Author Archive

3D printing technology opens up new possibilities

A new printing technology at Penn State Hershey gives doctors and researchers new possibilities.

Instead of ink on paper, a 3D printer can “print” strands of material in layers to create solid items. Doctors can imagine, design and create prototypes of everything from surgical tools to medical devices like abdominal drains and orthopedic screws.

“There is a big splash about 3D printing — and with good reason,” said Dr. Randy Haluck, vice chairman for technology and innovation for the Department of Surgery.

In the past, a doctor who wanted only a few of something for testing or custom use would have to go through a manufacturing process set up to make thousands of the same thing. Now, a single item or a small batch can be printed.

“This is faster, more efficient and cheaper,” said Dr. Peter Dillon, chair, Department of Surgery.

Just as a draft of text can be printed on a two-dimensional surface and then tweaked and revised before printing again, the same can be done with the 3D machine.

(more…)

September 1, 2015 at 7:38 pm Leave a comment

Meet Dr. Leslie Parent, Penn State Hershey’s new vice dean for research

Dr. Leslie Parent

Dr. Leslie Parent

With a career in retrovirology research, a passion for education, and a 24-year history at Penn State Hershey, Dr. Leslie Parent brings a strong skillset to her new position as vice dean for research and graduate education.

Parent transitioned to the role in early June from her former position as chief of the Division of Infectious Disease.

“I thought it was a great opportunity to help other people do better research,” Parent said. “That was what really motivated me: the opportunity to enhance the research going on here at the College of Medicine. We already have excellent, successful investigators. We can take something that already has such a strong foundation and look for ways to promote our research, engage more people in our research, and build a better and more complete infrastructure for research.”

Parent started in the Division of Infectious Disease as a fellow, completed a post-doctoral fellowship in retrovirology, and started her own NIH-funded laboratory in 1998. She was named chief of the division in 2007 and was later asked to co-lead the college’s M.D./Ph.D. program, helping train future physician scientists.

Parent believes she brings an optimistic attitude and persistence to the role.

“I like to explore all the possibilities and do our best to achieve the things we set out to do,” she said. “I like to set goals and then gather people around to work as a team to achieve those objectives. I think team work is really important and I hope that I can be someone who can build teams and use a lot of different people’s talents to achieve the things we want to do here.”

(more…)

August 26, 2015 at 9:28 am Leave a comment

From patient to resident: Lindsay Requa’s Penn State Hershey experience shapes career

Lindsay Requa knows first-hand what the patients she has treated as a resident at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital are going through. Fourteen years ago, she was where they are today, when she learned she needed surgery to repair a leaky valve in her heart.

Lindsay Requa when she was a patient of Dr. Myers

Lindsay Requa when she was a patient of Dr. Myers

As a 15-year-old high school softball, basketball and field hockey player, she worried about whether she could still participate in the sports she loved, and whether the surgery scar would look bad when she wore her prom dress.

It wasn’t the answers from Dr. John Myers, her pediatric heart surgeon, that she remembers most, but the way he responded to her questions and concerns.

“He talked with me at my level and was really good about making me feel heard,” she said. “He made me feel good, so I understood what was happening.”

In July, a week before Requa completed her three-year pediatric residency at Children’s Hospital, she visited Myers and showed him a photo of the two of them from that time.

(more…)

August 12, 2015 at 9:24 am Leave a comment

Unique division brings heart devices to life

An engineer, a surgeon, and a machinist walk into a conference room.

It might sound like the start of a bad joke, but it’s a regular scene in Penn State Hershey’s Division of Artificial Organs, where experts in vastly different fields bring their knowledge together to design, manufacture, implant and test artificial hearts in one location.

Cardio-thoracic surgeon Dr. William S. Pierce formed the team in 1970 when he came to Penn State’s then-new Milton S. Hershey Medical Center after working on artificial heart development for the National Institutes for Health. Penn State’s strong engineering staff and Hershey’s suburban location offered the resources to develop the kind of collaborative program he envisioned.

Eric Yeager

Eric Yeager makes blood sacs in Penn State Hershey’s Division of Artificial Organs by dipping polished stainless steel molds into honey-colored liquid polyurethane polymer.

