Celebrating Gratitude, Philanthropy and a Unified Call to Serve

Heroes Called To Serve

March through May represented National Doctors’ Day, Administrative Professionals Day, National Volunteer Week, National Nurses Week and National Hospital Week celebrations — a time to honor and celebrate so many talented and compassionate people. This year’s celebrations were overshadowed by a higher priority: a pandemic of proportions never seen in our lifetime. Our health care professionals provide the best care year-round, but we watched their tremendous dedication, calmness and leadership. Their personal sacrifice in the midst of a pandemic was awe-inspiring.

Stories like that of Dennis Campbell prove this. Campbell was prepared to die of COVID-19, leaving behind a wife and three children. While he fought for his life, doctors at Saint Joseph Hospital offered the 48-year-old an alternative treatment. Within days of receiving hydroxychloroquine, he was at home recovering with his family. In an interview with the Richmond Register, Campbell credited the medicine for saving his life and expressed gratitude for Saint Joseph Hospital.

Providing Light in Darkness

National Volunteer Week celebrations were postponed in April. Our faithful volunteers serve by our side every day, and although it was a tremendous void not to have them in the hospitals, they continued their ministry off-site making pocket prayer quilts and homemade masks, and keeping us in their deepest prayers. From July 1, 2019, to March 10, 2020, we saw 468 volunteers donate 35,854 hours to our hospitals in Bardstown, Berea, Lexington, London, Mount Sterling and Nicholasville. Those volunteers also contributed $95,333 in gifts to the Foundations.

Kathy Mattone, market director of Spiritual Care, said isolation was one of the “most distressing” obstacles facing hospital patients during COVID-19. Mattone and her staff, in partnership with volunteers, quickly found creative ways to provide support and care for those patients who would normally have loved ones visiting.

“We had to find whole new ways to do spiritual care,” Mattone noted. “And a whole new area of parking lot ministry opened up. It just makes you realize that you can’t stop God, and you can’t keep things from happening even though it’s a horrible and impossible situation. So many really incredible stories of faithfulness, perseverance and hope have come out of this.”

The community also came together with the launch of our Emergency Response Fund to meet the immediate needs facing our staff and patients. The needs were tremendous, and the outpouring of support — in the form of everything from generous financial donations to flower deliveries to student-created posters — answered the call.

Learn more about the Emergency Response Fund to provide philanthropic financial resources to our hospitals.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Summer 2020 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

The Importance of Routine Vaccinations during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Importance of Routine Vaccinations during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Across the country, many parents have put routine childhood vaccinations on hold because of statewide stay-at-home orders due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Childhood vaccination rates in the US dropped this spring when compared to the same time frame in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The decline in vaccination started in March 2020 when a national emergency was declared and many states implemented stay-at-home orders. Many medical offices converted visits to telehealth at that time and so patients did not go into the office for vaccinations.

The significant decline in vaccination puts unimmunized children and some adults at higher risk of acquiring vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and whooping cough. When the percentage of people who have received a vaccine decreases below a certain threshold, the community loses a vital protection called herd immunity. Herd immunity is the phenomenon that if enough people are immune to a disease (by vaccination or by natural immunity after having the disease), it is very difficult for the disease to spread through the population. In some way the people who are immunized are providing protection to the people who are not immunized.

Populations most at risk for vaccine preventable disease are young children, the elderly, and those with impaired immune systems. While newborns have immunity to some diseases because of the antibodies they receive from their mothers in the womb and through breastfeeding, this immunity does not last more than one year.

If vaccination rates fall below a certain level, the community is at serious risk of outbreak. Most notable in the past several years has been measles. Just last year, there were more than 1,200 measles cases in 31 states, even though the virus had been declared eliminated in the U.S. in 2000, and most of those cases were among people who were not vaccinated against measles.

Looking ahead to the fall flu season, it will be absolutely imperative to maximize influenza vaccination rates in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the 2018-2019 flu season there were an estimated 4.4 million cases of the flu, 58,000 hospitalizations from the flu and 3500 deaths. If there is a peak of COVID-19 in the fall or winter on top of the already higher rates of illness and hospitalization from the flu, our healthcare system could become overwhelmed with catastrophic consequences.

As uncertain as these times may seem, you can help protect yourself and your community. Be sure to get a flu shot as soon as they become available this fall (usually in September) and if your child has missed routine vaccinations, contact your physician to catch them up as soon as possible. Health care providers are taking extra steps to protect patients, staff and the community from the novel coronavirus. This includes limiting the number of people in offices to allow proper social distancing, requiring everyone in the office to wear a mask and increased disinfecting practices.

