All posts by spsceditor

Protecting Sight of Premature Life

Dr. Matthew Doerr
Dr. Matthew Doerr

A period of time in the Stiles family’s life that was supposed to be filled with joy transformed into one of fear and uncertainty when their baby, Andy, was born at 27 weeks and immediately confined to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. While a team of physicians worked day and night to stabilize him, innumerable thoughts flew through his parent’s minds: Was he going to survive? Would he have brain damage? Had his lungs developed properly?  In that overwhelming moment, it did not occur to the new parents, amongst all the possibilities, that their baby may not be able to see.

An infant’s eyes are not fully developed until they are almost full-term. When they enter the world prematurely, especially prior to 30 weeks of gestation, they are at much higher risk for abnormal eye development and blindness if they are not followed closely by an ophthalmologist.

“I just remember seeing him hooked up to all these tubes and alarms,” Jan Stiles said of when their baby, Andy, was in the NICU during his first few months of life. “He was so small and helpless and I couldn’t do anything to help him. His care was in the hands of his doctors and nurses.”

Among the team of doctors tending to Andy was pediatric ophthalmologist, Dr. Matthew Doerr. Dr. Doerr was responsible for performing the weekly eye exams Andy needed to ensure that his eyes developed properly, and if necessary, to perform the medical or surgical interventions that might have been necessary to give little Andy his best chance at normal vision.

“I understood their distress. Parents, who haven’t slept in weeks, and are faced with the complicated and difficult situation of an extremely premature baby just want to hear us say that everything will be fine,” said Dr. Doerr, who has now joined Dr. Edwin Wortham V at VPOS (Virginia Pediatric Ophthalmology Specialists) in Richmond. “As a father myself, I understand a family’s need to hear that.”

“Early intervention in the visual development of a child is critical and sometimes easy to overlook. As anyone who works with children knows, they often won’t complain of a problem, so you have to know what to look for and the right questions to ask,” Dr. Doerr explained. Early intervention and prevention of complications can be the difference between normal vision and profound vision loss.

Part of Dr. Doerr’s specialty is being keenly aware of his young patients and adept at recognizing small nuances and signs in their behavior that when addressed early, can make a huge difference down the road. His own three children have helped him better communicate with his patients and their families. Two of his own children have vision problems, which has helped him relate to what some of his patients and their parents deal with every day.

In his practice, Dr. Doerr sees a wide variety of pediatric eye issues ranging from glasses prescriptions, to routine and complicated ocular misalignment, to even surgical and medical management of congenital cataracts and glaucoma. VPOS, under the expertise of Dr. Edwin Wortham, has been helping children and adults with eye problems since 1992. The practice is located across the street from the Stony Point Surgery Center, where the majority of their procedures take place.

Patients like Andy, and many other premature infants like him, are the types of cases that Dr. Doerr finds most rewarding. “Making a difference in a newborn’s life has a profound impact on everyone involved and I’m thankful for the opportunity,” he said. “I enjoy following these children as they grow and doing everything I can to ensure that they continue to see the world clearly.”

MEDARVA Stony Point Surgery Center Begins Outpatient Hysterectomies

Dr. Keith Berkle
Dr. Keith Berkle

With one of the lowest infection rates in the country, experienced staff, and more availability for surgeries, local physicians are starting to choose MEDARVA Stony Point Surgery Center (SPSC) for one specific new procedure: outpatient hysterectomies.

One of those doctors is Keith Berkle, M.D., a leading OBGYN physician with Virginia Women’s Center in Richmond. Berkle operates at SPSC and has just started doing outpatient hysterectomies at the location. He has already had success with the procedure and is talking more about the benefits of having it at SPSC and why it is a good choice for patients.

“All the assets of SPSC such as very knowledgeable staff, extremely low infection rate, and ease of access are reasons that I wanted to direct patients to the surgery center for this procedure,” Berkle said. “It just makes a lot of sense for the patient and for our surgical team.”

Once regarded as a major surgery with scarring and a slow and painful recovery, laparoscopic hysterectomies now enable patients to go home the same day and return to normal activities much faster than with traditional surgery. There is a minimal negative impact to the patient’s life and lower overall surgical complications. Rather than a large incision, there are approximately three keyhole-sized incisions in the abdomen. As a result, there is a lower risk of bleeding and infection, as well as a lower rate of blood clots caused by inactivity post-surgery.

The most common medical conditions that necessitate hysterectomies are uterine fibroids, endometriosis, severe vaginal bleeding, and chronic pelvic pain. When more conservative treatment methods, such as medicines, do not continue working, surgery may be the only option. By changing the way the surgery is performed, patients are able to regain a healthy lifestyle more quickly than ever before.