Forty-five years later, Dr. Gerson Rosenberg, chief of the Division of Artificial Organs, can walk down the hall from his office to a machine shop, plastics lab, metal-polishing station and rooms where mock circulatory testing is done on heart-assist devices for adults and children. An assist device helps a sick heart do its work so it can rest while the patient awaits a transplant, so researchers are always looking for ways to improve the devices to work better and for longer.

<<View a video of Dr. Piece and Dr. Rosenberg’s work>>

At a nearby facility, veterinarians provide pre- and post-op care for animals implanted with pediatric heart-assist devices and a new pneumatic heart pump — operated by air pressure — that could improve the lives of young adults and adolescents born with congenital heart defects.

“We are unique in that everything from start to finish is done in one location,” Rosenberg said. (more…)

August 5, 2015 at 12:15 pm 1 comment

Homeland Security Program Graduate Put Knowledge to Use During Boston Marathon Bombing

When Charlotte Palmer Roy graduated from Penn State College of Medicine’s graduate program in homeland security in 2012, she had no idea her new found knowledge would be put to the ultimate test just one year later during the Boston Marathon bombing. Palmer Roy is the emergency management coordinator at Newton-Wellesley Hospital outside Boston.

Every year the marathon route runs past the hospital, at mile 17, and it’s Palmer Roy’s job to prepare the staff and facility for the usual influx of race-related injuries and illnesses.

As Palmer Roy recalls, the day of the horrific event—Monday, April 15, 2013—started out relatively uneventful. At 2:49 p.m., when the bombs detonated near the finish line, her emergency operations center team was getting ready to close up shop.

Instead of heading home for the day, the team braced for the emergency.

Newton-Wellesley is not a trauma facility, so the hospital didn’t receive bombing victims. But the threat of secondary devices meant runners needed to get off the race route as soon as possible, so Palmer Roy’s team set up respite areas in the hospital. A few hours later, the runners were moved to Newton City Hall and then bussed back to the finish line in Boston.

Throughout it all, Palmer Roy said, hospital staff anxiously awaited news of coworkers and loved ones participating in and working at the race.

The next four days continued to be challenging, culminating in a shelter-in-place order on Friday during the manhunt for bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

“We were told that he was potentially injured, potentially seeking medical care and potentially wearing a suicide vest,” Palmer Roy said. “That was a challenge because none of the hospitals with an exception of one in Boston are armed.”

Palmer Roy brought in the National Guard to protect the hospital staff and patients in case the bomber showed up there.

“We learned a lot that day about what shelter-in-place means for a hospital,” Palmer Roy said.  “It meant that we could not get staff in or out, and we could not get supplies in. We also could not get discharged patients out, but two hospitals in Boston were diverting their ambulances to us. So we were very quickly surging out at the seams.”

The shelter-in-place status was lifted that evening, but the aftermath of the bombing was not short-lived.

“It was an emotional roller coaster from Monday through the following year, until we got through another marathon,” Palmer Roy said. “We typically plan for the race beginning in February. Well, we started planning for the next year’s marathon the day after that marathon.”

In 2014, and again this year, Palmer Roy coordinated security for the race not just at the local and state level, but also with the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, the CIA and the National Guard.

“Security along the route was phenomenal. We had 20 SWAT team members and bomb-sniffing dogs here on our campus.”

Palmer Roy said her training at Penn State College of Medicine was invaluable in helping her deal with the bombing and its aftermath.

“For example, I took a course on agriculture biosecurity,” she said. “When we were planning for the marathon the year after the bombing, we were looking at anything and everything that could possibly happen. The agroterrorism piece came in because we had to make sure we were protecting our food and water supply.

“The disaster psychology course helped me understand what needed to be done within our hospital collaborative to support the staff,” she continued. “It helped me understand what people needed initially, and also to recognize the fact that this wasn’t going to be a quick fix for anybody. Anniversaries bring back memories, and watching things on TV can cause secondary trauma. I learned that in the course, so we cautioned people to stay informed but not be overly engrossed in the media.”

Penn State College of Medicine began offering the nation’s first graduate degree in homeland security with a medical focus in 2006. The online intercollege Master of Professional Studies (iMPS) in Homeland Security with an option in Public Health Preparedness is offered through the Penn State World Campus. A working mom, Palmer Roy attended classes at night for two years.

“It was the only way I was going to be able to reach my goals, so it was a perfect fit for me,” she said.

Palmer Roy said the program prepared her not just for the marathons but also for threats like a recent homegrown terrorist plot to behead Boston police officers.

