1. Don’t skip breakfast. Studies show that eating a proper breakfast is one of the most positive things you can do if you are trying to lose weight. Breakfast skippers tend to gain weight. A balanced breakfast includes fresh fruit or fruit juice, a high-fiber break-fast cereal, low-fat milk or yogurt, wholewheat toast and a boiled egg.

2. STRETCH: Learn to do stretching exercises when you wake up. It boosts circulation and digestion, and eases back pain.

3. Neurobics for your mind. Get your brain fizzing with energy. American researchers coined the term ‘neurobics’ for tasks which activate the brain’s own biochemical pathways and to bring new pathways online that can help to strengthen or preserve brain circuits.

     Brush your teeth with your ‘other’ hand, take a new route to work or choose your clothes based on sense of touch rather than sight. People with mental agility tend to have lower rates of Alzheimer’s disease and age-related mental decline.

4. Brush up on hygiene. Many people don’t know how to brush their teeth properly. Improper brushing can cause as much damage to the teeth and gums as not brushing at all. Lots of people don’t brush for long enough, don’t floss and don’t see a dentist regularly. Hold your toothbrush in the same way that would hold a pencil, and brush for at least two minutes.

     This includes brushing the teeth, the junction of the teeth and gums, the tongue and the roof of the mouth. And you don’t need a fancy, angled toothbrush – just a sturdy, soft-bristled one that you replace each month.

5. Get what you give! Always giving and never taking? This is the short road to compassion fatigue. Give to yourself and receive from others, otherwise you’ll get to a point where you have nothing left to give. And hey, if you can’t receive from others, how can you expect them to receive from you?

6. Get smelly. Garlic, onions, spring onions and leeks all contain stuff that’s good for you. A study at the Child’s Health Institute in Cape Town found that eating raw garlic helped fight serious childhood infections. Heat destroys these properties, so eat yours raw, wash it down with fruit juice or, if you’re a sissy, have it in tablet form.

7. Get spiritual. A study conducted by the formidably sober and scientific Harvard University found that patients who were prayed for recovered quicker than those who weren’t, even if they weren’t aware of the prayer.

8. Bone up daily. Get your daily calcium by popping a tab, chugging milk or eating yogurt. It’ll keep your bones strong. Remember that your bone density declines after the age of 30. You need at least 200 milligrams daily, which you should combine with magnesium, or it simply won’t be absorbed.

9. Knock one back. A glass of red wine a day is good for you. A number of studies have found this, but a recent one found that the polyphenols (a type of antioxidant) in green tea, red wine and olives may also help protect you against breast cancer. It’s thought that the antioxidants help protect you from environmental carcinogens such as passive tobacco smoke.

10. Berries for your belly. 

Blueberries, strawberries and raspberries contain plant nutrients known as anthocyanidins, which are powerful antioxidants. Blueberries rival grapes in concentrations of resveratrol – the antioxidant compound found in red wine that has assumed near mythological proportions. Resveratrol is believed to help protect

against heart disease and cancer.

11. Curry favour. Hot, spicy flavor foods containing chillies or cayenne pepper trigger endorphins, the feel-good hormones. Endorphins have a powerful, almost narcotic, effect and make you feel good after exercising. But go easy on the lamb, pork and mutton and the high-fat, creamy dishes served in many Indian restaurants.

12. Cut out herbs before ops. Some herbal supplements – from the popular St John’s Wort and ginkgo biloba to garlic, ginger and ginseng – can cause increased bleeding during surgery, warn surgeons. It may be wise to stop taking all medication, including herbal supplements, at least two weeks before surgery, and inform your surgeon about your herbal use.

13. I say tomato. Tomato is a superstar in the fruit and veggie pantheon. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a powerful cancer fighter. They’re also rich in vitamin C. The good news is that cooked tomatoes are also nutritious, so use them in pasta, soups and casseroles, as well as in salads.

     The British Thoracic Society says that tomatoes and apples can reduce your risk of asthma and chronic lung diseases. Both contain the antioxidant quercetin. To enjoy the benefits, eat five apples a week or a tomato every other day.

14. Eat your stress away. Prevent low blood sugar as it stresses you out. Eat regular and small healthy meals and keep fruit and veggies handy. Herbal teas will also soothe your frazzled nerves.

     Eating unrefined carbohydrates, nuts and bananas boosts the formation of serotonin, another feel-good drug. Small amounts of protein containing the amino acid tryptamine can give you a boost when stress tires you out.

15. A for Away. This vitamin, and beta carotene, help to boost immunity against disease. It also assists in the healing process of diseases such as measles and is recommended by the WHO. Good natural sources of vitamin A are kidney beans, liver, dairy products, green and yellow vegetables, pawpaw, mangoes, chilli pepper, red sorrel and red palm oil.

16. Load up on vitamin C. 

We need at least 90 mg of vitamin C per day and the best way to get this is by eating at least five servings of fresh fruit and vegetables every day. So hit the oranges and guavas.

17. No folly in folic acid. Folic acid should be taken regularly by all pregnant women and people with a low immunity to disease. Folic acid prevents spina bifida in unborn babies and can play a role in cancer prevention. It is found in green leafy vegetables, liver, fruit and bran.

18. GI, Jane. Carbohydrates with a high glycemic index, such as bread, sugar, honey and grain-based food will give instant energy and accelerate your metabolism. If you’re trying to burn fat, stick to beans, rice, pasta, lentils, peas, soy beans and oat bran, all of which have a low GI count.

19. Pure water. Don’t have soft drinks or energy drinks while you’re exercising. Stay properly hydrated by drinking enough water during your workout (just don’t overdo things, as drinking too much water can also be dangerous).

