Needle-Free Flu Protection: Could this Patch Be Coming Soon?

Tired of fighting with your family to get a flu shot? One unique medical innovation may soon make this task a little easier. A press-on patch that delivers the flu vaccine painlessly worked as well as an old-fashioned flu shot with no serious side effects in one recent trial, say researchers.

How does the patch work? The patch contains a layer of tiny, micro-points that are made out of the vaccine itself. When pressed into the skin, these points dissolve, delivering the dried vaccine into the outer layer of a person’s skin. That layer, say scientists, is loaded with immune system cells that are designed to be the first line of defense against invaders such as bacteria and viruses. These cells, they say, take up the vaccine and use it to prime themselves against a flu infection.

In a formal trial, people who tried out the patch said it was not painful or difficult to use, and tests of their blood suggested the vaccine it delivers created about the same immune response as a regular flu shot, the team reported in the Lancet medical journal. The hope, say experts, is the vaccine will be cheaper, easier to give and more acceptable than a regular flu vaccine.

Medical experts at Emory University School of Medicine and Georgia Tech, along with a company called Micron Biomedical, have been working on this project for years. However, this was the first test using a real flu vaccine, and the results show it caused immune responses very similar to those elicited by vaccine administered by needle and syringe.

“There were no serious adverse events,” explained study author Dr. Nadine Rouphael of the Emory University School of Medicine. “Microneedle patches have the potential to become ideal candidates for vaccination programs, not only in poorly resourced settings, but also for individuals who currently prefer not to get vaccinated, potentially even being an attractive vaccine for the pediatric population.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 140,000 and 700,000 people become infected with the flu each year and report that the flu typically kills anywhere from 12,000 to 56,000 people.

— By Sarah Burns 

Realtor Is Thankful There’s A Doctor In The House

Businessman Dave Foster heard the diagnosis and thought of another well-known entrepreneur, Steve Jobs. The co-founder of Apple Computers, Jobs battled pancreatic cancer for nearly a decade before he died at the age of 56. 

“When you read about pancreatic cancer survival statistics you think the worst – so few people even have surgical options,” said Foster, a Vietnam War Veteran.

He remembers that time of service, stationed in Pleiku, a city in Central Vietnam as intense and scary.

“When it turned dark at night you could expect something bad to happen,” said Foster. He has faced darkness and fear. His diagnosis set off more angst. To help him cope with that fear, Foster focused on an event that he was determined not to miss.  

His daughter was engaged to be married.

“You hear so often in cancer journeys dads want to walk their daughters down the aisle and dance at their wedding,” said Foster’s wife of 44 years, Barb Foster.

Angela Foster Church, who has worked in Revenue Cycle at IU Health for nearly 10 years, was one of the first people her parents called with the news of her father’s cancer diagnosis. The couple, which lives in Granger, Ind. nearly three hours north of Indianapolis had heard from their daughter about IU Health’s “patient-centered care” philosophy, said Barb Foster. 


It was summertime when Dave Foster first felt something wasn’t right. He remembers munching on a bag of cashews, a Father’s Day Gift, and afterward experiencing some digestive issues. A few days passed and he decided to visit his family doctor.

A CT scan followed and then a biopsy that revealed Stage 2a pancreatic cancer. Shortly after, he became a patient of Dr. Michael House.

“Being in the real estate profession, it was like a wink from God that my doctor would be named ‘House,’” said Foster. “There were other doctors in Indy with the name ‘House’ but let it be known there is no one like Dr. Michael House.”

Fosters first consultation with Dr. House was July 11, 2012 and his surgery was scheduled for two days later on Friday, the 13th.

“From the minute he came through the door Dr. House exuded supreme confidence and positive energy. His smile and enthusiasm were contagious. He was extremely thorough in telling me my diagnosis, the options available, his recommended treatment plan and potential outcomes. His confidence and presentation gave me hope,” said Foster.