“There are things in Penn State’s courses on critical infrastructure, terrorism and communications that I use every day,” she said. “Some I wish I never had to use, some I thought I never would use.”

This spring semester, the former student became a teaching assistant for the Critical Infrastructure Protection of Health Care Delivery Systems course. Palmer Roy also recently contributed to a son how healthcare and emergency-preparedness workers prepared for and recovered from the 2013 marathon.

“A lot of the preparedness efforts that go into a marathon and disaster and emergency planning here at the hospital, locally and statewide really all did come together and work that day,” Palmer Roy said of the events of 2013. “I hope it never has to again.”

-Jennifer Abbasi

July 23, 2015 at 9:30 am Leave a comment

PaTH Network starts studying patients at four institutions with support from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

Which health outcomes really matter to patients? That’s the question the PaTH Network is starting to investigate with the help of  nearly $7 million in funding from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), a non-profit created through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Four major university health systems—Penn State, University of Pittsburgh, Temple University and Johns Hopkins University—make up the PaTH Network. It’s one of 29 health data networks across the country and a coordinating center, collectively known as PCORnet, funded by PCORI.

PCORI’s mission is to help patients, their caregivers and healthcare providers make informed healthcare decisions based on outcomes that are relevant to those living with a particular condition. That means designing studies that track these patient-centered outcomes.

Dr. Cynthia Chuang

Dr. Cynthia Chuang

“It’s traditionally been the researchers who have determined what the outcomes should be in studies,” said Dr. Cynthia Chuang, professor of medicine and public health sciences and Penn State’s lead principal investigator on the project. “For a long time, that really seemed to make sense, until you think about: How do we know that these are the outcomes that really matter, and who should the outcomes matter to? When you think about it that way, it should be the patients who say, ‘Having my condition, these are the things that are most important to me.'”

While researchers typically focus on scientific measures like lab values, Chuang said, patients might be more focused on their quality of life, whether or not they can walk without using a walker or how they can take fewer medications.

The PaTH Network is using PCORI’s funding to study patient-centered outcomes for atrial fibrillation (AF or A fib, the most common type of irregular heartbeat) and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF, a rare lung disease with an unknown cause). All of the clinical data research networks in PCORnet, including the PaTH Network, are also working together to better understand the development and treatment of obesity, as well as how some people maintain a healthy weight across their lifetime. By joining forces with other institutions, researchers will have far more patients involved in the study—potentially 3 million in the PaTH Network alone—making the study results much more powerful.

The benefits of larger studies are perhaps obvious for rare conditions, like IPF, for which a lone institution might only have a handful of participants. But large groups of participants also help advance research in more common conditions, like atrial fibrillation, that have many treatment options and no gold standard of care.

(more…)

July 13, 2015 at 7:06 am Leave a comment

St. Joseph and Penn State Health union viewed as beneficial to community

The unveiling of the Nittany Lion statue at Penn State Health St. Joseph.

The unveiling of the Nittany Lion statue at Penn State Health St. Joseph.

When Dave Ruppert found himself in the emergency department of St Joseph Medical Center in Reading in 2012 with symptoms that eventually led to a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, he also found a new healthcare home. Impressed by the professionalism, personal attention and level of service he found at St. Joseph during that tough time, Ruppert later had all his medical services transferred to St. Joseph.

“It wasn’t just any one person, but everyone from the providers to the billing department,” he said. “They are willing to help you out, they understand you and you don’t get shuffled around. They take care of you as an individual, not as a number.”

When it was time for surgery, Ruppert benefitted from St. Joseph’s oncology partnership with Penn State Hershey that meant he was able to get the highest level of care through recommendations from local doctors.

That’s why Ruppert was pleased to learn that St. Joseph Regional Health Network has become part of Penn State Health, the university’s newly-formed health system that will also include Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

<<View photos from the recent welcoming ceremony for St. Joseph.>>

“I always recommend St. Joseph to people, and I have high expectations for this,” he said. “I think it’s a really good move.”

Ruppert isn’t the only one who believes St. Joseph is a special place and that becoming part of the Penn State family will only improve it.

Marc Rovito, medical director of St. Joseph Cancer Center, has been a Penn State employee at St. Joseph for four years through a provider-service agreement with Penn State Hershey.
(more…)

July 9, 2015 at 11:17 am 1 comment

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