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Dear Sheryl 

A tribute letter from Dr. Michael Koren

In June,  the JCCR family was saddened by the death of Sheryl L. Grant, RN. She was an accomplished and devoted study coordinator who will be remembered for her compassion and lively personality. The following is a tribute from Dr. Michael Koren.....

Dear Sheryl-

I wanted to take a moment to reflect on your many years as part of the JCCR Family and express to you my deepest appreciation for your wonderful and caring efforts that have touched the lives of so many patients. Having you on our team has always made me proud.

As an early addition to the group that eventually “morphed” into the modern JCCR, you played a key role in the development of our “new age” research company. This crazy “new age” company was lucky enough to stumble upon a core group of smart and compassionate people like you. Collectively, we became an important participant in the burgeoning field of new medical product development. Would anyone have imagined in 1995 that a group of local doctors, nurses and support staff could conglomerate into a physician and staff owned community-based entity that could compete with the likes of Hahhhhvard in the clinical research field? J

You have expertly led and contributed to the conduct of so many studies over the years. Two pivotal studies that come to my mind are “SADHEART” and “ALLIANCE.” Although we rarely get the opportunity to look back and take inventory of our contributions in the vortex of our day to day machinations, the importance of your contributions in both of these studies deserves acknowledgement. In SADHEART, you used your background as a psychiatry nurse and applied it to help a group of very sick patients who suffered from the “double whammy” of heart disease and depression.  The study not only improved the lives of local patients, it also transformed a paradigm of care. The study results showed that acutely ill cardiac patients could receive a treatment with an SSRI safely, an intervention that both improved their short term state of well-being and their long-term prognosis.   

In ALLIANCE, your efforts were preternatural.  Truth be known, ALLIANCE was a “harebrained” scheme to conduct a $100,000,000 pivotal statins outcomes study for pennies on the dollar. The study sponsors, Parke-Davis and then Pfizer, hoped that accessing the data bases of managed care clinics and the VA would save costs by providing the study team with the information traditionally collected by research coordinators. Unfortunately, this “great idea” largely failed… but the study didn’t … because it had Sheryl Grant.

Almost singlehandedly, you rescued several sites in the study and became the lynchpin that held the project together through its conclusion. Today, many people know about ALLIANCE. The study provided the medical world with critical information, generated within a community based, real world setting, that when treating LDL cholesterol, lower is better.  We published the ALLIANCE results about 10 years ago. Since then, folks who I’ve met at different meetings around the world have congratulated me on this innovative study many times over. And each time that I’ve acknowledged their recognition of the study, I thought to myself it would never have happened without you. J J   

In recent years, you have done marvelous work with patients suffering from severe psoriasis and congestive heart failure. These patient populations can create challenges, but you’ve helped them leave our office feeling good while completing the arduous task of collecting many arcane data points. Without doubt, the JCCR dermatology program has benefitted from your expertise. With the advent of biological agents for psoriasis and other conditions, you have again participated in helping to disseminate a medical breakthrough. You’ve improved the lives of countless patients and have helped our company establish another area of acknowledged expertise. 

Your efforts over the years have certainly made a great difference based on the quantitative symbols of success that we like to measure. For example, you won the company’s Louis Pasteur Award four times and received the highest coordinator honor, the Madame Curie Award, in 2013. But though these impressive accolades memorialize your achievements and contributions to the company, the non-quantifiable events are even more special.

Each day you came to work with a positive spirit, with a great sense of humor, and with a caring soul. All of us at JCCR feel ineffably blessed to have had the privilege to spend part of our lives with you and to work together towards a noble goal. You’ve also shown great patience with me. It is no secret that I’m often time pressed. I truly appreciate your understanding and the many ways in which you’ve helped me through my chaotic day to day routine. I will never forget that. Thank you, Sheryl. 

We will miss you. With great love and the Lord’s blessing …

 

Michael

Posted by Amy Autry Bush Wednesday, July 29, 2015 12:46:00 PM Categories: Musings

A Mother Shares a Meaningful Story About a Genetic Cholesterol Condition 

Donna didn’t think about heart disease and its potential impact on her young family until 1992 when she was rushed to the hospital at the age of 45 with 4 heart blockages. Even though her father had died of a heart attack at that same age, there just wasn’t information available at the time that would have enabled her to prevent the devastation that having genetic heart disease can bring.

Familial hypercholesterolemia is the name of an inherited condition that affects Donna and many of her family members. It causes high levels of LDL (low density lipoprotein) cholesterol levels beginning at birth, and heart attacks at an early age. A parent who carries an altered gene that causes the condition has a 1 in 2 (50 percent) chance to pass on that altered gene to each of his or her children.

Having lost her eldest son to a massive heart attack at the age of 42 and knowing that this same genetic disease affects one of her surviving two children is a source of “hurt and worry that never goes away”.

So today, Donna is thanking God that her son who carries this gene is eligible to participate in a clinical research program with a drug that has already proven to remarkably reduce LDL cholesterol. This new class of medication, called PCSK-9 inhibitors, has recently been favorably evaluated by the FDA and one of these new drugs, alirocumab, is on schedule for full FDA approval within the month.

Speaking of her son, Donna states, “I have such peace of mind knowing that he can be helped in controlling his heart disease and learn more about his condition with hands-on help.” She knows how important research participation is; she has been involved in clinical trials personally for over twenty years thanks to the dedicated efforts of her cardiologist, Michael Koren, MD. “Research programs promote awareness of disease, enable you to be watched and monitored and allow access to new therapies all while being cared for by highly skilled staff and physicians.” 

“My son and I are both relieved that he is in this program knowing that now he will receive the care and attention that is necessary to battle this genetic disease.”

Posted by Amy Autry Bush Thursday, July 16, 2015 3:10:00 PM Categories: Musings
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