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Skyland Trail

behavioral medicine

Beth Finnerty

Skyland Trail

A recent guest of mine on the Top Docs Radio show told me I needed to get to know about Skyland Trail, an Atlanta area inpatient/outpatient behavioral medicine center, well-known for its outcomes such that patients travel from across the US and abroad to receive care there.

I had the opportunity to sit down with President of Skyland Trail, Beth Finnerty, to learn about how their care professionals both rely upon evidence, as well as contributing to science, to guide their care.  I was pleased to receive an invitation to tour the beautiful facilities, which includes a newly-opened 30 bed residence and care center for young adults.

The Skyland trail website describes the facility this way, “Few things can be as overwhelming and frustrating as mental illness – or finding effective treatments. At Skyland Trail, we get it. Which is why we take a different approach to helping adults with mental health issues.

Located in Atlanta, Skyland Trail is a nationally recognized nonprofit mental health treatment organization serving adults ages 18 and older. 

We’re not a hospital or lock-down institution, we’re one of the nation’s top mental health treatment centers – a voluntary treatment community of clients finding new ways to overcome the limitations of their illness and reclaim their lives.

But success is built on a two-way commitment – we’re committed to our patients and we ask our patients to commit to our approach. Each client has to put in the time and effort needed to make real and sustainable progress.

As a long-term residential treatment facility, we’re serious about healing and we’re passionate about the community we serve.

As one of the best mental health treatment centers in the country, we’re focused on people with complex mental health issues, helping them understand that they are more than their diagnoses dictate – helping them grow, recover and reclaim their lives.

We treat adults ages 18 and older with a primary psychiatric diagnosis – a mood or thought disorder like bipolar illness, major depression, or schizophrenia, or an anxiety disorder. Most clients have co-occurring diagnoses including alcohol or substance abuse, borderline personality disorder, or secondary anxiety disorders. 

Because of our onsite primary care clinic, we can support those who have medical health needs in addition to psychiatric needs. 

While our clients are largely from Georgia and the southeast we have many clients from across the U.S. and a few from around the world.

We treat each individual, individually, tailoring an approach that includes a broad mix of evidence-based one-on-one and group therapies that help prepare our clients for reintegration into their lives.

Our holistic treatment model integrates strategies to help clients improve mental health, physical wellness, and relationships with family and friends.

Pharmacogenetic Testing

Pharmacogenetic Testing

This week I spoke with founder and CEO of Genelex, Howard Coleman to learn about pharmacogenetic testing, and the role it plays in patient outcomes and overall healthcare spend.  Pharmacogenetic testing involves obtaining a sample of DNA from the patient via a cheek swab or blood test and examining the genes associated with metabolizing medications.

With this information, a prescribing physician can know in advance that, “This patient is a poor metabolizer for Plavix, meaning they won’t activate the drug.  I need to order a different anticoagulant,” for example.  While there are numerous factors that come into play to determine how an individual’s body responds to a medication, or combination of medications, this data can help prescribing providers avoid readily-identifiable adverse drug events.

Adverse drug events occur in over 100,000 persons per year, with an average cost of ~$20,000+ per event per patient, with many resulting in serious illness, injury, or death.  The data obtained by this one-time test is valid for the life of the patient, allowing physicians and other providers the ability to incorporate the data into medication prescription decisions for the rest of their lives.

Recent changes in the law have placed requirements on advancing technologies that will enable more personalized delivery of healthcare to patients, going so far as to include outcomes in calculating rates of reimbursement.  Additionally, greater emphasis is being placed on “wellness” and prevention of illness/injury and moving away from a model aimed at “treating illness”, which created more of a “volume-based” focus.

Howard shared how Genelex evolved from a genetics lab providing forensic DNA testing to a precision medicine technology company in the early 2000’s.  Since then the company has been working to contribute to the body of evidence that continues to support the fact that certain groups of individuals are genetically inclined to respond in a fashion that is counter to what is desired and thus, at risk for a drug-related event.

