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A newsletter from Ankle & Foot Care Centers.

September 2013 Edition:

Employees in Alliance Office Lead Community Service Effort

For Ankle & Foot Care employees Artie Geiger and Terry Harden, helping others is a high priority. Whether that’s by making patients feel a little more comfortable during their visits to the Alliance office or by making sure local students have school supplies, they are all in.

“The need in the community is growing,” said Artie. “It’s heart-breaking to know that some people will literally stand in line just to get school supplies for their children. But we’re glad to help and people who receive the packs are so appreciative.”

Students from throughout the community were given backpacks stuffed with school supplies and were treated to lunch, games and other activities – all free of charge. The church has been involved with this project for many years.

“People from our church had been giving away backpacks with school supplies for several years, but there was no funding for it,” said Artie. “It had gotten so big that people had to start buying the supplies. So, my husband and I, who like to ride, thought maybe we could do a fundraiser and pass on the proceeds to help with the supplies.”

The Bikes for Backpacks event began in 2008 and was an instant success. There were 69 bikes in the event that first year and 500 backpacks were given away to students. The event raised money through donations from the riders, while some also donated backpacks with supplies inside.

According to Artie, this year’s event did not include as many bikers, but they were still able to meet the goal of raising $1,300.

“Through the years, we haven’t had as many bikers as we had the first year, but God is good and somehow we’ve still been able to raise enough money,” she said. “This year, we gave away 1,500 packs.”

The bike ride is a nearly 100-mile trek through the countryside of Stark and Mahoning counties. It begins in Alliance and ends there about 2 ? hours later. That includes a pit stop where bikers are treated to refreshments. Some years, bikers have given their testimony or participated in a worship service. Even the Alliance mayor participated in past events.

Artie believes there is a simple reason for the event’s success.

“People just like helping people,” she said. “They know this is a good thing for the community. Even those who really can’t afford to buy school supplies for their own children still come out and support this event. There’s always someone worse off than you.”

Terry, who works with Artie at Ankle & Foot was able to participate this year.

“It was cool that this year, Terry and I both had the same day off and could ride in the event together.”

Artie said that her co-workers at Ankle & Foot have been very supportive of the fundraiser and some have participated in one way or another.

“They’ve been very supportive,” Artie said. “They’ve brought in backpacks with supplies and they make sure our patients and others know what we’re trying to do.”

Artie is excited about the future of the event and encourages anyone interested in riding or donating to contact her.

“Anyone with donations can send them our way – even now,” said Artie. “We can already start for next year by buying school supplies that are on sale.”

Employees in Alliance Office Lead Community Service Effort
Artie Geiger and her husband, Mike, have been organizing the Bikers for Backpacks fundraiser for six years. The event helps supply packs of school supplies to area students in need.

Copyright © September 2013 Ankle & Foot Care Centers

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Ankle Replacement Gives Markel Back His Freedom

After spending four years practically chained to the couch because of ankle pain, Peter Markel now has the freedom to go wherever he wants, thanks to Dr. Lawrence DiDomenico at Ankle & Foot Care Centers.

Markel spent many years with next to no mobility because of an ankle injury. It hurt so bad, that he couldn’t put any weight on it and trying to walk was hardly worth it.

Ankle Replacement Gives Markel Back His Freedom“It was four years of pain,” Peter said. “I had to hold onto something just to put my pants on in the morning. I couldn’t go up the stairs, could barely walk and the only time it didn’t hurt as bad was when I was sitting or lying down.”

Peter had visited other doctors about his ankle issues, and was told that he should have it fused, even though it would cause him to lose motion. After years of inactivity and pain, he heard about Ankle & Foot Care Centers in East Liverpool, a 30-minute drive from his home in Steubenville.

During his consultation with Dr. DiDomenico, he learned about a procedure called TAR, or total ankle replacement. After hearing the details about the surgery and how he should expect to feel afterward, Peter agreed to try it.