     While you might need energy drinks for long-distance running, in shorter exercise sessions in the gym, your body will burn the glucose from the soft drink first, before starting to burn body fat. Same goes for eating sweets.

20. Mindful living. You’ve probably heard the old adage that life’s too short to stuff a mushroom. But perhaps you should consider the opposite: that life’s simply too short NOT to focus on the simple tasks. By slowing down and concentrating on basic things, you’ll clear your mind of everything that worries you.

21. Do your weights workout first. Experts say weight training should be done first, because it’s a higher intensity exercise compared to cardio. Your body is better able to handle weight training early in the workout because you’re fresh and you have the energy you need to work it.

     Conversely, cardiovascular exercise should be the last thing you do at the gym, because it helps your body recover by increasing blood flow to the muscles, and flushing out lactic acid, which builds up in the muscles while you’re weight training. It’s the lactic acid that makes your muscles feel stiff and sore.

22. Burn fat during intervals. To improve your fitness quickly and lose weight, harness the joys of interval training. Set the treadmill or step machine on the interval program, where your speed and workload varies from minute to minute. Build up gradually, every minute and return to the starting speed. Repeat this routine. Not only will it be less monotonous, but you can train for a shorter time and achieve greater results.

23. Sunscreen can be a smokescreen. Sunscreen is unlikely to stop you from being sunburned, or to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. That’s because most people don’t apply it properly, and stay in the sun too long.

The solution? Slather on sunscreen daily and reapply it often, especially if you’ve been in the water.

24. Your dirtiest foot forward. If your ankles, knees and hips ache from running on pavement, head for the dirt. Soft trails or graded roads are a lot easier on your joints than the hard stuff. Also, dirt surfaces tend to be uneven, forcing you to slow down a bit and focus on where to put your feet – great for agility and concentration.

25. Beat the sneezes. There are more than 240 allergens, some rare and others very common. If you’re a sneezer due to pollen: close your car windows while driving, rather switch on the internal fan (drawing in air from the outside), and avoid being outdoors between 5am and 10 am when pollen counts are at their highest; stick to holidays in areas with low pollen counts, such as the seaside and stay away from freshly cut grass.

26. Doggone. If you’re allergic to your cat, dog, budgie or pet piglet, stop suffering the ravages of animal dander: Install an air filter in your home.

Keep your pet outside as much as possible and brush them outside of the home to remove loose hair and other allergens. Better yet, ask someone else to do so.

Stroller Strong Moms

story by Katrice Williams     photos by Shelia Scott

Apryl Lee, a Savannah native, is the owner and coach of Stroller Strong Moms and has lived in Effingham for about five years. Apryl and her husband, Justin, have two little darlings, their daughter Ryan, 3, and son Jack, 2.

     Interestingly enough, Apryl had a rewarding career as a Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit Nurse (CVICU) prior to committing herself to her current endeavors. She wholeheartedly understands the challenges that moms can face when making decisions about leaving their new little ones to return to work. She, too, faced those same difficulties. However, Apryl explains that when she “looked into Ryan’s eyes,” it was a done deal.

     Regarding her decision to become a stay-at-home mom, she confidently remarks, “I would never, ever change it.”

     All-in-all, Stroller Strong Moms strives “to inspire a tribe of strong moms” while also pushing “that person to be more than they thought they could be.” In September 2011, Alexa Smith from Columbus, Georgia wanted to start a distinct fitness class for moms, as she had recently become a mother herself. As a long-time fitness and soccer coach, Alexa wanted to use her athletic skills in a way that would help moms stay active. Hence, she created a stroller fitness class, allowing moms the convenience of having their babies and toddlers outside with them while working out and allowing the children to see them making healthy choices. Alexa, a military wife, later moved to Savannah and started an affiliate branch. Actually, most affiliates are coached by “military moms,” as majority are on military bases. In fact, Apryl, having affiliate groups in both Effingham and Statesboro, is one of the few civilian owners in the organization.

     Stroller Strong Moms has grown rapidly over the years, and its popularity has spread across the country. Presently, there are a multitude of affiliates throughout the United States. Georgia alone has branches in Effingham, Savannah, Statesboro and Columbus.

Apryl began her journey with the organization in December 2014; she started in the Savannah branch when her daughter was 8 weeks old. Shortly thereafter, Apryl found that she was pregnant with her son. She still continued to work out throughout her entire pregnancy.

     She insists, “It really helped me push through forty weeks of pregnancy.” Apryl is still incredibly grateful for all that the group provided, even advice and assistance with “first time mom things like teething.”

     She knows that the benefits of the group are priceless; she wants women to embrace the beauty of motherhood, along with the value of fitness, while “empowering women to feel good about themselves.” That said, Apryl knows that there are often “outside pressures associated with having babies–getting your body back and being the perfect mom” nearly all at once…the superwoman ideology. She wants every woman to experience the true and undeniable joy that comes with taking pride in having a healthy body, while being comfortable in the skin they are in.

     “The body is a wonderful and amazing thing; you’ve gotten amazing little tiny people out of it,” she said.

     Apryl wants women to know their significance in life as moms and embrace the irreplaceable joys of motherhood. Stroller Strong Moms supports, inspires and motivates each other. She adds, “It’s okay to inspire and encourage fellow women. This is not a competition; it is really true friendships. I want to keep building that community. The workouts are wonderful, but you come back for the comradery and the empowerment. You’re competing with the person next to you to try to beat them in a race, but at the same time, you’re cheering them on, which is very hard to find in a group of women.”

