10003368_10152327573357502_1040122621_n15188_10203659153064046_623180768_nYou may have recently received an AMBER Alert on your wireless device.
Today, in Dundalk, MD an 11 year old girl, Caitlyn M. Virts was abducted. Maryland law-enforcement issued an AMBER Alert in hopes that Caitlyn may be returned safely.

Do you know about the Emergency Alert System (EAS)? You’ve probably been annoyed by the strange beeps and buzzes that come over the radio, proclaiming to be a test, assuring that there are no problems, or you may have seen the scroll of information across your TV screen when there’s terrible weather underway. This system was put in place to allow the President of the United States to address the nation in an emergency situation as well as disseminate other emergency information (like weather alerts) to keep the public abreast of whatever the situation may be.

The AMBER Alert is an excellent example of cross-collaboration among separate interests -for the common good. The “common good” or “public interest” in this case is child safety. Law-enforcement, governmental agencies, broadcast, and wireless carriers band together and send out pertinent information via media outlets in the efforts to alert the public about a child who’s been abducted. When more eyes are watching, it’s more likely a suspect will be found.

If you want to learn more about the namesake of the AMBER Alert (Amber Hagerman), try the Dallas Morning News. In short, The AMBER Alert is a life-saving warning that may increase the recovery efforts of abducted children.

So, how did you get contacted? Well, thanks to this kind of collaboration, the FCC, FEMA, and private wireless carriers have been working together to create a way to reach as many “eyes” as possible using wireless carriers’ cell towers. Basically, a mass text message (one-directional / read-only) is sent to all cellphones within a region (the zone of emergency) sounding off with the alert. These Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEA) are what you and I and a good chunk (if not all) of Maryland received today. You got that text because you were located in the “zone of emergency.”

There are only three kinds of messages you will receive (free of charge) via WEA:

  1. Alerts issued by the President
  2. Alerts involving imminent threats to safety or life
  3. AMBER Alerts

WEA complements EAS well and makes for a pretty well-informed public when it comes to emergency situations, local and national.

So, if the AMBER Alert surprised you, (like it did me) – GOOD. It did its job. You have been alerted to an emergency situation and your vigilance could help save a child’s life.

JP is the HCLS Editor & Blog Coordinator for Well & Wise. She is also a Children’s Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She is a storyteller, wannabe triathlete, KPOP-addict, baker of cupcakes, cancer survivor, and liver transplant recipient.

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This photo comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Image Library (PHIL)

This photo comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library (PHIL)

The U.S. is preparing for an outbreak of a painful, debilitating mosquito-borne virus called, Chikungunya. Pronounced chik-en-gun-ye, the name derived from Makonde language means, “that which bends up” and references the stooped and contorted posture of patients suffering from the joint pain that accompanies the virus. The virus was first described in the 1950s in what is now Tanzania. Since 2004 Chikungunya has reached epidemic proportions and is slowly making its way towards the United States, where both species of the mosquitoes known to carry the virus exist. In December, the World Health Organization reported the first transmission of the disease in the Americas when cases were reported in Saint Martin. Since that time, thousands of infections have been reported throughout the Caribbean.

Transmission of the virus and symptoms are similar to dengue fever. The acute febrile phase of the virus lasts 2-5 days and, in addition to high fevers, patients can present with a rash. The second, longer phase of the virus can last weeks or months and in some cases years. During this phase, patients report debilitating arthritic-like joint pain. Other symptoms can include headache, nausea, vomiting, conjunctivitis, sensitivity to light and fatigue. No cure is currently available, only treatment to relieve symptoms. Younger patients generally recover within 5-15 days, but older patients can take months or even years to recover. Diagnosis is usually confirmed with blood tests and takes 1-3 days for results.

Prevention of transmission is important and involves controlling mosquito populations and protection against contact with the mosquito. People travelling to areas with high transmission rates should use insect repellents containing DEET, Picaridn, OLE or IR3535 and wear garments heavy enough to offer protection from mosquito bites. For an additional layer of protection, clothing can be treated with insecticides such as permethrin, which should never be used directly on the skin. Mosquito control districts have budgeted funds for extra spraying, and individuals are encouraged to secure screens in windows and remove sources of standing water.

