Posts filed under ‘Features’

Student’s CPR action helped give Penn State Hershey doctors time to provide care

Jim Smith and Randy Gibson

Milton Hershey School (MHS) high school student Randy Gibson recently was awarded with the Heartsaver Hero Award from the American Heart Association (AHA) for his efforts in saving the life of houseparent Jim Smith.

Milton Hershey School junior Randy Gibson never imagined he would use his CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) training.

That was until last September, when a school houseparent collapsed in front of him.

Milton Hershey School is a private, residential school and home for children from low-income and socially disadvantaged situations. It was founded by chocolate magnate Milton S. Hershey.

Last September, when houseparent Jim Smith was out for a run on the school campus, he encountered Gibson along his route and hit the ground a moment later.

For a second Gibson thought it was a joke due to Smith’s reputation as a prankster. He quickly realized something was wrong.

“I knew I needed to help him and only had seconds to think about what to do next,” Gibson said.

He began CPR right away while someone called 911 and ran for a nearby AED – automatic external defibrillator.

According to Smith’s doctor, Dr. Michael Pfeiffer of Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute, Gibson’s quick action and CPR training made all the difference in the outcome in Smith’s case.

“I think without Randy’s involvement, the likelihood of Jim surviving that event would have been dramatically lower, and obviously if no one had intervened, he would have died,” Dr. Pfeiffer said.

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February 27, 2015 at 7:15 am Leave a comment

Four Diamonds assists families like the Hess family during cancer fights

Editor’s Note: Penn State’s THON Weekend is Feb. 20-22. Students will dance for 46-hours to support pediatric cancer patients. To date, $114 million has been raised and donated to Four Diamonds, a foundation that supports the families of pediatric patients at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, and the cancer research done here. For more information on THON, or to watch the activities live, visit THON.org. For more information on Four Diamonds, visit FourDiamonds.org.

Playing iPad games and shaking a tambourine may not seem special to the parents of most preschoolers.

But, for parents of children battling cancer, it’s the little things like these that can brighten even the darkest of days.

Providing normalcy in the midst of treatment is part of the services supported by Four Diamonds, the sole beneficiary of The Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon (THON) happening this weekend.

Four Diamonds supports children and their families facing the challenges of pediatric cancer by paying for care and treatment not covered by insurance or other means as well as additional expenses that disrupt the welfare of the children.

Lydia Hess

Lydia Hess

One of those families is the Hess family from Harrisburg. Lydia was diagnosed with leukemia in April of 2014 at the age of 2.

Four Diamonds makes it possible for 16 specialty care providers to be available exclusively to Four Diamonds patients and their families – including child life specialists, a clinical nutritionist, a clinical psychologist, nurse specialists, social workers, music therapists, a clinical nutritionist, and pastoral care.

“All of those things have made Lydia’s life and our days so much easier,” said Julie Hess, Lydia’s mother. “Just to make one day easier is a big deal to us. We’ve had a lot of really hard days.”

Lydia’s diagnosis was a complete surprise to the family. Last winter, she had recurring fevers.

“She was 2 and interacting with other kids — going to preschool once a week, swim classes and church– so we figured she was just picking up all the germs,” Julie said.

In April, Lydia’s fever spiked higher than normal and she began complaining of finger pain. Julie and her husband, Brandon, suspected something unusual was happening.

“The pediatrician examined her and said ‘let’s do some x-rays, let’s do some blood work,’ but they never mentioned the word cancer or leukemia,” Julie said.

Two hours after Lydia’s appointment, her doctor called the family.

“You know when you get a call at home that quickly after you’ve been there, it’s not good,” Julie said.

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February 20, 2015 at 7:01 am Leave a comment

Pediatric experimental cancer therapeutics program’s success is thanks to Four Diamonds support

Editor’s Note: Penn State’s THON Weekend is Feb. 20-22. Students will dance for 46-hours to support pediatric cancer patients. To date, $114 million has been raised and donated to Four Diamonds, a foundation that supports the families of pediatric patients at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, and the cancer research done here. For more information on THON, or to watch the activities live, visit THON.org. For more information on Four Diamonds, visit FourDiamonds.org.

