How Passavant Hospital Foundation Preserves UPMC Passavant’s Remarkable Community-Oriented Environment

 Feb '13 NC web banner-1

 by Lisa Bianco

Passavant Hospital Foundation, a nonprofit organization independent of UPMC—and in place since 1981—is one of the driving forces that helps UPMC Passavant maintain its culture of uniqueness, community feeling and a longtime legacy of caring . Ralph DeStefano, President and CEO of Passavant Hospital Foundation explained why.

“What we’ve done at Passavant through the Foundation is create a system whereby employees beneath the supervisory level can submit grant PassFound_Group shot 5requests based on the patient needs they perceive daily. It’s the employee on the front line, if you will, who has a finger on the pulse of what might further enhance patient care,” said DeStefano, who offers some scenarios.

 “Imagine a patient who is recovering from open heart surgery in the critical care unit. He is confined to his bed while the lifesaving ability of a stationary Ventilator breathes for him. But, because a portable unit is available, that patient can get up from bed and walk down the hallway with a Portable Ventilator unit conveniently wheeled alongside while he walks.

 “Or, picture a deaf patient rushed to an emergency room who communicates with the doctor or nurse by signing to a trained interpreter broadcast on a video monitor. The person onscreen then translates back to the doctors and nurses, in words, the symptoms just conveyed in sign language by the deaf patient. This system is called a Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) Cart for Sign Language,” said DeStefanPassFound_GI 6  

 Both the Portable Ventilator and a VRI Cart for Sign Language will soon be purchased for the UPMC Passavant Hospitals in Cranberry and McCandless because of grants awarded by Passavant Hospital Foundation.

 For more than 30 years, Passavant Hospital Foundation has drawn on the community’s ongoing support to preserve UPMC Passavant’s special environment through grant-making, education and outreach to advance health and wellness. The Foundation’s grant program has helped supply equipment like the examples above, along with new facilities and other necessary items. Annually, this fund awards grants to projects, programs or equipment that advance the hospital services while contributing to staff or patient safety, satisfaction and quality. Grant recipients are selected after completing an application and undergoing extensive evalua­tion by the Foundation’s Grant Committee. For 2013 funding, 28 grants were approved for a total of $244,000.

 Joe Long, Treasurer of the Foundation Board of Directors and Grant Committee member, said,  “This year we had 35 grant requests—our largest number yet. And despite the fact the Foundation’s Board had raised the funding amount allocated to this annual program for the 2013 Fiscal Year; it still wouldn’t cover all those requests.  So in order to sort out some of the more ‘worthy’ ones—as defined by a combination of ‘need and urgency’—Grant Committee member Ellen Duerr met directly with some Grant applicants to more clearly understand and help evaluate their request. Through Ellen, this ‘hands-on’ insight allowed the committee members to better determine if all or just certain pieces of particular grant requests got approved. This fine-tooth-comb approach led to the final outcome of a record number of 28 grants being approved!”

 Ellen Duerr, RN, Surgical Nurse Liaison at Passavant Hospital reports that her stint on the Grant Committee was a wonderful experience and an honor. “Every year the Foundation rotates two actual staff members on to the Grants Committee. Until you’re on the Committee, you don’t realize exactly what it does. If a grant was realistic it was 100 percent approved! It was like being Santa. I actually know I made a difference in making Passavant a better PassFound_I Pad 4facility with better patient care.”

 Dr. Dan Sullivan serves as Chairman of the Foundation Board, and brings his medical expertise to the task of guiding the Foundation. “I’m proud that my role enables me to apply my medical knowledge, making an even broader contribution than I would in a more traditional physician role.”

 Making a Full Service GI Lab a Reality at UPMC Passavant

 Janet Surrena, Unit Director of the McCandless Gastrointestinal (GI) Lab, this fall submitted a Departmental Grant, which was awarded for an Esophageal Monometry system. After learning of the grant award, Surrena was ecstatic. “I’m thrilled to pieces. This goes a long way to making us a full service GI laboratory. And believe me, we are so appreciative of the support our Foundation gives us. Its Board members share a passion for Passavant Hospital. They put a whole lot of money back into the facility. It’s unprecedented. We see it at the bedside in how it benefits our patients.”

 The Esophageal Monometry equipment performs critical GI studies patients must undergo for gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) diagnosis, and surgeries for gastric bypass, hiatal hernia and other esophageal procedures. “This Monometry system contains sophisticated electronics embedded into a catheter for placement in the patient’s esophagus. Through a series of swallows, it measures muscle activity and peristalsis. It’s a much more thorough diagnostic tool than our current equipment,” said Surrena.  The system also offers convenience for UPMC Passavant McCandless and Cranberry patients who can now have this test done locally rather than having to travel to Pittsburgh.

