RIC Matters 2015-02-11 - Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago

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RIC Matters 2015-02-11

Quote of the Week

"Continuous effort - not strength or intelligence - is the key to unlocking our potential.”

Winston Churchill

Back Issues

To find previous issues, go to our Index of RIC Matters back issues.


Getting to Know Rick Lieber, PhD

RIC’s Senior Vice President of Research and Chief Scientific Officer talks about how he became a “muscle guy” and why he left Southern California to join RIC

Dr. Rick Lieber is enjoying the role of RIC’s Senior Vice President of Research and Chief Scientific Officer.

Lieber is known nationally and internationally as one of the preeminent experts on the biology, physiology, and biomechanics of skeletal muscle. Or, as he likes to say, “I’m a muscle guy.”

Lieber came to RIC after serving as Professor and Vice Chairman of the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Bioengineering at the Whitaker Institute for Biomedical Engineering at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) for more than 30 years.

The “muscle guy” gets quite animated when talking about his work, and is enthusiastic about the future of RIC’s clinical research and the Ability Institute of RIC. In addition to his role as a senior vice president and chief scientific officer, Lieber plans to continue working in neuromuscular research.

RIC Matters sat down with Dr. Lieber to talk about his work, his vision for the future of RIC and a little bit about himself. The following is drawn from that interview, in his own words.

From music to medicine

My dad was a big band musician. He was a super cool, fun guy. He was a band leader at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. He played in the Buddy Rich Band in the good old days. In fact, I wanted to be a musician. Part of the reason I went to University of California, Davis was so that I could continue to be part of the San Francisco and Lake Tahoe music scenes. I wanted to be like James Taylor.

I called my dad one day to say that I didn’t think “this music thing” was going to work out and he told me to “do what I love.” In my family we have this creative gene, but I’m in kind of a conservative field. I consider my role here as a scientist and leader to be a super creative job.

Developing into a muscle specialist

I always loved gizmos and tinkering.  As an undergraduate I was planning to be a surgeon because I like working with my hands. I like complicated stuff and medicine, and I was leaning toward being a hand surgeon. I started studying with a guy who was working with muscles, using really cool tools early in the computer revolution. The goal was to measure muscle contraction. I did a bunch of studies in the ‘80s on muscle contraction and medicine was always in the back of my mind.

Click here to continue reading our interview with Dr. Lieber

The Road to RIC

I’ve known several people here because I’ve known about RIC for a long time. I really had no intention of leaving San Diego. While running the orthopaedic surgery research program there, we were building a 300,000-square-foot research facility. As Vice-Chair of our department, doing lots of science was a significant part of my focus.  It was really fun. Part of what was a little less fulfilling was trying to translate it into practice, because the organizational barriers there were huge. But still, leaving San Diego wasn’t in my plans.

Then Dr. Joanne Smith called me out of the blue while I was on vacation.  She said “Rick, I got your name from people here. We’ve been looking for someone to run our research program and be RIC’s chief scientific officer…would you be interested in talking?” And I said, “Nah, not really.” She said, “Why not?” and I said, “Because I have a great job and love it.” She said, “Well, would you at least come out and visit us, and if you’re not interested could you tell us who we should talk to?” I said. “Sure, I’ll come help you.”

So my first visit here was December 4, 2013 during the “polar vortex.” It was about minus 20 degrees outside. In fact, there was a 100 degree difference that day between the temperature in Chicago compared to San Diego.

A man in demand, seeing possibilities at RIC

In the past, there were some interesting employment opportunities presented to me to consider. But nothing that was qualitatively different from what I was doing in San Diego.  But the RIC opportunity was different—a different vision. There’s simply nothing like it. So I talked about it with my wife, Dina, and she came here during the polar vortex. You know, it’s a calling. My personal mission statement is “engineering solutions to spiritual and physical problems.” That’s just what I do. I’m a fix-it guy. Like working on repairing my dryer at home. I take it personally. I’ve taken it apart and it’s all over the place because I’m going to fix it. I’m not going to let someone else come over and fix it.

At RIC, you will have experiments going on right next to people who are being treated. This is powerful.   There is this whole idea that discovery that comes out of the architecture of the building where people are talking to each other because they are neighbors and friends.

Strong first impressions of RIC

My first impressions of RIC while interviewing were incredibly positive and I continue to be impressed daily. I am impressed by the leadership here and the laser focus. I am impressed with the building of the new research hospital. I know it’s unprecedented. And I did my own research on the Research people here, because we would all be working together.

