Physician Profile – Dr. Levy

VCU Health’s medical staff at Baird Vascular Institute reflects fresh thinking about a collaborative approach to vascular care. VCU Health Medical Center’s Division of Vascular Surgery and Department of Radiology joined forces to create Central Virginia’s only academically based vascular center. We’ve brought together leading interventional radiologists and vascular surgeons to provide the Greater Richmond and Central Virginia region with the best in vascular diagnosis and treatment. Together, they offer area patients and referring physicians a level of medical expertise, experience and knowledge usually found only in a major academic medical center, as well as the most advanced technologies and facilities to support their work – all in a convenient outpatient setting.

Occasionally, we like to highlight some of our physicians on a more personal level. We recently sat down with Mark M. Levy, MD, our Chair of Vascular Surgery – to find out a little more about what he’s like outside of the office.

Where are you from?  I’m originally from Elberon, New Jersey – on the Jersey shore. The job at at VCU Health is what brought me to Richmond in the 1990’s.

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Mark M. Levy, MD

Would you say you’re a city person or a country person? I have no idea – I feel like I could be both. I feel comfortable in both an urban environment or a profoundly rural environment. But I would have to say, like most people, I can relax a little more in a rural environment.

What do you enjoy in your spare time? I like to spend time with family on the river in Deltaville, Virginia – both sailing and fishing. My children have small racing sailboats, Optis and Lasers, and they’ve all learned to sail in Deltaville over the past 15 years.

Tell us about your family. My wife & I moved to Richmond in 1998, and we have 5 children, all of which are in school in Richmond or at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.

What’s your favorite television show and why? That’s a hard one, that presumes I watch anything other than news and sports and increasingly, only sports. As many folks do, we watch more and more movies on Netflix and online.

What’s your favorite sports team? I love so many teams, but I do like the Richmond Flying Squirrels – since I’m a baseball fan, they would have to be my favorite.

What’s your favorite book? I enjoy reading stories from the Bible, but don’t happen to have a current favorite book.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what are 3 things you’d want to have with you? Well, first, a large container of spring water for obvious reasons, a sailboat and mosquito repellent – I’m very susceptible to mosquitoes.

What’s one thing patients would be surprised to know about you? Most people don’t know that I have 5 children – ranging in age from 14 to 19.

What do you like most about working at Baird Vascular Institute at VCU Health? I love taking care of vascular patients with both venous and arterial occlusive disease. I enjoy getting to know them as well.

To share or not to share? Social media and your cancer diagnosis.

VCU Baird Social Media Cancer

There is very little information in today’s world that can’t be found by a few strokes of a keyboard. Information is literally at our fingertips in an instant. Social media feeds expose us to additional sources of information and opinion that we might not otherwise seek out. Social media also allows us to instantly share information across our broad network of friends and family.

When you receive the diagnosis of cancer, it is overwhelming. Most people need time to absorb the news and consider the implications of their diagnosis on their life, their family and their friends. Once the initial shock passes, many struggle with how to, or whether they should, share their cancer diagnosis beyond those in their immediate circle.

Sharing your diagnosis is a deeply personal choice. Some people live their life as an open book, and the cancer diagnosis is simply another chapter that they share as any other bit of news. Some people are more private, preferring to keep such details of their life out of everyday conversation.

Social media brings another element into the decision. Information can spread immediately, and whether or not you choose to keep your diagnosis private, there are a few things to consider.

If you’re requesting privacy, be sure to let any friends and family know that you prefer the news stay out of the social world. Some people send prayer requests or other updates without meaning any harm, but still expose your private situation to the eyes of others, prompting questions.

If you choose to share your journey on social media, be prepared for the inevitable questions and notifications from your friends and followers. Choosing to share such information has benefits and disadvantages. Sharing your condition may help dispel rumors. You benefit from supporters and their positive messages, you may find new information about treatments and clinical trials, and form bonds with survivors and other cancer patients.

“When my mother recently was diagnosed with cancer we shared as a way to stay connected to so many people,” said Shelley Hartmann, daughter of a breast cancer survivor. “The more prayers you have, I believe, does help you get better. It did help to stay connected, as we found so many other people that had similar situations, and it was a way for my mother to talk to them and discuss different treatments, etc.,” she added.

Keep in mind, however, that sharing your diagnosis may mean personal questions from well-meaning friends and family regarding your symptoms, treatments, prognosis and other information.

Also, once you have chosen to share the information, it can’t be taken back. You may choose to stop communicating about it, but the news is still out there, and your friends and followers will, naturally, continue to be concerned about your health. Be certain of your decision.

For those who are somewhere in the middle of an open book and intensely private, some social media platforms allow you the option to share information with only a select group of contacts, which may be more comforting for some, rather than broadcast their news to their entire friend or follower group. If you don’t know how to restrict your information to certain groups, ask a social media proficient friend or family member to help you set up this option.

