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UnityPoint Health Nurses Named 2023 ‘Great Iowa Nurses’

MedQuarter (MedQ) Regional Medical District | January 30th, 2023

UnityPoint Health Cedar Rapids Great Iowa Nurses Headshots

UnityPoint Health is honored to have 50 nurses named to the 2023 Great Iowa Nurses list and 16 are from UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids. Honorees include: Kelli McAfee, Marion; Laura Barner, Springville; Peggy Bragg, Mt. Vernon; Mark Butschi, Robins, Penny Dullea, Swisher; Jordan Hagarty, Cedar Rapids; Paige Holland, Monmouth; Jeremy Gardemann, Independence; Jessica Newsom, Cedar Rapids; Jayne Nirschl, Cedar Rapids; Kim Mente, Tipton; Maureen McEvoy, Coggon; Rachel Petersen, Alburnett; Michelle Ross, Urbana; Stephanie Voss, Tipton; Holly White, Marion.


This prestigious award annually recognizes nurses at healthcare organizations across the state for their outstanding contributions to their patients, team members, and the nursing profession.

“I am thrilled to see our exceptional nurses receive this recognition,” said Carmen Kleinsmith, UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids senior vice president and chief nurse executive. “Our nurses give selflessly to our patients and team members. I am grateful for their dedication to patient care and improving the health of our community.”

“I’m inspired by and extremely proud of all our nurse honorees this year,” said UnityPoint Health Chief Nursing Officer and Senior Vice President D’Andre Carpenter. “Their skill and passion for nursing shows in the high-quality, compassionate care they provide every day to our patients and communities. Each one of these nurses is deserving of this recognition, and it’s a privilege to have them represent the exceptional hospital, clinic and home care nursing teams at UnityPoint Health.”

Award recipients will be honored during a virtual ceremony in February. For more information, visit

For individuals interested in joining the UnityPoint Health team, visit:

Top Baby Names at UnityPoint Health Hospitals in Eastern Iowa for 2022

MedQuarter (MedQ) Regional Medical District | December 20th, 2022

The name Olivia came out on top as the most popular girl’s name at UnityPoint Health hospitals in Eastern Iowa this year. This list is compiled from baby names at UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s, Finley and Allen Hospitals. For the boys – Jack was the number one pick.

Top 10 most popular names at Eastern Iowa UnityPoint Health hospitals in 2022:

Top ten girl’s names:                                                    Top ten boy’s names:

  1. Olivia                                                                                     1.  Jack
  2. Harper                                                                                  2.  Leo
  3. Charlotte                                                                             3.  Brooks
  4. Ava                                                                                        4.  Liam
  5. Violet                                                                                    5.  Oliver
  6. Lucy                                                                                       6.  Henry
  7. Evelyn                                                                                   7.  Hudson
  8. Grace                                                                                    8.  Asher
  9. Aurora                                                                                  9.  Theodore
  10. Sophia                                                                                  10. Owen

Olivia was the most popular girl’s name in the United States this year and Liam was tops for the boy’s name nationally according to BabyCenter. This is the second year in a row those names were the top choices nationally. 

Breaking it down by hospital and city…. 

In Cedar Rapids:

Top 10 most popular names for UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital babies in 2022:
Top ten girl’s names:                                        Top ten boy’s names:

  1. Harper                                                                  1.  Jack
  2. Olivia                                                                     2.  Liam
  3. Aurora                                                                  3.  Asher
  4. Charlotte                                                             4.  Everett
  5. Lucy                                                                       5.  Hudson
  6. Vivian                                                                    6.  Owen
  7. Emma                                                                   7.  Leo
  8. Isla                                                                         8.  Rowan
  9. Violet                                                                   9.  Theodore
  10. Sophia                                                                  10. Elijah


In Dubuque:

Top 10 most popular names for UnityPoint Health – Finley Hospital babies in 2022: 

Top ten girl’s names:                                       Top ten boy’s names:

  1. Harper                                                                  1.  Oliver
  2. Olivia                                                                     2.  Theodore
  3. Grace                                                                    3.  Brooks
  4. Luna                                                                      4.  Beau
  5. Charlotte                                                             5.  Maverick
  6. Nora                                                                      6.  Jack
  7. Sophia                                                                  7.  Leo
  8. Claire                                                                     8.  Luke
  9. Autumn                                                               9.  Eli
  10. Willow                                                                  10. Aiden


