News Center

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Heart Center classes can win their hearts and waistlines

INDIANAPOLIS – St. Francis Heart Center is offering a series of free “Change of Heart” classes for the public to learn new ways to be more heart healthy and introduce them to great lifelong habits.

Classes are taught by St. Francis dietitians and exercise specialists. Attendees receive free booklets for each class chock-full of hints, ideas and recipes.

The classes are 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and run from March 3 to May 27. Most are held at the St. Francis Heart Center, 8111 S. Emerson Ave., Entrance 1. March classes include:

Good Health Starts Here
March 3, St. Francis Heart Center
March 23, St. Francis Hospital—Mooresville, 1201 Hadley Road
Learn the basics about nutrition and how fats, carbs and protein affect your body. Other topics include the benefits of fiber and the importance of limiting salt in your diet.

Heart Smart Dining
March 10, St. Francis Heart Center
How many meals do you eat away from home? Here are some hints about making good choices at your favorite restaurants.

Cooking for Your Heart
March 25, St. Francis Heart Center
March 29, St. Francis Hospital—Mooresville, 1201 Hadley Road
Learn how changing just one or two ingredients in your favorite recipes can boost nutrition and cut fat, sodium and calories.

Creative Cuisine
March 31, St. Francis Heart Center
Surprise your family with new recipes that are fun to make and nutritious. Taste samples during the class.

Reduce Stress
March 9, April 7, May 13, St. Francis Heart Center
This three-session class goes in-depth on how to manage stress in your life and reduce its effects on your physical health. Attend one or all three! Classes are taught by James Nicolai, M.D.

Super Shopping
March 16, Kroger, 8850 S. Emerson Ave., Indianapolis
This class begins and ends in a local supermarket where our dietitian leads the tour through the aisles. Find new products and learn how to read food labels for nutritional information.

For more information about class offerings and services available at the St. Francis Heart Center, go to

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

St. Francis physician encourages colorectal cancer testing as first line of defense

INDIANAPOLIS – Colorectal cancer may not be on your short list of great conversation topics. But in the end, discussing how to screen for the disease with your family doctor could be a lifesaving decision.

That’s because testing can find precancerous growths, or polyps, which doctors can remove. And testing can detect cancer before any of is symptoms emerge.

“Colon cancer screening with colonoscopy is a safe, mostly painless, and potentially lifesaving procedure that should be performed on any person age 50 or older, regardless of whether or not they have symptoms or problems,” said Michael Morelli, M.D., director of the St. Francis Colorectal Center of Excellence. “This should be done at a younger age if there is a significant family history of colon polyps or cancer in the family especially first degree relatives.”

Screenings usually are not painful. In some cases, sedation may be given to make you more comfortable during the procedure. A gastroenterologist, a physician who specializes in diagnosing and treating problems of the digestive
system, or a specially trained colorectal surgeon should perform the tests.

Recent news reports have highlighted in-home stool testing kits that can be mailed to a lab for results. Morelli described these as “second-line recommendation to be used only for those who absolutely will not or cannot have a colonoscopy.”

He added that screening in any fashion is important, but emphasized that colonoscopy is the preferred method of screening.

March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The American Cancer Society estimates that as many as 146,000 new cases will emerge in 2010.

“Tens of thousands of lives could be saved each year if every American were tested as recommended,” said Morelli.

For more information about colorectal cancer prevention, screening and treatment at St. Francis, call 317-782-7145, or visit

Monday, February 22, 2010

St. Francis Hospital COO goes on-line to chat about Indy campus project

INDIANAPOLIS – Even though the winter weather might conceal it, there is a flurry of construction activity at the St. Francis Hospital-Indianapolis campus. And the public soon will have the opportunity to learn more about what’s going on.

St. Francis Chief Operating Officer Keith Jewell will host a live blog chat from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 2, to answer questions about the ongoing construction project and what it means to the communities of south-central Indiana.

Jewell also will field questions about the possible future use of St. Francis Hospital-Beech Grove after medical services are consolidated at the Indianapolis campus in early 2012.

Those unable to participate in the chat session can e-mail questions in advance to the St. Francis Community Relations team by 10 a.m., March 2, at

This chat session is “real “conversation. For this reason participants should observe the same etiquette when participating in the chat session as they would in day-to-day conversation.

Those who would like to post comments should observe some simple conversational guidelines below. St. Francis reserves the right to delete comments it thinks may be offensive to the audience at large.

Visit the St. Francis Hospital-Indianapolis construction blog at
http://stfrancis-Indianapolis.blogspot to post questions to Jewell.

