What is the best way to prevent food borne illness? How effective is hospice care? What factors influence hookah use in college students? And, is raw milk safe?
These are the type of questions that public health scientists work to answer each day. Unlike other health professionals, their focus is on prevention, rather than treatment of conditions.
As the national healthcare climate begins to shift from a reactive to proactive focus – working to reduce costs and improve outcomes for those with chronic diseases through behavior management and education – the field of public health is exploding.
As Penn State Hershey’s new Master of Public Health (MPH) program celebrated the recent graduation of its second cohort of students this spring, it organized a Public Health Day Symposium at the Civil War Museum in Harrisburg to bring together nearly 100 students, faculty, government employees, policy makers and community public health practitioners.
Farrah Kauffman, deputy director of the program, said the department organized the inaugural event “to expose students to professionals in the field, and to provide them with a chance to hear about the latest and greatest of what is happening now — as well as some networking opportunities.”
Vernon Chinchilli, chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences at Penn State Hershey, said the MPH program, which began in 2011, expects to become fully accredited this June. The two-year, full-time program, designed for working professionals with evening classes, will be joined by a doctorate program, possibly as soon as fall 2015.
If laughter really is the best medicine, Bailey Sanders is going to make a great doctor. Sanders was chosen by her peers in Penn State College of Medicine’s Class of 2014 to give this year’s student commencement address. The future doctor kept the crowd in stitches, threading together humorous examples to illustrate three components to building a life and career free of regrets.
Sanders posited that passion is one key ingredient, and for an example looked to a scientist who drank the contents of his own petri dish and “documented his subsequent suffering with regular biopsies and his mother’s opinion of how his breath smelled.” The unconventional experiment resulted in a Nobel Prize.
To hear Sanders’ full commencement speech, watch this video:
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…)
Amy Bair says she owes her son’s life to the actions of her daughter – and medical personnel agree.On the afternoon of June 15, nine-year-old Carrie Bair walked out to their family’s pool to find her young brother, Jackson, lying face-down in the water. He appeared unresponsive. Carrie pulled the three-year-old from the water by the back of his shirt.
“I tried to talk to him, but he didn’t talk,” Carrie said. That’s when she wrapped her arms around her brother’s body and squeezed him. Within seconds, Jackson coughed up water and started breathing again. Carrie beckoned to her mom, Amy, who called 911 then rushed to her son’s side.
This spring brought the first collaborative spring break service trip for University Park undergraduates and Penn State Hershey medical students and physicians. From March 2 to 9, the team of two physicians, eight medical students, and thirty-two undergraduates served in the Darien province of Panama—an area reputed in the States as a jungle ridden with malaria and yellow fever.
During the week-long trip, the team provided medical services under the auspices of the Global Brigades organization. These services were much needed by the Darien population of 50,000. According to a local physician, Darien has only five medical specialists and three ambulances to cover an area the size of Connecticut. In contrast, Connecticut has more than 17,000 physicians and 60,000 registered nurses.
After months of preparation and twenty-one hours of travel, the team arrived at 5:30 a.m. at their compound in Santa Fe, where they would serve locals in El Tirao, Panama. Despite a mere four hours of sleep, the team persevered through “frigid showers, putrid porti-potties, and unpredictable electricity,” medical student Dan Brill said, to sort medical supplies provided by generous contributions of donors and team participants.
Over the next three days, the team used these supplies to operate a clinic out of a local elementary school. Using the Global Brigades model, they established five stations to provide care to more than 300 Panaminians: Triage, Consultation, Dental, Laboratory, and Pharmacy stations allocated space for checking vital signs, conducting patient interviews and exams, providing oral care, performing diagnostic tests, and dispensing drugs, respectively. (more…)
Penn State College of Medicine students are told to put emotions aside when they enter the anatomy lab. It is about the science, not the humanity. They quickly realize that is just not possible.
That was evident a few weeks ago in Hershey, as the future physicians honored the people and families who generously donated bodies for study by the students. Through an annual ceremony they organize, students reflect on the people who once were, not the bodies in a lab.
Some conveyed their feelings through song, others through poetry, and all shared their unending gratitude to the donors and their loved ones. “It’s an intimate opportunity for the students to convey to the families of the donors what they learned and what they gained from the experience,” said Michelle Lazarus, Ph.D., assistant professor of neural and behavioral sciences. “It also provides an opportunity for the families to better understand how their family’s gift impacted students.”