In Waterloo:

Top 10 most popular names for UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital babies in 2022:

Top ten girl’s names:                                      Top ten boy’s names:

  1. Ava                                                                        1.  Jack
  2. Olivia                                                                     2. Leo
  3. Charlotte                                                             3. Elijah
  4. Amelia                                                                  4. William
  5. Quinn                                                                    5. Thomas
  6. Hazel                                                                     6. Rowan
  7. Addison                                                                7. Walker
  8. Collins                                                                   8. Henry
  9. Elsie                                                                       9. Brooks
  10. Parker                                                                   10. Carter

UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Foundation Receives Grant from Variety – the Children’s Charity to purchase horse riding simulators for Witwer Children’s Therapy

MedQuarter (MedQ) Regional Medical District | December 19th, 2022

Patients at UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Witwer Children’s Therapy (WCT) are benefiting from new equipment, which mimics that of riding a horse. St. Luke’s Foundation received a $17,281 grant from Variety – the Children’s Charity to purchase two MiraColt Horse Riding Simulators for both WCT locations.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic WCT offered hippotherapy, which according to the American Hippotherapy Association (AHA), refers to how occupational, physical and speech therapists use evidence-based practice and clinical reasoning in the purposeful manipulation of equine movement as a therapy tool.

Even before the pandemic there were barriers for patients and therapists to travel to a stable to use horses. Witwer therapists recently identified the MiraColt as a potential way to offer the benefits of hippotherapy within the clinic environment.  The MiraColt simulator was developed and built by Chariot Innovations, a company based out of Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

The equipment offers features other therapy equipment does not, such as side-to-side and forward and backwards motions designed to mimic the three-dimensional quality of a horse’s gait. Research has demonstrated it is possible to obtain similar benefits to gait, postural stability, balance, strength, and other therapeutic goals using a mechanical horse-riding simulator as compared to using a live horse.

This product has been successfully utilized in medical and therapy clinics throughout the United States and it allows Witwer therapists to provide the benefits of hippotherapy to their patients in the clinic.  Witwer Children’s Therapy, UnityPoint Health is currently the only therapy clinic in Iowa to utilize this equipment in therapy sessions.

The MiraColt Horse Riding Simulator is expected to help individuals with Cerebral palsy (CP), autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other related neuro-muscular conditions. This form of therapy has been shown to improve outcomes in mobility, balance, control of posture, walking, speaking and gross and fine motor skills.

“The MiraColt is an exciting addition to our treatment toolbox,” said Sarah Bengtson, Witwer Children’s Therapy senior physical therapist and clinic supervisor. “The equipment challenges children’s balance and postural control and is a fun way to work on these and other movement skills in a clinic-based setting. It is exciting to be the only outpatient clinic in the state of Iowa that has this equipment.”

“This tool has increased opportunities for the therapists to utilize the principles of hippotherapy with an increased variety of patients,” said Keri Andrews, Witwer Children’s Therapy senior physical therapist. “I have been utilizing the MiraColt with patients who might not tolerate therapeutic horseback riding due to size, age, medical diagnoses, etc. The rhythm of the MiraColt mimics the pelvic movements that we utilize with a typical walking pattern to improve the patient’s current walking pattern. This equipment will be able to be utilized by multiple disciplines and a large variety of our patient population.”

Witwer Children’s Therapy is one of the largest outpatient pediatric therapy providers in Cedar Rapids and in Iowa. Witwer has two locations one in Cedar Rapids and another in Hiawatha. Each clinic received a MiraColt.

“Thanks to Variety – the Children’s Charity, many children in Eastern Iowa will benefit from these devices,” said Julie Gasway, Witwer Children’s Therapy manager. “Studies demonstrate how useful this therapy is for many of the children we serve. The MiraColt Horse Riding Simulator is another tool we can utilize to help children improve their quality of life. We are grateful for this support.”


Mercy returns to masking precautions

MedQuarter (MedQ) Regional Medical District | December 19th, 2022

Due to the increased incidence of influenza, COVID, RSV and other respiratory illnesses in the community, Mercy Medical Center and MercyCare facilities are returning to universal masking precautions. Beginning, Monday, December 19, visitors, patient families, volunteers and Mercy staff members are required to mask at all times while in Mercy facilities.

Mercy has temporarily returned to these precautions for the safety of hospitalized patients and the community. The changes will remain in place as we continue to monitor local rates of infection.

