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BMH Foundation names 2017 Valentine Ball co-chairmen

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Top photo: From left are Dan Ripley, Andrea Hucks and Amy and Chris Geier.

The Beaufort Memorial Hospital Foundation recently announced that the 2017 Valentine Ball, scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017, will be co-chaired by Chris and Amy Geier along with Drs. Andrea Hucks and Dan Ripley.

Both couples have been actively involved in volunteering for the ball since they were first stationed in the area years ago by the military — Chris Geier as a JAG attorney in Savannah and Dan Ripley as a physician at the Naval Hospital.

As often happens, both couples fell in love with Beaufort and decided to make it their permanent home when their military careers came to a close.

For South Carolina natives Hucks and Ripley, it was a natural choice. The couple had met in medical school at MUSC, and though residencies and Ripley’s tour in Iraq had taken them out of state for several years, they were eager to return the first chance they got.

When Ripley was stationed at Parris Island 16 years ago, Hucks started working as an internist at Beaufort Memorial Hospital, a job she still does today.

“It has been the most wonderful place to practice,” she said. “I don’t know if people really understand how rare or special a community-based hospital is these days.”

In Chris and Amy Geier’s case, both of their fathers were in the Army and they had moved around all their lives. Although the transient nature of military life led to their first meeting, they knew they wanted something different for their family.

The small town feel of Beaufort appealed to them, meaning their two small boys could grow up with friends they had known since preschool.

When Chris Geier returned from his tour in Iraq, he transitioned into civilian practice and, like Hucks, Amy Geier began working for Beaufort Memorial.

As a nursery and labor and delivery nurse, she especially appreciates how much the hospital embraces military as well as civilian families, and she’s justifiably proud of the services the hospital provides.

Hucks’ and Amy Geier’s commitment to the not-for-profit hospital they work for extends far beyond patient care, for they know that it depends heavily on donations raised through the Foundation.

Now in its 28th year, the Valentine Ball — the Foundation’s signature event — has raised nearly $4.8 million for the hospital.

To continue to build upon the phenomenal level of philanthropic support that has underwritten fully half of all capital and equipment for the hospital’s Keyserling Cancer Center, proceeds of the 2017 Valentine Ball will support cancer services.

“In some form or fashion, whether it’s ourselves or a friend or family member, cancer touches all of us,” Andrea Hucks said. “With community support, and neighbors helping neighbors, we’re able to deliver state of the art cancer care right here in our backyard.”


Health briefs for September 29th-October 5th

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Top photo: From left are Dr. Eve Ashby, regional director for Medical Education, Victoria Calvelage, Navid Mahabadi, Stephen Ingle, Ashley Doucet, Osman Lodhi and Dr. Faith Polkey, co-regional director for Medical Education. In the back row from left are Elizabeth Cornell, Ashley Coaston and Jordan Rosenberg. Photo by Bob Sofaly.

Beaufort welcomes 2019 med school class

Beaufort Jasper Hampton Comprehensive Health Services Inc. (BJHCHS) hosted a reception for its ninth entering class of AT Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona-South Carolina campus at Saltus River Grill recently.

BJHCHS has had a partnership with AT Still since 2008 to educate students in the Lowcountry. The students rotate with BJHCHS and BMH physicians, private physicians, and all the area hospitals in Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton and Colleton counties.

“Most people don’t know that we have a medical school in Beaufort.” said pediatrician Dr. Faith Polkey, regional director for Medical Education along with Dr. Eve Ashby.

“The students spend year 1 in Mesa, Ariz., and then relocate to Beaufort for years 2-4 to complete their education. Our goal is to increase the number of physicians entering primary care and returning to
underserved communities.”

Reduce your risk of  mosquito-borne disease

Beaufort County Mosquito Control offers the following recommendations to reduce the risk of Zika virus and West Nile virus in the Lowcountry:

• Eliminate or replenish water-holding containers on properties, such as waste tires, buckets, cans, flower pot saucers, bird baths, baby pools, grill covers, boat covers, pet dishes, cemetery urns/vases, roof gutters, tree holes, etc.
• Use screens on all windows and doors; repair even the smallest tear or hole.
• Wear protective clothing (long-sleeve shirts, long pants, socks) while working or playing outdoors.
• Use insect repellants containing the active ingredient DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon-eucalyptus or IR 3535.
• Avoid peak mosquito biting activities; the mosquito associated with Zika virus is a daytime biter and its peak feeding times are during morning and late afternoon whereas the West Nile virus mosquito is typically active during sunrise and sunset.

