Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Graduating to new goals this season

With UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K, 5K race week underway, our series on healthcare heroes wraps up introducing you to Dr. Rebecca Andrews as she takes on her first half marathon.  Thank you for following these journeys and supporting UConn Health in their mission at this critical time for our communities.

Meet Dr. Rebecca Andrews
Graduation season bubbles up many emotions for students and their families.   As a teacher, researcher and mom of two boys, Dr. Rebecca Andrews is feeling this season very differently this year.  A self-proclaimed short distance runner, Dr. Andrews is training for the UConn Health Half Marathon and finding the mental challenge of long distance running a great outlet.

Dr. Andrews, who see patients in Primary Care, also serves as Associate Program Director of Internal Medicine Residency and in a typical year, celebrates between 30-40 residents completing the residency program in the spring. This year, she is trying to arrange a drive-in graduation for residents to be recognized by name and hear their faculty cheer them on as they end their special training.

It's such a huge achievement, the residents put off their "real life" for so long to go through this special training preparing them to provide such an important social service to the general population.   It's one of my favorite times of the year - we know where they’re going to start the next phase of their life and we’re extremely proud.

The season is especially bittersweet with COVID-19 impacts for her family as her son celebrates his senior year and graduation from high school.

It's surreal to see patients struggling at work, and then come home and feel so distraught about my son not having prom, graduation or any of the iconic senior experiences like senior prank or senior skip day.  I've watched him and his friends wallow; they deserved that time.  There have been times in history when kids had to grow up a little faster, we know it will be ok in the end, but it’s so hard for them to miss what they earned.

Dr. Andrews ran track in high school and felt comfortable with short distance running.  She feels long distance was and still is mentally challenging but comes with a great secondary benefit for stress relief.

I love my job, but it can be difficult to share bad news with patients.  I don’t want to take that bad news to the next room and the next patient or take it home to my family.  People process that in a lot of different ways. I can go on a run, think about things from the day I need to work through. But once I get to a certain distance, running also helps me put those thoughts to the side and just focus on the challenge of the run.
 
Dr. Andrews teaches as part of the residency program for internal medicine, sees patients in Primacy Care and also does research in chronic pain care.  The last couple months have changed her day-to-day work experiences, which she anticipates will have long term impact.

One great thing about UConn Health is that the doctors who see patients have a role in administration and in making decisions. It makes my job special and a little different than in many other places I could work; it means I can affect healthcare for the betterment of all patients, not just my own.

The public immediately thinks of medical needs of patients who have COVID-19, but many roles for medical professionals are now behind the scenes.  Some of Dr. Andrews' leadership duties were re-assigned and her skills were needed in outpatient primary care to make sure the most vulnerable patients weren't getting lost in the situation of the pandemic.

Dr. Andrews and her running partners at the hospital started training in February for the UConn Health Half Marathon, her first 13.1 mile race.  Like many runners taking on distance goals, she adjusted to run in cold and rain when she needed to put in the miles, and she forced herself to make the time in her schedule.

I do a lot of counseling with patients on what they should be doing in their life.  I’ve made bets with my patients, like I’ll learn to golf if they quit smoking.  But I realized I didn’t have a set exercise plan that was intense enough for true health reasons and just for me. I was active, walking the dog or coaching soccer, but running helps me follow my own advice for patients.  Being a mom and being busy wasn’t a reason not to take care of myself.

What used to be 5 miles for de-tress is becoming 15 miles a week, the more stress she feels, the faster she runs.  And the competitive nature of running to accomplish personal goals works well for many doctors.

As doctors, we learn to be competitive to be the best we can for our patients.  In running, I set goals for myself; it’s about me being better one day to the next.

More information/registration for the UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K & 5K virtual events, running June 4-7, 2020, is available at https://www.hartfordmarathon.com/uconn-health-half-marathon-10k-5k-on-iron-horse-virtual/.


 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Nurse finds new perspective on injury recovery

At some point, most runners deal with injury.  Whether it sidelines you completely from running or just requires adjustments to your routine, injury can be mentally frustrating. 