Navigating the frontier of personal news in the age of social media can be a big decision with many implications. When it comes to sharing a cancer diagnosis, there’s no right or wrong choice. Only you can decide if your social network will be an additional unwanted burden or provide support and comfort during your journey.

5 Symptoms of Vascular Disease

Baird vascular leg pain

Vascular medicine and surgery primarily focuses on diseases and disorders of the peripheral vascular system: feet, hands, legs and arms. The health of the peripheral vascular system has a major impact on the health of your overall circulatory system and your overall health, and a vascular screening can reveal the first signs of more serious problems, which is why we offer comprehensive screenings to all our patients.

When your heart beats, it pumps blood back and forth through a complex system of vessels, called the circulatory, or vascular system. These arteries and veins, ranging from very large to microscopic, are elastic tubes that carry the blood to and from every part of the body. The heart pumps oxygen-rich blood from the lungs through arteries, and veins carry the blood back to the heart into the lungs, which remove CO2 and other waste from the blood and replenish it with fresh oxygen. This cycle supplies all the muscles, organs and tissues of the body with the oxygen and nutrients they need to work.

Vascular disease can cause these vessels to narrow, harden, swell, form blood clots or get partially or entirely blocked. When this happens, the tissues fed by these vessels are robbed of the oxygen and nutrients. Sometimes pain in the affected area will signal a problem. At other times, vascular disease shows few symptoms as it worsens over time, sometimes with serious consequences.

Although usually associated with older people, vascular disease can affect almost anyone and may present itself in all areas of the body.

Vascular diseases range from diseases of the arteries, veins and lymph vessels to blood disorders that affect circulation. Among the most common types of vascular disease are peripheral vascular disease (PVD), peripheral artery disease (PAD) and coronary artery disease. The terms peripheral vascular disease and peripheral artery disease are often used interchangeably. Many of the problems we diagnose and treat involve peripheral vascular disease in one degree or another.

Some symptoms to be on the lookout for include:

  1. Cramping and pain in the legs and buttocks, indicating poor circulation in the legs.
  2. Fatigue, heaviness and discomfort during exercise or activity that generally goes away when the activity stops or you are resting. This is called “intermittent claudication.”
  3. Leg pain that does not go away when you stop exercising
  4. Foot or toe wounds that don’t heal or heal very slowly
  5. A decrease in the temperature of your lower leg or foot, particularly compared to the other leg or the rest of your body.

If you want to learn more about peripheral vascular disease (PVD) and treatment options, wish to discuss symptoms or problems you may be experiencing or if your doctor has recommended that you see us for a vascular test, please contact us at (804) 828-2600 or email us.

Maintaining optimum health during dialysis

If you are starting hemodialysis treatments in the next several months, one crucial step before starting regular hemodialysis sessions is preparing a site on the body to access the vein. Dialysis access is the site on your body where blood is removed and returned during dialysis. To maximize the amount of blood cleansed during hemodialysis treatments, dialysis access should allow continuous high volumes of blood flow. There are three access options for the dialysis patient – AV fistula, AV graft or a central venous catheter.

To allow for the high volume of blood exchanged, dialysis access to your blood is usually in your arm or leg. Choosing your access is a decision that you and your doctor will make. We discuss the AV fistula, AV graft and central venous catheter options in this blog post.

As with any serious medical condition, you’ll need to make a few lifestyle changes while undergoing dialysis.

One of the most important changes for dialysis patients is diet. Maintaining a healthy diet during dialysis is essential to good health and shorter dialysis time. Toxins in unhealthy foods make the body produce more waste, resulting in longer dialysis treatments. The National Kidney Foundation has a great blog post from a dialysis patient who mastered her dialysis diet. You can read her post here.

Even though you may not always feel up to it, maintaining some form of exercise is still important. The combination of your kidney disease, and sitting for frequent, long periods of time during dialysis can expedite deterioration of your overall physical health. According to a program launched last summer in Australia, “Exercise has been shown to improve physical function, quality of life, muscle condition and the dialysis treatment in patients with kidney disease, as well as decreasing depression, cardiovascular risk and a range of other negative outcomes of kidney disease.”

Finally, mental health contributes to an overall sense of well-being. It’s normal to be concerned or overwhelmed with your diagnosis, but if you need to seek out professional help to sort through your feelings, do it. Try to stay as active and involved in your normal day to day activities as you can.

If you’d like more information about choosing your access site, please give us a call at (804) 828-2600 to discuss your options.