Several tips for a fast recovery once the patient returns home are:
• Move around. After the doctor’s go-ahead, get up and walk after your hysterectomy.
• Ease into physical fitness. Building back up to a gym routine is recommended.
• No heavy lifting. Lifting heavy objects can put pressure on abdominal muscles, so it is best to skip these exercises until a month or more after the procedure.

“Stony Point Surgery Center is a great choice right now for patients that need to have this procedure done,” Dr. Berkle said. “I’m excited to be a part of this and lead the effort.”

Berkle has performed minimally invasive hysterectomies since 2008 and is interested in shortening patient recovery time. By sharing the news of the new outpatient hysterectomy option at SPSC, he is hopeful that patients will choose the option and all the benefits that come along with it.

For more information, please contact 804.775.4500 or visit

Keeping hope alive through innovative research

Because of similarities between cells in the human ear and certain jellyfish cells, researchers are able to conduct experiments without risking the hearing of human subjects.

As research funding continues to be squeezed on the national level, the MEDARVA Foundation’s ambition is to initiate new funding models designed to yield quality research, engage partners and connect venture philanthropy with individuals and organizations.


Researchers find human-like cells in an unlikely source 

Dr. Barry Strasnick, M. D., both a professor and chair of Otology/Neurotology at Eastern Virginia Medical School. Dr. Strasnick is a leading researcher examining the effects of gentamicin, an antibiotic used to treat many types of bacterial infections on human hearing. Jellyfish are being grown in Dr. Strasnick’s laboratory to assist in the research to prevent hearing loss in patients who might greatly benefit from certain antibiotics. Jellyfish possess hair cells, “Since we know the hair cells in the human ear are similar in structure to jellyfish cells and react to gentamicin in potentially similar ways, we can experiment with jellyfish hair cells to see how they react to different levels of the antibiotic, without risking the hearing of human subjects,” Dr. Strasnick says. It is important research that will help scientists find ways to protect the hair cells in ears in the human ear when gentamicin or its relatives are required. In the long run, this research will make sure the treatment benefits the patient without any repercussions.


Fueling life-saving medical research in the face of a challenging economic environment 

research-microscope“Federal government cuts in healthcare research, along with decreasing grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have made catalytic grants from organizations such as the MEDARVA Foundation the only way to continue research and keep hope alive,” states Dr. Richard Constanzo, Ph.D., Professor and Director of Research at VCU Department of Otolaryngology. “Two studies would not have been possible without funding from the MEDARVA Foundation, within the current economic climate, we are grateful for the MEDARVA Foundation’s grant to continue this groundbreaking work.”

Physicians from UVA and researchers have utilized the MEDARVA Foundation’s catalytic research funding to take their research to the next level. Both began separate projects through the MEDARVA Foundation’s donated funds, have now been awarded additional funding by the NIH to further their research. MEDARVA Foundation donated funds.

“The MEDARVA Foundation’s research funding keeps research alive, and is clearly picking up a deficit that is not being picked up today.” ~ Dr. Richard Constanzo, Ph.D

Weight Loss 101: VBLOC Therapy

For those who have struggled with severe obesity throughout their life, weight loss surgery may be a lifesaving option. Today, there are a variety of options for patients to consider, and the first step to choosing the right procedure is scheduling a consultation with a surgeon who specializes in weight loss procedures.

One option that patients may want to discuss during their consultation is VBLOC® Therapy. This innovative weight loss option is delivered through the Maestro System, a medical device similar to a pacemaker, typically implanted during an outpatient procedure and helps block signals along the vagus nerve, which connects the brain and stomach. These blocked signals help patients feel full following smaller meals and reduce feelings of hunger, which helps lead to effective and safe long-term weight loss.

During the procedure, electrodes are placed on the vagus nerve between the esophagus and the stomach. The Maestro® System, the implanted device that delivers the signals that block the nerve, is a rechargeable device that can be non-invasively programed. After implantation, your surgeon will activate the device and it will begin blocking nerve signals throughout the day.

VBLOC Therapy does not surgically alter digestive anatomy in any way and is completely reversible, if desired. According to Dr. James Bittner, this weight loss option also does not affect how calories are absorbed by the body, and may help patients effectively lose weight while simultaneously making minimal lifestyle changes.

“There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for patients struggling with severe obesity, and each individual patient’s needs and goals are different,” Bittner says. “VBLOC Therapy is a wonderful option for patients to consider because the scheduled delivery for blocking the vagus nerve is customized for each patient.”

Having an honest conversation with your surgeon about goals and lifestyle changes necessary following a weight loss procedure will help determine if this procedure may be the right choice for you. For additional information about weight loss procedures, please click here to access information from our website.

Prehab To Reduce Your Rehab

Everyone is familiar with rehabilitation after surgery, but what about the term prehabilitation?