     Apryl is confident that nearly anyone can succeed in her class. She strives to be as flexible with the members as possible and says that “everything can be modified.” Apryl does not want anyone to be “scared off” or intimidated by anything. She states, “It’s something for everybody, and we can take it to your level; it’s a health and wellness thing.”

     Each class consists of a one hour full-body workout outdoors; at present, Apryl’s Effingham fitness class is held at Baker’s Pond and her Statesboro class is held at Mill Creek Regional Park. There are four conditioning stations, which takes about 10-12 minutes each. This time frame works great for the kids, who are watching from their strollers; it is usually just enough time for them to be entertained but not enough to become bored and agitated. There is cardio conditioning, including walking and running paths, cross-hiit (high intensity interval training) and plyometrics. However, that can be modified based on individual preference and needs.

     A diverse group of ladies make up the classes, mainly moms with toddlers; moms with older children of various ages also attend. Moreover, there are even ladies who attend who are not moms at all; they merely appreciate the overall benefits. Apryl wants to encourage mothers to take a small amount of time out of the day for themselves without feeling guilty about it.

     “Taking that one hour out of the day for you makes the other 23 hours so much better for your child, because you’re happy, you’re in a good head space, you’re confident, you’ll have energy and will be a better mother for it.”

     There is also fun outside of the exercise arena. Apryl and the other ladies enjoy a “mom’s night out” once each month. Whether going bowling or catching a movie, they have a fun and relaxing change of scenery. There is even something for the kiddies; after all, they are also little dedicated members of the group. They have a play-date after class once each month. One of the play-dates that is “everybody’s favorite” involves a toddler workout.

     Apryl smiles and says, “My kids live to work out.”

     Apryl is proud that Stroller Strong Moms support a cause that is “near and dear to her heart”—CURE, an organization that completely focuses on finding a cure for childhood cancers. Apryl has donated to the worthy cause over the years. Each year, Stroller Strong Moms has a consignment sale consisting of designer children’s clothing, where “a portion of the proceeds goes to CURE.”

     “Obviously, we’re all mothers; you can never be too grateful,” Apryl mentions.

     Going forward, she wants to continue to make more women aware of Stroller Strong Moms and be a voice of empowerment for moms. She, too, is excited about the 10-week fitness and nutrition challenge that the organization is currently involved in, which brings participants “back to the basics” in wellness. This includes the consumption of the suggested daily water intake, enhancing exercise goals, and helping individuals challenge themselves to achieve various points of wellness.

     Apryl Lee, alongside Stroller Strong Moms, is certainly leading by example, truly showing that “taking care of yourself is part of taking care of your kids.” For additional information about the organization, visit


Getting school age children the medical care they need when they aren’t feeling well can be a real challenge for parents. A new telemedicine program from Effingham Health System is providing some area students the opportunity to “visit” the doctor while they are in school.

     Effingham Health TELEMED has transformed healthcare for children in our community. It makes healthcare more convenient and accessible for parents, avoids delays in treatment and enhances learning by decreasing absenteeism.

     Effingham County’s non-profit healthcare system is working with the Effingham County Board of Education on this new program. According to Joseph Tallent, Community and Operations Coordinator for Effingham Health System, it is the first such program in the greater Savannah region.

     Telemedicine in schools has met with great success in the past few years. Effingham Health TELEMED has partnered with Georgia Partnership for Telehealth, which has launched telemedicine programs in over 100 schools in Georgia. “Being a part of their pacesetting program is a real honor for Effingham Health System,’” explains Mr. Tallent.


     If a sick student appears that they may need to see a doctor, the school nurse reaches out to the parent. The student (or a teacher who is not feeling well) is triaged to determine if they meet the criteria for a telemedicine appointment. If yes, and there is signed consent on file, the nurse contacts Effingham Health System to schedule a same day appointment via the schools telemedicine technology. If it is late in the afternoon, appointments are made for early the next morning.

      Assessments and diagnoses are performed by a physician or advance practitioner from Effingham Health System. Their care team advises on medical treatments and calls in any prescriptions for the parent to pick up at their convenience. The school nurse follows up with parents after the visit.

     Today’s telemedicine has evolved to include cutting-edge medical treatment and innovative technology. A blue tooth stethoscope, HD digital cameras, monitors and a digital scope, provide a high definition picture of the patient for the physician, who communicates via live cameras and a computer, while a secure connection assures patient privacy.

     Effingham Health TELEMED is also open to faculty and staff members. Guyton and Springfield Elementary schools were chosen as the pilot schools for this new program. The plan is to expand to other schools in the fall.

     The goal of our telemedicine program is to increase attendance and GPA for students, increase access to providers, decrease after hours emergency room visits and hospitalizations all while decreasing the time away from work for parents.

     The school nurses, Joe Tallent and Shannon Clark, Effingham Health System Practice Manager, have received training through Georgia Partnership for Telehealth and are Certified Telehealth Clinical Presenters.

     “Joe and I are available to not only assist with the scheduling, if needed, but we also go to the schools to assist the nurses with the presenting of the patient to the Providers if the nurses are busy with their other daily duties and responsibilities,” states Clark.

      Effingham Health System has had 27 telemedicine visits since the program went live in October 2017.

Mary Thomas: Director of Nursing, EHS Care Center

Mary Thomas
Director of Nursing, EHS Care Center

story by Kelly Harley     photos by Tonya Perry

Mary Thomas considers herself to be hands-on when it comes to her daily duties. As the director of nursing for Effingham Health System’s (EHS) Care Center, she is dedicated to helping patients achieve a better quality of life. “When a resident is admitted to our facility with a chronic and or acute illness, such as a stroke, fracture or change in mental status, we meet with the resident and family members to decide on goals to improve the condition and outcome,” says Thomas. “Within a few weeks of therapy or medication management, to see the recovery and hear the family members share their experience, is very rewarding.”