A lover of learning

I just love learning. When I started, I asked Dr. Jim Sliwa to put me through clinical boot camp. So I went to the huddles, I went to the clinics. I’ll continue to do so regularly because this patient population is very complex.  It’s important for me to immerse myself into the culture. At every level I was super impressed with everyone here.

Adjusting to life in Chicago

I can walk to work. Since I’m such a wimp when it comes to weather, I figured I probably shouldn’t be driving. I’ve never been a commuter, even in San Diego.  I’ve been walking everywhere. We love it here. While the weather was cooperating, we did mostly outdoor stuff. Zoos, Millennium Park, Grant Park, Lincoln Park. Summer was beautiful.  Somebody told us Chicago is the greatest city in the world four and a half months of the year. The rest of the time it’s just a great city. Even now that it’s winter, it’s fantastic. This is the Midwest. As a big sports fan, I trust a town that’s big in sports. I’m a runner, been a runner forever and have run a few marathons. Running clears out my brain and this is a great running city.  I even set my personal cold record in December running in 20 degree weather.

Spirit and mission at RIC

People here love the organization. They describe it like a family. It’s the singularity of mission that pretty much drives everyone who is here. People come to RIC and stay here because we are a team of people who care--who want to be part of something big, part of making people better.

I’m going to derive a lot of personal fulfillment from the success of RIC.  My core joy is discovery. That gets me excited. As the great theologian James Taylor says, “That’s why I’m here.”

Team USA Wins World Sled Hockey Challenge with Help of RIC Players

Team USA clinched the World Sled Hockey Challenge this past weekend in Alberta, Canada, beating Russia 2-1 in overtime.

USA came from behind after RIC player Kevin McKee scored to tie the game at 1-1. The game went to overtime with RIC players McKee and Brody Roybal having key roles in the victory.

This was the second time Team USA won the World Sled Hockey Challenge in the past three years. The team also beat the Russians for the gold in the Paralymics last spring in Sochi, Russia. McKee, 25, and Roybal, 16, both members of the RIC Blackhawks, are considered among the top sled hockey players in the world.

RIC Blackhawks Battle in San Antonio with Mixed Results

Back in the states, the RIC Blackhawks were also in action this past weekend playing in San Antonio.

While missing team leaders Kevin McKee and Brody Roybal, players Erica Mitchell and Joey Gugliotta stepped up as leaders to help the Blackhawks come away with a 3-1 win over the St. Louis Blues. The team lost against the Colorado Avalanche and the San Antonio Rampage, however, leaving the Blackhawks in 3rd place in the Midwest Sled Hockey League (MWSHL).

The team still has a good chance to finish strong with the Wirtz Cup Championship weekend coming up March 6-8 at the Triphahn Arena in Hoffman Estates. The RIC Blackhawks, who are hosting the tournament, look to get back to their winning ways and take a run at the League championship. For a complete schedule of the tournament, please click here.

All RIC Blackhawk games are free, and more fans can only help push the team toward the championship. For more information or to volunteer, please contact Derek Daniels (312) 238-5008 or ddaniels@ric.org.

Fitness Center Offers Exercise Class for Those with Diabetes

RIC’s Fitness Center now offers a group exercise program for individuals with diabetes.* “Moving to Manage your Diabetes” integrates education with physical activity. All class members are educated to take control of their diabetes through safe and individualized exercise programs. 

Class member Karen McCray began the program in March 2014 with a hemoglobin A1C value of 11.9%, a level she needed to reduce.

Hemoglobin A1C is an average of a person’s blood sugar levels over a period of 2-3 months. It helps show whether a person’s diabetes is being well controlled.

By July, McCray was able to lower her A1C to 6.7%. Just this month, she reported a value of 6.2%.  McCray now manages her diabetes through a healthy diet and exercise. Her physician has cut her daily use of insulin from an initial 30 units to none. 

For more information about the program, please contact Raquel Gonzales at rgonzales1@ric.org or by calling 312-238-5001.

*All group exercise class participants at the Fitness Center must be active members. For more details regarding membership, please call 312-238-5001.

RIC Provides Blizzard Day Child Care for Working Parents

RIC once again provided child care services for grateful parents when Chicago Public Schools closed due to snow last week.  Employees were able to drop off their children on the 16th floor where they watched the snow continue to fall over the frozen lake.

While the trucks worked to plow more than a foot of snow outside, the children kept warm and busy inside by participating in a variety of activities, including a bowling tournament, painting, constructing forts and cooking in a pretend kitchen. They nibbled on snacks generously provided by the Food Service team throughout the day.

RIC was able to provide a safe and warm environment for the children of staff during one of Chicago’s worst snowstorms in years. This was the third time since January that RIC offered the service.

