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article imageHeroes & Hearts Award Recipient Dr. Clem says grant is important Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Feb 13, 2011 in Health
The San Francisco General Hospital Foundation had its annual grant awards luncheon at Union Square on Feb. 10. In an interview one of last year's recipients spoke about receiving the award.
Dr. Clement Donahue has worked at SF General Hospital for more than 15 years. As a recipient of last year’s Heroes & Hearts Award he knows how much that grant can help in some very crucial work.
He spoke with this reporter about his experiences and what it has been like since receiving the Heroes & Hearts Award. "It has been a blessing," he said.
"Receiving the award helped to establish more credibility to the work and it means a lot to get recognition," he said. Donahue works with Teen Trauma Recovery.
As someone in the medical profession who works with a high risk population, to have that acknowledgement helps pave the way for more awareness and hopefully more funding in the future as outreach and often ground-breaking programs expand.
"I talked a lot about the work we do at SF General at the luncheon, last year." "My speech broke it down into the various details of not only the programs I work in but in the various types of services," he said.
"And, many people there did not know all the details of the various types of work and programs offered at SF General," he said.
"Many of the artists who contributed their heart-art pieces walked up to me afterward to shake hands and said how much they were inspired. They did not realize how much SF General does in its outreach," he said.
Donahue said he was very happy for this year's recipients, especially Dr. Shannon Thyne in her work at the Children's Clinic at SFGH, in particular her vision to start an awards winning Asthma Clinic for children with asthma for the children's clinic at SFGH.
"The asthma clinic at SF General helps so many kids at risk - Dr. Shannon is a good friend," he said. "I am really proud of her, both as a physician and truly as a visionary with regards to needed program development to practically solve health problems for the children of SF, particularly those at high risk.
“Clem is a true County Doc,” said Thyne when asked about her fellow colleague.
“Over his many years of work at SF General, he has come to appreciate the challenges teens face as they work to leave the cycle of violence,” said Thyne.
“In his teen clinic, he found himself caring for victims of assault—helping them to manage their wounds, navigate their wheelchairs, and plan for follow up surgeries,” she said.
“Clem is the doctor who takes care of these kids after the initial stages of trauma recovery are over—just when the real work begins,” said Thyne.
He noted that in working with at-risk kids and their families more awareness and outreach needs to be done. He is thankful for the work of the SF General Hospital Foundation, "they're awesome," he said. Through the Heroes & Hearts Awards grant they fund so many outstanding programs," he said.
Currently, Dr. Clem as he prefers to be called; is working on a study that will document the effects of trauma in at-risk children. The study will start sometime in 2011 and will focus on children that suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Donahue talked about a new description of PTSD called “Complex Trauma.”
This is when the youth experiences an inconsistent form of care from their care givers or those in their family. The inconsistent loving and care-giver neglect and the experience of violence these kids live with on a day to day level causes the same constellation of symptoms that the Vets in Iraq and Afghanistan experience.
Donahue described the symptoms as “these being hyper-vigilance, survivor guilt, anxiety, mistrust and difficulty forming bonding or loving relations to others.”
Donahue noted in a comparison that “the returning Vets from the war are experiencing PTSD are suffering from chronic fatigue, headaches, structural brain changes, anxiety and short term memory loss,” he said.
“We wish to find out if the children in SF that live in the highest risk areas are also suffering from some of these same symptoms as the returning Vets,” he said.
Donahue was fortunate to approach the SFGH Foundation again to ask for help in this study.
“The funds I received from the SFGH Hero’s and Hearts Foundation this year will help fund my study in the Teen Clinic at SFGH that I’m about to start.
"These are typical anxious symptoms which I and my colleagues have observed in clinic with at-risk kids all the time," he said.
"At-risk youth are exposed to so much chaos, change and violence on the streets and in their homes daily," he said. "The lack of consistency and a stable home life is so dramatically different than it was when I was growing up," Donahue said.
"Some of these kids display what one might consider as PTSD that one finds in soldiers," he said. "Constantly vigilant, they read the room all the time, worrying about what is going to happen next," he said. "These kids come from places where anything chaotic can happen at any given moment with some really life-threatening consequences," said Donahue.
He also noted that such trauma causes a neurological effect upon the brain and its function. "This type of trauma can cause memory loss and hinder further cognitive development," he said. Donahue hopes the study will provide more conclusive and revealing data.
"I think there might even be some evidence that most of the Hyperactive-Attention Deficit Disorder we hear about so much is actually a form of Complex Trauma/PTSD," he said.
Which if so, would have a much more profound effect upon youth and would perhaps explain why scores of kids today are not doing well in school.
Donahue and his staff are eager to gather data and to report their findings. Those youth who volunteer to participate in the study will receive care and get referrals to specialists if needed. The SFGH Foundation and others helps to make that study possible.
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