For additional information, visit or call Mosquito Control at 843-255-5800.

Hospital recognized for organ donation efforts

Coastal Carolina Hospital was among three South Carolina hospitals recognized recently for promoting organ, eye and tissue donation through the Excellence In Donation (EID) Public Outreach Program at the South Carolina Hospital Association/South Carolina Medical Association’s 36th Annual TAP Conference.

The EID Public Outreach Program launched in September of 2015 as an effort to save more lives by renewing and building on the relationship between hospitals in the state, the South Carolina Hospital Association, LifePoint and Donate Life South Carolina to support organ, eye and tissue donation.

Because of their commitment, Coastal Carolina Hospital joins Hampton Regional Medical Center and Spartanburg Medical Center as the only three hospitals in South Carolina that met the criteria for an Excellence In Donation Public Outreach Award.

Coastal Carolina Hospital conducted an awareness and registry campaign to educate staff, patients, visitors and community members about the critical need for organ, eye and tissue donors with the goal of increasing the number of registered donors.

“The program unites donation advocates at hospitals with representatives from LifePoint,” said LifePoint President and CEO Nancy A. Kay. “By working together we can be more effective in educating about the critical need for organ, eye and tissue donors.”

Jeremy Clark, of Coastal Carolina Hospital, accepts the Excellence In Donation (EID) Public Outreach Program award.
Jeremy Clark, of Coastal Carolina Hospital, accepts the Excellence In Donation (EID) Public Outreach Program award.

Health briefs for September 22nd-28th

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William Schreffler, NP-C
William Schreffler, NP-C

Schreffler joins BMH Orthopaedic Specialists 

William Schreffler, NP-C, formerly a Beaufort Memorial perioperative nurse, has returned to the hospital after earning his master’s degree and certification as a family nurse practitioner. He began working this month with board-certified orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Kevin Jones at Beaufort Memorial Orthopaedic Specialists.

A graduate of East Carolina University with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, Schreffler brings 10 years of operating room experience to his new job. He worked for three years as a perioperative nurse at Pitt County Memorial Hospital in Greenville, N.C., before joining the staff at BMH in 2009.

Two years ago, he left the hospital to pursue family nurse practitioner studies at Frontier Nursing University in Kentucky. Schreffler graduated from the program this April with a GPA of 3.9. As part of his clinicals, he worked at Carolina East Medical Center and Craven County Health Department in New Bern, N.C. He also did a stint with Pizer Family Practice in Otway, N.C. Most recently, he served as a traveling perioperative nurse at Haywood County Regional in Clyde, N.C.

Beaufort Memorial Orthopaedic Specialists is located at 1251 Ribaut Road in Beaufort. Jones and Schreffler also see patients in Bluffton at Beaufort Memorial Bluffton Medical Services at 11 Arley Way in Westbury Park.

To make an appointment with the practice, call 843-524-3015.

Collins Construction to renovate birth center

Collins Construction has been chosen to renovate Beaufort Memorial Hospital’s Birthing Center. This project will include the labor and delivery rooms including a waiting room addition. It is scheduled to be completed in 18 months.

Collins Construction has been in business since 1992 and was purchased by Morgan in 2009. Services include design, renovation, and new construction for industrial, commercial, residential, education and healthcare.

Local projects have included the Roundhouse Museum, Armstrong Atlantic State University and projects for the Georgia Ports Authority. Visit

Diabetes management classes being offered

A free diabetes self-management education program for seniors will be held starting Thursday, Oct. 6, at St. John’s Lutheran Church at 157 Lady’s Island Drive. The five-week class, presented by the Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence, a part of the Atlantic Quality Innovation Network, will cover a variety of topics that will help participants better manage their diabetes and pre-diabetes. To register and for more information, call 800-922-3089, ext. 7585.

