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‘The Virginia economy has truly started to perform again’

Last week, Governor Ralph Northam announced that Virginia finished the fiscal year with  $551.9 million more in revenue that we projected when writing this year’s budget.

First, the good news is that most of this surplus is due to increased tax revenue from payroll withholding taxes, not one-time revenue sources like capital gains or tax avoidance strategies related to the recent changes in federal tax laws.  The Virginia economy has truly started to perform again.

However, it is important to keep these numbers in context.  The state’s General Fund has been under significant stress over the decade since the Great Recession and automatic federal spending cuts caused by a process called a “sequester.”  In the nine years, I have served in the General Assembly, this is the second fiscal year that the Commonwealth has experienced revenue growth equal to or greater than the historical average.

Because of our state Constitution, other state laws and the budget, all of these  “new” funds are already allocated.  Our laws require that 10 percent or $55 million go to the Water Quality Improvement Fund and that the $500 million balance be contributed to Virginia’s Revenue Stabilization (“Rainy Day”) Fund, which before the 2018 General Assembly session had dropped to historically low levels due to frequent, sluggish revenues.  Bond rating agencies had also expressed concern about the lower balances and had indicated that our AAA bond rating could be adversely impacted without significant contributions.

While everyone would love to have a tax cut, the General Assembly has enacted dozens of tax cuts over the past two decades, including car tax relief, estate tax repeal and removing the sales tax on food.  These tax cuts have completely offset the effect of any tax increases that passed.  As a result, most General Fund programs have been starved.   

Here are some examples.

Virginia’s per pupil, elementary-secondary education expenditures are the 15th lowest in the nation and our teacher salaries are the 13th lowest.  Virginia’s meager state-funded preschool program is still in its infancy. 

Virginia theoretically set a goal for the state to support 66 percent of the cost of attending college, funding that actually existed when I attended James Madison University from  1989 to 1993.  The state now only covers about 33 percent of the cost.  This has caused tuition at our state-supported institutions to skyrocket so that tuition rates at these colleges have become the fourth highest in the United States of America.

There are 10,000 families on Virginia’s waiting list for Medicaid waivers.  These are families with fully disabled juvenile and adult children who are incapable of living independently.  A Medicaid “waiver” allows them to live at home or in group homes funded by the Commonwealth.  Many families, such as military families, move to Virginia only to learn that our state is not supporting these services, services that are basic in most states.

State employee salaries continue to lag behind the private sector.  Recent reports have concluded that state employees would need a 26 percent pay increase to reach private sector parity.  State attorneys’ salaries are 90 percent lower than comparable private sector salaries.  Until this year, the Virginia State Police had not had any new trooper positions authorized in over a decade. 

Environmental enforcement in Virginia is severely limited by inadequate staffing.  Former Governor George Allen cut employees by 20 percent during his term and the Department of Environmental Quality has never recovered.  We struggled to find funds this year to pay for actual staff at the newly-created Widewater State Park in the 36th District.  The state has been sitting on the 1,000 acres for 30 years but has not had the money to open the park.   

Transportation is funded entirely separately by completely different streams of taxes mainly related to transportation such as gas taxes, annual fees and sales taxes on vehicles.  We were only able to restart maintaining our roads and investing in new transportation projects after we increased taxes in the 2013 General Assembly session. 

At the end of the day, the new funds are good news, but there are dozens of state-funded programs which are desperate for fresh funding. Please continue to provide your feedback as to how we should prioritize spending if we are fortunate enough for revenue to continue increasing.  You can reach me at scott@scottsurovell.org.

It is an honor to serve as your state senator.  

Enlarged prostate happens to every guy. There’s a new way to treat it at Sentara.

It’s one of the most common health issues for men as they grow older.

“As gentlemen age, the testosterone that’s in their body fuels the growth of their prostate so every guy that has testosterone and a prostate, it will eventually get larger. It happens in different rates in different people, but happens,” explains John B. Klein, M.D. of Potomac Urology.   

Even though it may not be commonly discussed, every day Dr. Klein sees patients suffering from an enlarged prostate, also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH.)

Symptoms include frequent urination, difficulty starting and stopping urination, inability to completely empty the bladder and frequent trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. 

“Urinary symptoms do not necessarily indicate prostate cancer, a majority of the time they’re from benign enlargement of the prostate. However, you can have prostate cancer and benign enlargement of the prostate –so it’s important to evaluate for both concurrently,” explains Dr. Klein.

Once the prostate screening comes back negative, there are a number of options to treat an enlarged prostate, everything from daily medications and in-office procedures to outpatient surgeries.

Dr. Klein was recently recognized as a Rezum Center of Excellence for his expertise in treating BPH. While pills to treat BPH have been around for years, Dr. Klein finds many of his patients discontinue taking those medicines because of side effects like dizziness and adverse effects to sexual function.

Rezum® is one of the minimally invasive procedures offered in office and takes just minutes to perform using steam to decrease the prostate. Laser enucleation of the prostate is another option.

