People of the U: Patrick O’Brien

Published on Monday, January 6, 2020

By: Gary Pettus, [email protected]

Former high school English teacher Patrick O’Brien left the classroom six years ago; but his classroom keeps coming back to him.

Now a senior administrator in the School of Medicine’s Office of Graduate Medical Education, O’Brien can name more than a dozen current students or employees at the University of Mississippi Medical Center who made it through his advanced English courses before setting out on their present-day callings.

Nurses, technicians, medical students, analysts and more: As students at Florence High School in Rankin County, some called him “O.B.”, but the initials stood for more than a last name – they also meant “advisor,” “supporter,” and, not least of all, the teacher who could make the Salem witch trials or a 19th century tale of revenge come alive.

In this photo taken when she was a junior at Florence High School, India Byrd displays a poster for an English class project.

In this photo taken when she was a junior at Florence High School, India Byrd Hemphill displays a poster for an English class project.

“He made English classes fun; and you could be yourself in his class,” said India Byrd Hemphill, a fourth-year medical student. ”He was always someone you could count on, even when you were no longer in his class. I think he was everyone’s favorite.”

Today, “everyone’s favorite” says reuniting with many of his former students at the Medical Center, especially in the School of Medicine where he works, is a satisfying, “full circle” sensation.

“It’s a source of pride for me,” O’Brien said. Also a source of pride: His teaching days. But they also became a source of frustration.

It was the “good schools” in his hometown of Ocean Springs that beguiled him in the first place. “In my high school and on the Gulf Coast in general, they really value education,” he said. “I believe that really encouraged me to be a teacher.”

A 2000 graduate of Ocean Springs High School, O’Brien earned a bachelor’s degree in English/Language Arts Teacher Education at Mississippi State University, where he stayed another year to enlighten the students of Starkville High School.

Patrick O'Brien, center, front row, celebrates Homecoming at Florence High School with his students in 2013.
O’Brien, center, front row, celebrates Homecoming at Florence High School with his students in 2013.

After a job in Florence beckoned, O’Brien became an Eagle for about the next eight years.

“I was very happy in the Rankin County School District,” said O’Brien, who was a two-time winner of the Mississippi Economic Council’s STAR Teacher award.

“Florence High School is a great place to work. The town is a quiet pocket in Mississippi, a tight-knit community. I was embraced there.”

He had planned to pour about 30 years of his life into teaching, but much had changed in education by the time he graduated from MSU. “I had paid for training that was no longer valid,” he said. “I had to teach to the test. I did not like the fact that a student’s performance, or lack thereof, was associated with the teacher’s performance.

“There was no autonomy. And one of the reasons I wanted to go into teaching was to be able to put my own spin on things.”

In this photo taken several years ago, Lexi Griffith roams the corridors of Florence High School as an 11th grader in Mardi Gras mode.

In this photo taken several years ago, Lexi Griffith roams the corridors of Florence High School as an 11th grader in Mardi Gras mode.

As much as he could, O’Brien did put his own spin on literature, and students like Lexi Griffith enjoyed the ride.

“O.B. would pick these books or plays and assign us roles from them; one was “The Crucible,” which is very intense,” said Griffith, a fourth-year medical student.

“I believe for “The Count of Monte Cristo” he had us pick a scene and act it out while it was recorded on camera. He was also known for decorating his classroom,” Griffith said. “I thought Halloween was the best: black neon paint, strobe lights; it was like a maze in there.

“He took us on field trips, too; for Halloween, we visited a haunted mansion, The Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana. And, after we had already studied “The Help,” the movie opened and he took the class to see it. That was fantastic.

“We did so many things in O.B.’s class. He’s good at showing how literature can impact you, not just your writing skills, but also you as a person.”

Such moments with his students amounted to a balm for O’Brien’s “burnout.” “I grew very close to them,” he said.

He also decided to “suck it up,” he said, “because I thought all I could do was teach, that I wasn’t prepared for a job doing anything else. That’s a very common misconception.

“Having been a teacher has paid off exceptionally well for me,” he said. “I realized if you can handle a classroom of high school students successfully, you can do anything. What works for one student may not work for the other. A classroom is a diverse ecosystem, and managing one – once you have that down, the rest is easy.”

Speaking of diverse ecosystems, the Medical Center has, among its 10,000-plus employees, a friend of O’Brien’s in talent acquisitions, Sara Yates, now the human resources director at Methodist Rehabilitation Center. “While I was still teaching, she explained to me one day the multifaceted environment that is UMMC,” O’Brien said. “It is a city unto itself.”