     The EHS Care Center is a 105-bed nursing home and is more than just a place to come for treatment. The Care Center is designed to provide residents with a multitude of services and all-around comfort. “We provide each resident with the highest quality of care, ensuring patient safety is our top priority while maintaining a quality of life that optimizes each resident’s level of functioning,” says Thomas.

     The Care Center employees nearly 100 people including licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and certified nursing assistants. All of the certified nursing assistants are also certified nursing restorative assistants (CRNA), who have completed a 40-hour course on restorative nursing. CRNAs help patients with active and passive range of motion, therapeutic exercises, gait training, infusion therapy and respiratory therapy to name a few. A medical team is also actively involved in resident care.

     Along with services such as physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy and Hospice care, the Care Center provides residents with nutritious meals and activities aimed at improving quality of life. Through a grant, the EHS Care Center received iPods, computers, earphones and iTunes gift cards for residents to enjoy. “For those residents that are depressed or experiencing an unusual day, we download the music they like onto the iPod and let them listen to it,” says Thomas. “The music calms the residents down and some of them even sing along with the songs.” Residents enjoy Bingo one to two times a week, occasional trips to the bowling alley or Carey Hillard’s, as well as monthly birthday parties. There’s also a beauty shop on site and free haircuts and styles are provided by the Pink Ladies Auxiliary.

     Thomas says the goals of the Care Center are to provide residents with an experience that makes them feel at home. The staff does that by focusing on long-term quality care and mixing a level of excellence with compassion. “Compassion motivates people to go above and beyond their job. Our staff cares for our residents as if they are their family members,” says Thomas. “We have a CRNA who buys clothes for the residents who do not have clothes. We have a CRNA who brings an iron to work and irons the residents’ clothes.”

     Another way you can tell the Care Center staff is committed to excellence is the number of years they have been there. Around 25 percent of the staff have been employed at EHS for 10 years or longer. “Longevity speaks volume in healthcare because of all the changes and demands on the nursing staff,” says Thomas. “We are proud to highlight that our low employee turnover represents that EHS is an excellent place to work and demonstrates our commitment to employee retention, professional growth and patient care.”

Jane Hughes : Fighting Colon Cancer with the help of the Cancer Center at Effingham Health System

Jane Hughes

Fighting Colon Cancer with the help of the Cancer Center at Effingham Health System

story by Julie Hales     photos by Tonya Perry

If you are from Effingham County, or have lived here for any period of time, the name, Jane Hughes, is someone you know…or, at the very least, heard of.

     Jane Hughes is somewhat of an icon in Effingham County.  She has been in the mortgage business for over 35 years.  She has owned her own company for 28 years, International Mortgage, which is the oldest mortgage company in our county.

     To have survived that industry over the past 28 years, you must be a fighter. And, Jane Hughes is just that…a fighter.  She has scrapped with the best of them.  The years that real estate took a dive and our economy tanked were tough on the mortgage industry. Many companies folded under these tough times. But not Jane, she is a survivor.

     Jane’s biggest fight came in June of 2017, the fight for her life. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 Colon Cancer.

     Talk about life altering.

     It all began when Jane just didn’t feel well.  She hadn’t felt well for a while and knew there was an issue. She didn’t know what, but she knew there was definitely something wrong.

     Jane made an appointment at the Guyton location of Effingham Family Medicine.  She saw Nurse Practitioner, Kristie Moore.  Moore knew there was a problem and immediately scheduled a CT Scan at Effingham Health System. The results were not good.

     A colonoscopy was quickly scheduled.  Dr. Wynn performed the procedure at Effingham Health System. Dr. Wynn came back with the bad news.

      The surgery was performed within one week of diagnosis.

     According to Jane, stage 4 Colon cancer is not curable, but it is treatable. Dr. Alison Spellman of Summit Cancer Care was brought in as Jane’s Oncologist.  Dr. Spellman treats patients at the Cancer Care Center at Effingham Health System.

     Dr. Spellman put the ‘plan of action’ into motion. Chemotherapy was the treatment.  Jane began her chemo treatments about four weeks after the surgery. She had a port inserted at EHS about two weeks after surgery, then two weeks later, she began her treatments.

     Jane’s treatment plan calls for 12 treatments, both oral and IV. Each IV treatment is three weeks apart, and oral is two weeks on and one week off. The IV treatments take about four hours each.

     Each treatment she receives is done at the Cancer Care Center at Effingham Health System. She will receive a CT Scan at the end of her 12 treatments to see how well the chemotherapy has worked for her.  Typically, cancer patients have CT’s throughout the treatment process. Jane’s body produces an enzyme which is a cancer marker, called a CEA, which enables the doctors to tell if the treatment is working. The determination is done by special blood work.  And, as of now, the chemotherapy is working.  Praise the Lord. (At press time, Jane had two treatments left, will be done by end of March)

     “Being able to have my treatments done at home, in Effingham County has been a God send. It has been such a great relief to know I do not have to travel.  The Cancer Care Center here at EHS has been a complete blessing,” says Jane.

     She adds, “If I had to rate Summit Cancer Care and Effingham Health System on a scale of 1-10, I would give them both a 10+.”

     Jane is quick to tell you about her experience in the Cancer Care Center. She is particularly fond of her nurse that gives her treatment, Shirley Rahn. She says, “Shirley is number one.  The quality of care I receive is unbelievable, and the sincerity of everyone there is amazing.”