Dr. Klein says this outpatient procedure has been offered at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center for the last 11 months and is ideal for patients with moderate and larger prostates. The newest option Sentara Northern Virginia is offering BPH patients is Aquablation, a surgery using water to resect the prostate.

The developments are exciting for Dr. Klein who looks forward to sharing the news with the community.

“This is one of the only centers in Northern Virginia that performs all three of these treatments options. It basically gives people a one-stop shop for their treatment, no matter size and shape of their prostate.”

Volunteers needed for the Christmas in July event on Saturday, July 21

Good Morning Prince William – Volunteers needed for the Christmas in July event on Saturday, July 21st.  This event is sponsored by The Philadelphia Tavern, Sinistral Brewing and Volunteer Prince William to benefit The Un-Tim-A-Tree Holiday Gift program for needy kids. Duties include selling drink tickets and checking IDs.  3 shifts available- 12noon-3pm, 3pm-6pm and 6-pm-9pm.  This is a fun, family event on Main Street, Old Town Manassas with raffles, giveaways, games, food, drinks and Santa!  Please sign up to help at mfoley@volunteerprincewilliam.org.  This promises to be great fun!

Prince William Soil & Water Conservation is having their next water quality monitoring event on Thursday July 12th at Evergreen Acres in Nokesville, 9:30-noon. Come learn about the health of local streams and how they interact with land uses.  Please call Veronica at (571) 379-7514 for more info.

ACTS needs volunteers to remove the flower beds in front of the thrift store on Tuesday and Thursday mornings starting July 10th. Please email Tamika for more info at: tmartin@actspec.org.

RSVP – The retired and Senior Volunteer Program is looking for volunteer’s age 55+ to deliver noon meals through the Meals on Wheels Program. Shrifts are just 2-3 hours and available in throughout the greater area.  RSVP members receive a mileage reimbursement and additional insurance coverage at no cost to the volunteer.  Please call Jan at (571) 292-5307 to learn more.

CASA Children’s Intervention Services needs volunteer advocates to help protect abused and neglected children in our community. You’ll receive fantastic training to give you all the skills needed to help these kids.  Please email Suzanne at: smitchell@casacis.org to learn more about the program and register for the next orientation session.

PW Conservation Alliance has several fun workdays coming up.  Please join them on the workdays of   July 20 and August 4th at Merrimac Farm, 9am-12noon.  It feels good to get your hands dirty.  Please RSVP for these events at (703) 490-5200 or via email at: alliance@pwconserve.org.

Care Net PRCs is looking for bilingual volunteers to help in their office in Manassas.  They are also having a movie event on July 14th, 7pm at Manassas Baptist Church. Come see the inspiring movie – I can Only Imagine.  Please email Kirk at crc@carenetprcs.org for more info.

K9s Serving Vets in Triangle, Virginia supports the process of partnering the vet with a service dog.  They assist from start to finish that will in the end change the veteran’s life.  Please consider donating to them on line at: k9sservingvets.org.

The PW Crime Prevention Council is looking for new volunteer members to promote safe communities.  The Council meeting the 2nd. Monday of the month at 7:30pm at 1 County Complex. Please register on the website at: pwcpc.org.

Virginia Cooperative Extension needs volunteers to lead financial seminars in Manassas and/or Woodbridge area.  Please email Victoria for more specifics at: smartmoney@pwcgov.org.

Mark your calendars for Saturday August 25th for the 3rd Annual Farm to Table event to support the Prince William Environmental Excellence Foundation at Windy Knoll Farm. The event runs from 3-8pm with 2 seating’s for dinner.  Tickets are just $40 for adults, $20 for children 13-18 and free for kids under 12.  There will be local vendors, artisan and farm sponsors and antique equipment.  It promises to fun for the entire family.  You can buy tickets on line at: princewilliamfarm2table2018.eventbrite.com.

The Manassas Senior Center is looking for a volunteer to teach crafts to the members of the center each week.  Come share your love of knitting, crocheting, painting, ceramics and such with others. Please call Jan at (571) 292-5307 for more info.  They also would love a volunteer to teach Sign Language class as well.  It’s a great way to share your skill. Please call Sue at 703-792-7154 to learn more.

Youth for Tomorrow is looking for volunteers to share hobbies and interests with the kids on weekends. If you have a little time please bring your interest to share with them such as sewing, gardening, cooking, golf, arts & crafts, jewelry to name just a few.  Please fill out the volunteer application with your resume at: youthfortomorrow.org.

The Greater Prince William Medical Reserve Corps needs both medical and non-medical volunteers to join their ranks.  These volunteers are trained to respond to public health emergencies as well as day to day health department activities.  They offer tons of training topics to build your skillset.  Please call Isabella at (703) 792-7341 to learn more.

If you are looking for other opportunities, please don’t forget to call my wonderful team at Volunteer Prince William. Jan can help you with the Retired and Senior Volunteer (RSVP) opportunities at (703) 369-5292 ext. 1, Shelley can help with any individual or group projects and send you weekly updates if you’d like. Shelley is at (703) 369-5292 ext. 2, and Bonnie can help you with opportunities available in Disaster Preparedness at (703) 369-5292 ext. 3. Please visit our website at www.volunteerprincewilliam.org. Thanks so much for all you do in our community.