Dr. Valerie Brown

Dr. Valerie Brown

When Dr. Valerie Brown was hired as clinical director of the experimental therapeutics program in the Division of Pediatric Oncology/Hematology at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, she had a vision: Develop a menu of experimental cancer treatment options not available in the region.

Through funding from Four Diamonds, her vision is becoming a reality, helping young cancer patients find alternatives when standard care isn’t enough.

Experimental therapeutics are typically phase 1 and 2 clinical trials. In phase 1 trials, researchers are looking for toxicity in the therapies. In phase 2 trials, the effectiveness of the therapies on specific cancer types is studied before testing in bigger studies.

“I really hit the ground running, and one of the things we needed to do was expand the portfolio because you don’t want to compete with other academic medical centers,” Brown said. “You want to offer things not offered at other places and be able to offer a variety of different studies for a large spectrum of cancer types.”

To help with that goal, Penn State Hershey joined several consortiums including the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium. The consortiums bring together several institutions all sharing the same goal by working together cooperatively, opening up access to a variety of clinical trials.

Brown has seen how the approach is working.

In one case, a child had neuroblastoma in remission and was set to participate in a study to keep the cancer in remission, called maintenance therapy. But as scans and imaging were completed, it was discovered that she relapsed and the cancer had returned.

“That meant she wasn’t eligible for the maintenance therapy study,” Brown said. “But instead of having to turn that child away with her disappointed mom, devastated with news that the neuroblastoma had returned, we had another protocol that is a treatment for relapsed neuroblastoma. If we didn’t have that portfolio of clinical studies ready, she would have had to leave and go somewhere else.”

In this case, the study is a personalized – or precision – medicine study. The tumor’s DNA and RNA are extracted from a piece of the tumor and are analyzed and compared against normal tissues in the body and other cancer type cells.

“Therapies are based on how the same tumor types typically react to treatment,” Brown said. “But each tumor is individual, and if the person has relapsed, we already know it isn’t reacting like a typical tumor. By analyzing the patient’s individual tumor, we try to find out what differences are making it react differently, and then we decide what we think will be the best difference to target for treatment.”

These results are then compared and prioritized by a computer program against a panel of about 200 agents – some of which are alternative like the spice curcumin, which is known to be active against cancers.

Those reports are then sent to primary investigators at the centers across the country that participate in the consortium. People are assigned to review the case and come up with a treatment plan based upon these reports, which is then discussed virtually through a tumor board.

“That day, as badly as I felt for that poor mom and child because she relapsed, I turned to our medical director and I said, ‘this is why we set up our program like we have. This is the vision we had, and it is benefitting our patients,’” Brown said.

Including studies in the Children’s Oncology Group, there are currently up to 40 trials available, with around 10 being early phase trials. Patients have travelled from nearby states to participate in the studies.

“People are coming from other states because the treatment options are not available there,” Brown said. “By word of mouth, and on social media from the parents, people have recognized that we are offering things that nobody is offering nearby.”

She continues to look for opportunities to connect Penn State Hershey doctors and scientists with peers at other institutions. She also actively looks for opportunities to move Penn State Hershey research in the laboratories into clinical trials through the consortiums.

“These parents are coming to us and are really at the end of the rope for their children,” Brown said. “You could offer, ‘I read a paper and they tried this and maybe…’ but the science side of me just can’t let that happen. We have to do this in a systematic way because we really want to make sure what we treat our children with is effective and not hurting them more. That can only be done in the context of studies and trials.”

All of this would not be possible without the support of Four Diamonds and the Penn State students who work hard throughout the year raising funds through THON.

“It takes time. It takes money. It takes resources,” Brown said. “Luckily I have a lot of those things here that I didn’t have at other places. Without the Four Diamonds’ backing, and its recognition of the importance of having an early phase program, none of this could happen and I wouldn’t be here. The money, in my opinion, has been well spent because even if these children don’t have the outcomes we want, we are contributing to the wealth of knowledge, and hopefully pushing it along so that the next child who walks through the door won’t have to go through a relapse or undergo such intense treatments.”

February 19, 2015 at 12:02 pm Leave a comment

Online resource gives childcare providers needed training

You’re a teacher in a preschool classroom of 4-year-olds. You interact with children, parents and support staff on a daily basis. You are concerned that a child may be being abused. How can you be sure if there is enough to constitute reasonable suspicion? What do you do about it? How do you handle resistance from colleagues?

