A Love Story at “The Lounge”

Working is not the optimal way to spend your first wedding anniversary and certainly far from romantic, but a group of nurses at OCH Regional Medical Center got creative to make sure that their coworkers’ first anniversary was one they won’t forget.

Matt and Alison Woods spent their one-year wedding anniversary providing care for their patients at OCH.  Matt, a registered nurse in the intensive care unit, and Alison, a registered nurse in labor and delivery, said they didn’t mind spending their special day caring for others.

“It wasn’t ideal, but we were here together so that made it special,” said Alison Woods.

The two met at East Central Community College in 2008.  He was in his second year of college and played the saxophone in the band, and she was a Centralette just starting her journey to become a RN.  After college, both went to work at the Medical Center and later married on January 24, 2015, a date very special to them as her grandparents celebrated their 63rd wedding anniversary on that day.

One year later, they started their milestone anniversary by working their 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift in their respective units at the Medical Center.

“I got Matt an omelet from the hospital cafeteria and brought it to him because it was our anniversary.  I mentioned it to the nurses on my floor, and that’s when it all got started,” said Alison Woods.

“Your first anniversary is so special, so we wanted to do something nice for them,” said labor and delivery surgery tech Bella Oswalt who has been married for 10 years, the longest of the group.  “Your wedding is usually a blur, and most other anniversaries are spent going out to eat or to see a movie, or maybe not doing anything. But you always remember your first anniversary,” said Oswalt.

After checking with the house manager, fellow L&D RN Haley Smith clocked out and headed to Walmart.  In 30 minutes, she was back with wedding pictures printed off from Facebook, sparkling water, flameless tealights, a table runner, signs, plastic champagne flutes and plate chargers.

“Walmart was empty because it was during church hours, and we had a very detailed list so we could get back quickly.  We were at the wedding, so we added a few personal touches to remind them of their wedding day,” explained Smith.

Oswalt got busy making “flowers” and a “chandelier” out of tulle she had stashed away in her locker.

“Bella is the creative one.  She always has a bag of tricks,” said L&D RN Kadie Fancher.

“I knew they were up to something, but they wouldn’t let me look,” explained Alison Woods.

What Alison didn’t know was that her coworkers were transforming the nurses’ breakroom into an “upscale restaurant” called “The Lounge,” complete with decorations and signs directing the bride and groom to their destination.  A medical suction bucket acted as a “wine bucket” for the sparkling water and a menu detailed their anniversary dinner which included, cheddar chex mix hot ‘n spicy as the appetizer, pulled pork with cole slaw and “fatteningly fried french cut potatoes” as the main course, and chocolate covered strawberries.firstanniversary

Once the transformation was complete, Alison was led to “The Lounge” where she waited for her husband.

“After I made sure my patients were stable and in good hands with a respiratory therapist and nurse, I went up to Alison’s unit,” said Matt Woods.  “I was in utter shock and pleasantly surprised,” he added.

To top off their anniversary date, “At Last” by Etta James, the song they danced to at their reception, was playing in the background, while Fancher, Smith and Oswalt stood by with their phones to capture the moment.

“It was so nice and thoughtful of them.  Being so close to my coworkers makes it fun to come to work.  I love my work family,” said Alison Woods, jokingly adding that her coworkers went through all the trouble because they actually love Matt more!

“I just try to be nice to everyone,” he said.  “This hospital is like family.  I spend more time with my coworkers than I do with family,” continued Matt Woods.

Truth be told, the couple is equally loved and recognized regularly by their patients and coworkers.

One patient praised Alison in a satisfaction survey writing, “Alison was with me all morning when I was in labor, and even after her shift was over, she stayed with me so that she could be there to help deliver my son.  She was patient and anticipated my needs.  She explained everything that was happening and answered mine and my husband’s questions.”

In December, Matt found an extra Christmas tree in the hospital to put in a patient’s room, along with Christmas music, to help cheer the patient up and feel more at home during the holidays.

“He’s a very good nurse.  He takes care of me when I’m sick, and he’s more nurturing than I am,” admitted Alison Woods.