Special Guest:

Howard Coleman, Founder/CEO, Genelex

pharmacogenetic testing



NeuroLex Diagnostics


NeuroLex Diagnostics

This week I sat down with founder of NeuroLex Diagnostics, Jim Schwoebel.  A biomedical technology expert, particularly in neurosciences, Jim has been instrumental in fostering growth and innovation, co-founding incubators, NeuroLaunch, CyberLaunch, and more recently, his more focused work on machine learning.

Jim shared how he was inspired by numerous studies showing language analysis can provide healthcare providers with data that can be used to identify individuals suffering with depression, sleep deprivation, bipolar disorder, and others, through evaluation of samples of spoken word.

Blue Flowers

prostate cancer

Shavon Richardson

Blue Flowers

Blue Flowers Org is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization empowering women and the men in their lives
against prostate cancer with operations in Georgia, Maryland and Virginia.
Learn more by visiting

Co-Founder and Chief Operations Officer of Blue Flowers Org, Shavonn is committed to living in a
world in which no man is a victim of prostate cancer. Blue Flowers Org is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit
organization empowering women and the men in their lives against prostate cancer.
Her organization was founded in 2014 in memory of her grandfather, Gilbert Eugene Crawford, Sr. by
Shavonn and her mother CEO of Blue Flowers Org, Valerie Crawford-Schiele.

Serving as Gilbert’s primary caregivers, Shavonn and her mother supported Gilbert during his stage 4 prostate cancer diagnosis for 12 years until he lost his battle against prostate cancer in 2014. Blue Flowers Org has been
providing prostate cancer education to other women and their families who have faced similar experiences ever since.
Shavonn’s most recent work experience includes working as the Enterprise Business Community Engagement Project Manager at Bank of America executing the bank’s corporate social responsibility initiatives by supporting Atlanta area nonprofits by providing sponsorship and grant support.

She has over 12 years experience in the banking industry working in a fiduciary capacity, preparing financials
and creating and executing corporate strategy at various financial institutions including Bank of
America, Citibank and JPMorgan Chase.  She is member of the Association for Fundraising Professionals and American Grant Writers Association.

Shavonn earned a BBA from Howard University in Washington, DC. She also earned a MBA from The Goizueta Business School at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.  She enjoys practicing yoga and listening to vinyl records in her spare time. She resides in Milton, GA with her husband and son.

Special Guest:

Shavon Richardson, Co-Founder, Blue Flowers Organization


Pharmacogenetic Testing


Pharmacogenetic Testing

This week I connected with Vanderbilt University’s Dr. Dan Roden to learn about pharmacogenetic testing.  This tool provides physicians and other prescribing health professionals with individual-specific data about how a patient’s body will respond to particular medications or types of medication.  For example, a popular drug, Plavix, which is prescribed to reduce risk of an additional cardiac or vascular event from happening after heart attack or stroke.  In 2% of the population, there is a genetic mutation that prevents the enzyme necessary to activate the drug from being produced.

This means those patients will take the pill but it never becomes active in the body, leaving them at risk.  Similarly, another larger group of individuals will metabolize the drug heavily, releasing more of the anticoagulant into the bloodstream than is desired, putting them at serious risk for bleeding/stroke.  A simple pharmacogentic test will readily reveal these patients before they are exposed to the drug.  There is a large amount of high quality data around this medication’s drug-gene story to substantiate adjusting the current guidelines for its administration.

Dr. Roden received his medical degree and training in Internal Medicine from McGill University before residency at Vanderbilt where he trained in Clinical Pharmacology and Cardiology, and has been a faculty member there since.  Throughout his career he has focused on conducting studies of the clinical, genetic, cellular, and molecular basis of arrhythmia susceptibility and variability responses to arrhythmia therapies.

Over the last 10 years, Dr. Roden has led Vanderbilt’s broader efforts in pharmacogenomics discovery and implementation.  He is principal investigator for the Vanderbilt sites of the National Institutes of Health’s Pharmacogenomics Research Network (PGRN) and the National Human Genome Research Institute’s Electronic Medical Records and Genomics (eMERGE) Network.

He directs the Vanderbilt DNA databank BioVU, a discovery resource that as of spring 2014 included >175,000 samples linked to deidentified electronic medical records.  He is a leader in Vanderbilt’s PREDICT project that since 2010 has been preemptively embedded pharmacogenomic variant data in the electronic medical records of >14,000 Vanderbilt patients; as of April 2013, PREDICT displays information on 5 drug-gene pairs and delivers point of care decision support when a target drug is prescribed to patients with variant genotypes.