Students like class of 2016 president Steven Cornelius, who spoke of the importance of these gifts. “We learned a great deal of information in the lecture hall,” Cornelius said. “In reality, the primary place where we learned something was in the cadaver lab.”
Profile: The public health and homeland security connection—How a deployment works with the College of Medicine and World Campus
You would be hard pressed to find a student more perfectly suited for a Penn State Master’s Degree in Homeland Security—Public Health Preparedness (MHS-PHP) than Lt. Col. Guy Moon. A full-time active duty officer with the Nebraska Army National Guard, Moon completed part of his degree while on a deployment in Afghanistan. He formally received his degree from Penn State College of Medicine at its 2013 commencement today.
Moon’s position as the guard’s statewide education services officer put him in a unique position to know exactly what he wanted in an online program and, more importantly, how such a program should work. “I fully understand the value of education for military personal regardless of where they are in the career,” Moon says. He consulted higher education rankings that named Penn State as a military-friendly school and looked for an online program that offered homeland security programs. Moon narrowed his search down to three to four different schools, which he studied closely before make his choice.
So, why Penn State?
Penn State Hershey used to be a place of grief for Meagan Horst.
It was the place she went to say goodbye to her father when he died of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma at the age of 44. Fourteen years old, she was the oldest of four children, waiting her turn to go into his room and say her final goodbyes.
As she sat with her siblings, she saw a little boy walk by, clutching an IV pole. He seemed so happy, excited by the simplest of things. “I knew right then that I was going to be a doctor,” she said. “I knew I was going to grow up to take care of people like him. He was just so happy to be alive.”
After high school, Horst spent a summer between her sophomore and junior years of college in Honduras and the Dominican Republic, shadowing doctors and learning about the world of medicine. There, her experiences in the operating room convinced her she wanted to become an anesthesiologist. “I was always interested in the other side of the curtain, and it just felt right,” she said. “I love everything about it.”
The following summer she traveled to Peru, interpreting for a medical team that needed help with Spanish. “I’ve always been ambitious and had lots of goals,” she said.
Growing up in Togo, West Africa, Elom Amoussou-Kpeto was acutely aware of the barriers that kept people from accessing quality health care. Not only was there a lack of highly skilled providers, but transportation was a challenge.
He spent a lot of time with his grandfather, a nurse, who cared for the whole community “doing almost what a doctor would do,” he said.
Amoussou-Kpeto realized that by becoming a doctor, he could give so much back to the community: “That is my ultimate objective.”
So, upon graduating high school with good grades, he applied to Camden Community College near Philadelphia, where an uncle lived. Once accepted, he began the process of obtaining a Visa to come study in the United States, where he felt like he would get a better education.
After two years studying biology there, he transferred to Temple University to finish a degree in biochemistry. It was a rocky road though.
Language was a huge barrier. Amoussou-Kpeto grew up speaking Ewe and French. In school, he learned to read and write some English, but had difficulty expressing himself in the new language. “I felt like time was constantly working against me–especially with standardized tests,” he said. “I felt like I was fighting a combat on two fronts–between who I am and who I want to be.” (more…)
This is the metaphor at the heart of Dr. Dan Shapiro’s new book, And in Health: A Guide for Couples Facing Cancer Together, that was released today (May 14). Part lifejacket, part buoy, the book offers practical advice for spouses and partners whose lives have been upended by cancer.
Shapiro, a clinical psychologist, knows this landscape firsthand. For five years when he was in his 20s, he battled lymphatic cancer, undergoing chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant and relying upon his spouse Terry for support. A dozen years later, the roles were reversed when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Despite living in the cancer world since the 1980s, I underestimated how intense, painful and difficult it is to be the spouse and how important it is to understand that both roles are challenging,” said Shapiro, also chairman of the Department of Humanities, Penn State College of Medicine.
“We’re talking about really practical things we can do to make the experience easier and strengthen our relationship.”
Those “practical things” range from how to interact with the medical team and deal with emotions to how to talk about sex, to name a few of the chapter topics. The chapters themselves contain a mix of personal anecdotes, research findings and specific recommendations such as working less to scheduling weekly date nights when talking about cancer is prohibited.
All are aimed at helping couples navigate this unfamiliar and scary terrain that can include radical body changes, job loss, and role shifts.