Posts filed under ‘Profiles’
Dr. Neal Thomas has made research his life’s work.
The newly named associate dean for clinical research hopes to help Penn State Hershey’s clinical research mission grow. One reason he is vested in seeing the expansion of clinical research is because he was personally affected by it — twice.
“In 2002, my youngest son was born premature and was given a medicine called surfactant into his lungs to combat lung disease that can happen from prematurity,” Thomas, a professor of pediatrics and public health sciences, said.
Being a researcher involved with surfactant use in older children, and also studying the surfactant genes and their impact on young children with lung disease, he was aware of the early clinical trial literature treating premature lungs. The fact that his son benefited from that early work would strengthen Thomas’s research interest in surfactant for years to come.
“It probably saved his life, but it certainly affected his lungs so that he is completely healthy now,” Thomas said. ”That wouldn’t have happened if scientists and physicians hadn’t conducted the clinical research to get to that point.”
He personally benefited from clinical research last year after having a heart attack.
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.”
From Africa to Hershey: Lionel Kankeu Fonkoua’s journey has relied on the support of people around him
UPDATE (5/18/2015): Lionel Kankeu Fonkoua at graduation with his mentor, Dr. Jill Smith.
Editor’s Note: Penn State College of Medicine will hold its 45th commencement ceremony this Sunday, May 17 at Founders Hall on the Milton Hershey School campus. This year, 129 medical students and 76 graduate students will receive degrees.
The commencement address will be delivered by Elizabeth Atnip, medical student class representative and daughter of Dr. Robert Atnip, a Penn State Hershey physician and faculty member, and Shane A.J. Lloyd, graduate student representative.
Dr. Bradford C. Berk, senior vice president for Health Sciences at the University of Rochester and CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), will be the guest speaker. Berk was recruited to URMC in 1998 as chief of the Cardiology Division. He founded URMC’s Aab Cardiovascular Research Institute. Berk then served as chairman of medicine until 2006, when he became CEO.
Penn State Medicine will post photos from commencement next week.
Medical school is tough. It’s even tougher when English is your second language and the support of your family is an ocean way in the capital city of Yaoundé in Cameroon, Africa.
For Lionel Kankeu Fonkoua, his success is found in the support he’s received from the people around him since stepping off an airplane in Miami 10 years ago when he was 17. That support has helped shape his journey through his schooling, and now the beginning of his career.
Kankeu Fonkoua is a member of Penn State College of Medicine’s Class of 2015, which graduates this Sunday.
“My story starts with my paternal grandmother passing away from stomach cancer,” Kankeu Fonkoua said. “That’s when I started to learn a little about cancer. I was very intrigued. It’s been a driving force since then.”
After considering attending college in France (Cameroon is a former French colony), he decided to come to the United States.
“When I was leaving, my maternal grandmother gave me about $2,000 — which here may not be a lot, but back home is years of savings — just because she believed in me. That was all she had and she gave it to me.” (more…)
Editor’s Note: Penn State Medicine highlighted the relationship between Penn State College of Medicine and Ghana’s Mountcrest University College in January. The College of Medicine’s Dr. Ben Fredrick recently returned from Ghana to give an update. Follow Penn State Medicine for updates on the College’s work with MountCrest.
Mountcrest University College has broken ground on its medical school, the first in rural Ghana.
The school is on track to welcome its first class of medical students this September. Students will walk into a new four-story education building in the village of Larteh. The building will include lecture halls, small group rooms, and a library. Planned are a dedicated medical school building and a teaching hospital. Construction of the hospital is planned to begin May.
Mountcrest will have its first White Coat Ceremony on September 5. White Coat Ceremony is when first year medical students receive their white doctor coats, signifying the beginning of medical education. Student coats are shorter than regular doctor coats, to easily identify them in the clinic setting.
“This is a significant event in Ghana because it marks an important decision by Mountcrest leadership to help their health profession students develop humanistic qualities through a longitudinal humanities-in-medicine curriculum,” said Dr. Ben Fredrick (’00), director of the Global Health Center at the College of Medicine. Dr. A. Craig Hillemeier, College of Medicine dean, is expected to attend the ceremony.
The College of Medicine was recognized in Mountcrest’s law school commencement and during the groundbreaking ceremony by both Mountcrest founder Kwaku Ansa-Asare and a representative of the President of Ghana.
Mountcrest is establishing the first private medical school in Ghana, and is also the first to build a medical school in a rural area of Ghana. The College of Medicine is working closely with Mountcrest to support the endeavor.
Editor’s Note: Match Day pictures, videos, and match lists will be published on Penn State Medicine after the Match Day ceremony on Friday, March 20.
Four years ago, they walked across the stage at Hershey Lodge and Convention Center to receive their white coats, marking their entry into medical school and their time at Penn State College of Medicine. One by one they stepped to the microphone, said their name, hometown and school, and walked over to wear, for the first time, their shortened white doctor coats to identify them as medical students.
This Friday, the College of Medicine Class of 2015 will once again mark a milestone as its members prepare for the next phase of their careers: residency. At noon on Friday, the class members will rip open envelopes that reveal their residency destinations in an annual ritual called Match Day.
Fourth-year medical students began the residency assignment process months ago by researching, visiting and interviewing with directors of residency programs that interest them. In February, students and other applicants filed their rank-order lists of residency programs of interest. Medical program directors also filed their rank-order lists of applicants. The National Resident Matching Program, a private, not-for-profit corporation established in 1952, completes the match.
Penn State Medicine caught up with three students – Timothy Brown, Carina Brown, and Jon-Ryan Burris – shown as incoming students in a video of the 2011 White Coat Ceremony (view here), to see what they remember of that day, and how they feel as Match Day approaches.
