform into leukemia, Derek’s family knew their son might one day need a bone marrow transplant.

Then along came Christopher, who in 2016 proved to be nearly a perfect match for his big brother.

But the case presented unique challenges. At just 40 pounds, then-preschooler Christopher was nearly one-third the size of his 150-pound brother. Their age gap also was a factor.

“We have had donors as young as Christopher, but the recipient is usually another child close in age or size,” said Sung Won Choi, M.D., a pediatric hematologist-oncologist at U-M’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, where Derek receives his care.

“What’s incredible about this story is that bone marrow was donated from a 3-year-old to a 16-year-old,” Choi said, noting the difficulties of the exchange. “In order to give Derek a bone marrow transplant, we essentially had to take out Christopher’s entire blood volume.”

Challenges and success

Since Derek’s diagnosis at age 1, the family made the 900-mile, five-state trek from their home in Salina, Kansas, for care with the immuno-hematology team at Mott. In 2014, the family temporarily moved to Ann Arbor for regular appointments in preparation for the transplant.

“Because of the size difference between them, not many centers may have done the transplant,” said the boys’ mother, Lisa Gropp. “Other places would likely have told us to wait for another match from a donor we didn’t know to avoid the risks.

“The fact that the Mott team was willing to do this transplant speaks volumes for what brilliance Derek’s doctors brought to the table, along with confidence and knowledge to be able to make these life-changing decisions for my children.”

Last year, the Mott team used a bone marrow growth factor to stimulate white blood cell production in Christopher. Doctors had planned to freeze the bone marrow cells, expecting to need possibly two rounds to collect the amount of cells Derek needed.

But Christopher, now 4, proved to be a “fountain of marrow,” according to doctors, providing more than enough marrow on the first try.

Derek then underwent a nearly five-hour-long infusion to replace his bone marrow with healthy cells from his little brother.

A lifesaving connection

When Derek was diagnosed as a baby, Lisa Gropp was told her child might not live past age 4. He was in and out of the hospital and on medications since.

Today, thanks to his brother’s gift, his body shows no signs of ever having Kostmann syndrome.

“A bone marrow transplant was Derek’s only chance of a cure. Without it, he would die,” Lisa Gropp said. “He’s too young to understand it now, but Christopher will grow up knowing he was our greatest gift. He saved his brother’s life.

“He turned out to be our little hero.”

A year later and now 17, Derek continues to do well. He’s able to travel more easily than ever and spend quality time with family members like his grandmother.

His mother also hopes the siblings’ shared bond encourages more people to understand the importance of bone marrow donation.

“We are very grateful for his new life and ability to do these things. These are all big milestones,” Lisa Gropp said. “Every day I pray their story, especially Derek’s survival and the transplant, will inspire and give others hope when they feel scared and in despair.

“We would never wish for any child to ever endure all he has, let alone another parent watch their child suffer. Derek has overcome so much in life. If it eases the heart of one parent or inspires one person to become an organ donor, that would mean so much to me.”

For more stories like this one, check out the Michigan Health Blog.

Diversity Matters: Ramadan

May 23rd, 2017

Michigan Medicine draws its strength from the diversity of its patients, faculty, staff and students.

Beginning Friday night, and continuing over the next month, many in the organization will be observing Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting. “Ramadan Mubarak! Blessed Ramadan!” is a common greeting for this month.

To help you become more understanding and supportive of patients, families and colleagues, here’s what you may not know about Ramadan:

What is Ramadan?

Ramadan falls during the ninth month of the lunar-based Muslim calendar, believed to be the month that the prophet Muhammad received his first revelation from God (“Allah” in Arabic) around 1,400 years ago. Collectively, those revelations became the Muslim holy book known as the Quran.

“Ramadan is celebrated as the time the Quran was sent to guide Muslims in all aspects of their life,” said Imam Kamau Ayubbi of Michigan Medicine’s Department of Spiritual Care.

To celebrate, Muslims fast from sunrise until sunset each day, abstaining from drinking water, eating food and other pleasures during daylight hours. Extra prayers are offered at night.

“From a distance, fasting may be seen as a hardship,” Ayubbi said. “But for many Muslims, fasting is a sign of gratitude and giving thanks, it is also a practice of heightened spiritual awareness and purification.”

Fasting is considered to be a way to empathize with the plight of the poor, and charity is traditionally emphasized during the holiday period.

Both before the daily fast and after, meals are eaten. The pre-dawn meal is called suhoor, while an evening meal, the fatoor, is taken at sunset to break the fast. The sunset meal often includes dates, in the tradition of Muhammad.

