Appalachian Regional Healthcare System

Community Supports Grover Robbins Memorial Golf Tournament

The 42nd Annual Grover C. Robbins, Jr. Memorial Golf Tournament was held at the Elk River Club on Monday, September 22nd, 2014. The fund-raising event raised over $25,000 and benefited The Cancer Resource Alliance (CRA) of The Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center. The CRA provides music, art and massage therapy to patients in cancer treatment; sponsors membership to participate in the Broyhill Wellness Center Thrive Oncology Wellness Program; provides patient educational materials and assists patients in the coordination of obtaining access to various medical, physical and social service resources. Sandi Cassidy, Director of Oncology Services, stated, “We are so grateful to all the supporters of this tournament who made it such a great success. The money raised will provide supportive programs and services for patients and loved ones touched by cancer.”

First Place net team sponsored by Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation.

First place net team sponsored by Blue Ridge Electric Membership Corporation.

Nineteen four-person teams participated in the Scramble event. Blue Ridge Electric sponsored the team ending with the lowest net score of 49. The members of this team included Alan Merck, Jeff Benfield, Robert Kent, and Steve Woodring. The first place team for lowest gross score, sponsored by IH Services, was Howard Hutchinson, Greg Meyers, Chad Hendley, and Todd Hendley.

First Place gross team sponsored by IH Services.

First place gross team sponsored by IH Services.

Grover Robbins and his brothers, Harry and Spencer, developed a number of prominent projects in the High Country, including Tweetsie Railroad, the Hound Ears Club, Beech Mountain, and Linville Land Harbor.

Grover Robbins died of cancer in 1970 at the age of 50. After his death, his brothers founded the Elk River Club in Banner Elk. Harry Robbins died in 2006. Spencer Robbins remains an active member of the High Country community.

The Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation (ARHF) would like to thank the event chair, Spencer Robbins, for his continued support, and the event committee consisting of Sandi Cassidy, Mary Hall, Sandy Kadyk and Evelyn Shelton.

ARHF would also like to thank the Tournament Sponsor Wells Fargo, Signature Sponsors First Citizen’s Bank and Paragon Revenue Group, Picnic Sponsor Registry Partner, and tee/green sponsors Bandana’s, Blue Ridge Electric Membership Cooperation, Greenleaf Services Inc., Horizon CSA, KSQ/Peterson, Mountaineer Golf Center, Pencare Interior Designs, Peter and Joni Petschauer, T. Bragg McLeod, The Sterling Company, Varrow, and WJ Office.

ARHF would also like to thank Elk River Club, Toni Littleton, Oliver Peacock and the entire Elk River Club staff. Lastly, ARHF wishes to thank the players who participated in the tournament.

For further information about the tournament, contact Jessica Powell at 828-262-4391. For more information about the Seby B. Jones Regional Cancer Center, visit

Appalachian Regional Healthcare Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization, supports Appalachian Regional Healthcare System which includes Blowing Rock Rehabilitation & Davant Extended Care Center, Charles A. Cannon, Jr. Memorial Hospital, Watauga Medical Center and Appalachian Regional Medical Associates. To learn more, visit

Healthcare System Celebrates Emergency Nurses Week

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System is celebrating Emergency Nurses Week™.  There are approximately 180,000 emergency nurses in the United States. We are fortunate to have 48 of those talented nurses working in the emergency rooms at Cannon Memorial Hospital and Watauga Medical Center.
ED Nurse
This year, the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) is celebrating Emergency Nurses Week October 5-11. Emergency Nurses Day® is Wednesday, October 8. The theme, “Life Saving Hands,” recognizes that emergency nurses play an integral role in emergency departments, providing critical care when it’s most needed.

“The ARHS values of integrity, compassion and excellence are displayed every day as our emergency department nurses care for patients with serious physical and psychological conditions,” stated Kim Bianca, RN, Sr. VP Clinical Services for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System. “Our nurses excel by performing at the highest level of talent and skill as they treat patients in the fast-paced environment of the emergency department.”

Since 1989, the Emergency Nurses Association recognizes the second Wednesday in October as Emergency Nurses Day, a day honoring emergency nurses for their commitment to patient care. Starting in 2001, ENA expanded the celebration to devote an entire week to honoring emergency nurses, because one day is simply not enough to recognize all contributions made by emergency nurses.

