Each of the past three or four years, second-year medical student Johnna Mahoney took a timed, 50-question online qualification test to see if she could advance toward becoming a contestant on Jeopardy!, the popular TV quiz show she grew up watching.
In April of this year, the Penn State College of Medicine student finally got an e-mail inviting her to travel to New York City for an in-person audition – an honor given to only about 2,500 people annually. About 400 people appear on the game show each year.
“I always thought it was really cool – all the smartest people were on Jeopardy!” she said.
Mahoney appeared on an episode of the show that aired in November, taking second-place and winning $2,000. To get there, she would go from a hope in Hershey to the audition in New York and then a taping in Los Angeles, finishing her Jeopardy! journey back home with family and friends in Lancaster when the episode finally aired and she could talk about the experience. (more…)
On July 23, Melissa Masse celebrated her 34th birthday in the operating room of Penn State Hershey, watching Dr. Riaz Shah hold up a kidney while the medical team sang “Happy Birthday.”
Earlier that morning, doctors had harvested a kidney from her husband, Chris, and sent it to a major metropolitan area where it would be given to someone as unknown to the Masses as the donor whose organ became a birthday present for Melissa.
The surgeries were just two links in a complex transplant chain that allowed four people to receive healthy kidneys despite not having compatible live donors. Known as a “kidney swap,” Penn State Hershey offers the program as an alternative to dialysis and years of waiting for a deceased donor organ.
Melissa had been diagnosed with diabetes at age 11, but it wasn’t until stomach trouble and vomiting sent her to an emergency department in August 2012 and doctors noted her poor kidney function that she was sent to a specialist. By the end of the year, the South Williamsport woman was added to the list of people waiting for a healthy kidney.
Because the average person waits more than six years for a kidney, and because the mortality rate for those on dialysis is 50 percent after five years, Melissa’s husband offered to be a live donor. Unfortunately, he wasn’t a match. Nor was her boss. Or her best friend.
“I was devastated,” Chris said. He knew his wife was hoping for a live donor so there would be less chance her body would reject the new kidney. So he told transplant coordinator Vicky Reilly that he would donate his kidney to someone he had never met so that his wife could receive a healthy kidney from someone she had never met. (more…)
Kurt Holtzer never had a problem racing up multiple flights of stairs to respond to code calls for his job at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. But when he couldn’t climb a single flight without doubling over to catch his breath in May 2012, he knew something was wrong.
After an initial diagnosis of asthma, and a battery of tests that lasted several weeks, he was diagnosed with myelogenous leukemia and myelofibrosis, as well as a genetic mutation putting him in a high-risk category for survival. Without treatment, doctors gave him three months to live.
“I had recently lost my mother to lung cancer,” he says. “Having seen how my mother dealt with the chemo regimen, I didn’t want to go through that.” Because of his wife, Julie, and two children, he decided to do it: “I wasn’t ready to let go of her and the kids.”
So, on Memorial Day of last year, the life he had known ceased to exist. He fought fear, worry, and trepidation during nine rounds of chemotherapy, nine bone marrow biopsies and a stem cell transplant.
Holtzer’s cancer went into remission this spring, and he is back at work as a supervisor for the medical center’s biomedical team.
Each Friday, he takes his lunch break at 11 a.m. so he can take part in a weekly music and physical therapy program in the new inpatient adult cancer unit on the seventh floor. He shares his story, talks with others, and assures them he does understand what they are going through. (more…)
When doctors in Uganda told Shamim Nanukose that her 4-year-old son, Edwin Mugerwa, had a hole in his heart they couldn’t fix, she was horrified. She cried, asked questions the doctors couldn’t answer, and refused to leave without a promise that they would look for help.
Not far away, in another district of eastern Uganda, Jannat Mukwana was likewise terrified when she got a similar diagnosis for her son, Nuashad Muwaya, not yet a year old.
Because there are so few doctors and so many who need care in her home country, the attention given to each patient is minimal, Shamim said, through an interpreter. She knew her son had a heart condition, but she didn’t understand exactly what was going on or what the options were: “It leaves you much more confused.”
Eventually, both mothers got help from Children’s Heart Project, a program of international Christian relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, which has brought more than 960 children to North America to receive life-saving heart surgery and treatment since 1997.
At the end of August, Children’s Heart Project paid for the boys and their mothers to travel to Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital with an interpreter and identified a volunteer host family with the help of the First United Methodist Church in Hershey. (more…)
Several events focusing on veterans and military medicine will take place on the Penn State Hershey campus to celebrate Joining Forces Wellness Week, in partnership with the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC).
The College of Medicine is part of the AAMC’s Joining Forces Initiative, which works to train future physicians to better understand, diagnose and treat the health care needs of veterans, service members and their families.
Second-year medical student Eric Jung is part of the AAMC’s Organization of Student Representatives, making military issues a priority on campus.
Working together with the Office of Diversity, Jung received a $500 grant from the AAMC to pay for events and activities celebrating veterans and educating the campus community on issues that veterans and active-duty military often face.
“We have a traditional medical school curriculum here, but there are topics that we don’t get a lot of exposure to, so this is a good way to include some of that,” he said. (more…)
More than 30 years ago, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Kurt Holtzer and fellow Navy sailors played cat-and-mouse with enemy Russian ships.
Sometimes, the ships passed so close they could see Russian sailors on deck. At times, they exchanged waves of greeting. In other instances, the gestures were less pleasant. Always, they prepared for battle – ready to take aggressive measures against each other if given the order.
Fast forward to 2012.
Holtzer, a supervisor for the Penn State Hershey biomedical team, has just been diagnosed with leukemia and is being cared for by oncology nurse Andrey Chuprin. As the two become close and swap stories, Holtzer discovers that Chuprin had served in the Russian Navy in the same part of the Pacific Ocean at the same time he was there.
“On that water, we were mortal enemies,” Holtzer said. “But as I lay in my oncology bed, Andrey (was) fighting to save my life. Today, we are like brothers. What a tremendous turn of events.”
Like any large employer, Penn State Hershey has its share of veterans – men and women who served their country before coming to serve on campus. They aren’t always easy to spot, but they are all over campus, putting the skills and experiences they gained during their time in the service to work for patients and their families. (more…)
Combine a competitive spirit, a desire to overcome breast cancer and a whole lot of pink gloves and you get the 90-second roller coaster of emotion that is the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s entry for this year’s Pink Glove Dance competition. The annual contest is sponsored by Medline, manufacturer of the pink surgical gloves to raise awareness for breast cancer.
For the second year in a row, the Medical Center is asking for community support to help kiss cancer good-bye. Each vote gets Hershey one step closer to a first place win and the $25,000 to benefit PA Breast Cancer Coalition research. Hershey placed second last year, its first year in the competition.
The video, produced in conjunction with Hershey Entertainment and Resorts, the Medical Center’s contest community partner, features breast cancer survivors and their supporters riding Lightning Racer, one of Hersheypark’s eleven roller coasters, to represent fighting the disease through literal ups and downs.
“Dealing with breast cancer is kind of like being on a roller coaster,” said Kathy Law, director of nursing-perioperative services and executive sponsor of the Medical Center’s Pink Glove effort. “We thought what better way to bring the two entities together to work on a very worthwhile project.”
And from that partnership, the concept was born. (more…)