The heat is on- keep your exercise game on too

Runner in desert

Whether it is an over or a swamp — and lately, it’s been a little of both — it is hot out there! This is the time of year that most year-round Tucsonans try to hide from the heat by staying indoors as much as possible. This seems like a good practice, but it can hinder many of the activities that we enjoy the other nine months of the year. So what are we to do?!

We definitely don’t want you to have to give up what you enjoy doing, and we also want you to stay active, but we also want you to be smart and safe during your time outdoors. Planning and being prepared is key. Here are some things to consider as we enter into our hotter months.

Be the early bird

Whether you are normally a morning person or not, you pretty much need to be from June through August if you want to ever do anything outside! With the sun rising as early as 5:15, meaning that it is light outside by 5 (that is a.m.!) you have at least an hour before the thermometer moves over 85 degrees. So for those of you who don’t enjoy exercising indoors, try planning for some early morning activities. We are fortunate to have some of the most beautiful sunrises here in Tucson, you just need to get up and out to enjoy them!

Block sun not fun

Summer often means fun in the sun, but we all need to be careful that we aren’t getting too much of a good thing. The CDC recommends the following to protect ourselves from getting too many of those harmful rays.


  • Use sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Reapply every 2 hours that you are out in the sun

Protective Clothing: 

  • Wear clothing to cover exposed skin
  • Loose fitting may be more comfortable; dark colors may offer better protection


  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Loose fitting hats may be more comfortable in the heat
  • Sunglasses
  • Don’t forget that the sun can damage your eyes and can increase risk for cataracts
  • Sunglasses that wrap close to your face and block both UVA and UVB will provide the greatest protection

Where there is a will, there is a way

Just because it is hot outside (really hot!) is not a good enough reason to stop all activity. Too often we hear, “I’ll start exercising again once it cools down.”  What people are really saying is, “Now that it is hot outside, I have a great excuse not to be active!” WRONG! With a bit of planning, you can still be active.

If you aren’t a morning person, it might take going to bed earlier than you normally would so that you can get up early. You might also need to have a plan to meet a friend or a group that will help to motivate you to move in the morning. Once you get into a routine, you will realize that it isn’t quite as bad as you used to believe!

If you have access to a pool, this is another great option for a way to stay active during the hot summer months. Remembering that any activity is better than nothing, even walking laps in the shallow part of the pool with get you moving and the water acts as a type of resistance. Just remember, if you are opting to swim and the pool isn’t protected from the sun, be sure you are wearing appropriate sun screen or sun protective swimwear.

Don’t negate the need to hydrate

You have gotten up early, put on the appropriate sun protection, and you have gotten out there and done something active….Good for you! The finally thing to remember about being active during the summer is to hydrate!!

When it is hot out, it is easier to remember to drink water. But if you head out early or are swimming, sometimes we don’t remember that we need to replenish the fluids we have lost. The standard recommendation is eight to ten 8 ounce glasses of water each day. During the summer, especially in Arizona, and particularly adding in outdoor activity, the recommendation goes way up; some recommendations go as high as 30 cups per day. The best way to determine how much you need to drink is to take a look at your urine. Urine should be light in color, similar to lemonade; dark urine the color of apple juice is an indicator of dehydration.  Drinking smaller amounts more frequently maintains hydration better than drinking a large amount all at one time. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to start replacing fluids, rather drink throughout the day.

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Sit. Stay. Bad human! 9 tips for the office worker

9 tips for the desk workerAs an office worker you may be bound to a desk and a computer. For most of us this means that we may sit most of the day. You might think staying seated is one of the safest things you could do, but too much sitting can hurt your body in a number of ways:

How sitting too much can hurt your body:

  • Increases your risk of heart disease
  • Increases your risk of diabetes
  • Causes poor circulation in your legs, which could lead to varicose veins or blood clots
  • May lead to fatigue and food cravings
  • Less activity leads to weight gain
  • Weakens your abdominal and gluteal (butt) muscles
  • Contributes to other structural problems in the spine and hips

We checked in with Laurie Ledford RD, our very own Nutritionista, for her tips to help us escape the chains of our desks.

What is a desk-bound office worker to do? Here are a few tips to get you out of your chair.

  1. Don’t rely on an hour or less of exercise to make up for a whole day of sitting. You need to get up and move more often than that to offset the bad effects of sitting.
  2. If you have a sit-to-stand desk, alternate positions throughout the day.
  3. If you don’t have a special desk, stand up whenever you don’t need to be touching your keyboard or your desk – e.g., when answering the phone, while reading, while talking with a coworker.
  4. Sit on an exercise ball or a stool with no back, so that your core muscles will have to do some work. Always sit with your feet flat on the floor.
  5. Hold walking meetings.
  6. Drink lots of water (or other unsweetened beverage) throughout the day, so that you will have to get up to relieve yourself of this fluid frequently.
  7. Get away from your desk every 30-45 minutes to give your eyes a break and do something active – e.g., pushups against your desk, wall sitting (back against the wall with legs bent at 90 degrees), squats, calf raises, brisk walking, stretches or yoga poses.
  8. Keep a resistance band in your office. Use it to perform squats, lunges and upper body exercises during your breaks.
  9. Park far away, in a shady spot. This gives you a nice little walk to and from work, plus a cooler car in the afternoon.

For more information on how just a little more standing for office or around the home can make all the difference check out this post on how to burn more calories without adding a workout. 

Laurie Ledford RDLaurie Ledford  is a Registered Dietitian at Tucson Medical Center who uses her knowledge and experience every day to support patients making healthy nutrition choices and prevent or combat the major killers of our time. Have a question about something you’ve heard or seen about nutrition or diet? Send your question to the Nutritionista at communications at

Safety practices for exercising in the dark

Safety tips for exercising in the darkWhether you’re taking the dog out for a walk or just getting out for a run yourself it can be hard this time of year to get outside when it’s light out. If you don’t have time during daylight hours to get out, stretch your limbs and fill your lungs, make sure you follow these safety practices when exercising in the dark:

  • Plan your route and tell someone where you are going and when you should be back. Avoid poorly lit and overgrown streets and trails.
  • When planning your route make sure to note where there are open businesses that you can stop at in case of emergency.
  • Don’t be predictable. Make sure you change up your route!
  • Bust out the neon! Wear bright and reflective clothing so drivers can see you.
  • Leave the tunes at home. Be aware of your surroundings don’t wear earbuds or headphones.
  • Bring a cell phone and identification. Or at a minimum, have ID and emergency medical information on a tag or on a card.
  • Rely on inner sparkle–don’t wear jewelry or carry money.
  • Use a headlamp, flashlight or clip-on bike light so drivers can see you.
  • Take pepper spray and a whistle in case you do encounter someone or something threatening.
  • Don’t run alone. Taking the dogs out for a run means we’re all getting exercise. If you don’t have a canine friend to accompany you, see if a friend is up for being an exercise buddy.

If you must, make friends with a treadmill for a couple of months. I know, it’s not the same as getting outside, but if it keeps your exercise routine on track, it’s helping your physical and mental health. I struggle with this, as it can seem boring sometimes, but if I don’t have a run buddy on a particular day, a gym treadmill is the next best thing. Skipping a workout never feels good.

In health,


Amy Ramsey is manager of TMC Employee Wellness Engagement, a mom, a Boston marathon runner, hiker and all around fitness guru.


Are you new to hiking? Here are tips and trails to get you started.

tips for new hikersFall has finally found its way to Tucson. As we welcome the cooler weather, Laurie Ledford, part of the TMC Wellness Department suggests that it is time to toss out the old “It’s too hot to exercise” excuse, lace up our shoes and get outside.

If running isn’t your style, or if you find walking too boring, you are in luck – Tucson is home to some of the most beautiful hiking trails imaginable. Here are Laurie’s suggestions for new hikers:

Before the hike

  • Dress properly. Layered clothing on the upper body is the way to go. This allows you to peel off outer layers as you warm up. If you want to wear shorts, be aware that you risk scrapes from cacti and rocks, so be careful! If you opt for long pants, choose something that allows you to move easily – in other words, not jeans.
  • Wear comfortable hiking boots or trail shoes with good tread. You want footwear that will keep your feet on the trail while keeping out little rocks and blisters.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Cover any exposed skin with sunscreen, preferably a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Cover your head with a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, ears and neck. Shield your eyes with UVA- and UVB-blocking sunglasses.
  • Bring water and a snack. The weather might have cooled down, but exercise can still be dehydrating. A high-carbohydrate snack will prevent hypoglycemia. Even if you think you won’t be gone long enough to get hungry, you never know when you could get lost or delayed.
The view from Blacketts Ridge, Arizona

The view from Blacketts Ridge, Arizona

During the hike

  • Stay on the trail. This is safer for you and the environment in which you are hiking; you are less likely to run into a cactus or twist an ankle, and you won’t contribute to erosion.
  • Yield the right of way to anyone bearing a burden. If you meet another hiker on a narrow trail, who has the right of way? If the other hiker is heading uphill (and needs to maintain momentum) appears to be struggling or is carrying a heavy pack, be courteous and step aside.
  • Be aware of any faster hikers behind you. Please pull over and let them pass.
  • Respect your own limitations. Be mindful of the distance or time you have hiked and how much is still ahead of you. You don’t want to reach complete exhaustion before the end of the hike.
  • Before you head up a hill, think about how you’ll make it back down (or vice versa). If your legs get too tired, you could fall. If your knees are not in great shape, they are going to scream at you all the way down the mountain. Hikers with bad joints may want to stick to flat trails or use trekking poles for additional stability and support.
  • Leave no trace. If you bring something in, take it out with you. But don’t take out more than you brought – i.e., leave bird nests, flowers and saguaro ribs where you find them

After the hike

  • It is better to enjoy happy memories of your hike the next day than to suffer aching muscles. If you are new to hiking, you will likely feel sore afterwards, no matter what. Remember to go easy on yourself during and after a hike, and your fitness level will improve over time.
  • Re-hydrate, rest and refuel as you plan your next hiking adventure.
Tucson Medical Center employees enjoy a winter hike on Douglas Spring Trail

Tucson Medical Center employees enjoy a winter hike on Douglas Spring Trail

Hikes for the new-to-town

You may hear seasoned hikers talking about some of their favorite trails: Blackett’s Ridge, Finger Rock and Agua Caliente Hill among them. However, for those who are new to hiking, it is a good idea to start with something a bit easier.

  • Nature Trail at Catalina State Park is a one-mile, relatively flat, loop trail. Once you’ve tackled that, you can take on some of the park’s more difficult trails, such as Canyon Loop Trail (2.2 miles) and Romero Canyon Trail (5.9 miles round-trip, if you go all the way to the pools).
  • Garwood Trail, on the east side of town, takes you 3.4 miles, out and back. There is a fun and interesting network of trails to explore here, including Wildhorse Trail (3.2 miles) and Douglas Spring Trail (17.2 miles, if you do the whole thing). Bring a compass, map and a good sense of direction with you, it can be easy to turn down the wrong trail.
  • Sabino Canyon Recreation Area is home to many trails of varying levels of difficulty. By walking the tram road, you can enjoy canyon views without ever leaving a paved road. As you start feeling more adventurous, branch off to try sections of Esperero Trail, Phoneline Trail, or take Bear Canyon Trail to Seven Falls (8.2 miles).

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Laurie Ledford is a registered dietitian from Atlanta, Georgia, the land of grits, collard greens and super-sweet iced tea. She now works as a registered dietitian  in the Tucson Medical Center Wellness Department. She enjoys helping people improve their health through sustainable dietary changes while still relishing occasional indulgences. In her off hours, Laurie engages in foodie pursuits such as sampling unusual flavor combinations (olive oil and basil ice cream was a good one) as well as hiking and cycling.

Take a hike Tucson – 5 of our favorite trails

Hiking in Tucson with TMC's employee FEAT groupAmy Ramsey, TMC’s employee wellness and engagement manager shares some favorite Tucson hikes.

Tucson is known for its outdoor activities, and hiking is one of the top things to do in and around our breathtaking city. Below is a list of our Top 5 places to hike in Tucson.

Sanctuary Cove: If you’re in search of some solitude, it’s worth finding! Our employee group used this location on Tucson’s west side to host outdoor yoga and labyrinth walking after our hike.

Santa Catalina Mountains: Visiting the sky island to the north is a must on your list of to-dos in Tucson. TMC has hosted a number of hikes beginning at Marshal Gulch, a beautifully wooded picnic area near Summerhaven and Mount Lemmon.

Pima Canyon: Gorgeous city and canyon views on this trail, with an easy-to-reach trailhead.

Sabino Canyon: Take the tram road up and choose which way you’ll go back. For a real challenge, try Blackette’s Ridge-one of the best views from the top!

Romero Pools: Located in Oro Valley’s Catalina State Park, it’s just one of the awesome trails available, and a favorite for TMC’s hiking group.

*Bonus! Tumamoc Hill: We just couldn’t leave this one off the list. A challenging yet doable paved hike on the west side of town, Tumamoc is one of our employees’ favorites. It offers great views of downtown at the top. While you’re there, make your way over to “A” Mountain, which is just next door!

Please visit hiking in Tucson for more detailed info on all the hiking adventures that your new city has to offer.

Staying active in the Arizona heat

“At least it is a dry heat.”

Whether it is a dry heat or not, it is still getting hot out there! This is the time of year that most year-round Tucsonans try to hide from the heat by staying indoors as much as possible. This seems like a good practice, but it can hinder many of the activities we enjoy the other 9 months of the year. So what are we to do?!

We definitely don’t want you to have to give up what you enjoy doing, and we want you to stay active, but we also want you to be smart and safe during your time outdoors. Planning and preparation are the keys to safety. Here are some tips from the TMC Wellness Team to consider as we enter the hotter months.

active in arizona heat

Rise Early

Whether you are normally a morning person or not, you pretty much need to be one from June through August if you ever want to do anything outside! With the sun rising as early as 5:15, meaning that it is light outside by 5:00 (that is a.m.!), you have at least an hour before the thermometer moves over 85 degrees. So for those of you who don’t enjoy exercising indoors, try planning for some early morning activities. We are fortunate to have some beautiful sunrises here in Tucson. You just need to get up and out to enjoy them!