Safe sun tips for outdoor lovers

Baird Outdoor lovers

A few weeks back, we wrote about minimizing skin cancer risks. These were great basic tips for everyone. But what if you’re someone who truly lives to be outdoors – hiking, running, kayaking, skiing, ice fishing – all of it? Scorching sun? No problem. Below freezing? Bring it. How do you enjoy all the outdoor activities you love, while still protecting your skin?

Here’s the obvious first answer – sunscreen. Apply early, liberally and often. If you’re going to be in the water, use one with a higher water resistance.

Beyond that, remember to wear sunglasses. The sun can do damage to your eyes as well as your skin. Wearing sunglasses helps protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays, and also the sensitive skin around your eyes. Choose sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays. Sunglasses aren’t just for sunny days either, remember to wear them on overcast days, especially any time you’re on or near the water to protect your eyes from reflected light.

Lightweight, long sleeved fabrics, also provide great protection from the sun. Also gaining popularity are fabrics and outdoor clothing with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating. A UPF rating is specifically for apparel, and like sunscreen’s SPF rating, the higher the UPF rating, the more effective the garment is in protecting you from the sun. Many manufacturers are catering to the sports enthusiast market with UPF rated clothing for your specific interest. Have a hard time remembering to reapply sunscreen? There are fitness shirts, hats, jackets, swimwear and more that are cool, comfortable and specifically designed for protection from the sun’s harmful rays.

Consider the time of day when planning your outdoor activities. Choose early morning or later in the evening to avoid the hours between 10am and 2pm when the sun’s rays are strongest. Choose shaded areas under awnings or trees if your activity allows, or consider other means of shade (such as a beach umbrella) if it’s possible to set up your own equipment.

Remember that skin protection is not just for warm weather, either. The sun’s reflection off of ice and snow means that everyone from skiers, snowboarders, ice fishermen and sledders also need sunscreen and eye protection.

Ad campaign featuring our new website is a hit

VCU Baird SHSMD awardsBack in September, we launched a new website and advertising campaign to promote our Image-Guided Tendon Treatment, as a better alternative for pain relief for conditions such as plantar fasciitis, tennis elbow and other tendon issues. The new website, RelieveMyFoot.com, shows an animated character who goes to great lengths to avoid foot pain, including traveling by balloon and being shot out of a cannon.

Created by our advertising agency ndp, and animator Studio Flatlands, the use of a cartoon character to illustrate the pain of plantar fasciitis, and an effective way to relieve it, is unusual, says VCU Health’s Geoff Chestnut.

“We decided that we wanted to pursue something a little more creative than the usual austere and authority driven medical marketing that one so typically sees in the environment today,” he said. “The idea of showing doctors in white coats with smiling patients did not seem to be an approach that would stand out. ndp suggested using animated graphics and interactive, online multi-media components that could easily translate into more traditional forms of marketing such as print, and we’re excited about the results.”

“We wanted each viewer to have an ‘I can relate’ moment when they saw our work,” explained ndp Creative Director Jason Anderson, which is why they compared the pain of plantar fasciitis to stepping on tacks, tiny land mines, and hot coals.

The website recently won a Gold and Best In Show award at the MASHSMD (Mid-Atlantic Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development) conference.

Our Image-Guided Tendon Treatment goes beyond conventional therapies such as ice, rest, stretching and steroid injections and works by removing the damaged tendon tissue so that a natural healing process can occur. Unlike traditional surgery, this minimally-invasive process can be completed in around 20 minutes and requires no general anesthesia. For those suffering from the chronic pain of plantar fasciitis, this is good news, say Chestnut, and the new website and advertising materials help explain it.

 

I’m nervous about my port procedure. What should I do to prepare?

The physician’s recommendation for you to have a port is made when there is a frequent need to administer medication via a central vein, or when there is difficulty for doctors or nurses to access your veins for blood draws or lab checks.

It’s common to have a case of nervousness before an unknown event, and medical procedures are no different. At our office, one of our interventional radiologists takes care of the procedure from start to finish, after working with your physician to decide on type of port is best for your particular case. We are there to answer questions or concerns before or after the procedure.

Often, mentally preparing for a procedure is as simple as knowing what to expect.

Typically, when a port is put in, a patient is put under conscious sedation, which is a combination of pain medication and a tranquilizer. This combination is designed to relax you and reduce pain, but not put you complete under. It is not the same as general anesthesia. We want you to be comfortable, yet able to breath on your own and speak to the physician if needed.

The physician will make a small incision above your collarbone, and another under your collarbone. A tunnel is formed under the skin between the two openings. The catheter is passed through this tunnel and then gently threaded into the vein. The physician then makes a pocket under the skin, places the port in the pocket, and then sutures the pocket closed.

Afterwards, you may be a little sore, but the pain should be minimal. Your physician will give you detailed care instructions including any movement restrictions, medication instructions and information on how to clean the area.

 

Sources:  VCU Health at Baird Vascular Institute,  Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center