Read more in the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control fact sheets.

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A Family of Surgeons

A family of surgeons caring for families of Howard County

Drs. Mess and Beaux the horse

Drs. Mess and Beaux the horse

Many factors led to Charles Mess Jr. and Sarah Mess following their father into the field of medicine. “Because I was a physician, there were always neighborhood kids in our kitchen with a variety of injuries and illnesses, and my kids saw that and watched me care for them, and I think it made an impression,” explains Charles Mess Sr. “I also used to take my children on hospital rounds on the weekends; and I specifically remember Sarah watching me suture one of our dogs who was injured.”

Seeing their father happy in his career as an orthopedic surgeon certainly helped guide the career choices of  Howard County surgeons Charles Mess Jr. and Sarah Mess. When Sarah, the youngest of four, was 11 years old, the family moved to a working farm in Olney, Md., where she was very involved with the animals, including horses and dogs. “I cared for horses and other animals and helped with treating their wounds,” says Sarah. Initially interested in becoming a veterinarian, Sarah chose the human side of medicine, eventually specializing in plastic surgery. “I like that I can help people and that, in the end, I get to see the patient happier and healthier,” she says. Sarah performs a wide variety of plastic surgery procedures, including those for breast reconstruction after cancer, breast reduction and removal of skin cancer as well as cosmetic procedures. “A lot of senior patients are dating again, so we are doing ‘cool sculpting’ techniques and injectables and fillers.”

For Charles Jr., the road was more indirect. In fact, it wasn’t until after a brief stint in real estate finance that the younger Mess decided to pursue medicine, eventually settling on the specialty of orthopedic surgery. “I love my job,” he says. “It may sound trite, but I really like helping people and providing comfort for them.” In keeping with the family theme, Charles Jr.’s wife is also a physician, specializing in neonatology. As an orthopedic surgeon, Charles Jr., specializes in joint replacements and sports medicine.

After finishing his residency and fellowship in orthopedics in Texas, Charles Jr. moved back to Maryland and joined his father’s practice, Potomac Valley Orthopaedic Associates in Columbia.

Dad’s story

Drs. Sarah and Charles Mess, Sr.

Drs. Sarah and Charles Mess, Sr.

After a stint as a Navy doctor and a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic, Charles Sr. became a partner in a small orthopedic practice, with offices in Montgomery County and Washington D.C., in the early 1970s. As the practice grew, they started looking eastward toward HCGH as it became more established in the community. In the late 1980s, the practice joined with Dr. Daniel Tang’s practice and opened an office in Howard County. By the early 2000s, Potomac Valley Orthopaedic Associates had built a medical building right next to HCGH, and the physicians were performing many procedures here.

“The biggest change I have seen in my years at HCGH is the growth – both of the patient population and of the hospital’s infrastructure,” says Charles Sr. “In terms of the changes I have seen in medicine, I would say one of the most amazing is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which gives us a much better look at the body than we were able to have before. The advances in orthopedic surgery in general, and joint replacements specifically, have also been incredible. These advances make a huge difference in the quality of life for patients today.”

And what about the next generation of the Mess family? At least a couple of Charles Jr.’s children have shown an interest in medicine and Sarah’s son often asks to accompany his mother when she works on the hospital’s Pediatric Unit. “He likes to play video games on the unit,” she explains.


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Over this past year, as HCGH celebrated our 40th anniversary- we collected some great stories.  Occasionally the physician becomes the patient…  Here is one that you might have missed.

Dr. Kevin Carlson Shares Her Own Multigenerational HCGH Story

Dr. Carlson's son, Max, with his great-grandmother.

Dr. Carlson’s son, Max, with his great-grandmother.