This month during his five-year remission, Foster joins other patients and healthcare providers in advocating for men’s healthcare during World Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

On a recent visit back to Indianapolis, Foster, his wife, and daughter, talked openly about the care Foster received through IU Health.  The Fosters have an older married son in Granger, Dustin, and two grandchildren. They credit their daughter for helping navigate their path in Indianapolis and their son and his family for helping care for Dave back in Granger.

“We couldn’t have done it without them,” said Barb Foster. “We just had to focus on treatment and recovery.”

When they met Dr. House, they knew that plan was coming sooner rather than later.

“I couldn’t believe it when he scheduled my surgery two days after I visited him, said Foster. “That was so typical of Dr. House. He put his patient first and added one more to an already full surgical day.”

After surgery, Dr. House met Foster’s family in the waiting room and drew a sketch of the procedure.

Again, after long hours in surgery he was still uber positive and re-assuring to my family,” said Foster. “During my in-patient recovery Dr. House was on top of everything. He doesn’t miss a thing.”

House then coordinated follow-up chemotherapy and radiation at IU Health Simon Cancer Center – a treatment plan Foster believes helped him make it to the five-year mark of his remission.

Dave Foster didn’t walk his daughter down the aisle – of a sandy beach during a private ceremony in Mexico and danced with her to “Butterfly Kisses.”

“Cancer changes the concept of having a massive wedding,” said Barb Foster. “It was more important to share the joy and the experience with our immediate family.”


The Fosters didn’t know then the full extent of Dr. House’s care for his patients – even after surgery and into remission.

This summer, during routine blood work, Foster’s report showed elevated PSA (Prostate-specific antigen) levels. The chance of having prostate cancer goes up as the PSA level increases.

Foster reached out to Dr. House for advice and was connected to Dr. Michael Koch, IU Health Chairman of Urology.

Dr. Koch is responsible for pioneering a new ultrasound surgical technique known as High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) that destroys affected tissue in patients diagnosed with prostate cancer. With focused sound waves, the ultrasound targets the cancerous areas.

Only a handful of patients have received the FDA-approved HIFU at IU Health and on September 13, Foster became one.

“Dr. Koch did a Fusion MRI plus biopsies and found an aggressive cancer and said I was a good candidate for the procedure,” said Foster. “It was a non-invasive, outpatient surgery. They nailed the spot and basically, I’m good to go.”

The American Cancer Society estimates 161,360 new cases of prostate cancer in 2017. Other than skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common cancer in American men. About six cases in 10 are diagnosed in men aged 65 or older, and it is rare before age 40. The average age at the time of diagnosis is about 66. About 26,730 deaths are estimated in 2017 from prostate cancer.

“I’m one of the very, very few with pancreatic cancer who is still alive. This is just another good example of Dr. House and his follow up. He was proactive and saved my life again,” said Foster. He’s won us over a million times,” said Barb Foster.

Recently the Fosters received a personal note from Dr. House. It said, “I am very glad your prostate treatment is going well. . . . If you ever need any medical assistance or advice, always feel welcome to contact me.” It was signed “Sincerely yours, always, Michael G. House, M.D.”

As Dave Foster shows the letter, his daughter talks about life lessons learned by her family throughout her father’s treatment. “One of our favorite songs is Tim McGraw’s ‘Humble and Kind’ – the words have real meaning to us,” said his wife. 

“I come from the other side patient care – administration.  I see what it takes to bring in and retain the top talent,” said Angie Foster Church. And I’ve been so impressed with dad’s care from this top talent and staff. Experiencing this with my family gives me real empathy for patients coming in.”

And Dave Foster shakes his head as he rereads the letter from Dr. House.

“Some people hate coming to the hospital. But when we come to IU Health we have joy. We are so thankful for the great care,” said Foster. His wife added: “We’ve been the most remarkable and positive experiences. Our journey shows you can’t take anything for granted but you can stack the odds in your favor with top medical care. Be grateful and appreciate life.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Nurse: “I Didn’t Choose Nursing; Nursing Chose Me.”

