Each fall, clinical teams across Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation submit funding proposals to the East Bay philanthropy teams’ Grants and Disbursements Program. Physicians, nurses, program managers, researchers and executives pitched their ideas for improving patient care, including new technologies, programs and upgrades, to philanthropy board members. The panel then selected the most critical initiatives to support with community gifts and employee donations.
Since its launch in 2020, the East Bay Grants and Disbursements Program has directed more than $500,000 in donor gifts to clinical teams across Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation. In the program’s second year, the philanthropy team increased grants by more than 20%, releasing $310,000 to fund capital and program requests.
- Ceribell EEG Monitoring Equipment
- Gender Diversity Training
- Sutter Scholarship for Success
- Welch Allyn Spot Vision Screeners
- Hologic Omni 4K Video System
- Verathon BladderScan Prime Plus
- Verathon GlideScope Core with BFlex
- NeurOptics Pupillometer
- De Mayo Knee Positioners
Ceribell EEG Monitoring Equipment
Nonconvulsive seizures — electrical discharges in the brain that have few if any outward physical manifestations — are not uncommon in critically ill patients. “There is no jerking, stiffness, tongue biting or other outward signs we usually associate with clinical seizure,” says Randall Starkey, M.D., SEBMF neurologist and EEG medical director at ABSMC. Nonconvulsive seizures occur in a range of patients, he adds, including those who have had a heart attack or have head trauma, an infection such as encephalitis or meningitis, or a history of epilepsy.
“The real issue has been that we’re not aware nonconvulsive seizures are happening, which typically leads to a poor prognosis,” Dr. Starkey says. “If electrical seizure activity persists for an hour or more, it can result in some permanent brain damage.”
The only possible way to detect a nonconvulsive seizure is to catch it while recording the electrical activity of the brain. That’s precisely what routine electroencephalogram (EEG) does; however, this type of EEG, which has been available for years, is rarely used for continuous monitoring. Consequently, it has little value in detecting otherwise unrecognized seizures.
“We could use routine EEGs for more prolonged recordings, but the machines are typically not available for long periods of time,” Dr. Starkey explains. “They are bulky, cumbersome and expensive, so intensive care units are usually unable to keep several on hand. Also, obtaining a routine EEG recording requires specific training, and there is a significant shortage of qualified technicians. So, due to these limitations, we usually cannot keep an EEG on a single patient for much more than an hour.” Monitoring for nonconvulsive seizures, he notes, may take much longer.
Another frequent dilemma is when ICU patients have an alteration of consciousness or awareness and caregivers don’t know why. “Some may be in nonconvulsive seizure status, meaning their seizures are continuous or quite frequent,” Dr. Starkey says. “We’ve also found that in patients who don’t wake up for reasons we can’t identify, up to 25% may be having intermittent seizures with no clinical manifestations. There was previously no real way of checking.”
Fortunately, thanks to the East Bay’s inaugural Grants and Disbursements Program, that has changed at ABSMC. Awarded a $10,000 grant, the ICU care teams at both campuses now possess revolutionary EEG technology that provides seamless, continual monitoring of patients’ electrical brain activity. Ceribell Rapid Response EEG consists of a pocketsize recorder and a simple headband that can be administered by any caregiver in under five minutes — no formal EEG training required. ABSMC brought in two units in early November 2020 and another two this spring, providing two per ICU.
“Ceribell can be run for a much longer period of time, partly because, unlike traditional EEG machines, it doesn’t need to be taken away for use on another patient,” Dr. Starkey says. “Also, it can send brain-wave data in real time via the internet to an interpreter anywhere to be read immediately. Although most routine EEGs can also be read from a distance, you usually have to download the data to a server first, so there is a delay, preventing realtime interpretation.”
Another benefit of Ceribell is that, for patients who’ve had clinical seizures treated with medication, doctors can now monitor for lingering electrical seizure activity and provide further treatment if necessary. “For years, we would treat patients so that, clinically, their seizure went away,” Dr. Starkey explains. “But unless the electrical seizure activity also goes away, the medication is of much less benefit.”
He says it’s difficult to pinpoint just how many lives Ceribell has positively affected in the ABSMC ICUs so far. However, studies have shown that having access to continuous EEG can improve patient outcomes by 30% to 50%.
