New associate dean for research innovation nurtures ideas to the marketplace

Dr. Jilka

Dr. Joseph Jilka

Joseph Jilka is in the business of innovation. As Penn State College of Medicine’s newest associate dean for research innovation and director of the Office of Technology Development, his focus is helping faculty bring new technologies from their research labs to the marketplace.

Since joining Penn State Hershey in March, Jilka has been impressed with the culture of innovation he’s experienced here.

“Although I expected it, I still was pleasantly surprised by the open, collaborative atmosphere here,” Jilka said. “Everybody is pulling together, everybody is working together.  I can think of three words when I think of what I’ve experienced here so far: open, collegial and collaborative. I’ve been surprised by that — in a good sense of the word.”

With his mix of science and business backgrounds, Jilka brings a wealth of practical experience and multifaceted interests to his role.

After earning a degree in music, he moved to the scientific world and went on to receive his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, followed by a post-doctoral opportunity at an agriculture company.

“In hindsight, that experience was fun because I was there when they were first starting to understand the rules for expressing a foreign protein in plants.”

His work led him to a seed company, where an effort looking to use corn as a protein warehouse was spun off into a start-up company.

(more…)

April 23, 2015 at 7:35 am Leave a comment

Shapiro, Saunders appointed to leadership roles at Penn State Hershey

Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center has elevated two faculty members to key leadership positions: Dr. Dan Shapiro will serve as vice dean for faculty and administrative affairs, and Dr. Erika Saunders has been named chair of the Department of Psychiatry.

Dr. Dan Shapiro

Dr. Dan Shapiro

Shapiro, currently chair of the Department of Humanities, will continue in that role as he also serves in the vice dean position. One of his priorities will be elevating the culture of respect at Penn State Hershey. He will also serve as a liaison between the dean’s office and search committees for department chairs.

Shapiro, the Garner James Cline Professor of Humanities in Medicine, joined Penn State Hershey in 2008. He earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the University of Florida and went on to Harvard Medical School, where he completed an internship and an endowed post-doctoral fellowship. A psychologist, Shapiro’s writings about physician-patient relationships and physician wellness have appeared in the New York Times, the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA and Academic Medicine, as well as on NPR’s All Things Considered and other outlets. He is an award-winning author of three books, has served as a consultant for the television show “Grey’s Anatomy” and has also held two professorships from the Arnold P. Gold Foundation.

Dr. Erika Saunders

Dr. Erika Saunders

Saunders, who has served as interim psychiatry chair since December, is director of the Mood Disorders Program and an associate professor of psychiatry. She is also an adjunct research investigator with the Department of Psychiatry and Depression Center at the University of Michigan. Saunders came to Penn State Hershey in 2008 as an assistant professor of psychiatry. She received her undergraduate education from the University of Michigan and her medical degree from the University of Iowa. She completed a Howard Hughes Research Fellowship at Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical School and residency training in psychiatry at the University of Michigan, and she was awarded a Heinz C. Prechter Bipolar Research Fellowship. Saunders’ work has been recognized nationally, and she has been accepted to speak about her work to the Society of Biological Psychiatry, the American Society of Clinical Psychopharmacology and the American Psychiatric Association. She is a member of the American College of Psychiatrists and is a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association.

Saunders is active in medical student and resident education, and was awarded a Dean’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and a Psychiatry Resident’s Teaching Award. She succeeds Dr. Alan Gelenberg, who retired from the organization in December after five years as department chair.

April 21, 2015 at 6:44 am Leave a comment

James Broach and Rongling Wu named Distinguished Professors

Dr. Rongling Wu and Dr. James Broach

Dr. Rongling Wu and Dr. James Broach

Dr. James Broach, professor and chair of biochemistry and molecular biology and Dr. Rongling Wu, director of the Center for Statistical Genetics and professor of public health sciences and statistics, have been named as the 2014-2015 University Distinguished Professors for Penn State College of Medicine.

Broach is a world-renowned scientist whose work has transformed the understanding of genomics and biology. In 2012, Broach was named the inaugural director of the Penn State Hershey Institute for Personalized Medicine because of his significant achievements and his innovative approaches to translational research. Building on a strong foundation, Broach has established Penn State as a national leader in genomics, the next great frontier in medical sciences. He has been continuously funded by the NIH since 1978 and has recruited three bioinformatics faculty who are sought after nationally. In addition to his research, he maintains an extraordinarily high level of activity in teaching and mentoring students. His passion for science education and for encouraging young people to pursue careers in the sciences is immediately apparent to anyone who meets him. Click here to read more about Dr. Broach’s career.

Wu is a statistical geneticist and prolific research whose interests focus on establishing statistical tools for solving problems in genetics and genomics. His scientific contributions include pioneering a dynamic model called functional mapping, which maps genes that regulate the developmental process of complex traits. This is a computational tool aimed at identifying genes and genetic networks that control dynamic traits and can help explain the detailed genetic architecture of drug response by incorporating pharmacodynamics processes. Wu’s research is documented in more than 300 peer-reviewed articles and he has co-authored five books. He has had tremendous success in obtaining funding for his research from the NIH, the US Department of Agriculture, the National Science Foundation and the US Department of Energy. His contributions to statistical genetics have contributed to the University receiving national and international recognition. Wu has directed more than 20 graduate students in their Ph.D. dissertations and another six are currently under his direction. In 2012 , the Department of Public Health Sciences initiated his biostatistics program. Click here to read more about Dr. Wu’s career.