The couple didn’t actually eat their anniversary dinner together.  Matt took his food back to his unit to be with his patients.  But this Valentine’s Day, the couple will have the day off together, and they plan to relax at home with their cockapoo, Millie, go out to eat and to the movies.

“We chose this career because we’re passionate about nursing,” said Alison Woods. “As nurses, we both understand that celebrating holidays with our loved ones is not a guarantee, and that’s okay with us.”



OCH Officially Opens Much-Needed Wound Center

Published in Starkville Daily News February 3, 2016



OCH Regional Medical Center’s new wound healing and hyperbaric center officially opened its doors to the public on Tuesday, making it the first advanced wound healing facility in the area. Before the center opened, Amory and Meridian were the closest cities that offered an advanced wound healing facility.

“We recognized the need for a wound healing and hyperbaric center in our area and felt it was important to make this service available to our community,” said Mike Andrews, administrator and chief operating officer of OCH.

Starkville residents Mae Louise Nichols and her daughter Nancy Meador stopped by the grand opening to tell the staff how happy they were that OCH has finally opened the center. They’ve been driving long distances for almost a year to find appropriate wound care for Nichols, who went to the doctor for a blister and was told that she had a staph infection on her right leg.

“We’ve had to go way out of town to find someone to treat the wound,” said Meador. “We were in Greenville for eight weeks and after that we started going to Amory to get a doctor to help her. Once a week for the past six months we’ve had to make that drive to get wound care, which is why we are so excited about this place.”

Nichols and Meador took a tour of the center and were able to talk to the doctors and nurses who will be treating Nichols from now on.

“I am so excited to be here,” said Nichols. “I’ve been using this hospital for years and it feels like home to me.”

Thomas McMahon, program director, is hoping that more people like Nichols will be referred to OCH now that the facility is officially open.

“We’re providing outpatient care that’s needed and we’re thrilled to be here,” said McMahon. “We knew we needed an advanced facility in this area and now people don’t have to drive over an hour to get the care they need.”

The center is located on the third floor of OCH and was renovated to make the old labor and delivery rooms into the state-of-the-art facility it is now. The wound healing center provides treatment for those with a wound or infection that hasn’t completely healed within 30 days. Diabetic ulcers, brown recluse spider bites, burns, and other chronic, non healing wounds are all indications that a patient should consult with the center.

“We heal wounds that don’t heal,” said Ron Barrette, the medical director for the healing center. “A lot of people will only heal a little bit when they leave hospitals. We’re here to make sure that you’re fully healed before you leave.”

A large part of the new center is the capability to give patients hyperbaric oxygen therapy as part of their treatment. The treatment raises oxygen per blood flow in a patient which helps their body to naturally heal itself, according to Barrette.

“Once you’re in the chamber, we basically get you down below sea level using Navy diving charts to go by, and then bring you back up when the treatment is done.”

The project to add the wound center to the care options at OCH began in late May 2015 and the renovations were finished in September 2015, according to the board of trustees for OCH.

“We’re looking forward to all the good it will do for the community,” said McMahon.

For more information on the new facility, visit  www.och.org or call the hospital at 662-615-2791.

OCH Regional Medical Center Announces Partnership with MSU College of Arts & Sciences

A partnership between OCH Regional Medical Center and Mississippi State University’s College of Arts & Sciences was announced at a ribbon cutting Wednesday morning for the College’s new Dr. A Randle & Marilyn W. White Pre-Med Advisory Office.

The Office, which is named after MSU alumni and Greenwood physician Dr. White and his wife, is located inside Harned Hall.  This new resource allows students in any of the University’s eight colleges who are in pursuit of medical school the opportunity to receive advising to help them reach their goals.

“This center further emphasizes our focus on helping young people make decisions to see if this is what they truly want to do and gives them sound advice and counsel to help prepare them for medical school,” said Mississippi State University President Dr. Mark Keenum.

In July, OCH Regional Medical Center Administration presented a plan to the Board of Trustees to help further the growth of the Advisory Office.  The Board voted unanimously to give $5,000 for five years for a total of $25,000 for MCAT prep courses to help pay for the course instructor, print materials, and other supplies.  In addition, OCH will give $10,000 each year over the next five years for a total of $50,000 to award scholarships to junior and senior pre-medical students with financial need.  The funding must be used to defray the costs of preparing for and taking the MCAT or applying to and visiting medical schools.