Call to Action is a column written by Volunteer Prince William Executive Director Mary Foley.

Find your Passion…as a Doctor!

Join us to meet the local top docs! Find your Passion as a Doctor!
(Shadow for a Day Series)

Centerfuse
9071 Center St., Manassas
Tues., June 26th, 5:30pm to 6:30 pm

Hosted by Theresa Ellis, Tackle Management PR Marketing

Students: Hear about job-shadowing opportunities.
Community members; Learn about healthcare updates.

Our top Novant Health UVA Health System physicians include:

  • Mike Perez, MD Family Medicine
  • Mark Bartolozzi, MD General Surgery
  • Joanne Gutliph, MD Gynecology
  • Ahsan Jafir, MD Cardiology

RSVP TheresaEllis@TackleManagement.com

Free with snacks and refreshments.

Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center tops in treatment of heart attack patients

American College of Cardiology NCDR ACTION Registry Platinum Award recognizes high standards of patient care

Sentara Heart and Vascular Center at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center has received the American College of Cardiology’s NCDR ACTION Registry Platinum Performance Achievement Award for 2018.

Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center is one of only 203 hospitals nationwide to receive the honor.

The award recognizes the Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center’s commitment and success in implementing a higher standard of care for heart attack patients and signifies that Sentara Heart and Vascular Center has reached an aggressive goal of treating these patients to standard levels of care as outlined by the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association clinical guidelines and recommendations.

To receive the ACTION Registry Platinum Performance Achievement Award, Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center has demonstrated sustained achievement in the ACTION Registry for eight consecutive quarters and has performed at the top level of standards for specific performance measures.

Full participation in the registry engages hospitals in a robust quality improvement process using data to drive improvements in adherence to guideline recommendations and overall quality of care provided to heart attack patients.

“As a Platinum Performance Award recipient, Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center has shown it is a leader in implementing standards of care and protocols for its patients,” said Deepak L. Bhatt, MD, MPH, FACC, Chair, ACTION Registry; Executive Director of Interventional Cardiovascular Programs, Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart and Vascular Center; and Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. “By meeting the requirements set forth in the registry and establishing a culture of providing guideline-recommended therapy, Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center is saving lives and improving outcomes of heart attack patients.”

The Center for Disease Control estimates that over 700,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year. A heart attack occurs when a blood clot in a coronary artery partially or completely blocks blood flow to the heart muscle. Treatment guidelines include administering aspirin upon arrival and discharge, timely restoration of blood flow to the blocked artery, smoking cessation counseling and cardiac rehabilitation, among others.

“The Cardiac Catheterization lab achievements in the ACTION Registry is an attestation of all hard work poured into the endeavors of the EMS, Emergency Department and Cardiovascular service line.  The efforts of all of our health care team cannot be overstated in providing state-of-the-art, lifesaving procedures to the most common and lethal disease of our century.  We praise and support all the staff who devoted their time and hearts to raise the level of care in our beloved community,” said Dr. Khalid Abousy, Medical Director of the Interventional Cardiology at Sentara Heart and Vascular Center in Woodbridge, Virginia.

ACTION Registry empowers health care provider teams to consistently treat heart attack patients according to the most current, science-based guidelines and establishes a national standard for understanding and improving the quality, safety and outcomes of care provided for patients with coronary artery disease, specifically high-risk heart attack patients.

Why learning music is beneficial for kids

With music programs slowly losing funding in many schools across the nation, it is important to remember some of the benefits that come with learning about it and how to create it. For kids of any age, learning music can have positive effects on critical life aspects such as making friends, performing well in school, and as a stress reliever.

If your child shows interest in playing music, chances are they would be happy to be enrolled in a music program if their school does not offer one. Being in a program that is enjoyable could make it easier for your child to find other children in the class that enjoys music as much as yours. While your child is learning a new skill, they will also be making positive connections with other children who share the same interest. Knowing that your child is making new friends is something every parent loves.

For many, music is often used as a tool to relieve stress after a long day at work. You may find yourself more relaxed after listening to some of your favorite music either at work or at home. The same could be said about children if they learn to use it the same way. Children that come home from a stressful day at school may find some comfort in picking up an instrument and practicing some tunes. The key is to give them access to music.

A study published by Cristopher Johnson, professor of Music Education and Music Therapy, shows that children who have access to high-quality music programs score around 22 percent higher in English and 20 percent higher in math scores on standardized tests. This may be due to the need for focus, discipline, and patience that is necessary to learn music. If a child is able to develop these skills, the positive long-term effects that it could have in their education can be very beneficial.

At the Manassas Park Community Center, we have developed a set of introductory music programs to help understand its history and how to create it. Our Music Theory and Music Appreciation courses will help students become familiar with the basic building blocks of how music is created as they explore different genres throughout history. All Access members have full access to these courses at no additional cost, as well as one-on-one instrument lessons with our instructor. Now that the school year is ending, it is a perfect opportunity to help your child, or even yourself, learn the beautiful art of music!