After the fast has been broken, a larger, more elaborate feast may take place with friends and family.

How will Ramadan affect patients and colleagues?

While fasting has a religious significance, exceptions are made for those who are ill, elderly or pregnant. That means patients are excused from the fast, though they may ask for certain foods or other religious items during the month.

Consult with each individual’s registered dietitian nutritionist or a member of Spiritual Care to see what services can be offered at Michigan Medicine.

Congregational prayers are offered in the UH Chapel on Fridays from 1:30 p.m. – 2 p.m. Staff members, patients and family members are welcome to attend.

Meanwhile, certain faculty and staff members may fast during the day. Please be respectful of those choices and ask them how you may support their efforts.

When does Ramadan begin and end?

Because it is based on the lunar calendar, Ramadan falls on a different date every year.

This year, Ramadan will likely begin at sundown on Friday night, May 26 and end at sundown on Sunday, June 25, depending on new moon sightings.

To mark the end of Ramadan, there is typically a festival of prayer and feasting known as Eid al-Fitr (pronounced Eed-al-fit’r). During the feast, Muslims will give thanks to Allah for helping them perform their duty of fasting. Gifts are exchanged and large meals and sweets are shared.

“Eid al-Fitr is certainly a festive time,” Ayubbi said. “As is the entire month of Ramadan. It’s important for Muslims to celebrate everything we have been given.”

Pioneering doctor paved the way for women at U-M

May 22nd, 2017

Earlier this month, 174 U-M Medical School graduates walked across the stage at Hill Auditorium, earning their spot among the newest generation of physicians and health care leaders.

Among them were 85 women — all of whom were following in the footsteps of Amanda Sanford, M.D.

Indeed, U-M — with Sanford leading the way — became one of the first major medical schools in the nation to accept women. In 1871, Sanford became the medical school’s first female graduate, earning highest honors in her class.

In honor of the U-M bicentennial celebration, Headlines is honoring Sanford and all the people, places and events that have shaped Michigan Medicine over the years.

U-M opens its doors to women

Sanford began her medical career by studying for one year at the Women’s Medical College of Pennsylvania. She then moved to Boston for an 18-month training program at the New England Hospital, where she specialized in obstetrics.

But Sanford sought a university degree that would give her the credibility that most women in the mid-to-late 1800s were unable to receive. At the same time Sanford was looking to enter a medical school program, the U-M Medical School was seeking its first female students.

According to Medicine at Michigan, the school was well-positioned to become a national leader in attracting a diverse student body: “At 20 years old, the Medical School was an established school with a national reputation, yet not encumbered by a complex hierarchy.”

So in 1870, the school opened its doors to women, accepting Sanford and 17 others to the program. She was the first of the 18 women to graduate, writing her thesis on a common obstetrical complication at the time.

While some professors and students resisted the acceptance of women — with some shouting and stomping their feet whenever the women entered a lecture hall — Sanford was lauded by former faculty member Henry F. Lyster at her commencement ceremony. “It is my pleasing duty to welcome to the profession a woman coming from these halls,” Lyster said.

As he spoke, some students jeered Sanford and threw paper at her from their seats. But those taunts didn’t dissuade Sanford, who went on to become the first woman to run a private practice in Auburn, New York.

For more on Sanford’s inspiring story and why the U-M Medical School has named one of its four M-Homes after her, click here.

If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the university, there are a number of upcoming events that are free and open to Michigan Medicine faculty and staff. Here are some highlights:

  • Symposium, Strategies to Empower Women to Achieve Academic Success: 8:30 a.m. – 11 a.m., Wednesday, June 7, A. Alfred Taubman Biomedical Sciences Research Building, Kahn Auditorium
  • President’s Bicentennial Colloquium, The Evolving Bargain Between Research Universities and Society: 1:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m., Monday, June 26, Ross School of Business, Robertson Auditorium
  • Forever Valiant, Bicentennial book distribution: 11:30 a.m. – 5:50 p.m., Tuesday, June 27, Diag
  • MStaff200 staff celebration event: 11:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, June 27, Ingalls Mall

Click here for a full calendar and more information on all U-M bicentennial events.

Week in Review: Week of May 15, 2017

May 19th, 2017

This week, Headlines covered recent med school graduates, a story about a stroke patient whose life was saved thanks to the efforts of statewide collaboration, tips for helping patients in “stick”y situations, and employees who received “gold” status through the Making a Difference awards.

Other than that, it was a really slow news week! Check it out:

Medical School graduates look to the future

The U-M Medical School Class of 2017 is a diverse group of scholars — including researchers, teachers, athletes and Americorps members. Click here to learn more about the new physicians, see pictures from the recent commencement festivities and find out what advice Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, gave to the graduates.