State gets grant to address overdoses 

The S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services has received a federal grant totaling $3,192,772 to reduce the number of prescription drug/opioid overdose-related deaths and adverse events in the state.

South Carolina is one of 12 states to receive funding through the five-year grant, which was awarded by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Through the new South Carolina Overdose Prevention Project, first responders and opioid use disorder patients and their family members will be trained to recognize an opioid overdose and to administer naloxone when overdose occurs.  The development of a statewide distribution system will make naloxone available and easily accessible to trained first responders and to at-risk citizens, regardless of their ability to pay for the medication.

Health briefs for September 15th-21st

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BMH program aims to help smokers quit

If you long ago broke your New Year’s resolution to quit smoking, now is the time to get back on track with the “Freedom from Smoking” program being offered by Beaufort Memorial LifeFit Wellness Services beginning Monday, Sept. 19.

Developed by the American Lung Association and considered the “gold standard” in smoking cessation programs,” Freedom from Smoking” consists of  eight sessions in seven weeks, offering participants the best chance at kicking the habit for good.

“Smoking is the No. 1 cause of preventable disease,” said Mark Senn, senior director of LifeFit Wellness Services. “Here’s a way to quit the habit and improve your health.”

The Freedom From Smoking program’s first class will be at 5:45 p.m. in BMAC conference room 451 at 990 Ribaut Road (across the street from the main hospital campus).

The cost is $30, which includes a workbook, a relaxation CD and handouts. Topics covered include stress management techniques, what to do when a craving comes, controlling your weight while quitting and much more. Participants will also receive a free two-month membership to the LifeFit Wellness Center. Call 843-522-5570 for information and to register.

BMH to offer seminar on knee, hip pain

Do you suffer from hip and knee pain?

Beaufort Memorial will host a free seminar at 9 a.m. Monday, Oct. 19, in Room 364 of the hospital’s Medical and Administrative Center at 990 Ribaut Road (directly across the street from the main hospital campus). Orthopedic Care Coordinator and Physical Therapist Andrea Sadler will provide information about normal knee and hip anatomy, signs and symptoms of joint-related problems, and treatment options to relieve or resolve pain.

The seminar is free but registration is requested. To learn more or make a reservation, call 843-522-5585.

Mobile meals program to receive plaque

HELP of Beaufort’s Mobile Meals Program will be presenting Beaufort Memorial Hospital/Sodexo with a plaque to commemorate 40 years of working together to deliver meals to the homebound in the Beaufort area. During the past 40 years, Beaufort Memorial/Sodexo has supplied Mobile Meals with over 730,000 meals to deliver. These meals are paid for by HELP of Beaufort and some paying clients who receive the meals. Everyone is invited to attend this presentation, which will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, Sept. 16, in the Beaufort Memorial Hospital Cafeteria.

Bishop Eye using Symfony lens

Bishop Eye Center is now using the Symfony Toric Intraocular Lens from Abbott Medical Optics. The Symfony lens was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in July and has gained approvals in more than 50 countries around the world. Bishop Eye Center is a Hilton Head Island- and Bluffton-based leader in refractive cataract surgery that is internationally recognized for patient outcomes.

Can Alzheimer’s be detected with an eye test?

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By Dr. Mark S. Siegel

A picture of the retina may one day help diagnose people with Alzheimer’s before they show any symptoms.

A study published in “Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science” showed that the technique could identify Alzheimer’s in mice. The procedure will be tested in humans next.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota Center for Drug Design were able to identify Alzheimer’s from detailed color images of the retinas of mice.

The retina is made from similar kinds of tissue as the brain and that tissue can be seen directly by looking into the eye. As Alzheimer’s begins, it changes the way that light is reflected off of the retina. The study showed that in mice this change starts long before any behavioral or memory changes are noticeable.

Alzheimer’s causes changes in memory, thinking and vision, as well as movement and behavior problems. The symptoms become more severe over the course of the disease.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the disease is caused by the buildup of amyloid plaques and tangles in the nerve cells in the brain. These plaques are difficult to see in living brains, so Alzheimer’s is usually only diagnosed from the symptoms.