“Philanthropy has been a godsend,” Dr. Starkey says. “Before, you had to be an academic institution or other epilepsy monitoring unit to offer continuous EEG, or have multiple big machines and a large staff of EEG technologists paid to take calls. Now we don’t need any of that, and we get virtually the same vital information about patients’ brain activity.”
Sutter Scholarship for Success
New Scholarship Fosters Diversity in Healthcare
Research shows that a diverse healthcare workforce benefits physicians, care staff and especially patients. Along with improving communication among all parties, diversity enhances providers’ ability to understand and identify with patients of various backgrounds, helping them to deliver more culturally competent care.
“Unfortunately, the makeup of healthcare providers in the Bay Area does not always match the populations we serve,” says Ricci Sylla, M.D., an OB-GYN at Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation’s Castro Valley Care Center.
At the social unrest that occurred in 2020, Dr. Sylla and several other SEBMF physicians convened an antiracism working group, which included a subcommittee dedicated to enhancing diversity among healthcare workers. The subcommittee’s goal is to find new ways to support underrepresented groups in medicine and expand the pipeline of future healthcare professionals.
As part of this initiative, the group wanted to launch a scholarship program to help students from underrepresented populations pursue this field, so they turned to philanthropy for help. The physicians submitted their proposal to the East
Bay Grants and Disbursements Program, which awarded them funds to start the Sutter Scholarship for Success.
“We are very excited to have the opportunity to create this scholarship and be supported by community donors,” Dr. Sylla says. In its first year, the program awarded $2,500 scholarships to four students currently attending a two- or four-year college program with plans for further education in healthcare fields.
Meet the inaugural Sutter Scholarship for Success winners:
Edinna Obaseki is double majoring in biology and women’s gender studies and sexuality at Sonoma State University. Her desire for a career in medicine is driven by the inequitable delivery of healthcare to minorities and other marginalized communities. Edinna is especially motivated to help Black mothers, who suffer disproportionately through pregnancy and childbirth, with higher mortality rates for both mothers and infants.
Throughout high school and into college, Edinna has volunteered with People’s Programs Oakland, serving as a health navigator at free clinics and distributing food and clothing to the city’s underserved. She is a member of the Black Student Union at Sonoma State and has taken service trips through the Deva SoulJourneys program and the Haiti Health Initiative, part of the Global Health Initiative.
Born and raised in East Oakland, Gisel Preciado graduated from the Health Academy at Oakland Technical High School and is currently pursuing an associate degree in nursing at Merritt Community College. Knowing that her parents, who immigrated to the U.S. as teenagers, worked hard to provide opportunities for her, Gisel is eager to make a difference for her family and community. Ultimately, she hopes to work as a labor and delivery nurse or a midwife to empower women through childbirth.
Gisel has dreamed of a career in nursing since middle school, when she helped her Spanish speaking grandmother manage her type 2 diabetes, accompanying her to emergency department visits and doctor appointments to help translate. She realized her grandmother’s health improved once they found a doctor who understood Spanish and could attend to her needs.
Throughout high school, Gisel pursued summer internships to gain exposure to careers in healthcare. She served as an administrative and indigent health intern and a health coach for the Alameda County Health Pathway Partnership and was an investigator intern for the Alameda Health System’s Health Excellence and Academic Leadership Program.
“I’m so excited and relieved to receive this scholarship, and I’m grateful that the committee saw something in me that was worth investing in,” Gisel says. “Having family members with hereditary and chronic illnesses, I’ve seen how the Hispanic community lacks representation in healthcare, and I hope to help to change that.”
Throughout her 10 years working as a medical assistant at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, and now at Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation in Brentwood, Yessy Vega’s colleagues have encouraged her to never give up, stay disciplined and continue her education to become a physician. After receiving her associate of arts degree from Los Medanos Community College, she transferred to the University of California, Davis this fall to major in biology.
“As a teen mom, I’ve had to work hard and navigate many obstacles to succeed, including graduating high school on time and becoming one of the first in my family to pursue an advanced degree,” Yessy says. “I’m so grateful to Sutter for helping me.”