Many thanks to our staff members who helped make it possible:

  • Jillian Beemer, Manager, Therapeutic Recreation
  • Amy Larque, Therapeutic Recreation Intern
  • Derek Daniels, Manager, Sports Program
  • Glenn Paustian, Director, Allied Health
  • Kathy Galvin, Director, Human Resources
  • Diandra Entler, Child Life Specialist
  • The Food Service Team

Ash Wednesday Services Scheduled for Next Week

A solemn occasion to begin the Lenten Season

Tuesday, February 17

Catholic Mass with the distribution of ashes.

6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

345 E. Superior Street

Chapel, South Mezzanine

Wednesday, February 18

Two RIC Ecumenical Services with the distribution of ashes.

11:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

12:30 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.

345 E. Superior Street

Chapel, South Mezzanine

Ashes will also be distributed on inpatient floors after the services from 1 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Calendar of Events for RIC’s Adaptive Sports and Fitness Program

Please click here for a full calendar of upcoming events.

RIC Insider


Nursing Research Committee Hosts Informational Event Today

The Nursing Research Committee (NRC) will host a fun and creative way to learn about the nursing research process today in the LIFE Center. All nursing staff members are welcome to stop by from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Food will be provided.

On Thursday, the project will visit each nursing unit from 12:30 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. rather than have staff come to the LIFE Center.

New RESTORE Fitness Cancer Program Begins Friday

A new fitness program for those who have or have had cancer will begin on Friday at RIC.

The program starts with a “RESTORE Fitness Cancer Program Assessment,” which is required before participation in the 11-week fitness class. The 45-minute assessment will help identify individual fitness levels. During the assessment, we will evaluate responses to exercise training. Based on this and other fitness and cancer-related measures, we will modify the exercise program for each individual in the class.

The fitness class, which meets once a week, will consist of exercises that serve to help the client return to pre-diagnosed and pre-treatment levels of functional ability. The additional goals of the program are to help reduce or delay recurrence and lessen long term and late effects of cancer treatments, such as fatigue.

The class may include 5- to 10-minute education sessions on exercise and health. Each class will be 45 minutes. The RESTORE Fitness Cancer class will be held on Fridays at 1 p.m. at 541 N. Fairbanks, Mezzanine Level. The first session will be held February 13.

For more information please contact Raquel Gonzales, Exercise Physiologist, at 312-238-5013.

Performance Improvement Seeks Teams for Quality Fest

The Performance Improvement (PI) Department is currently seeking teams throughout the system of care that have used a PI approach (e.g., Plan-Do-Check-Act, Lean) to improve processes within the organization. We want to invite you to participate in Quality Fest 2015, scheduled for Wednesday, April 15.

This year we are urging teams with small incremental improvements to enter and show off your work. Performance improvement is about improving at all levels – large projects and small incremental improvements alike.

As with last year, there are two levels of participation. Projects will be eligible for the Judge’s Pick if they have clear results and have measured outcomes after improvements have been implemented. Projects will be eligible for the People’s choice if they have collected data to support their problem statement. For more information, please click here for the RIC Quality Fest Entry and Judging Criteria.

If your team is interested in participating, please submit project info via this Survey Monkey form: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/QF2015.

Each submission will be reviewed and a confirmation of acceptance will be sent to the Project Leader.

Please contact Dave Brewington (312-238-6191 or dbrewingto@ric.org) or Tabitha Pearsall (312-238-2904 or tpearsall@ric.org) if you need assistance with a current or planned Performance Improvement project, or have questions about Quality Fest 2015. The deadline for applications is March 10.

Commuter Flexible Spending Account Change

If you participate in our Commuter Flexible Spending Account, please be aware that this benefit will change in spring 2015. The Commuter Flexible Spending Account (FSA) will change from a one month to a two month pre-fund process, beginning with the April 2015 payroll deduction which will fund June 2015 transit/parking passes. There will be a one month ramp up period associated with this change, meaning transit/parking orders for May 2015 will not be funded by April 2015 payroll deductions. Please note that this benefit is not applicable to RIC parking facilities, which are already deducted from payroll on a pre-tax basis. For additional information and to learn how you can prepare for this change, please refer to the 2015 Commuter FSA change planning document by clicking here.

If you have any questions, please contact Gabriel Vergara, Payroll Manager, at gvergara@ric.org.

RIC Matters Submission Deadline

The deadline to submit articles and announcements for RIC Matters is Monday at noon if you want them published in the following Wednesday’s newsletter. If you plan to submit photos, please make sure that patients and non-employees sign photo release forms. Please remember
if your articles are time sensitive to submit them as early as possible to: RICMatters@ric.org. Thanks!

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