By the time symptoms become obvious, a person will already have lost some brain function.

There is no treatment for the buildup in the brain that causes Alzheimer’s. But there are treatments for some of the symptoms. There are also treatments that can slow the disease’s progress.

If this new test works as well in humans as it did in mice, people with Alzheimer’s could begin treatment to slow down the disease years earlier, before any symptoms are seen.

Dr. Mark S. Siegel is the Medical Director at Sea Island Ophthalmology on Ribaut Road in Beaufort.

Normal optic disc and blood vessels as seen in a standard retina image.
Normal optic disc and blood vessels as seen in a standard retina image.

Dentist helps patients overcome fear factor

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By Dr. Stephen Durham

There’s a piece of our own attitude that takes as active a part as any physical factor in whether our dental health is good or poor: It’s the tendency some people have to put off seeing their dentist.

Dental health doesn’t get better by itself, and generally speaking it doesn’t even stay the same without regular professional attention.

One reason people postpone dental exams is simply the demands of our daily lives. But the reason people postpone treatment most often has to do with fear. If this is how you feel about “a trip to the dentist,” you are not alone.

We call this factor “hesitance,” and it’s what causes many dental conditions to get worse, as surely as if it were plaque, bacteria or poor jaw alignment.

So we resolved to treat hesitance with as much care and consideration as we would bring to any symptom.

Confidence begins with choice

Careful consultation is the start of approaching dental care with confidence. Giving our patients a clear picture of their condition and then offering them realistic choices, we sit face-to-face and map our course together.

When the patient has this much to do with the steps that are being taken, we find that concerns begin to subside.

Spectrum of comfort

Another important reassurance is the variety of ways patients can choose for relieving anxiety, discomfort and preventing pain.

From local anesthetics to sedation dentistry, the techniques are available that can make treatment a process you can trust, without the dread that might have grown from old-fashioned approaches.

Home-baked bravery

When it comes to providing an atmosphere of comfort and confidence, everything counts.

So the smell of home-baked cookies, the sound and feel of our office, the pleasant greetings and genuine interest you feel – it all adds up.

Helping people reach the right state of mind for healthy dentistry involves courtesy and consideration as well as professional know-how. We make sure patients find that atmosphere in abundance.

Dr. Stephen Durham, DMD, MAGD, practices at Durham Dental at Town Center in Beaufort. For more information, 843-379-5400.

Health briefs for September 1st-7th

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Lyme disease support group to meet in Bluffton

The next scheduled meeting of the Lowcountry SC Lyme Disease Support Group will take place from 6:30-7:45 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, at the Just Be Centre, 159 State St. in Bluffton.

The group has been formed for the support of those who are currently fighting lyme disease, those who are currently in remission and for their families and caregivers.

The group is open to anyone in Beaufort County and the Savannah area who is fighting the debilitating disease and/or their caregivers/loved ones. Those interested in joining the group or learning more can search Lowcountry SC Lyme Support Group and Meetup on Facebook or email For more information, visit the International Lyme Disease Association (ILADS) at

County residents should protect against Zika

While no cases of the Zika virus have been found in Beaufort County, citizens are encouraged by the county’s Mosquito Control program to be vigilant.

The mosquito associated with Zika virus is a very aggressive daytime biter and its peak feeding times are typically during early morning and late afternoon hours. BCMC recommends the following prevention:

• Empty/clean containers that hold water.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, hats.
• Protect windows and doors with screens
• Use insect repellant for clothing (always follow label instructions)

Only one species of mosquitoes (Aedes albopictus or the “Asian tiger” mosquito) may potentially transmit Zika virus in the Lowcountry. BCMC is increasing surveillance for this particular mosquito.

Health briefs for August 25th-31st

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Mental health center receives re-accreditation

The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) has accredited the Coastal Empire Community Mental Health Center, for a period of three years, in the areas of outpatient treatment for adults and outpatient treatment for children and adolescents.

