Doctor Joins Many Volunteers On Habitat Project

Normally residents in South Webster are used to seeing Dr. John Oehler wearing a stethoscope, not a toolbelt.

But that’s just what the physician at SOMC Family Practice has been wearing when helping out at Habitat for Humanity’s project site in the village. “I’m considered unskilled and I have a hammer, some safety glasses and gloves,” he said good-naturedly. “I told them the tool belt was just for show.”

Many volunteers from all over the area have been working since mid-October on the construction of a home for a deserving family in the community, spearheaded by the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. South Webster’s Christ United Methodist Church, of which Dr. Oehler is a member, has been working with Habitat on the project.

“I’ve nailed up some wall plates, run some electrical wiring, placed some insulation and done some floor stabilization,” he said. “I use a hammer because they didn’t trust me with the nail gun.” He has high praise for the group of volunteers and discounts his own participation as minimal and not worth mentioning.

“They are really a good group of volunteers,” he said. “All the labor is volunteer and a lot of the materials are donated. It’s humbling to see what it really takes to build a house.”

Dr. Oehler has volunteered on three occasions at the site, which is on Essman-Sugar Camp Road, less than two blocks from his office on Jackson Street in the village. Terese Jones, a nurse on Dr. Oehler’s staff, has fixed several huge meals for the crews of volunteers as well.

Receiving regular email updates from church pastor Tom Charles, Dr. Oehler says he’s amazed at how efficient and successful the project has been.

“When the carpenters’ union went out there I was really humbled,” he says.

“They worked almost non-stop and got so much work done in a single day it was amazing. The biggest thing is having skilled people out there who can tell people like me what to do, because you can have the will but without the know-how, it doesn’t help.”

Noticing that he was physically sore after working several hours on the site, Dr. Oehler has greater appreciation than ever for the hard work of carpenters and craftsmen on a job site.

“I’m trying to learn what I can so maybe someday I will be able to build a house myself,” he says. “But I really just like being here to help.” Local Habitat co-president Paul White says there have been 10-12 people on the site working every day, with tremendous support from area businesses, the village offices, and local craftsmen.

The medical community has been represented by several volunteers on the project. In addition to Dr. Oehler, retired physician Tom Swope and his wife, Esther, have been working with Vicki Heiskell for the project helping arrange meals through local restaurants. Rita Haider, wife of local retired physician Shabbir Haider, is co-president of the local Habitat for Humanity. The four-bedroom, 1,200-square-foot home is expected to be completed by the end of the year or very early in 2008.

“If nothing else, we’re just trying to acknowledge there are needs in every community,” White says. “I’m thrilled with people like John, who are willing to come out and lay whatever professional perceptions they might have aside and do any task at hand.”

Anyone interested in helping with local Habitat for Humanity projects is encouraged to visit the local website sponsored by Dawgbyte Productions,

SOMC Inpatient Rehab Receives Renewed Accreditation

The Inpatient Rehab Unit at Southern Ohio Medical Center has once again gained accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF). The in-depth review is conducted once every three years and SOMC has now achieved accreditation for five consecutive terms.

“We’re very pleased to maintain this recognition,” Regina Keller, nurse manager of the Inpatient Rehab Unit at SOMC, said. “The survey is a very tedious process and to learn that our department is able to meet the standards that are set by CARF year after year shows how high our dedication to quality patient care truly is.”

CARF is a nationwide program, created to help organizations develop and maintain standards that improve the value and responsiveness of programs and services delivered to rehabilitation patients.

To be accredited by CARF, an organization must satisfy each of the CARF Accreditation Conditions and demonstrate through a site survey that it clearly meets those established standards. The CARF review is a two-day process, featuring visits from both administrative and program surveyors.

“The surveyors review processes used throughout our unit, including the scope of services we provided, our interdisciplinary teams created for performance improvement and our safety measures and standards,” Belinda Diles, program director of the Inpatient Rehab Unit, said.

This year the surveyors identified eleven strengths of the unit, emphasizing the department’s dedication to creating and maintaining a safe environment for both staff members and their patients. Five opportunities for improvement also were listed to help the unit continue to improve for the future.