“Boy, I waited way too long to do it,” explained Peter. “I’m so glad I went ahead with it. Afterward, I had no more pain – I couldn’t believe it. After two weeks, I was in a regular cast and soon I was walking with no pain.

“I’m moving around, walking the stairs, going to the mall, just doing things I never could because I couldn’t even walk. I’m free to do whatever I want now. I’m even golfing again.”

Peter, who played soccer throughout his youth and even in Europe as an adult, is no longer spending his days in front of the television trying to take his mind off the pain. He attributes that to his experience with Ankle & Foot Care Centers.

“I highly recommend them to anyone with any type of foot problem,” Peter said. “I was very satisfied with Dr. DiDomenico and everyone at the office. I’m free again because of them.”

Copyright © September 2013 Ankle & Foot Care Centers

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Dr. Smesko Combines Family, Food and Foot Care

Even before he got married and started a family, Dr. Mark Smesko knew he wanted a career that wouldn’t interfere with life at home.

His decision has served him well. By day, he spends his time split between three of Ankle & Foot Care’s offices - East Liverpool, Salem and East Palestine – and then hustles home for dinner with his wife and three young children. Some nights, he even makes it home early enough to sharpen his cooking skills, satisfying his passion for cooking.

Meet the Doc“I’d say it’s 60-40 me with the cooking,” he said. “I love food and cooking – you name it, I like it. I’m not much of a baker, but pretty much anything else I’ll cook. I’d do more of it if I could.”

In addition to being the chef at home, Dr. Smesko also gets his fill of food through his partnership with Ankle & Foot Care Centers practice administrator Michael Vallas. The duo writes a food column in the Youngstown Vindicator, detailing their experiences at Valley eateries.

In the office, Dr. Smesko treats a variety of lower extremity conditions and sees patients of all ages. He specializes in diabetic care, wound care, children’s foot and ankle care and sports medicine. Being a family guy and having experience with children, he enjoys treating youth.

“I probably see about 15 percent children,” he said. “Mostly, it’s diabetic foot care, ulcers and sores – things like that. With the kids, most of the time we treat them once, get them better and then they don’t have to come back. It’s nice to fix their problems.”

Despite working in three different offices over the course of a typical work week, Dr. Smesko doesn’t mind the travel. In fact, it gives him time to himself and an opportunity to dream up that next culinary creation.

“I’ve worked the same schedule for quite a while, so I’m used to it. The driving gives me time to unwind and I’m not staying in the same office all the time.”

Dr. Smesko has been with Ankle & Foot for 14 years, starting in 1999. He went to Youngstown State for undergraduate work, then attended Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine. He’s happy with his current career situation and the work-life balance he’s able to achieve.

“About 90 percent of the time, I’m home with my family for dinner,” he explained. “The group of doctors at Ankle & Foot are great. It’s nice to have some good doctors to talk to about patients and they are all just good people, which really helps.”

Dr. Smesko, a lifelong Mahoning Valley resident, lives in Canfield with his wife and three children, ages 9, 7 and 5.

Dr. Smesko Combines Family, Food and Foot Care
Dr. Smesko (back left) and his wife, Andrea, have three children, Dylan (front left), Taylor (front center) and JD.

Copyright © September 2013 Ankle & Foot Care Centers

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Practice Administrator Vallas Leads Ankle & Foot Care Team

Every good team needs talented players and a forward-thinking coach to lead them to a successful outcome. At Ankle & Foot Care Centers, the roster includes both.

“We’re really blessed as an organization with doctors who are leaders in their field, but also are great people,” said practice administrator Michael Vallas. “Our whole staff is full of quality people – from the office staff to the doctors. It makes my job easier for sure.”

Employee SpotlightMichael has served as administrator at Ankle & Foot Care since 1999 and has led the business through substantial growth during those 14 years. The practice was serving patients in five locations when he joined the group. Currently, there are 18 offices in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana counties in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

“There’s a significant difference in our practice from back then until now,” said Michael. “Those changes include everything from more locations, to more doctors and more services we offer patients. Things are a lot more complex now and every year they become more so.”