For more information about emergency services at Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (Cannon Memorial Hospital or Watauga Medical Center), visit

For more information about the Emergency Nurses Association, please visit

Inpatient Physicians Group at Cannon Memorial Hospital

(As seen in Carolina Mountain Life – Autumn 2014)

If the phrase “I need to clone myself,” has ever entered your thoughts, then the demand for your time, skills, and services is probably high. And if you’ve ever had a long wait time at a doctor’s office, then you’ve seen just how busy they are. In particular, the workload for family practitioners in Avery County has continuously increased over the years. Now a solution has been found to assure that patients get the best possible care in a timely manner: an Inpatient Physicians Group will begin serving Cannon Memorial Hospital in November.

Inpatient physician groups attend to the needs of every non-surgical patient in a hospital. The demand for inpatient physicians intensified across the nation during the early 1990s, and as a result, these specialized services have become increasingly commonplace within hospital systems. Recent changes in governmental health regulations have added to the expansion of inpatient physician services. The inpatient physician team, which has worked at Watauga Medical Center for more than ten years, will now serve Cannon Memorial Hospital as well.

“Our Inpatient Physician Group helps to manage patients here in the hospital. We provide medical care, create a follow-up plan and communicate with their own family practitioner when necessary. Patients admitted to the hospital are able to see a physician right away, and one of us is always present to respond in an emergency,” says Dr. Thomas Bahleda, MD, Director of the Inpatient Physician Group for Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.

Highly trained to serve patients in every facet of hospital care, inpatient physicians typically have a background in Internal or Family Medicine. They are prepared to handle the needs of any nonsurgical patient, whether for intensive care services, cardiology, urology, oncology, or other specialized care. The physicians look after about 60 to 70 percent of a hospital’s patients at any given time.Doctor

“The intensity of services involved in this type of care is challenging, and there is a lot of variety. We never know what will happen in the next five minutes. To me, it’s the most exciting job anyone could have,” continues Dr. Bahleda. At present, there are seven doctors on the inpatient physician team at Watauga Medical Center, and the group will hire more to handle the new assignment at Cannon Memorial Hospital.

Patients benefit by having a doctor readily available, and if an emergency arises, a physician is ready to handle the situation. With travel times eliminated, physicians have more opportunities to talk with patients and their families. As one physician in the group completes admissions and treatments, detailed notes are compiled on each patient so that the next doctor coming on shift is fully informed. The physicians also frequently meet to review case notes.

Dr. Bahleda says, “We often collaborate as a group, and there are many advantages of more doctors. If there is a patient with lots of complexity, such as we’re treating a lady with x, y, and z symptoms, we can go over her needs with each other, consult a specialist in the hospital, speak with her family doctor, and all work as a team to provide the best possible care.”

Being admitted to the hospital is an experience most of us never forget. When faced with a stay in the hospital, understandably patients feel scared and anxious. The presence of the inpatient physicians should help patients feel more at ease. Patients in the hospital can take comfort in knowing that a doctor or nurse is always nearby to attend to their medical needs and to provide the upmost in care. When it’s time to return home, the team helps transition patients back into the community in a coordinated, thoughtful, and safe manner.

Patients at Cannon Memorial Hospital will have the benefit of having the Inpatient Physician Group provide excellent care while they are in the hospital, while continuing to benefit from the care, knowledge, and familiarity provided by their own family practitioner upon discharge.

For more information or to learn more about the Inpatient Physician Group at Cannon Memorial Hospital, visit

Surgery Brings NFL Brothers Closer Together

When it comes to relationships, few are stronger than those established by blood and rooted in football. For California natives, Kaelin, 25, and older brother Kevin Burnett, 31, making it into the NFL was a goal they both worked toward since childhood. So, ending up on the same NFL team, the Oakland Raiders, in 2013 was a dream come true.

The dream was threatened, however, after Kaelin, a 6-foot-4, 240-pound linebacker tore his meniscus during a 2014 preseason practice. Disappointed and eager to return to the field he asked his older brother, a 10-year NFL veteran, for advice.

