Posts filed under ‘Alumni’
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.
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.
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.”
Incoming graduate students pursuing M.P.H., M.S., or Ph.D. degrees participated in the Graduate Student Oath Ceremony on Friday, Aug. 21 in the University Conference Center.
During this ceremony, first-year graduate students took an oath to uphold the values of integrity, professionalism and scholarship throughout their academic careers. This year’s keynote address was given by Sarah Bronson, Ph.D., director, Research Development, and director, Graduate Core Curriculum.
Symbolic of their initiation into the community of biomedical scientists, first-year Ph.D. students received white lab coats, and master’s students received a gift.
Prompted by an article in Science magazine, a group of College of Medicine graduate students spent a year developing an oath that reflected Penn State values. This is the seventh year for the Graduate Student Oath Ceremony.
Three sets of shoulder presses, chat about the weather.
Three sets of chair stands, joke with the person on your right.
Three sets of arm pulls, encourage the person on your left.
This simple recipe – which combines strength training with socialization – has become a successful formula for older adults who participate in Band Together peer exercise groups throughout Central Pennsylvania.
Now, the program will expand to other parts of Pennsylvania thanks to $14 million in funding to Penn State College of Medicine from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). The money will be used to study the effectiveness of integrating strength training, balance exercises and walking for older adults who have had a fall-related fracture.
“I assumed it was because they never exercised,” he said.
After researching available programs, Sciamanna decided to start his own to help his patients develop the muscle and balance they needed to avoid falls. He knew it had to be something that wouldn’t require a gym membership, complicated equipment or heavy dumbbells. An exercise physiologist in cardiac rehab suggested using resistance bands.
What he came up with was a 45-minute routine that mixes five different strength-training exercises with one minute breaks in between for socialization and, recently has added some balance exercises.
In church halls and community rooms – basically anywhere the groups can meet for free – trained volunteers lead the sessions, setting up chairs in a circle and pulling out small duffel bags the colors of the rainbow – each matching the color of bands inside.
Yellow, at three-to-six pounds resistance, is the easiest band to use. Participants advance to other colors as their strength improves, eventually working with as much as 35 lbs. The most ambitious members use two bands at once, since the handles are thin enough, going up to 70 pounds. Exercises using the resistance bands are done seated, or standing and holding onto a chair.
Nancy Boerger of Hershey has been doing Band Together for a year and says she can now get up from a regular height toilet without problems.
“It’s much easier, and I’m sure it is from these exercises,” she said.
Anna and Jack Manning attend the classes together in common space where they live at Hershey Plaza. In the past year, both have been using their canes less.
“I have a walker, but I don’t need to use it anymore,” Anna said.
And then there’s Lois Leonard of Palmyra, who, at 86, is the oldest in her group. She started the program after her daughter in Texas saw an article about it in a Lebanon newspaper online and suggested she try it.
“I wasn’t looking for anything, but it is good exercise and good camaraderie,” she said.
The classes are free and open to anyone. “It seems to me that this is something all older adults should have access to as a service,” Sciamanna said.
That’s why, when the opportunity came to submit a proposal to PCORI, Sciamanna decided to see if he could get money to do a study to find out whether a program such as Band Together could prevent people from falling and breaking bones.
First, he had to get support from other organizations and institutions, and find some to partner with. “I had to see if it was a question worth asking and if others would be willing to partner with me,” he said.
What he came up with was a five-year study that will follow 2,100 older adults with a history of falls – half of whom will be randomly assigned to Band Together. For three years, those participants will attend walking groups and Band Together sessions with a coach, doing exercises for both strength and balance. Each year, all participants will take part in either a phone call or in-person meeting with study investigators.
Researchers will record information about fall-related injuries; muscle strength, bone strength, loneliness, depression and use of emergency medical care by study participants at 50 new sites in central Pennsylvania, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
Building on the patient involvement behind the Band Together initiative, three patients will be co-investigators on the current study and provide input. Other partners on the study include Health Dialog, The American College of Sports Medicine, American Orthopaedic Association, National Osteoporosis Foundation and Highmark Blue Shield.
Sciamanna’s hope is that the study will show that those who participate in Band Together have fewer falls. Then, he can apply to Medicare so it will pay for all Americans to participate in such programs.
“It’s a little pie in the sky, but they already pay for some things that are not that different than this,” he said. “It’s a very formal process, but by the time this is finished, we will be well positioned to make an application.”
By studying a larger sample of adults, insurance companies and Medicare will have the data to determine if such a service should be covered.
Rachel Moury, director of donor communications and stewardship for Penn State Hershey, said Honor Your Doctor funds that Sciamanna received made it possible for him to create the program and draw national attention to its potential.
“Some people think that a $50 gift doesn’t matter or can’t do much,” Moury said. “But it can combine with other $10 or $50 or $100 gifts to add up and raise attention for the work someone is doing.”
For Sciamanna, those donations led to the $14 million in funding that can potentially benefit many more people in the future.
- Jennifer Vogelsong
Dr. Rodrigue Mortel has received the Penn State Alumni Association’s Honorary Alumni Award. This award recognizes those who are not Penn State graduates but have made significant contributions to the university’s welfare through their commitment and service.
Dr. Mortel joins fewer than 100 people who have earned this distinction since its establishment in 1973.
“I know that only two to four people are selected each year, and that since the award has been set up, only three faculty from the College of Medicine have been recipients of this award,” Mortel said. “I am proud to find myself in a very small circle of distinguished people to be selected from the College of Medicine.”
Mortel served in a number of positions during his 30 years at Penn State Hershey. He was promoted to full professor in 1977, only five years after joining the faculty, and later became the chair of obstetrics and gynecology in 1983.“His leadership at Penn State has been so very instrumental in establishing this Medical Center as one of the premier institutions in the country,” said Dr. Chester Berlin, professor of pediatrics, in a nomination letter for Mortel. “Penn State was so very fortunate in having Dr. Mortel in leadership positions so early in the life of Penn State Hershey.”
Added Dr. A. Craig Hillemeier, dean, Penn State College of Medicine, CEO, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Health System and senior vice president for health affairs, Penn State, “Dr. Mortel’s prolific efforts over the years have supported the growth and reputation of Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. By helping train aspiring physicians and conducting groundbreaking research in our labs, Dr. Mortel deserves to be recognized for his service to Penn State.”
Dr. Ian Paul knows the importance of Children’s Miracle Network first hand. Through its funding, he helped create a tool for health care providers to determine whether a breastfed newborn is losing too much weight during the first few days of life.
A third of Children’s Miracle Network annual funding is used for pediatric research like Paul’s. Donations to Children’s Miracle Network through events like this weekend’s Telethon on WGAL-TV 8, help purchase equipment like giraffe omnibeds, a pediatric ambulance and a heart-lung bypass machine. Funds also support vital patient programs like Child Life.
As an academic medical center, Penn State Hershey helps improve pediatric care through educating the next generation of providers and through research and development of new technologies. The first of its kind Newborn Weight Tool, or NeWT, is one example of that.
“Funding from Children’s Miracle Network at Penn State Hershey was crucial to allow us to take our research findings regarding newborn weight loss and share them with pediatricians, lactation consultants, nurses, and even parents, around the world,” said Paul, a professor of pediatrics and public health sciences at Penn State College of Medicine and a pediatrician at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. “The funding allowed us to build a website that can be used anywhere on a desktop computer, tablet, or smart phone to help individual babies and their mothers in real time.”