The center, which served 3,953 people, including 1,261 children and adolescents and 184 individuals over the age of 65 in fiscal year 2016, provides mental health services to Allendale, Beaufort, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties.

Operated by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, the Center is a component of the Agency’s division of Community Mental Health Services.

To learn more about Coastal Empire, visit

Dr. Brandon McElroy
Dr. Brandon McElroy

Dr. Brandon McElroy joins BMH Lady’s Island Internal Medicine

Beaufort Memorial Hospital has added a new physician to its busy Lady’s Island Internal Medicine practice. Internist Dr. Brandon McElroy will begin seeing patients in September.

A summa cum laude graduate of the University of Tennessee, McElroy earned his Doctorate of Medicine from the university’s Health Science Center in 2013. Throughout his medical training, he volunteered at a clinic in Memphis providing free primary care to underserved adults and served as a mentor to fellow medical students. Earlier, he worked as a psychiatric technician at Lakeshore Mental Health Institute in Knoxville.

This spring, he completed his internship and residency at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Lady’s Island Internal Medicine is located at 117 Sea Island Parkway. Also at the practice are board-certified internists Drs. Philip Cusumano and Robert Vyge as well as certified physician assistants John Garner and Eric Gearhart. To make an appointment with any of the providers, call 843-522-7240.

Beaufort Memorial makes list of Most Wired Hospitals 

For the 14th straight year, Beaufort Memorial earned a spot on the list of the nation’s Most Wired Hospitals, putting it in the company of some of the top academic medical centers in the country.

To make the list, hospitals had to meet the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) set of rigorous IT criteria, designed to reduce the likelihood of medical errors and improve outcomes.

“We’ve continued to look at technology solutions with the goal of improving patients’ quality of care,” said BMH Chief Information Officer Ed Ricks. “It’s especially gratifying to see our investments working to take care outside of the walls of the hospital and into the community.”

Each year, Hospitals & Health Networks magazine, the flagship publication of the AHA, asks hospitals and health systems nationwide to complete a survey that measures their use of information technology. The 2016 Health Care’s Most Wired survey was completed by 680 participants, representing 2,146 hospitals — more than 34 percent of all U.S. hospitals.

According to this year’s survey, hospitals are ramping up their efforts to stop hackers and also working to boost their capabilities in telehealth and population health. BMH has pushed ahead on all three fronts.

The hospital also participates in MUSC Health Telestroke, a telemedicine program that allows Beaufort Memorial Emergency Department and Intensive Care Unit physicians to consult with MUSC Health stroke experts at a moment’s notice. The survey showed stroke care is the most rapid growth area for telehealth services, up 38 percent from 2015, as evidence-based studies emphasize the time urgency of treatment.

Most recently, Beaufort Memorial began using new software to manage the data from population health, a prevention program designed to reach people who might not realize they are at risk for diabetes, stroke, heart disease and other debilitating conditions, and encourage them to take a more proactive role in their health care. Initially, the hospital is focusing on the wellness of its own employees and will expand the program to patients in the near future.

Megan Love Grabowski
Megan Love Grabowski

Celadon Club gets new wellness director

Megan Love Grabowski has joined Celadon Club as the new Wellness Center director.

Celadon Club provides comprehensive health, fitness, and wellness services to residents of the newly revitalized Celadon community, as well as to a local Beaufortonians through a limited number of outside memberships.

As Wellness Center director, Grabowski will maintain and oversee the entirety of Celadon Club, from planning events for club members to personally recruiting fitness trainers and spa staff. Grabowski will also be available to assist each Celadon Club member to help them set and reach their wellness goals.

A graduate of Salisbury University with a Bachelor’s in Communications and Marketing, Grabowski has a background in fitness coaching, event planning, teaching several types of dance and field hockey.  In her spare time, she enjoys mountain biking, kayaking and flying trapeze.

A meet and greet event was held at Celadon Club from on Saturday, Aug. 20. Celadon is an upscale, wellness-focused, master-planned community on Lady’s Island – five minutes from downtown Beaufort. For more information, visit

Mental health specialists needed at BJVIM

The Bluffton Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine (BJVIM) is seeking trained mental health specialists who are interested in volunteering their time at the Bluffton and Ridgeland clinics.