To learn more about age-appropriate vaccinations or to schedule an appointment with a physician, visit www.chisaintjosephhealth.org/provider-directory or call 859.313.2255 to make an appointment.

Dr. Sarah O'Leary

Sarah O’Leary, MD

Dr. O’Leary is with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Primary Care.

Facing Cancer Together

Stephanie Lester

Stephanie Lester, a 42-year-old Spanish teacher at Lafayette High School in Lexington, never expected a cancer diagnosis so early in life. Along with teaching, Lester led group fitness classes that kept her active and healthy. It wasn’t until she discovered a lump in her right breast during a self-exam that she decided it was time to call her physician.

“My annual gynecology appointment wasn’t for another six months,” Lester said. “If I hadn’t been doing regular self-exams, I could have been in a much worse place.”

The tumor was cancerous, and Lester was referred to CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center.

Collaborating for a Cure

The extent of Lester’s cancer surprised everyone involved. She needed an integrated team of skilled specialists to stop the quickly spreading disease.

Lester first underwent a lumpectomy with John Strifling, MD, FACS, chairman of the department of surgery at Saint Joseph East, who discovered Lester’s cancer had affected her lymph nodes.

“The lumpectomy wasn’t sufficient to treat the cancer,” Dr. Strifling said. “She required a lymph node biopsy, and then a bilateral mastectomy to prevent further progression.”

Along with surgery, Lester received chemotherapy, endocrine therapy, radiation and, eventually, breast reconstruction. Throughout her treatment, Lester felt reassured by the team at CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center, including Jessica Croley, MD, medical oncologist, medical director of oncology for the cancer care program, and Brian Williams, MD, radiation oncologist at CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center.

“She tolerated the treatment so well,” Dr. Croley said. “Her positive spirit, her focus on health and a commitment to staying physically active were all important factors.”

Dr. Williams agreed that Lester’s resilience carried her through, as well as the commitment of the staff who came together for her care.

“Stephanie’s positive outcome highlights the wonderful multidisciplinary treatment for breast cancer here at CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center,” Dr. Williams said.

Giving Hope to Others

Now in remission, Lester inspires others with her story. She stresses the importance of reaching out to loved ones during a diagnosis.

“Don’t be embarrassed or afraid of bringing others down,” Lester said. “Have conversations about what you’re going through. It makes the disease seem less scary.”

She also stresses the importance of screenings, which led several of her students’ mothers to receive an early cancer diagnosis.

“A self-exam each month could save your life,” Dr. Strifling said. “Begin mammogram screening at age 40, or earlier if you are at high risk for developing cancer.”

Through our affiliation with Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center, a nationally ranked cancer program, our patients now have greater access to second opinions and breakthrough treatments right here in Lexington.

“The entire staff at CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care Center was compassionate and attentive to my needs. The relationships I formed there were incredible.”

Time for your annual well-woman exam? Find a provider who offers gynecological cancer screenings at CHISaintJosephHealth.org/lexington-gynecologic-care.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

The Road Home

Dr. Crystal Martin

Crystal Martin, MD, took a winding Path to become a family medicine physician. now that she’s caring for patients in her hometown of Lexington, she’s right where she wants to be.

Crystal Martin, MD, says her family claims her interest in science and medicine stems from childhood, but she’s not so sure. She jokes that her pursuit of a career in medicine began with her affinity for comfy attire.

“I went to Bethune-Cookman University intending to major in accounting, but when I learned we had to dress up on Business Wednesdays, I decided to go into science so I could wear scrubs,” Dr. Martin said. “I changed my major to biology.”

Dr. Martin entered medical school at the University of Louisville but left after a year to work as a medical researcher at The University of Memphis. During her time in the workforce, her desire to become a physician didn’t fade, so she returned to medical school. She completed her coursework at the American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine and her clinical rotations in the United Kingdom before performing a residency in family medicine at the University of Kentucky.

“It’s gratifying for me when people who are at their most vulnerable seek my advice as a medical professional and want to know what I could do to help them,” Dr. Martin said. “That’s why I chose family medicine.”


Dr. Martin practiced family medicine in Cookeville, Tennessee, for several years after residency before she and her husband decided to return to Lexington. It was more than a hometown homecoming. When Dr. Martin joined CHI Saint Joseph Medical GroupPrimary Care at 1401 Harrodsburg Road, Suite B-160 in Lexington, on Jan. 1, 2020, she returned to a health system she knew well — she’d worked as a medical assistant at Saint Joseph East before beginning her residency.