If you aren’t accustomed to waking up early, try going to bed earlier than you normally would, so you will feel well rested. You might also plan to meet a friend or a group that will help motivate you to move in the morning. Once you get into a routine, you will realize it isn’t quite as bad as you used to believe.

Cover Up

Summer often means fun in the sun, but we all need to be careful that we aren’t getting too much of a good thing. The CDC recommends the following to protect ourselves from harmful rays.


  • Use sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and with both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Be sure to use enough. Apply a thick layer to all exposed skin.
  • Reapply every 2 hours that you are out in the sun or any time you sweat, rinse or wipe it off.

Protective Clothing

  • Wear clothing to cover exposed skin.
  • Loose fitting clothing may be more comfortable. Dark colors and tightly woven fabrics may offer better protection, because they absorb or block more UV rays.


  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Loose fitting hats may be more comfortable in the heat.


  • Don’t forget that the sun can damage your eyes and can increase your risk of cataracts.
  • Sunglasses that wrap close to your face and block both UVA and UVB will provide the greatest protection.


swimming in the summer to keep coolYou have gotten up early, put on the appropriate sun protection, and you are now ready to get out and do something active….Good for you! The final thing to remember about being active during the summer is to hydrate.

When it is hot out, it is easier to remember to drink water. But if you head out early or are swimming, you could forget to replenish the fluids you lose. The standard recommendation is eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water each day. During the summer, especially in Arizona, and particularly when adding in outdoor activity, the recommendation goes way up; some recommendations go as high as 30 cups per day. The best way to determine how much you need to drink is to take a look at your urine. Urine should be light in color, similar to lemonade; dark urine the color of apple juice is an indicator of dehydration. Drinking smaller amounts more frequently maintains hydration better than drinking a large amount all at one time. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to start replacing fluids; rather, drink throughout the day.


Just because it is hot outside (really hot!) is not a good enough reason to stop all activity. Too often we hear, “I’ll start exercising again once it cools down.”  What people are really saying is, “Now that it is hot outside, I have a great excuse not to be active.” WRONG! With a bit of planning, you can still be active.

Enjoy your summer activities!

For more information about our Wellness programs or to sign up for our monthly wellness newsletter Live Well visit our website.

Safe Kids Pima County – keeping kids safe through education and advocacy

Safe Kids Pima County LogoPlenty of us have practice patching up the skinned knees and elbows of active children in our lives.

Unfortunately, though, accidents are too often far more serious than bumps and scrapes. In fact, accidents are the leading cause of death for ages 0 to 19 – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The good news about this chilling statistic is that we have the power to change it. “Childhood accidents can (often? always? Almost always) be prevented – a few easy steps for children and adults can help keep kids safe,” said Jessica Mitchell, Safe Kids Pima County coordinator.

Safe Kids Pima County is a network of organizations focused on preventing accidental, childhood injury by educating adults and children, creating safe environments, conducting research, and advocating for effective laws.

Mitchell is a part of TMC’s participation in the Safe Kids initiative, working with community partners to actively engage adults in taking action for stronger child safety. From providing free bike helmets and pool safety to education workshops and school presentations, Mitchell coordinates a full schedule of activities to facilitate child safety awareness.

Jessica MitchellRecently, Mitchell spent a week at Frances Owen Holaway Elementary School, educating each PE class on the merits of bike safety.

“We explain to the kids ‘the brain can’t fix itself’ and make sure every student has a helmet and how to put it on correctly,” Mitchell explained. “The kids also learn the proper hand signals, where it’s safe to ride and how to avoid taking dangerous risks.”

Many child accidents involve bike riding. Over the past three years, Safe Kids Pima County has provided more than 8,000 free bike helmets to children in our community.

Safe Kids Pima County provides information and resources to help keep kids safe. Going forward, look for Mitchell’s monthly blog posts on helping keep kids safe, happy and healthy.

For further information about Safe Kids Pima County, please email or call (520) 324-2783. If you are holding a community event and would like Safe Kids Pima County to attend or participate, click here.

Osteoporosis: “The most important factor is prevention”

May is Women’s Health Month, a great time to celebrate and promote stronger health and a perfect time to discuss the latest information about preventing and treating health challenges like osteoporosis.

More than 44 million American women experience the debilitating effects of the bone disease, and many women fear aching joints and brittle bones are an inevitable part of aging. It is important to know the risks, and engage opportunities to maintain optimum bone-health.

Dr. Lawrence R. Housman is an orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in musculoskeletal disease at Tucson Orthopaedic Institute. He sat down with us to discuss the best ways to prevent and treat osteoporosis.

OsteoporosisWhy are women at greater risk for osteoporosis?  

Women start with a lower bone density than men. They also lose bone mass more quickly as they age. Between ages 20-80, women will lose about 1/3 of her bone density compared to men who lose only 1/4 of their bone density in that time frame. Estrogen levels also affect bone density, and women lose bone mass more quickly in the years immediately following menopause than at any other time of their lives.

What can accentuate this risk?

Alcohol in moderation is not a risk factor, however more than four drinks per day results in a twice the risk of hip fracture. Steroids can also increase this risk. Long term use of steroids will double the risk of fracture in women.

It should be noted that proton pump inhibitors (e.g. Nexium/Protonix used for stomach disorders such as acid reflux) decrease the absorption of calcium from the stomach.

While increasing fiber, phylates (beans, wheat bran), oxalates (spinach, beet greens, rhubarb) and phosphorus (colas) can provide other health benefits they can also interfere with calcium metabolism.

What are the most effective means of preventing osteoporosis?

Regular exercise is one of the most effective means of preventing osteoporosis. Thirty minutes per day – walking is excellent, and Tai Chi reportedly decreases falls by 47 percent and hip fracture by 25 percent.

Nutrition is another import part of maintaining healthy bones. Fruits and vegetables are important. Women ages 19-50 should take in 1000 mg of calcium daily and women older than 50 should get 1200 mg per day.

Vitamin D is another vital nutrient the body needs to prevent osteoporosis. An individual can get their vitamin D through measured exposure to sunlight or through supplements. A diet with dairy, protein or calcium fortified foods (e.g. orange juice), fish (salmon/sardines) and yogurt (6 ounces has 300 mg of calcium) will go a long way in getting vitamin d to the bones.

What are the warning signs of the disease – and when is it time to see a doctor?

There are usually no warning signs before a fracture occurs; therefore, the most important factor is prevention.

A primary care provider (PCP) is the best person to monitor bone health. Most physicians recommend a DEXA (bone density test) after the age of 50.

The DEXA scan is the bone density test done most frequently and is predictive of fracture risk. The scan will also show whether you have normal bone density, osteopenia (bone is becoming weaker) or osteoporosis (bone is at high risk for fracture).

If a fracture occurs, then an orthopaedist would enter the picture to advise on treatment concerning the spine or extremity fracture.

If diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis – what’s next?

With treatment patients can live normal, active and happy lives.

There are many types of medications that are now available – which work to reverse and then rebuild the bone loss. With treatment, the risk of a vertebral fracture drops from between 30-70 percent and the risk of a hip fracture drops by up to 40 percent.

Housman OsteoporosisDr. Housman is an orthopaedic surgeon who practices at the Tucson Orthopaedic Institute. He earned a medical degree from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada and completed an orthopaedic surgery residency at the Montreal General Hospital and McGill University. Dr. Housman is fellowship trained in several orthopaedic pursuits and is a past chief of staff at Tucson Medical Center. He has also served as president of the Western Orthopaedic Association and Arizona Orthopaedic Society.



Cognitive benefits from running and other physical activities

DavidRaichlenMaking our community a healthier place is a goal shared by the Tucson Medical Center and the Southern Arizona Roadrunners. TMC is excited to partner with SAR to bring you regular features and wellness tips designed to make your running the best it can be.

In this feature, researcher David Raichlen shares how exercise benefits your brain.

Runners often strive for that “running zone,” when movements are rhythmic, effortless and almost unconscious.

But rest assured: Even when you’re in a zone, your brain is working hard to navigate what is really an incredibly complicated set of actions. And ultimately, that may be helping to protect your brain over time.

David Raichlen, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Arizona and a runner himself, has been focused on the study of the evolution of physical activity – notably, why should you have to expend energy to ensure optimal functioning of the physiological system?

Think about it. Exercise builds bone density. It builds muscle. It helps protect elasticity in arteries. The reverse is also true: Lack of physical activity atrophies muscles and thins bones. And it looks like it may also change your brain in detrimental ways. “It turns out that our bones, our muscles, our cardiovascular systems – and even our brains – have evolved in a way that responds to stress,” he said.

Exercise in mature adults seems to be associated with larger amounts of gray matter, the cell bodies that make up the brain. That’s important in areas like the hippocampus, which serve as the nervous system and the command center for emotion and memory. People who engage in exercise also have more white matter – the connections within your brain that help with attention, planning and decision making.

Together with Gene Alexander, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, Raichlen has explored the effects of exercise on the brains of individuals across the lifespan.

Their results are somewhat surprising. “Let’s say you go for a run in Sabino Canyon. What are you doing? You have to navigate, remember where you’re going, plan footfalls on uneven terrain, pay attention to surroundings,” explained Raichlen, who joined Southern Arizona Roadrunners a year ago. “Running actually involves some fairly complex processing, and it’s possible that is the stress that creates these connectivity differences and perhaps that’s the stress that improves brain function across ages.”

The good news is that it’s not too late to switch to a more active lifestyle. Most of the studies that have shown protective changes have involved sedentary adults who began walking at moderate intensity for 150 hours a week.

Raichlen’s research also studies hunter-gatherer cultures in Africa to get a better model on what physical activity was like more universally in the past.  “They’re very physically active, but they also rest a lot. When they’re moving, they’re really moving. And when they’re not, they’re resting: There’s not a lot of time when they’re moving with low intensity,” he said.

The take home message?  Runners may typically be the types who like to get out there and exercise, but for other mortals, it can be hard to prod them into greater activity. “But could you get people to walk a little faster when they park their car at the grocery store or get them to walk a little faster at the mall?  It’s not always the 30 minute run: The other thing people can do is accumulate moderate physical intensity throughout the day by just trying to aerobically challenge themselves more often.”


Running with four-legged friends good for pets, owners

Making our community a healthier place is a goal shared by the Tucson Medical Center and the Southern Arizona Roadrunners. TMC is excited to partner with SAR to bring you regular features and wellness tips designed to make your running the best it can be.

In this feature, Amy Ramsey, TMC’s employee wellness and engagement manager, shares some tips about running with dogs as TMC gears up for its first-ever Paws on the Run 5k fun run to benefit Pima Animal Care Center and Girls on the Run on April 8 at Christopher Columbus Park. Kids can also come out and run a FREE one mile fun run presented by Southern Arizona Roadrunner’s FitKidz.

Shelter adoptions are free that day for participants and families.

To register:

running-partners-amy-and-gertie-enjoy-shared-activity-timeWhat kinds of dogs are appropriate for running?

I have two dogs at home, a Chihuahua and a large Shepherd mix we rescued from a local shelter seven years ago.

Don’t let little legs fool you: Our Chihuahua is a great running partner for our children, as he doesn’t have as much stamina as our larger breed. The kids enjoy running him around the block a few times, and he stops when he’s had enough.

Gertie, our larger breed, enjoys running longer distances to which we’ve built up over time. We’ve determined 2-3 miles is an optimal distance for her based on her energy level  during and after the run.

Each breed is different in regards to how far and long activity should be so checking with your vet and doing a little research on your specific dog breed will tell you a lot about their activity needs and tolerance.

 How can you get started in running with your dog?

Just like humans, dogs can be trained to increase activity based on consistent efforts. But remember, just as you listen to your body to be sensible and avoid injury by increasing slowly, you’ll need to watch for signs from your pup that could show exhaustion or discomfort as well.

running-with-shelter-pets-at-pima-animal-care-center.jpgWhat are the benefits you’ve experienced?

Asking the kids to run the dog is a great excuse to get them out of the house – and they all come back happier.

I am an early morning runner, and if I’m not meeting up with running partners, Gertie is the perfect companion to help keep me feeling safe. Yes, I still carry my pepper spray, but I’m a little more relaxed with her by my side.

She’s also just a better behaved dog when she gets regular exercise. Dogs are a lot like humans in this way. How many times have you missed a workout and find yourself feeling grumpy or irritable because of it? Dogs are the same.

Like humans, dogs can act out in other ways, such as destructive behavior, if they aren’t getting enough activity. They can crave routine and look forward to “burning off the crazy” just as much as we do.

Can you share a list of critical tips?

  • Keep the leash short. This is for your dog’s safety, as well as others who may be biking, running, driving by you. This also helps keep the dog closer to you, allowing for more training/learning moments for your pup.
  • Pick a side. Establish which side of you the dog will be running on and keep this consistent. Your dog likes to know what to expect. Rules and boundaries are healthy for them. This comes in particularly handy when training them NOT to lunge for that lizard that just darted across the path.
  • Praise liberally. Bringing treats in your pocket can help keep his focus on you, while reinforcing his good decisions, like not pulling towards the bicycle that just passed, or not barking at the spastic dog on the other side of the fence.
  • Remember hydration. Bring water if you’ll be out more than 30 minutes or if it is especially warm. If your dog isn’t great at drinking from a water bottle, small collapsible bowls are very portable. Some larger breeds actually ENJOY wearing a backpack that could be filled with treats, water, and a bowl. It gives them a sense of purpose.

How about a “please don’t” list?


  • Forget to bring bags for waste. It’s called being a responsible pet owner and a good neighbor.
  • Use a retractable leash. Exceptions can sometimes be made for smaller breeds, but if you happen to be using a multiuse path such as The Loop, DON’T do it. It’s just plain dangerous.
  • Take your dog out for a run if it’s too hot. Dogs are very susceptible to heat exhaustion, some breeds more than others. Also-the pavement heats up quickly and those paw pads are sensitive. Some dogs allow for booties, but a quick YouTube search for “Dogs With Shoes” shows you quickly that most won’t tolerate it. This has been a favorite search for my kids, with a lot of laughter. I recommend morning or evening outings here in the Southwest.
  • Take the same route every day. Your dog lives by his nose, so give him new areas to sniff and give yourself new things to see. It’s good for both of your brains!

ruff-runners-provides-opportunities-for-fitness-as-well-as-community-service.jpgAre there opportunities to have this experience, even if you don’t own a dog?