“It was the weekend of September 19, 2003, during Hurricane Isabel, a major storm that caused widespread flooding and some evacuations, that I delivered my third child, Sidney, in Labor and Delivery. On Saturday, my second child, Campbell, then two years old, required ER evaluation and was discharged home with clearance to meet her new baby sister. The previous Thursday, my grandmother, Helen Namkin, had been admitted for a pelvic fracture. On the same Friday I was delivering a baby, she underwent a scheduled elective carotid endarterectomy surgery by Dr. Edmund Tortolani. She spent the night in post-op in the ICU and was well enough to visit me and the baby before being discharged on Sunday.

Therefore on one night, three generations and four members of my family were beautifully cared for at HCGH and the huge extended family needed only to drive to one destination – via flooded roads – to support a grandmother, a mother, a child and a new baby!”



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During this Thanksgiving holiday we are are humbled and grateful to our community of supporters who give so much of their time and resources.  The support or our community and of our community benefactors means so much to all of us here at Howard County General Hospital.


Howard Hospital Foundation donors share the many reasons why they choose to support the hospital.  In this season of thanks, HCGH is grateful for their support.

For more information about the Foundation and those who give, visit the website.

“I have been donating to HCGH since 1992. I believe it is important to support the community from which you receive revenue by giving back, and the hospital is an incredible institution that has taken care of me and my community.”- George Doetsch

“While HCGH serves those who live and work in Howard County, it is, in our opinion, one of the best hospitals in the country. We want to see the hospital grow with the community, and supporting the hospital in this manner is our way to help ensure that the level of care we have come to expect continues for generations to come. We believe in HCGH and its ability to help make Howard County a better place.”- Creig and Carla Northrop

 “LifeNet is a great illustration of how the Howard Hospital Foundation, HCGH,  Howard County Department of Fire & Rescue Services and our neighbors in Howard County can work together to bring the latest innovations to our area. We already have excellent health care. This just takes it up one level.”-David Powell

“Howard County is a huge piece of our life; it’s where I grew up, it’s where we have raised our family, it’s where I’ve worked selling homes for 37 years. We sincerely enjoy giving back to our community by supporting programs, events and great institutions like the Howard Hospital Foundation. When our family needed a hospital, HCGH was there for us. We are forever grateful for their expertise and efforts, and are proud to support such a wonderful organization.” - Bob Lucido

“I don’t have much, but you reap what you sow…so the more good you put out there, the more you get in return.” - Saundra Bates

“Our parents have set the example and have taught us that we have a responsibility to the community. We wholeheartedly believe in giving back.”- Mary Glagola

“I appreciated the care my late wife and my current wife have received at the hospital throughout the years. So why not give back?”- Robert Fischell, Sc.D.

“The hospital serves a broader range of citizens than any other organization in Howard County. Three generations of my family have been served by the hospital.  At some point in time, the hospital will touch nearly every single person in Howard County. It is important to have a facility of the caliber of HCGH in our community.”- Chip and Cathy Lundy

 “M&T has supported HCGH for more than 10 years because the hospital is a vital part of the quality of life we enjoy in the county.  We work to strengthen the communities we serve, and the hospital shares this commitment.  The hospital provides an extremely high level of medical care to community residents.”- Brian Walter

“As a physician, I feel it is important to nurture good quality nurses. Howard Community College offers an impressive nursing program. Funding a scholarship through HHF continues to foster the relationship that our practice has had with the Howard County nursing community. Many good nurses have come from the program, making it a wonderful investment in our community.” - Nicholas Koutrelakos, M.D.

“In requesting that donations in my daughter’s memory be made to the Howard Hospital Foundation, we felt we were both honoring her aspirations for nursing and benefiting the people of Howard County.”- Mark and Sharon Mayr

“I support the hospital because Howard County is home for me and my family. I believe investing in the communities in which we live, work and play is my responsibility.”- Paul Skalny

“The full physician medical staff has truly been giving to their ability. The physicians and physician groups that have been providing care to the community for all these years have stepped up in a very strong way to show their financial support for the campaign and for the hospital.”- Jerry Levine, M.D.

