Health and Wellness

Between innovative treatments at USA Health, a life-changing fitness routine at F45, the combination of functional and cosmetic dentistry by Daniel Deese, and a committed homecare experience at Synergy HomeCare, Portico gives you a look at everything Health and Wellness on the Eastern Shore.


Story by Loyd McIntosh

USA Health Making Major Medical Advances Along the Gulf Coast

Did you know many of our region’s researchers funded by the National Institute of Health call Baldwin County home? As faculty members at the USA College of Medicine, these individuals are transforming medicine by teaching the next generation of physicians and scientists as well as through their scientific endeavors looking for innovative ways to treat cancer and lung diseases.

From researching possible treatments for cancer patients to improving survival chances following ICU stays, the research coming out of USA is important, not only for patients but for the local economy as well. Each year, the National Institute of Health (NIH) funds USA research significantly. “It’s been estimated that for every dollar in support from the NIH that we bring in, it creates four, five dollars, and sometimes,even more,” says Dr. Mark Gilliespie, Professor and Chairman of the USA Department of Pharmacology. “It creates that much activity in the local economy, so it’s an economic wildfire. ”

Dr. Gillespie is currently working on an NIH-funded study investigating why close to half of people who end up in the ICU never fully recover. Working with another USA researcher, Dr. John Simmons, Gillespie discovered that inpatients who experience a traumatic injury or illness and are placed in ICU, fragments of mitochondrial DNA known as DAMPS (damaged associated molecular patterns) are release throughout the body. “We found out that patients who came in the door of the trauma center with high DAMPS are the ones who had multiple-organ system failure and frequently didn’t survive their trauma,” explains Dr. Gillespie. “Patients who came in with low DAMPS tended to stay low, and those patients had uncomplicated recoveries. So that was some of the first observational evidence that DAMPS were bad actors.” Gillespie and his team are now in pre-clinical trials on a drug that may halt the circulation of DAMPS and the damage they cause to patients in ICU. “We’re looking at whether or not you can prevent the formation with this drug that repairs the mitochondrial genome,” he says.

Fellow USA researcher Dr. Troy. Stevens, the Lenoir Louise Locke Chair of Physiology and Cell Biology,is also investigating problems related to ICU stays—pneumonia, in particular, a symptom of a condition known as post Intensive Care Unit syndrome. “Most people think of pneumonia as a lung problem, and it is a lung problem, but it’s really a systemic problem,” says Stevens. “It’s a problem that doesn’t just affect the lungs. It affects many other organ systems as well; the blood system, the various organs, the brain,the heart, and the kidneys so it’s a systemic problem.” Stevens’ research.funded by the NIH for $10 million over five years, is working toward the production of a drug that would prevent the onset of pneumonia and other life-threatening infections common to critically ill patients in the ICU.

Then there is Dr. Gary A. Piazza,a professor of pharmacology and oncologic sciences at USA Mitchell Cancer Institute, who is working toward new pharmaceutical solutions that could lead to improved survival rates for people suffering from diseases such as pancreatic cancer, a form of cancer with a high morbidity rate. “My research is directed towards developing new anti-cancer drugs with the hope that they’ll be much more effective and without the toxicity and resistance that you typically get from chemotherapy or radiation,” says Piazza. “Cancer cells are alive and they find ways to survive,despite the drugs that we have right now and radiation. We’re trying to work on drugs that are smarter and can attack these mechanisms of resistance.” Piazza’s research is now in clinical trials, and he and his team are actively looking to partner with a pharmaceutical company with hopes of bringing this new drug to the marketplace within the next three years.


F45 – Team Training, Life Changing, Hard Working, Fun Having, Healthy Living

F45 is a revolutionary training system changing lives around the globe. Launched in Australia, F45 Training merges three separate leading-edge fitness training styles into one consummate and compelling group training experience for its participants. F45 Training combines elements of High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), circuit training, and functional training. This combination of interval, cardiovascular, and strength training has been proven to be an incredibly effective workout method for burning fat and building lean muscle. The individual workouts change daily, so participants will never do the same workout twice. This keeps your body guessing and your fitness level growing, all while you’re having fun.Come join for a one-week free trial! To sign up, go to: or find on Instagram @f45_training_daphne andFacebook @f45trainingdaphne.