Prehab is defined as what a patient might do to prepare for his or her surgery weeks before it takes place. A recent study shows that there are benefits to this practice including faster recovery and the ability to function better after surgery.

The benefits of prehab were revealed during a study done by McGill University in Montreal earlier this year. The survey involved the monitoring of 77 patients that received colorectal cancer surgery. To prehab, or prepare for their surgery, half of the patients were given a plan for 50 minutes of exercise three days a week by a kinesiologist. The group also received counseling and protein supplements from a dietician, as well as anxiety-reducing exercises from a psychologist to follow pre-surgery. The majority of the patients began their prehab program 25 days before their surgeries.

Both groups were tested at the start of the program and measured for how far they could walk in six minutes. All patients walked about the same distance, but when the test was repeated before surgery, the survey uncovered that patients in the prehab group walked significantly further than those in the rehab only group.

Two months after their surgeries, the rehab-only patients walked an average of 60 feet less than when they first started the study, while prehab patients walked an average of 60 feet further.

The stress of surgery, anesthesiology, medications and other factors are hard on the body,” said Dr. Kevin Silver. “There’s definitely a focus on rehab, but the idea of prehab is smart. Anyone who prepares beforehand by exercising or practicing some of the techniques revealed in this study should fare better than someone who doesn’t do anything at all.”

For more information on this study’s findings, click here to read NPR’s coverage.



Weight Loss Surgery 101: Sleeve Gastrectomy

If you are more than 100 pounds overweight and have obesity-related health concerns, you may be a candidate for bariatric surgery, more commonly known as weight loss surgery. Obesity is a chronic condition and for many who suffer from severe obesity, bariatric surgery can be a lifesaving option.

Severe obesity is a chronic condition that requires lifelong treatment, and many have difficulties treating it with diet and exercise alone. There are a number of health conditions linked to obesity, including Type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and stroke.

There are several different types of weight loss surgeries currently available. Sleeve gastrectomy is one weight loss procedure that may help patients manage obesity-related health concerns. This surgery, also known as gastric sleeve surgery, is generally performed laparoscopically, which may reduce pain and recovery time.

According to Dr. Guilherme M. Campos, Professor of Surgery and Chairman of the Division of Bariatric and Gastrointestinal Surgery at MCV, this surgery helps patients lose excess weight by permanently reducing the size of the stomach. “During this procedure, a portion of the stomach is removed, leaving a narrowed sleeve,” Campos says. “The reduced stomach size limits the amount of food that can be consumed, and patients begin to feel full after eating much smaller meals.”

As with any surgery, weight loss procedures have post-operative risks. Patients who are candidates for weight loss surgery, such as the sleeve gastrectomy, must commit to lifestyle changes, including healthy eating and increasing physical activity. These changes help patients make the most of the procedure and ensure that their health conditions continue to improve.

If you’ve been considering weight loss surgery, making an appointment for a consultation with a specialist is a great place to start. For more information about weight loss procedures, please click here to access information from our website.

Weight Loss Surgery 101: Gastric Bypass

The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 80 percent of adults in the United States are overweight, and half of these people are considered obese. Obesity can pose a risk for serious conditions including Type 2 Diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke and cancer. Obesity has a long list of possible causes and can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender or race. For those who cannot control their weight through diet and exercise alone and are morbidly obese, bariatric (weight loss) surgery may be a good option.

There are several different types of weight loss surgery currently available. The wide range of surgery options may seem overwhelming at first, but your surgeon can help you determine what option will be best based on a one-on-one conversation and evaluation.

One procedure available to patients is called a gastric bypass. Gastric bypass surgery was the first successful weight loss surgery, first performed more than 30 years ago, and is one of the most commonly performed weight loss surgeries today.

According to Dr. James Bittner IV, gastric bypass surgery helps patients lose weight by altering how the stomach and small intestine handle food. “Following gastric bypass surgery, food consumed by the patient only goes through a portion of the stomach and small intestine,” Bittner says. “This means that patients feel full with far less food and the amount of calories absorbed by your body is reduced.”

During a gastric bypass procedure, the surgeon divides the stomach into two sections: a small upper section, and a larger bottom section. The smaller stomach section of the stomach, which is where food will now pass through, is then connected to the small intestine, which helps the body absorb fewer calories.

If you are considering weight loss surgery, the first step is starting the conversation with a doctor who specializes in weight loss surgery. The benefits to gastric bypass surgery can be substantial for those who are morbidly obese, but just as with any surgery, there can be risks as well. Your doctor can help determine eligibility, discuss lifestyles changes that must be made along with the surgery and discuss which surgery will be the right fit.

For more information about weight loss procedures, please click here to access information from our website.