“We see this as planting a seed in students’ lives as they face the anxiety of preparing for and applying for medical school and a long road with many choices throughout the process.  We hope by participating in this program we’re able to relieve some of that anxiety from a financial standpoint. Taking the MCAT is a passage these students must go through to get to the next point, and we’re so pleased to be a part of it,” said OCH Regional Medical Center Administrator/CEO Richard Hilton.

As a nephrologist for more than 40 years, Dr. White said admittance into medical school is a much more complicated process than when he was a student.

“There’s no longer just the MCAT and the grades, but now, students must participate in shadowing programs and have community service hours. I’m so proud that we have this place where students can get guidance and support,” said Dr. White.  “They can also be told if a door closes over here, maybe we can open another over there. Don’t give up. You can do it. This can happen,” he continued.

Dr. White, as well as Dr. Keenum, thanked the Medical Center for its support by providing scholarships to students.

“Helping students prepare to take the MCAT is such an important part of them getting into medical school.  We have a wonderful relationship with the hospital, and that’s something we really cherish,” stated Dr. Keenum.

“We’re a different hospital because of the presence of Mississippi State University, not only from an education standpoint but also from an economic and development standpoint.  If we recruit a doctor who attended Mississippi State and they bleed maroon, and the spouse also attended Mississippi State, that’s a double win on redirecting them back here to Starkville,” said Hilton, adding that the Medical Center plans to be a part of this program for the long term.


Deadline Approaching for Colon Cancer Awareness Tag to Make It to the Streets

Thursday, October 15 is the deadline for Mississippians to pre-order a new specialty car tag that reads, “Prevent Colon Cancer…Get Screened!”  In order for these license plates to end up on the bumpers of vehicles, a minimum of 300 at $31 each must be pre-ordered.

“All money from the car tag sales goes back to UMMC’s (University of Mississippi Medical Center) special fund to communicate and educate the importance of screening and the prevention of colon cancer,” explained Samuel Pace, MD. “It helps in two ways—people see it and say, ‘you know, I should get screened,’ and then the money goes back to help us spread the message.”

This special fund is referred to as 70×2020– an effort to ensure that at least 70% of Mississippians are up-to-date with recommended colorectal cancer screening by the year 2020.  The Colorectal Cancer Screening Initiative that began at a small round table meeting at UMMC in April 2014, is now supported by a growing partnership of more than 30 organizations and individual champions.  It’s a cause that hits close to home for Dr. Pace.  Not only because he’s a gastroenterologist, but also because he’s beaten colon cancer not once, but twice, and attributes screenings to saving his life.

“On my very first day of chemotherapy, I ended up talking to one of my former patients that I had diagnosed with cancer 20 years ago,” Dr. Pace said. “It gave me a little extra kick to my step that day because he had lived 20 years because he had a colonoscopy, and I knew how important those 20 years had been to him. I thought to myself, my work is not done.”

After attending a seminar on colon cancer led by Dr. Roy Duhe’, UMMC Professor and Director of Cancer Education, Dr. Duhe’ talked to Dr. Pace about taking on the role of physician champion to increase screening rates for colon cancer in the state of Mississippi.  Now Dr. Pace’s focus has changed from hands-on patient care to prevention.

“I took an oath when I became a physician, and even though I got colon cancer, I’m still honoring that oath.  After I was first diagnosed, my son shared a motto with me. It says, ‘You can’t control the wind, but you can adjust your sails.’”

Inspired by the redesign of the breast cancer awareness car tag by a fellow church member and graphic designer, Leslie Geoghegan, Dr. Pace approached her about designing a colon cancer awareness tag.

“Within a couple of hours, she sent me a few options and we decided on this design.  Then, we presented the mock up car tag at the state-wide kick off for the 70×2020 campaign.  My wife’s sister, [Representative] Margaret Ellis Rodgers, [R-District 14] introduced the bill, and the governor signed it.  Now we’re working hard to get 300 presales,” said Dr. Pace.