Friday, February 19, 2010

St. Francis pharmacy manager honored as ‘Hero’ by Patient Safety Coalition

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Patient Safety Coalition has recognized Alan Alfrey, pharmacy manager at St. Francis Hospital-Mooresville, for his software program that ensures proper and safe medications are provided to patients.

Alfrey received the Coalition’s Patient Safety Hero Award for developing and implementing the RxVerify software to prevent medication restocking errors.

The software uses the medication barcode to verify that pharmacy technicians properly restock medications in anesthesia and labor and delivery trays, medication kits, emergency drug boxes, and other specialty kits. The program also prevents restocking with medications that are expired or near expiration.

In the past, verifying that the right drug is in the right slot with the right concentration in hospital trays was done manually. Now, on-screen color coding and audio alerts indicate a match or mismatch.

This innovative application is used at St. Francis’ Mooresville, Indianapolis and Beech Grove hospitals.

St. Francis Chief Medical Officer Alan Gillespie, M.D. (left), congratulates Alan Alfrey on his Patient Safety Hero Award, honoring his development of an innovative pharmacy software.

St. Francis Cancer Research Foundation appoints new manager

INDIANAPOLIS – Kathryn LaPrees has been appointed manager of the St. Francis Cancer Research Foundation.

LaPrees, who has been at St. Francis since 2008, previously was research billing and contracts manager for the foundation. In her new role, she serves as department liaison for cancer investigators, coordinators, management, sponsors and the St. Francis Institutional Review Board.

A certified clinical research professional and pharmacy technician, LaPrees was a regulatory affairs project coordinator for a regional cancer research organization.

LaPrees earned a bachelor’s degree in health administration at Indiana University.

The St. Francis Cancer Research Foundation offers patients local participation in nearly 100 FDA-approved investigational trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and various pharmaceutical companies.

To learn more about the foundation and ongoing trials, go to

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Advance health care directives reduce patients’ anxiety, enhance care

INDIANAPOLIS – St. Francis Hospice is leading an effort to educate the public about the importance of having advance health care directives.

That’s why it is coordinating an event Friday, April 16, at Greenwood Park Mall and Mooresville Public Library, 220 W. Harrison St. The Greenwood event is from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., and 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The Mooresville venue will be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Advance health care directives instructions are given by individuals specifying what actions should be taken for their health in the event that they are no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity.

Hospice staff will be joined by St. Francis nurses, social workers, chaplains and attorneys specializing in health care law. Other experts from outside the hospital will be on hand to answer questions.

The event coincides with the National Health Care Decisions Day, designed to raise awareness and the importance of advance care planning.

“Our goal is to provide much-needed information to the public and reduce the number of problems that occur when a patient’s wishes are unknown and to enhance the ability of health-care facilities and provides to offer their patients and their families informed and thoughtful guidance,” said Monica Burkhart-Negri, R.N., community liaison at St. Francis Hospice.

To learn more about St. Francis Hospice, go to

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

St. Francis lunchtime fellowship provides support for those grieving loss

GREENWOOD, Ind. – St. Francis Hospice is hosting a new program offering fellowship to those who are mourning the loss of a loved one.

The Lunchtime Fellowship Group meets noon every Wednesday at Jonathan Byrd’s Cafeteria, 100 Byrd Way.

“Participants share their experiences and learn a little about what others are going through,” said Chaplain Karla Riggs Norton, St. Francis bereavement coordinator. “It’s a nurturing environment and I have watched this group bond naturally and become supportive of each other’s loss.”

The program is open to the public and no registration is required. For more information, call 317-859-2879.

More information about St. Francis Hospice is at

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Indy Monumental Marathon donates $51K to IPS education programs

INDIANAPOLIS – Several lndianapolis-area educational institutions will get a leg up on their programs thanks to the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon organization.

A total of $51,000 in proceeds were generated from the November 2009 IMM race – more than double the amount from the previous year’s event, said IMM Executive Director Julie Patterson.

Receiving $17,000 each are the Indianapolis Public Schools Education Foundation, College Summit and The Mind Trust. The Butler University’s women’s basketball program also is the recipient of a “spirit award” gift.

“All are charities that dramatically improve public education for underserved students,” Patterson said.

IMM representatives were expected to present check to officials tonight (Feb. 16) at an IPS school board meeting.

“The support IPS receives from the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon is tremendous,” said IPS Superintendent Eugene. G. White. “Thanks to this organization, IPS students are provided with uniform clothing, school supplies, and materials for the classroom to help improve student achievement. During the 2009 race, student musicians stationed along the race route helped encourage runners to push toward the finish line. It was a great opportunity to thank runners from across the globe who support our students.”

St. Francis Hospital & Health Centers has been the title sponsor of the IMM since its inaugural race in 2008. The hospital provides nearly 200 physicians, nurses, physical therapists, trainers and volunteers to assist runners during the daylong event.

