09-05-2019 Lakeland Virtual Reality Program honored by American Cancer Society; Lighthouse Chorus p

Lakeland Virtual Reality Program honored by American Cancer Society

Spectrum Health Lakeland team members, Barbara Schmidtman, PhD, director of oncology services, and Brendon Beede, information security project manager, were recently honored with the Innovation Award by the American Cancer Society at the annual Coaches vs. Cancer Night of the Stars event for their work with virtual reality (VR) in the clinical setting.

INNOVATION AWARD… of the American Cancer Society was presented to Spectrum Health Lakeland virtual reality team. The award was given out during “Night of the Stars” hosted by the local Coaches vs. Cancer program. Pictured are (from the left): Barbara Schmidtman, PhD, Lakeland’s director of oncology services; Mike Brey, University of Notre Dame Men’s Basketball Coach and supporter of Coaches vs. Cancer; Brendon Beede, information security project manager at Spectrum Health Lakeland.


Beede and Schmidtman launched the VR program at the Marie Yeager Cancer Center in January 2019. Through an interactive computer-generated simulation, patients receiving chemotherapy and other infusion services are exposed to a variety of experiences while helping relieve some of the current stresses of their situation. “On behalf of the American Cancer Society and Coach Mike Brey’s Coaches vs. Cancer program, we are thrilled to present the Innovation Award to Brendon and Barbara,” said Jessica McCrea, development manager, American Cancer Society. “Their work with VR has certainly had a positive impact on the oncology patient population at Spectrum Health Lakeland. We applaud their innovative efforts to help ease the burden of fighting cancer.” “The first time I put on the VR headset I quickly realized how much of a benefit this would have for our patients,” said Schmidtman. “In addition to the success of the program we’ve seen at Lakeland, we are pleased to have developed a clinical study to assess patient anxiety levels in hopes that this technology will help patients in other communities as well.” Coaches vs. Cancer program, in collaboration with the National Association of Basketball Coaches, has united coaches and fans nationwide to help the American Cancer Society defeat a common enemy–cancer. Through fundraising and education initiatives, the Coaches vs. Cancer program has supported the American Cancer Society in improving and saving lives from cancer in the U.S. and worldwide.

“Night of the Stars is the most powerful event organized by our local Coaches vs. Cancer program,” said Notre Dame Men’s Basketball Coach Mike Brey. “The honorees are literally saving lives every day and each of them has an incredible story to share. This is a special night I look forward to each year.” Coach Brey has been a long-time supporter of Coaches vs. Cancer raising more than $3.3 million to-date for the American Cancer Society’s mission to save lives, celebrate lives and lead the fight for a world without cancer.

Lighthouse Chorus performs with All God’s Children Choir to fight impact of hunger

Members of the Michiana Metro Lighthouse Chorus are working to reduce the impact of hunger by holding a fundraiser for area food banks on Saturday, September 21, 2019. The Chorus will present Magic of Harmony at 6:59 p.m. at the Summit Church, 1700 W. River Rd. in Niles. The All God’s Children Community Choir will also appear as guest performers. Net proceeds from the performance will be donated to food banks in Berrien and Cass counties. Attendees are also encouraged to bring a non-perishable food item to donate to a food drive that evening. Magic of Harmony will include a variety of music that appeals to all ages, including several theme songs from Disney movies. General Admission Tickets are $13 in advance and $15 at the door and Senior/Student Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door. Admission is free for children under age 12. Advance tickets can be purchased by calling 269-471-4559.

The All God’s Children Community Choir is a spirited group of talented and enthusiastic children and teens, ages 4 to 18, drawn from many different communities in Southwest Michigan. Led by a diverse team of directors, the Choir is now in its 20th year, inspiring audiences with its messages of brotherhood and sisterhood, unity, peace and respect for all people. All God’s Children has performed on more than 150 occasions throughout the Midwest. The Lighthouse Chorus is a local, non-profit mens a cappella chorus that is celebrating its 20th year of singing together. The Chorus has performed through southwest Michigan and northwest Indiana, singing in a variety of venues. They perform primarily in the four-part harmony of the barbershop style, and their repertoire includes everything from jazz to doo wop. Chorus President Jay Wort noted that “our Chorus members love performing and sharing our love of singing with the community.” Chorus members come from a variety of backgrounds and from multiple counties throughout the area, including Berrien and Cass counties in Michigan and La Porte County in Indiana. Some members have more than 50 years of barbershop singing and others have less than a year. All the members share one thing—the joy of singing.

Michigan wins $4 million CDC grant to improve monitoring of residents’ toxic chemical exposure

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is among six state health departments nationwide awarded a grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supporting the expansion of statewide toxic chemical biomonitoring.

Biomonitoring is the measurement of environmental chemicals in body tissues or fluids, such as blood or urine, to determine the amount of chemical that actually enters the body. Data collected from biomonitoring helps identify at-risk population groups and assess the effectiveness of interventions to prevent harm. “This is a great win for all of Michigan and will allow our department to even better assess and address exposure to environmental chemicals in our communities,” said Robert Gordon, MDHHS director. “This knowledge will help us to develop and evaluate ways to both prevent and reduce chemical exposures.” MDHHS will use the CDC grant funding – about $4 million over five years – to support two new programs. The first, the Michigan Chemical Exposure Monitoring program (MiChEM), will test for chemicals in a group of adults selected to represent Michigan adults statewide. These chemicals include per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), certain pesticides and heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and lead. “Because Michigan has a legacy of industrial activity and a high number of hunters, anglers and private well users, Michigan adults may be exposed to environmental chemicals in different ways than the rest of the U.S. population,” said Matt Geiger, chemistry and toxicology division director at the MDHHS State Public Health Lab and one of the principal investigators on the grant. “MiChEM will help MDHHS establish levels of these chemicals in Michigan adults and help evaluate changes in these levels over time.” The second program funded by CDC’s grant will measure PFAS among Michigan firefighters to improve understanding of the ways they may be exposed to PFAS on the job. Data from recent scientific studies show that firefighters have levels of certain types of PFAS in their blood that are higher than the national average.

Information gathered from these newly funded efforts will complement other current activities throughout the state to identify groups exposed to environmental chemicals. Such activities include the recent statewide testing of PFAS in Michigan community water supplies, measuring PFAS exposure among people with PFAS in their private wells in northern Kent County and expanded testing for lead and copper in public water supplies under Michigan’s revised Lead and Copper Rule. Biomonitoring is an increasingly important tool in public health. Past biomonitoring efforts in Michigan conducted by the MDHHS State Public Health Lab include a 2003 investigation into dioxin exposure in the Tittabawassee River flood plain; several projects since the 1970s monitoring chemicals in consumers of Great Lakes fish; and long-term monitoring that took place between 1975 and 2001 to track Michiganders’ exposure to polybrominated biphenyl (PBB) flame retardants that had been accidentally mixed with cattle feed.

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