Posts filed under ‘Alumni’
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…)
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.
They came without warning and didn’t go away: uncontrollable muscle twitches, weakness in his arms and hands, slurring of speech.
Even before the diagnosis in August 2011, Don Farrell and his wife Joan Darrah had figured out what they were confronting: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurological disease that is 100 percent fatal within two to five years after onset of symptoms.
“I can tell you that after the initial shock and grief, one makes a decision to move forward or not,” says Farrell in a documentary made by Penn State College of Medicine students Arissa Torrie and Brian Kinsman.
“It stimulated me to complete my life—not that I know what my life should be—but it stimulated me to finish it out strong, however that may be.”
Told through photographs and audio, “Don Farrell” is one of ten student documentaries that explore in searing and haunting detail the lives of patients facing debilitating diseases and terminal illnesses. Screened on May 1, the “Video Slam: Patient Project Documentary Films” is part of Penn State College of Medicine’s yearlong curriculum focused on giving first-year medical students insights into how patients live with illness.
“There’s a lot of tension. You go on eighteen or nineteen interviews at all these different places all over the county. You don’t really know what’s going to happen. Then there’s one envelope that basically determines where you’re going.”
This is how Nathan Keller, a member of the Penn State College of Medicine Class of 2013 described the “Match” process that culminates in Match Day, an annual tradition when medical students learn where they will be headed for residency training. Four years of preparation at Penn State Hershey Medical Center and the College of Medicine had brought them to the moment when they would open a plain white envelope that contained the location of where they would continue their medical training. Match Day is the culmination of a process that began months ago as students visited and evaluated residency programs – and the programs evaluated them. Some of the students will remain at the Medical Center while others will go to residency programs throughout the country.
More than 130 students took part in the 2013 Match Day ceremony at the Hershey Country Club. The excitement built as the students received their envelopes one by one. Classmates cheered for each other as they counted down to noon, when they were finally able to tear open the envelopes and discover their match.
Some students were matched to their first choice. Others were not as lucky. (more…)
This week, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a graphic narrative by Penn State College of Medicine professor Dr. Michael Green. It marks the first time a clinically oriented medical journal has published a comic.
The comic, which Green created in collaboration with freelance illustrator Ray Rieck, addresses a question that many new doctors face – when to trust others and when to rely on their own judgment.
Dr. Christine Laine, editor-in-chief of Annals of Internal Medicine, said the journal had been considering using the graphic story format as a new way to present selected case reports at about the same time that Green submitted his piece.
“We found it a compelling way to highlight some of the issues covered in a series on patient safety that we had in the works,” she said. “We decided that publishing it would be a good way to draw attention to that series and see how readers react to the graphic story format.”
Green, who has been teaching a course on comics and medicine to fourth-year medical students for several years, believes in the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words.
He sees graphic storytelling as an effective way to communicate a complicated subject and anticipates it will be well-received in the medical community. (more…)
As part of an initiative to educate students in the surrounding areas about research related to health, faculty members from Penn State College of Medicine, in conjunction with colleagues from Penn State Harrisburg, Juniata College, and the Raystown Field Station offered 16 sophomores from Susquehanna Township High School and five of their teachers a week-long, summer opportunity to take a closer look at environmental and medical research techniques, and the interchange between the two areas of science. The formal title of the program is SEPA-CREST, so named for the Science Education Partnership Award (SEPA) that funded it and the opportunity it provided for Collaborative Research Experiences for Students and Teachers (CREST). It serves not only as a vehicle for students and teachers to gain more intensive experience in science, but also as a research opportunity for college faculty to gauge their ability to improve science literacy with these groups.
Participants travelled to the Raystown Field Station, an environmental center in Huntingdon, PA operated by Juniata College for a multidisciplinary study of the interactions between humans and the environment.
“The great thing about a week-long experience like this is that we’ve been able to address a wide range of topics and techniques,” said Sarah Bronson, Ph.D., associate professor of cellular and molecular physiology, Penn State College of Medicine. “Each of the students are drawn to different areas in science, so this approach raises the likelihood that we’ll score a hit with one of the 16 kids and they think, ‘I want to know more about that’ or ‘I’d like to do that when I grow up.’” (more…)