The dogs at Pima Animal Care Center not only need that daily exercise, but those walks or runs are of high importance to keep their spirits high, making them more desirable and adoptable for prospective pet owners.

There are many volunteer opportunities at PACC to help with this activity, but one that I specifically love is the Ruff Runners group. On Tuesday evenings and Friday mornings, people are encouraged to come out and help exercise these wonderful dogs.

When signing in, I was asked if I preferred a younger, higher energy dog to run, or if I’d like to help an older or possibly injured dog get some fresh air by walking them slowly, on a shorter route. It is really very rewarding to see all of those wonderful shelter dogs paired with their volunteers and enjoying the exercise and companionship – which goes both ways.

Exercise – more benefits than you think…


Exercise has numerous known health benefits, and as time passes more are being discovered.

One of the major things that can help cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes is regular, moderate to vigorous exercise. Studies have proven that exercise especially raises HDL (good cholesterol ) and can decrease LDL (bad cholesterol),  although less so.  In addition, one of the other benefits to exercise, namely weight loss, by itself will raise HDL.

How much exercise can be beneficial?  The more the better, and the more vigorous the better. Unfortunately, mild-intensity exercise has not been shown to affect cholesterol levels.

The most benefit can be achieved by eliminating sedentary habits and a poor diet.  Even without changing one’s diet, LDL can be decreased by 10 to 15 percent and HDL increased by 20 percent with moderate to vigorous exercise. Diabetes and high blood pressure can also be improved or even prevented with regular exercise.

Weight-bearing exercise, which includes walking, helps maintain bone density and therefore prevent osteoporosis which can lead to fractures, especially of the hips and spine.

Exercise is believed to help boost the immune system and prevent infections. Researchers also believe that it can lower the risk of developing cancers.

The latest studies also suggest that people who exercise regularly have a significantly decreased incidence of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s Disease.

If you are not already exercising, you need to start at a low level and slowly and progressively increase.  Check first with your primary care provider to evaluate your cardiovascular health.

An exercise regimen is a meaningful way of improving your health and preventing chronic diseases. Make the changes that will change your life.

William Abraham, M.D.


Dr. William Abraham is board-certified in internal medicine and has more than 30 years of experience. He is a TMC One provider who specializes in same-day/next-day appointments at the Wilmot location.

TMC One Med Group your health your team OL

What happens when your inner artist meets your inner philanthropist? The May 24 Creative You Art Party!

Creative ArtHelp lift the spirits of patients while enjoying a free evening of creativity, wine and fun.

As a hospital participating in the Bens’ Bells Kind Colleagues program, staff members at Tucson Medical Center know the power of random acts of kindness.

And as a hospital with a Healing Art Program, we also know the potential of art to encourage and cheer patients.

Join TMC Women & Children’s Services staff Tuesday,  May 24, from 5 to 7 p.m. in making a piece of art that will be donated to a patient in one of our programs, whether that’s a pregnant mom in one of our support groups, a new mother learning about breastfeeding or a mother who donates life-saving cord blood to save another child’s life.

Along with light snacks and wine, The Core will provide all of the items you’ll need to complete an art project that will make a difference in the lives of the patients we serve.

“This is one of those opportunities where everyone will feel better at the end: Not only will our guests have a great time, but they’ll have an opportunity to make someone’s day who might need a little cheering up,” said Tim Bentley, retail outreach manager at The Core at La Encantada.

Space is limited, so please register for this class at or visit for a full calendar of fitness classes, health lectures and wellness events.

Managing elder health risks in summer temperatures

Terri Waldman

Terri Waldman

The summer heat has arrived. For older adults, warmth might mean more joint comfort, but it can also place them at increased health risk.

Terri Waldman, the director of Tucson Medical Center’s Geropsychiatric Center at Handmaker, said there are a variety of reasons – including diminished blood circulation, age-related illness and lifestyle factors – that make older adults more susceptible to heat-related complications.

  • Dehydration: Older adults who don’t consume enough liquids are more readily overheated and can become easily confused and disoriented. Inadequate hydration can also lead to urinary tract infections, which can cause marked changes in mental status and behavior. “Urinary infections are more than a nuisance – they can have serious consequences,” Waldman said. “Consuming plenty of fluids is an important safeguard.”
  • Medication: Many drugs may lose potency in extreme heat, Waldman said. It’s best not to let medications sit too long in the mailbox during the heat of the day, or to keep them in a locked car. Store medications at room temperature, protected from heat and light to the degree possible. If an older adult is overheated, medications also tend to work less effectively.
  • Nutrition: When the temperatures climb, appetites diminish. Seniors need to make sure they continue to eat sufficient amounts of healthy food. Also, because people with heat exhaustion lose fluids and salts, those on salt-restricted or fluid-restricted diets have to be especially careful to guard against becoming overheated.

Everyone should know the signs of heat exhaustion, Waldman said. Those signs may include dizziness, confusion, fatigue, muscle cramps, muscle spasms, lack of coordination, nausea, headache and clammy skin. Seek medical assistance right away for these symptoms or for an elevated body temperature.

“During hot weather, it’s best to use caution in scheduling physical activities outdoors and you should continue drinking fluids throughout the day, before you feel thirsty,” Waldman said. “And for older adults, it’s always good to have a buddy system established anyway, so someone can check in, particularly if outdoor activities are planned throughout the day.”

If you or an elder loved one is showing signs of agitation, confusion, hallucinations, extreme depression or an inability to cope with stressful situations, please check with your health provider.

TMC employees lace up for Saturday’s ‘Meet Me Downtown’ Run/Walk

This Saturday, May 30, marks the 9th anniversary of the TMC Meet Me Downtown 5K Night Run/Walk, with community participants running along wide downtown boulevards as the sun prepares to set.

Tucson Medical Center’s proud sponsorship of the event includes a chance to open up registration to its employees at free or discounted rates. Part of the TMC Wellness Department’s mission is to get its employees out and active within the community that it serves, and this year’s event is looking stronger than ever for the TMC staff. Amy Mattox, TMC Employee Wellness Specialist, is excited about the growing participation.

“With 60+ employees registered for this race, it speaks volumes to the community that we truly see the value in getting out and staying active together, and we’re creating a stronger, healthier, happier staff because of it. Some of these people are avid runners and that’s really great. We also have many first timers registered, and some have even convinced their family members to join in, too! That’s what it’s all about!”

FEATTMC staff can participate in a number of activities on and off campus as part of the new FEAT (Fit Employee Ambassador Team) group, including weekly group runs on campus, monthly hiking gatherings, group rides, and community races like Meet Me Downtown.

Mary Atkinson, director of the TMC Wellness Department, says “It’s encouraging to see the awareness of overall wellness growing among our staff. It’s happening, and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

Look for the teal TMC team shirts out on the warm, evening course this weekend!



Live Well series opens up healthy new opportunities

Here’s your next chance to Live Well Tucson! …starting Tuesday, March 3, 5:45-7:45 p.m.

Combining health information sessions with various movement options, Live Well Tucson is a seven-week program presented by Tucson Medical Center to bring a better appreciation of wellness into the community.

The upcoming session begins March 3 at The Core, TMC’s wellness storefront at La Encantada retail center, Skyline and Campbell Ave. Early registration by Thursday, Feb. 26, qualifies the participant for half-off the normal (already economical) $80 fee for the series. Payment can be made at The Core front desk, or make arrangements with The Core at (520) 324-2673.core

Check for more information at The Core’s Online Registration page.

Live Well Tucson participants also have the option of joining individual information sessions for a $15 fee for each class. The courses are designed to help develop strategies for living a healthful life and creating sustainable good habits.  Upcoming topics in the March 3 series include:

  • Preventive Care – your PCP as your partner in health
  • Physical Activity – being active for the rest of your life
  • Nutrition – intelligent eating habits
  • Stress Reduction –helping you better recognize and respond to stress
  • Sleep – recommendations for developing a sound sleep routine
  • Happiness & Social Connectivity – living and sharing a joy-filled life
  • Maintaining Good Habits – how to carry on with what you have learned


The Core offers a variety of programs and services, as outlined on the web page



Former TMC patient battles brain cancer; racks up running goals

BDP32360_1500xOdd things started happening to Alfred Bracamonte in the middle of 2013.

He had barely finished the San Diego Rock ‘N Roll Marathon in June and struggled through some of his regular 8-mile training runs. He had episodes of slurring. His balance was a little off. And he started getting what he thought were little seizures, with the taste of metal in his mouth and what felt like jolts of electricity zinging up and down his spine.

Then one July morning, the 43-year-old construction worker became violently ill. His wife of 20 years, Laura, initially chalked his ailments up to working in the summer heat or the fact he wasn’t taking his blood pressure medication. But she couldn’t shake a strong feeling that he needed to get to the doctor immediately.

He got in to see the nurse practitioner, who told him he was exhibiting pre-stroke symptoms. Either he going to the hospital that minute, she said, or she was calling an ambulance to take him.

That was July 9.

And nothing has been the same since.

Alfred was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, known as an anaplastic astrocytoma, affecting his left temporal lobe. His radiation oncologist was frank: Survival rates were slim with this type of aggressive cancer, with life expectancy spanning about three years.

But the couple has deep faith and felt reassured by their unshakeable confidence in neurosurgeon, Dr. Abhay Sanan, who removed as much of the tumor as he could at Tucson Medical Center a week after his diagnosis.

Since the tumor had woven itself into the brain in ways that made it difficult to remove surgically, Alfred was assigned a regimen of radiation, followed up by a year of oral chemotherapy.

That wasn’t going to stop him from completing his running goals. As a former Marine, Alfred thought he’d had his fill of running, but in 2011, his doctor got after him about getting in shape and losing weight. He started lacing up his running shoes again and participating in races.

In fact, before he was diagnosed, he had already signed up for a half marathon in Las Vegas. “I said, ‘Let’s make this our goal. Let’s keep it in our thoughts that we are going to complete this,’” Laura recounted.BDP32369_1500x

Alfred agreed. “I just want to help other cancer patients, to show them that they can get through it.” It’s not about competing with other racers, he said, but about setting a goal and finishing it. “I’m running for me. For life,” he said.

And, for Alfred, whose ever-present smile was even on display in the recovery room after surgery, and who loves races in large part because of the friendly chats with other racers, it’s also about friendship.

On Labor Day, despite the effects of chemotherapy and radiation, he ran a 5K, following up with another 5K in October. In November, he completed his goal of going to Las Vegas to earn a triple crown in the Rock n’ Roll Marathon Series.

In December, the couple received the best gift they could imagine. The tumor had responded so well to the treatment, that the MRI came back clear, with no evidence of an enhancing tumor. He’s tested every eight weeks to make sure it doesn’t reappear.

The anticipation of waiting for results is difficult. And Alfred is still working through some challenges. He sometimes substitutes words for the ones he is looking for. His memory can be a little fuzzy and his balance is still unsteady. “We keep each other going because we’re in this together,” Laura said. “Never once has he asked why this happened to him. Never once has he had a bad attitude. Even on his bad days, he still smiles.”

Through it all, Alfred’s kept right on making his running goals.Albert

Earlier this month, he earned his first medal for finishing the three races in the Gabe Zimmerman Triple Crown, after completing the May 31 TMC Meet Me Downtown 5k and the TMC Saguaro National Park Labor Day 5k in September – the same one he did last year in the middle of treatment. The final leg of that trilogy was Sunday, Oct. 19, at the TMC Get Moving Tucson event. He crossed the finish line at just under 40 minutes for his 5K bid.

The two are convinced that Alfred’s running, and his work with a nutritionist, helped strengthen his body for the arduous work of healing. And aside from feeling like God has carried them, they’ve had support of friends, family and even strangers. Said Laura: “We feel that we’ve been blessed through this.”

The Arizona Daily Star followed Alfred’s race journey this weekend. Read it here:

Girls on the Run alumni now cross country team captains

by Paula Nasiatka, GOTR coach, Tanque Verde Elementary

     Captain Carsen, Coach Ventola, and Captain Meg

Captain Carsen, Coach Ventola, and Captain Meg

Meg Healy and Carsen Mastrangelo participated in the first team of Girls on the Run (GOTR) at Tanque Verde Elementary School two years ago. Tanque Verde Elementary had just started the program in the fall of 2012 and this was the first opportunity for girls to sign up with volunteer coaches Paula Nasiatka, Sara Thomas and Elizabeth Medina. GOTR is a national non-profit school based program that encourages 3rd-5th grade girls to develop self-respect and healthy lifestyles through running.

Meg and Carsen had heard about GOTR and were excited to join the 10 week program. They were natural leaders to the younger girls in the program and mentored other girls during the workouts leading up to their final 5K (3.1 mile) run at the end of the season.

After Meg and Carsen completed 6th grade at Tanque Verde Elementary, they went on to Emily Gray Junior High. In 7th grade they joined the Emily Gray Junior High Bobcats cross country team. This year, in 8th grade, they were elected co-captains by their teammates.

Meg noted that “Girls on the Run was some of the best running training I got before I tried out for the team.”

Carsen reflected on her experience, “Girls on the Run helped to build my confidence. I went from ‘I wonder if I could be a runner’ to ‘I AM a runner!'” I don’t think I would have considered cross country if it hadn’t been for the experience of Girls on the Run.”

In addition to Meg and Carsen, 7th grader Ellie Nasiatka is also a GOTR alumni who is on the Emily Gray Junior High cross country team. Ellie developed a love for running when she participated in GOTR for three years at both Agua Caliente and Tanque Verde Elementary Schools. Ellie also mentored the younger girls when she was a 6th grader last year.

Carsen in full stride during a meet

Carsen in full stride during a meet

Emily Gray Junior High cross-country coach Lindsay Ventola is very familiar with Girls on the Run and feels it’s a wonderful program. She recently moved to Tucson from New Hampshire where she was a running buddy for two girls in a GOTR program in Portsmouth, NH.