The Manassas Park Community Center is located at 99 Adams Street in Manassas Park, VA. Managed by the City of Manassas Park Department of Parks and Recreation, the facility is home to basketball courts, a swimming pool, wellness areas, special events, and recreational classes. For more information visit us at ManassasParkCommunityCenter.com or call at 703-335-8872.

Recent survey finds nine in 10 Washington, D.C., area drivers use cellphone while behind the wheel

Transurban and Virginia Department of Transportation launch 2018 “Orange Cones. No Phones.” campaign to reduce distracted driving in 395 Express Lanes work zone

A survey of more than 1,000 Washington, D.C., area drivers who travel the Interstate 395 corridor shows that motorists self-report engaging in a number of distractions while behind the wheel. Following the survey findings, Transurban, operator of the 495 and 95 Express Lanes, and the Virginia Department of Transportation announced today the launch of a 2018 “Orange Cones. No Phones.” campaign to reduce distracted driving within the 395 Express Lanes work zone.

“We focus on safety on the Express Lanes and in the 395 Express Lanes work zone every day,” said Jennifer Aument, president, North America, Transurban. “We need the help of drivers to create a safer work zone to ensure on-road construction crews and other travelers are getting where they need to go safely.”

The top three cellphone distractions reported among D.C. area motorists were using a phone to talk, checking GPS or travel planning, and reading a text message. Despite growing research that finds holding a conversation on a cellphone is still dangerously distracting*, more than half of area drivers report feeling unconcerned about using their phones to talk while behind the wheel. The “Orange Cones. No Phones.” campaign aims to improve safety by reducing distracted driving within the 395 Express Lanes work zone.

“In 2017, distracted driving accounted for almost 25 percent of traffic fatalities,” said Shannon Valentine, Virginia Secretary of Transportation. “In work zones alone, VDOT recorded 2,666 crashes resulting in 1,329 injuries and 12 fatalities. The lives lost were completely preventable. We must continue to engage the public about the dangers of distracted driving. The ‘Orange Cones. No Phones.’ campaign is an important component to help deliver safety on our roads and reduce incidents.”

The survey** conducted in March 2018 finds:

• Nine out of 10 drivers say they have used a cellphone while driving.
• One in five drivers who have had an accident or near accident claim it was due to cellphone use.
• Nearly three out of four drivers say they keep their phone close when driving, and one in six have it in their hand.
• Fifty-four percent of drivers admit to using a cellphone at least occasionally while driving.
• One-third of drivers in the survey said the last time they used their phone while driving was “today.”
• One-third of drivers feel “it’s OK” to use a cellphone while stopped at a red light, a stop sign or in traffic.
• Compared to a similar survey of area drivers in 2014***, hands-free talking while driving increased by 14 percent, with 53 percent of drivers in March 2018 now admitting to doing it.
• One in four people admits that using a cellphone for activities other than conversations while driving is “frightening.”
• Seven out of 10 drivers say they stop cellphone use while driving after seeing a sign advising them to do so.
• Seeing a police officer causes 78 percent of drivers to stop cell phone use while on the roads.

“As the first responders to many of these crashes, we understand the serious consequences of distracted driving,” said Colonel Gary T. Settle, Virginia State Police superintendent. “Safety is our number one concern, and we are pleased to support this program to educate and increase awareness with drivers across the region to help cut down on distracted driving.”

“With so many drivers on the roads around the Washington area admitting they are distracted while driving, there is a huge safety concern for everyone on the roads,” said John Townsend, spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “Holding a conversation is still a distraction, and our hope is that this program will help drivers become more aware of the dangers of distracted driving, especially around work zones on our highways, and take active steps to make better choices.”

Checking a cellphone or sending a text using voice commands at seemingly safe moments such as when there is a lull in traffic or the car is stopped at an intersection also has been found to be dangerous behavior. According to a Study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, these types of potentially unsafe mental distractions can affect motorists’ attention for as long as 27 seconds, which is equivalent to traveling the length of nearly three football fields at a speed of 25 miles per hour.

As part of the “Orange Cones. No Phones.” campaign, the partners are implementing a number of tactics supported by the study’s findings, industry data and best practices to improve safety for all drivers:

• “Orange Cones. No Phones.” signs will be visible throughout the 395 Express Lanes construction corridor.
• The Virginia State Police presence will be increased in the 395 corridor.
• Advertisements will remind drivers to travel safely and not to drive while distracted.
• Press throughout the region will be engaged to help increase awareness with drivers around this important safety message.

The 395 Express Lanes are scheduled to open in fall 2019. The Lanes will extend the 95 Express Lanes eight miles north to the D.C. line and help get people moving in the I-395 corridor. The Lanes will increase capacity by adding another HOV lane, creating three reversible lanes on I-395. As part of this project, Transurban will provide $15 million in transit funding per year to enable multimodal solutions in the corridor.