Born and raised in the Antioch area, Yessy now lives in Newman, waking up before dawn to take her son to school and then commuting to work in Brentwood. During the height of the pandemic, she fielded emails to the healthcare team about COVID-19, giving her a front-row seat to the challenges patients were facing.
Having lost her own father to the disease, she turned her grief into action, encouraging people to get vaccinated and tested. These recent experiences further fueled her desire to apply to U.C. Davis and ultimately pursue medical school.
An alumnus of Skyline High School in Oakland, Destiny Williams is in her final year of nursing school at Tuskegee University in Alabama, where she is part of the nursing organization Chi Eta Phi. Destiny learned about the scholarship while interning with the Mentoring in Medicine program at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center, which exposed her to the wide array of career possibilities in healthcare.
“Seeing so many paths to build a career in healthcare gave me confidence and excitement to pursue nursing,” Destiny says. “As a first-generation college student, it is a thrill and a relief to receive this scholarship. I look forward to returning to Oakland to serve my community after graduation.”
Destiny currently works as a home health aide in a nonmedical position centered around companionship, cognitive supervision and housekeeping for elderly patients and those with mental and physical disabilities. She has also served as a student nurse administering COVID-19 vaccinations and educating community members about healthy life skills.
Upon graduation, Destiny hopes to work as a nurse for a few years before pursuing an advanced dual degree as a women’s health nurse practitioner and a certified nurse midwife. Passionate about providing quality healthcare to underserved communities, she is concentrating on midwifery because of the profound health equity gaps in maternal care and services for Black women. She looks forward to working within the community to provide patients a familiar face, someone they can relate to.
Welch Allyn Spot Vision Screeners
Pediatric Vision Screening Helps Kids Thrive
Amblyopia, commonly known as lazy eye, impacts up to 4% of the population and is the most common cause of monocular vision loss in children and adults. To have an adequate visual experience, an individual must be able to see symmetrically, which amblyopia makes nearly impossible.
Although the condition typically develops in infancy or early childhood, it often goes undetected for years, missing the crucial window before age 5, when amblyopia is most treatable. However, if lazy eye and other refractive issues are caught and treated before a child reaches 30 months, they have a much greater likelihood of achieving 20/20 vision.
That’s because while the visual system is still developing, the brain can be trained to rewire itself to see through both eyes, and vision can be restored through interventions such as patching or surgery. Recognizing that pediatric cases of lazy eye are too often missed, Sutter East Bay Medical Foundation pediatrician Petra Landman, M.D., and Angela Vilche, director of family, internal and pediatric medicine at SEBMF, turned to philanthropy for help. Through the Grants and Disbursements Program, they requested just over $7,700 to purchase Welch Allyn Spot Vision Screeners for five SEBMF primary care clinics across the East Bay.
Unlike vision-screening charts, which can’t be administered until pediatric patients are old enough to cooperate, usually around age 4, instrument-based screening can be done for toddlers and even infants. Testing takes only two minutes and detects more than 94% of vision errors, as well as astigmatism and other eye problems. Because of the screeners’ accuracy, efficiency and ability to test very young children, they lead to much better outcomes for patients diagnosed with amblyopia.
Seeing the immense value of this equipment upgrade, the ABSMC Philanthropy Board approved Dr. Landman and Vilche’s request. As a result, SEBMF pediatric offices in Albany, Brentwood, Castro Valley, Orinda and Richmond have acquired the vision screeners to help children across the East Bay see clearly and reach their full potential.
Hologic Omni 4K Video System
This technology enables in-office hysteroscopy and polypectomy, keeping patients out of operating rooms and making procedures safer and more accessible.
Verathon BladderScan Prime Plus
This high-tech ultrasound provides a virtual 3D image of the bladder to determine the need for catheterization and reduce unnecessary catheter placements.
Verathon GlideScope Core with BFlex
This flexible airway visualization system aids difficult intubation cases in the emergency department.
This instrument tracks and trends pupillary reactivity in a consistent, objective and quantifiable way for emergency department patients with neurovascular injuries.
De Mayo Knee Positioners
These 30-inch leg holders better accommodate the higher volume of patients undergoing robotic-assisted orthopedic procedures.