“My faith is important to me, and I like that CHI Saint Joseph Health has a faith-based foundation,” Dr. Martin said. “Believing in something greater than me helps motivate me each day.”

Helping people in the community in which she grew up is a dream come true for Dr. Martin.

“I’ve encountered people who knew me when I was younger and are proud of me,” she said. “It’s nice to be home where people know me and recognize what I went through to become a physician.”

“I’m here to be a health advocate for every patient who comes to see me.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

Celebrating Our People – Meet Sherrie

Sherrie Bonarigo, APRN

Meet Sherrie Bonarigo, an APRN at CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care in Lexington, whose drive for providing compassionate care led her to New York City to help during the peak of the global pandemic there.

When Care Becomes Personal

For Sherrie Bonarigo, cancer care is personal. After losing her mother to terminal pancreatic cancer, Sherrie says she has a deeper understanding of what her patients go through on a daily basis.

In fact, the compassion Sherrie feels for her patients, as she shares in their victories and their losses, drives her to be her best while serving as an advanced practice registered nurse for CHI Saint Joseph Health – Cancer Care.

“Seeing how my mom had cancer, [the care] that my family had is [the type of care] I want for every family,” Sherrie says. “I felt we were really well taken care of by the medical staff when my mom was sick, and I felt included in the decision-making process. Now that I’ve had a professional and personal experience [in oncology], it makes me a better-rounded person as I help my patients and be vested more in their care.”

A Calling to Serve in New York

Her call to help patients extended to her recent journey to New York City during the peak of the global pandemic there. With support from her work team and her family, Sherrie worked 21 consecutive 12-hour night shifts to treat and care for COVID-19 positive patients in a telemetry unit at Bellevue Hospital.

“It was a pretty amazing experience,” Sherrie says. “I met a lot of really cool providers from all over the country who were there for the same reason – they felt the call. About 70 % of the patients on my floor were COVID-19 positive, so I was worrying about my safety and worrying about protecting other patients.”

After returning home to quarantine, Sherrie is back to caring for her patients in cancer care. While some days don’t have a happy ending, Sherrie says the support from her team and family uplift her.

“Having a good team here is helpful,” Sherrie says. “We all want to see each other succeed, and we all want to see our patients succeed. We put forth our best efforts to do the best for our patients. And I’m lucky to have a good support team at home, especially when I bring [work] home, they understand.”

Colon Cancer Doesn’t Always Show Noticeable Symptoms; Screening Colonoscopies Help Catch Polyps Early

Colon Cancer Doesn't Always Show Noticeable Symptoms

When the governor issued an executive order in March to delay elective medical procedures, many people had to put their screening colonoscopies on hold. Now, as health care has reopened, it’s important to put your regular screenings back on the calendar.

Fears of exposure to the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 may be making some people hesitant to reschedule that important screening. But these screenings save lives. Colon cancer ranks third in the number of new cancer cases and second in the number of cancer deaths in Kentucky. 

Across the country, colon cancer is the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths that affects both men and women. This type of cancer occurs when abnormal growths, called polyps, form in the colon or rectum. These polyps are often precancerous and can turn cancerous over time. Through colorectal cancer screenings, doctors can find and remove the growths before they turn cancerous.

Colon cancer screenings, which are recommended starting at age 45 or 50, are the most effective way to reduce your risk of colon cancer. A recent study by the American Cancer Society found an alarming growth in the number of colon cancer cases in adults under age 50 in the United States. In fact, we’re seeing more and more colon cancer cases with patients in their 20s and 30s.

Colon cancer screenings are especially important because the disease doesn’t always cause noticeable symptoms. When they do occur, symptoms may include blood in the stool after bowel movements, stomach aches or pains that don’t go away, unexplained weight loss and fatigue. If you’re experiencing any combination of these symptoms, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician and ask about colon cancer screenings.

People with a family history of colon cancer have a higher risk of developing colon cancer, as do individuals who don’t exercise regularly, have diets low in fruits and vegetables, and frequently use alcohol or tobacco. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor and ask if they recommend a screening.

The most common screening tests administered to find precancerous polyps include stool screenings, flexible sigmoidoscopy and colonoscopy. These tests are quick and easy, and cause minimal to no pain. A stool screening allows doctors to detect any traces of blood or cancerous cells in the stool. Flexible sigmoidoscopies and colonoscopies both use a thin, flexible, lighted tube to check for polyps or cancer.