Coach Ventola reflects, “Running is more than a sport; it is a lifelong practice, and an important hobby/routine to get kids involved with. GOTR creates an opportunity not only to “hook” girls onto running, but it also provides a place for veteran female runners to teach our young ladies the essential aspects for future success. Physically, running demands a great deal of us. Perhaps more challenging, and more importantly, running requires motivation, determination, self-reflection, and confidence – skills I think every young girl should gain and experience in her life. In college, I worked as a nanny after school. I felt so fortunate to be a running buddy with the two elementary school girls I babysat. On a daily basis, I was inspired by these girls. Throughout the program they challenged themselves, improved their time and stamina, built their confidence, made new friends, and walked away with a love of running. Every kid, especially our young girls, should have the opportunity to feel this sense of accomplishment.

This GOTR ¨effect” has clearly come through in both Meg and Carsen, my two 8th grade captains on the Emily Gray cross country team. From the day I met them, both Meg and Carsen stood out to me as the natural leaders. The program teaches these girls what it means to be a leader, it teaches them to be driven in reaching their goals, it teaches them to be kind and supportive of the younger runners, it teaches them to be the best athlete they can be, and a confident person overall. Whether running in snow and ice, or sand and rocks, the Girls on the Run are gaining a solid foundation for a healthy, successful, and most importantly, happy lifestyle.”

Meg approaching the finish line

Meg approaching the finish line

Girls on the Run was established in 1996 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The GOTR curricula, the heart of the program, provides pre-adolescent girls with the necessary tools to embrace their individual strengths and successfully navigate life experiences.   The earliest version of the 24­ lesson curriculum was piloted in 1996 with the help of thirteen brave girls.  Twenty-six girls came the next season, then seventy-five.  In 2000, Girls on the Run International, a 501c3 organization was born.

With the help of over 120,000 volunteers, the Girls on the Run program is now serving over 150,000 girls in 200+ cities across North America each year.  In 2013, Girls on the Run hosted 258 end-of-season 5k events across the United States and Canada. Tucson has a very active GOTR program with Tucson Medical Center as the sponsor. For more information:


Indoor sports facility a tremendous boon for youth sports

130717 Sporting Chance Center-p1Kathunk. Kathunk. Thwop thwop thwop. Bonk.


It’s mid-day through a typical weekday and the Sporting Chance Center is filled with the sound of basketballs bouncing off rims, sneakers pounding across wood floors, volleyballs ricocheting off outstretched forearms, teammates cheering each other on.

No one cared about the triple digits outside.

Sporting Chance, with 40,000 square feet of air-conditioned space for basketball, volleyball and some other team sports, opened a year ago in July as a result of a private-public partnership between Tucson Medical Center, Southern Arizona Community Sports and Pima County, as well as the Tucson Conquistadores.

The Center, a hub for tournaments, leagues, camps and clinics, is one of the few places where youngsters can engage in informal play to escape the heat and get some exercise. During the summer, the Center provides an average of 25 hours a week of open play basketball for youngsters ages 12 and older, as well as young adults.

Depending on how the courts are configured, the facility can accommodate five basketball courts or 8 volleyball courts simultaneously.

“In the first 12 months, we’ve more than surpassed our expectations in terms of how much the community is using the facility,” said Operations Manager Tom Carle, noting the facility is currently attracting an average of 20,000 visitors a month, including athletes and spectators. The vast majority of the users are young athletes from club teams, middle schools, high schools and Pima Community College.

With the nonprofit partners sharing in the cost of building the $6 million facility, Pima County donated the land and importantly, subsidizes utilities and handles the major maintenance of the facility. That ongoing assistance allows the facility to keep open play costs to a low $1 for minors and $2 for adults, and to keep court rentals to $25 to $60 an hour, Carle said.

“This was a great example of community partners working together to address a need, but what makes this building a success is the ongoing partnership with Pima County,” Carle said.

The facility is full September through April, and at about 70 percent occupancy in the summer months, Carle said. The site had 1,500 unique individuals participate in open play in less than a year.

“Seeing how much the community is using the facility just shows that there was a real need for this kind of facility for competitive indoor sports,” Carle said.

Pima County Supervisor Sharon Bronson said the usage the facility is seeing is impressive, particularly since a significant number of patrons are coming from underserved areas with fewer amenities. “Too many people in our community are struggling with chronic diseases, but with the right focus, it is a winnable battle to reverse some of these longstanding challenges.”

Julia Strange, the vice president of Community Benefit for Tucson Medical Center, said the facility fits with the hospital’s mission of enhancing the overall health of the community, particularly since the most recent Community Health Needs Assessment found rates of access to recreational facilities are far below national benchmarks.

“An active lifestyle is an important part of community health, but access can be difficult, particularly in the summer heat,” Strange said. “We were thrilled to be able to help provide an opportunity for young people and adults to get out there and play in a safe environment.”

For more information, please visit

Photo courtesy of Pima County.

Working to Live Well: TMC Community Outreach Specialist Finds Comfort in Exercise

IMG_3233“I don’t have time to work out today” or “I’ll do it later” are common responses for those trying to fit exercise into busy schedules. After making up excuses not to exercise for five years, Community Outreach specialist Jessica Mitchell realized it was time to put an end to her unhealthy lifestyle.

“About five years ago, I was a regular gym go-er. I came home from work every day, changed and went to LA fitness for an hour,” she says. “Then, I don’t know what happened.” Life is what happened—a marriage, a family, a job. So often, exercising takes the back seat.

Mitchell has been at TMC for six years now—originally as the assistant manager of the TMC Gift Shop and recently hired as the Community Outreach specialist, where she goes into the community to raise awareness about injury prevention among youth.

As she settled into her new position this past March, she also became inspired to start working out again. The mother of two young children had plenty of motivation for her newfound commitment: “I had no energy. I wanted to be able to play with my lively 2-year-old in a way she deserves. It was time to start feeling better about myself again.”

Mitchell now attends TMC’s Optimal Results Fitness and Wellness Center—the O.R.—daily. And, if she is unable to get there, she finds a way to exercise at home with her family.

She offers advice for those who are struggling to achieve an active lifestyle. “Actually getting to the gym is the challenge. I think the biggest thing is to say you want it and just do it. When you see results, it really is totally worth it,” she says.

Mitchell has her sights set on not necessarily losing weight—although a benefit—but to tone up and to simply feel healthy again. “As of now, I don’t really have any long-term goals, but once I establish a rhythm, I think I will,” she says.

Whether it is walking a mile, completing an hour-long spin class or crossing the finish line of a triathlon, the importance of daily exercise cannot be ignored. Not only is exercising a fun way to engage with friends and peers, daily exercise is proven to increase the quality of life—it controls your weight, it manages chronic health conditions, it improves your emotional health and it boosts your energy level.

TMC Wellness Director Mary Atkinson says, “People who exercise routinely have higher self- efficacy. They value their bodies, wellbeing, and their engagement in their own health.” She encourages everyone to view exercise as fun and enjoyable. She says, “Are you an inside person or outside? Would you rather work out alone or are you motivated by a group? Do you want to engage in something that is high energy or low energy? Whatever that is, the best exercise is the one that you will do.”

Atkinson notes that the O.R. gym has its perks. “The gym offers a variety of exercise options—strength training, cardio machines, group classes. And if you aren’t a gym-lover, TMC provides employee wellness programs outside the gym, such as the stair climb challenge and the health trip series.”

The O.R. gym makes Mitchell’s plan to lead a healthier lifestyle more feasible. Located where TMC’s operating rooms were formally positioned before moving into the new tower, the gym will be celebrating its one year anniversary since its opening this fall. “The gym is awesome and accessible,” Mitchell says. “The classes push me and the equipment is great,” perfect for both beginners and advanced fitness training.

Through the gym, its Wellness department and a myriad of programs, TMC demonstrates that wellness of its employees is a priority. “I wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of the people I work with,” Mitchell says, “and for that I am thankful.”

Related News:

A Promise made to TMC employees leads to an on-site investment in their health

Heart Association Names TMC a Top Level Fit Friendly Worksite

Six reasons why your family needs a primary care physician

Six reasons why your family  needs a primary care physician

Why do you need a primary care physician?

You feel fine. No major illnesses, the occasional sniffle, and that niggling headache of course, and your mom just got diagnosed with high cholesterol, but you? You feel fine. You haven’t seen a doctor since you had to rush into urgent care that weekend two years ago.

The time to go to the doctor is when you’re sick right? You don’t have time right now.


Establishing a relationship with your primary care physician has all kind of benefits:

  1. Saving time and money
  2. Try getting in to see a doctor quickly if you don’t have a primary care physician.
    They’ll want you to have had a new patient appointment to get a history and baseline information first. Those long appointments are usually at set times and not as flexible as regular appointments. Having a primary care physician established means the office is more able to squeeze you in for a quick appointment or call you back to discuss an issue and get you back on your feet and maybe back to work quickly.
  3. Back on the road to recovery
    A primary care physician can follow-up and make sure you’re on the way to recovery following a visit to an emergency room.
  4. Keep you up to date
    Whether it’s a new flu strain, or new screening wellness guides your primary care physician can help you stay current on vaccinations and preventative screenings maintaining your good health.
  5. A doctor who looks at the whole you
    Your cardiologist is worrying about your heart rate, your neurologist your seizures, but who is looking at the big picture? Your primary care physician can oversee management of your overall health – they’re able to see results from all specialists and able to get the big picture. And because they have a relationship with you they can help come up with a plan if you have complex medical needs. Which leads us to,
  6. Someone you can talk frankly with about your health concerns
    With a relationship that develops over time, a primary care physician can better understand what matters to the patient regarding lifestyle choices, health goals, etc. Building trust and a connection is an important piece of the relationship between a patient and a primary care physician. If you have a good relationship it is easier to share those pertinent factors that you  might be shy about otherwise.

Don’t have a primary care physician? Let us help you find one today! Call toll-free 1-844-TMC-CARE for assistance.

Gary Brauchla’s great race

Gary & Kathie Brauchla

Gary & Kathie Brauchla

Before he died, Gary Brauchla always had it in the back of his mind that he wanted to run a 5k.

It took his death to make it happen.

His remarkable journey from death to the completion of his first 3.1-mile run began sometime around 3 a.m in the early morning of Sept. 29, 2012, when the home builder went into cardiac arrest as he slept in his rural home about 90 miles from Tucson.

Earlier that evening, he had complained of pain in his right shoulder, but shrugged it off since he had had chili for dinner and thought he might be experiencing indigestion.

Later, his wife, Kathie, was awoken by a loud snort, which she assumed then was snoring. In retrospect, it was probably her husband’s last gasp. She nudged him. Nothing. Nudged him again. Nothing. Pushed harder a third time. No response. “Then it all clicked together what was going on,” she recalled. “I flipped the light on and he was not breathing.”

A former surgical technician for 15 years, Kathie immediately started CPR, called 911 and sustained the chest compressions until help arrived. The wait was excruciating. The sound of the diesel engines of emergency vehicles never sounded so good. A defibrillator restored his heart rhythm.

Brauchla was flown by helicopter to Tucson Medical Center, where doctors induced a coma, put in some coronary stents to reopen blocked arteries and cooled his body temperature through therapeutic hypothermia in order to reduce the brain’s oxygen requirements and reduce the chance of brain injury.

He would remain in a coma for 2.5 weeks, while loved ones wondered about the degree of brain damage he may have sustained.

He was already unspeakably fortunate. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 300,000 people in the U.S. experience a cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting. More than 92 percent of them die. But he would be more fortunate still. He fully recovered.AP2A0615

“By doing everything TMC did, I am still here physically and mentally,” Brauchla said.

Once he was strong enough, his cardiologist wrote a prescription for him to attend the cardiac rehabilitation program at Tucson Medical Center to rebuild his strength and heart. Even though it is a 90-mile drive from his home in Pearce, Arizona, he attends three days a week.

He’s taking advantage of the program’s nutritional training, watching his diet and making conscious choices about the fuel he gives his body. And he appreciates that experienced staff is monitoring his heartbeat, making sure he is exercising safely but also challenging his heart, under proper supervision.

And on June 1, at 68 years old, he ran his 5k, at the TMC-sponsored Meet Me Downtown 5k Night Run/Walk.

He finished middle of the pack. But he figures that’s pretty good for a guy who faced down death.

“I was given a gift of life,” Brauchla said, adding he has become an advocate of making sure rural areas have access to automatic electronic defibrillators and promoting CPR. “My wife, God bless her, saved my life.”

Brauchla also volunteers at TMC’s cardiac ward four times a month, calming the fears of new patients about what the future holds. “I have a pretty good story I can tell,” he says. “Heart attacks are not necessarily a death knell. You can heal yourself, but you have to take steps to do it.”

Marcy Tigerman: Thankful to finally be pain free after getting both hips replaced at TMC

Marci_TigermannAll Marcy Tigerman wanted was to be able to ride her horse, Mex, once again.  Debilitating bone-on-bone arthritis in both hips prevented her from riding him, or doing much else for that matter.  She’d been active all her life, swimming, biking and weight lifting, until the pain became non-stop and forced her to a standstill.  After work, she’d lay on the couch because it hurt too much to do anything else.

“I remember seeing a commercial on television for TMC featuring a triathlete.  As she described the horrible pain she experienced with bone-on-bone arthritis, it brought me to tears.  I thought to myself, ‘If she can do this, I can do this.  If she can get back on her bike, swim, and run, then I can do this.’”

Finally, Tigerman had enough of the pain.  In March, she underwent her first hip replacement surgery at TMC.  “The physical therapist came to my house.  She taught me how to get out of bed, and walk around.  I remember her telling me, ‘You’re going to want to get that second hip done pretty soon.’  And I said, ‘No, I am not.  I can’t do this again.  It’s just too much.’”

Fast forward six weeks.

Tigerman was recovering well with her new joint… but the other side was causing big problems.  “I was uneven because on the side where I had my replacement, I had normal joint space.  On the other side, I was still bone-on-bone.  I had a leg length discrepancy, and I was limping as a result.”

Tigerman called her surgeon.  “I told him – let’s schedule the second one.  Let’s move this surgery up.  I need to feel better.”

Three months later, she was in the new TMC Orthopaedic & Surgical Tower for the other hip.

“The second one was almost easier because I knew what to expect.  The fear factor that was present for my first surgery was gone for my second.”  Tigerman’s recovery process moved right on schedule.

“I remember the day of my surgery.  After the operation, they got me up and out of bed.  I couldn’t believe I was standing up.  I put my foot down on that new hip, and thought, ‘wow – it doesn’t hurt.’”

