Media Releases

University of Michigan Hospital experts share knowledge on cochlear implants

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HANCOCK - Two experts from the University of Michigan Cochlear Implant Program visited the Copper Country today to speak to area care providers about the effects of cochlear implants on a child’s development.

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Kelly Starr, speech language pathologist from the University of Michigan Hospital works with local care providers today during a presentation about cochlear implants

“Today’s presentation was meant to get support for our children with hearing impairments,” said Jean Pyykkonen, the Copper Country Intermediate School District’s teacher consultant for hearing impaired students. “Everyone that attended today’s session works with these children, and will now have a better understanding of these children’s needs.”

The attendees ranged from parents, to pre-school and high school teachers, to speech pathologists and audiologists, all of which were specifically invited.

“We need to give everyone the basic knowledge of cochlear implants so we can all work together for these children,” Pyykkonen said.

It’s the first time experts from Ann Arbor have been to the Copper Country to talk about the issue.

“We want to help these professional care givers,” said Dr. Heidi Slager, Aud, an audiologist at the Ann Arbor-based hospital. “Recent changes in devices and strategies have changed the field, and we want everyone to be as updated as possible.”

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Dr. Heidi Slager, an audiologist form the University of Michigan Hospital, discusses cochlear implants with Portage Health Audiologist Nancy Reed, M.A.

Speech Language Pathologist Kelly Starr joined Slager, and they presented to about 20 people at the Portage Health Conference Center.

“Early intervention is key to get children to their age equivalence by the time they’re school aged,” said Starr. “We like to have children implanted at 12 months.”

The presentation was organized by the Portage Health Audiology Department, and made possible by a Sound Support Grant the University of Michigan Hospital received.

“Essentially we had met officials from the U of M at a networking event, and realized this was a great opportunity for our community,” said Nancy Reed, M.A., an audiologist at Portage Health. “This information is vital to the people here today, and we’re happy people have this opportunity.”

High school students hear presentation from Dr. Smoot

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HOUGHTON – Portage Health sleep medicine physician Dr. Carl Smoot was a Keynote speaker for the Student Leadership Conference today at Michigan Tech.

Dr. Smoot presenting to CCISD studentsDr. Smoot presents to area high school students.

The conference is put on by the Copper Country Intermediate School District Student Leadership Committee, and was open to high school students from area schools.

“I want you to be ambassadors for sleep to your families, friends and future employers,” Dr. Smoot told the students.

The presentation aimed to help students develop healthy sleep patterns. Creating and developing a healthy sleep schedule can make a sizable different for adults at any age.

“Sleep has always been a key element for a human’s well being,” Dr. Smoot told the students. “Some of the greatest human civilizations, such as the Greeks and Romans had a focus on sleep that we don’t seem to have anymore.”

His presentation was the opening keynote address to the students, who were involved in several breakout sessions throughout the day before finishing up with another keynote speaker, Kim Cameron, head coach of the Michigan Tech women’s basketball team.

To learn more about Dr. Smoot and the Portage Health Sleep Disorders Center, visit If you’re interested in having Dr. Smoot talk to your group, contact the Portage Health Communication Department at 483-1566.

Local law enforcement agencies participating in prescription take-back initiative

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HOUGHTON – On Saturday the Drug Enforcement Administration is organizing a National Take Back Initiative Day by partnering with local law enforcement agencies across the nation to collect expired or unneeded prescription pills.

Locally, pills will be accepted at the Houghton County Sheriff’s Office and Michigan State Police Post in Calumet from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“The community has really been taking advantage of the National Take Back Initiative,” said Detective/Sergeant Thomas Rosemurgy of the Houghton County Sheriff’s Office. “We’ve been taking anywhere from 10 to 20 pounds of assorted unwanted prescriptions in just one day of disposal.”

Nationally, Americans turned in 377,080 pounds during a collection last October. Pills can also be dropped off at the Sheriff’s office in a drop box.

“If you’re not able to drop off your unwanted prescriptions this Saturday, feel free to drop it off anytime that is convenient for you,” Rosemurgy said.

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue. Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in the U.S. are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—pose potential safety and health hazards.

Day for Women draws record crowd

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HANCOCK – More than 120 people attended Saturday’s A Day for Women event. This is the fourth year of the event, which saw a 20 percent jump in attendance.

“It was another nice jump in numbers for us,” said Angela Luskin, community health coordinator at Portage Health. “It seemed like everyone left satisfied again this year.”