Mississippi currently has the highest colorectal cancer death rate in the nation. Dr. Pace attributes that to the paucity of gastroenterologists in regions such as the Delta, lack of education, and the fact that most people are simply not comfortable discussing that part of their anatomy.

“The 70×2020 partners are trying to overcome these obstacles, and we believe that any validated screen is better than no screen. In geographic areas or in populations where access to colonoscopies may be limited, 70×2020 partners are promoting the use of less expensive, high-quality screening tests, such as FOBT [fecal occult blood test],” said Dr. Pace, adding that if all eligible people get screened, colon cancer deaths can be reduced by 90%.

“I got to thinking about it…if I hadn’t gotten the screening, I wouldn’t have met four of my grandchildren.  I wouldn’t have seen Mississippi State be number one in the nation!” said Dr. Pace.

A recent report from the American Cancer Society shows that colon cancer in older adults has decreased by 30% in the last decade. Despite that encouraging statistic, colorectal cancer is still predicted to be the third most common and third most deadly cancer in the U.S. All men and women 50 and older should be screened, and those who have a family history of colorectal cancer should begin screening earlier.

To order a colon cancer awareness tag, visit



For an appointment with one of Dr. Pace’s associates at Digestive Health Specialists, call 662-324-7484.



Peterson Joins OCH Medical Associates as Certified Family Nurse Practitioner

OCH Medical Associates is proud to announce the addition of certified family nurse practitioner Meg Peterson, FNP-C.

Peterson has special interests in managing chronic illnesses including hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes.

Meg Peterson, FNP-C

Meg Peterson, FNP-C

After earning her bachelors of science in nursing from Mississippi University for Women in 2008, Peterson began working at OCH Regional Medical Center as a registered nurse in the medical unit.  She earned her masters of science in nursing from MUW in 2011 and has practiced at the OCH Regional Health Clinic and the OCH Center for Breast Health over the past four years.

“Meg’s experience makes her a perfect fit at OCH Medical Associates because she has first-hand knowledge treating patients in a hospital environment who have chronic diseases.  Her background, coupled with her compassion for the patients, makes her an excellent health care provider, and we’re so happy to have her on our team,” said OCH Medical Associates Internal Medicine Specialist Ramon Osorio, MD.

“I enjoy getting to know each of my patients and educating them on how they can manage their disease and prevent other illnesses.  My goal in earning my master’s degree was to learn more about the management of chronic diseases so that I could better treat my patients and help them live healthier, more fulfilling lives,” explained Peterson.

Peterson is a member of Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society and Mississippi Nurses Association.  She and her family attend Pinelake Church, and during her free time, she enjoys tennis, sewing and reading.

OCH Medical Associates is located at 107 Brandon Road in Starkville.  Clinic hours are Monday – Thursday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Friday from 8 a.m. – Noon. For an appointment with Peterson, call 662-615-3771; however, walk-ins are welcome.  For more information about OCH Medical Associates, visit och.org/och-medical-associates.


OCH Pharmacy Director Named MPhA Member of the Year


OCH Regional Medical Center Pharmacy Director Andy Andrews has been named Mississippi Pharmacists Association’s Member of the Year at the organization’s recent awards banquet.

“The Member of the Year Award is presented to a member who has demonstrated impeccable commitment to the association, dedicated his personal time and energy to furthering the objectives of the association, and is active in all aspects of the association,” said Kathryn Ayers, MPhA Nominations and Awards Committee Chair.  “We are proud to have Andy as a member of our team and thankful for his service and commitment to the association,” she continued.

Andrews has been working at OCH for more than 25 years and has served as the pharmacy director for 21 of those years.  As an employee at OCH, Andrews serves on the pharmacy and infection control committee, forms committee, retirement committee and quality outcomes committee.

“Andy is an individual who is very well respected among his peers.  People seek him out for advice on how to improve operations within the hospital, and he’s always willing to help in any situation,” said OCH Administrator/CEO Richard Hilton, adding that Andrews is a team player.  “He’s a valuable asset that I am very proud of, and I know the people of this community are proud that he’s a part of the OCH healthcare system.”