St. Luke’s, UnityPoint locations reinstitute mandatory masking policy

MedQuarter (MedQ) Regional Medical District | December 9th, 2022

St. Luke’s Hospital, along with all UnityPoint clinics and urgent care facilities, has reinstituted a mandatory masking policy for all staff, patients and visitors.

The new requirement begins today (Friday, Dec. 9).

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends universal masking in health care facilities when there is high community transmission of COVID-19, and Linn County is now seeing high transmission,” UnityPoint spokesperson Sarah Corizzo said in an email. “As a result, universal masking will resume Dec. 9 at UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital. Masking is required for team members and visitors.”

The St. Luke’s mandatory masking policy is in effect regardless of vaccination status for seasonal influenza or COVID-19, UnityPoint officials said.

UnityPoint had previously relaxed its masking policies in April due to a drop in COVID-19 transmission levels.

However, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported Dec. 7 that the number of new, documented COVID-19 infections was at least 28% higher in the past week in Iowa than it was the week prior, according to state data.

The state reported 3,469 new, weekly confirmed cases among people who were not previously infected by the coronavirus. That’s more than double the state’s reported infection rate nearly two months ago.

Originally posted by Corridor Business Journal:

Mercy’s Hall-Perrine Cancer Center adds new Gynecologic Oncology Clinic

MedQuarter (MedQ) Regional Medical District | December 8th, 2022

Mercy Cedar Rapids is pleased to announce the addition of Gunjal Garg, MD, FACOG, MSCI, to the new Gynecologic Oncology Clinic at the Hall-Perrine Cancer Center. The clinic will be the first of its kind in Cedar Rapids and among only a few others in Iowa.

Dr. Garg will begin seeing patients on Mon., Dec. 12, bringing with her more than a decade of experience in gynecologic oncology. She specializes in procedures for the treatment of ovarian, uterine, cervical, vulvar and primary peritoneal cancers, among others. She also has extensive training and experience in performing minimally invasive and robotic surgeries, as well as other complex gynecological procedures.

“I look forward to working collaboratively with the exceptional team of specialists at Hall-Perrine Cancer Center,” Dr. Garg said. “I’m also exceptionally pleased to bring the very best care to women with gynecologic cancers and to make a difference in their lives during such a difficult time.”

Dr. Garg earned her medical degree from Gajra Raja Medical College in India. She then completed her residencies in obstetrics and gynecology at the NSCB Medical College in Jabalpur, India; Rochester General Hospital in Rochester, New York; and Wayne State University in Detroit. She completed her translational research fellowship with a Master of Science in clinic investigation, as well as her fellowship in gynecologic oncology, from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. She is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology, as well as gynecologic oncology.

Dr. Garg joins Hall-Perrine Cancer Center from her previous practice in Illinois, where she worked as a gynecologic oncologist.

Glow on, Get Festive!

MedQuarter (MedQ) Regional Medical District | December 2nd, 2022

Holiday Lights 2022

The MedQuarter and Downtown District have ‘thrown the switch’ on this year’s holiday lights and displays for the 2022/2023 holiday season, and added holiday banners along the ‘loop’. The MedQuarter parkway trees along 10th Street from A Avenue NE to 8th Avenue SE, as well as the trees along 1st Avenue east from 10th Street to 6th Street, have been adorned with thousands of holiday lights to connect with the Downtown’s trees. The ‘loop’ driving route takes you to Greene Square where the City of Cedar Rapids holiday tree is in place. New this year are holiday banners along the route adding to the festive feel.

Providing Efficient Care with the Help of a Specialized App

MedQuarter (MedQ) Regional Medical District | November 30th, 2022

Rover Phone AppBedside caregivers on some units at UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital have recently begun using Rover, an app from Epic, which is an electric health record software company. Rover empowers these St. Luke’s team members to reduce time spent documenting patient information at a computer and remain at the patient bedside by documenting care on a handheld device.

Caregivers (nurses, patient care techs and respiratory therapists) of hospitalized patients log into a hospital-issued cell phone at the beginning of their shift and utilize the Rover app to document from the palm of their hand. This technology promotes real-time documentation, increases team member satisfaction, and improves overall documentation workflows.

So far, Rover has been implemented on two St. Luke’s units. Hospital team members share that the app is helpful for charting medication, input and output, vital signs and blood administration, and they appreciate the ability to quickly enter patient information on the go. Orders and notes are all at the fingertips of the caregivers and can help with questions that healthcare providers, patients or family members may have.