The event included keynote sessions from registered dietitian Tara Lassila and OB/GYN physician Julie Meyer, breakout sessions with specialized instructors and a slew of community vendors focused on health and wellness.

“Everyone seemed energized and ready to learn,” said Colleen Mayra, who ran the self-defense breakout session.

Plans are already being made for next year, which could include an expansion to a new venue.

“I’ve already received phone calls and e-mails from people that attended complimenting us on everything from food, to the breakout sessions, to the array of vendors,” said Luskin.

To learn more about the women’s health services at Portage Health visit

- Coverage in The Daily Mining Gazette

Childhood obesity is focus of 2012 Foundation Ball & Auction

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HANCOCK – The health issues caused by obesity run deep, and with 17 percent of the nation’s children and adolescents (ages 2-19) obese it’s obviously an issue that needs addressing.

Portage Health Foundation Ball and AuctionThe Center for Disease Control said the rate of childhood obesity tripled from 1980 to 2009. Another recent study showed nine of Michigan’s U.P. counties have an obesity rate higher than 30 percent. To help offset this problem in our area, the Portage Health Foundation is focusing on childhood obesity during the upcoming year.

“In 2009, Michigan was home to the 10th highest percentage of obesity in the United States,” said Kevin Store, executive director of the Portage Health Foundation. “This is becoming an epidemic, but it’s something that we can work on together.”

All proceeds from this year’s Portage Health Foundation Annual Spring Ball & Auction will go back to the community with a focus on curbing the trend of childhood obesity in our area.

“If we can lower our percentage locally, it could pay huge dividends down the road as our children will live longer and healthier lives,” said Store.

The Portage Health Foundation, a charitable, nonprofit organization, was established in 1990 to support Portage Health’s mission and enhance quality healthcare for all who are served by Portage Health.

The foundation ball and acution is the foundation’s largest fundraising event, and is scheduled for May 19. Registration is currently open, call (906) 483-1507 or visit for more information.

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Free skin cancer screenings available on May 12

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HANCOCK – Physicians from the Marquette General Cancer Center will be in Hancock on May 12 offering free skin cancer screenings at Portage Health.

The skin screenings are offered free and are co-sponsored by the American Academy of Dermatology. These free screenings are very popular, and require an appointment.

“Each year Marquette General has partnered with Portage Health to offer this clinic, it has been full,” said Angela Luskin, community health coordinator at Portage Health. “If you have something that you want looked at, I'd suggest calling early to make sure you reserve a spot."

Dr. Milton Soderberg and Dr. Jennifer Baldwin, board certified dermatologists will do brief examinations of unusual moles or lesions for signs of cancer from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Portage Health’s main campus in Hanccok on May 12.

There will also be free clinics in Marquette (May 5, call (906) 225-3500 to make an appointment) and Escanaba (May 19, call (906) 786-2172 to make an appointment).

To make an appointment for May 12 in Hancock call (906) 483-1153, or e-mail

Two MSU medical students doing rotation at Portage Health

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HOUGHTON – Medical students from the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine Upper Peninsula Region will get a first-hand experience practicing rural family medicine when training alongside Portage Health physicians this spring.

Hauser_WoodsKahlie Hauser and Ryan Woods will be training with family medicine physicians David Kass, MD, Douglass McKenzie, MD, and Bruce Trusock, MD, at Portage Health-University Center in Houghton.

The eight-week Rural Physician Program (RPP) affords the medical students the opportunity to reside in the Copper Country in order to get a flavor for small-town living.

The MSU College of Human Medicine U.P. Region is one of seven campuses across the state providing clinical training for medical students. However, the RPP is unique to the U.P. campus. Each year, a handful of students are selected for the RPP, which offers enriched training to students who have an interest and passion for providing care to patients in rural, underserved areas. These students complete two years of coursework at MSU College of Human Medicine campuses in either Lansing or Grand Rapids before coming to Marquette General Hospital for their third and fourth years of training.

“Working with these students is a great opportunity for us to showcase the variety of medical cases physicians encounter while practicing in a rural setting,” said Dr. David Kass. “Additionally, they will get to experience the strong sense of community that is unique to rural locales.”

With the ongoing shortage of physicians practicing in rural locations, the program takes on an even more important role. These RPP participants have all indicated an interest in practicing rural medicine and it is the hope that some choose to practice in the U.P. upon completion of their training. Forty-four MSU College of Human Medicine U.P. Region graduates have gone on to practice medicine in the Upper Peninsula.

“They have been eagerly awaiting this rotation, as it gives them a chance to experience what it’s like to be a physician in a rural U.P. community,” said Patti Copley, MSU College of Human Medicine U.P. Region community administrator.