At home, what started as a few steps turned into a short walk to get the mail, and eventually a walk down the street.

“My new hips make me feel like I’m 40 years old again.  I have no pain, and I now have two even legs.  It doesn’t hurt just to function anymore.  Getting out of bed doesn’t hurt.  Getting in my truck doesn’t hurt.  Sitting and working doesn’t hurt.  Walking my dog doesn’t hurt.  I can finally get back to my life.  When you’re in pain 24 hours a day, you can’t imagine what it’s like to be out of pain.  Now that I’ve had both hips replaced, and I’m pain free, I wonder why I wanted so long to get them done.  The great care I got at TMC helped me get back to what I love to do in life.”

And that includes riding her horse.

“Before my surgeries, I asked my doctor if I’d ever be able to ride Mex again.  He said yes, once I was up there I’d be fine, but getting on and off could be a challenge.  He was right.”

Tigerman started by grooming Mex.  Then she felt strong enough to lead him around.  “At the end of September, I put my food in a stirrup, and tried to get my leg over.  I couldn’t.  I continued my exercises at home, and received more physical therapy.  Three weeks later, I put my foot in the stirrup, and the other leg went over no problem.  I sat down in the saddle and put both feet in the stirrups and I immediately started crying.  I was so happy.  I haven’t been able to ride my horse in about a year.  Now I can, and nothing hurts.  It’s incredible.  I didn’t know if I would ever be able to ride again, and now I can finally say I feel like I have my life back.”

Unlucky genes: When “pretty healthy” isn’t good enough

Peter Riveri 5522Peter Riveri had always done everything right.

An avid runner and exercise fanatic, he appeared to be the picture of health.

Unfortunately, his genes were leading him on a deadly path.

About five years ago, he grew concerned that he wasn’t tolerating his workouts to the same degree. He felt sluggish.

After going to Tucson Medical Center for tests, he ended up needing a stent.

He admits to being depressed. Maybe even a bit angry afterward. “I lived what I thought was a healthy lifestyle,” he said.

Riveri initially resisted going to the cardiac rehabilitation program. He hadn’t gone through open heart surgery. He had his own home gym. He didn’t think he needed a structured program.

But after giving it a try, he found it helped him psychologically to see how others, with more significant physical issues, chose to respond to their own challenges. A competitive person, he finds motivation in the drive of others. He has also made good friends over the years, including Rick Randels. 

“The fact is, I don’t need to come here,” Riveri said. “I choose to come here, because I really enjoy working out here.”

In addition to his workouts, he also has switched to a vegan diet. His cholesterol is now below 100 mg, without medication.

“I don’t want to preach, but you make decisions in life that put you in a position for bad things to happen later on down the road,” he said.

He shares that message with cardiac patients at Tucson Medical Center, where he assists as a volunteer. “We talk to people in the hospital who have had surgery or have gotten a stent and we let them know there’s a path to keep them out of hospital if they choose to go down it.”

“In time, they can be back, healthy, and having an active lifestyle. Whether they choose to do it or not is up to them,” he said.

And when he runs into them later at the rehabilitation facility, Riveri added, “It kind of makes you feel good because you’ve had some impact on their health and a positive impact on their lives.”

24 Hours in the Old Pueblo registration is one hot ticket!

Press-Release-Sunset-RiderIn a world where it’s common for 24 hour mountain bike races to experience year-on-year decreases in participation, Epic Rides’ 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo presented by Tucson Medical Center (TMC) is doing the exact opposite.

Registration for America’s largest 24 hour mountain bike event, which is scheduled for February 14-16, 2014, opened on October 1st, and the Men’s Solo Category sold out in less than 12 hours (a new record).  During the previous six years the #24HOP reached maximum capacity two months before event weekend. Rolling strong into its 15th year, the highly anticipated event is close to selling out over four months in advance.

With tremendous cooperation from Willow Springs Ranch and the Arizona State Land Department,  24 Hour Town will welcome over 4,000 riders and support crew members anxious to enjoy a weekend of unparalleled camaraderie while raising funds for local and national non-profits including Tucson’s Bag It! (a cancer survivors resource organization). This year’s event will also mark Tucson Medical Center’s third year as the presenting sponsor.

“TMC is excited to continue the support of the mountain biking community in Tucson as part of a wider effort to promote healthy lifestyle choices across the region. Epic Ride’s 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo never fails to be one of the most challenging and fun events in Tucson for everyone involved,” said Tucson Medical Center’s Vice President of Community Benefit, Julia Strange.

Participants will be arriving from near and far with more than 37% of the field traveling from outside of Arizona to enjoy the government issued three-day holiday, President’s weekend, while riding pristine singletrack under the warm Sonoran Desert sun.

For those still in contemplation Epic Rides has a simple, yet concise message.

Procrastinators beware; at the current rate, registration will be completely full by early November.

Click here for complete event information and registration.

Rick Randels- In good company

cardiacrehabLast week, readers learned about Rick Randel’s incredible path to cardiac health. Despite multiple bypasses, surgeries and close calls, through hard work, and help from the folks at TMC’s Cardiac Rehab, he has been able to get and stay healthy.

These days, you can often find Randels over at El Dorado hospital or visiting cardiac patients at TMC.

And he’s in good company.

Randels is joined by a group of other volunteers participating in the cardiac rehabilitation program at Tucson Medical Center can often be found visiting new heart patients, sharing their stories, showing off old scars and letting them know that a full and active life awaits.

“I love going to the ward and talking to the people there,” said Gary Brauchla, a colleague of Randel’s who survived a cardiac arrest in late 2012, only to go on to run in his first 5k race in spring 2013. “It’s amazing to see their faces brighten up when they realize it’s not all gloom and doom,” he said.

Volunteers like Randels and Brauchla are just one piece of the quilt that is the TMC volunteer force.

In fact, on any given day, an average of 87 volunteers are playing important roles throughout the hospital.

In addition to 360 adult volunteers, some of whom are “empty nesters” looking for fulfilling ways to spend their time, the volunteer program also includes as many as 175 student volunteers. Those students are able to bring energy and new insight to their college careers, while building their resumes and professional skills.

Some of the volunteers even have fur and four legs, and can be found comforting patients in the hospital’s pet therapy program.Pet%20Therapy

Among some of the roles volunteers may serve:

  • Greeting guests at the entrances, to help steer them in the right direction and begin the check-in process;
  • Visiting overnight patients to ensure their immediate needs have been met;
  • Sewing pillows and blankets for patients to provide additional comfort;
  • Staffing TMC’s resale boutique (Teal Saguaro), infant/breastfeeding support store (Desert Cradle) or the main hospital Gift Shop, with 100 percent of the proceeds supporting hospital programs;
  • Assisting nursing staff in the newborn intensive care unit with the smallest, most vulnerable babies, as well as serving new moms and babies in the Mom/Baby unit;
  • Ensuring that even though the hospital is a big place, patients can easily get from one area to the next by hopping on volunteer-driven courtesy cars.

Hope Thomas, the director of volunteer services and community programs at Tucson Medical Center, credits the volunteers with making TMC the high-quality hospital that it is. Their efforts translate into more than 86,000 hours annually – or the equivalent of 42 staff positions every year.

IPU%20VolunteersAnd volunteers gain a great deal from the experience as well. Aside from knowing they’re helping others, since they frequently work in pairs, they also develop lasting friendships. That camaraderie is a social outlet that prevents isolation and encourages community engagement.

“If TMC staff is the heart of our hospital, then the volunteers are the soul,” Thomas said. “They’ve earned our trust. We value their efforts because they bring their experiences and their compassion to the patients who need it most.”

Tucson Medical Center tries to find placements for all qualified applicants, asking for a six-month commitment. One word of caution: It can be addicting. Volunteer Norma Fletcher has spent more than 44 years at TMC.

“I think if anyone is interested in volunteering, I’d encourage them to do it, because it helps the community,” she said. “And what they’ll find is they get more out of it than they put into it.”

Those interested in learning more about the volunteer program are encouraged to call 324-5355.

Rachel Tineo- Just a walk a day can keep the doctor away

rachel1This month readers learned about the incredible wellness journey of Rachel Tineo, a senior systems analyst at TMC. Over the last couple years Tineo has transformed from being overweight and and at risk for diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension to an enthusiastic proponent and example of healthy living.

These days, it only takes one look at Tineo to see that she has made some very big changes to her lifestyle. As a matter of fact, she has changed practically everything about her lifestyle and that of her family as well.

Tineo now spends up to 6 days per week in the gym—and lifts loads well into the triple digits under the direction of her personal trainer. She has also made sweeping improvements to the foods she eats, controlling her portions and her calories.

At TMC, this is becoming a much more common story among employees, thanks to an expanding wellness program that incentivizes, encourages and provides opportunities for better, healthier choices. And while Tineo’s choice of workouts is charged with heavy weights in a gym setting, it is certainly not the only way to hit fitness targets.

Even something as simple as walking can do the trick.

DorothyAs a matter of fact, the U.S. Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of walking (or other physical activity) each day. And as another TMC employee, Dorothy Larson, found out, regular exercise, including walking, decreases your risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety and obesity. It also improves overall health, helps osteoarthritis and diabetes, boosts HDL cholesterol (that’s the good kind) and can improve your mood.

Larson, a financial analyst, would have the Surgeon General’s stamp of approval since she has been walking the TMC campus for much of the 26 years she has worked for the hospital.

She had a scare about 20 years ago when doctors suspected she might have cancer in her leg. After surgery gave her a clean bill of health, the once-occasional walker became an avid fan.

Larson tries to walk every day, with her lunch periods providing some downtime from crunching numbers.

“I feel more energized when I come back, Larson said.

When it’s hot, she can walk the halls, which also gives her an opportunity to interact with folks in the hospital, since she works in an outlying building. And in pleasant weather, she can walk the trail system that largely encircles the hospital grounds and enjoy nature.

Larson said walking has helped her stave off weight gain, but said remaining active has also helped her maintain strength and agility.

She also likes the variety. She can walk briskly, to get her heart rate up. She can walk at a lower speed for relaxation. And she can walk with colleagues and reconnect with their lives.

“It’s fun and it’s enjoyable and you don’t need any equipment – just a good pair of walking shoes,” she said.

“What you do for exercise doesn’t have to be crazy. The main thing is, you need to find some way to move your body. It doesn’t matter how. Just find something that you can sustain and incorporate into your day. Even that one change can make a big difference,” said Tineo.

Mindfulness is an important factor in our health

It is well documented that mindfulness can positively affect our health….Why? How do we become more mindful?

If you were to Google the term ‘Mindfulness’ you would see many references to meditation. While meditation is a very effective way of becoming more mindful, it is just a tool. Mindfulness is a focusing of one’s attention, and how you achieve that may be very different from one person to the next.

Mindfulness as defined by modern psychology means to “bring one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis.” Why is that so important to our health? Nine out of 10 adults suffer from at least one chronic disease, and most chronic diseases can be improved with positive behavior changes. Now think about mindfulness as having an acute awareness of the present, and it is a bit easier to see how it can be used to treat stress, anxiety, and disordered eating. For example, if we all paid closer attention to what we were putting in our mouth as we sit in front of a computer typing (I promise I’m only drinking water while writing this!) think of the number of calories and thereby pounds we would save ourselves. Or, if rather than letting our mind race all night about the things we failed to accomplish, we performed a five-minute breathing activity to clear our heads, just think of the sleep you could have!

So how do we become more mindful? As I said before, there are many tools and techniques that can help you to start to become more mindful or aware. Everyone is different, so you may need to try different things to see what works for you.

Here are a few suggested activities you may want to try:

• Breathing
• Meditation
• Yoga or Stretching
• Time Outs before new activities
• Spend time in nature
• Listening to quiet instrumental music
• Journaling
• Don’t do other things while you are eating

Ultimately, being mindful comes back to being purposeful about everything you do. Don’t let your autopilot direct your actions. Be present in your life at every moment and notice the beauty, joy and extraordinary things that are all around you.

About the author:


Mary Atkinson, RD
Director of Wellness
Tucson Medical Center

A Lifestyle Change Success Story

Monica Martinez  before

Monica Martinez before

Eat well.  Exercise.

We hear it all the time. The reality is, most of us don’t do it.  Or, don’t do it consistently.

Although people may not always make the best diet and fitness choices, they still intrinsically want to be healthy and fit. In other words, people don’t feel like they’re consciously making poor decisions when indulging in fattening foods or not exercising regularly. An unhealthy lifestyle unknowingly becomes a habit that eventually manifests itself in a person being overweight or developing chronic health problems.

This is exactly what happened to Monica Martinez, patient services representative in Emergency Registration at Tucson Medical Center.

“All of a sudden I realized that I was gaining 3-5 pounds every time I visited the doctor, and eventually developed high blood pressure and a cholesterol problem, requiring that I take medication,” says Martinez

Monica admits that she was always the chunky one in the family, and although she tried on many occasions to lose weight, she struggled to stay consistent and would not follow through with her diet and fitness plans.

This happens far too often to people whose intentions are in the right place.

The struggle to stay on the fitness path become increasing difficult because for some people, even when making the “right” decisions and adopting healthy behaviors, the road to seeing results is long and may come to others quicker than it comes to them.

However, comparing yourself to others is not the mindset you want to get into because it can make you your own worst critic. Monica explains how she felt trying to fit in and comparing herself to some of her friends, hoping that no one would notice her weight.

“I recall not being able to look at myself in a full length mirror. Just going to the store to try on clothes pushed me to tears. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore,” said Martinez.

Managing the busy routine of life, Monica worked nights and began to notice her lack of motivation and not having the energy to play or do things with her children with the little free time she did have. But it was painfully apparent that she needed to make a healthy lifestyle change when one of her young sons suggested that she take a ‘pill that makes you skinny’ that he had seen on an infomercial.

“That was the breaking point.”

For some people, a drastic event or realization is necessary in order to employ consistent and meaningful change. Change for Monica was slow but always increasingly progressive, and she made a commitment to focusing on her health, one day at a time.

“I stopped eating processed high carb foods and adopted a cleaner and simpler diet. I cut out fast food and soda and began drinking protein shakes and eating vegetables and preparing my own healthier meals.”