As we come into the last couple weeks of training for the UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K & 5K, meet a runner bouncing back from a debilitating injury.  Ironically, the avid runner is also a nurse practitioner specializing in treating patients at UConn Health with the same injury she experienced.

Meet Jocelyn Libros
As a nurse practitioner at UConn Health's Comprehensive Spine Center, Jocelyn Libros has seen countless patients come through with injuries that sideline them from running.  A four-time marathon finisher who has an active race schedule herself, Jocelyn has always been empathetic for injured runners and proud to work alongside orthopedic surgeon Dr. Scott Mallozzi in helping patients through spine surgery and recovery.

Jocelyn was about 12 years old when she started running with her dad, who was in the military and ran for his physical training.  She ran cross country and track through school and after college began racing half marathons.  She worked up to her first full marathon in 2010, training with her sister-in-law to complete 26.2 miles in Burlington, Vermont. 


As mom to two boys, ages 5 and 7, Jocelyn feels half marathon training works better for her life now. 
She ran the UConn Health Half Marathon last June after racing the half marathon in Mystic the month before.  It wasn't until after the Surftown Half Marathon and the fall running season that she started experiencing pain.

What started as mild lower back pain and pain in her legs got increasingly worse.  She consulted with her
colleagues and discovered she had a disc herniation.  After undergoing physical therapy and injections to ease the pain, Jocelyn reached the point where she could barely walk, never mind run or exercise, and faced having spine surgery herself.

In late March, as the country began shutting down to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Isaac Moss, chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and a spine surgeon at UConn Health, performed discectomy surgery on Jocelyn.

The team was absolutely incredible. Being on the patient side, the care I received was amazing and I can't thank Dr. Moss and nurse practitioner Shantay Wells enough for relieving the unbearable pain I felt.

The first two weeks post-surgery were the toughest with weight restrictions and not being able to drive, but as Jocelyn improved so did her mobility and she was able to slowly start exercise, as tolerated.

Returning to work at the end of April after three weeks of recovery, Jocelyn's day to day is very different right now.   Patient care has been handled primarily through telephone visits and the clinic just opened the week of May 18; but her perspective is very different as well.
I feel like I understand my patients and what they go through so much more now having done it myself.  When they describe their symptoms, I can reassure them about how they can improve and deal with their injuries.

The UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K and 5K is Jocelyn's hometown race. She competed in the hal
f in Simsbury last year and loves the course, event set-up and how family-friendly it is for her husband and sons to cheer her on.  This year's race will feel different for Jocelyn, and not just because it'll be a virtual challenge.

I used to think that if I ever couldn’t run, I wouldn’t know what I would do.  But going through this experience, I realize I’m ok to take it easy, run for fun and do shorter races to get back out there.






Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Finding the Right Running Shoe

One of the advantages of running and walking for fitness, is that you need just a few basics to get started, and some might already be in your closet. Unlike some sports where the list of equipment can be long and expensive, runners need just a few things – comfortable and breathable clothing, sweat-wicking socks, running shoes and optionally a watch or other means of timing your run. Of these four things, running shoes are the most important. Running with incorrectly fitting shoes may not only make your run uncomfortable but may also increase your risk of injury. 

Shoes designed for running have much more padding than regular shoes and flex in the way runners need them to flex. Running shoe models are designed for the three different foot types: neutral arch, low arch, and high arch. Running shoes provide structure and cushioning and have seamless construction to eliminate points of rubbing that can lead to blisters.


As a walker, should you wear running shoes? The answer depends on how many miles you walk at a time. Walkers need less cushioning than runners, so you can wear a lighter shoe that still provides adequate cushioning. Walkers can benefit from wearing running shoes, especially those who walk for over one hour or are looking to transition to a run/walk program.


Did you know that choosing the correct shoe starts with determining your foot type? Dr. Katherine Coyner, an orthopedic and sports medicine physician from UConn Health and team physician for the UConn Huskies, explains in her article titled “Finding the Right Running Shoe”.