We have taken steps to help ensure the safest possible environment, including pre-procedure testing for COVID-19. Make an appointment with your doctor to schedule or reschedule your screening colonoscopy.

Dr. Matthew Miller

Matthew S. Miller, MD

Dr. Miller is with CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group – Gastroenterology.

Delivering Miracles

Dr. Hannah Hall

Hannah Hall, MD, FACOG, Medical Director of Women’s Services, chairperson of surgery and physician champion at Flaget Memorial Hospital, has felt called to serve others through the practice of medicine since childhood.

“I wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember, but I was not always sure what I wanted my specialty to be,” said Hannah Hall, MD, FACOG, of her lifelong dream to become a physician. “However, when I was 12, my little sister, Hallie, was born early at just 28 weeks, and I got to scrub in to the neonatal intensive care unit and see all of the care provided to her. That experience launched me on the path to becoming an OB-GYN.”

As a medical student at the University of Louisville, Dr. Hall had the opportunity to deliver and care for patients like her sister, which further nurtured her desire to focus on the health of babies.

“To contribute to saving their lives was an amazing experience,” Dr. Hall said. “And delivering a baby put a big smile on my face.”

Dr. Hall completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at St. Louis University School of Medicine, and met her husband, Seth, while living in the Gateway to the West. The pair later relocated to Dr. Hall’s native Kentucky, where they now raise their two daughters on a farm in Bardstown.

“I have loved Bardstown since we moved here,” Dr. Hall said. “I feel blessed to be able to provide care to the women in the community where I live and raise my family.”

An Array of Service

At Flaget Memorial Hospital, Dr. Hall wears many hats. Specifically, she serves as surgery chairperson, director of women’s services, and mentor and trainer for residents. Additionally, as physician champion, she ensures that the information technology and informatics needs of physicians in Bardstown are being met, helps with the transition to computerized order entry and assists with preparing for the transition to a full-scope electronic health record system. However, patient care remains her No. 1 passion.

“I love delivering babies, and I think every baby is a miracle,” Dr. Hall said. “I also love providing gynecology care to my patients. Being able to transform someone’s life by improving or resolving their gynecologic problems is incredibly rewarding.”

When she is not busy working, Dr. Hall enjoys spending time with family, taking care of the farm, hiking, horseback riding and swimming. She also likes to take to the dance floor for ballroom and swing dancing.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

Back In Harmony

Mike Archer

A 47-year-old singer and guitarist based in Danville, Mike Archer keeps a busy schedule. He travels the country playing covers of hit songs at weddings, parties, festivals and other events. In January 2019, he started to notice something strange while performing.

“I’d hit a certain high note and feel pain in my lower abdomen,” Archer said. “A small bump developed below my bellybutton on the right side, and it got bigger as the year wore on.”

Archer ignored the symptoms for months, but they eventually became impossible to disregard. Research led him to conclude he had a hernia and would likely need surgery to repair it, so his manager scheduled an appointment with Daryl Nisbett, MD, general surgeon at CHI Saint Joseph Medical GroupSurgery in Lexington.

An Impressive Performance

Archer saw Dr. Nisbett on December 26, 2019. Dr. Nisbett quickly diagnosed the problem — an inguinal hernia, which occurs when part of an organ, fat or tissue pushes through a hole in the abdominal wall. As Archer suspected, he needed surgery, but he worried how the operation and recovery would affect his livelihood. Fortunately, Dr. Nisbett had a plan.

“Dr. Nisbett told me he could do the surgery just four days later, on Dec. 30,” Archer said. “That was very important to me. I needed to have the surgery and heal so I could get back to performing.”

Dr. Daryl Nisbett, MD and Mike Archer

Dr. Nisbett performed the surgery at Saint Joseph Hospital using the da Vinci Xi robotic surgery system.

“Working through three small incisions, I took down the lining of the abdominal wall, pulled the contents out of the hernia, placed mesh over the hole and secured it, and put the abdominal wall back in place,” Dr. Nisbett said. “Using the da Vinci allowed Archer to return to work faster.”

Archer didn’t miss any gigs, and when he got back on stage, he noticed an important difference.

“I used to cringe going into a high note because I knew the pain was coming,” he said. “Not anymore. The pain is gone, and that’s made my life a whole lot better.”

“I’d never had surgery before, so I was very nervous, but Dr. Nisbett’s bedside manner was wonderful. He explained what would happen and made me feel so comfortable, like I was talking with a buddy.”

If you need a general surgeon, visit CHISaintJosephHealth.org and select “Find a Provider”.