Statewide collaboration saves patient’s life

Each day, the organization’s faculty and staff save lives across the state. With professional collaborations in dozens of cities, patients like Merrill Harvitt are able to get the specialized care they need no matter where they live. Learn Merrill’s story and how U-M experts in Traverse City and Ann Arbor worked together to save his life.

Service Spotlight

Let’s face it, needle pokes can lead to some “stick”y situations! That’s why Michigan Medicine offers the U-M Poke and Procedure Program, which aims to make receiving a vaccine, having blood drawn or undergoing similar procedures more comfortable for all. Find out more about the program and how you can offer it to the patients you serve.

Making a Difference: Employees go for gold

Employees across Michigan Medicine continue to make a difference through their hard work and dedication. Click through to see a rundown of “Gold” awardees — remarkable colleagues who received 10 or more Making a Difference awards between March 2016 and March 2017.

Making a Difference: Employees go for gold

May 18th, 2017

Employees across Michigan Medicine continue to make a difference through their hard work and dedication. This month, Headlines is highlighting some of Michigan Medicine’s “Gold” awardees — individuals who received 10 or more Making a Difference awards between March 2016 and March 2017.

Recognizing the contributions employees make to the organization helps team members become more motivated, drives better teamwork and gives each individual a sense that they are an integral part of achieving organizational goals.

Check out what patients and family members had to say about some of the organization’s “gold” employees:

Dionne Perryman, nurse, 7B cardiac

I had just found out my father was being put into hospice care. Dionne stopped in the hall, chatted with me and said a beautiful prayer with me. She missed her break in order to talk and visit with my family. What a beautiful, loving person to go out of her way for someone she did not even know. What a gem you have in her.

Eddie Scott, Environmental Services

I was here for 16 days and was lucky enough to see Eddie a lot. He lifted my spirits every time I talked to him. It can be very difficult staying in the hospital for so long, but Eddie was always warm and friendly. He makes an effort to cheer us up and it is greatly appreciated. You are lucky to have him.

Cora Harris, nurse, 9C/D adult psychiatry

I feel so blessed to have been under Cora’s care and lucky for the knowledge she had to offer me. She is dedicated and well-educated and made a world of difference in my life. I now realize I can control my emotions with mindfulness techniques, which Cora helped to teach me while helping to care for me. I hope that she understands that she is an inspiration to her patients and an asset to this hospital unit! Thank you!

Joyce Evans, ACS clerical resources pool

Joyce was like an angel sent to help me check-in for my eye appointment. While she was reviewing my information, my mother was listed as an emergency contact. She had recently died and sadly I needed to remove her from that list. I just want to say thank you to Joyce for being so kind, gentle and understanding as I started to cry. She comforted me in a difficult moment by simply talking to me. I will always remember her kindness and care. My mom always taught me that there are so many good people in this world and she was right. Thank you.

Kenneth Yu, M.D., Ph.D., dermatology

I wanted to let Dr. Yu know that I was most impressed by his care and patience during my recent visit to dermatology. I have been a regular patient at this location for a number of years and unfortunately have required a number of biopsies and other methods for removing early skin cancers. Dr. Yu was the most gentle and the least painful caregiver I’ve ever encountered. Thank you, Dr. Yu, for your kindness, patience and professionalism during my visit. Thank you so much for the extra care you take in your treatment of patients!

Jacqueline Payne, Revenue Cycle

I want to thank Jacqueline from the bottom of my heart for her efforts to get my issue resolved. While it can sometimes feel like the billing process is impenetrable, it is a relief to know that someone will be attentive and persistent in their effort to get to the bottom of a patient’s billing problem.

Also receiving gold recognition:

  • Alisha Nordstrand, CVC 5
  • Karen Wilson, Entrance Services
  • Judy Jones, Entrance Services
  • Mohammad Dahabra, Environmental Services
  • Christine Yen, Interpreter Services
  • Ransom Roquemore, Health Information Technology & Services
  • Jim Jeffries, Health Information Technology & Services
  • Jennifer Crawford, nurse, 7B cardiac
  • Sean Pollard, nurse, 8A3 oncology acute care
  • Keisha Kidd, nurse, 8A3 oncology acute care
  • Leah Roux, nurse, 9C/D adult psychiatry
  • Sean Brannon, nurse, 9C/D adult psychiatry
  • Tariq Akbar, radiology
  • Robin Wolf, Revenue Cycle
  • Deanna Renner, Unit for Lab Animal Medicine

Thank you all for making a difference in the lives of your colleagues, patients and family members!

