Patient-initiated group thrives on support, education and advocacy
Seventeen years ago, pulmonologist Michael Niederman, MD, Chairman of Winthrop-University Hospital's Department of Medicine, established an innovative pulmonary rehabilitation program to improve the functioning and life quality of patients with chronic lung disease.
Mara Bernstien, LRT, Winthrop's Administrative Director of Outpatient Services (center), is joined by WEB member, who consider the group like a family.
"Then, as now, there is only so far that we can go in helping patients with medication," said Dr. Niederman. "Pulmonary rehabilitation is intended to improve the 'gas mileage' of patients, and to break the vicious cycle of shortness of breath, leading to inactivity and even more shortness of breath."
Today, Winthrop's Pulmonary Rehabilitation Program (PRP), under the medical direction of Peter Speigler, MD, is renowned -- nationally and internationally. "This program has had a tremendous response from the community, mostly through word of mouth, and dous response from the community, mostly through word of mouth, and nally and internationally. "This program has had a tremendous response from the community, mostly through word of mouthI attribute that to our dedicated staff," said Dr. Speigler.
Motivated by their success, early graduates of the PRP created Winthrop Eager Breathers (WEB), an organization providing participants with a support network.
"WEB group has effectively empowered our patients to take control of their disease, and learn more about how to better manage their lives and their medications," said Dr. Niederman. "As a result, they generally stay motivated to remain active, participate in controlling their symptoms, and lead rich and productive lives."
WEB takes off
Since the late 80s, WEB has grown from a few participants to more than 300. At monthly meetings, members meet with a healthcare specialist, who discusses a wide range of relevant issues, including holistic approaches to treatment, new pulmonary medications and relaxation techniques. They also enjoy social activities designed to bond members at meetings and outside of the hospital setting.
"WEB is a family to me," explained Barbie Gelman, a two-year member. "Rehab helped me deal with my illness through education and support in a caring group setting that is small enough where you aren't anonymous. And the social aspect, which I really like, has helped me share my experiences with the other members." Ms. Gelman has inspired her fellow members by recently marching in a Garden City parade. "I can say, 'Hey I did this, and so can you.'" she added.
WEB also supports community health initiatives such as the "Unpuffables," an anti-smoking program educating local fifth-graders about the dangers of smoking. "While WEB participants are receiving help to breathe easier themselves, they are also reaching out to help others," said Mara Bernstein, Winthrop's Administrative Director of Outpatient Services.
For more information about WEB and to receive a complimentary copy of the group's newsletter, Websters, call (516) 663-2579.