Happy 10th Anniversary In Their Shoes!

In Their Shoes Cancer WalkFor the past 10 years, the Athens Regional Foundation has been excited to be a part of the In Their Shoes Walk. It is amazing to see how one event can rally so many people around one great cause – supporting cancer patients and their families.

The first 13.1 mile walk had 65 walkers and raised nearly $80,000. The 2014 event had 126 walkers and raised $192,000.

The 2015 Walk is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 24. What can you do to help?

  • Sign up to walk – new walker categories this year including a Cancer Survivor Rate, a Student Rate and Relay Team
  • Support a walker – please make a donation in their name to support their fund raising efforts
  • Volunteer – for the day of the walk

If you would like more information about how to get involved, visit the In Their Shoes website or contact the Athens Regional Foundation at or 706-475-3301.


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September is National Rehabilitation Month

Learn about the powers and possibilities of rehabilitation

The term Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation includes physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Athens Regional Rehabilitation

Athens Regional Health System employs 26 physical therapists (PT), six PT assistants, 12 speech therapists, 10 Occupational Therapists and 12 support staff including director, assistant director, rehab aides and office staff. This collective includes full and part-time, relief and weekend only staff to cover seven days a week, 365 days a year.

Therapists in the hospital care for more than 7,000 new patients a year. Our experienced team of inpatient therapists are committed to helping patients and families accomplish their rehab goals during their hospital stay.  Our wound care center has two  PT’s who are certified wound specialists. One has additional certification in hyperbarics. They are critical in helping to care for the 400 visits that occur per week in the wound care center.

The Outpatient Rehabilitation Services Department for Adults and Pediatrics sees more than 2,500 new patients per year. Outpatient Services is on the first floor of the Medical Services Building and provides a number of unique outpatient services not available elsewhere in the community.

Home Health Care Service therapists cover more than 1,194 square miles and average 4-5 home visits each day.

Our Rehab teams in each area of care work very hard to provide an exceptional patient experience and help make the Athens Regional Health System special.

Thanks to the team for your commitment to our patients and each other!

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Posted by on September 25, 2015 in Jobs, News, Service


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The Next Fifteen Years | Celebrating 15 Years of Hope and Healing

by Joel Siebentritt, LCSW

Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support What more needs to be said but a humble “thank you” to each of you who make our work possible. Through your generosity, the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support stands like a beacon of light, guiding patients through the complicated maze of treatment and the cloudy days of survivorship.

Athens Regional took a risk fifteen years ago by investing in the Center and support programs that were not likely to add to the bottom line. Looking back, there is no doubt it was the right thing to do. Following the lead of a visionary director, a skilled staff and a medical community willing to support the effort, ARHS took a proactive stance to better the lives of people living with cancer in our community. The Center’s beneficial impact on the thousands of individuals who have come here has been enormous and far beyond anyone’s expectations.

There is more to be done. The field of cancer care is like a swiftly flowing river. New discoveries and rapid change are defining characteristics of our work. The next fifteen years will reveal cures to some cancers, more effective and less caustic treatments for others, and a mini-revolution in how we understand the power of the mind and body working in concert to bring healing. The Loran Smith Center will be there. Our mission may shift but it will not change. The shift will likely be in the direction of prevention and early intervention. We know too much about how to prevent many cancers through weight control, exercise and good nutrition. It is up to each of us to minimize our personal risk of cancer by actively pursuing a healthy lifestyle.

Early intervention is the next best thing. We can continue to improve long-term survival rates while taking a bite out of the cost of treatment if we make sure we get screened at reasonable intervals and catch cancer before it spreads.

When we diligently attend to the two areas mentioned above, the incidence of life-threatening cancers will begin to decline. However, cancer will not be eliminated. There will always be a tendency for human cells to mutate in ways that bring disease of various sorts. But, by improving our overall health through daily practices of exercise, good nutrition, and stress management, each of us can look forward to a higher quality of life for a much longer period of time.

The Loran Smith Center is on a firm foundation and we are well positioned to respond to the changes the field will bring. What’s more, the Center will remain on the cutting edge of cancer care, even initiating changes that will influence programs across the nation. We have always been unique when compared to other cancer support programs locally, regionally and nationally. And, opportunities have already greeted us to share our knowledge through research, develop model programs of supportive care and coordinate efforts to make sure patients and families are always the focus. Walk with us through the next fifteen years and help us continue to fulfill our mission to this wonderful and generous community.

Be Well, Joel


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A Student of and for Life | Celebrating 15 Years of Hope and Healing

by Lauren Richards, LCSW

Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support at Athens Regional, Athens, GA

It’s amazing to think that fifteen years ago I was sitting under a tent in the parking lot of the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support, witnessing the ribbon cutting of a building that would become not only a safe place for the personal transitions of numerous cancer survivors, but also provide a space for the professional development of many social workers and health educators.

Gosh, I was so young, and so green (!), having no idea the journey I was beginning. The opportunities presented to myself, and other budding social workers, have been invaluable. Patients and caregivers teach us how to cope with some of life’s biggest challenges, and how to be resilient and graceful, no matter the outcome. Other healthcare providers teach us the language of medicine, encourage us to remain eager for knowledge, and inspire hope with new treatments and healing modalities.