Educating yourself is an important part in the process of doing the right things for your body and overall health. Monica found out what foods were actually packed with the nutrients she needed.

She also learned that the road to better health and losing weight is not reached solely through improved diet, but all through regular exercise.

Program such as Live Well, a Tucson Medical Center employee program that provides healthcare premium incentives for active employees, provided a way for Monica to begin exercising on a regular basis.

Monica Martinez today

Monica Martinez today

“Through Live Well, I joined an employee fitness team and began brisk walking on my lunch break. I started off only walking a half a mile, but have worked my way up to 4 miles a day.”

In addition, Monica joined a Zumba class and many other fitness activities.

“Finding fun exercises was key to my fitness success. I mix my workouts up and find ways to include my kids or friends.”

Monica went through a lifestyle change transformation, and in doing so, gained self confidence and the motivation needed to keep working towards her health and fitness goals.

Since she made a commitment to change, Monica has lost over 60 pounds and no longer needs to take medication to regulate her blood pressure or cholesterol!

“Throughout this journey it hasn’t been easy, but I’ve realized that what I’m doing is important. Along the way I take the time to celebrate my fitness successes. These are worth celebrating, because when it comes to my health, no success is too small to share or be proud of.”

Nutrition tips to get you ‘race ready’

imagesThe Epic Rides 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo Race is under a week away. TMC is the proud feature sponsor of the race and also has quite a few employees and brave cyclists participating in this exciting affair.

So the question is, are you ‘race ready’?

There are a number of things that can happen during an endurance activity such as a 24 hour race. Whether it is an environmental challenge, the mistake of a fellow participant or teammate, or an equipment malfunction, let’s face it, accidents happen.

However, there are things we can control like our physical and mental health when preparing for rigorous activity. In addition to one’s training regimen, making the appropriate nutritional choices leading up to recreational or competitive activity is one important way to be sharp and ready to take on unexpected challenges.

“Putting the right foods in your body is one of the many important nutritional choices you can make before a high performance activity,” says Mary Atkinson, Director of Wellness at Tucson Medical Center.

“The energy needs of people that participate in endurance activities are high. Every person’s nutritional needs will vary dependent upon age, gender, and daily activity. One should be sure they consume a sufficient amount of calories, and that these calories come from a variety of healthy sources.”

The following are tips to consider to get you ‘race ready’:

Carbohydrate Needs – Carbohydrates, the primary fuel during exercise, are easily digested and quickly used by the body. It is recommended to ingest 3 – 4 gram per pound of body weight daily for persons participating in heavy and high intensity endurance activities.

Fat – Moderate consumption from healthy fat sources such as fish, avocados, and nuts are a vital source of energy for lengthy exercise and sports training. However, avoid the intake of saturated and trans fats.

Protein – Protein is extremely important in the building and repair of muscles. Although it is not a primary source of energy during endurance exercise, it is recommended that athletes take .5 – 1 gram per pound of body weight daily for persons participating in heavy and high intensity endurance activities.

Atkinson suggests, “Maintain a balanced diet during the days before a race or competition, and make sure you’ve consumed adequate amounts of fluids, carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein. This should ensure that your nutritional needs will be met for optimum performance on race day.”

The Epic Rides 14th annual 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo race is one of the largest 24-hour mountain bike events in the world. TMC partnered with Moots, the Official Bike Sponsor, to give away over $4000 in Moots titanium bike parts, raising awareness of the new Tucson Medical Center Orthopaedic and Surgical Tower scheduled to open in April.

To register for the giveaway and get more information about the Orthopaedic and Surgical Tower, click here. 

Positively Sexy: Healthy Aging and Sexuality event this Friday

TMC Senior Services will host its 6th annual Healthy Aging and Sexuality Event: Positively Sexy this Friday, Feb. 15, from 2 – 5 p.m. at TMC’s Marshall Conference Center.

The workshop will provide a comfortable setting for older adults to come together and learn about sexuality, sensuality and the clinical aspects of aging.  “This event will be an opportunity for people to learn about how our bodies change as we age, and how that may affect our sexual well-being,” explains L’Don Sawyer, TMC Senior Services Director.

“We will address the questions many people may not be comfortable discussing with their health care provider.  Is it okay to have sex after a heart attack?  What medications may affect my sex life?  What can I do about erectile dysfunction?  This is a chance for people to get their questions answered,” says Sawyer.

Dr. Pal Evans is a retired OB/GYN, the current chairman of the Pima Council on Aging, and works with TMC’s Senior Services programs.  In the video below, he tells us why he thinks seniors’ sexuality is such a taboo topic in our society, and why it’s such a difficult conversation for health care professionals to have with their patients.  Also, find out what he thinks is the biggest misconception people have about this topic!

For information about the event, including how to RSVP, please click here.

UnitedHealthcare patients in southern Arizona to benefit from improved care coordination and enhanced health services through AzCC

People enrolled in UnitedHealthcare employer-sponsored benefit plans now have access to Arizona Connected Care (AzCC), a physician-led, patient-centric accountable care organization (ACO) that manages all aspects of patient health care, ensuring that the proper course of treatment and preventive health measures are being followed. The AzCC ACO combines advanced analytics to measure and improve quality outcomes for patients with innovative, value-based performance incentives.

During the past year, AzCC has been providing its prevention- and wellness-focused health care to seniors enrolled in UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare Advantage plans. This new, expanded collaboration will give more than 180,000 people enrolled in UnitedHealthcare’s employer-sponsored health benefit plans throughout southern Arizona the opportunity to benefit from access to quality care from approximately 200 AzCC care providers and health professionals through this distinctive care model.

AzCC, composed of primary care physicians, specialists, Tucson Medical Center, and other health care providers, in 2012 became the first ACO qualified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in southern Arizona. Since then AzCC has provided care to thousands of patients while practicing the Institute for Healthcare Improvement’s (IHI’s) “Triple Aim” objective: increase patient satisfaction, improve the health of the population and reduce the cost of health care.

“We are delighted to expand our partnership with UnitedHealthcare so that thousands of additional UnitedHealthcare patients in Southern Arizona can receive the distinctive care that an ACO can provide,” said John Friend, executive director, Arizona Connected Care. “We believe this program will clearly demonstrate that proactive care focused on wellness and chronic disease management actually reduces health care costs.”

UnitedHealthcare plan participants who use an AzCC care provider do not have to do anything differently in order to receive the benefits of the ACO. Participating primary care physicians will receive monthly updates on their patients, enabling them to monitor all of the care each patient is receiving and access the patient’s care in one record.

For example, if a patient is being treated for heart disease, all the tests, screenings and medications the patient is receiving will be collected into one record to ensure that the appropriate course of care is occurring, the care is coordinated, and the patient is receiving any and all necessary services. This model will help manage services for patients with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, while keeping the focus on health and well-being, increased patient safety and care delivery well supported by science.

“Arizona Connected Care is an important provider of health care services in southern Arizona, and we are pleased that more of our health plan customers now have access to AzCC’s innovative ACO care model that improves quality, streamlines care and reduces costs,” said Jeri Jones, CEO, UnitedHealthcare Employer & Individual of Arizona.

UnitedHealthcare is working with physician groups, hospitals and medical centers, and other health care delivery organizations across the country to achieve IHI’s “Triple Aim” objective. UnitedHealthcare’s value-based payment capabilities are designed to support this transformation of care delivery. Today, more than $20 billion of UnitedHealthcare’s annual physician and hospital reimbursements is tied to accountable care programs, centers of excellence and performance-based programs.

Participating AzCC physicians are already using advanced tools and software applications from UnitedHealth Group’s Optum business, a partnership announced in 2011. These capabilities provide health information on patients, enabling their care providers to more easily collaborate with each other on health care decisions. This information will also help AzCC care providers better understand and identify best practices for overall patient wellness and disease management, leading to meaningful health improvements over time.

To read more on this topic, check out the recent article in the Arizona Daily Star.

Milestone: Monday’s ‘Meet Me at Maynards’ will be MMM #200

Meet Me at Maynards, the weekly free social walk/run in downtown Tucson (with support from TMC!) , will celebrate its 200th consecutive Monday on Feb. 4, 2013. Here’s the full story from the MMM press release:

Meet Me at MaynardsMeet Me at Maynards (MMM) began on April 13, 2009, with a small group of volunteers. The event ‘stuck,’ growing each week and quickly becoming a fixture in downtown Tucson.  After outgrowing the patio space at Maynards Market and Kitchen, 400 to 600 “MMM Athletes” gather across the street at Hotel Congress each Monday (rain, shine and holidays) between 5:15 and 6:00 pm…They walk or run a route designed to show-off Tucson’s downtown and 4th Avenue. The MMM cheer of “GET OUT” expresses the goals to get out and exercise, get out and make friends and get out and support our community.  More than 18 local eateries welcome the participants with MMM discounts and provide gift certificates for the free raffle at the conclusion of each evening. Perhaps it is just a coincidence that downtown Tucson has come alive and vibrant in the past three years, but total attendance of 80,000 at MMM may have something to do with it.

MMM has partnered with six downtown fitness venues, including O2 Modern Fitness, Yoga Oasis and Armory Park Center and the Y, to offer discounted prices for alternative exercise opportunities, such as indoor cycling, yoga, Zumba, Pilates, gym workouts, etc. Classes correspond with the MMM schedule so that people can check in, do their chosen exercise and be back at Hotel Congress for the live band, awards and drawing.

MMM offers incentive prizes to those meeting milestone attendance – eight times earns a free MMM T-shirt, 15 a MMM running cap, 50 a MMM pin and 100 earns a much coveted royal purple Century Shirt. Several athletes and volunteers have attended more than 165 times:

  1. Doug Kluge                 191 visits
  2. Julie Kluge                   186
  3. James Passannanti       182
  4. Denise Leahy               179
  5. Marjorie Becklund       169
  6. Gary Carstensen          169
  7. Roma Krebs                 165

These athletes and volunteers proudly refer to MMM as “family,” creating a feeling of community and a sense of pride where they live and play. Although many may not have known much about downtown before, they now know where to see historic and beautiful sites, and where to park, eat and drink and be entertained. One example of their sense of pride is Trash Night on the third Monday of each month. Since its inception three years ago, at the suggestion of MMM Athlete Julie Kluge, more than 850 bags of unsightly trash have been collected. In fact, a frequent refrain is there is no longer enough trash to fill their bags

MMM is sponsored by:

  • Tucson Electric Power
  • Tucson Medical Center
  • The Running Shop
  • Arizona Daily Star
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona
  • Providence Service Corp.
  • Jim Click Automotive
  • BBVA Compass Bank
  • Tucson Orthopaedic Institute

Meet Me at Maynards was developed and is hosted by Meet Me Concepts, owned by Jannie Cox, her husband David Syverson and Randy and Tia Accetta.  Expanding the idea of healthy communities is a goal shared by the founders and volunteers.  Meet Me at Maynards will celebrate its fourth birthday on April 1, Meet Me at La Encantada will celebrate its first birthday on Wednesday, March 6th, and in Boise, Idaho Meet Me Monday is celebrating six months.



Did You Know? Zumba!

Correct technique is important in any workout for the prevention of injury and to maximize results.

Group exercise led by a certified instructor can be a great way to introduce new moves and equipment. Typically delivered in one-hour blocks that include a proper warm-up and cool down, group exercise offers social opportunities with others who share the same fitness goals, while providing psychological support and physical benefits.

Estella Van Cleve, a patient care technician in TMC’s emergency department, is the first to acknowledge she wasn’t big on gyms when a friend introduced her to Zumba, a fitness class with roots in Latin and international music and dance. She’d heard of Rumba, but Zumba was new to her.

But when she tried it, she found the hour flew by and she was disappointed that they had to stop.

A certified instructor since 2010, Van Cleve hails from Colombia and has been dancing since she was a toddler. “It’s part of my culture,” she said.

Still, she noted, participants shouldn’t steer clear of a class because they fear they don’t have rhythm.

“If you can walk, you can do Zumba,” said Van Cleve, who cautions that it can be addictive. Zumba music is always playing on her car stereo and her license plate says ZUMBAQN.

The group dynamic is also important, she said. “Everybody has a story to tell and in a group, it’s better because we can share things with other people and learn from their experiences.”

Classes are $5. Classes are currently held at HealthSouth, 2650 N. Wyatt Drive, on Tuesdays from 5 p.m. until 6 p.m. and on Thursdays from 6:45 p.m. until 7:45 p.m. Please confirm class times on the community calendar at

Spreading the news about the flu to senior citizens

Are you flu-aware?

For older adults, it’s more than a casual question.  Patients aged 65 and older account for nine out of 10 influenza-related deaths, so it’s important for seniors to know about the dangers of flu, the importance of annual vaccinations, and available vaccination options.

The National Council on Aging (NCOA) is leading the charge to educate older adults about the threat of influenza and the importance of immunization through a new awareness initiative called Flu + You.

The NCOA is collaborating with Sanofi Pasteur to encourage early immunizations, as soon as the vaccine becomes available each year. Despite years of recommending flu shots for older adults, the government says immunization rates are still far below public health goals.

The body’s immune system and its ability to fight illness decrease with age, which means that older adults are more vulnerable to influenza and its related complications. As we age, the likelihood of developing other chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, COPD, and diabetes, also increases, and having one or more underlying chronic conditions further increases the risk of influenza-related deaths in older patients.

For older adults, especially people aged 65 and older, an annual flu shot is critical and might even be life-saving.

Tackling Infection Prevention with the Cleaner!

Who leaps a mop and pail in a single bound?

Who hears the squeak of a squeegee across a crystal clear window from a mile away?

Who’s ultraviolet vision sees germs lurking in high touch nooks and crannies?

The Cleaner of course!

This week, me and the other members of the Infection Prevention League have been highlighting the many important things we all can do to prevent the spread of germs and keep our patients and community infection free.

As the Cleaner, my mission is to rid the environment of all harmful germs and help stop the spread of infection.

At TMC, we’ve made cleaning a science by using CDC guidelines and monitoring tools.