As you progress in your training, you’ll learn which shoe brands and styles work best for you. With the guidance of an experienced sales person, trained in fitting shoes, you’ll not only enjoy your runs but avoid injury too. Two popular running stores in CT are Fleet Feet in West Hartford and soundRunner in Glastonbury. They are known for their experienced staff members and carry a wide variety of shoe brands, clothing, and accessories. On-line ordering, curbside fittings and pickup are currently available. Both stores plan to reopen on May 20. Check their websites or call for more details.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

The Running Obstetrician finds work-life balance

The continuing series celebrating UConn Health professions introduces us this week to Dr. Christopher Morosky, The Running Obstetrician.  Learn a little about what it's like to support patients and families through the momentous occasion of childbirth during these unprecedented times and how running fits in to his life.  Dr. Morosky will be running the 10K next month as part of the UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K & 5K virtual race.
 
Meet "The Running Obstetrician"
For Dr. Christopher Morosky, OB/GYN, running has provided an ideal fitness routine that can be squeezed into the busy schedule of a doctor, teacher, researcher and father of three.  With just a pair of running shoes and a decent day, Dr. Morosky can clear his mind and bring things into focus. 

Labor and Delivery doesn't get put on hold during a pandemic. Dr. Morosky continues to see patients in the office for prenatal care, ultrasounds and non-stress tests.  Like so many others that keep the hospital running, he's performing his usual duties but also changing and adapting to meet the needs of this crisis.  He credits his colleagues with creating effective new workflows, safety procedures and modified plans for patient care to support patient needs in new ways.

Many precautions are being taken to keep moms, babies and staff as safe as possible.  These necessary changes have had an impact on the real-life connections that expectant families can typically make around this special time. Patients cannot bring any visitors with them to office visits, and they are limited to just one support person at the hospital for delivery (the same person can stay but not leave and return).
 

We understand the impact this has - the many missed special moments for family and friends.  I have seen the amazing flexibility and sacrifice of our patients to change their hopes and expectations of office, hospital and birth experiences to keep everyone as safe as possible.  We’re trying to make some accommodations, we feel it’s really important for women to have that birth support, and it’s also important for the family member or spouse to experience the birth.

Dr. Morosky feels grateful to be able to take care of these patients. Supporting them through the momentous occasion of childbirth during the COVID-19 pandemic only strengthens his gratitude to do this job everyday.

UConn Health is a teaching hospital and Dr. Morosky also thrives in his roles as educator and researcher.  But just like the changes for elementary, middle and high school learning, the medical school also had to adapt its curriculum to an online format and temporarily halt medical students' clinical rotations.

No matter how good a video you produce, it's a challenge to teach how to deliver a baby without being at the bedside.  But I am confident that the modifications we are creating at the medical school will allow our students to return to the clinical environment fully prepared to jump right in.

The accomplishments of graduating medical students and residents were celebrated differently this past weekend through online ceremonies, but with the same degree of excitement and respect for their hard work and commitment.  Dr. Morosky's congratulations video sums up his well wishes to his students and his enthusiasm for UConn: https://youtu.be/5p54Ti3odYo

Chris is training to run for his fellow healthcare heroes in June.  He'll be running the UConn Health 10K with a few of his favorite running partners, his kids. 


It is extra special to reach the finish line with your kids. Now that they're getting a little older, they are beating me there! 

Registration in the UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K & 5K virtual race June 4-7 will support the UConn Health COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund.  For information or to register, please visit the RACE INFO page.







Thursday, May 7, 2020

Runner's meaningful 13.1 after recovering from massive stroke

The path to each race participant's start line is different.  Some have just started to feel that excitement and are new to experience how motivating a goal race can be.  Others can't get enough of the energy a goal race conjures up. 

While our start lines will be in various locations next month for the virtual UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K and 5K, we are still connected by our paths to this shared goal.  Over the next month, we'll be sharing stories of people along those various paths.  Learn a little more about those we're running "with" and help us celebrate the UConn Health professionals that we will run in honor of. 

Meet Kevin Verge
At 39 years old, Kevin Verge was doing everything right to actively manage his health. Training for his 9th marathon in fall 2019 had him feeling the fittest he'd ever been; which is saying a lot for a former captain of Columbia University's track team who started running races with his father at 7 years old.