Andrews has been a member of MPhA for 25 years and has served on the MPhA Executive Committee and the MS Pharmacy Foundation Board of Directors. He has served for 20 consecutive years on at least one MPhA Committee, including chairing the Education Committee.


Waters Joins OCH Regional Medical Center as Guest Relations Representative

Patients and visitors at OCH Regional Medical Center are being greeted by a new face as Emily Waters has stepped into the role of guest relations representative.

In this position, Waters is responsible for visiting all inpatients daily and working in conjunction with all hospital departments, such as nursing staff, environmental services, food services, business office and transporters to ensure high-quality customer service and patient/guest satisfaction.  In addition, she analyzes all data and information collected through patient/guest interactions and submits a quarterly report to administration with recommendations to improve patient care and guest relations.  Waters also oversees the Medical Center’s employee recognition program, SHiNE, which stands for Selfless Hospitality In Everyway.

Waters comes to the Medical Center from Mississippi State Department of Health where she was the district IV coordinator and administrator of the WIC program.  A 2005 graduate from Mississippi State University, Waters holds a bachelor’s of science in food science and nutrition and is a registered dietitian.

“From my previous job, I was able to see the benefit of customer service and customer satisfaction. My new position as the guest relations representative allows me the opportunity to make connections with the patients and their families and help them feel as comfortable as possible during their hospital stay,” said Waters, adding that her favorite part of her new position is meeting new people each day.

“Emily brings a unique perspective to the guest relations position because of her registered dietitian credentials.  So many of our patients are on special diet restrictions, and Emily has the knowledge to work as a liaison between the patient and our dietary staff,” explained Water’s supervisor and director of marketing Mel Thurlow.  “Emily’s friendly personality and positive outlook, along with her background makes her an asset for our Medical Center,” continued Thurlow.

Waters is married to Michael Waters of Columbus and they have two children, Ray, (4) and Lennox, (1).  Waters teaches quarterly nutrition classes at Emerson Family School and is a member of the Northeast Mississippi Breastfeeding Coalition, Mississippi Dietetic Association, First United Methodist Church of Starkville, and the Junior Auxiliary of Starkville.


OCH Employee Takes on New Role as Volunteer Services Coordinator

After working in OCH Regional Medical Center’s insurance department for three years, Lauren Gardner has stepped into a new role as volunteer services coordinator.

In this position, Gardner’s responsibilities include the recruitment, training and placement of all volunteers, as well as coordinating fundraisers, identifying volunteer needs for the Medical Center, and hosting a recognition program for auxiliary members.  In addition, Gardner oversees the Medical Center’s gift shop, which entails purchasing merchandise, maintaining accurate pricing, developing and implementing gift shop policies, staffing, and supervising the counting and reporting of cash revenues.

“The OCH Auxiliary is a great resource for the Medical Center, and I’m so proud to be a part of what they’re doing. I look forward to expanding our operations so that we can be even more beneficial to the hospital, as well as provide more scholarships for students pursuing a degree in the medical field,” stated Gardner.

“Lauren’s enthusiasm for this position has spawned great ideas and excitement among our auxiliary members.  Her energy coupled with her management and business skills makes her an asset to our team, and I look forward to seeing the growth of our auxiliary program,” said Gardner’s supervisor and marketing director Mel Thurlow.

Gardner was named OCH’s 4th quarter Employee of the Quarter of 2014 and reached the Medical Center’s top level of the employee recognition program, “SHiNE,” two years in a row.  Gardner is also a member of the Junior Auxiliary of Starkville.  She is married to J.B. Gardner, and they have two-year-old son, J.C.

The OCH Auxiliary will host its annual membership coffee on Thursday, September 10 at 9:30 a.m. in the OCH Educational Facility.  For more information about the auxiliary, visit och.org/volunteer-opportunities or call Gardner at 662-615-3065.


AHA and OCH Stress Importance of CPR Training During National CPR Week

            James Gregg says he’s alive today because his neighbor knew how to perform CPR. Gregg knows he’s one of the lucky ones to survive a heart attack. According to the American Heart Association, 95% of people who suffer out-of-hospital cardiac arrests die. These people are often surrounded by people who do not know the simple steps of CPR. June 1 – 7 is National CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED) Awareness Week, an effort to decrease the number of people who don’t know how to act in a critical situation.