     Up until this happened, Jane had never had a colonoscopy. She readily admits that she did not take proper care of herself, and this news came as a huge shock. “I learned such a hard lesson. I want to do my part to get the word out. I told Dr. Wynn that I will now stand in front of a group of Realtors at a sales meeting and tell them of the importance of having a colonoscopy. I am definitely now an advocate for people to have proper testing.”

     Jane feels very blessed to have been given the opportunity to receive treatments and begin her healing process by the proper professionals at Effingham Health System.

     Despite the illness, and the treatments, Jane has maintained to continue to work.  Her work load may not be as heavy, and her hours may not be as many, but working is also therapy for her.  “I encourage patients to work as much as possible. It keeps the mind busy and keeps you from worrying about whether the treatments are working,” she says.

     Yes, Jane Hughes is a fighter. But, she is quick to let you know she has not walked this journey alone. Her husband of 30 years, David, has been her biggest supporter. And, her children, son Tripp and Wesley Ballard, have been a great support system as well.  Jane’s only daughter, Hope Ballard, was lost in an automobile accident at the age of 17.

     This lady is blessed in so many ways. Her friends and church family at Wingard Memorial Lutheran and Laurel Hill Lutheran, have also been incredible.  Friends, Sue Zittrouer and Evelyn Kessler, both told her in the beginning that they were on a mission to see her from beginning to end of this journey…and they have. Sue has designated Fridays to Jane…she takes her to her treatments each time and takes care of other things for Jane on the off-chemo weeks.

     This experience has been life-changing. But, Jane is receiving the proper treatments and taking care of herself. And, remember, this lady is a fighter…and a survivor. Thanks to the Cancer Care Center at Effingham Health System, Jane Hughes will be around for a long time!

Effingham Cancer Care Practice

Professionally Staffed by Summit Cancer Care Physicians

We know a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming. Our team is here to help you with care, compassion, and courage-when you need it most.

     The Cancer Care Center provides medical oncology services and chemotherapy. Extensively trained, medical oncologists will oversee care, including advanced treatment options.

     For residents of Effingham and surrounding communities who are dealing with cancer, care close to home makes it easier for patients—and their families—to focus on healing. Our patients receive personalized care, save hours of time in transit, and benefit from a professional support system within our own community.

     The Cancer Care Center is licensed to administer chemotherapy. We have created a comfortable place with a caring, professional team that is focused on you. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, we welcome you to call us to arrange a tour.

Effingham Health System’s State-Of-The-Art Surgery Center

Effingham Health System’s
State-Of-The-Art Surgery Center

Top surgeons from around the region are attracted to Effingham Hospital’s state-of-the-art surgery facility.  EHS offers the latest in equipment and resources including two fully integrated operating room suites with video/PACS capabilities.

     The facilities at EHS also include one integrated GI suite for all endoscopic gastrointestinal procedures. They offer outpatient (same day) surgeries, as well as inpatient and observation procedures.

     Many local and Savannah-based physicians are credentialed to operate on patients at Effingham Hospital.

     Surgical procedures offered at Effingham Hospital include:

     General Surgery: All general surgical procedures to include cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal), appendectomy, hernia repair, any obstructions/bleeding of the GI tract, abscess/cyst removal/treatment, and any other general condition that may affect the human body.

     Endoscopic Gastrointestinal: All endoscopic procedures of the entire GI tract, both upper and lower for bleeding, polyp removal, dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), GERD, routine screening, and any other condition that may warrant investigation by a gastroenterologist.

     Opthalmic: Cataract repair and replacement surgery, with state-of-the-art instrumentation and equipment, is attracting some of Savannah’s top Opthamologists to Effingham Hospital.

     Orthopaedic: All joint replacement procedures: To include shoulder, hip, knee and all finger/toe joint replacement for conditions like osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease, fractures, degenerative arthritis and any other conditions requiring replacement.

     All sports medicine procedures: To include arthroscopy (shoulder, knee, elbow, ankle), ACL reconstruction, tendon and cartilage reconstruction, and any/all fracture repair from any sports-related injuries or general orthopaedic injuries.

     All general orthopaedic conditions: To include spinal injury/disease (herniated discs, deformity, stenosis, etc.) fractures, dislocations, joint injuries, pain management and trauma.

     Pediatric orthopaedics: All conditions involving pediatrics to include congenital abnormalities, bone growth deformities, pediatric injuries, pediatric spinal surgery and soft tissue deformities and injuries.

     Podiatry: Specialized surgery for the foot and ankle to include bunionectomy, joint replacement, tendon repair, and any soft tissue repair/reconstruction.

     Neurological: Specializing in spinal disease and repair to include surgery of the cervical (neck) spine and thoracic/lumbar spine with fusion capabilities and management. We also provide pain management of the spine.

     Urological/Gynecological: All problems associated with the female urinary and reproductive system to include partial and complete hysterectomy, ablation of cancers and fibromas, urinary incontinence or difficulties, and any other anomalies involving this body system. Both laparoscopic and open procedures are done as needed.

Fran Baker-Witt : Leader and Visionary for Effingham Health System

story by Julie Hales     photos by Tonya Perry

Some people possess leadership skills because they learned how to become a leader.  Some possess these skills because of the life paths they have chosen and the walks they have taken along those paths. And, for others, it is just a natural trait, a part of who they are, from beginning to end.

     Fran Baker-Witt is one of those people, she was born to be a leader. It is who she is, it just comes natural to her. She doesn’t take a back seat. She takes the ‘bull by the horns’ and gets the job done. She was simply born to lead, and to lead with grace, poise and dignity.

     For the past year, Fran Baker-Witt has served as the CEO of Effingham Health System. She originally came to EHS as the new Transformation Officer, and soon was appointed as interim CEO, before being chosen to fill that position on a permanent basis.