“But we couldn’t do what we do without the support of the rural physicians who serve as volunteer faculty. By sharing their time, wisdom and energy, they are investing in the future of healthcare in the Upper Peninsula, and we couldn’t be more appreciative of the key role these rural doctors play.”

The students will begin their rotation in the Copper Country on April 30. Two additional students are participating in the program, doing rotations at Bayview Family Practice in L’Anse and Aspirus Keweenaw in Lake Linden and Calumet.

The Michigan State University College of Human Medicine – Upper Peninsula Region (formerly the Upper Peninsula Health Education Corporation) works in conjunction with Marquette General Health System to coordinate the training of family medicine residents and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine medical students. Since its inception in 1978, 219 medical students and 156 resident physicians have graduated from the two programs.

Laboratory continues expanding molecular testing

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HANCOCK – In its effort to continue offering the latest technology and best service to patients, the Portage Health Laboratory has added the BD Probetec ET to its toolset.

ProbeTec“This is cutting edge technology,” said Richard Kangas, Portage Health lab director. “We’re continuing our focus on increasing our line of molecular testing.”

The new machine allows Portage Health to do testing for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea right on campus. Previously, these tests were done in Marquette.

“This is a huge money saver for us and our community,” said Kangas. “We are able to bring this test in house, and it will pay itself off within six months. We won’t be sending out, and we’re able to bring more work in from other area hospitals and clinics.”

The in-house testing will save approximately $90,000 a year.

“More importantly for patients, we will save a lot of time,” said Petio Kotov, pathologist with the Medical Labs of Marquette. “We can have diagnostics done within two or three hours if needed, instead of waiting until the next day, or longer.”

Kotov works full time in Hancock, and is the area’s only full time pathologist.

“It’s good to know these things as soon as possible,” Kotov said. “We’re continuing to work as hard as we can to offer our patients the most convenient results we can.”

Portage Health first got into molecular diagnostics in 2010 with the addition of the GeneXpert machine. Along with testing for Chlamydia and gonorrhea, Portage Health also does in-house molecular testing for clostridium difficle, MRSA on blood culture, wounds and for surveillance.

“We can now do more than 95 percent of tests in house,” said Kangas. “When 75 percent of a patient’s medical record is dependent on those tests, it’s important that we keep them here, get them done as quickly as possible.”

Get ready to do the SiSu Shuffle on April 28

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HANCOCK – It’s time to run, hop, jog, scoot, shuffle, walk or trot as the SiSu Shuffle is coming up quick. The 5-kilometer non-competitive race is scheduled for Saturday, April 28 at 11 a.m., and is once again free to participants of all ages at the Houghton County Fairgrounds.

“This is a great event for the entire family to spend time being active together,” said Angela Luskin, community health coordinator at Portage Health. “We’ll do a course at the fairgrounds, and then get together to hand out some great prizes.”

The annual event marks the end of Portage Health’s Stepen series, which is a nutrition- and exercise-based program in six area elementary schools. All Stepen students are invited, and one student from each school will receive a free bike.

“We hope to see all of our Stepen students, as well as anyone else from the community,” Luskin said.

Preregistration is available, but not required, at

A Day for Women event slated for April 21

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HANCOCK – A day specially designed for women is just around the corner at Portage Health, as the Keweenaw’s healthcare leader hosts “A Day for Women” on April 21 from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the hospital’s main campus in Hancock.

Day for Women“From beginning to end, this event is specially designed for the women of the Copper Country,” said Angela Luskin, community health coordinator at Portage Health. “We’ll be pampering our minds, bodies and spirits through several educational, fitness and spa activities in a relaxed and fun atmosphere.”

The event includes breakfast, lunch, one of four active breakout sessions, two educational sessions and a slew of health screenings, highlighted by body composition, using the DEXA machine. All of this comes at the cost of just $25.

“The screenings are worth hundreds of dollars by themselves, the sessions will be amazing and knowing our nutrition services staff, the food will be top-notch,” Luskin said. “When you leave this event, you'll feel empowered, relaxed and revived.”

RSVP to the event on Facebook to be the first to find out about any updates to the event's schedule and to learn more about the presenters! A full schedule and registration details are available at


500 Campus Drive
Hancock, MI 49930
(906) 483-1000


921 W. Sharon Avenue
Houghton, MI 49931
(906) 483-1777

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Lake Linden, MI 49945
(906) 483-1030


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(906) 884-4120


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Houghton, MI 49931
(906) 483-1860

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