When Dr. Graham Jeffries came to Hershey in July 1969 as one of the first academic faculty members, there was no hospital, only part of the signature Crescent building had been built and the three classes of medical students had to be taught in Harrisburg.
Jeffries, who became Penn State College of Medicine’s founding chair of the Department of Medicine, had not been particularly interested in leaving his job on the Cornell faculty at New York Hospital, but a visit to the new campus and meeting with George Harrell, the College of Medicine’s first dean, changed his mind.
“George had vision, and I realized that it would be exciting to start from the ground up,” he said. The medical school had students, but no faculty. When the hospital was built, it had an emergency room, but no house staff: “We all took turns being on call at night.”
They quickly recruited faculty to develop research programs. The hospital opened its doors to patients, and that generated money to support the faculty.
“Things developed slowly, but it was an exciting time,” he said.
Editor’s note: This story is one in an occasional series highlighting a relationship between Penn State College of Medicine and Mountcrest University College in Ghana.
Medical students in the United States don’t generally have to worry about things like unreliable electricity and Internet service. This is not the case in rural Ghana, where Mountcrest University College (MCU) is preparing to open the first private medical school in the country. Without reliable service, students are more dependent on printed materials than the digital resources available to their American counterparts.
As part of an ongoing partnership, Penn State College of Medicine library staff recently loaded two, 40-foot containers with donated materials bound for Mountcrest. This was the second donation from the College of Medicine since the inception of Mountcrest’s medical school last year.
The College of Medicine is in the process of renovating the George T. Harrell Health Sciences Library, requiring staff to cull large amounts of printed materials from its collection.
“This was a really opportune moment in time where we had this massive amount of materials that we were going to be removing because Penn State University Libraries has electronic access to the materials and the real estate is more valuable than functioning as a book archive,” said Cynthia Robinson, director, George T. Harrell Health Sciences Library.
This allowed Mountcrest to receive a significant amount of materials for only the cost of shipping.
For researchers early in their careers, it’s not just funding that matters—mentorship is also critical for success.
Dr. Dan Morgan has been studying cannabinoid signaling in the brain. Dr. Greg Lewis recently developed simulation software for fracture surgeries. Dr. Joslyn Kirby investigated bundled payments for management of a skin condition. These three Penn State College of Medicine doctors received guidance from senior researchers, along with $200,000 to fund their research, through the College’s Junior Faculty Research Scholar Awards program.
The program, launched in 2011, provides support to early-stage investigators in basic, clinical, and translational science research.
“It’s a way for us to jump start the research programs and career development of researchers here,” says program co-director Dr. Sarah Bronson, who is also director of Research Development and Interdisciplinary Research and co-director of the Junior Faculty Development Program. “We put equal weight on funding the scholar’s research program and recognizing a career and development plan that is going to make that research program happen.”
To that end, applicants don’t just propose the research they want to do. They also submit mentorship “dream team”—at least three experienced investigators who will provide advice and assistance in developing and executing a research proposal and a career development plan. The mentoring team meets with the scholar a minimum of once every six months.
Each scholar’s award is named to honor the contributions of senior investigators at Penn State Hershey who made a difference through their own research and through the mentoring of colleagues and trainees.
Lisa Brown was on mission to find fresh basil. The only problem was that she didn’t really know what it looked, smelled, or tasted like. And Harrisburg’s Broad Street Market had so many leafy green vegetables that she didn’t know where to start.
As a participant in Penn State Hershey’s Prevention Produce program serving women in transitional housing, she was excited to try a new recipe, even though it called for an herb she wasn’t familiar with.
“I never bought that before,” she said.
When she finally found a bunch, Brown wrinkled up her nose, but conceded the basil might taste better than it smelled – especially in a recipe.
Prevention Produce is part of a larger Food as Medicine program led by medical students and was launched by students at Penn State College of Medicine last year. Food as Medicine – or FAM as it is known – also oversees a plot in the community garden on the Penn State Hershey campus that is used for donations to charitable initiatives, and is developing efforts to change the hospital inpatient food menu, among other projects.
While national attention is being drawn to the issue of inaccurate or delayed medical diagnoses, Penn State Hershey has been actively addressing issues that can lead to diagnostic errors with programs from medical education through to the clinic.
The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine brought attention to the issue last week when it presented eight recommendations in its report, “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care.
The recommendations are a follow-up to the Institute of Medicine’s 2000 landmark report “To Err is Human: Building a Safer Health System,” and 2001’s “The Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century,” both of which influenced patient safety measures at healthcare systems nationwide.
Dr. Timothy Mosher, chair, Penn State Hershey Department of Radiology, said that collecting accurate data to measure the scope of diagnostic errors is difficult. The issue is often underestimated. According to the institute’s report, most people will be victims of diagnostic error to one degree or another at some point in their lives.
“That fact itself should be enough of an attention-getter,” Mosher said. “We have to develop better systems.”
When Michael Hoover learned that his father, Greg, was unable to leave the intensive care unit at Penn State Hershey Medical Center to attend his wedding, he and his fiancée decided to bring the wedding to his father.
Medical Center staff rallied around the cause, with several departments contributing to the special day.
The hospital’s valet parking arranged for Michael to pull up to the main doors with fiancée Kelsey Kennedy, their best man, maid of honor, and Kennedy’s parents on Friday afternoon, Sept. 25.
Nurse care coordinator Helen Papeika decorated a conference room across the hall from Greg’s sixth-floor room with flowers, tulle, and a large heart balloon, donated by the hospital gift shop.
Claire de Boer, director of the hospital’s Center Stage arts in healthcare program, arranged the couple’s processional and recessional song choices. Second-year medical student Victoria Jones played the traditional songs on a keyboard in the corner.
Communicating with and relating to people with dementia can be difficult.
Family members, caregivers, and practitioners may become frustrated when they concentrate on what the person cannot remember, or what capacities have been lost, rather than finding ways to interact that focus on remaining strengths.
That is why Dr. Daniel George, assistant professor of humanities, has implemented an improvisational storytelling activity called TimeSlips at a local dementia care facility to offer his fourth-year medical students an opportunity to spend time with a patient population through the creative arts.
TimeSlips utilizes pictures as creative conversational prompts to spark participants’ imaginations. Their observations of the pictures are then strung together to tell a story.
“Because of our cultural understanding of dementia, most people wouldn’t expect those with cognitive impairment to be capable of telling stories, but this activity challenges our biases and stereotypes,” George said.
The program was developed in the 1990s by theatre professor Anne Basting while she worked in an assisted care facility. Basting was frustrated by the ineffectual activities that were being used to engage residents. So, she pulled a picture out of a magazine and asked the residents tell stories about the person in the picture.