     Baker-Witt came to Effingham Health System from Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. She says, “I worked at Grady for 17 years in various leadership positions, including Patient Safety and Accreditation Officer and, most recently, as Executive Director of Women’s and Infants Services. Those varied roles, in the context of a public safety net academic institution, with unique challenges specific to clinical acuity and social issues, working with two schools of medicine, prepared me well for my role as CEO. Grady is a cutting-edge institution and I brought that spirit of innovation and energy with me to Effingham Health System. Nothing is stopping us as we recruit specialized practitioners, partners, and technology to transform this healthcare system to meet the population health needs of our patients and community.”

     And, she has certainly brought spirit and innovation to EHS. And, it has been contagious within the walls of this hospital. Adapting a motto early in her new role, Baker-Witt explains, “‘Be the change. See the change. Lead the change,’ has served our team well this past year and will continue to guide us into the future as we transform this health system. It has created momentum with outcomes like our program to put Telemedicine in the local schools. Our employee engagement has gone from 69% to 91%. Happy employees translate to a good patient experience!”

     Patient experience is a top priority at EHS. And that experience starts with the staff, from the receptionist when you walk in the door, to the triage nurse, to the ER physicians, to the Hospitalist, to the Therapists…the list goes on and on. If Baker-Witt could instill one characteristic into each staff member at EHS, it would be passion. “Passion is important. Change is not easy, and we are transforming our organizational culture. We need to support each other as we grow, understanding that we are all human and that change takes perseverance. Our industry is changing so fast, and we need to help each other as we adapt and excel in this new environment. Passion for our work ultimately translates to a better experience for our patients,” she states.

     Baker-Witt’s role as Transformation Officer to CEO has been a smooth transition, partly because the two roles are very similar. She explains, “The progression between the two roles was a solid fit, given that Transformation of our health system is our immediate objective. The focus on change and transformation remains.  The biggest difference is the scope of responsibility has increased dramatically.”

      There have been many changes at Effingham Health System over the last year. When asked of the changes made and accomplishments in her first year in her role as CEO, Baker-Witt tells us, “I asked that question of our employees recently and they said, ‘No more Silos,’ ‘Teamwork,’ ‘Better Communication,’ ‘Clear Direction, and ‘Trust. We have experienced a major transformation of the culture. Expectations changed as we hardwired behavior that exemplifies evidenced-based best practices. The staff rose to the challenge of regulatory issues. Everybody understands the vision and mission, and there are no more silos. Results followed with increased patient engagement. We set high goals and we are reaching them. All of those internal operational changes have improved the patient experience and patient outcomes. We’re adding important services based on the needs we hear from our community.”

     “I also think the change in perception we have experienced is really important. How people perceive Effingham Health System, our branding. The community has known we are an economic engine. But today, we are building trust and confidence for the level of care we provide close to home. They are seeing and experiencing the innovation we are bringing to this community,” she adds.

     Baker-Witt has been a master at keeping her pulse on everything happening on the entire campus of EHS. This is definitely one of her strengths. “Thankfully I can draw on my experience in varied healthcare leadership roles throughout my career. I also find that the patience and multi-tasking I learned as a mother help me to be a better leader, while my spirituality keeps me focused,” she shares.

     Yes, spirituality plays a predominant role her life. When facing adversity in her new role, she relies on this part of her being.  Her faith translates to sound advice for her staff. “Facing adversity is never easy. Embrace the situation. Try to understand the purpose. Always question ‘why’? To overcome adversity, we need self-reflection; to know our strengths and weaknesses. When things happen, they have meaning and purpose. Don’t just see them as bad or be indifferent. Try to find the message. Be willing to stretch yourself and to critique yourself. Growth is hard. But the outcome is worth it.”

     There is no doubt that Fran Baker-Witt has used her own advice.

     Charities are dear to the heart of Baker-Witt. She has been involved in many charities since coming to Effingham, like United Way, March of Dimes and others. This year, she has been chosen to Co-Chair the Coastal Empire’s ‘March For Babies,’ with Tina Tyus-Shaw of WSAV in Savannah. When asked about this opportunity, Baker-Witt replied, “Now you’ve hit on one of my passions! I am honored to co-chair the March for Babies with Tina Tyus-Shaw this year. It is a great chance for Effingham to have a presence in a Greater Savannah event. As a nurse, I want to help reduce infant and maternal mortality rates in Georgia. Our state currently rates a “D” on March of Dimes’ Report Card. That includes the fact that Georgia has the 43rdhighest infant mortality, and 47th highest maternal mortality, in the nation. I particularly want to encourage prenatal care for African-American women, who have a 4X increased risk of premature birth than any other ethnicity. I experienced a miscarriage myself, even with good prenatal care, so this is near and dear to me personally. I understand on a personal level just how important March of Dimes’ mission—to care for mothers and babies—is to our community.”

      Baker-Witt’s professional journey began as a RN. She has always liked helping people. She received her BSN from Loyola University Chicago and then began nursing at Mercy Hospital, where she specialized in women’s services and neonatal care.

     For Baker-Witt, it wasn’t enough for her to take care of patients at the bedside.  She wanted to have more of an impact in the healthcare process. So, after two short years of nursing, she decided to go back to school and earn her Master of Business Administration degree.

     “While I was pursuing my MBA, I accepted my first nursing leadership healthcare management position as a director of nursing for a long-term care facility.  So, from 1988 to now, I have been in healthcare leadership roles,” she states.