Just two months later though, Kevin suffered a massive cerebellar stroke and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at UConn Health in Farmington.  The outlook was not positive. A blood clot had traveled to his brain and broke into three pieces, causing three simultaneous strokes.  The severity of swelling in his brain upon his admittance raised grave concern about the need for surgery. 

But that didn't end up happening.  Kevin credits his recovery on the commitment and well-coordinated team efforts of the highly effective doctors and nurses who excelled in a very time-sensitive and high stress situation. 

Dr. Mason Leeman-Markowski, Neurology, led the coordinated efforts and treatment to reduce the swelling on his brain.  Kevin's team also included Dr. David Choi, Neurosurgery, who monitored hourly neurological exams to ensure Kevin didn't experience decreases in mental capacity. Dr. Andre Kaplan, Nephrology, monitored sodium levels and kidney function, which was being severely impacted by the treatment that was required to reduce his brain swelling.

Kevin spent nine days in the ICU with his family by his side, day and night.  His team of doctors and nurses became an extension of his family, championing Kevin's recovery with thoughtful care and attention. 

"I will forever be grateful for the tremendous care I received at UConn Health.  They operated as a team and remained focused on my well being. But it's not just the doctors who went above and beyond - the ICU nurses responsible for administering medicine  kept me focused and motivated to make it to the next day and meet my next milestone."


Kevin fondly recalls his ICU nurse, Christian Tuesta, who stayed with him during procedures, always provided a positive presence and consistently made timely jokes to bring light to a dark situation.  Dr. Perez, who oversaw the ICU team, worked to keep Kevin's vitals stable, allowing the stroke treatment to be effective.

"When I walked out of the ICU, I don't know who was happier for me - my UConn Health team or my family."

With an alarming history of clotting on his father's side, Kevin was proactive about his health to be "ready to fight" if any hereditary issue came up.  Kevin had no previous issues, but his father had a pulmonary embolism at 42 years old and a pacemaker inserted at UConn Health in December 2019 by Dr. Heiko Schmitt, Cardiology.  Dr. Schmitt thoroughly evaluated Kevin and continues to closely monitor him to determine if the family history of heart conditions could have caused Kevin's stroke. 

Kevin credits the unrivaled level of expertise at UConn Health with his success, walking out of the ICU in January and supporting him back to a normal life.  He returned to his job as Vice President & Counsel for Pratt & Whitney and has since joined the Board of Directors of the Hartford Marathon Foundation.

Two years after pushing his now 4-year-old-son Liam in a stroller through Simsbury in the 10K race, Kevin will run the UConn Health Half Marathon.  His training is well underway and he even has his race route planned.
"The mission of HMF resonates with me and it has throughout my life.  I'm incredibly honored to be in a position to participate in the UConn Health Half Marathon as my first race after my stroke. It may be virtual but it's still very meaningful for me."

For details or to sign up for the UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K, 5K virtual race weekend, please visit https://www.hartfordmarathon.com/uconn-health-half-marathon-10k-5k-on-iron-horse-virtual/

Thursday, March 5, 2020

New race shirt fit & fabric

We understand that there's no one fit, fabric, color or design that will please everyone when it comes to athlete race shirt swag. We strive to provide the highest quality but also listen when we receive feedback, especially if there are common trends across various people's comments.

For 2020, we endeavored a more thorough review of athlete race shirt options and enlisted runners from the HMF community to drive the decision. We appreciate the time and honest assessments provided by our shirt testers, who represent a cross section of shapes, sizes and preferences. We asked them each to wear, wash and work-out in eight different shirts from 4 vendors and provide specifics on their likes, dislikes and experiences.

Based on that feedback, a new shirt vendor has been chosen for 2020 events. Greenlayer's 100% polyester knit microfiber shirts with wicking technology offer comfort and resilience (plus they are available in a ton of great colors!).

The quick-drying fabric moves moisture to the surface to evaporate to keep you dry and cool. The light weight performance fabric is highly breathable and helps regulate body temperature (for those extra-sweaty PR races).

In terms of fit, the Greenlayer shirts are less form-fitting than previous HMF race shirts. Women’s fit shirts have a V-neck and the short sleeves are still a bit cropped, men’s fit shirts have a crew neck. As always, we welcome participants to choose whatever fit they feel most comfortable in and will continue to offer shirt size exchanges IF there are extra shirts available after race start - we just hope you won't have to!

