Health Notes: Phrazer manufacturer visits the White House

The founder of a Duluth company was at the White House on Tuesday to talk about health care. Mat M.K. Johnson, CEO of GeaCom, was among a small group of business leaders who were invited to brief administration and Department of Health and Human ...

The founder of a Duluth company was at the White House on Tuesday to talk about health care.

Mat M.K. Johnson, CEO of GeaCom, was among a small group of business leaders who were invited to brief administration and Department of Health and Human Services officials on ways to encourage innovation and the use of new technologies in health care, according to a GeaCom news release.

GeaCom developed the Phrazer, a hand-held device that helps patients and caregivers communicate regardless of language, literacy, culture and background.

"I am honored to have been invited to the White House to share how Phrazer can help with the country's health care initiatives," Johnson said in a statement. "The staff was generous in their praise of Phrazer and our innovative team in Duluth."

GeaCom is in the DeWitt-Seitz Building in Canal Park.


Essentia docs offer new asthma therapy

Two Duluth doctors are making asthma feel the heat.

Drs. Andrew Wilson and Sonja Bjerk acquired specialized training in what's known as bronchial thermoplasty procedure, according to a news release from Essentia Health, where they are pulmonologists.

The procedure uses mild heat to help clear the airways in asthma patients and thus reduce severe attacks, the news release explained.

The first bronchial thermoplasty at Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center was performed on March 5, it said. It's the first health care facility north of the Twin Cities to offer the treatment.

The treatment heats tissue to about 150 degrees, 10 seconds at a time, Wilson explained. Its effects have been shown to last for five years without a repeat procedure.

The process takes about nine weeks to complete and includes three treatments, three weeks apart, in three areas of the lungs.

It's not for everyone, Wilson said, but may be ideal for someone with severe asthma who isn't responding to medicines.


In clinical trials, almost 79 percent of patients reported significant improvements in their quality of life after being treated with bronchial thermoplasty, the news release said.

More information is available by calling (218) 786-8257 or visiting An animated explanation of the procedure is at

Sessions focus on end of life

A Buddhist teacher and international lecturer will offer two free sessions in Duluth on end-of-life care.

Frank Ostaseski, who co-founded the first Buddhist hospice in the U.S. in 1987, will give a talk to a general audience on April 1 and a second talk to a specialized audience on April 2, said a news release from the Miller-Dwan Foundation. The foundation is sponsoring Ostaseski's visit along with Essentia Health, Merrill Lynch Sieh Yung Group and St. Luke's Foundation.

The general session, titled "Being a Compassionate Presence," will take place at 6:30 p.m. April 1 in the Great Lakes Ballroom at the Holiday Inn.

A program on "Mindful and Compassionate Service," intended for health care professionals and others dedicated to end-of-life care, will be from 8 a.m. to noon on April 2 at the Inn on Lake Superior. It will be good for 4.4 contact hours of continuing education.

Both sessions are free, but each requires pre-registration.


To learn more, visit or call the Miller-Dwan Foundation at (218) 786-5829.

Group looks for clothing

The nonprofit volunteer group Circle of Hope is taking donations for its upcoming clothing sale.

The sale will be from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 29 at First United Methodist Church ("the copper-top church"), 230 E. Skyline Parkway. Any leftover items will go to the Lincoln Park "Hope" Center, Life House (prom clothes) and the Big Red Book Shelf (children's books).

Donations will be taken the day before the sale in the lower level of the church. Items can be taken before then; call for pickup at (218) 464-1626.

Circle of Hope, which serves northern Minnesota and northern Wisconsin, has paid out more than $91,000 to help breast cancer patients pay providers of services.

Health administration program certified

An undergraduate health care management program in Duluth has attained full certification.


The program is offered by the Labovitz School of Business and Economics at the University of Minnesota Duluth, a Labovitz School news release reported. It's only the 45th undergraduate health management program in the country to be certified by the Association of University Programs in Health Administration.

The program placed 98 percent of its graduates from the 2011-12 academic year, said Jennifer Schultz, its program director. Students have been placed at many facilities across the country, she said, including Essentia Health, St. Luke's hospital, Allina, HealthPartners and the Mayo Clinic.

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