     Education is a key component.  And, she continues to reach for the stars.  Last year, when accepting this position, she was in the process of obtaining her Doctor of Nursing Practice. She proudly states, “I expect to advance to Doctoral Candidate in June of this year. Given the demands of my CEO role, I’m pleased that I’ve been able to continue to achieve academic excellence. I attribute that to my faith. Prayer and time management (she says with a smile) helps put everything into perspective and gives me strength when I need it most.”

    There have been some major changes and accomplishments made under the leadership of Fran Baker-Witt this past year. A new Cancer Care Center was opened in Spring of 2017, providing cancer treatment close to home. This fall, Effingham Health System launched a highly successful Telemedicine pilot program in local schools and the healthcare system added the very first, much needed, pediatrician to the staff.

     They have also expanded the hospitalist program, physicians who specialize in care for people in the hospital and have expanded that model to include advanced practitioners. This allows EHS to deliver optimal care and helps assure the best possible health outcome for every patient.

      “One of the priorities I am very proud of from this past year is that we continue to improve the level of care we provide through our providers, including physicians and advanced practitioners (nurse practitioners and physician assistants). Our providers have tremendous expertise, experience and commitment. They are the connection between our health system and the people we serve,” states Baker-Witt. Effingham Health’s provider practices have excelled, receiving a 96.7% patient satisfaction rating.

     And what CEO, with the vision of Baker-Witt, would not be thinking about the future? The answer would be none. She is always thinking of the future and what changes we will see in the upcoming year. She tells us, “Continued growth, expansion of specialty programs and more outreach programs that move healthcare to patients in our community are on the agenda.”

     If Fran Baker-Witt says it, then you should expect it.  She is the leader and visionary of our community hospital. Her vision will continue to help Effingham residents have quality healthcare here in our community, without having to drive to Savannah and surrounding areas. With tireless dedication like hers, the future of Effingham Health System is very bright.

Success Stories From CCDS In Our Community

Callie Alligo -1

Jim Ford

Jim Ford, born and raised in Effingham, is a noteworthy part of the community. Jim has been a valued member of the Rincon Transmission team for over six years. He enjoys his job, and his co-workers appreciate his vibrant personality and incredible work ethic. Jim assists with maintenance of parts and has custodial responsibilities.

     Jim feels that the company is a second home, as the overall company environment seems very welcoming and personable.

     He insists, “I’d rather be here. I like the boss [Brad Young]. He’s really good; he’s real nice.”

     To add, Jim mentions that his favorite duty is working in the transmission rebuild room; he enjoys any part that he is able to contribute and learns a lot just from observing.

     Jim’s manager Brad speaks highly of him, especially regarding the hard worker that he is and the noticeable interest he takes in his job.

     Brad asserts, “Jim is awesome. He’s always on time and very dependable. Jim is very loyal. He has good family support, and that’s really helpful.”

     Noah, Brad’s son, has also spent a lot of time around Jim over the years and appreciates his professional contributions.

     He says, “He’s good with all the employees. He’s a hard worker.”

     Besides his job, Jim is very active in the community, with his favorite past-time being anything involving Rebels Football.

      Jim smiles and states, “I go to all the games; I like it.”

Actually, Coach Buddy Holder made Jim an assistant coach, and Jim loves to help out. Jim says that Coach Holder is one of his biggest mentors. Others include Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie, brother-in-law Ryan Edwards and his friend Kyle Edwards. Additionally, Jim enjoys volunteering at his church, Clyo Methodist, especially for the church barbeques. He also supports the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a childhood cancer research foundation. Jim is happily looking forward to showing his support for the cause by shaving his head soon.

     Jim certainly enjoys independently earning his own money. He even mentions the fact that he is saving to buy a new 4-wheeler storage unit. Yes, he loves his 4-wheeler. What’s more, he knows that the independence that he is privileged to experience in his life is absolutely irreplaceable.

Karly Aligo

Karly Aligo, originally from New Jersey, has worked with Edwards Interiors in company care and maintenance for nearly one year and really likes her job.

     “So far, it’s good. All the people are very nice,” she stated.

     Karly, who loves to get the job done as effectively and efficiently as possible, is known to be very assertive and detail-oriented. She is very conscientious about the job that she does. As an employee, Karly holds herself to an incredibly high standard. More so, she enjoys the freedom and increased amount of self-sufficiency that working offers.

     In her spare moments, Karly loves to draw. She also likes to read, as she feels that it can greatly help with spelling and articulation; she enjoys that challenge.

     She states, “I like reading. I read to help me with spelling and pronunciation. I love to keep my brain active.”

     Laura Jackson is Karly’s supervisor and has truly wonderful things to say about her.

     Laura admits, “I love Karly. She’s very energetic. I’ve never seen someone as happy as her to be at work. She does everything you ask her to do. I tell everybody that Karly is one of the best people that I have ever worked with. She’s very detailed, and she doesn’t complain.”

     Blake Harnage, a manufacturing engineer, also sees the value that Karly adds to the company.

     “She’s exceptional. She comes in and does her job. She communicates with people right here on the floor, and she has a sense of humor. She’s charismatic and a pleasure to be around,” he states.

     Blake really appreciates what CCDC is doing, proving that disabilities are only abilities waiting to be successfully tapped into.

     “It’s very beneficial, not only for them, but for us also. I believe in CCDS 100%,” he mentions.

     Blake believes that individuals said to be developmentally disabled can “be productive members of society.” He adds, “They have just as much a right and chance to life as we do.”

     Regarding the career opportunity that Karly has well-embraced, Blake says, “I believe it can give everybody with disabilities inspiration, showing others, ‘if she can overcome and achieve all the things in the workforce with the disability she faces, so can I.’”