Aimee Summers was using a high-pitched voice – like a cartoon character – as she chatted with another caregiver on the elevator ride at University Hospital. It was the voice that gave her away. A visitor turned and said: “I think you’re the nurse who took care of my dad when we were here last time.”

Summers immediately began firing questions: “He’s back? What room is he in?”

She scurried off to catch up with the patient, Max Woodall of Crawfordsville. He remembered her immediately. She was the nurse who got him out of his bed and dancing.

“She’s a person who you can tell immediately loves what she’s doing,” said Woodall. It had been a year since Woodall’s first hospital stay but he didn’t forget Summers. “She just brightens up your day,” said Woodall.

Other patients agree. One anonymously nominated Summers for a DAISY Award writing:

“Nurse Aimee is an exceptionally kind person and a credit to her profession. When one of her patients was having issues, Aimee immediately sprung into action. She established a team of family members and medical staff to collaborate and bring closure. Aimee created a detailed list of tasks and then assigned a task to everyone on the team. Under her leadership she held daily meetings and was always kind, patient and caring. It is an honor to have had her as our nurse. Thanks to Aimee, not only was everything resolved, it was done well ahead of schedule. Nurse Aimee Summers rocks. She should be commended for her stellar performance.”

The DAISY Award is an international program that rewards and celebrates the extraordinary clinical skill and compassionate care given by nurses every day.

“People say you don’t really become yourself until you grow up,” said Summers,” 26. “I think nursing has helped me become who I am.”

A graduate of Pendleton Heights High School, received her nursing degree from Indiana Wesleyan and came to IU Health two years ago. In high school she was involved in Thespian Society. She perfected her British accent and performed the role of Mrs. White in “Clue” and later played the role of a potential match for the prince in  “Cinderella” and was part of the chorus in “Footloose.”

Ask her talents and at the top of her list is the ability to talk in various accents – English, Russian, French, and Spanish.

It’s her ability to incorporate her drama and fun-loving demeanor into her nursing puts patients at ease. The see her as a positive light when she walks into a room, said Woodall.

But there’s also a serious side to Summers. Ask her why she chose nursing and she says:

“I was saved and I felt like God was calling me to help people during a weak time. I wanted to bring people joy and fun during an otherwise painful time. I didn’t choose nursing, nursing chose me.”

She also has personal experience with those painful times. When Summers was six months old, her mom was diagnosed with cancer. When she was nearly two, her mother passed and Summers was raised by her grandparents Dewey and Janice Summers.

“They have sculpted me into the person I am. They taught me about joy and love,” said Summers. “I was young but I that experience has shaped me. I think about trying to be an advocate and remember everyone has a family outside the hospital.

“My patient is not ‘room 2715.’ My patient is Ted. Ted has a dog and a family,” said Summers. “I hope they see me not just as their nurse. I hope they see me as a person – I like to go hiking and camping. We are all people. My patients are individuals and deserve individual love, care and respect.”

At work, she says, she keeps it as real as if she were home. “I dance. I sing. I give them the authentic version of me because I see the authentic version of them.”

More about Aimee Summers:

  • She is a classically-trained pianist
  • She loves all kinds of animals – especially elephants and debating whether to get a cat or a dog.
  • She’s an avid reader of vintage British novels. Two of her best reads are “Withering Heights,” and “Pride and Prejudice.”
  • She knits and crotchets.

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

Ballerina Dances Her Way To Nursing

By day she wears heels and a dress. At night, Jordan Pearsall wears scrubs and clogs. And when she goes to her locker to change, she sees a picture hanging on the locker door that reminds her of the inspiration behind her professional path.

The picture is of Pearsall’s father, Greg Doring, 65, recipient of a kidney transplant. 