Dr. Roden served as Director of the Vanderbilt Arrhythmia Service, director of the Division of Clinical Pharmacology (1992-2004), and in 2006 was named Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Personalized Medicine.  Dr. Roden has received the Leon Goldberg Young Investigator Award and the Rawls Palmer Progress in Science Award from the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics; the Distinguished Scientist Award and the Douglas Zipes lectureship from the Heart Rhythm Society; and the Distinguished Scientist Award and the Functional Genomics and Translational Biology Medal of Honor from the American Heart Association.

He currently serves on the Science Board of the FDA. He has been elected to membership in the American Society for Clinical Investigation and the Association of American Physicians, and fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Special Guest:

Dr. Dan Roden, MD, Professor of Medicine and Pharmacology, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Personalized Medicine, Vanderbilt University Pinterest LOGO  twitter_logo_small  linkedin_small1  youtube-logo1  facebook_logo_small3  flickr (2)  tumblr logo

precision medicine

Better Medication Management and Compliance and Cancer Treatment

medication management

Marc O’Connor, of Curant Health

Better Medication Management and Compliance

Curant Health (Formerly HealthStat Rx) is a national healthcare company utilizing an innovative patient-centric services, medication management and specialty pharmacy program to provide chronic disease expertise and support to improve the therapy experience and quality of life for patients nationwide. Curant Health also provides hospitals, Accountable Care Organizations, concierge medicine practices, benefits managers, self insured employers, health care technology and home healthcare companies support programs to dramatically improve patient outcomes, reduce the health care spend, and decrease hospital readmission rates.

Curant Health was listed #4 on the 2015 INC. 500 for large health care companies. Curant Health also received the 2016 Atlanta Business Chronicle Pacesetters Award and the 2016 ACG Fast 40 Award for the fastest growing companies in Atlanta and the State of Georgia. Curant Health’s proprietary Pharmacy Analytics platform MedPlan was a Grand Finalist for Microsoft’s 2013 Excellence Award for Innovation.

Dune Medical is maker of MarginProbe. Dune Medical develops, manufactures, and commercializes innovative products that improve the effectiveness and outcome of cancer therapy by providing real-time tissue characterization systems to guide surgical and diagnostic decisions.  The company accomplishes this by identifying significant unmet clinical and market needs and investing in core technologies to develop products that improve patient care, build shareholder value, and create an exciting environment for employees.

Dune Medical Devices was founded in 2002 by Dr. Dan Hashimshony to realize the extraordinary medical potential of its proprietary tissue characterization technology.  Offering surgeons and radiologists the real time ability to identify cancerous tissues and react immediately, this technology holds the promise for a broad range of surgical and diagnostic applications.  Dune Medical Devices is a privately held company with offices in the U.S. and Israel.

MarginProbe allows surgeons to be able to, in real-time, determine the effectiveness of their lumpectomy excision of a worrisome breast lesion, regarding the presence or absence of tumor cells within the surgical margin.  The technology helps reduce the occurrence of having to return to surgery after the pathology results come in reflecting the need for additional excision.  Today, as many as 1 in 4 patients must return for more surgery after lumpectomy when this tool is not deployed.

The company has had this tool utilized on over 9000 patients to date and response from clinicians has been overwhelmingly positive.

Special Guests:

Marc O’Connor, COO, Curant Health


Lori Chmura, President, Dune Medical Devices



Tackling Cardiovascular Disease Through Research, R and D

cardiovascular disease

T3 Labs’ Deepal Panchal


Tackling Cardiovascular Disease Through Research, R and D

Health experts will be addressing top disease states & explore collaborations that will reduce their occurrence at the upcoming Health Connect South 2016 event.  Panelist, Dr. Neal Weintraub of Augusta University talks about obesity, its contribution to cardiovascular disease, and research aimed at tackling this and other risks.  T3 Labs – Translational Testing and Training Laboratories, Inc. Deepal Panchal M.S. explains how they facilitate R&D and training on new healthcare technologies.

More info soon!