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A great-blue heron painted by Ivey Smith, a student at Blue Heron Art Studio in Carrollton, led all 254 contest entries
A great-blue heron painted by Ivey Smith, a student at Blue Heron Art Studio in Carrollton, led all 254 contest entries

Four budding bird artists recently were selected as T-shirt Art Contest winners in Georgia’s 10th annual Youth Birding Competition, the state Department of Natural Resources announced.

A great-blue heron painted by Ivey Smith, a student at Blue Heron Art Studio in Carrollton, led all 254 contest entries. As grand-prize winner, Smith, 17, an 11th-grader at Carrollton High School, landed a $100 Michaels gift card and will have her artwork featured on T-shirts at the Youth Birding Competition at the end of this month.

Art contest coordinator Linda May praised participants and stressed that the focus “isn’t just about art.”

It’s about getting kids interested in the outdoors and connected to nature,” said May, environmental outreach coordinator for the DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section. “Birds are a great focus since they’re beautiful and easy to find.”

To encourage stewardship, an awareness and appreciation of wildlife and their habitats is essential.  This contest helps form that foundation through art.

Seasoned participant Rosemary Kramer of Culloden said the challenge “kick-started her passion” for creating bird artwork when she won top honors in 2011. Since then, her artwork and her birding skills have improved.  Now 17, Kramer loves to share her excitement about nature with others, and plans to compete in the Youth Birding Competition again this year on the Chaotic Kestrels team.

The T-shirt Art Contest is part of the Youth Birding Competition, an annual event in which teams of children and teens try to find as many bird species as possible throughout Georgia in 24 hours. This year, the free bird-a-thon runs from 5 p.m. April 25 to 5 p.m. April 26, ending in a banquet at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center near Mansfield. Registration for the birding competition ended March 31.

Ivey Smith’s art entry also placed first in the High School division. Other division art winners include:


  • Primary (pre-K through second grade): summer tanager artwork by Colleen Cao of Norcross, 6, first-grader at SKA Academy of Art & Design in Duluth.
  • Elementary (third-fifth grade): sanderling artwork by Yucheng Jonah Wu of Peachtree Corners, 9, fourth-grader at SKA Academy of Art & Design in Duluth.
  • Middle School (sixth-eighth grade): cedar waxwing painting by Alina Svirida, 14, eighth-grader at Veterans Memorial Middle School in Covington.


Contest entries will be displayed and division winners honored during the awards banquet April 26 at Charlie Elliott Wildlife Center. Photos are posted at Click the album “2015 YBC T-shirt Art Contest Winners.”


The birding competition and T-shirt Art Contest are sponsored by DNR’s Nongame Conservation Section, The Environmental Resources Network Inc. or TERN – friends group of the Nongame Conservation Section – and others including the Georgia Ornithological Society and Atlanta Audubon Society.


Deal instructs agencies to prepare for medical cannabis

Gov. Nathan Deal today signed an executive order directing state agencies to begin preparations for enactment of H.B. 1, legislation that will allow the use of cannabis oil for eight medical conditions. Deal will sign the bill after the session to ensure that no conflicts arise with other pieces of legislation.

“This executive order is the first step in bringing home families who’ve sought relief elsewhere and for providing new medical solutions for Georgians suffering from debilitating conditions,” Deal said. “I’ve instructed the Georgia Composite Medical Board and the Department of Public Health to begin taking immediate steps ahead of this law’s enactment. At the same time, law enforcement, health care providers and other stakeholders should make appropriate preparations.

“While we want to treat suffering patients and bring children home as quickly as possible, it is critical that we take every precaution to safeguard private health information and ensure the security of the new patient registry. In the coming days, these agencies will continue providing updates and further guidance to patients and the public.”

Under this legislation, the Georgia Composite Medical Board will draft a patient waiver and a physician certification form. Upon completion, the forms will be available to patients meeting the specified criteria through DPH. Once certified by the appropriate health care provider, patients will be provided with documentation allowing for possession of low-THC cannabis oil.

“I look forward to the day when I can sign this legislation into law – a day that is coming soon,” Deal said. “While many advocates dedicated countless days to this worthy cause, Rep. Allen Peake deserves special recognition for his selfless devotion to these affected families. He provided both the hand that guided our General Assembly and the shoulder that many families leaned on. Today, we’re beginning to reap the harvest of that hard work. Soon, families will be reunited and more Georgians will gain access to the treatment they require. I’m proud to see Georgia leading in this way.”

“I would like to express my deepest gratitude to Governor Deal and his staff for seeing this legislation through and making it a priority in the General Assembly,” said Peake (R-Macon). “I commend Governor Deal for taking the initial steps today to prepare our state for HB 1 to become law very soon. I continue to look forward to that day when this bill is signed and our Georgia families can finally come back home.”

