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Vital Signs

News Briefs

Not Asleep at the Wheel
The nation faces a "Yawning gap in sleep care," according to a wag of a headline writer at USA Today. Narrowing that gap—getting out the word that behavioral therapy can be more effective than heavily advertised sleeping pills—is no laughing matter to the nation's 25 million chronic insomniacs, however. But thanks to Michael Sateia, M.D., chief of sleep disorders at DHMC and immediate past president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), there's some progress.

Sleeping pills can be a reasonable solution for occasional insomnia, Sateia told USA Today, but behavioral modification is the best solution for long-term sleep problems. Sleep specialists don't have the deep pockets of pharmaceutical companies to promote the concept, however. But one of the achievements of Sateia's term in the AASM presidency was launching a program to improve awareness of and access to behavioral sleep therapy.

Other achievements of his term in office included gaining national approval for a specialty exam in sleep medicine; revising the international manual of sleep disorders; launching the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine; and initiating a public education program (see www.sleepeducation.com). But, from the sound of that list, perhaps not getting a lot of sleep. A.S.

Reinforcing Family Values
Number of doctors in Kenya's first family medicine residency program: Nine. Population of Kenya: 34 million. Having a family medicine program based in Kenya that trains Kenyans: priceless—or at least that's the conclusion that Kevin Shannon, an assistant professor of community and family medicine at DMS, has come to.

"There were already medicine, pediatrics, and surgery residents being trained" in Kenya, says Shannon, who is the coordinator of the new program, which began in 2005 and is a joint endeavor between Kenya's Moi University and Kijabe Hospital. "But the needs of rural areas and city slums have not been met by those [specialties]," he continues. "Family medicine is the specialty with adequate breadth and quality to be able to make a difference in the life and health of Kenyans across the country." Shannon plans to head the residency at Kijabe Hospital through 2007. J.D.

Dancing the Night Away
Music hath charms . . . to soften rocks, or bend the knotted oak," wrote English dramatist William Congreve 300 years ago. And, at DHMC today, to ensure a good night's sleep.

The Medical Center's rotunda—thanks to a donated Steinway grand piano and about a dozen volunteer pianists—is the site of regular performances that soothe patients, calm visitors, and entertain staff. One of the volunteer musicians recently shared word with Dartmouth Medicine of an especially appreciative listener. One evening, explained the pianist in an e-mail, "a male cancer patient and his female nurse came down to the rotunda. I was playing a waltz, and they started dancing around the piano. So I kept playing every upbeat, danceable piece I had—waltzes, foxtrots, and the ragtime music of Scott Joplin and Joseph Lamb. The two of them actually danced for 45 minutes. It was quite amazing.

"It turned out the patient was having surgery the next day and needed a good night's sleep," the pianist explained. "So his nurse and he were taking a walk around the hospital for exercise" when they heard the music in the rotunda. "The dancing really made him happy," concluded the pianist—who seemed pretty happy himself by the impact his playing had. A.S.

A Sign of Street Smarts
There's a place where Fifth Avenue, Sesame Street, Route 66, Broadway, and Sunset Boulevard intersect—and it's not in the Twilight Zone.

It's in the new Outpatient Clinic of the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth (CHaD), where the hallways were recently given creative names. "When we moved here last year," explains Sharon Markowitz, unit coordinator for outpatient services, "the staff found the area difficult to navigate—all the hallways looked alike. One of our physicians, Elvin Kaplan, came up with the idea to put up street signs and have a naming contest."

Some of the winning entries have kidfriendly connotations, and all of the names are proving memorable. The large green signs that now prominently mark the unit's corridors are not only a hit with CHaD's patients and their families, but they do indeed help the staff with wayfinding. A.P.

LIFE CYCLE: Melanoma survivor Robert Gilmore, a Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center board member, was one of only 24 riders chosen in 2005 to ride in the prestigious "Tour of Hope," led by Lance Armstrong.

CALLING CARD: Mary Hitchcock Hospital's telephone operators every year give certificates of appreciation to those physicians who "despite the pressures of pagers and phones . . . remain unfailingly courteous, treating others with dignity and respect."

BALKANIC ACTIVITY: To mark the fifth anniversary of the partnership between DMS and Kosova's only medical school, the Kosovars presented DMS with a plaque of thanks "for your help and devotion in rebuilding the health care of Kosova."

ROGER THAT: Dr. C. Everett Koop, senior scholar of DMS's Koop Institute, received one of three major awards given each year by the Association of American Medical Colleges—the David E. Rogers Award—for his service to medicine and public health.

SOLAR PANEL: Area middle-schoolers are involved in a DMS study to determine the best way to keep teens from overtanning. Dr. Ardis Olson says a machine that shows skin damage invisible to the eye seems so far to be the best tool.

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