After enjoying several years of continued growth, Penn State Hershey is facing challenges it hasn’t seen before. Health care reform is changing the industry at a remarkable pace, upending the business model that has helped fund the College of Medicine since its beginning.
A tight funding environment requires its researchers to find new resources to complete cutting-edge basic and health science. In addition to evolving educational models and technology, new curriculum must be developed and implemented to train the next generation of health care providers for a rapidly changing industry.
Leading the campus during a unique time of transition is Dr. A. Craig Hillemeier, named the seventh dean of Penn State College of Medicine, as well as Medical Center and Health System chief executive officer, and senior vice president for health affairs in July. He replaces Dr. Harold Paz, who had led Penn State Hershey since 2006.
Hillemeier is no stranger to the organization. He arrived in October of 2001 to serve as chair of pediatrics and medical director for the Children’s Hospital, became vice dean for clinical affairs in 2006 and chief operating officer of the Medical Group at its inception in 2008. Hillemeier also served as interim executive director and chief operating officer of the Medical Center in 2006.
“I really have a good feeling about the role that this organization can play in providing care to central Pennsylvania, educating health care providers, doing good research and providing service to the community,” Hillemeier said. “Having been here for 13 years, I’m very passionate about helping this institution succeed in its missions. The opportunity to lead this organization during a time when there are so many challenges in the health care environment is exciting.”
A critical priority for Hillemeier is helping the clinical enterprise thrive so that the College of Medicine can continue its important missions.
“The success of our clinical enterprise is essential to supporting our College of Medicine,” Hillemeier said. “However, the business model that has been the foundation of so much of our success is threatened with the growing consolidation that is occurring in the market, as well as the changing payment models like population health. Our longtime strategy of caring for small numbers of high-risk patients from across central Pennsylvania is threatened by the creation of health care systems that will inevitably try to manage the care of those patients within their own health systems. So the patients who come to us for care will likely diminish in the absence of any other strategy.”
Drugs 101 educational event designed to help parents learn about drugs, the warning signs and the peer pressures facing students
Paula Cameron’s son was just like many high school students – not a big fan of school, but managed to get by academically. He played sports and was captain of both the ice hockey and lacrosse teams. His friends seemed nice enough, and he didn’t get in trouble.
After graduation, he went away to college for a semester before deciding to come home and get a full-time job. He lived at home with his parents, coming and going as he pleased but respectful of their rules.
It was not until a year and a half ago that Cameron began to suspect something was not right.
Her son lost his job, but found another immediately. Sometimes she would learn he wasn’t where he was supposed to be, but he always had good reasons why. His friends never mentioned anything seemed wrong. It was not until she found money missing from her checking account and his personality began to change that Cameron became concerned.
She worried that maybe she was overreacting, since she works as a care coordinator doing discharge planning at Penn State Hershey’s Children’s Hospital and has a background as a pediatric intensive care nurse. After all, her husband wasn’t seeing what she noticed.
They gave him drug tests. Once, it came back positive for marijuana, but she and her husband did not think that was such a big deal. After all, lots of kids experiment with pot. Still, Cameron felt deep down that something was not right.
And, if something really was wrong, then what?
“He made excuses, and I believed him because he was a good kid,” she said. “Even with all the background I had, I was not aware of what was out there – there were a lot of signs I did not recognize.”
Cameron did not know what to do or where to go for help confirming or disproving her feelings.
“If we hadn’t had a couple of friends who helped us, we probably would have let it go on,” she said. “I was embarrassed and ashamed. I had to learn that I couldn’t blame myself or say I wasn’t a good parent. It is something that happens and is happening more and more – sometimes it is a choice, but there is also a predisposition.”
Eventually, Cameron and her husband kicked their son out of the house and drove him to a friend’s for three days. He called constantly for money because he was going through withdrawal. “I had to stand my ground and not do it,” she recalled. “My husband and I told him we would only meet him to take him to rehab. Finally, he agreed.”
After a month in rehab, her son came home. Three weeks later, he was using heroin again and drinking more than ever. He recognized he had a problem, and told his parents he needed to go back to rehab. When he finished, he went to a halfway house and transitional living in Florida. “We had to get him away from here,” she said. “Now, he’s doing really well.”
Because of her experience, Cameron felt an obligation to share what she has learned with others in the community through an evening of awareness and resources that she is helping to organize together with the Community Resource Committee on campus.
Later this month, representatives from the Susan P. Byrnes Health Center in York will bring their “drug room” to the Children’s Hospital to teach parents about the places and ways children can hide things. They will also talk about signs that might indicate something is awry.
Penn State Hershey employees, as well as members of the local community, are invited to attend the event with their children.
Parents will participate in the “Drugs 101: Parents Need to Know” presentation, which is designed to educate parents about the various forms of drugs and the peer pressures facing students to use them. Those who attend can also learn about synthetic drugs that kids are inhaling as early as elementary school, which can’t always be detected on drug tests. They’ll learn how the addictive personality works, how even the briefest experimentation with drugs can affect the brain and what resources exist in the community to help.
The teens will participate in roundtable discussion and demonstrations designed to share with them the realities of living with addiction. They will spend 10 minutes at each of about a dozen tables learning about everything from rehab options and addicted babies to probation and parole. Participants will get a card stamped at each station and enter the completed cards in a drawing for a door prize.
“There are a so many high schools around here, and probably a lot of our employees have children attending those schools,” Cameron said. “If it even just helps one kid or one family, it’s worth it.”
The event will take place from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 24, in the Children’s Hospital near the Tree house Café and in the second-floor conference room. It is free to attend, but online pre-registration is required.