She started her career as a ballerina, receiving an undergraduate degree in dance education. But as she saw her father’s health decline, a result of renal failure, Pearsall decided she needed to prepare for his care.

“I saw how hard my mom worked as a nurse and at first I thought it wasn’t for me. There can be a lot of stress. It’s tough but it can also be rewarding,” said Pearsall, 35, and the eldest child of Greg and Joanne Doring. “I felt like I needed to be there in case anything ever happened to my mom.”

So a decade after she began teaching dance, she returned to school and obtained her nursing degree. Months after she started, her father received a kidney transplant.

Originally from Maryland, Pearsall worked at an Annapolis hospital in OR and trauma before coming to IU Health. She became a transplant coordinator two years ago, and is coming up on her seventh year with the transplant surgery team.

“The days can get long and hard. I keep pictures in my locker and at my desk of my dad. It reminds me that if that team hadn’t been there, my dad may not be here. He got to see both my brother and I get married and he’s here for his grandkids,” said Pearsall.

Her move to Indianapolis isn’t a complete surprise to Pearsall’s family. When she was in nursing school she completed a scholarship application offered by IU Health that landed the hospital on her radar.

“I wanted to work in OR transplant because we are one of the only hospitals that has a dedicated OR transplant team. Other centers have adopted this model but at the time we were it,” said Pearsall, who is married to Mike Pearsall. They have one daughter, Alexandra, 3.

“She’s very much a child of a transplant nurse,” said Pearsall of her daughter. “She knows when I’m on call and pretends she’s on call.  She gets out her doctor kit and starts working on her doll. I’m a coordinator during daylight hours and I’m on call for OR at night. I live and breathe transplant.” As a transplant coordinator, she has about 80 adult and pediatric patients in her charge – helping them understand how they got to the point of transplant and keeping them healthy and on track to getting a transplant.

“I think I can connect closely because of my background. I tell them ‘I know you are scared’ and I tell them that I take OR calls and there’s a good chance I will have them in OR,” said Pearsall, as she describes the full circle of her caregiving. She works about 100 OR call hours every six weeks.  “It’s a unique position and is a good balance because I get to see the happily-ever-after. I know the struggles either as a coordinator or during surgery. I don’t get lost in the day-to-day stress because I have to hold onto the hope that we are part of a team not just for the patient but the whole family. We see them all life. We tell them this is a marriage and there is no divorce. We’re going to be together for the long haul.”

Knowing her patients inside and out is a career opportunity that Pearsall only dreamed about when she went into nursing.

“This is my passion. There have been such a series of events and I feel like this is what I should be doing, but I couldn’t do this without my husband. He and Ally have to share me with my patients but he allows me to do this because I can help so many people. We both remember how sick my dad was and now we see how far he has come – because of a transplant and a great team to care for him.” 

And what about dancing?

She recently started taking lessons with her daughter.

“My brain still thinks I’m a young dancer, but my body says I’m a busy 35-year-old nurse.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

An Uncommon Friendship

There are many ways to see the bond between these two friends. There are the matching Anna Beck earrings inspired by Balinese culture that they wear on the same day; there are the stories of two women vacationing in Portugal and Spain who laugh until they ache; there are the shared calendar commitments – fund-raising events for Myeloma and the American Cancer Society; and there are the photos of them next to a Christmas tree enjoying the holidays together.

But mostly, the bond is seen through their smiles. When Sood and Brack are together, they laugh, they exchange those knowing glances that only friends understand, and they animatedly talk about a relationship that started with a serious illness.

Brack was a junior at DePauw University when she was diagnosed with Stage IV rectal cancer. She went through chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. A year later – in 2010, she graduated from college. Just six months passed before 13 tumors were discovered in her liver. Another surgery followed along with more chemotherapy. Three months later, more liver tumors were discovered.  Last fall she underwent another surgery to remove a tumor from her bladder.