I’m incredibly grateful to the patients and families with whom I’ve worked at the Loran Smith Center. You’ve taught me more about health, life, the power of relationships, and love, than I could ever have imagined. I am also thankful for the social work colleagues that I’ve equally taught and learned from; being a supervisor to so many, I realize both how much and how little I know. Our former students are now touching lives as far west as Idaho, and at institutions as prestigious as Johns Hopkins. Thank you for keeping me on my toes, and a student of (and for) life. I cannot wait to see what the next 15 years bring for the Center, and to those who walk through its doors. But that’s for another day. Today, celebrate with me all that the Center has meant to all of us, and our community.

Pax Vobiscum ~ Lauren


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Shrink Kidney Stone Risk

If you or a family member has ever experienced kidney stones, you know they can hurt!

Kidney stones are deposits, most often made of calcium, that form in the kidneys and can be very painful to pass. A few simple suggestions from the American Academy of Family Physicians can help reduce your risk of developing kidney stones.

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat a fiber-rich diet that’s low in in salt
  • Exercise regularly
  • Check your medications, some medicines increase your risk of developing stones

Males between the ages of 20 and 70 have the highest risk of developing kidney stones. They are often hereditary, so your family history should give you a good idea if you’re at risk or not.

Preventing Kidney Stones (image)

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Posted by on August 17, 2015 in Wellness


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Looking Back, Facing Forward | Celebrating 15 Years of Hope and Healing

by Susan Nemetz, BSN, RN, OCN

15 years! From the beginning the mission of the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support was providing “hope and courage through support and information.” Evidence based research was our yardstick as programs were developed to help the whole person and their caregivers navigate their journeys with cancer.

A lot has changed in cancer treatments and recovery in the past 15 years. The development of targeted therapies helps protect normal cells while stopping cancer cells. Research for lung cancer screening confirms that low dose CT screening in high risk individuals is effective. As more people survive or live longer (years) with their cancer, research helps to determine ways to manage the short and long term effects of cancer treatment.

The LSCCS staff continues to stay on the cutting edge of cancer care. Examples of this include:

  • We had one yoga class, now we have 3 – one for women who have had breast cancer, one for men, and one for anyone with any type of cancer. Other movement programs also have been added.
  • We added a class about managing Hormone Blocking Therapy for Breast Cancer to our other classes (Cancer 101, Managing Fatigue, Nutrition Issues, and Pain).
  • Our Chest Center now provides lung cancer screenings for those who meet criteria.

It has been an exciting 15 years and I look forward to seeing many more advances both in cancer care and LSCCS programs. Research continues advancing cancer care at a fast pace. The LSCCS staff faces forward, stays up to date and provides programs that have a purpose. That purpose is providing “Hope and Courage through Support and Information.”

Blessings, Susan



The Beginning | Celebrating 15 Years of Hope and Healing

Mona Taylorby Mona Taylor, LCSW, former Loran Smith Center Manager

I was hired in January of 1998 to develop and manage what was to become the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support. After 10 years as an oncology social worker at Athens Regional Medical Center, I had witnessed the struggles patients and family members faced in adapting to the changes in their lives after being diagnosed with cancer.

Diagnostics and treatments were excellent in our community but support services for cancer focused on limited financial aid and educational programs. At that time, patients spent many days in the hospital getting treatments, often month after month, and had access to hospital chaplains, social workers and other supportive staff. Gradually, cancer care became more and more outpatient based (which is a good thing) but much of the de facto patient and family support fell by the wayside.

During this time, the world of complementary medicine was emerging as a helpful adjunct to ease cancer patients’ anxiety and pain. I attended a couple of national conferences where NCI Comprehensive Cancer Centers presented cutting edge research regarding the positive impact of complementary therapies such as yoga, deep relaxation, healing touch, music therapy and the arts. An evidence-based practice in complementary medicine for cancer care was being validated. This was an adjunct to traditional medical treatments that supported patients in managing their thoughts and feelings, and sustained them through difficult treatment periods. The whole “survivorship” movement had begun, with breast cancer survivors at the forefront, demanding that more attention be given to the quality of life throughout the full spectrum of cancer from first diagnosis to long term survivorship or end of life care.

The community’s financial response to providing these services was enormous. The medical community’s response was mixed, to say the least. Complementary medicine was still in the realm of “new age” to many physicians and nurses. The research outcomes and positive local patient experiences were yet to be proven and practitioners were understandably very protective of their vulnerable patients. Thanks to a core of physician and nurse champions and a supportive administration, in 2000 we began to implement programs that offered a small range of complementary therapies, and healing arts. The results were more than anyone could have dreamed. We witnessed not only the physical healing, as people went through their medical treatments, but the healing of confused and overwhelmed hearts and souls. We realized we were offering medicine for the soul. In 1998 we were ahead of the curve in offering this level of cancer care in a community setting, but isn’t that where leaders in healthcare should be?

With gratitude, Mona




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