Philadelphia's medical brain drain-prompted by the collapse of Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation in that market-is paying unexpected dividends in another city's fledgling effort to attract top research talent.
Suzanne Ildstad, M.D., a surgeon who heads the Institute for Cellular Therapeutics at Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, is moving her pioneering research team of nearly 40 medical, scientific and technical professionals to the University of Louisville.
"To be perfectly honest, I was extremely happy in Philadelphia," says Ildstad, whose work in the area of bone marrow transplantation is backed by $10 million in federal research funding. "I would not have been looking if it had not been for the (AHERF) bankruptcy."
Although Santa Barbara, Calif.-based Tenet Healthcare Corp. will be taking over AHERF's Philadelphia operations, Ildstad feared her pioneering research would not be supported by the for-profit chain.
Louisville offered strong solid-organ transplant and bone marrow donor programs and a financially attractive package. She will occupy a professorship supported by $4 million in state funding under Kentucky's "bucks for brains" initiative (Aug. 24, p. 36) and matching funds from the foundation coffers of Louisville's Jewish Hospital.
Alternative therapy. Candidates in last week's elections in New York and Texas had to reckon with a growing group of voters: the mentally ill.
The New York-based Mental Health Voter Empowerment Project began in 1994 as one man's effort to encourage his fellow mental health consumers to exercise their civil rights.
The growing mental health vote, says founder Ken Steele, will "make elected officials accountable for the services and needs of people living with mental illnesses."
The project puts the 1993 National Voter Rights Act to work for the mentally ill by partnering with state- and county-funded agencies to make voter registration available.
New voters are recruited at housing projects and clinics for the mentally ill and in state inpatient facilities, including the Bronx Psychiatric Center. As of July, the project had more than 28,000 voters in its database, Steele says.
The project's 70 volunteers organized walks to escort thousands of mentally ill voters to the polls; they contacted thousands more to encourage them to send in absentee ballots.
This year the effort spread to Texas, where a voter registration drive at Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Houston signed up 180 new voters, most in just two days.
Expectations game. In September PhyCor Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Joseph Hutts told analysts his company's earnings targets wouldn't include any new deals through 1999. But the PPM industry veteran had something up his sleeve.
What Hutts told the analysts: "We want to be as predictable and as stable as we can be," given the turmoil in the industry.
What he told an audience of group practice administrators last month: "We've told Wall Street (no deals), but we will (do affiliations). It's just I want it to be a surprise."
Low and behold, last week the Nashville-based physician practice manager announced a new affiliation-with the 35-physician Huntington (N.Y.) Medical Group on Long Island. Wall Street seemed to take the news in stride, however; PhyCor stock closed down more than 3% that day.
Web mischief. Richard Scrushy, HealthSouth Corp.'s chairman and chief executive officer, and his wife have filed suit against a former company employee, alleging he posted false personal attacks against them on a World Wide Web site.
Filed in Centre County, Pa., last week, the Scrushys' complaint says Peter Krum of State College, Pa., posted nearly 50 messages between August and October under an alias. The messages included sexual references to Leslie Scrushy.
Krum worked as a food-service supervisor for HealthSouth Nittany Valley Rehabilitation Hospital in Pleasant Gap, Pa. He left voluntarily in December 1997.
"All of the comments (Krum) made are false with no other purpose than to maliciously harm or injure the Scrushys and HealthSouth," says Bruce Fischman, an attorney for the company and the Scrushys. "To be subjected to this kind of humiliation is horrible." The suit seeks unspecified damages.
Krum could not be reached for comment.
Message: Stay healthy. Big Brother is watching, but he doesn't work for the government, and he could work for your hospital. In the latest example of technology run amok, the healthcare division of a California insurance brokerage and consulting firm is offering the Absence Manager, an Internet-based software product that tracks employee absences on a daily basis "to track, quantify and monitor lost time."
Officials, of course, aren't positioning the product from Torrance, Calif.-based Keenan HealthCare as a scary proposition. Not at all. They call it "an absence reporting system that not only provides the `front end' to payroll, but also generates absence trending reports and assists employers with providing notifications to third parties for employee care management."
It's unlikely, though, that already overstressed employees-victims of the downsizing, mandatory overtime and other management tools of the 1990s-will be reassured. Or relish the thought that their every absence is being monitored by an electronic eye in cypberspace.
To the rescue. Christopher Reeve has become a darling of the rehabilitation community, so it's no surprise he's set to show up at a fund-raiser this week for an expansion of a Raleigh, N.C., rehab center.
Wake Medical Center hopes to raise about $400,000 for the 23,000-square-foot expansion it's planning, including a pool and a gym. The expansion also includes a park setting and streetscape, designed to help the wheelchair-bound move in these environments. Wake is awaiting state certificate-of-need approval for the project.
Reeve, who is best known for his role as Superman in four films, was paralyzed following a fall from a horse in 1995. He will be the guest of honor at the $1,000-per-couple fund-raiser.