If getting a shirt size is important to you, please register early! Size requests are only guaranteed 21+ days before an event.

Please view the size chart to determine your ideal fit.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Olympic Trials - Local Runners to Watch

The U.S. Olympic Team Trials for the Marathon are happening this Saturday, February 29 in Atlanta - and we couldn’t be more excited to see some familiar faces at the start line! We encourage you to join us in closely following along - Josh and Matt from the HMF staff will head down south to cheer them on. Follow their Olympic Trials experience via our Facebook and Instagram on Friday and Saturday, and tune in live on NBC Saturday 12-3pm EST to watch the race.

These incredible local athletes represent different towns, track clubs, collegiate records and high school performances, but they all have one thing in common: they’ve taken on the same stretch of pavement that many of you have conquered in the past: the Eversource Hartford Marathon and Half Marathon. Read more about the connections these Olympic-level runners have to your community below. We think you might just find some great reasons to root for these athletes on Saturday:

Women's field:
Karen Bertasso, Albany, NY
Bertasso qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials at the 2018 Eversource Hartford Marathon where we she took second place in 2:43:46, beating the standard qualifying time of 2:45 for women.

Heidi Caldwell, Craftsbury, VT
Caldwell crossed the finish line in fourth place at last year’s Eversource Hartford Marathon. Her time of 2:42:15 earned her a spot in the top five female winners, who all qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials.

Marci Klimek, Arlington, MA
Klimek, the defending female champion of the Eversource Hartford Marathon, crossed the finish line last year with a scorching time of 2:35:22, over a five-minute lead ahead of the second place female.

Ellie Pell, Ithaca, NY
Ellie Pell earned her Olympic qualifying time last year when she took third place at the Eversource Hartford Marathon.

Annemarie Tuxbury, New Hartford, CT
A Connecticut running sensation, Tuxbury is a member of the Woodbridge Running Company, Milford Road Runners and a graduate of Northwestern Regional High School. She claimed a victory at the 2018 Eversource Hartford Half Marathon and was named 2018 New England Runner Magazine New England Runner of the Year.

Elizabeth Ryan, San Diego, CA
This Farmington, CT, native took the win at the Eversource Hartford Marathon in 2016.


Men's field:
Everett Hacket, Hartford, CT
Local superstar Everett Hacket is no stranger to Hartford. He’s an active member of the local Hartbeat Track Club and holds several records at his hometown Hall High School, where he is now Cross Country and T&F Coach.

Jonas Hampton, Newtonville, MA
This University of Hartford graduate won the 2015 Eversource Hartford Marathon in his debut 26.2, where he got his OTQ for the 2016 Trials.

Brian Harvey, Cambridge, MA
Harvey triumphantly took first place in the 2016 Eversource Hartford Marathon in 2:17:56.


Sean O’Connor, West Hartford, CT
Sean O’Connor is the youngest male in the Trials field but far from an underdog. A member of the local Hartbeat Track Club, he placed second in the 2019 Eversource Hartford Half Marathon with a time of 1:05:27, less than a minute behind the winner. The Trials will be his debut marathon.

Jonathan Phillips, Boston, MA
Breaking the tape in 1:04:51 last year, Phillips is the defending champion of the Eversource Hartford Half Marathon.

Tim Ritchie, Northampton, MA
Ritchie is not only the 2017 winner of the Eversource Hartford Half Marathon, he’s also the course record holder with a time of 1:02:41. Plus, he’s the head cross country coach at UMass.

David Sinclair, Truckee, CA
Sinclair claimed his spot at the top of the podium in 2018, winning the Eversource Hartford Marathon in 2:18:23.

Ryan Smith, Auburn, ME
His ecstatic expression said it all, Smith crossed the finish line at last year’s Eversource Hartford Marathon in 2:18:25 to secure his Olympic qualifying time and take home the win.

Christopher Zablocki, Phoenix, AZ
Zablocki, an Essex, CT native and Xavier High School grad, holds a 2017 Eversource Hartford Marathon first-place title in addition to countless wins in races across the state.