Last year’s IMM brought together more than 6,000 participants from six foreign countries and 44 states.

This year’s race will step off Saturday, Nov. 6. More information about the IMM is at

To learn more about the St. Francis Sports Medicine programs and services, visit

Friday, February 12, 2010

Free St. Francis seminars may give birth to improved parenting skills

INDIANAPOLIS – The ups and downs of raising children doesn’t haven’t turn into a parent trap.

To that end, St. Francis Behavioral Health is offering two free seminars, providing resources and encouragement for parents.The workshops will be conducted by St. Francis licensed therapists Jean Crane, Connie Fetsch and Rebecca Richey.

The first class – designed for parents with children ages 2 to 11 years old – is 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, March 9, and will focus on identifying family values, relationship-building and effective discipline.

The second, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. addresses relationship-building and communications, the use of effective consequences for discipline and stress management. It’s geared for parents with adolescent children from 12 to 18 years-old.

Both sessions will be at St. Francis Behavioral Health, 610 E. Southport Road.

To register or for more information, contact Jean Crane at 317-782-6503.
More information about St. Francis Behavioral Health services is at

Thursday, February 11, 2010

St. Francis Hospital physicians earn honors for outstanding service

INDIANAPOLIS – Eve Olson, M.D., and Nalin Shah, M.D., have been selected as Distinguished Service Award winners by the Medical Executive Committee at St. Francis Hospital & Health Centers.

The two recently were recognized at a St. Francis physicians program and dinner in downtown Indianapolis.

Olson and Shah are past presidents of the St. Francis medical staff and have served on numerous hospital committees.

A member of St. Francis Medical Group, Olson is medical director of the hospital’s Weight Loss Center. She joined St. Francis as an emergency physician in 1984. She later sought intensive training in bariatric medicine and is now board-certified in that field.

In 2003, Olson began treating obese patients at St. Francis in the state’s first comprehensive bariatrics center, which combined both medical and surgical treatments.

Olson earned her medical degree at the Indiana University School of Medicine and completed her residency and internship in emergency medicine at Methodist Hospital.

Shah has been affiliated with St. Francis since 1974 and has served as president of Southeast Anesthesiologists since 1993. He was St. Francis’ medical director of anesthesia from 1993 to 2007.

More than 820 physicians are affiliated with St. Francis Hospital, of which 120 are members of St. Francis Medical Group. For more information about the group, go to

‘Emotional Eating’ support on menu at St. Francis Weight Loss Center

INDIANAPOLIS – Occasional “emotional eating” isn't a problem for most people. After all, that's what makes comfort food so appealing. But turning to food every time a person has unpleasant feelings – or even positive ones – can lead to weight gain.

The Emotional Eating Support Group at the St. Francis Weight Loss Center is for anyone trying to lose weight and struggling with emotional overeating, also known as compulsive overeating or binge eating. This group offers support to patients struggling with emotional eating, or using food for reasons other than physical hunger and feeling unable to stop the behavior.

The groups will be led by Holly Pittman, a therapist at the Center, who has extensive experience providing individual, couples, and group therapy to patients with eating, mental health and addiction issues.

The latest session gets under way 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 2, with each session held Mondays at the St. Francis Weight Loss Center, 5230-A E. Stop 11 Road, across Stop 11 Road from the St. Francis Hospital-Indianapolis campus.

There is a fee for those registering for the program. Call 317-782-7525 or visit for additional information.

St. Francis heart surgeon explains murmurs, complex valve repair

MOORESVILLE, Ind. – It is estimated that more than 5 million Americans suffer from some form of heart valve disease and can cause heart damage without symptoms.

At a Tuesday, Feb. 23 program at the Mooresville Public Library, 220 W. Harrison St., Marc Gerdisch, M.D., will explain how heart valves cause murmurs and when it’s time to seek treatment. The event, which is free to the public, begins at 6:30 p.m.

Gerdisch is the medical director of cardiothoracic surgery at the St. Francis Heart Center, a partner of Cardiac Surgery Associates and the co-director of the St. Francis Heart Valve Center at St. Francis Hospital & Health Centers.

Gerdisch was the first in the world to use technology that allows patients to rebuild their own cardiovascular tissue. He also will discuss how the revolutionary technology can be used to modify and repair cardiac structures, allowing heart tissue to re-grow inside the beating hearts of patients.