* https://www.acsh.org/news/2018/03/07/cell-phones-and-talking-passengers-both-lead-distracted-driving-12663

** The online survey of 1,003 Washington, D.C., area drivers who travel I-395 at least monthly was conducted by international market research firm YouGov between March 21 and March 28, 2018.

*** Online survey of 1,023 frequent I-95 drivers who live in Northern Virginia.

About the Express Lanes
The 495 and 95 Express Lanes operate on I-495 and I-95, providing drivers with faster and more predictable travel options in Northern Virginia. Together, the 495 and 95 Express Lanes create a region-wide network of free-flowing lanes for over 40 miles from the Dulles Toll Road to Stafford County. Delivered through a public-private partnership between the Virginia Department of Transportation and Transurban, the Express Lanes give drivers reliable travel choices on two of Northern Virginia’s most congested roadways. For more information, please visit ExpressLanes.com.

About Transurban
For over twenty years, Transurban has improved the quality of life for customers by providing innovative solutions for their transportation needs. Transurban is a pioneer of the public-private partnership (P3) managed lanes concept in the United States. The North American business was among the first to implement major transportation infrastructures in the Virginia region. Our Express Lanes network features industry-leading tolling and traffic management systems on more than 40 miles of managed lanes across the 495 and 95 Express Lanes. Transurban was one of the first to use a number of innovative financing and technology strategies in the development of major toll road projects.

Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center receives ‘Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Silver Plus Quality Achievement Award’

Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center has received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke Silver Plus and Target: StrokeSM Elite Honor Roll Quality Achievement Awards. The awards recognize the hospital’s commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence.

Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center earned the awards by meeting specific quality achievement measures for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients at a set level for a designated period. These measures include evaluation of the proper use of medications and other stroke treatments aligned with the most up-to-date, evidence-based guidelines with the goal of speeding recovery and reducing death and disability for stroke patients. Before discharge, patients should also receive education on managing their health, get a follow-up visit scheduled, as well as other care transition interventions.

“Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center is dedicated to improving the quality of care for our stroke patients by implementing the American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines-Stroke initiative,” said Kim Houser, RN, Coordinator of Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center’s Stroke Team. “The tools and resources provided help us track and measure our success in meeting evidence-based clinical guidelines developed to improve patient outcomes.”

Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center additionally received the association’s Bronze and Target: StrokeSM Honor Roll awards. To qualify for these recognitions, hospitals must meet quality measures developed to reduce the time between the patient’s arrival at the hospital and treatment with the clot-buster tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ischemic stroke.

“We are pleased to recognize Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center for their commitment to stroke care,” said Eric E. Smith, M.D., national chairman of the Get With The Guidelines Steering Committee and an associate professor of neurology at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. “Research has shown that hospitals adhering to clinical measures through the Get With The Guidelines quality improvement initiative can often see fewer readmissions and lower mortality rates.”

According to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, stroke is the fifth cause of death and a leading cause of adult disability in the U.S. On average, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke every 40 seconds and nearly 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year.

In Manassas, across the commonwealth, tourism spending is on the rise

Governor Ralph Northam today released 2017 preliminary state economic impact data from U.S. Travel Association. This information depicts the impact tourism and domestic travel has on the economy.

Local impact data is not yet available for Manassas; however, the preliminary numbers indicate another record year for tourism spending as consumers seek out more experiential opportunities.

Tourism is an essential part of our local economy. Few localities have experienced such seminal events as Manassas did during the Civil War. The Manassas National Battlefield Park, Liberia Plantation and Manassas Museum continue to serve as key attractions.

Increasingly, visitors are also drawn to the charm of Historic Downtown, its specialty shopping and dining, and crowd-pleasing events.

In 2017 over 369,000 people attended one of the city’s many popular events: 1st Friday’s, Bands, Brews and Barbeque; Wine and Jazz Festival, Farmer’s Market (VisitManassas.org).

According to the Virginia Tourism Commission (VTC), tourists spent more than $68 million in Manassas last year and generated $1.8 million in local tax revenues; not including indirect or multiplier impacts.

Data breaches: How to keep your digital information safe

Digital data breaches go well beyond debit or credit card theft. In fact, it is fair to say that debit and credit card theft is the least of your worries.

Chris Albright

Your bank and credit card companies have safeguards in place to return your funds to you, but most other data cannot be retrieved once breached. Even when stolen data is recovered and new security is put in place, the breached information is in the hands of the hacker.

With the increasing amount of private, sensitive and business-critical data stored digitally, this can be detrimental. Chris Albright of CMIT Solutions of Centreville has some tips for minimizing your risk of a data breach.

Understand the Need for Security

Many businesses and everyday individuals severely underestimate their level of risk. You might be a small or mid-sized business, but the data you store digitally can be a hacker’s goldmine. Take a look at some of the major organizations who have been breached in the last couple of years.