Helping that city run are people in positions that support education, jobs where the skill set of a teacher could be plugged in, Yates told him. O’Brien decided to search for an outlet.

His first interview at UMMC didn’t take, but about six months later, a job opened up in the Department of Emergency Medicine; beginning in January 2014, O’Brien filled it as residency coordinator for nearly six years. Just recently, he found his place in GME as administrator of all 69 residency and fellowship programs, overseeing compliance, accreditation and more.

After a day of meetings with program administrators or performing the favorite part of his job – “looking at systems procedures”— O’Brien spends his off-time working for Stewpot Community Services: He serves meals at the soup kitchen and serves on the board of directors. Or he’s at home reading a book, often Southern fiction.

Or, as a booster of his neighborhood, the Fondren community in Jackson, he is visiting some of his favorite spots there, photographing, in situ, his pet dachshund, a local Instagram celebrity in his own right.

“I named him Ready after I got him, because he was, and so was I,” O’Brien said. Ready for Ready, it seems, and ready for his current career.

At UMMC, Patrick O'Brien has discovered several of his former high school students working or studying here, including Lexi Griffith, left, and India Byrd Hemphill, right.

At UMMC, O’Brien has discovered several of his former high school students working or studying here, including Griffith, left, and Bryd Hemphill, right.

“I was surprised he had stopped teaching, because he was so amazing at it,” said Hemphill, who was in O’Brien’s classes with Griffith. “But I know working here has been an exciting next step for him. He’s still in education, even though it’s medical education. When I heard, I knew he would be great at it.”

Griffith was also surprised to find him at UMMC. “It was the weirdest experience,” she said. “I was on my emergency medicine rotation, and he walked in. I said, ‘O.B., what are you doing here?’”

Because she hadn’t realized until then that O’Brien was at UMMC, the moment was a bit “embarrassing,” she said. “But it was also very nice.”

For former Florence High classmates Griffith and Hemphill, as well as first-year medical student Joshua Smith, things have also come full circle here at UMMC – in the guise of O’Brien.

“I even go to him for advice now, about things I’m writing, or just to see a familiar face at the Medical Center,” Griffith said.

For her part, Hemphill stayed in touch with O’Brien during her undergraduate days at Mississippi State. “Even in college, when I had a question, whether it was English-related or not, he would help me,” she said.

“He has done that now that I’m in medical school.”

This past August, the former India Byrd, now India Byrd Hemphill, expressed her gratitude with a special invitation: Among the guests at her wedding was her English teacher from Florence High.

“I’ve always admired him,” Hemphill said. “He’s been someone to look up to, once as a teacher and now as a friend.”

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ER Goddess: Why EMRs Don’t Work for EPs

Wolters Kluwer Health

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A National Study of End‐of‐Life Care among Older Veterans with Hearing and Vision Loss


OBJECTIVES

Hearing and visual sensory loss is prevalent among older adults and may impact the quality of healthcare they receive. Few studies have examined sensory loss and end‐of‐life (EOL) care quality. Our aim was to describe hearing and vision loss and their associations with the quality of EOL care and family perception of care in the last 30 days of life among a national sample of veteran decedents.

DESIGN

Retrospective medical record review and Bereaved Family Survey (BFS).

SETTING

Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Centers (N = 145).

PARTICIPANTS

Medical record review of all veterans who died in an inpatient VA Medical Center between October 2012 and September 2017 (N = 96 424). Survey results included 42 428 individuals.

MEASUREMENTS

Three indicators of high‐quality EOL care were measured: palliative consultation in the last 90 days of life, death in a non‐acute setting, and contact with a chaplain. The BFS reflects a global evaluation of quality of EOL care; pain and posttraumatic stress disorder management; and three subscales characterizing perceptions regarding communication, emotional and spiritual support, and information about death benefits in the last month of life.

RESULTS

In adjusted models, EOL care quality indicators and BFS outcomes for veterans with hearing loss were similar to those for veterans without hearing loss; however, we noted slightly lower scores for pain management and less satisfaction with communication. Veterans with vision loss were less likely to have received a palliative care consult or contact with a chaplain than those without vision loss. Although BFS respondents for veterans with vision loss were less likely than respondents for veterans without vision loss to report excellent overall care and satisfaction with emotional support, other outcomes did not differ.

CONCLUSION

In general, the VA is meeting the EOL care needs of veterans with hearing and vision loss through palliative care practices.