One of the biggest challenges Michael and his staff continue to face is the ever-changing healthcare industry. Healthcare standards and laws are in constant flux, so keeping up is time-consuming, but necessary. The practice is also transitioning into electronic medical records which, in the long run, will make work more efficient.

As practice administrator, Michael is at the hub of many of these changes. He’s also responsible for addressing everyday and pressing needs.

“I have my hands in a lot of things here,” he said. “If the roof started leaking, I’d be the one who had to get someone out here to fix it. The way I look at my job is that I’m here to serve our 88 staff members and 16 physicians. If they are successful, then we are meeting our mission and serving our patients.

In addition to working with quality people, Michael enjoys his role as a decision-maker within the practice.

“One of the things that led me here from my previous employment was that here I have that ability to make decisions and try to implement things that I think are needed,” he explained. “That is very satisfying.”

When he’s not in the office with his team, Michael enjoys playing golf or spending time with his family. He and his wife, Mary, have two daughters, Elizabeth and Annie, and a son, Michael Cosmo. They reside in Canfield.

Practice Administrator Vallas Leads Ankle & Foot Care Team
Ankle & Foot Care Centers practice administrator Michael Vallas (right) enjoys time with his family. Pictured, from left, are Elizabeth (daughter), Mary (wife), Annie (daughter) and Michael Cosmo (son).

Copyright © September 2013 Ankle & Foot Care Centers

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Know Your Diabetes Management Team

While diabetes affects the body negatively from head to toe, it can be controlled successfully with guidance and treatment from a team of medical specialists.

• Primary Care Physician — A family physician or internist plays the important role of coordinator. He or she is often the first doctor one sees after a diabetes diagnosis and makes referrals to other specialists on the treatment team.

• Endocrinologist — This specialist treats many internal diseases and is often called upon to care for a person with diabetes who is having difficulty controlling the disease.

• Podiatrists — Podiatrists are uniquely qualified to treat the foot and ankle. Diabetes can limit or restrict nerve function, as well as blood flow to the feet. Because of this problem, patients with diabetes can develop foot complications that may result in amputation if left untreated. If you have diabetes or are at risk of the disease, have a podiatrist check your feet at least twice a year for symptoms such as a loss of sensation, burning, or tingling.

• Dentist — Patients with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease and infections in the mouth due to excess blood sugar, so keeping up with regular dental appointments is important.

• Ophthalmologist/Optometrist — Similar to how diabetes restricts blood flow to the feet, diabetes can also affect blood flow to the eyes, resulting in diabetic eye disease. This condition is highly preventable if the disease is managed properly.

• Vascular Surgeon — Diabetes can increase the chances for development of several vascular diseases. Your risk of vascular disease increases with the length of time you have had diabetes, and your risk can increase if you have high blood pressure, if you smoke, are inactive, are overweight, or eat a high-fat diet.

• Pharmacist — Successfully managing diabetes usually requires taking prescription medication. Talk to your pharmacist to ensure you understand the risks of using over-the-counter (OTC) medications with prescribed medications.

Copyright © September 2013 American Podiatric Medical Association and Ankle & Foot Care Centers

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From The Kitchen: Mixed Greens with Mandarin Oranges and Walnuts

From The KitchenIngredients
1 (4-ounce) can mandarin orange segments, drained, juice reserved
1/4 cup olive oil vinaigrette (recommended: Newman's Own)
1 (5.5-ounce) bag mixed greens
1/2 cucumber, sliced
1 (5-ounce) can hearts of palm, sliced
1/4 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Measure 1/4 cup of reserved mandarin juice. In a small bowl, whisk together juice and vinaigrette; set aside.

In large bowl, toss together salad mix, hearts of palm, and mandarin segments with mandarin dressing. Transfer salad to serving platter and top with remaining ingredients.

From The Kitchen: Mixed Greens with Mandarin Oranges and Walnuts

Copyright © 2013 Food Network Magazine

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