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Press Releases

Asian Liver Center at Holy Name Medical Center Receives $102,000 in Grants to Support Hepatitis B Awarness Campaign

Date: 7/20/2010

The Asian Liver Center at Holy Name Medical Center was recently awarded three grants to support its Hepatitis B Awareness Campaign. The funds, which total $102,000, are from the Gilead Foundation ($50,000), a non-profit organization funded by Gilead Sciences, Inc. that supports projects addressing health disparities and unmet needs; The Grace and Mercy Foundation ($42,000), which focuses on community-based health, social, faith-based, and education programs; and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($10,000), the biopharmaceutical company. Holy Name's Hepatitis B Awareness Campaign consists of education and prevention initiatives, screenings, and disease surveillance for Asian-Americans, a population identified as one of the leading carriers of this serious and potentially deadly disease.

"We are fortunate to have partners in the biomedical and philanthropic communities who understand the wisdom and humanity of the Hepatitis B Awareness Campaign," says Michael Maron, President/CEO, Holy Name Medical Center. "The Gilead Foundation, the Grace and Mercy Foundation and Bristol-Myers Squibb are highly respected organizations; their support is further testament of our program's value and speaks to its uniqueness. We are so grateful for their generosity."

Chul S. Hyun, M.D., Ph.D., gastroenterologist and medical director of Holy Name's Asian Liver Center, says the hepatitis B virus is endemic to many Asian populations abroad, especially those in Korea, China, Vietnam and certain parts of Africa, as well as to many Asians in America. He estimates that up to 10 percent of Asian-Americans may carry the hepatitis B virus, compared with 0.2 percent of the white population in the U.S.

"This is a huge disparity, and not many healthcare organizations are doing anything about it," says Dr. Hyun, who authored the grant application to the Gilead Foundation. "Up to 25 percent of virus carriers can develop life-limiting and potentially fatal complications, including cirrhosis [scarring] of the liver and liver cancer. We need to educate and screen those at risk."

Hepatitis B is a contagious liver disease that ranges in severity from mild and lasting a few weeks (acute) to a serious, lifelong illness (chronic). The hepatitis B virus is spread through blood, semen, and other body fluids infected with the virus. It can also be transmitted from mother to baby during childbirth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with chronic hepatitis B infection should receive care and regular monitoring from a physician experienced in the treatment of hepatitis B.

Culturally and Linguistically Sensitive Care Make the Difference

The Asian Liver Center, which is under the auspices of Holy Name's Korean Medical Program, offers prevention initiatives, including vaccination and education. It conducts screenings to detect hepatitis B carriers (people infected with chronic hepatitis B) and determines if they are candidates for anti-viral therapy. For those with advanced illness, the Center can offer minimally invasive treatments through Holy Name's Interventional Institute and surgery, if necessary.

"Our plan is to reach out to 1,000 low income/uninsured people with the hepatitis B blood test screenings in the first year of the program," explains Kyung-Hee Choi, director, Korean Medical Program. "We expect to see 350 to 400 people who would require vaccinations and/or follow up treatment. The Asian Liver Center will work with these people through every step of their care management needs."

Beyond its comprehensive services, the Asian Liver Center further differentiates itself from similar programs by personalizing the care environment specifically to Asians. "Many organizations screen and educate," explains Dr. Hyun. "They find hepatitis B carriers and tell them to see a liver specialist. So what do these patients do? Some enter the system, others get lost in the follow-up because of the barriers posed by language and culture. We have learned that language and culture are essential to increasing compliance with health care advice. At Holy Name, our program is very culturally and linguistically sensitive, and it is closely-knit with the Asian community."

"A community network, the medical and surgical expertise, and the passion to reach out to this population—Gilead, Grace and Mercy, and Bristol-Myers Squibb see there is no program like this in the metropolitan area," says Dr. Hyun.

For more information about Holy Name Medical Center's Asian Liver Center and the Hepatitis B Awareness Campaign, call 201-833-3399.