“Many patients coming to the clinic have health problems that contribute to employment issues, relationship problems, and functioning in the world,” said Dr. Helene Stoller, a 25-year psychologist who volunteers at the clinic.

According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 60 percent of people in the United States who have mental health conditions — including depression, anxiety and post traumatic stress disorder — and nearly 90 percent of people with substance use disorders do not receive the care they need.

Stoller, who is the only mental health professional on staff at BJVIM, spends four hours a week meeting with patient and doctors. With more than 2,500 patients who call BJVIM their medical home, having only one mental health provider represents a gap in services.

Mental health specialists who are interested in volunteering their time are encouraged to call Pam Toney at 843-706-7090, ext. 104.

Bluffton Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine clinics provide medical services free of charge to individuals who are without health insurance, live or work in greater Bluffton or Jasper County and qualify based on income.

Health briefs for August 11th-17th

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Kristen Ferguson
Kristen Ferguson

BMH physical therapist certified as specialist

Kristen Ferguson, a physical therapist at Beaufort Memorial HealthLink for Children, has earned certification as a clinical specialist in pediatrics from the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists and the American Physical Therapy Association.

She is one of only 15 physical therapists in South Carolina currently holding the credential of clinical specialist in pediatrics. Across the country, there are 1,330 physical therapists that have earned the prestigious certification.

A physical therapist with eight years experience, Ferguson spent six months studying for the rigorous four-hour exam.

“Although I am licensed to treat anyone of any age, I wanted to specialize in pediatrics,” she said. “This certification ensures that I have all the knowledge and skills to best serve my patients.”

Beaufort Memorial’s HealthLink for Children offers outpatient rehabilitation for patients from birth to age 21 in Beaufort and Bluffton. For more information on available services, call 843-522-5900.

Dr. James Kondor, a Hilton Head-based optometrist, helped secure funding for equipment and also is volunteering his time to treat patients.
Dr. James Kondor, a Hilton Head-based optometrist, helped secure funding for equipment and also is volunteering his time to treat patients.

Ribbon-cutting planned for new BJVIM eye clinic

Patients from Bluffton Jasper Volunteers in Medicine (BJVIM) will soon have access to free vision screenings.

Thanks to generous donations from local Lions Clubs, individuals and grants, a room in the Ridgeland clinic has been outfitted with state-of-the art ophthalmic equipment.

“We will be one of only a handful of free clinics in South Carolina to have an ophthalmic exam on site,” said Pam Toney, BJVIM executive director.

A ribbon-cutting is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19, at the Ridgeland Clinic, located at 11332 N. Jacob Smart Blvd. The public also is invited to free vision screenings courtesy of the Sun City Lions Club from 1-3 p.m.

Dr. James Kondor, an optometrist on Hilton Head, is leading the charge in soliciting local Lions Clubs for donations and also in donating his time to the clinic.

“I told each club’s board of directors, ‘If certain vision problems were left undetected, it may cause patients to lose their sight.’ That hit home with them,” Kondor said. “The goal of the Lions Club is to eradicate treatable eye diseases in the world.”

Toney said many of BJVIM patients suffer from diabetes and are in desperate need of quality eye care. Many of the conditions that they expect to come across include diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, low vision and cataracts.

The clinic’s first day for appointments will be from 1:30-4:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 25, at the Ridgeland Clinic.

Optometrists and other eye specialists who are interested in volunteering their time are encouraged to call Pam Toney at 843-706-7090 ex 104.

The Bluffton Jasper County Volunteers in Medicine provides services free of charge to individuals who are without health insurance, live or work in Greater Bluffton or Jasper County and qualify based on income.

Coastal Carolina Hospital earns screening designation

Coastal Carolina Hospital has been designated a Lung Cancer Screening Center by the American College of Radiology (ACR).

The ACR Lung Cancer Screening Center designation is a voluntary program that recognizes facilities that have committed to practice safe, effective diagnostic care for individuals at the highest risk for lung cancer.

