Focus on emerging technology brings better patient care

Henry Thomas, age 3, of Boiling Springs holds a 3D printed model of his own heart. He stands in front of a background with Penn State Health Children’s Hospital and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals logos. He is wearing a polo shirt and pants. The model of his heart is on a white plastic block and resembles a gnarled tree.

Henry Thomas of Boiling Springs holds a 3D printed model of his own heart. He had surgery in 2017 to repair a coarctation of the aorta.

By Carolyn Kimmel

When Dr. Robert Tunks sits down with the concerned parents of a child found to have a heart defect, a 3D model of their child’s heart can go a long way in fostering understanding of the treatment options.

The model, generated from data collected from the child’s CT scan or MRI, gives doctors the ability to study a 3D replica of the heart and blood vessels that is unique to that individual patient. This allows for the medical team and families alike to be as prepared as possible prior to a child undergoing surgery or other intervention.

“This technology improves our ability to counsel families in a meaningful and compassionate way,” said Tunks, a pediatric cardiologist at Penn State Children’s Hospital. “It’s such a valuable resource for us and one that directly benefits the patients we care for.”

Rapidly evolving 3D technology was one of several timely topics presented at the 8th Annual Innovations in Healthcare Technology Conference sponsored by the Technology Council of Central PA (TCCP) and hosted by the Center for Medical Innovation at Penn State College of Medicine on Oct. 8.

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December 12, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Lifesaving lymphoma treatment comes to Penn State Cancer Institute

A graphic of a large, round CAR-T cell with oval-shaped protrusions touching a cancer cell. The cancer cell is round and has tentacles resembling an octopus.

CAR-T cells recognize CD19 antigens on the surface of lymphoma cells as targets for their killing action.

By Abby Sajid

For people with an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, treatments can be limited. Enter a new treatment called Yescarta. Yescarta, or axicabtagene ciloleucel, can be nothing short of “miraculous” for these patients, according to Dr. Shin Mineishi, a medical oncologist at Penn State Cancer Institute. Based on the campus of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, the Cancer Institute is the only hospital in central Pennsylvania that offers this last-resort treatment for certain cancer patients.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Yescarta in October 2017 for adult patients with a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma called large B-cell lymphoma if their cancer fails to respond to chemotherapy or returns after two or more treatments. Yescarta is for adult patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), primary mediastinal large B-cell lymphoma, high grade B-cell lymphoma, and DLBCL arising from follicular lymphoma.

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December 5, 2018 at 10:30 am Leave a comment

Custom made for her: New Jersey woman finds new life in heart valve device made at Hershey Medical Center

Denise Brown, who suffers from aortic stenosis and needed heart valve replacement surgery, sits with Dr. John Conte at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Brown is sitting in an exam room on a chair next to Conte, who is sitting on a stool next to a desk on which his laptop sits, open. Brown wears a cannula in her nose to assist with breathing.

Denise Brown, left, talks to Dr. John Conte about how she feels since he implanted an apical aortic conduit into her heart last February.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Denise Brown is no stranger to adversity. Incredibly, she battled four types of cancer by the time she turned 3 years old.

Her latest triumph is overcoming life-threatening heart valve surgery, which, she says, is thanks to God—and this time—to Dr. John Conte, program director, cardiac surgery at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

“I kind of felt like I was unworthy,” said the 49-year-old New Jersey resident. “I said ‘Why me?’ He said, ‘You can’t live without it.’ I felt like a princess getting her pony for the first time.”

Because existing valve options wouldn’t fit Brown’s underdeveloped left ventricle, scarred from radiation, Conte sought special permission from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reconfigure an old device. Next, he approached the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s Division of Applied Biomedical Engineering to produce it.

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November 28, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Virtual reality helps Penn State Health St. Joseph pediatricians solve a problem

Dr. Jerry Lee, a pediatrician at Penn State Health St. Joseph Downtown Pediatric Practice, holds virtual reality goggles. The device in his left hand looks like a purple box. A cable connects it to headphones that are set on the counter. Dr. Lee is smiling and wearing glasses, a sports jacket, dress shirt and khaki pants. Behind him is a window with a shade. Next to him are wooden cabinets covered in signs. On the counter is a file stand with files.