  • We have identified the surfaces that are frequently touched by hands (we call these high touch items) and made sure that these are a major focus of our cleaning efforts
  • Our Environmental Services Department has training programs that certify the staff to clean in a hospital environment
  • We monitor cleaning using direct observations and fluorescent oil and ultraviolet lights to check on thoroughness of cleaning
  • We clean all of our bathrooms with dilute bleach to stop the spread of fecal germs

Every employee has the power to rid the hospital of germs….whether it be to wipe down that phone in the hall or to disinfect a piece of equipment used for patient care…cleaning is a big part of protecting all who come to TMC.

To find out more about infection control at TMC, you can reach out to our specialists with your questions at  If you haven’t already, read the previous TMC Infection Prevention League posts from this week and meet all of our members.

Seniors can choose a stronger flu shot

Experts have agreed for years that getting a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself from influenza – especially for those in vulnerable populations, such as senior citizens.

Reinforcing the message is the National Council on Aging (NCOA), educating older adults about the importance of immunization through a new awareness initiative called Flu + You.  It’s a vital message because aging decreases the body’s ability to fight illness.

But with the decision to immunize comes a choice – which vaccine to take?

Your body’s response to vaccinations may be affected by the age-related decline in the immune system. Recent studies have shown that the traditional flu vaccine might not work as well for people 65 years of age and older. As the immune system weakens, fewer antibodies are produced following vaccination to help protect the body against infection.

Now, adults aged 65 and older have two vaccine options available – the traditional flu shot, as well as a widely available higher dose flu vaccine designed specifically for this population to address the age-related decline of the immune system. The higher dose flu shot triggers the body to produce more antibodies against the flu virus than would be produced by the traditional flu shot.

Both the traditional and higher dose flu shot options are among the vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control for adults 65 years of age and older. Medicare Part B covers all influenza vaccine options recommended for this age group with no co-pay, including the higher dose option.

Remember, a flu shot protects you and also helps prevent the spread of the flu to others you care about, including family members and friends who may not have gotten their flu shot.

TMC Infection Prevention League

Hello! I am The Specialist.

Oct 14-20 is International Infection Prevention Week, which highlights efforts in educating healthcare workers, healthcare administrators, and the community about the importance steps in reducing and preventing infections.

I am part of the Infection Prevention League, which is an internal Tucson Medical Center initiative that we now want to share with our valued community. The League is a group of powerful characters who embody all of the important steps in keeping ourselves healthy.

As the “Specialist”, my job is to support the League in ensuring that every infection prevention activity happens all the time, without error.  We are only as effective as our commitment to each infection prevention step.

I make sure that infection prevention at TMC and in the community is based on well established evidence and recommendations.  I identify infection threats and create a plan of attack….I guess that what makes me the brains behind the League!

At TMC, we are committed to protecting our patients, visitors and healthcare staff from infection and we demonstrate this by:

  • Cleaning hands and hospital environment regularly
  • Using CDC Isolation Precautions to keep germs contained
  • Educating our staff about the latest infection prevention activities and the germs that put our patients at risk
  • Monitoring for certain hospital acquired infections and reporting to our staff so they all know where we stand in our mission
  • Continuous review of our infection control program to make it better and more effective
  • And most importantly, never forgetting that it is people’s lives we are affecting and protecting!

I am associated with a dedicated group of real specialists at TMC that are available to the health care staff and patients to explain infection prevention and provide every day support in our mission to keep TMC free of hospital acquired infections.

You can reach out to the Specialists with your questions at,
and follow the TMC Infection Prevention League posts this week and meet all of our members.

Did You Know? – Don’t Let Stress Get You Down

Did you know? That stress could be affecting your health, even if you don’t recognize it? The “fight or flight” reaction that stress often triggers keeps your body’s natural alarm system in full gear, releasing a surge of hormones, including adrenaline.

Left unchecked, stress could trigger high blood pressure, muscle tension, and depression, heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

“Stress worsens your immune system, increases your blood pressure and makes you have a more rapid heart rate,” explained Dr. Matt Heinz, a hospitalist at Tucson Medical Center. “Anything that reduces stress is generally going to make you healthier.”

Some of the patios were designed with children in mind, from a train garden to sculpture. “Play is such an important part of healing,” said Melissa Weisphal, the manager of patient services in the pediatrics department. Designed to reflect the belief that the natural environment plays an important role in healing and reducing stress, Tucson Medical Center has 28 beautifully landscaped patios throughout the campus. Every patient room looks out upon a patio, and many of the spaces are themed to invite wildlife such as butterflies or hummingbirds.

It’s also a nice respite for employees.

World Alzheimer’s Day highlights the need for sufferers to be included

Today is World Alzheimer’s Day–a time to honor both people with dementia and their caregivers. Currently, 38 million people globally are affected by dementia. That number is expected to rise to 115 million by the year 2050.

Today is a good day to take a look at The World Alzheimer Report 2012: Overcoming the stigma of dementia. The report, released today, shares results from a worldwide survey conducted with people with dementia and carers on their personal experiences of stigma. The report provides information on stigma and dementia, highlights best practices in the field of dementia, and makes recommendations which could help reduce stigma.

Nicole Batsch, a former member of the TMC Senior Services team and one of the authors of the report, says,”I want you to take a moment to think about the people you know with dementia – whether in your family, or someone else’s family and think about how you can help them stay connected in everyday life perhaps with a smile, a conversation (being patient to wait for the answer) and activities you can enjoy together like visiting a park.”

According to Batsch, the message in the report is one of social exclusion by society. She insists that it is up to everyone to include people with dementia.

“Don’t be uncomfortable talking to a person with dementia or their carer. They need your help. Ask them how you can help,” she says.

The report and accompanying video can be found at:


TMC Supports Fitness and Healthy Living with the Live Well Team Fitness Challenge

TMC’s Live Well initiative supports employees in living a healthier lifestyle through various fitness activities, programs and incentives.  Last month, Live Well launched the Team Fitness Challenge, a 12-week team activity that encourages TMC employees of all fitness levels to form teams and hold workout sessions one to three times a week. The challenge started on Aug. 15.There are currently 15 teams and over 200 participants.

The team activities cover a wide variety consisting of everything from Zumba and yoga (which we offer here on campus,) to weight training, cycling and P90X.

Kathleen Ball, co-captain of “Team Success,” has provided their team with a calendar of events so that members can choose from activities that best fit their ability and time schedules. Knowing that time is often a factor that keeps people from exercising regularly and achieving their fitness goals, Kathleen says, “I try to keep the team very flexible because sometimes life get very busy and it becomes difficult to put yourself first.”

In addition to the wide variety of fitness activities available to the team, they are also educating themselves on nutrition and how to prepare and eat more healthy meals. They recently had a grocery store experience that included a consultation with a nutritionist. This month they are having a team potluck, during which there is a contest as to who can prepare the healthiest dish that is less than 300 calories per serving.

Using Facebook, Skype, YouTube and other media, allows the team to schedule meetings and exchange workouts and other fitness and health related information.  Team Success also has upcoming events including meetings with a chef, personal trainer, and acupuncturist. The group is on its way to making 1,000,000 steps by Nov.15, and many of the group members are losing weight and reaching their fitness goals.

“Overall this team involves participation and reaching goals in fitness, weight loss, stress management, support, and flexibility – nurturing an overall feeling of accomplishment as we go. I love team success!” says Kathleen.

Did You Know? Improve Cardiovascular Health with Aerobic Exercise

Did you know….that in order to reap the most health benefits from exercise, your intensity should generally be at a low to moderate level, focusing on aerobic exercise?

Aerobic exercise is a continuous activity that utilizes large muscle groups over an extended period of time. The primary energy sources to complete such a task are oxygen and fat stores, so you lose weight by burning the most calories.

Balance, however, is important. Overdoing it can increase your risk of injury and burnout.

If you’re new to regular exercise and physical activity, you may need to start at a low intensity and gradually ramp up.

Tucson Medical Center’s cardiac rehabilitation center has an exercise program available, with a doctor’s referral, to employees and the community at large for a nominal $25 a month. To qualify for the program, which is designed to help people head off coronary artery disease, participants must have a risk factor for heart disease, whether that be obesity, smoking, stress, diabetes, high cholesterol , high blood pressure or a family history of heart disease.

Participants may use a variety of equipment, from treadmills to recumbent bicycles and weight training machines. Time slots for workouts are during the clinic’s regular hours of operation.

While gyms are a fine option for many people, the cardiac rehabilitation center offers another level of expertise, said supervisor Mark Gaxiola.

Clinical staff, including registered nurses and physical therapists, are on hand to not only help prescribe an effective and safe exercise prescription, but to be there in case anyone becomes symptomatic. Because the facility is in a clinic, staff can check blood pressures and blood sugars and then decide whether further treatment is needed at an urgent care or the emergency room dictated on the symptoms at hand.

“Peace of mind is important,” Gaxiola said. “You won’t find the same commitment or experience and licensures that we carry in a regular gym environment.”

TMC Athletes: Peak Bagging with Amy

Peak BaggerHow did you get started?

In 2003, I joined a team of 15, including Dave Mahre and Michael Murphy, both well known mountaineers, to climb Mt. Rainer in Washington. At 14,410ft tall, it is the toughest endurance climb and most heavily glaciated peak in the lower 49 states.  Only 11 of my team made it to base camp, Camp Muir at 10,410ft.  After spending a night and day in “snow school”; only 3 of us were chosen to climb to the summit. At 1am, the three of us and two guides roped together started our ascent to the summit.

On the nose of Disappointment Cleaver, I unexpectedly plummeted 10ft head first into a narrow moat. I was unconscious for one minute until I heard my name being called and realized I was hanging upside down. I was able to twist myself out of the moat, but a guide had to rescue my ice axe and water bottle that had fallen an additional 10ft.  My head was bleeding but due to the adrenalin rush, I couldn’t sense how badly I was hurt and was determined to keep going. The guides hesitated but agreed to let me continue.

At about 11,500ft, on Disappointment Cleaver, I lost my footing on the ice a couple more times. Although I did not fall, the guide finally said to me, “I can’t take it anymore. We are going to ‘bag you.'” It is the worst thing to hear as a climber because it means you are being left behind. I was still determined and eager to keep going but had agreed before leaving Camp Muir that the guides made the decisions.

From 4am until 7am, when help arrived, I attempted to keep warm while my head pounded and bleed and my jaw ached.  During that time, I lay alone feeling the most depressed, disappointed and discouraged I had ever felt in my life as I wanted so badly to climb Mt. Rainer. Truly, I knew my ego was hurt more than my body.

After this disappointing event, I decided I’d never climb a peak again. However, after talking with Dave, Michael and several other mountaineers, I learned that climbing mountains gets in one’s blood and I may not want to climb now but just wait…

It took several years, but they were right. I aquired a strong desire to climb to the tallest point wherever I was. My current goal is to climb all the tallest peaks in the Southwest. And that’s exactly what I’ve been pursuing.

  • In 2006, I hiked Wheeler Peak, the tallest mountain completely within Nevada.  In 2007, I ascended Arizona’s tallest peak Mt. Humphrey at 12,633ft.
  • In 2008, I climbed Boundary Peak, the tallest peak in Nevada, at 13,141ft. In 2009, during the night, I conquered Mt. Whitney; at 14,505ft it isthe tallest peak in the lower 49 states. On that same trip we walked to the lowest spot in the lower 49 states Bad Water Basin, which sits at 282ft below sea level.
  • In 2010, I walked to the tallest peak in Texas Guadalupe Peak, at 8,751ft.
  • Later that summer, I concurred Wheeler Peak at 13,161ft and Mt Walter at13,141ft; the two tallest peaks in New Mexico in the same day.
  • In 2011, I strolled up to the highest point in Oklahoma, the summit of Black Mesa at 4973ft.
  • In Black Mesa State Park I trekked up Mt. Wrightson; at 9453ft, it is the tallest peak in Tucson.

This year I plan to climb Mt. Elbert, the tallest peak in Colorado and second tallest in the lower 49 states.

What lessons did you learn?

I realized that, yes, I can do it. I didn’t let one hiking failure prevent me from doing more. In fact, my goal is to climb as many high mountains as I can.

I also learned that not all high points are created equally. Oklahoma and Texas were easy walks whereas Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak I’ve bagged, was a lot easier than Mt. Rainer as no specialized mountaineering equipment was necessary.

You may not be able to predict exactly the challenge a hike may present and as a result, it’s important to maintain a baseline fitness level and hike year round.

Why peak bagging?

When you reach the top you can see 360 degrees.  It’s a way to earn “bragging rights”.  I’ve always enjoyed hiking and am very destination orientated. Peak bagging has given me a destination goals for my “bucket list”.  To me, it’s a healthy, challenging, and adventurous addiction.

Were there any obstacles that you have overcome?

I had to overcome the feeling that I was a failure when I didn’t complete Mt. Rainer. I also overcame quitting and realized that when I’m exhausted, I must keep going.

I must live near mountains to train to climb higher peaks, and there is a lot of heavy training involved. I add additional hikes carrying rocks and extra water bottles to build my strength and endurance, and I make my regular exercise routine more intense.

It was difficult to have to ask and get time off from work to travel to other states to bag the peaks. To add to the challenge of planning, some of the mountains require permits months in advance.

Lastly, was finding someone crazy enough to join me and keep up – my husband.

TMC Athletes: Marathon Runner Raises Money for Charity

Lisa Aloyse, outpatient coder

Marathon runner

A snapshot:

I have been with Team in Training, a fundraising program for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, for the past three years. I’m presently training for Goofy’s Challenge, which is a two-day event at Disney World in January. On the first day, runners complete a half-marathon, or 13.1 miles, and then the next day, will complete a full marathon, or 26.2 miles.

What served as your inspiration to start?

It was that big monumental birthday. I was creeping up on 40 and it had always been my goal to run at least one marathon before I turned 40. I didn’t know how to train for one, but I remembered that the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society had a program that assisted with endurance sports fundraising so I got in touch with them. Now, I’m 42 and I’ve done three full marathons and eight half marathons.

Twenty six miles is a long way. How do you keep going?

We all have an honored hero that we’re matched up with. When it gets tough, you think about your hero. In my case, she’s 7 and she’s very brave. Ella has had cancer twice in her life.  The first time, she had leukemia.  Over a year ago, she was diagnosed with cancer of her kidney.  She is now cancer free but is having terrible side effects from the chemotherapy.  When I have doubts about why I’m doing this, I think of her and know that she didn’t give up and that what I am going through is minor to all that she has had to endure.