“We held a fundraiser benefiting the hospital. We are all about paying it forward and giving back.”- Michelle Kupiec

“Giving to the hospital was an emotional decision for us. We gave because we have good relationships with our doctors and like the environment the hospital has created. There is no other place that we felt we would like to give.”- Dr. Sanford A. Berman and Dr. Kay A. Ota-Berman

“This giving thing is all new to me. But it is so worthwhile when you see the effect your support really has.”- Zach Fine

“We all live and work in the hospital community. If we support the hospital, it can continue to grow, and we can better serve Howard County.”- Eric Aldrich, M.D.

“I could be a patient at HCGH tomorrow; my friends and family could be patients. By giving to this campaign, I can help ensure that we all receive the best care possible.”- Michael Silverman, M.D.

“The hospital was there for me when I was alone. They became my family. And now, I am there for them.”- Shirley Howard

“God has blessed me, and I want to be able to give back and help the community from a wellness perspective. I want to do whatever I can to help take care of our hospital and, in turn, our community.”- Margaret Kim

“Our family is a big supporter of organizations that help others, and HCGH is a special place. Purchasing a paver was an easy decision to make since the hospital is where my grandchildren’s lives started. I think it’s a nice thing to do because years from now my family can go to the hospital and see that their grandfather thought enough to do this when they were born.”- David G. Schwartz

“We experienced the hospital from all angles, and it was all positive.  We’re very satisfied with the hospital’s leadership and know our contributions will be put to good use.”- Jack and Karen Whiteside

“If you and your family have benefited from the hospital’s services and you are looking for the right avenue to make a lasting contribution, I encourage you to consider the many benefits of a planned gift through the Legacy Society.”- Shirley Bossom

“I’m very glad to have the opportunity to provide HCGH with lasting support through planned giving to the Legacy Society.”- Joanie Reisfeld

“I appreciate not just the high quality of care, but also the warm community setting of HCGH. In the past I have contributed to the Campus Development Plan of ‘my hospital,’ and now I believe it is my responsibility to help maintain its excellence. I became a Charter Member of the Legacy Society to help ensure that those same resources will be accessible to future generations, including my daughters, grandsons and even my great grandchildren.”- Emmy Lou Volenick

“Whenever Eugene “Pebble” Willis, M.D. was asked to help the hospital, he did so, and with enthusiasm. It was a great loss when Pebble passed away in 2009. Due to his tireless efforts, however, his legacy is enduring. Pebble’s generous support will continue after his death through the bequest he made to the hospital through the foundation.”- Vic Broccolino

“Supporting a cause that directly impacts the local community is important to us and that is precisely what the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center is all about.  It is there to lend a guiding hand and a warm heart to our neighbors when they need it most.  Helping the center expand and extend their service to the community has been extremely rewarding.”- Howard County Tourism & Promotion “Blossoms of Hope”

“Team CONQUER Cancer provides the inspiration and support I need to better myself and help others.  I welcome the opportunity to give back to the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center, and the HCGH community that has been there for me from the birth of my three children, through my experience with breast cancer.”  - Diana Toronto

“I am on Team CONQUER Cancer because we’re all about life. I raise money for the Claudia Mayer Cancer Resource Center because we’re all about living fully, loving generously, and longing to continue life-affirming services that help cancer patients and their caregivers cope with a devastating diagnosis.”- Heléne Kass

“Giving back to our communities is an integral part of our organizational culture. We, at Grace, are passionate about developing cutting edge technologies and seek to have a positive impact on the lives of people everywhere, whether through our products or our civic engagement.”- Brian McGowan

“I have medically fragile children who were born at HCGH. It is only natural that I philanthropically support my community hospital.”- Mark Biegel

“From my perspective, the hospital is on a trajectory that started 15 plus years ago from a care delivery standpoint to be one of the top community hospitals in the country. With the philanthropic support of our community, it will be a model hospital for communities around the country.”- Larry Butera

“My wife moved to Howard County in 1955, and she thought she was moving to the end of the world.  As we’ve watched our county grow and change, it has given much to us and our extended family.  Beth and I want to give back, and in my mind, the place that impacts everyone in the county is the hospital. The need for support will continue to grow as the county grows so it is important that residents, to the extent that they can, support the hospital.”- Peter Hibbard