 Increased Independence for Deaf Patients

 Director of Volunteer and Guest Services for UPMC Passavant (McCandless and Cranberry facilities), Diane Kolling, is a repeat grant awardee with the grant for the VRI Cart for Sign Language. “We need to have a sign language interpreter when deaf patients come to us for treatment. UPMC has internal groups that can arrange to provide a live sign interpreter, but it requires advance notice. We needed a way to access an interpreter quickly. Having a live interpreter is the best case scenario, but the VRI Cart is the best alternative,” said Kolling.   The VRI Cart uses the services of a company called Cyracom that provides Video Remote Interpretation. Hospital staff access Cyracom’s sign interpreters by using a computer with a webcam and logging in to the Cyracom web portal. It’s a process very similar to Skyping.

 “Having our own VRI Cart enables us to have a sign interpreter immediately available to the ER when a deaf patient arrives. If a deaf patient is hospitalized, we can leave the Cart in that person’s room during their stay so constant communication with medical staff is possible. Deaf patients have more independence that way too, and they can decide what they want interpreted and what to keep private,” Kolling explained.

 Kolling appreciates the immediate impact the Foundation grants can have in so many patients’ treatment. “The Grants program is wonderful because there are so many things too small to be requested in our departmental budget. But these smaller, lower cost items can make an enormous difference in the patient’s quality of life at our hospital,” said Kolling.

 Huge Benefits for Cardio Patients Who Can Walk Sooner

 Advanced Practice Nurse for Cardiovascular Services Maggie Lattanzio this year submitted a grant application for a Portable Ventilator to increase mobilization for patients in the Cardio Thoracic Intensive Care Unit (ICU). She’s overjoyed to learn that her department is among the 2013 grant awardees. Lattanzio sees the value of the Grants program in enabling UPMC Passavant departments to follow recommendations from prominent medical studies indicating the causes creating the best patient outcomes. “The Passavant Hospital Foundation grants are so patient-focused. They improve patient outcomes and allow us to create evidence-based outcomes which have been outlined in well-known medical research. It’s so important that we make our local community aware of this,” said Lattanzio.

 Lattanzio is referring to medical studies showing huge benefits when cardiac patients are returned to their previous levels of functioning as soon as possible. The Portable Ventilator now makes this possible for patients in the Cardio Thoracic ICU. “Often patients in critical care units who’ve undergone major surgeries are not weaned off the ventilator for weeks. We prevent complications by helping these patients get up and about as soon as possible. With the Portable Ventilator, they can wheel around a small, 15-pound unit that enables them to walk the hallways or walk to hospital departments for further tests. Patients who don’t return to normal movement for weeks while undergoing ICU treatment risk complications,” Lattanzio said.

 Cindy Tomazich, Facilities Director of Occupational and Physical Therapy has repeatedly been a Passavant Hospital Foundation grant awardee. “The Foundation really supports community needs with equipment, services and education for those living in our community. I can’t thank the Foundation enough for their support. They’re always approachable so you feel that if you need something the Foundation Board is willing to listen. It’s like being able to go to a Fairy Godmother. But they are very fiscally sound, and you must back up your application with good research,” said Tomazich.

 One Passavant staff member takes the long view about the Foundation, from the vantage point of her decades long careers at the hospital. “The Departmental Grants program helps Passavant Hospital keep that individuality and uniqueness as a community hospital. And the Foundation money stays here. In 1989, Passavant was an in-demand place to work for an RN. It had a reputation as a small community hospital that was friendly and community-minded, and had good care. Staff liked working at Passavant so much that they didn’t leave. So I felt fortunate to get a job here as an RN and I’ve been here ever since,” recalled Barbara Fischer,

another Grant Committee member, and now an RN in the Outpatient Lab department. “I’ve known some of my patients for years, and I call them my ‘frequent fliers.’ Working here makes you feel like part of the family. And one of the big plusses about being part of the UPMC system is we have top doctors in cardiology, cancer treatment, gastroenterology….”

 From its patients to its doctors, from its growing facili­ties to its dedicated staff members, UPMC Passavant is special not only for its superior medical care but also for the staff’s reputation for   caring and compassion. Passavant Hospital Foundation intends to continue supporting the expanding community it serves through education, outreach and grant making in order to keep Passavant the very special place that it is. Hospital managers want to ensure that residents in the surrounding region who contribute to the Foundation understand just how much this caring legacy touches the lives of so many in their own community. To help the Foundation continue its dream for the future, please consider making a gift to Passavant Hospital Foundation.   

 For more information about Passavant Hospital Foundation, contact Janine Sidoruk, Marketing & Communications Coordinator at 412-367-6550, or,or visit the website at