Any tips on how to get started?

Just start. Even if you can only walk 20 minutes, just do that. If I can do it, a lot of people can do it. I’m not a fast runner and I’m not particularly athletic.Also, people should know that you don’t have to run the entire way of a marathon.  There are speed walkers and other people who do a run/walk combination throughout the marathon, like they run for 4 minutes and walk for 1 minute.  So if you have the determination, you can find a way.

How about tips on the fundraising?

That can be the hardest part for people, but it really helps build self-esteem and you find ways to do it. I’ve done silent auctions and raffles at parties, and last year, a friend got a band and a DJ for a Labor Day party and we charged $10 a head.  I’m trying to raise $100 per mile for the 39.3 mile Goofy Challenge. Anyone who wants to sponsor me can donate on my fundraising site:

Or if they just want to learn more about Team in Training, more information can be found at

TMC Athletes: Mountain Climbing A Physical and Mental Challenge

Frank Marini, Chief Information Officer


Frank has made it to the summits of three of the seven summits, the highest peaks on each continent – Mount Kilimanjaro in east Africa, Aconcagua in Argentina and Mount McKinley. Mount Elbrus in Russia is tentatively on the calendar for 2013.

What do you like best about it?

You travel to interesting places and you see interesting things, but what I most appreciate is that it’s both a physical and mental challenge.

What’s the hardest part?

There are all kinds of challenges. Part of it is just maintaining focus and maintaining positive momentum as you’re working your way up a mountain. You’re loaded down with a lot of gear and equipment and pushing up a steep hill and dealing with lots of adverse factors, including the altitude, the cold, wind, precipitation, challenging terrain. There’s avalanche risk and crevasse risks and fall risks, so you have to be constantly gauging the environment that you’re in.

What are people most intrigued by?

They want to know why I do it, but a question I get quite often is, “Did you summit?” It’s nice to land a summit, but mountains are fickle and you’re at the mercy of other factors you can’t control. I was on Mount Rainier last week and we didn’t summit because of weather and adverse conditions. We got to a point on the mountain that we determined the risks outweighed the benefits so we turned around. You can always go back. As they say, getting to the top is optional, but getting down is mandatory.

How do you train, given that you really can’t emulate the conditions in this environment?

It’s really not realistic to train for altitude, but what you can do is train for endurance and physical strength. I run, I lift weights. I’ll climb hills with packs. Last year for McKinley, I would hike for about 4 hours with 70 pounds on my back.

How do you keep your head in the right place when it gets hard?

Partly, you just have to get through it because you’re in a situation where there really is no option. I find myself literally in situations where I think something is going to break or give out at any moment. But I really believe human beings can do a lot more than they think they can. The mind is the biggest limiting factor. When my mind starts to work against me, I acknowledge it. I even call it my internal whining, but you learn to contain it and push through the physical strain and you get to the other side. And inevitably, after you get through the tough slogs, you’re in a beautiful wilderness environment, with good friends with you. You’ve accomplished something and functioned as a team, and those steps become milestones that you can really appreciate.

Kids have their shots for school; now what about you?

You’ve picked up the school supplies, bought the new clothes and made sure your children are up to date on their vaccinations.

Now, what about you? Many adults aren’t current on their vaccinations, thinking that the shots they received in childhood still offer immunity from disease. This lack of knowledge, while understandable, can be lethal – not only for you, but for those around you.

Neonatologist Dr. Moira Richards, medical director of TMC for Children, notes that “we’re in the midst of a whooping cough outbreak in children. The source of infection for these young children is usually adults whose immunity has waned from their earlier vaccines or disease.”

We are reminded of a death just this past spring of an infant in Maricopa County who was too young to be vaccinated, yet contracted and died from whooping cough, also know as pertussis. The saddest part of this story is that this death was preventable. We count on the herd effect to protect those who cannot be immunized. This herd immunity is in decline as parents decide not to vaccinate their children and as we forget how these diseases ravished our communities.

One physician, Dr. Sterling Simpson, pediatric pulmonary specialist with Children’s Pulmonary Specialists, doesn’t mince his words when it comes to the disease:  “Whooping cough can be a lethal disease, especially to infants.”

Our blog last spring at TMC For Children,  Take Action – Stopping Whooping Cough in its Tracks, speaks to the dangers of adults not keeping up on their immunizations. Those around infants are especially urged  to be current on TDaP, the vaccination for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.

And what about those other two bacterial diseases that the vaccine prevents: tetanus and diphtheria?

From the U.S. Centers for Disease Control:

Tetanus (lockjaw) is a serious disease that causes painful tightening of the muscles, usually all over the body. It can lead to “locking” of the jaw so the victim cannot open his mouth or swallow. Tetanus leads to death in about 1 in 10 cases.

The herd immunity doesn’t apply to tetanus. The organism can be found in the  soil, dust and environment of most places around the world. And a small cut or puncture can lead to infection. A person who contracts tetanus is in serious trouble.

Diphtheria, which causes a thick covering in the back of the throat, can lead to breathing problems, paralysis, heart failure and even death. Before widespread use of the diphtheria vaccine, it was a leading cause of death among children. Though well controlled in the United States, diphtheria is still endemic in many parts of the world. It is spread from person to person, and about 1 out of 10 adults will die from the disease, but for children, the rate is 1 out of 5.

With school back in session, is it time to get up to date on your shots? Speak with your healthcare provider to see what boosters you may be in need of to keep yourself and those around you safe.

TMC Athletes: The Juice is Always Worth the Squeeze

Bryan Richter, lead behavioral health tech


I have been practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for almost six years and have attained the rank of purple belt. I compete three or more times yearly and won the state championship in 2009, placed second in 2010 and third in 2011. I am currently training for October’s Masters and Seniors World Championships in Long Beach, Calif.

How did you get started?

I started training jiu jitsu after developing an interest in the discipline through Ultimate Fighting Championship and at the suggestion of my wife. Thank goodness that I did because it has sparked a passion and a purpose in me that I would’ve never had otherwise.

What is jiu jitsu?

It is a grappling art – with roots in Judo – a system of take downs and ground fighting based on position and leverage, as well as submission techniques that enable smaller opponents to defeat much bigger ones without any strikes. Jiu jitsu employs a variety of chokes, and attacks to the joints: wrists, elbows, shoulders, knees and ankles to gain submissions from your opponents via a “tap out.”

What are the challenges?

Conditioning is an extremely important factor as well. I am in the best shape of my life at 41. It takes a long time to earn belts; most people quit before ever receiving their first promotion. It took me longer to get my purple belt in jiu jitsu than to earn two previous black belts. The ranking system is as follows; white belt, blue belt, purple belt, brown belt and black belt. It generally takes over a decade to earn a black belt, often longer.

Training sessions are grueling, and unlike other disciplines, you have to fight every day at the end of class. This is how you “prove” your skill set and earn your promotions. Jiu jitsu is the only martial arts discipline that affords its practitioners the ability to win fights off of their backs as well as from dominant positions and is therefore an extremely effective self-defense system, particularly for women. It is also the only discipline that allows you, according to your skill set, to determine the amount of suffering you impose on your opponent.

Bryan Richter, left, after jumping guard sets up a take down of his opponent during a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu match.

Why do you do it?

My training has led me to a better understanding of myself and life in general. Jiu jitsu is not a hobby. It is a lifestyle, a way of being that encompasses diet, fitness and mindset. It shapes or reshapes your life and molds you into a better person. It transcends the mats and permeates everything in your life, always for the better.

It has changed my life immensely in almost every way. I do not think I would have been complete without it. It has simultaneously been the most difficult and most rewarding thing I have ever done, and it continues to inspire and amaze me with its vastness and potential.

There are infinite mysteries within what the Brazilians call arte suave, or the gentle way. I fear one lifetime isn’t enough to properly explore it. The grandmaster and developer of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Helio Gracie, when asked at age 90 what he had left to accomplish in life replied “I still need to perfect my Jiu Jitsu technique.” I think that says it all. Though I have often been injured (training with three broken toes right now) and have had to come back from three surgeries during my six years, the juice is always worth the squeeze. Everyone should do this.

TMC Athletes: Fitness is an investment in yourself

Brooklyn Sturgill, monitor technician and bodybuilder


I was trying to do a competition last year, but between going to school to be a nurse and working, I had to put it off. I’m trying not to get too far from my target, though, especially since someday I really want to go on the stage and see what that’s like.

How did this begin?

When I first met my husband eight years ago, I was doing a lot of cardio and he kept saying I should try weights. I didn’t want to at first, because I didn’t want to bulk up, which is what you hear a lot of women say. But you can see dramatic results if you just try it. Now it’s harder to get me to do cardio!

Bodybuilding is as much about diet as it is exercise. What are you meals like?

I try to eat five or six meals a day, even if they are small. When I am dieting for competition weight, my daily plan might include six egg whites with a quarter cup of steel oats for breakfast. Lunch might be six ounces of chicken with a cup of green veggies and a quarter cup of brown rice. Dinner will be up to six ounces of chicken or fish with a bag salad or a cup of green veggies. In between each meal, I usually have a shake with either a quarter cup of almonds or a shake with a quarter of an apple. I drink at least a gallon of water every day. You can go to the gym seven days a week but if you’re eating fast food all the time, you’re not going to see results.

What was the hardest part for you?

It was hard to eat more often. I was used to not eating breakfast. I laughed when I saw the diet because it seemed like so much food. Now, I can never imagine not eating breakfast. People ask what to change and the first thing I ask them is what they have for breakfast. If they say they don’t eat it, I tell them that’s their first mistake.

How do you maintain discipline?

On Sundays, I don’t train and our family treats ourselves to ice cream after dinner for dessert. I also know how I feel when I don’t eat healthy foods. Fitness is an investment in yourself. Start small and build up, and you’ll find you’ll begin to feel better and sleep better. Your clothes will fit better and you’ll have more energy to have fun with your kids.

What do you say to people who think they don’t have time to eat well or exercise?

The question they have to ask themselves is how bad do they want to be healthy? It has the potential to change their lives, but they have to want it for themselves.

Did You Know? Walking Can Meet Physical Activity Requirements

Did you know that the U.S. Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of walking or other physical activities on most days?

Regular exercise, including walking, decreases your risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety and obesity. It also improves overall health, helps osteoarthritis and diabetes, boosts HDL cholesterol (that’s the good kind) and can improve your mood.

TMC employees like to make reference to our miles of hallway, as the nation’s largest single-story hospital. Combined with the trail system that meanders around the perimeter of the campus, there are plenty of opportunities to stay strong and fit.

Dorothy Larson, a financial analyst, would have the Surgeon General’s stamp of approval since she has been walking the TMC campus for much of the 26 years she has worked for the hospital.

She had a scare about 20 years ago when doctors suspected she might have cancer in her leg. After surgery gave her a clean bill of health, the once-occasional walker became an avid fan.

Larson tries to walk every day, with her lunch periods providing some downtime from crunching numbers.

“I feel more energized when I come back, Larson said.

When it’s hot, she can walk the halls, which also gives her an opportunity to interact with folks in the hospital, since she works in an outlying building. And in pleasant weather, she can walk the trail system that largely encircles the hospital grounds and enjoy nature.

Larson said walking has helped her stave off weight gain, but said remaining active has also helped her maintain strength and agility.

She also likes the variety. She can walk briskly, to get her heart rate up. She can walk at a lower speed for relaxation. And she can walk with colleagues and reconnect with their lives.

“It’s fun and it’s enjoyable and you don’t need any equipment – just a good pair of walking shoes,” she said.

TMC Athletes: Swimmer Says It’s Never Too Late to Start

Kurt Luedtke, case manager



I am currently finishing up the Tucson Aquathon Series and training for the La Jolla Rough Water Swim in September, as well as for several late season triathlons.

How did you get started?

I got involved in swimming when I was taking my daughter to swim practice when she was about 10. I got tired of sitting there watching her and trying to coach her, so I decided to learn how hard it was. I started swimming when she was at practice. I was in my early 40s at the time and now I’m 53, so I guess the message is: It’s never too late.

What is the Aquathon?

Every Wednesday night, you swim 800 yards, which is 32 lengths of the pool, and then run a 5k, which is 3.1 miles. I keep trying to encourage other TMC employees to do it, but it seems some people think they’ll sink. The best cure for that is to take a quick lesson and then get in the pool and test yourself.  I guarantee you won’t sink.

Why the Rough Water Swim?

It’s one mile in the open ocean. My daughter and I have done it the past five years and now it’s a family tradition. I really love the freedom of being out there.

What inspires you to persist when it gets hard?

My dad was a Marine and he always used to say that pain is weakness leaving your body. I think about what our patients go through and remind myself my pain is voluntary and it will stop at the end of the triathlon. You just learn to deal with it.

TMC Athletes:Soccer Reinforces Importance of Group Effort

Stephanie Chhorn, revenue cycle representative


I have played soccer for 26 years and still play to this day. I’m a halfback. You don’t have to be very fast in that position, but you have to be able to run for a long period of time. Our weekends often consist of playing on Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday. I don’t think I’ll ever give it up.

How did you get started:

I started when I was 6. Other kids at school were playing so I wanted to play. It wasn’t until I was 10 or 11 that I really wanted to be good at it and decided I wanted to be on the All-Star team. I played into high school and then stopped playing until I was about 21, when I was hired on at TMC and a woman who worked here said there was a need for girls for a coed team.

What life lessons has it taught you?

Soccer is a team sport, so it teaches you to share. It teaches you that sometimes, in order to succeed, it takes a group effort.  One person doesn’t score all the goals or save all the goals.

Why soccer?

Partly it’s because it’s become our social circle now, so while it’s good exercise, I don’t think of it as exercise. But I do appreciate the health benefits. You have to train hard to stay fit, since the people you play with are fast and you have to be able to stay at that speed. Plus, I don’t like diets.

Were there any obstacles you overcame?

In high school, I didn’t play my junior and senior year because the coach said you had to be the fastest and the strongest or you couldn’t play. My strength is that I have good ball control skills and I can analyze the field and anticipate what will happen next. So I guess I learned over time not to be inhibited by your weaknesses. We all have weaknesses and we all have strengths and that’s an important life lesson as well.

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