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Dentistry alumnus to sponsor school’s effort to treat children during Give Kids a Smile

Published on Monday, December 16, 2019

By: Kate Royals, [email protected]

Dr. Lake Garner, a 1996 alumnus of the University of Mississippi School of Dentistry, is giving back in a big way to his school and the community it serves.

Beginning in February, Garner is committing $20,000 a year to help dental students and faculty members provide free treatment for elementary students in the Jackson Public School district. This will mark the 14th year of Give Kids a Smile, which makes up one day of the school’s annual Dental Mission Week.

The American Dental Association began the national Give Kids a Smile program in 2003 as a way for dentists to join with the community to provide dental services to underserved children.

In 2017, the School of Dentistry incorporated Give Kids a Smile into a new, weeklong effort providing care to underserved and uninsured adults and veterans from across the state. In its third year, students and faculty treated more than 1,300 – nearly 400 of them children – during Dental Mission Week.

Johnson Elementary student Darnell Geralds shows fourth year dental student Devin Stewart his brushing technique.

Johnson Elementary student Darnell Geralds shows fourth year dental student Devin Stewart his brushing technique.

“Throughout my career, I have treated a great amount of children, and adults, who were not given access to proper dental care early on,” Garner, the chief executive officer of Garner Dental Group, said. “To achieve a lifelong health smile, children must understand the importance of good oral hygiene and be offered the opportunity to achieve such at an early age. Every child deserves the chance at a healthy smile.”

Hattiesburg-based Garner Dental Group operates 15 locations in Mississippi and one in Mobile, Alabama, and employs 200 people.

Portrait of Dr. David Felton
Felton

Dr. David Felton, dean of the School of Dentistry, says Give Kids a Smile is an integral part of the school, and he is extremely grateful for Garner’s commitment to it.

“That Dr. Garner has stepped up to help sponsor GKAS enables the school to provide additional services to these children and help offset the expense associated with the week’s events,” Felton said. “We are extremely grateful to Dr. Garner for his support of the GKAS program and of his support of the School of Dentistry. His visionary gift should set the bar for future giving to the School of Dentistry and our outreach programs.”

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No Treatment for Strep Throat

Wolters Kluwer Health

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Validity of Cognitive Assessment Tools for Older Adult Hispanics: A Systematic Review


OBJECTIVES

A higher prevalence and incidence of dementia is found in Hispanic/Latino older adults. Therefore, valid instruments are necessary to assess cognitive functioning in this population group. Our aim was to review existing articles that have examined and reported on the validity of cognitive assessment tools in Hispanic/Latino population groups in the United States.

DESIGN

Systematic literature review according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta‐analysis.

MEASUREMENTS

We systematically searched in the PubMed and Web of Science databases and assessed the quality of the search results using the Standards for the Reporting of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies. We included evidence from within the United States as well as from Spanish‐speaking countries of origin (Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean).

RESULTS

The literature search revealed 27 studies with adequate quality that investigated 13 instruments. The Mini‐Mental Status Examination (MMSE) was the most frequently investigated instrument in Hispanic/Latino groups in the United States with high sensitivity for dementia but also with significant differences for ethnicity and education. The Addenbrooke Cognitive Examination‐Revised, Montreal Cognitive Assessment, 10/66 short diagnostic schedule, clock‐drawing test, Phototest, Eurotest, and Executive Battery 25 had good diagnostic performance in Spanish‐speaking countries. The naming test and verbal fluency tests have a higher risk of misclassifying US Hispanics/Latinos who have dementia.

CONCLUSION

Evidence on validity suggests that the MMSE may be an appropriate cognitive assessment tool for Hispanics. More research is needed to confirm the validity of cognitive tools to assess Hispanic/Latino groups for Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias in the United States to reduce current trends of culturally biased under‐ or overdiagnosis of cognitive impairments.

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Emergentology: Intermittent Fasting and Shift Work: Not the Oxymoron You Think

Wolters Kluwer Health

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Gray Matter Regions Associated With Functional Mobility in Community‐Dwelling Older Adults


BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES

Neuroimaging indicators of reduced brain health in the form of lower gray matter volume (GMV), lower fractional anisotropy (FA), and higher white matter hyperintensity volume (WMHV) have been related to global mobility measures, such as gait speed, in older adults. The purpose was to identify associations between brain regions and specific mobility functions to provide a greater understanding of the contribution of the central nervous system to independent living.