April 14, 2015 at 9:25 am Leave a comment

Cochlear implants give 1-year-old gift of sound

Missi and Adam Prosser clapped their hands behind their six-month-old daughter’s back. They blew a whistle next to Nora when she was asleep in their Mechanicsburg home.

Nora didn’t respond.

The couple noticed that Nora wasn’t babbling like their older two daughters had at that age. She would imitate mouth movements, but no sound came out. Their pediatrician referred Nora for hearing tests, which confirmed their suspicions.

Nora had profound, congenital hearing loss in both ears.

For six months, the Prossers worked with early intervention therapists to give Nora signs and visual language to help with her diagnosed speech delay. Hearing aids didn’t seem to help.

Online research and conversations with medical professionals at Penn State Hershey led the couple to decide they would have Nora evaluated for two cochlear implants, electronic medical devices that replace the function of the damaged inner ear, providing sound signals to the brain.

First available in the 1980s, cochlear implants have become more common for both children and adults with severe-to-profound hearing loss.

The Prossers scheduled surgery for shortly after Nora’s first birthday. Three days before, she came down with a fever. They rescheduled for November, but the anesthesia team sent them home rather than risking surgery while Nora had a cold. Finally, on January 8, the Prossers spent one long day at Penn State Hershey and had Nora’s implants put in.

“If you implant kids between ages one and three, nine out of 10 of them will be able to progress with their hearing to where they can use a phone and be in mainstream classes by kindergarten,” said Jason May, the surgeon who placed Nora’s implants. “They do real well long term.”

Two months later, when things had healed and the swelling had decreased, the Prossers returned to Penn State Hershey to activate Nora’s implants. (more…)

April 6, 2015 at 10:56 am 1 comment

Story Update: MountCrest University School breaks ground on Medical School

Editor’s Note: Penn State Medicine highlighted the relationship between Penn State College of Medicine and Ghana’s MountCrest University School in January. The College of Medicine’s Dr. Ben Fredrick recently returned from Ghana to give an update. Follow Penn State Medicine for updates on the College’s work with MountCrest.

Kwaku Ansa-Asare and Helena Ansa-Asare, founders of MountCrest University School.  The school’s teaching hospital will be named after their son, Kwame Ansa-Asare, who died in 1999 at the age of 19 from leukemia.

Kwaku Ansa-Asare and Helena Ansa-Asare, founders of MountCrest University School. The school’s teaching hospital will be named after their son, Kwame Ansa-Asare, who died in 1999 at the age of 19 from leukemia.

MountCrest University School has broken ground on its medical school, the first in rural Ghana.

The school is on track to welcome its first class of medical students this September. Students will walk into a new four-story education building in the village of Larteh. The building will include lecture halls, small group rooms, and a library. Planned are a dedicated medical school building and a teaching hospital. Construction of the hospital is planned to begin May.

MountCrest will have its first White Coat Ceremony on September 5. White Coat Ceremony is when first year medical students receive their white doctor coats, signifying the beginning of medical education. Student coats are shorter than regular doctor coats, to easily identify them in the clinic setting.

“This is a significant event in Ghana because it marks an important decision by MountCrest leadership to help their health profession students develop humanistic qualities through a longitudinal humanities-in-medicine curriculum,” said Dr. Ben Fredrick (’00), director of the Global Health Center at the College of Medicine. Dr. A. Craig Hillemeier, College of Medicine dean, is expected to attend the ceremony.

The College of Medicine was recognized in MountCrest’s law school commencement and during the groundbreaking ceremony by both Mountcrest founder Kwaku Ansa-Asare and a representative of the President of Ghana.

MountCrest is establishing the first private medical school in Ghana, and is also the first to build a medical school in a rural area of Ghana. The College of Medicine is working closely with Mountcrest to support the endeavor.

(more…)

March 30, 2015 at 1:46 pm Leave a comment

Match Day 2015 (Video)

Last week, Penn State Medicine connected with three College of Medicine students to discuss Match Day, the day graduating medical students learn what residency programs they will attend. In this video, Carina Brown, Timothy Brown, and Jon-Ryan Burris talk about Match Day, their time at Penn State Hershey and say where they have matched to:

March 24, 2015 at 12:36 pm Leave a comment

Penn State Hershey, PinnacleHealth receive board approval for new enterprise

The Penn State Board of Trustees approved a proposal to bring the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and PinnacleHealth System together to form a new health enterprise under the umbrella of Penn State Health. The PinnacleHealth System Board of Directors voted earlier in the week to also approve the plan.

The proposal still requires approval from the state Attorney General and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Penn State and PinnacleHealth expect to file the required paperwork within the next few weeks. Both health systems will continue to operate independently and as normal until necessary approvals to join as members of the new enterprise are obtained.

The approval of the plan by the Board of Trustees is the latest step in formal discussions to expand collaboration between the two health systems, which began in November 2013. In June 2014, Penn State, Penn State Hershey and PinnacleHealth signed a letter of intent to bring the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, PinnacleHealth and their joint venture, Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute, together into a new health enterprise.

“This new health enterprise is a win for our patients, students, researchers and central Pennsylvania communities because we can offer our academic expertise and advanced care to a broader patient population,” said Dr. A. Craig Hillemeier, dean of Penn State College of Medicine, chief executive officer of the Medical Center, and Penn State’s senior vice president for health affairs. “PinnacleHealth and Penn State Hershey see this new health care enterprise through the same lens – that our longstanding individual commitments to quality and safety, combined into one health system, would give us the scale we need to continue to improve outcomes and reverse the trend of growing health care costs.”

Read more at Penn State Hershey Newsroom: http://bit.ly/1CDmtYi

March 23, 2015 at 10:59 am Leave a comment

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