Park Place Surgical Hospital's employees presented Miles Perret Cancer Services with a check for $2,920. The Employee Council raised money selling T-shirts, hats, stuffed teddy bears and other items throughout the year. Members of the council include from left to right: Maureen Kromis, Misty Robin, Pamela Lazzaro, Laura Slavich with Miles Perret Cancer Services, Julia Davidson, Chantel Boudreaux and Teche DePerrodil. Not pictured is Claudette Doize.

Dr. Matthew M. Abraham has been granted the status of diplomat of the American Board of Sleep Medicine, which defines his credentials as a board certified sleep specialist. Abraham has been practicing in the field of sleep medicine since 2003 in association with Our Lady of Lourdes' Sleep Disorders Center. Following his education at LSU Medical Center in Shreveport, Abraham completed residency and practiced for three years in family medicine. He was then introduced to the field of sleep medicine by the late Dr. Robert D. Martinez, who established the first sleep center in Acadiana. To further his training in sleep medicine, Abraham recently completed a sleep medicine fellowship program at Tulane University Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, where he received training in the evaluation and treatment of both adult and pediatric sleep disorders, a unique combination for his specialty.

Dr. Richard Dearman, a Lafayette thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon, has been named chief medical information officer at Our Lady of Lourdes. Dearman earned his medical degree at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., and completed an internship in categorical surgery and a residency in general surgery at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash. He later completed a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. In his new role, Dearman will provide leadership in the design and use of the clinical information systems to support excellence in patient care, data collection and research. He will be very active in program development, and will act as a liaison to the medical staff for physician issues as they relate to clinical information systems. In addition to these duties, Dearman will continue his private practice in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery.

Lafayette General Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Debbie Ford has accepted a similar post with Our Lady of the Lake in Baton Rouge. Ford worked at the local hospital for more than 20 years.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana announced that all of its Louisiana locations will go tobacco-free on Jan. 1, 2007. "We're a health care management company," says Gery Barry, president and CEO of the state's largest health insurer. "Given that our mission is to improve the lives of Louisianians ' by promoting better health ' we felt it was time to take this step." The negative health effects of tobacco use have been well known for a long time, Barry says, and more recently, negative effects of secondhand smoke have been well documented. "Blue Cross has a responsibility to take the lead in providing a healthful work environment for employees and a healthful place for customers and others to visit," he says. Headquartered in Baton Rouge, the company also has district offices in Alexandria, Houma, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Monroe, New Orleans and Shreveport. Previously, smoking was restricted to designated areas. After Jan. 1, tobacco use will be prohibited at all locations, including in parking lots and employees' cars, and visitors will be asked not to smoke. Blue Cross employees also will be prohibited from smoking in company vehicles or when visiting the offices of Blue Cross customers for business purposes. The company announced the new policy seven months in advance and provided employees who wanted to quit smoking with a variety of resources to help them. Of the 22 employees who attended every session in free smoking cessation courses offered since the announcement, 14 were smoke-free by the end of the course. In addition to the company-sponsored courses, many employees formed informal support groups, with one department creating a "count-up" board to show how many days the former smokers have been tobacco-free.

The National Council on Aging has selected 10 agencies in three states for an innovative pilot program to help hurricane survivors aged 60 and over find benefit programs. It is targeted to those with limited incomes and resources so that they can get back on their feet financially for the long term. Catholic Charities in Baton Rouge, the Jefferson Parish Area Agency on Aging, the New Orleans Area Council on Aging and Odyssey House will be participating in this program. New Orleans Area Council on Aging is serving all 37 parishes in Acadiana and southern Louisiana listed under the FEMA Declared Disaster Areas for 2005 Hurricanes. Jefferson Parish Area Agency on Aging is serving Jefferson Parish, Odyssey House is serving Orleans and Jefferson Parish and Catholic Charities of Baton Rouge is serving the parishes of Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, St. Helena, St. James, Tangipahoa, West Baton Rouge, and West Feliciana. As part of this program, agencies will use a special version of NCOA's powerful BenefitsCheckUp online service (available at www.benefitscheckup.org/recovery) to identify the programs for which seniors may qualify. The agencies are being encouraged to enroll people in either the Extra Help through Medicare's Prescription Drug Coverage and/or Medicaid, Medicare Savings Programs or Supplemental Security Income, as well as other benefits programs such as those that help pay for utilities, food or other needs. "BenefitsCheckUp is ideally suited for use by local organizations in getting people the benefits they need and deserve," says Stuart Spector, senior vice president of NCOA's Benefits Access Group.