  • The Pennsylvania hack of the Department of Education’s website compromised the information of 360,000 employees.
  • The City of Atlanta’s recent ransomware attack halted essential municipal services, leading to ATL airport shutting down their Wi-Fi.
  • Due to deceiving third-party agreements, 50 million Facebook users unknowingly had their posts, private messages, and data accessed without their consent.
  • The 2016 Banner Health cyberattack exposed the private health information of 3.7 million patients in 27 locations across the nation. This type of data can sell for 10 times more than credit card information.
  • The Equifax credit reporting bureau was breached in 2017 leading to 147.9 million Americans’ personal information being leaked, placing all involved at higher risk for identity theft.
  • The 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack was the largest in history and affected thousands of businesses and individuals from around the globe.

If these organizations can be breached, many of whom must comply with strict industry digital data storage regulations, SMBs and everyday online accounts are vulnerable as well.

Reducing Your Risk

First and foremost, there is no way to 100 percent guarantee that your data will never be breached. but there is much you can do to reduce the likelihood:

Passwords: Change your passwords at least twice a year. Use strong passwords, preferably with a password manager that encrypts your passwords. Password protect all electronic devices, as many of them autologin to all the accounts you’ve logged into. Also, upload a lockout feature so that if your device is lost or stolen, passwords are erased.

Delete: Delete old digital accounts that you no longer use, or you may forget about them and the information they contain. Also, create a list of all online accounts and mobile apps that require logins. Even a one-time purchase to an e-commerce site can lead to a data breach, from a place you don’t even remember ordering from.

Be mindful of what you share: Your Facebook profile alone shares information such as where you were born, where you went to school, your kids’ names, your pets’ names and more. These are often the answers to three-factor authentication designed to improve your security. Never ever share, electronically or in person, your login information. Look through your Facebook messenger feed, you may be surprised at the amount of personal information you share there. You may want to reconsider going forward.

Never open suspicious emails: It’s easier said than done as hackers are good at sounding legitimate. This is particularly challenging at work where you won’t know everyone who sends you an email. If you open something that feels fishy, follow your company’s procedures to scan your device. If at home, run a security scan on your own.

Improve your security: Upgrade to newer software and technology, such as from a magnetic strip debit card to an EMV card if it’s available. Upgrade your website with an SSL Certificate. Perform all software and app updates ASAP, as they contain security patches and updates. Encrypt your data. Restrict remote login. Set up automated alerts for abnormal activity, such as on your debit card when you travel or make an unusually large purchase. Have a digital security professional scan your network and devices for security risks and set up an automated system for determining a hack or data breach.

Stay up to date: Online security is constantly evolving, so you must keep up. What minimizes your risks today may not be relevant in a year or less.

We are at a point at which we don’t think twice about our most private and personal information being stored digitally. For example, you may even communicate with your physician via email or use health and fitness apps in which you store in-depth health information. Just a decade ago we would have been a bit more mindful, but the convenience and functional factors have become of such great benefit that we will continue to store more information digitally, not less. This means data breach security must be top of mind for personal use, professional use and even for the kids in our family.

CMIT Solutions of Centreville provides a strategic approach to IT consulting that improves the performance of your business technology in the most cost-effective way possible. Assisting businesses across Northern Virginia, CMIT Centreville can help you achieve the fastest return on your technology investment. Call 703-881-7738 today to see how CMIT Centreville can help your business stay in business.

Sentara’s Daisy Team Award winners served food, gave dry, clean toiletries to a nearby homeless encampment

The team at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center is dedicated to serving our patients every day.

One group is recognized for their hard work- not just inside the hospital, but outside the walls as well.

The ICU Team was named this year’s Daisy Team Award winners.

This team spearheaded an initiative to serve food and provide dry, clean toiletries to a nearby homeless encampment, and this meant coming in several weekends to sort and prepare donated items.

Then, on the weekend they were serving food- it poured! The team didn’t give up though, they toughed it out- and many folks who might have gone hungry that day had a hot meal.

The Daisy Foundation was formed by the Barnes Family in 1999 after the loss of their 33-year-old son J. Patrick Barnes. The nursing care that their son received when hospitalized profoundly touched his family, and they wanted to recognize nurses that provide exceptional care…while often stating, “I am just doing my job.”

Your jobs touch the hearts and lives of more than you know. The Daisy Foundation was developed to celebrate nurses.

The Daisy Nurse award is presented quarterly to SNVMC nurses who meet a high standard of care provided. The award was developed for the celebration of nurses who provide extraordinary compassionate and skillful care every day.

The Daisy Team award is presented yearly.

Hematology Oncology Associates of Fredericksburg expands to Stafford County

Hematology Oncology Associates of Fredericksburg (HOAF), a healthcare organization recognized for providing world-class cancer care in state-of-the-art facilities, is expanding its practice to a second location in Stafford County that will offer the same level of care and treatment for cancer patients across a wider range of the Northern Virginia region.

The 7,048 square-foot cancer care office, located at 125 Woodstream Boulevard in Stafford and scheduled to open on Monday, May 14, will be known as Hematology Oncology Associates of Fredericksburg at Stafford.