In order to receive this distinction, facilities must be accredited by the ACR in computed tomography in the chest module, as well as undergo a rigorous assessment of its lung cancer screening protocol and infrastructure. Also required are procedures in place for follow-up patient care, such as counseling and smoking cessation programs.

Lung cancer screening with low-dose computed tomography scans, and appropriate follow-up care, significantly reduces lung cancer deaths.

Patients at Coastal Carolina Hospital will need a physician referral to have a lung cancer screening procedure.

Patients may schedule lung cancer screening by calling 843-784-8230.

Heather Riessland
Heather Riessland

New physician assistant joins Dermatology Associates

Heather Riessland has joined Dermatology Associates of the Lowcounty.

She is a certified physician assistant with over a decade of experience in dermatology.

Riessland completed a Master’s Degree in Medical Sciences in Physician Assistant Studies, with a clinical focus in family practice and dermatology from Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz., in 2005.

She practiced in general medicine for the Department of Defense for five years followed by over five years of experience practicing dermatology with Kaiser Permanente in Denver.

Riessland has professional affiliations with the American Academy of Physician Assistants, Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants and the Colorado Society of Dermatology Professionals.

She is currently accepting appointments in all three of the following Dermatology Associates of the Lowcountry’s locations: Hilton Head Island at 3901 Main St., Suite D, 843-689-5259; Bluffton/Okatie at 40 Okatie Center Blvd. South, Suite 201, 843-705-0840; and Beaufort at 242 Lady’s Island Drive, 843-525-9277. Visit

The word ‘death’ is harsh, final … and totally inaccurate

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By Susan Stone

Ever since I began writing this column, I have quoted my master teacher,  Rev. Marian Starnes, numerous times for her wisdom and humor.

On the Summer Solstice, she flew away HOME. Marian didn’t like to use the word “death.” She found it harsh and final and totally inaccurate. She had a lot of experience with what we call “death.”

In 1973, Marian died on the operating table during open heart surgery. The last thing she heard was; “We’re losing her!” She rose above the operating theater and observed the panic in the room as they readied the crash cart.

Completely at ease and uninterested in what the doctors were doing, she left. The feeling she described being out of the body was pure delight. She found herself in a green valley surrounded by mountains. It was familiar to her as the landscape she knew as a child growing up in Idaho.

In front of her appeared a bridge and on the other side of the bridge were her father and a little boy who had drowned when they were children, along with various animals she had loved through her life.

She was overjoyed to see them all, and when she attempted to cross the bridge, two men suddenly stood in her way. Neither of them spoke to her or even really looked at her.

Marian described both of them as looking like Jesus (she never understood why there were two). They were discussing whether they should send her back. They said that she was a powerful teacher and had already been doing good work, but they knew she would begin a ministry and would reach people around the world with her message of love.

Just as they turned to her to ask if she would go back, she whooooshed back into her body.

Marian always told this story with a huge smile on her face. She said that death is an illusion and that we never lose consciousness.

She said, “One minute I was Marian and the next minute, I was still Marian.”  She would draw an imaginary line on the floor and hop over it. “Don’t ever be afraid to drop your body and go HOME. You’ll be glad to be free of it … I promise.”

In her last hours she fell in to a deep coma, Hospice had been called in and they were keeping her comfortable. Just before she took her last breath, she opened her eyes and smiled wide saying; “I’m doing good, aren’t I?”

There was no fear, only joy.

As I recall, during a memorial for a dear friend of hers, she said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Do not pity the dead, pity the living! This living thing is hard stuff! We’re here to help one another and to have as much fun as we can (she would always insert, legally). Don’t worry about tomorrow, because there are no tomorrows. In my 89 years on this planet, I’ve never seen a tomorrow! I’ve only seen todays! Lots and lots of todays! So make today a great day.

“Do what you can and then a little bit more. Eat cake. Don’t wait until someday to do what you love … love everything you do. If what you’re doing makes you miserable … stop it! It’s not worth it. Life is simple, people are complicated.”

Over the years, Marian and her messages have traveled around the world. I will be forever changed for having known her.

One last quote: “We are the immortals; we have always been and ever will be. You have always been you and you will always be. And when life gets tough … eat more cake!

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