5 Questions for CFO—Chief Fitness Officer Andy Vickers

When did you start caring about fitness and how did you get to F45?
I started caring about fitness when I began to struggle with my weight and suffered from bullying in middle school. I later noticed the trend of preventable disease in my family and made it my mission to transform that through leading by example. I fell in love with F45 instantly due to its similarity and combination of all the various training styles I did throughout the years.

Do have to be in great shape to start?
You do not. Because our training programs are time interval-based and you get to select your weight option, we are able to facilitate classes with a wide variety of ages, body types, and fitness levels.

How is F45 different from other programs?
We are truly a melting pot of all fitness programs. We have taken the things we like from all areas of fitness and combined them into the best programming on the face of the earth. Our clients love this, due to the fact that they never experience plateaus and are constantly craving the next new, exciting workout.

How easy is it to find the Daphne location?
We are located directly off of U.S. 98 in Daphne just across and down a bit from Target.

Is it possible to work out at the Mobile location if you belong to Daphne or vice versa?
Yes! We strongly encourage our members to work out at both of our studios. We want them to meet more like-minded individuals that are on the same journey.

, Health and Wellness


Dr. Daniel Deese – Comprehensive services mixed with personal care

With an artist-mother and engineer-father, Daniel Deese naturally inherited the unique skill sets that the practice of dentistry requires: artistic ability and functional know-how. “Your work needs to look good, and wear well. While I take great pride in my cosmetic expertise, it’s the functional side that I most enjoy. It’s very satisfying to figure out the best way to build something that I know will endure daily use for many years.”

Dr. Deese knew he wanted to be a general, family-friendly practitioner. “I get to know my patients and help them achieve their oral health goals from a place of trust and personal connection. This stability is complemented by a great deal of variety in terms of the needs I see and treat. We have an incredible community of specialists that I can refer to when a case requires extra support. But I am their first and most enduring care provider, which is important to me.”

Dr. Deese began building his practice in 2002 just after graduating from dental school. His first hire,hygienist Elizabeth, is still a member of his team and his newest hire, Merritt, grew up as a patient of his. They are supported by a team of professionals that offers patients familiarity, comfort, and skillful care. Cleanings, fillings, root canals, and extractions are among the expected list of can-dos. But you’ll find more than the average list of services here. In-office whitening, sleep apnea appliances, digital radiographs, 3D scanning for impressions, porcelain veneers and all porcelain crowns are among the list of additional services.

In 2010, Dr. Deese completed the GHSU/AAID Maxi-Course® Comprehensive Training Program in Implant Dentistry. Now, patients wanting implants can be conveniently seen in-house. His educational and professional achievements were acknowledged in 2013, when he was awarded a fellowship with the Academy of General Dentistry and again in 2015, when he became a fellow with the International Congress of Oral Implantologists. A Fairhope native, Dr. Daniel Deese’s practice is only a stone’s throw away from his family’s home, school, and place of worship: beautiful and functional. Just the way he likes it.

, Health and Wellness



Synergy HomeCare – Total Commitment to Care

Tiring of overcrowded Atlanta, Andy Luedecke and his wife Walker, a nurse practitioner, chose to relocate their family to Fairhope and pursue a passion for helping others. Leaning on his spouse’s professional background in health care while pulling from his experience caring for his mother, Luedecke and business partner Brooke Hartner opened SYNERGY HomeCare in 2012 to serve the senior and homebound population throughout the Eastern Shore. Brooke, too, became passionate about caring for others after having to taking care for of her mother during her fight with cancer.

“Our SYNERGY care team brought such peace of mind to our family when we needed it most,” says Mike Fitzhugh. “They were like angels during a time of crisis for our family.” Because everyone’s needs are unique, SYNERGY customizes all home care plans to fit each family’s needs and works with other health providers, such as physical therapists, to ensure continuity of care. The first step in determining what type of care is most appropriate is to meet with a client and their family for a complimentary in-home assessment and visit. Each care team member takes an in-depth personality test to ensure compatibility when matching a client with their caregiver.

SYNERGY HomeCare also has a Quality Assurance Coordinator who is constantly in the field checking on staff, ensuring clients are healthy and happy, and supporting in-home medical providers, such as physical therapists and nurse practitioners. “Our Quality Assurance Coordinator makes sure we’re in sync with anyone who has a vested interest in the care of our clients,” says Luedecke. “Using a modern and holistic approach, our clients know that our total commitment is taking care of their loved ones,” he says. “Nothing else matters.”

, Health and Wellness


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