“Kevin recommended that I ask Orthopaedic Surgeon, Dr. Evan Ekman to take a look at my knee. I learned that Dr. Ekman had preformed several surgeries on my brother over the last decade which has allowed him to continue to play on Sundays,” said Kaelin. “So, with my agent’s blessing, I decided to travel across the country (Oakland, Calif. to Boone, N.C.) to have this highly recommended surgeon take care of my injury.”

Kevin Burnett, Kaelin Burnett and Dr. Evan Ekman

Kevin Burnett, Kaelin Burnett and Dr. Evan Ekman

Dr. Evan Ekman is the Medical Director of Appalachian Regional Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center (AppOrtho), in Boone, N.C. The practice is an extension of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS), which proudly serves patients in Western, N.C. and Eastern, Tenn. AppOrtho is also the official sports medicine provider for Appalachian State University Athletics.

After flying into Charlotte, with Kevin at his side for support, the brothers enjoyed their scenic medically inspired commute to the Blue Ridge Mountains of N.C. Upon reviewing Kaelin’s MRI, Dr. Ekman explained that he could repair the torn meniscus by performing a Knee Arthroscopy with a Partial Lateral Meniscectomy. This minimally invasive procedure would allow Kaelin to return with full functionality to the gridiron this season. The surgery was scheduled two days later and conducted in one of Watauga Medical Center’s newly renovated and state-of-the-art operating rooms.

Dr. Ekman began the procedure by placing an arthroscope inside one of two tiny pinhole incisions made in the knee. The camera projected high definition footage from inside the knee onto three large screen monitors suspended around the operating table. With clear visibility, he was able to use the other pinhole to insert a trimmer and correct the torn meniscus without complication.

At the conclusion of the twenty minute outpatient procedure, Kaelin was pleasantly surprised to discover that he was able to maneuver, pain free, within the hour. He is scheduled to participate in a short-term rehabilitation program and be NFL ready in a matter of days.

“As always, my big brother laid the blueprint and I’m glad I followed his recommendation,” said Kaelin with a grin.

“Surgery, like every other big decision in a person’s life, is only agreed to when the patient feels a great deal of trust has been established.” said Dr. Ekman. “It is always rewarding to be able to provide care, based on that trust, for multiple members of one family.”

For more information about the Appalachian Regional Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Center, call 828-386-BONE or visit

New & Improved: Watauga Medical Center renovates Operating Rooms

Healthcare is a rapidly changing industry. In order to adapt to these changes while continuing to provide superior patient care, Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) has taken every step possible to stay ahead of the curve.

Newly renovated and state-of-the-art Operating Room 6 at Watauga Medical Center.

Operating Room 6 at Watauga Medical Center.

One of those steps was taken earlier this year in the Surgical Department of Watauga Medical Center (WMC) when two operating rooms (OR 5 and OR 6) were fully renovated with the latest in state-of-the-art technology.

“From a healthcare perspective, not only is it important for ARHS to recruit highly trained physicians and staff, but it is equally important to provide a top-of-the-line medical facility for the High Country community,” said Joan Messner, Director of Surgical Services at ARHS.

In order to enhance surgical cases in all services lines, including orthopaedics, spine, general, vascular, gynecological, ENT, urology, plastics and minimally invasive procedures operating room 5 and 6 have been expanded to 650 square-feet, equipped with new shadow eliminating LED lights and upgraded with three new video monitors. One of the new monitors, 55-inches in length, is mounted on the wall while the other two monitors, 27-inches in length, each hang suspended on either side of the operating table. Surgeons may project their real time, laparoscopic camera images on each of the monitors for optimal visualization during surgery. This new functionality also allows images from various pieces of equipment such as microscopes, ultrasound machines and x-ray machines to be displayed on any monitors at any time.

In addition, both operating rooms were also outfitted with a new nurse workstation. The workstation allows nurses to have remote, touch screen control over all operating room devices and equipment during surgery.

“Now that the renovations are complete our next step is to educate the community,” said Messner. “WMC’s Surgical Department, which is home to six operating rooms, two endoscopy suites and a procedure room, is in most cases, equally capable of providing patients with the same cutting edge surgical technology as larger metropolitan hospitals.”

These renovations, like so many others taking place around the healthcare system, are viewed as one of the many steps ARHS is taking to continually enhance the quality of care available in the High Country.

To learn more about Surgical Services at Watauga Medical Center, visit For more information about Appalachian Regional Healthcare System visit