HOAF officials believe that the new location in Stafford County will have a positive impact on health outcomes throughout the Northern Virginia region by increasing access to cancer specialists and advanced cancer therapies.

“Many of the patients who currently come to our offices in Fredericksburg live in the rapidly-growing North Stafford area,” said Dr. Charles L. Maurer, president of HOAF. “We saw a need to help patients in Stafford County, as well as those in Prince William County and other localities along the I-95 corridor, stay closer to home for their appointments and treatments.”

When HOAF at Stafford opens, the six physicians in the Fredericksburg location will rotate to Stafford weekly. Also, there will be a dedicated nurse practitioner and staff to provide consistent, compassionate care for patients. The Stafford facility will offer the same leading-edge services that are available at the Fredericksburg office.

HOAF offers a full spectrum of comprehensive services to treat all forms of adult cancers. A snapshot listing of services includes:

• Hematology
• Medical Oncology
• Infusion
• Chemotherapy
• Iron Replacement
• Holistic Care
• In-house Physician Dispensary
• Surveillance Clinic

“By elevating the quality of care in North Stafford with our second location, we’re keeping patients and their families in the community,” said Dr. Maurer. “Our passion is our patients and we are deeply committed to supporting them every step of way on the journey to recovery.”

Dr. Maurer also noted that renovations to the existing office in Fredericksburg are underway, which will expand the research department and increase the size of the pharmacy, among other improvements. “These exciting initiatives align with HOAF’s long-term goals for future growth of the practice,” he concluded.

To learn more about HOAF and its capabilities for cancer care, visit hoafredericksburg.com.

This week is devoted to infertility awareness

For millions of women, it’s an issue they’re all too familiar with and it’s something they deal with every day.

April 22-28 is designated National Infertility Awareness Week. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate 1 in 8 couples have trouble conceiving, that’s 15% of American couples.

It’s something Dr. Richard Jenet, Chairman of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Women’s Health Center at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center and practicing physician at About Women OB/GYN, sees too often.

“We often times have to really calm people down. People get really anxious if they try for one month and haven’t gotten pregnant,” he explains.

Dr. Jenet says when a patient comes to him wanting to start a family, he starts with the basics – getting blood work and taking both general and reproductive histories.

“We talk about some healthy life choices and have people try to get pregnant on their own. Unless there’s something obvious, we don’t talk about infertility until after a year of trying.”

Most couples get pregnant within that year, but if not, Jenet starts looking at other factors, “Several items are taken into account: age, weight, health conditions and lifestyle, just to name a few.”

If there are no obvious problems, Dr. Jenet says that’s when a reproductive endocrinologist is recommended to help pinpoint the issue.

But, Jenet says the advances in medicine, over his nearly 30 years in practice, allow women more alternatives than ever before, “There are more medications. There are more treatments. There are a lot more options.” And, that means more hope for women trying to get pregnant.

To learn more about OB/GYN or endocrinology services near you, call 1-800-SENTARA or go to sentara.com.

We need a freelance community reporter

We’re seeking a freelance reporter who has a passion for community and who isn’t afraid to pick up the phone, use email, or dig on the web to get details.

Our ideal writer will be familiar with the Prince William County, Virginia region to include the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

They will be able to write about local government, schools, business, events and features.

Much if not all of the writing can be completed while working from home.

Experience gained while writing for a community news publication is preferred but not required.

Interested?

Send your resume, links to three of your best articles, and contact info to Uriah Kiser.

 

Potomac Local Parent of the Month: Carrie

Potomac Local Parents is a monthly column that looks at life through the eyes of real parents. This month, we interview Carrie.

What time you do wake up?

5:45am

What are your children’s names and ages?

Four boys: Quentin 14, Christian 13, Xavier 10 and Brandon 7.

What’s the most difficult part about your morning routine?

Getting the kids out the door for school! It’s hardest to get the kids up in the morning (multiple attempts), share the bathroom (they lock their brothers out) and get them to bus stops on time. They have three separate bus stop times. Our mornings are chaos!

What is your morning beauty or grooming routine?

Shower. Luckily, I work from home.

Are you a coffee or tea person?

Coffee. If I’m lucky I can make a cup of coffee before I start work.  

What do you do once the kids are in school?

I have run a small daycare for the last sixteen years. I watch four kids, all two and three-year-olds.I have my first dropoff for childcare right after my oldest two leave. By the time my third and fourth go to school, I have all my daycare kids here.

What is the biggest challenge of trying to get work done – any work – with your schedule and responsibilities?

Lots! Juggling projects and activities for all the children. Having a 12-hour workday. All four of my sons play travel sports, too.

What do you wear during the work week?

Scrubs

What’s the craziest thing that happened to you so far this week?

I had a much needed, impromptu day off on Monday. I didn’t take off, but I had two kids on vacation for spring break, and the other two called out. It’s very rare! I went to the gym with my oldest two sons and took them out to lunch for some quality time.

Do you have pets?

Yes – two dogs, two cats and a rabbit, all rescues.