Mandy Cook : Effingham’s Employment Specialist with CCDS

story by Katrice Williams     photos by Shelia Scott

The Coastal Center for Developmental Services (CCDS) is a non-profit, 501 (c) (3) organization that “provides employment-related services, training and community integration opportunities to adults with developmental disabilities.” While Savannah is home to the primary branch office, the organization’s Effingham presence has certainly grown over the years. Established in 1951, CCDS has assisted countless individuals on their “road to independence.” Understanding that multiple thousands of Georgians, alone, have various developmental disabilities, CCDS knows that individuals should have the right and opportunity to live the significant and purposeful lives that they deserve, as every person deserves the ability to be a functioning member of society.

     An ongoing and critical goal of the organization is to partner with employers to show them, first-hand, that CCDS candidates can positively contribute to the overall success of their businesses. Utterly, the organization’s overall objective is to “train and place individuals with developmental disabilities with community wide jobs.” CCDS has firmly established impartial and merit-based standards, as each employee’s professional credibility is based on what they are able to contribute to their company, dismissing notions that “sympathy or empathy-based” employment decisions are expected or acceptable. The company is driven to make visible the reality that it is needed, no, imperative, to “focus on the ability rather than the disability.”

     For their community partners, CCDS provides pre-screened applicants who are ready and willing to work hard. The organization offers “customized job placement,” insuring that every employee has the necessary qualifications and is a proper fit for their potential position. Further, CCDS provides ongoing prevocational training for employees to prepare them for work; individuals can receive training in catering, promotional printing or warehousing and electronics. This allows for beneficial onsite training prior to going into the workplace.

     Dr. Ken Boyd, originally from Philadelphia, has lived in Effingham for a long time. Though he has been affiliated with CCDS for over 10 years as an active board member, Ken has been the executive director for the organization in Savannah for over a year. He believes strongly in what CCDS stands for and what is being done for those deemed developmentally disabled.

     “What we can offer to the community is a population of people that is extremely motivated and highly trained to go to work,” Ken said.

     Ken knows the notable work ethic of the individuals that his organization trains, when given the same opportunity as everyone else to demonstrate their abilities.

     He declares, “Give someone with a developmental disability a chance, and they’ll show you they’re great.”

     Ken explains that the organization is set to take on a new name in February—one more adequately representative of the diverse, qualified and talented group of individuals they represent. The new name, EmployAbility, does just that. It is all about “getting people employed and maximizing their abilities to do certain things.”

     Ken aspires to eventually see all businesses within surrounding communities with “an integrated mix of workers.”

Further, the organization takes pride in their continuous follow-up services, allowing them to be aware of current conditions after placement. Besides prevocational training, which helps bring out the skills that individuals need to possess a successful career, CCDS offers a day habilitation program, day-hab, for those who may not be as independent; whether physical and occupational therapy assistance or other self-help initiatives, day-hab helps individuals attain the resources that will address their particular needs. Health services are also available to make sure that employees have care when needed. Additionally, CCDS provides transportation for employees with onsite jobs, or those provided directly by the organization.

     Mandy Cooke has lived in Effingham for some time now, along with her husband Jeff and four children. Actually, Mandy, who adores Effingham, is proud of her community and wants to see it continue to thrive. “I love the community; I love the feel of Effingham,” she stated.

     Mandy is an employment specialist with CCDS; she began her career with the organization in 1996. After investing many years, she took some much-treasured time off to be a stay-at-home mom for her family; Mandy then returned in 2010, aspiring to help CCDS develop and service the Effingham community. She loves what she does and knows that it makes a big difference and adds tremendous value to the lives of others.

     Mandy comments, “I love to see individuals who are labeled ‘developmentally disabled’ take the disability and turn it into an ability; I get more joy out of that than anything. It’s not a job to me; it’s something I do. I love my people.”

     As an employment specialist, Mandy helps individuals with community integration through job training. She visits each business partner to find out what their needs are, then evaluates the individual’s abilities and strengths to match them properly. She, too, helps them through the application and interview process. Upon starting their first day on the job, she is there to provide job coaching to “help them train for the job.” After an employee has become comfortable and competent within their position, Mandy begins the process of “fading out,” where she no longer visits their job site on a consistent basis. She visits twice each month and provides ongoing support. Hence, she insures that there is “always a presence,” which keeps both the employee and business in mind.

     Mandy explains that there are several ways that CCDS identifies individuals that may greatly benefit from their assistance. One of the biggest ways is through Project Search, “a high school transition program for adults with developmental disabilities.” The program helps individuals “discover their capabilities” through “workplace immersion, classroom instruction, career exploration and job skills training” in order to gain good employment. Both Effingham Hospital and the Effingham Board of Education participate in Project Search.

     Mandy appreciates her employee partners in Effingham and knows that much of the program’s success is attributed to their support. Some include: Rincon Transmission, Edward’s Interiors, Effingham Hospital, Effingham Board of Education, Ebenezer Retreat, YMCA, Wiley’s, Harvey’s, Chevron and Arby’s, to name a few.

     “Effingham has been very accepting. We’re educating people and bringing our community together, breaking down the walls…the barriers,” she affirms.

     Because they are so driven to overcome the barriers and stereotypes in society, individuals with development disabilities often do exceptionally well on the job. Most want the opportunity to show that they are responsible citizens with worthwhile contributions to make to businesses.

     “Our individuals help bring out productivity and the bottom line in a lot of businesses, because they are so focused. Our safety ratings are outstanding,” she mentioned.

     Mandy knows that the independence that CCDS provides for individuals is truly “amazing.” Her major goal is “to get everybody to be included” and feels that there are countless ways that businesses and the overall community can get involved.

     She states, “I want every business here in Effingham to somehow, whether it’s hiring an individual, donating or volunteering to get involved with CCDS.”