Each hospital-issued cell phone is an iPhone 13 with a clear case, and each have a sticker that reads, “We use our phones for caring.” Team members return the device at the end of their shift.

“UnityPoint Health recognizes the documentation challenge for our bedside nursing and respiratory therapy team members,” said Brenda Oehler, director of St. Luke’s Hospital Nursing Operations. “This is just one of the ways UnityPoint Health and St. Luke’s leadership team are looking to transform the future of our inpatient bedside nursing to meet the demands of our current healthcare system.”

Six other hospital units at St. Luke’s will start using Rover by the end of the year and there are plans for other departments to start using Rover next year.

Healthcare Community Encourages Respiratory Virus Prevention Measures

MedQuarter (MedQ) Regional Medical District | November 17th, 2022

Linn County Public Health, Mercy Medical Center and UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital are experiencing an increase in respiratory cases caused by viruses such as Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV). In addition, there’s also an uptick in influenza and COVID cases. RSV and influenza have arrived earlier in the season than normal.

As medical providers, the health and safety of those in our community is a top priority. As such, we urge community members to consider safety measures as we approach the time of year where the number of people infected by respiratory illness typically increases.

Respiratory viruses can be spread when:

  • An infected person coughs or sneezes.
  • Virus droplets from a cough or sneeze get in your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • You have direct contact with the virus, such as touching someone.
  • You touch a surface that has the virus on it and then touch your face before washing your hands.

Reducing the risk of spreading respiratory illness is also important to protect vulnerable populations at risk for severe illness, as well as the healthcare system and other critical infrastructure. Common ways you can help prevent respiratory illness include:

  • Staying home when feeling ill.
  • Washing your hands often or using hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
  • Avoiding contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Covering your cough.
  • Wearing a mask and keeping your nose and mouth covered in large public settings.

According to the CDC, individuals are typically infected with RSV for the first time as an infant or toddler and nearly all children are infected before their second birthday. RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. It attacks the airways in the lungs. Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious, especially in infants and older adults. RSV prevention methods are similar to flu prevention, as listed above. No vaccine is available for RSV.

Members of the community can also reduce the risk of serious complications from COVID-19 and seasonal flu by getting vaccinated. Vaccines for those viruses are easily accessible throughout the community. Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone six months of age and older, with rare exceptions.

Please do your part to prevent illness and reduce the burden on local hospitals by keeping yourself and others safe.

Mercy acquires additional tool for screening and diagnostic colonoscopies

MedQuarter (MedQ) Regional Medical District | November 14th, 2022

Mercy Medical Center is now offering screening colonoscopy patients a new technology to aid in the detection of colorectal polyps – the GI GeniusTM intelligent endoscopy module. The GI GeniusTM module uses artificial intelligence (AI) to assist physicians as they screen for colorectal cancer. Mercy is the first hospital in Iowa to acquire this technology.

The GI GeniusTM module uses advanced AI software to highlight suspicious polyps with a visual marker in real time, thereby assisting the gastroenterologist in the detection of lesions. Studies have shown that AI-assisted colonoscopy can increase polyp detection rates.

Colorectal cancer is the third-most common form of cancer diagnosed in the U.S., with almost 150,000 new cases every year. Colonoscopy has long been considered the gold standard for detecting polyps that can eventually lead to colorectal cancer. Now, patients have the added benefit of this AI technology to help physicians detect polyps.

“Mercy remains focused on meeting the medical needs of our community by providing our staff with the latest technology and tools for ongoing, high-quality care,” said Dr. Bhavya Akhauri, medical director, Mercy Gastroenterology Clinic. “The GI GeniusTM module is the first and only AI system for aiding detection of colonic polyps in the U.S. and we are pleased to be at the forefront in Iowa in offering it to our patients.”

The Mercy Gastroenterology Clinic provides its patients with a high standard of care, as reflected in its quality data. It’s also been recognized by the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy for meeting the program’s rigorous criteria in areas such as quality assurance, CDC infection control guidelines and endoscopy staff competency.

The American Cancer Society recommends that adults begin colorectal cancer screening at the age of 45. Colorectal cancer usually starts from polyps or precancerous growths in the colon and rectum.

The MedQuarter is keeping up-to-date on information and resources regarding the pandemic.
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