            Gregg’s neighbor and volunteer fireman in Sturgis, Jeff Walsh, came to his rescue when he went into cardiac arrest at home in December of last year.

            “I was at home with my son when I went into cardiac arrest. I’m thankful he was there to get our neighbor, Jeff, who started CPR within five minutes. That’s the reason I don’t have brain damage, and also the reason I’m alive today,” said Gregg.

            OCH Cardiac Rehab Director Liz Varco, RN, said it’s critical for CPR to be administered within four to six minutes after a person goes into cardiac arrest in order to minimize brain damage.

            “After that crucial time, patients begin to develop organ damage.   Performing CPR immediately allows patients who do survive a heart attack a much better quality of life,” Varco said, adding that it’s also important to dial 911 as soon as possible. “Defibrillation (an electric shock to the heart) can only be done by medical personnel, and that should be performed immediately, as well,” Varco added.

            This June, in honor of National CPR Week, the American Heart Association is calling on all Americans to learn how to give Hands-Only CPR. Performing Hands-Only CPR has just two simple steps. The first step is to call 9-1-1, and then immediately push hard and fast to the center of the chest to the beat of disco-pop song “Stayin’ Alive.”

            “We’re pleased to support the American Heart Association and its important mission to increase survival from cardiac arrest. The most important part of CPR is providing the chest compressions to the patient, so the “Hands-Only” approach is a simple way for everyone to be prepared in an emergency,” said OCH Infection Control Director and Certified CPR Instructor Kim Roberts, RN, CHES. “Statistics show that most cardiac arrests happen at home, so being prepared to perform CPR could mean saving the life of someone you love,” Roberts added.

            Since his cardiac arrest, Gregg has had a triple bypass surgery and a single bypass surgery, as well as many months of cardiac rehab at OCH Regional Medical Center.

            “The cardiac rehab program at OCH has changed my life. They are serious about what they do, and they do it very well. More importantly, they’re like a support system, and I am so thankful for them,” Gregg said.

            During cardiac rehab, the status of the patient’s heart is constantly monitored by registered nurses while performing various exercises such as walking on a treadmill and lifting hand weights. In addition, program participants are educated about risk factors for cardiovascular disease and necessary lifestyle modifications such as smoking cessation, hypertension management, stress management, dietary guidelines and weight reduction.

            “I have been a registered nurse at OCH for 28 years and can personally tell you that not everyone has as positive of an outcome as Mr. Gregg did. He is living proof that performing CPR immediately after a cardiac arrest can save lives. CPR is so incredibly important, and it is 100% the reason that Mr. Gregg is alive and well today,” Varco says.

            To watch the Hands-Only CPR instructional video, visit heart.org/handsonlycpr. OCH Regional Medical Center is an authorized training center for the American Heart Association and offers classes in first aid and CPR/AED for healthcare providers, businesses, and the general public. Classes are offered on the first Monday of each month or by appointment. For more information, visit och.org and click on “Community Outreach,”, or call Roberts at 662-615-2820.

            For more information on the cardiac rehab program, visit och.org and look under “Our Services,” or call Varco at 662-615-2625.




OCH Regional Medical Center Provides Summer Volunteer Program for Students

             OCH Regional Medical Center will host a junior auxiliary interest meeting for students ages 13-18 who wish to volunteer at the Medical Center this summer. Junior volunteer opportunities include front desk receptionist, visiting patient rooms and helping in the gift shop.          

            “During the summer, our regular auxiliary members take a break from their volunteer duties while students in our community donate their time to serve the hospital and its patients. Volunteering also provides valuable work experience for these students. Many of our junior volunteers have an interest in working in the medical field one day, and this gives them a better understanding of what it’s like to work in a hospital-setting,” said OCH Volunteer Services Coordinator Lauren Gardner.

            The summer junior volunteer interest meeting will be held Thursday, May 28 at Noon in the OCH Community Room. New members must purchase an apron for $10. For more information, contact Gardner at 662-615-3065 or lgardner@och.org.


Layout Image