“New standards come out every year so we’re constantly trying to make our department the best it can be,” Keller said. “We have to be in compliance with the standards at all times, not just during survey years, and we hope our patients feel confident in knowing that we are providing them the best rehab care in our area.”

SOMC Launches Equipment Tracking System

Did you ever misplace a set of keys or your TV remote? Imagine the challenge of tracking hundreds of pieces of equipment in a large organization, such as a hospital.

The Biomedical Engineering Department of Southern Ohio Medical Center has deployed a system to locate and track more than 1,600 pieces of medical equipment. The staff can instantly see them on a computer screen map, and track them as they move.

“Previously there were times when I had to send staff out for an hour or two to do preventitive maintenance,” Greg Malone, supervisor of Biomedical Engineering, says. “Now they can walk over to the computer. What once took hours takes seconds.”

With the system, known as Radianse, small tags on each item send a signal to 363 receivers throughout the hospital, which then give the information to the engineers. Malone says the Radianse system can determine which room a piece of equipment is in with great accuracy.

The system provides easier equipment management, improved recall management, and better use of limited supplies of critical equipment, Malone says.

SOMC Holds Glove and Mitten Drive

Employees of Southern Ohio Medical Center, as well as visitors and patients, participated in a recent glove and mitten drive for the needy. More than 226 pairs of gloves and mittens, as well as $20 in anonymous donations, were collected. Members of the SOMC Heart Care Unit helped coordinate the drive and are shown (l-r): Tina Moore, RN, CCRN; Missy Carver, RN; Paul Rase, RN, CCRN; Robin Blackburn, MTCNA; Sarah Betten, RN, BSN.

SOMC Nurse On Keeping the Faith: Surviving Cancer in Appalachia

Delrita Gilliland, Registered Nurse at the Southern Ohio Medical Center, recently presented at The Science of Cancer Health Disparities Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

Co-sponsored by the National Cancer Institute’s Center to Reduce Cancer Health Disparities in conjunction with the American Association for Cancer Research, this conference attracted more than 600 attendees including scientists, health professionals from academia, industry, government and the community. The purpose of the conference was to discuss the latest finding and to stimulate the development of new research in cancer health disparities.

At the plenary session on disparities in cancer survivorship, Gilliland shared insight about cancer survivorship issues in the Appalachian community through her “Keeping the Faith: Surviving Cancer in Appalachia” presentation.

Gilliland was asked to present because of her personal experience as a cancer survivor, along with her experience working with cancer survivors at SOMC and in the community. Since being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989, she has been a strong advocate for breast health as a Reach to Recovery volunteer, Special Touch instructor, Relay for Life committee member, and an American Cancer Society Board member.

In 1994, Ms. Gilliland became a charter member and has continuously served on the Fight Cancer, Save Lives Coalition, a community-based coalition formed by the Appalachia Leadership Initiative on Cancer.

SOMC’s Stevens Certified Diabetes Educator

Stacey Stevens, RN, CDE, has received her certification from the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators as a Certified Diabetes Educator.

Stevens has been with SOMC for 10 years and has been the Diabetes Education Coordinator for the past fiveyears. She received her associate’s degree in Nursing from Shawnee State University. A native of Scioto County, she resides in Lucasville with her husband, Jerry, and their two children.

Achieving certification status demonstrates to people with diabetes and employers that the health care professional possesses distinct and specialized knowledge, thereby promoting quality of care for people with diabetes.

For more information about SOMC Diabetes Education, contact Stevens at (740) 356-8670 or by email at

SOMC Supports Education Service Center

Southern Ohio Medical Center recently donated $3,000 to the South Central Ohio Educational Service Center. The money will support several educational programs, including the Scioto County Science Day, Scioto County High School Honors, Music Festival, Pre-College, summer programs and the Scioto County High School Art show. Shown are (from left) Brett Justice, Personnel director at the center, Sharee Price, Gifted Services coordinator, and Jennifer Schackart, Public Relations specialist at SOMC.

