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Clarkson University Pre-Health Professions Students Learn About Helping Patients to Quit Tobacco

The following news release is provided courtesy of St. Lawrence Health System:

Health CoachesSt. Lawrence Health System (SLHS) patients now have a new way to look at quitting tobacco, and so do their doctors and future care givers. Pulmonologist Eric Seifer, MD, conducted a quit-tobacco assessment and treatment session of a patient in November while being observed behind mirrored glass by Clarkson University pre-health professions students who are also enrolled in a health coaches course at Clarkson. The patient was informed and consented to the observation, which is a method used in medical schools across the country, but unique to SLHS in St. Lawrence County. The students were guided through the interaction by Inpatient/Outpatient Transitional Care Manager, Coreen Bohl.

"The health coaches were able to see quit-tobacco assessment and Dynamic Dialogues methodology in action, in real time," said Seifer. "This helps students understand the behavioral aspects of medical assessment and treatment, and it helps them now as health coaches when they're out there in the community working one-on-one as liaisons between the Health System and patients in their homes. The Dynamic Dialogues treatment approach is new in St. Lawrence County, and its outcome-based success rate is a game-changer in how we view impacting health results."

Seifer attributes his 84 percent success rate to engaging the patient in Dynamic Dialogues on tobacco cessation, with the added practice of mutual accountability, he says. This means the patient is asked for a commitment to change, while the provider commits to support throughout that change.

"If a patient wants to change behavior, the provider needs to engage in a tobacco cessation approach that integrates medical science with an understanding of the spiritual, emotional, and motivational aspects of behavior change," said Seifer, who has a background in behavioral health in addition to his pulmonology specialty. "Without these elements, the patient's and the provider's efforts are doomed to failure, and then it's doubly difficult to motivate someone to do something different.

"It's on both of us: I take my commitment seriously and I expect that the patient will put equal time and effort into the treatment. Behavior change is not easy -- and it's so important that these students have this chance to see it in real time with a real patient. They can see with the right kind of support we can get there."

Seifer's Dynamic Dialogues method for tobacco cessation has realized great success at Adventist Health System, Florida, and Florida Hospital has also adopted his system.

Observing the patient-provider interaction, the student health coaches were joined by three SLHS care coordinators, the Clarkson course professor, an inpatient-to-outpatient transitional care manager, and staff of SLHS's population health office. Seifer is the medical director of population health management, in which patients representing a particular health population (those with addiction to tobacco, for example), are offered coordinated programming.

Coordinated programming is a cornerstone of the Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH), a nationally recognized model for centering care in the primary care practice (the Medical Home) of a patient, and coordinating all of his or her care through that practice.

"The Potsdam Primary Care Center, located in the Cheel Medical Center at 49 Lawrence Ave., is a nationally certified PCMH," said Adriana Quiroga-Garcia, Population Health Manager. "It provides the perfect setting for education of our health coaches, who will be the medical providers of tomorrow."

Intensive services are provided as part of a PCMH: transitional care from hospitalization to the patient's residence, coordination of outpatient services, such as further testing, surgery, visits to specialists, and physical therapy, nutritionist, with all reports being interpreted for the patient by the primary care provider (patient's family doctor, physician assistant, or nurse practitioner). The live intervention exercise was repeated in November with primary care providers Dr. Duffy, Dr. Brown, and their care teams.

The SLHS Health Coach experience is an academic program offered in partnership between St. Lawrence Health System/Canton-Potsdam Hospital and Clarkson University, St. Lawrence University, and SUNY Potsdam, in which students are trained in chronic disease holistic interventions and then matched with an appropriate patient to set manageable health goals.

For more information on the Health Coach experience, Patient-Centered Medical Home, or treatment for quitting tobacco, interested individuals may contact Adriana Quiroga-Garcia, Population Health Manager, at 261.5612.

Photo caption: Clarkson University pre-health professions student health coaches meet with St. Lawrence Health System's care providers to discuss the medical science as well as behavioral aspects of quitting smoking, which they observed in real time at the Potsdam Primary Care Center.

[Photograph for media use is available at ]
[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or]

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