To learn more about Gerdisch’s work go to

Valves inside the heart that do not open or close properly cause heart murmurs. People can live with heart murmurs a long time without any symptoms. In fact, the heart can suffer considerable damage from heart valve disease before symptoms become noticeable. Heart failure may result from longstanding or sudden onset of valve disease.
“A heart murmur does not necessarily signal a problem,” said Gerdisch. “Many murmurs are harmless; however, their relationship to the valves needs to be understood, and they require follow-up to ensure that heart continues to function normally.”
Attendees also may be eligible for a free valvular echo screening.

“Imaging the heart with sound waves, allows us to monitor the impact of valve disease on the heart and therefore treat it at the right time,” Gerdisch said. “There has been considerable innovation in heart valve treatment, including our ability to repair valves instead of replacing them.”

To register for the program, go to, or call 317-782-4422.
The Mooresville Public Library is located at 220 W. Harrison St.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

St. Francis-Mooresville offers free screenings for vascular disease, April 17

MOORESVILLE, Ind. – Pain or poor circulation in a person’s legs may be warning signs of peripheral vascular disease (PVD).

With PVD, the vessels that carry blood to the arms and legs become narrowed or clogged, sometimes causing pain. Many times, however, a person will experience no serious symptoms but still have PVD. It is common that adults with PVD either have or are at risk for heart disease.

Knowing that you have PVD brings you one step closer to benefiting from one or more current treatments. That’s why St. Francis Hospital-Mooresville is offering Legs for Life, a free screening program 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., Saturday, April 17, at 1201 Hadley Road.

The simple noninvasive test takes about 15 minutes and is recommended for those 50 and older. Symptoms of PVD can include:

Leg or hip pain when walking but stops when resting
Numbness, tingling or weakness in legs
Burning or aching pain in feet or toes when resting
Sore on leg or foot that won’t heal
Cold legs or feet
Color change in skin of legs or feet
Loss of hair on legs

Registration is required. To make an appointment, call 317-782-4422, or toll-free at 877-888-1777.

Monday, February 8, 2010

St. Francis is local host for national teleconference on end-life care

INDIANAPOLIS – The St. Francis Palliative Medicine program will be the local host of a free national teleconference focused on cancer and end-of-life care decisions

The Hospice Foundation of America’s 17th annual National Bereavement Teleconference 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 24.

The program will include a panel of experts addressing care options related to cancer diagnoses, as well as loss and grief issues experienced by patients and their families, and professional caregivers. It also will focus on the psychological aspects of cancer, pain management and ethical issues related to the disease.

Locally, the conference will be broadcast at the St. Francis Hospital auditorium, 1600 Albany St., Beech Grove.

To register or learn more about the conference, call Dawn Webb at 317-783-8930. Professional caregivers seeking continuing education units will be required to participant in local discussion after the event.

More information about the St. Francis Palliative Medicine program is at

Thursday, February 4, 2010

St. Francis Hospital elects new chairman, officers to directors’ board

INDIANAPOLIS – Gerald C. Walthall, M.D., is the new chairperson of the Central Indiana Regional Board of Directors of the Sisters of St. Francis Health Services Inc (SSFHS).

Walthall, medical director of the St. Francis Hospital & Health Centers’ Palliative Medicine team, recently was elected to lead the board. A retired otolaryngologist, he has had a long-time affiliation with the hospital.

Also elected for the 2010-12 term are Wayne S. Schmidt (vice chair) and Donald J. Kerner, M.D. (secretary). Schmidt is chief executive officer of the Indianapolis-based design firm, Schmidt Associates.

Kerner, a physician with St. Francis for many years, is the hospital’s former chief medical officer.

Among others serving on the 15-member board are SSFHS chairperson, Sister Jane Marie Klein and Kevin Leahy, SSFHS president and chief executive officer.

St. Francis has hospitals in Indianapolis, Beech Grove and Mooresville, which comprise SSFHS’ central region. The Mishawaka, Ind.-based health system also operates 10 other hospitals in Indiana and Illinois.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Surgeon opens new practice at St. Francis Orthopedics Specialists

INDIANAPOLIS – Kral Varhan, M.D., a member of St. Francis Medical Group, has joined Orthopedic Specialists at St. Francis Hospital & Health Centers.

He most recently had a practice with Orthopaedic and Arthritis Surgery Center in Grand Island, Neb. Varhan is certified by both the American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery and by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

Varhan also holds subspecialty board certification in orthopedics sports medicine by the American board of Orthopedic Surgery and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

A graduate of Queen University Medical School in Canada, Varhan completed residency at the University of Western Ontario and finished a fellowship in adult reconstruction and arthritis surgery at Stanford University in California.

Varhan specializes in arthroscopic surgery and sports medicine, along with reconstructive surgery and joint replacement.

Physicians at Orthopedics Specialists, located at 701 E. County Line Rd., Suite 204, Greenwood, treat acute and chronic disorders of the musculoskeletal system. For more information go to