Local Urologist Esham Prepares To Retire

“Do everything you can do and learn everything you can learn,” Dr. William Esham says. “That’s what I tell young doctors and young people in general.” When Dr. “Bill” Esham hangs up his lab coat at the end of December, he will retire from a decades-long urology practice helping thousands of people in the Portsmouth area and surrounding counties. The advice he now gives worked well for him starting out as a young physician in the early ‘70s.

A son of long-time Vanceburg, Ky., physician Elwood Esham and his wife, Ruth, Bill spent the last part of high school and his college years in private religious schools (“It was my mother’s last attempt to set me straight,” he jokes). He began his medical career after undergraduate studies at Andrews University in Michigan and medical school at the University of Louisville. He served his country as a U.S. Coast Guard Flight Surgeon before practicing in Alabama, where he worked as a family doctor. Burning the midnight oil, he did everything, including delivering babies, and followed his own advice to do as much as he could and learn as much as he could.

Along the way, he also married a young nurse, Marika, originally from Austria, and they would have two children. “I got a ‘67 Mustang convertible a few weeks before we got married,” he jokes. “I told her I’d keep her as long as I had the car.”

His older brother, Richard, was also a practicing physician in Alabama, but Bill decided to return to his roots, and joined the practice in Vanceburg with his father’s successor, Dr. Cliff Jennings. He worked in general practice in his hometown until 1976, when he happened to be looking at specialty practice possibilities while talking with some of his former classmates at the Kentucky Medical Association in Louisville.

“I had a real interest in orthopedics,” he admits, “but in Louisville I was encouraged to apply for an opening there in a urology program. It was a small staff, but several of the people had been classmates or associates of mine from my medical school days and they knew my work ethic.”

Four years later he returned to the Portsmouth area, joined the practice of local urologists Don Appleton and John Walker, and began a 27-year span of caring for the urology needs of area residents. While brother Richard still practices in Alabama, his brother George is also a practicing physician at Southern Ohio Medical Center in Portsmouth. His sister, Faith Esham, is a world-famous operatic soprano and an adjunct professor at Westminster Choir College of Rider University, New Jersey. Their mother, Ruth, is still a resident of the area.

Over the years Bill has seen many new approaches and advances in his field. “There have been many refinements,” he says. “Probably the most significant thing was the development of shock wave lithotripsy, in which kidney stones can be shattered non-surgically. Prior to that, we had to cut the patient open to get stones out.”

He cites surgical refinements such as laparoscopic nephrectomy (kidney removal) and endoscopic improvements as critically important, in which smaller, less invasive wounds are needed to perform operations.

“We see a lot more prostate cancer now because we have much better ways to detect it early,” he says. “The difference now is, when I started practice, 75 percent of prostate patients in my office had inoperable cancer. Now 90 percent of prostate patients have treatable conditions because of earlier detection.”

When not caring for others, Bill has found time for his love of the outdoors through fishing, golf, farming and hunting. While plenty of photographs and some impressive trophies show his achievements, the centerpiece of his outdoor experiences is a seven-foot Alaskan grizzly now posed and mounted on a rock in his office. She brings more than a few wide eyes among visitors.

Today Bill and Marika’s children, Kristina and Bill E., are a pediatrician and a cardiac anesthesiologist, respectively, and he has two granddaughters. He doesn’t plan to slow down when his practice closes, looking forward to his traditional outdoor interests and possibly a few new ones.

“I want to thank everyone for trusting me to care for them over the years,” he says. “It has been the greatest honor, to be entrusted to help people, and I’ve made many friends and close colleagues along this journey.”

SOMC Nurses Gain Assault Examiner Certification

Registered nurses Betsy Marsh, BSN, CEN, EMT-P, Luann Webb, EMT-B and Cathy Clark, CEN, EMT-P (pictured l to r), all of the Southern Ohio Medical Center Emergency Department, recently gained certification after successfully completing the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners adult/adolescent (SANE-A) certification exam. The SANE program, created by the International Association of Forensic Nurses, provides individualized, professional and forensic care to sexual assault survivors. Nurses with SANE-A certification may also serve as expert consultants and witnesses in support of those who may have been sexually assaulted. Nurses of Emergency Services at SOMC have been a part of the program since 2001.