“We decided to make a donation to the hospital because the hospital serves everyone in the community. We have made donations to other organizations that help feed the homeless or help fight cancer but thought donating a large sum to the hospital would reach more people.”- Sean and Jena Peay

“I donate and volunteer my time because it makes me happy to give back to a wonderful hospital that has taken such great care of my family and friends.”- Alicia Slahetka

“Living in Howard County for more than a decade, we have seen firsthand the quality of care this hospital provides and the strides it makes to continue to improve its facility. We are excited not only to honor our parents (with this donation) but also to contribute to the ongoing success the hospital has exemplified.”- Mukesh Majmudar

 “I am happy to support the hospital every year through my annual gift. Any organization that provides a vital community service, such as HCGH does, needs to be supported by community donations. Because the hospital serves us so well, we must return the favor.”- Charlie Miller

“I have lived in Howard County for more than 35 years, and HCGH is my hospital and the community’s hospital. It is important to me that it provides the very best medical care to the people who live here, including my children and grandchildren. My company, Harkins Builders, is also based here in Howard County, and many of our employees are county residents.  Supporting the hospital personally and through Harkins allows me to give back and to benefit so many others who are important to me.”- Dick Lombardo

“I want everyone at HCGH to know that each moment we volunteer and every dollar we donate, is a direct ‘thank you’ to those who work at this wonderful hospital.  I am grateful for your talents, kindness, and help to us in our moments of need.”- Jackie Benner

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Reverse total shoulder replacement surgery – a new option for shoulder degeneration.

Like other joints in the body, the shoulder is susceptible to degeneration, or wear and tear, over time. Wear and tear of the shoulder is quite common as we age and typically takes the form of rotator cuff disease or arthritis. While there are many treatment options for these conditions, surgical reconstruction may be required if the symptoms (pain and limited function) are not relieved by conservative measures (rest, ice, pain medications, physical therapy, cortisone injections).

In some cases, the rotator cuff tear can be so significant that it is not surgically repairable or would be unlikely to heal even if surgically repaired. When the rotator cuff is not functioning effectively, accelerated degeneration of the joint can occur. This can leave an individual with both an arthritic joint and rotator cuff tears. This can be a very debilitating condition, causing significant pain and inability to lift the arm.

Figure 1

A new technology called “reverse total shoulder replacement” has been developed to address this unique and challenging problem. This new type of shoulder replacement has been in use in Europe since the 1980s. The “reverse” prosthesis was FDA approved for use in the United States since 2004. This type of shoulder replacement is called a reverse because it “reverses” the normal orientation of the ball and socket joint (Figure 2).

In a typical shoulder replacement, the arthritic humeral head (ball) is replaced by a metal ball and stem on the arm side, while the socket (shoulder blade side) is replaced with a plastic component (Figure 1). This shoulder replacement requires a functioning rotator cuff to work effectively. Because some patients have both rotator cuff tears and arthritis the “reverse” shoulder allows the replacement to function without the rotator cuff by “reversing” the ball and the socket (Figure 2). The ball is now placed on the socket (shoulder blade) side and the socket or cup is placed on the arm (humeral) side.

Figure 2

The reverse total shoulder replacement has provided significant pain relief and improved function to many patients with debilitating shoulder dysfunction.  The procedure has allowed patients to return to basic activities of daily living, such as combing your hair or reaching into a cupboard, as well as returning to recreational activities such as golf.




Uma Srikumaran currently serves as an Assistant professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Johns Hopkins University. Specializing in shoulder surgery, Dr. Srikumaran treats patients with shoulder pain, rotator cuff disease, traumatic injuries, instability or dislocations, fractures, osteoarthritis, or other sports related injuries. His surgical expertise includes fracture fixation, rotator cuff repair, shoulder stability procedures, revision shoulder surgery, as well as total shoulder replacements and reverse shoulder replacements. His practice is based in Columbia on the Howard County General Hospital campus, but he also sees patients in Odenton. Dr. Srikumaran trained as a medical student and resident at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and completed a fellowship in shoulder surgery at Harvard. He also presently serves as a team physician to the Baltimore Orioles.

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