DESIGN

Cross‐sectional study.

SETTING

Research laboratory.

PARTICIPANTS

Seventy community‐ambulating healthy older adults (mean age = 76 ± 5 years).

MEASUREMENTS

Participants performed the following tests: gait speed, Five Times Sit to Stand, Four Square Step Test (FSST), and Dynamic Gait Index (DGI). Structural magnetic resonance imaging of each participantʼs brain was collected. Measures of regional GMV, tract‐specific WMHV, and FA were extracted. Correlational analyses between the mobility measures and neuroimaging measures were conducted using whole brain and regional and tract‐specific measures. This was followed by linear regression models relating the mobility measures to regions or tracts identified in the correlation analysis, and adjusting for age, sex, and body mass index.

RESULTS

Significant associations were found between higher GMV in multiple regions, primarily the parietal and temporal lobes, and better performance in gait speed, DGI, and FSST. After adjusting for personal factors, greater parahippocampus GMV was independently associated with greater gait speed. Greater inferior parietal lobe, supramarginal gyrus, and superior temporal gyrus GMVs were associated with gait function. Greater postcentral gyrus, parahippocampus, and superior temporal gyrus GMVs were associated with faster FSST performance. The WMHV and FA were not significantly correlated with the mobility measures.

CONCLUSIONS

Gray matter regions associated with higher performance in mobility measures serving gait function and multidirectional stepping were those structures related to vestibular sensation, spatial navigation, and somatosensation.

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As holidays approach, de-stress by ‘keeping it real’

Published on Thursday, December 19, 2019

By: Ruth Cummins, [email protected]

The holidays traditionally make your emotions soar, but sometimes, what you’re really feeling is stress.

Portrait of Dr. Daniel Williams
Williams

Dr. Daniel Williams, division chief in the Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, offers tips on how to get the most out of the season without succumbing to tension, pressure and overexertion:

  • Keep the holidays in perspective. “We sometimes set the bar really, really high for what the holidays need to be,” Williams said. “It’s important to keep realistic expectations for how well we can meet the needs of the people around us. We think that Christmas has to be the most magical thing for our children and families, and things might not work out that way.”
  • Continue to get exercise, even if the holidays are hectic. “Sometimes we get so busy with all of the different obligations, and running from event to event, that we forget to take care of our own needs,” Williams said.
  • Take time to enjoy the holidays, which could represent a significant chunk of your annual vacation time. “Be grateful for what you have, and for your hopes for the New Year,” Williams said. “Continue to take the time to do the fun things you do in life that bring you happiness and joy, like going to the gym or seeing friends. Don’t let the busyness of the holidays crowd them out.”
Portrait of Dr. Danny Burgess
Burgess

The holidays can throw you for a loop if you’re not mindful of how you spend your time, said Dr. Danny Burgess, associate professor of psychiatry and director of UMMC’s Center for Integrative Health.

His advice:

  • Don’t abandon your normal routines. “Events come up – quick shopping trips here and there, last-minute doctor’s appointments – and your schedule gets full,” Burgess said. “You’re so overwhelmed with the new responsibilities that you abandon your routine activities that keep you less stressed, like going to the gym or taking time for meal prep during the week.

“I tell my patients that even though it’s going to be difficult over the chaos of the next few months, they need to keep a routine and schedule in place. That needs to be your first priority. Schedule the other things around that.”

  • Be mindful about getting enough rest. “Shopping online or going to parties can make people get off their normal sleep schedule,” Burgess said. “When you abandon basic self-care activities, your emotional and physical stress goes up. Then, it’s really difficult to manage your overall stress level.”

If you’re used to going to bed by 10, for example, have the mentality that you’re going to keep to that schedule.

Doris Whitaker, director of Pastoral Services, says honesty is the best policy during the holidays.

Portrait of Doris Whitaker
Whitaker

“Feel what you feel, and don’t pretend to be Wonder Woman or Superman,” she said. “There are times when you will be Wonder Woman or Superman, but there are times like this, especially around the holidays, when you will not be.”

Her advice:

  • Take the time to prioritize when you feel overwhelmed by not just the holidays, but by life, she said.

“We think Santa has a long list. We do, too,” Whitaker said. “We have to prioritize what matters most. In the ED, there are triage nurses who see everyone, and who are trained to see who needs the doctor first. We also have to prioritize and put first things first.”

As you welcome family and make final preparations, Williams said, pause and reflect.

“Take time to be in the moment, and enjoy the traditions that you have,” he said.

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