The Grace Anne Dorney Pulmonary Rehabilitation Center at Cabin Creek Health Center opened on Nov. 2. Pictured (L to R): Craig Robinson, Cabin Creek Health Systems; Kim Tieman, Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation; Cecil Roberts, UMWA; Sen. Jay Rockefeller; Grace Anne Dorney; Ted Koppel.
CAMC's pulmonary rehabilitation department received grant money to provide services to three rural health care facilities in rural West Virginia which serve a high number of patients struggling with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The grant comes from the Dorney-Koppel Family Foundation, and in the fall of 2012, Ted Koppel, the popular journalist of Nightline fame, reached out to Craig Robinson (Cabin Creek Health System) and Chuck Menders (CAMC) to discuss the prevalence of lung disease in West Virginia. Koppel's wife, Grace Anne Dorney Koppel, is a COPD patient and is the national spokesperson for COPD for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The couple is passionate about pulmonary rehabilitation and providing therapy to patients in more rural areas that might not have access to regular pulmonary care otherwise.
Proper COPD management requires extensive patient education and frequent check-ups, something that patients in these rural areas have not had access to in the past. The new project, a collaboration between Cabin Creek Health System, New River Health, Boone Memorial Hospital and CAMC, grew out of the initial conversation with Koppel. Once implemented, the program will offer pulmonary rehabilitation services to patients in hopes of significantly improving the patients' quality of life.
The number of hospitalizations in southern West Virginia for COPD-related complications is twice the national average. The mortality rate associated with COPD in West Virginia is 58 percent higher than the national average. While smoking is the number one cause of COPD, environmental and work-related hazards and exposure also put patients at risk for the disease. Underground coal miners are at a higher risk for COPD because of the nature of their jobs.
Pulmonary rehabilitation is a game changer for patients suffering with COPD. With the guidance of a therapist, patients can learn to breathe in a different way that allows for increased activity.
Exercise helps strengthen the lungs, easing the symptoms of COPD and ultimately allowing patients to lead an active and fulfilling lifestyle.
According to Chuck Menders, director of respiratory services at CAMC, his department has been working with the rural clinics to set up the rehabilitation programs and is providing training and education for the respiratory therapists that will work with the patients on a regular basis.
The first of the rehabilitation facilities opened at Cabin Creek Health Center in early November. Craig Robinson, director of the center, is thankful to CAMC for the support in this project.
"It's not every academic medical center that would be willing to provide the clinical and monetary resources for a project in rural health clinics," Robinson said at the ribbon cutting event for the new center.
The project will aim to treat at least 60 patients in the first year, and hopes to double that in the next year.