A version of this article originally appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

Living with Multiple Sclerosis

Living with Multiple Sclerosis

Harrodsburg resident Abigail Elvers does not let Multiple Sclerosis (MS) define her.

Abigail Elvers recalls the first time MS made its mysterious presence known. It was February 2003, and although Elvers felt like she needed to urinate, she was unable to go. Seeking answers, she went to a nearby hospital in Danville, Kentucky, where a urologist recommended the use of a catheter.

The next weekend, Elvers experienced unusual challenges again. Unable to feel her left leg, she woke her husband up in the middle of the night to drive her to the emergency room. Once she arrived, the medical team administered tests, including MRI and a spinal tap, which revealed that Elvers had MS.

“My first thought was that I was going to be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life,” Elvers said. “I had never known anybody with the disease.”

A Provider of Hope

Greg Anderson, MD, CPE, who is a neurologist and serves as medical director of quality and provider engagement and chairman of the board of directors of CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group, was working in Danville when Elvers presented with her symptoms and was the neurologist who diagnosed her with MS.

“Dr. Anderson made me not so afraid of the unknown,” Elvers said. “He told me, ‘We are going to get through this.’ I just felt safe.”

Dr. Anderson’s treatment plan for Elvers began with an injectable medication to treat her MS symptom relapses, which Elvers gave herself. Then, Elvers was given the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial that would eliminate injections from her life.

“Abigail wanted an aggressive therapy and the convenience of a once-a-year infusion,” Dr. Anderson said. “The clinical trial was a good choice for her. There are a variety of options now that are effective at reducing relapses and slowing disease progression, which is why I encourage patients to work with a neurologist they trust.”

Today, Elvers feels that her disease is under control and is grateful to receive care at CHI Saint Joseph Medical Group.

“Everyone is so kind and professional and makes me feel safe and comfortable,” Elvers said. “I am no longer afraid of the future.”

Strength in Partnerships

When it comes to multiple sclerosis, having multifaceted support structures in place is key. That is why CHI Saint Joseph Health has a variety of partnerships with specialists in our community, including occupational, physical and speech therapists to help address functional challenges and psychiatry professionals to help manage issues related to cognition and emotional wellness.

Click here to learn more about multiple sclerosis care at CHI Saint Joseph Health or call 859.296.1922.

Visit to the ER was a Lifesaver for Mount Sterling Man

Saint Joseph Mount Sterling

Mount Sterling native Omar Prewitt was hiking with his son at Pilot Knob when he was struck by chest pain that wouldn’t go away.

“Coming down, I started to get a little bit of discomfort in my chest,” he said. “I stopped off at a gas station to get a Tum because I thought that would knock it out. It didn’t take me long to realize the pain was consistent and wasn’t going away. I thought, possibly, I was having a heart attack.”

He knew he had to get to seek immediate care. Prewitt arrived at Saint Joseph Mount Sterling’s emergency room with signs of a heart attack. Staff immediately took him in, and within 10-15 minutes, the pain he felt in his chest began to subside.

“I could tell by the concern from everybody – I knew several of the people taking care of me – there was something wrong,” Prewitt said. “By then, they loaded me into a helicopter and took me to [Saint Joseph Hospital in] Lexington.”

Eighteen minutes later, Prewitt arrived at the Lexington hospital and was in a room with a full staff for a cardiac catheterization.

“Within half an hour, they knocked the clot out,” Prewitt said. “I felt like, at that time, I could walk on out and right back to work. They kept me [at Saint Joseph Hospital] for a few days to monitor me and run tests. I’ve been so fortunate that we had a good hospital to care for me.”

Within that network of care, Prewitt said he was most impressed with the seamless transition from the emergency care at Saint Joseph Mount Sterling to his procedure at Saint Joseph Hospital.

“The way [the staff] reacted when I went in, it was all very quick,” Prewitt said about his visit at the Saint Joseph Mount Sterling emergency room. “There was no hesitation; they were making decisions quickly. I knew a few people who were taking care of me. I could see the concern in their eyes. I knew I was having a heart attack, but I felt calm when I was there, during the helicopter ride and when I got to [Saint Joseph Hospital].”

Even during the novel coronavirus pandemic, Prewitt said he wasn’t worried about going to the emergency room because he knew he needed care.

“I’ve always heard if you’re having a heart attack to get to a hospital as quick as you can,” Prewitt said. “[At the time,] I had a grandchild on the way, and I needed to go to the ER and take care of it. I knew it could be a matter of seconds.”