November 22, 2017
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — UKanQuit, which has helped thousands of patients at The University of Kansas Health System kick their tobacco habit, is now honoring clinicians who are on the program's front line and ambitiously promoting its mission.
Last week marked the Tobacco Treatment Championship Award's inaugural recipients: Diego Lim, MD, MPH, a resident in gastroenterology and hepatology; and Mary Foster, RN, part of cardiothoracic surgery progressive care.
The two "champions" were honored on Nov. 16 by staff from the University of Kansas Medical Center's Preventive Medicine and Public Health, and colleagues at The University of Kansas Health System.
The program, which is in its 11th year, is a partnership between the KUMC department and the health system. As part of its goal, UKanQuit counselors meet at the bedsides of inpatients who say they want to stop smoking.
Since its formation, the program has received nearly 17,000 patient referrals and treated 15,390 of them. Of those, 34% reported they had quit smoking at 6 months. By comparison, about 6% of all smokers across the U.S. quit in a given year, although 7 out of 10 say they want to.
In the past year alone, UKanQuit received 2,092 referrals and treated 1,964 patients, both records.
"This is what academic medicine is all about," says Chris Ruder, RN, health system vice president of patient care services. "It's what happens on this campus – in partnership we can do tremendous things together."
Lim credits the program's audience model for its success. "In an inpatient setting, when they have an acute illness, it's a great opportunity to bring it up," he says.
Preventive Medicine Chair Ed Ellerbeck, MD, MPH, says physicians like Lim contribute to UKanQuit's success. It's due in part to their white-coat stature, as physicians, which carries exceptional influence with many patients. But it's also because physicians "have the power of the pen" to prescribe tobacco-cessation medications, an increasingly important tool for UKanQuit counselors. Tobacco users who turn to nicotine patches and other medications are two to three times more likely to quit.
Foster, a nurse of nearly 40 years, is a former smoker herself and has seen tobacco take a painful toll on family and friends. She understands tobacco users' needs and how to talk to them.
"First, when I go into a room with a patient, I ask them if they want to quit smoking, because I know it's something they have to want to do," she says. "If they say yes, then I talk about the great group we have here, and we can help them if they really want to quit."