It was when she was starting a new series of chemo that Brack met Sood. Or, depending on whom you ask, Sood met Brack.

“I just had this feeling that I wanted to help her. She’s the sister I never had,” said Sood, an only child and the mother of two, who has been a nurse for 20 years. She was working in infusion at that time and now is the nurse coordinator for the myeloma program at IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

A former candy striper, Sood says she has always wanted to be a nurse or a teacher. In elementary school she looked up to her school nurses for their nurturing spirit and in high school, she loved anatomy and physiology. She went on to Indiana University and has worked at IU Health since her days as a student nurse.

 At first, she didn’t see her meeting with Brack as anything unusual.

“It’s an old adage but it’s so true. I try to treat others the way I want to be treated. I really truly try to be a bright spot. I want the patient to be as comfortable as possible and for their visits to be as seamless and peaceful as possible because they are going through hell,” said Sood, 42. “When I first meet them they don’t even know what’s going to hit them. I meet them at the highest anxiety point. I don’t even think they can register what is going on around them. It’s total shock. I just let them know I’m here to walk this road with them it will be one of the most difficult things they’ll face.”

Brack remembers looking in the eye of that storm with Sood by her side.

First, it was small talk – about their hair stylists, and shared interests like their dogs.  Then Sood invited Brack to an event at Simon Cancer Center. The friendship grew from there.

“When I first met Courtney, I saw her as a welcoming face. It made me feel sort of happy even though I knew what was coming. She made me feel safe,” said Brack, who turns 30 in December.  Under the care of oncologist Dr. Patrick Loehrer, Brack said that since her last surgery, she has had no evidence of cancer.

“Gwen is a beautiful young woman, from the warmth of her smile to the very depths of her soul,” said Dr. Loehrer. “For any of us, we would say in a moment, that it is not fair for a girl in her early 20’s to be diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer. This is rare, indeed.  Through her many treatments of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, I have not once heard Gwen utter the word, ‘unfair.’ She is a gracious role model who recognizes that cancer is in fact, too fair; it does not discriminate based on age, gender, or income.  Gwen is hard-wired to give and she gives of herself to help others.  She is nothing short of remarkable.”

Brack credits Sood for helping her navigate that journey. In a nomination for Cure, a publication honoring oncology nurses as “Extraordinary Healers,” Brack wrote:

“Courtney embodies joy, empathy, compassion and competency, no matter what she is doing. She immediately makes one feel welcome and comforted. She is incredibly detailed-oriented, and for oncology patients, that translates into a sense of trust.”

Sood has been known to pick up patient’s prescriptions, drive them home after treatments, plan birthday celebrations and even help transport a set of twins from California who flew home to visit a relative battling cancer.

“Courtney makes the ugly and terrifying cruelty of cancer into something slightly less daunting, and this is truly extraordinary,” wrote Brack. Photos of the two women – all smiles, accompany the tribute.

The photos are among the many they have collected over the years.

As their friendship has grown, the women have learned many things they have in common  – traveling, attending concerts, trying new restaurants and giving back to the community.

Brack chauffeurs patients to doctors appointments, and both women have participated in the Relay for Life and numerous other fundraisers supporting cancer awareness.

“I’ve gotten close to lots of my patients,” said Sood. “Care doesn’t stop at the bedside. This is just one of those friendships that can’t be explained. This much we know – life is too short to question an uncommon friendship.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.

At Methodist, Opioid-Exposed Babies Stay With Mom

Not long ago, when a baby was born addicted to opioids, he would be whisked away from mom and put in the neonatal intensive care unit.

When he started showing signs of withdrawal, the baby was treated with morphine to help stop the awful tremors and seizures and irritability.

But then, doctors and nurses and those closest to the babies started noticing something. When baby was kept with mom, he needed less medicine – if any at all. He could be soothed by his mother’s touch.

IU Health Methodist Hospital has made the shift. Babies born exposed to opioids stay in the room with mom and dad. They aren’t taken to the NICU.