ILookOutForAbuseOptionNRA new, free, online training module created by Dr. Benjamin Levi, director of Penn State Hershey’s Center for the Protection of Children, takes childcare providers and employees of daycare centers through an interactive, story-based program that gives them the experiential learning they need to more accurately identify and report suspected abuse.

The module launched just in time to help childcare providers comply with a Pennsylvania law that went into effect at the beginning of the year requiring completion of three hours of training on the subject.

Levi has spent 12 years researching reasonable suspicion, and 2 1/2 years creating the interactive training course to engage those who are often most likely to encounter the signs and symptoms of abuse.

“Three out of four children who die from child abuse are younger than 5, yet childcare providers have one of the lowest reporting rates of all mandated reporters,” Levi said. “And yet they serve the most vulnerable population.”

The training at iLookOutForChildAbuse.com begins with a 10-minute pre-test, followed by the 90-minute, story-based experience and a 10-minute post-test. It also includes handouts and post-training resources. Participants must stop to answer questions, make decisions and render judgments along the way, just as they would in real life.

“It’s not just information delivery,” Levi said. “It’s about helping people connect and see their own role in it all.”

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February 17, 2015 at 10:36 am Leave a comment

College of Medicine and Ghana’s MountCrest University College begin collaborative relationship

Penn State College of Medicine recently signed an agreement with MountCrest University College (MCU) to assist the school in becoming the first private medical school in Ghana.

According to Samuel Akortey Akor, deputy rector and dean of MCU’s School of Medical and Health Sciences, the collaboration allows the school to open its doors to medical students this year.

“It offers opportunity for both MountCrest and Penn State students to gain cross-cultural experiences in the practice of medicine through student exchange programs,” he said. “Partnerships like this are important to medical students because it instills understanding and confidence in the practice of medicine under different conditions and environments, keeping in mind the pursuit of excellence at all times.”

MCU’s long term goal is the transformation of medical education and medical practice by infusing humanistic care in the entire health services delivery system in Ghana.

According to Dr. Ben Fredrick (’00), director of the Global Health Center at the College of Medicine, MountCrest has an effective vision for healthcare in Ghana – that of the humanistic physician.

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February 6, 2015 at 3:24 pm 1 comment

Video conferencing program connects College of Medicine students with rural Ghana

Penn State College of Medicine students videoconference with students in rural Ghana. The college students give presentations on health-related topics.

Penn State College of Medicine students video conference with students in rural Ghana. The college students give presentations on health-related topics from The Hershey Story museum.

Penn State College of Medicine’s agreement with MountCrest University is not the school’s only initiative in Ghana. Its medical students are preparing for a series of interactive health lessons with middle school students in the country.

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February 6, 2015 at 3:23 pm 1 comment

Partner hospitals see benefit of stroke telemedicine program LionNet

Lionnet

LionNet brings a Penn State Hershey Stroke Center specialist to the patient and partner hospital healthcare teams through video conferencing. The program has helped increase use of the clot-busting drug tPA.

It may be only two-and-a-half years old, but Penn State Hershey’s LionNet telestroke program has made it possible for more than 1,600 stroke patients to get lifesaving care close to home.

The regional stroke care network makes it possible for doctors in area emergency departments (EDs) to consult with Penn State Hershey specialists for faster diagnosis and treatment of strokes.

Partner hospitals connect with Penn State Hershey experts through real-time audio and video, allowing patients, family members, doctors and nursing staff to communicate with neuroscience specialists at Hershey as if they were standing in the same room, even though they may be miles away. Records and images are sent and viewed almost instantaneously.

When patients come to an ED with suspected stroke, they need immediate evaluation by a specialist who confirms the diagnosis and makes treatment recommendations, yet many community hospitals may not have neurologists and neurosurgeons available all the time.

Dr. Ray Reichwein (’91), co-director of the Penn State Hershey Stroke Center, said administration of the clot-busting intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (known as IV tPA) must be done within three to four-and-a-half hours of the onset of stroke symptoms. The faster it is prescribed and administered to a patient, the better the clinical outcomes.

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January 30, 2015 at 7:09 am Leave a comment

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