How do you get through the hard times?

Staying busy, organizing and lots of caffeine!

What’s your favorite color?

Lavender

What kind of car do you drive?

Mom minivan – Town and Country, and I love it!

If you could be any animal, what would you be and why?

Lion, because he’s king of the jungle.   

 

Sentara Heart & Vascular Center introduces new minimally invasive technique for atrial fibrillation

WOODBRIDGE — On Monday, April 2, 2018, Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center ushered in a new level of care with the introduction of left-sided pulmonary vein ablation. The Sentara Heart & Vascular Team, led by Dr. Aysha Arshad, Medical Director of Electrophysiology, performed the first of its kind procedure for the hospital.

“This is wonderful for our community,” says Dr. Arshad. “This means the beginning of more complex procedures in the Electrophysiology Lab here at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, which opens up these vital services to members of our community. They won’t have to travel long distances for care because our highly experienced staff and physicians are the same that are working in all the top hospital centers in the area.”

Left-side pulmonary vein ablation or pulmonary vein isolation is used to treat Atrial Fibrillation, also known as AFib. AFib is a type of heart arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat that an estimated seven million Americans live with every day.

In atrial fibrillation, disorganized electrical signals originate in the heart’s upper chambers, or atria, causing the rhythm to be irregular. Because the contractions are not coordinated as in a normal heartbeat, the heart does not pump blood effectively to the rest of the body causing patients to experience a racing or quivering heartbeat, dizziness, shortness of breath and often feel tired.

People with AFib have a five times greater risk for stroke. 

After living with the condition for three-years, Woodbridge resident Claudia Warszawski, was looking for relief.

“I’m a very active 67-year-old. I walk three days a week at the mall and I just couldn’t keep up my pace. I’d have to stop and it was irritating,” said Warszawski.

After consulting with the grandmother of five and reviewing her history, Dr. Arshad shared she was a perfect candidate for the procedure. 

As the Electrophysiology program at Sentara Heart & Vascular Center has grown, so have the services. Left-sided ablation is the latest advancement of the program. In ablation, areas of tissue in the heart that cause arrhythmias are destroyed. 

“In left-sided procedures, where AFib comes from, it involves tackling circuits on the left side of the heart. There’s no natural passage to the left side of the heart, so we enter through a vein in the leg and travel to the chest where we make a tiny puncture in the interatrial septum with a small needle and pass a catheter through that tiny hole to the left side of the heart. From there we create a 3D map of the heart and get to the circuits that cause AFib,” explains Dr. Arshad.

After the procedure is completed and the catheter removed, the tiny hole heals on its own over the next four weeks. A chip, implanted in the chest at the time of the procedure, allows real-time monitoring of the patient.

“It’s the whole advent of real-time telemedicine,” explains Dr. Arshad, “The device will track her rhythm all day and at night transcribe it into a report, which will be emailed to me that evening. The device downloads all that data so I’ll know how she’s going to do long-term.”

As for Warszawski, days after her procedure she’s already feeling better, “This gives me a new lease to live the life I want before I was tired and always had heart palpitations and flutters. Now, I can’t even feel my heart beating, and that’s a good thing!”

If you’re experiencing a racing, fluttering, pounding or irregular heartbeat, don’t ignore those symptoms, find a healthcare provider at 1-800-SENTARA or Sentara.com to schedule your exam.   

Last call for entries ‘Help a Horse’ Day

From a press release: 

The Prince William County Animal Shelter’s annual “Help a Horse” Day is Sunday, April 29. To help observe this important day, the Animal Shelter is sponsoring an art contest for middle school students who live in Prince William County. This is the last call for entries!

The theme is “Horse Feathers,” and all artwork must include an equine animal and be the original work of the exhibitor. Computer-generated artwork is not accepted.

Entries are limited to 2- or 3-dimensional artwork. Colored pencil, ink, and crayon are the suggested materials. The minimum size of the artwork is 5”x7” – and it can be no larger than 11”x14”. Artwork must be framed and ready to hang. Each piece must have the exhibitor’s name, address and phone number secured on the back.

Please bring submissions with completed registration forms to the Prince William County Animal Shelter during normal operating hours. The Shelter’s address is 14807 Bristow Road, Manassas (20112). Entries will be accepted April 17-22. The artwork will be on display at the Shelter from Tuesday, April 24, through Sunday, April 29, and will be judged prior to the event, which starts at noon.

Ribbons will be presented for “champion” and “popular vote,” as well as first place through sixth place. Winning artwork will be displayed at the McCoart County Government Building from May 25, 2018, until June 1, 2018.

Contestants may pick up their artwork on April 29, between 4 and 5 p.m. All artwork, other than the winning entries, MUST be picked up by 5 p.m. Winning entries may be picked up from the Animal Shelter after June 6, 2018.

To see the 2018 contest guidelines, including the registration form, please visit the Animal Shelter website at www.pwcgov.org/animalshelter.

Local tourism has a new cadence: Steins, Vines, and Moonshine

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