Statewide collaboration saves patient’s life

May 17th, 2017

When it comes to stroke and neurovascular care at Michigan Medicine, it takes a dedicated team of experts to keep patients safe and healthy. It also takes collaboration.

Just ask Merrill Harvitt and his family.

In 2015, Harvitt suffered serious bleeding on his brain while at his home in Traverse City, Michigan. Upon his arrival in the emergency department at Munson Hospital, he was seen by Thomas Schermerhorn, M.D., who has an appointment in the U-M Department of Neurosurgery.

Merrill Harvitt and his wife Sandra. Courtesy of Melisa McKolay Photography.

“He had massive bleeding in two different areas of his brain,” Schermerhorn said.

Merrill’s status was critical, and the services provided in Traverse City were not as specialized as what Michigan Medicine could offer. So Schermerhorn called colleague Aditya Pandey, M.D., assistant professor of neurosurgery and surgical director of the U-M Comprehensive Stroke Center, to discuss what could be done for his patient.

What followed was an inspirational story of teamwork and expertise. Schermerhorn began a procedure on Harvitt’s brain in Traverse City and — thanks to a Survival Flight team — Harvitt was then transported to U-M for Pandey to finish the procedure.

The collaboration didn’t stop there. A group of expert nurses, physical therapists and staff in the neuro intensive care unit helped Harvitt get back to full health. Today, he has no lingering effects of his stroke.

“We thank God every day for Dr. Schermerhorn for getting Merrill’s treatment started, and for Dr. Pandey for doing everything that he did for us,” said Sandra Harvitt, Merrill’s wife. “It’s a true miracle, really.”

In honor of National Stroke Awareness Month, click on the video above to learn Harvitt’s remarkable story.

Service Spotlight

May 16th, 2017

Needle pokes can be real “stick”lers! Receiving vaccinations, having blood drawn or an IV inserted, or experiencing any other pokes from a needle can cause anxiety or stress for some patients, especially the little ones (and let’s face it, it’s not fun for their parents either!).

Luckily, the organization offers the U-M Poke and Procedure Program, which aims to make the experience easier and more comfortable for patients and their families. The eight-part program provides personalized coping strategies from distraction techniques like singing and counting to cold and other touch simulation devices meant to ease pain.

Though the program was initially developed to help children reduce their worries and pain, it is now being tailored to meet the needs and preferences of adult patients. A full rollout for adult services is planned for the fall.

Click here to learn more about the U-M Poke and Procedure program. Refer patients and families to and tell them to search “poke and procedure” for more information and for a full list of coping strategies.

If your department is interested in implementing this service, Ambulatory Care Services offers training to faculty and staff members. Contact the ACS trainers at for more information on training dates and availability.

About Service Spotlight: When it comes to enhancing the patient experience, Michigan Medicine is serious about service. While the Office of Patient Experience is charged with transforming the way team members engage with patients and their families, ultimately it’s everyone’s responsibility to provide the ideal experience at every interaction.

In an effort to help you provide excellent service, Service Spotlight highlights information and resources any employee can use to enhance the patient experience.

Got ideas or suggestions on how to improve the patient experience or want to share best practices in your department? Email

Medical School graduates look to the future

May 15th, 2017

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Last Friday, 174 U-M Medical School graduates filed into Hill Auditorium and left ready to enter the evolving world of health care as new physicians and future leaders.

The students’ hard work and sacrifice over the past four years — or more — culminated with Friday’s commencement ceremony. In a few weeks, the graduates will embark on a residency program to prepare them for their chosen area of medical expertise.

The Class of 2017 is a diverse group of scholars representing 33 states. Eighty-five women and 89 men received their degree and celebrated the achievement with friends and loved ones.

“I’ve had the opportunity to receive such an incredible education,” said Marybeth Hall, who is headed to Vanderbilt University for a urology residency. “Words cannot express the amount of support I have received from the Michigan Medicine community, and I will be forever grateful to the friends, faculty, mentors and patients who have helped me develop into the person I am today and the clinician I will become.”

‘Make the world a better place’

Friday’s ceremony featured remarks from Marschall S. Runge, M.D., Ph.D., executive vice president for medical affairs, dean of the Medical School and CEO of Michigan Medicine; and a keynote address by Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., former U-M Medical School faculty member and current director of the National Institutes of Health.

As NIH director, Collins oversees the work of the largest institutional supporter of biomedical research in the world, spanning the spectrum from basic to clinical research. He was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2009 and continues in this role in President Donald Trump’s administration.

As director, Collins has helped launch major initiatives to: advance the use of precision medicine, increase the understanding of the neural networks of the brain, and identify areas of cancer research that are ripest for acceleration to improve prevention and treatment.