Patients with the following conditions are eligible for medical cannabis oil under

Piedmont Heart Institute Announces Alliance with Cleveland Clinic

Atlanta (March 25, 2015) – Since 2007, Piedmont Heart Institute (PHI) has been the largest preferred provider for heart care in the Atlanta and surrounding area. Since then, with its continued expansion of complex and life-saving expertise and advanced treatment modalities, it has grown into one of the premier cardiac centers in the Southeast. As further evidence of PHI’s innovation and service to the patients of Georgia and the region beyond, we are excited to announce an alliance with the nation’s #1 heart program, the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic’s Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute.

Cleveland Clinic selected Piedmont Heart as its partner in Georgia due to PHI’s excellence in clinical care, education and research. The association will enable both organizations to strengthen all elements of clinical quality for cardiovascular medicine and cardiac surgery within Piedmont, better serving the region’s population. Cleveland Clinic and Piedmont Heart will share clinical policies, treatment protocols and research opportunities.

“In its inception, Piedmont Heart Institute was created for collaboration,” said Sidney Kirschner, CEO of Piedmont Physicians. “We brought together the best clinicians in Atlanta for cardiac care, knowing that together, they would significantly raise the bar for research, innovation and quality of what’s available to our patients and communities. Our alliance with Cleveland Clinic continues these efforts on a larger stage.”

“Teamwork is the next phase of American medicine. We’re finding new ways to combine our strengths for better patient care.” said Lars Svensson, MD, Chairmen of Cleveland Clinic’s Sydell and Arnold MillerHeart and Vascular Institute. “This alliance will allow us to accelerate advancements in cardiac care.”

“Piedmont Heart holds itself accountable to high levels of excellence,” said Charles Brown, M.D., chief of cardiovascular services for Piedmont. “We are pleased that Cleveland Clinic recognized us as the market leader and sought to have this alliance with us to better serve the southeast region. It confirmed a standard of quality that we know we offer.”

“As we sought high quality alliance members, we assessed Piedmont Heart Institute’s cardiac programs, infrastructure, resources and outcomes to ensure the system could provide comparable quality vital to our mission,” said Joseph Cacchione, M.D., Cardiologist and Chairman of Operations and Strategy at Cleveland Clinic’s Heart & Vascular Institute. “This alliance strengthens the delivery of world-class care to patients who live in Georgia and the southeast.”

About Piedmont Heart Institute

Piedmont Heart Institute (PHI) is one of America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Cardiac CareTM and is the first integrated cardiovascular healthcare delivery program affiliated with a community health system in greater Atlanta. It is headquartered on the campus of Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, a 488-bed tertiary care facility offering all major medical, surgical and diagnostic services. Offering a continuum of patient care, including primary and secondary prevention, outpatient and inpatient cardiovascular care, and appropriate quality measures and metrics to demonstrate enhanced outcomes. Piedmont Heart Institute combines nearly 125 affiliated cardiovascular specialists in Piedmont Heart Institute Physicians with over 25 locations to propel new programs in cardiovascular research, education and excellence in prevention, arrhythmias, coronary and vascular intervention, stroke and cardiac imaging. Locations span from south of Atlanta in Fayette and Coweta counties to Blairsville in the North Georgia mountains. Piedmont Heart Institute is part of Piedmont Healthcare, a not-for-profit organization that also includes Piedmont Fayette Hospital, a 157-bed, acute-care community hospital in Fayetteville and one of the 100 Top Hospitals® in the nation; Piedmont Mountainside Hospital, a 42-bed community hospital in Jasper; Piedmont Newnan Hospital, a 136-bed, acute-care community hospital in Newnan; and Piedmont Henry Hospital, a 215-bed acute-care community hospital in Stockbridge. Piedmont Healthcare also is the parent company of the Piedmont Physicians Group, with more than 200 primary care physicians in over 60 offices throughout metro Atlanta; the Piedmont Clinic, a 1,000-member physician network; and Piedmont Healthcare Foundation, the philanthropic entity for private fundraising initiatives. For more information, visit

 About Cleveland Clinic

Cleveland Clinic is a nonprofit multispecialty academic medical center that integrates clinical and hospital care with research and education. Located in Cleveland, Ohio, it was founded in 1921 by four renowned physicians with a vision of providing outstanding patient care based upon the principles of cooperation, compassion and innovation. Cleveland Clinic has pioneered many medical breakthroughs, including coronary artery bypass surgery and the first face transplant in the United States. U.S.News & World Report consistently names Cleveland Clinic as one of the nation’s best hospitals in its annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey. More than 3,000 full-time salaried physicians and researchers and 11,000 nurses represent 120 medical specialties and subspecialties. The Cleveland Clinic health system includes a main campus near downtown Cleveland, eight community hospitals, more than 75 Northern Ohio outpatient locations, including 16 full-service Family Health Centers, Cleveland Clinic Florida, the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas, Cleveland Clinic Canada, and, scheduled to begin seeing patients in 2015, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. In 2013, there were 5.5 million outpatient visits throughout the Cleveland Clinic health system and 157,000 hospital admissions. Patients came for treatment from every state and from more than 130 countries. Visit us at  Follow us at