“What we’re finding more and more now is that the more the mom and baby are together and mom is breastfeeding and soothing baby, the baby tends not to need the medication to such a degree,” says Emily Scott, M.D., medical director of the well newborn unit at Methodist.

The paradigm has shifted mostly in the last year, she says.

“We are trying to focus more on mom, dad and family and good supportive care being the first medicine for baby,” Dr. Scott says, “rather than going automatically to using morphine.”

As baby stays with mom, the hospital trains parents on how to soothe babies and how to respond quickly to the newborn’s needs. Morphine is used only as a last resort for babies who can’t be soothed from their withdrawal symptoms.

As for people who question whether a baby should be with a mother who exposed them to opioids?

The vast majority of moms who come to Methodist have been in supervised treatment programs, Dr. Scott says. They are on a stable does of medicine that allows them to not withdraw during the pregnancy and to not crave opioids.

“The mom is stable and safe and in a good place,” Dr. Scott says. “She can be a good, supportive provider for the baby.” 

And in many cases, those babies are ready to go home within five days.

— By Dana Benbow, Senior Journalist at IU Health.

   Reach Benbow via email or on Twitter @danabenbow.

Lung Cancer Survivor: “If You Don’t Feel Well, See Your Doctor.”

It started with a summer cold and a cough that lingered. Gregg Baumbaugh visited his family physician who first though he had a touch of phenomena. He started antibiotics but when things didn’t clear, Baumbaugh had a CT scan that showed spots on his lungs. That’s when he began seeing IU Health oncologist Dr. Lawrence Einhorn.

“I had a five centimeter tumor in my lower left lung and no symptoms whatsoever,” recalls Baumbaugh, 60.  He and his wife Betsy have been married for 35 years and they have three children and four grandchildren.

In September of 2009, Dr. Kenneth Kesler performed surgery to remove Baumbaugh’s lower left lobe. Four rounds of chemotherapy followed. A year later he started a clinical trial of Avastin (bevacizumab), a cancer medicine that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body.  A CT scan followed in August of 2012 and showed recurrent tumors, three in the left lung, and two in the right.  Baumbaugh tested positive for ALK (anaplastic lymphoma kinase) mutation, an abnormality in a gene that can occur in cancer cells such as lung cancer cells. In September of 2012 he began taking inhibitor Xalkori (Crizotinib). A month later, a CT scan showed no evidence of tumors and he has had no sign of the disease since.

“If it wasn’t for the inhibitor I’d be dead now, said Baumbaugh. “The goal is to live long enough for the next generation of drugs. Other than minor side effects of the drug I am living a normal life working full time.

“When I was first diagnosed, I asked people if I should go to another hospital because I wasn’t sure what was best. The prevailing answer was ‘the best doctors are right here in Indiana at IU Health,’” said Baumbaugh, who has a twin brother on the West Coast. “The care I got and the whole experience was so great. You think of hospitals as cold and sterile but Simon Cancer Center was nothing close to that.”

In 2014, he began running for exercise and eventually worked his way up to participate in two half marathons.

“The best advice I can give to men is to set aside time to exercise even if it’s just walking a mile a day. And if you don’t feel well, don’t hesitate to see your doctor,” said Baumbaugh, who will share his experiences at the November 11 “Evening of Promise,” a gala for the American Lung Association.

This is the 7th year for the Evening of Promise Gala held each year during Lung Cancer Awareness Month with a goal to raise $480,000, said Tanya Husain Executive Director of the American Lung Association in Indiana. Indiana University Health President & CEO, Dennis Murphy is an event chair for the gala.

“An event that reaches this stature has the capacity to fund four years of Lung Cancer Discovery Awards which can help find a cure for Lung Cancer,” said Husain. “Together with the leaders from our community, we are making a big impact in the lives of those who struggle to breathe.”

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.