Collins had several pieces of advice for the newly-minted doctors: “Be prepared for rapid changes in medicine. Keep your focus on what really matters — how are you going to use your talents to make the world a better place? Ultimately that will be a lot more important than what titles you achieve or how much money you make.”

Collins concluded by telling graduates to handle challenges as gracefully as possible.

“Be prepared to learn from trials and failures,” Collins said. “They are just a part of life.”

Runge also addressed the evolving health care industry.

“Now more than ever, we need strong leaders in medicine who can rapidly adapt to our ever-changing environment,” Runge said. “We need collaborators, innovators and pioneers who can reach across disciplines and work with many different subject matter experts. And we need compassionate caregivers who — in spite of technology — remember the power of the human touch.

“You are these leaders, pioneers and caregivers who will shape the incredible future of health care.”

To watch a video of the entire commencement ceremony, click here. And check out the photo gallery above to see images from the festivities. 

For Nurses Week, chief nurse executive discusses Magnet status

May 12th, 2017

U-M hospitals joined an elite group this year — the Magnet Recognition Program®.

The distinction, given by the American Nurses Credentialing Center, is the highest and most prestigious distinction a health care organization can receive for nursing excellence and high-quality patient care. With only 6 percent of U.S. hospitals earning the Magnet designation, it’s the gold standard.

The history

The ANCC established the Magnet Recognition Program® in 1994 to recognize health care organizations with high-quality patient care, nursing excellence and innovations in professional nursing practice. The process to achieve Magnet recognition includes rigorous documentation and site visits with specific emphases on leadership, staff empowerment, an established nursing practice model, support for knowledge generation and application, and quality-improvement mechanisms.

Patient impact

A 2015 study led by Christopher R. Friese, Ph.D., R.N., an assistant professor at the U-M School of Nursing, found that surgical patients treated in Magnet hospitals were 7.7 percent less likely to die within 30 days of an operation and 8.6 percent less likely to die after a postoperative complication, compared with patients in non-Magnet hospitals.

As a part of Nurses Week, Michigan Medicine’s Chief Nurse Executive Margaret Calarco, Ph.D., R.N., took some time to discuss the Magnet Recognition Program® and what it means.

Why did Michigan Medicine pursue the Magnet Recognition Program®?

Calarco: We didn’t initially pursue the recognition because we didn’t want to just rally around an award. In 2012, we decided we wanted to pursue Magnet recognition to ensure that the nation knew about our excellence in nursing care. We have been working on patient care, improving our practice environment for nurses and improving patient outcomes over the past many years. When we did decide to pursue the designation, we rallied around improving care and took the criteria not as an award, but as a challenge to continue elevating our practice.

One important way that we have distinguished ourselves from others in the country is our partnership with our union leaders. Leaders from our local union, the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council (UMPNC) and the Michigan Nurses Association (MNA) and U-M nursing leadership came together early in our journey to work together to pursue Magnet designation. We created processes together all along the way to be successful.

Why should patients care about the recognition?

Calarco: Patients should know that Magnet hospitals possess some of the highest levels of patient outcomes in terms of conditions like the prevention of falls, pressure ulcers and different kinds of infections. They should also know that this distinction means they are within a facility with a strong collaborative community and that the organization at large works very well together. That disciplines work well together, and this includes everyone including the physicians, nurses, pharmacists and many others. Patients and families want to receive care in an environment where people work well together to do their best work.

What does the recognition mean for the future?

Calarco: It enables us to continue to focus and elevate our practice — to be even better and to improve our care even more. We are proud to be Magnet-designated, but Magnet designation is not a one-time event. We will continue to meet the criteria. The criteria will continue to change. It will be more rigorous and even more patient-centered, and we welcome that. The Magnet distinction helps to support and sustain our journey of excellence.

Is the Magnet distinction only for nurses?

Calarco: Magnet recognition is about nursing excellence and is nursing-led, but the process to earn the recognition engages everyone across the organization. As an organization, it shows we really value each other, collaborate with each other and help each other in the practice of patient care. We know that when interprofessional teams collaborate and work well together, that’s when the finest patient care occurs.

Will patient care be any different now that the bar has been set higher?

Calarco: In 2009, we came together to create our “true north” statement. It’s the single most important statement that guides our work. We want everyone to know that we are always relentlessly striving to provide the finest care to those who choose to place their lives in our hands. That is our guiding principle. We will continue to set the bar high for ourselves and continuously improve our practice … that’s what patients and families can be confident in.

For more stories like this one, check out the Michigan Health Lab Blog.