Dr. Jerry Lee shows the virtual reality goggles that he uses for some patients to distract them from medical procedures.

Doctors at Penn State Health St. Joseph Downtown Pediatric Practice had a problem.

A patient – a 13-year-old boy – was recently in need of immunizations. Doctors also wanted to draw blood, as the boy was taking psychiatric medications that call for routine monitoring.

The problem was that the child, who had recently moved to Reading and was living with his grandmother, was suffering from the results of severe sexual and physical assault, explained Dr. Jerry Lee, a pediatrician at the Downtown Campus.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions resulting from abuse made it extremely difficult for the patient to interact with doctors or allow anyone to touch him.

“It’s really a sad situation,” Lee said. “He’d been through a lot, and even with some medication to calm him, he couldn’t tolerate these procedures.”

After doctors had twice attempted to treat the boy with no success, Lee started thinking outside of the box.

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November 14, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

College of Medicine global health collaboration reaps benefits here and there

Penn State College of Medicine Global Health Scholars student Becky Koob presents a pair of pink hospital-grade shoes to Gladys Ampomah-Ababio, head of nursing at Eastern Regional Hospital, Ghana, outside the hospital building. Koob wears a white lab coat over her dress, and Ampomah-Ababio wears a white nurse’s uniform with a purple belt. Other hospital staff stand behind a table of donated shoes, smiling. Richard Yeboako, deputy human relations manager and international relations coordinator at the hospital, stands beside the table.

Penn State College of Medicine Global Health Scholars student Becky Koob, right, presents donated hospital-grade shoes to Gladys Ampomah-Ababio, head of nursing at Eastern Regional Hospital in Ghana. Photo courtesy of Xavier Candela.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Penn State College of Medicine student Becky Koob took the old adage “walk a mile in another’s shoes” literally when she volunteered at a hospital in Kofordua, Ghana, last summer.

After working long days at the Eastern Regional Hospital in worn-out footwear, she decided to do something about it.

“To maintain sterile conditions, the staff can’t wear outside shoes in the hospital, so there was this pile of beat-up, communal shoes for everyone,” said Koob, a fourth-year medical student who is part of Penn State College of Medicine’s Global Health Scholars program. “There were never enough to go around. I had to track down shoes every time I went.”

Koob contacted multiple shoe companies asking for donations and found a willing partner in Calzuro, Italian-made shoes distributed in the U.S. from a base in Ohio.

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November 7, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Preventing an incorrect diagnosis starts in the classroom

Dr. Timothy Mosher, chair of the Department of Radiology at Penn State College of Medicine, smiles. Two women wearing white lab coats with the Milton S. Hershey Medical logo on them, smile. Behind them is a PowerPoint slide that says “Recommendations for Improving Reports” and has an image of an arm with a thumb up. Behind Dr. Mosher is a bookshelf with books.

Dr. Timothy Mosher, right, developed a new class at Penn State College of Medicine that teaches students how to identify medical problems, perform an examination and think critically to reach an accurate conclusion.

By Katherine Brind’Amour

A new class at Penn State College of Medicine offers students an opportunity to tackle problems in modern health care that can lead to incorrect or even fatal misdiagnoses.

Technically, there is no single course in medical school devoted to uncovering the correct diagnosis. Instead, the entire curriculum aims to teach budding physicians how to identify medical problems, perform an examination and think critically to reach an accurate conclusion.

But after the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a 2015 report called “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care,” which revealed high rates of diagnostic error and related harm to patients, physicians around the world took notice. And Dr. Timothy Mosher, chair of the Department of Radiology at Penn State College of Medicine, decided to do something about it: develop a medical school course aimed at identifying systemic causes of misdiagnosis—and how to prevent them.

“We are working hard to come up with practical solutions for what we can do to reduce diagnostic error,” says Mosher, who is also a professor of radiology for the College of Medicine. “We’re starting with students—getting them aware of the problem so that as they develop their career, they’ll be thinking about how to bring error prevention into their daily activities.”

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October 31, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Positive attitude beats ‘stupid bum lungs’ for cystic fibrosis patient

Jessie Buffenmyer, wearing a long blue hospital gown over her uniform, stands in a patient room at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and smiles as she holds a Nerf gun. Cystic fibrosis patient Alyssa Kibler sits on her bed, holding a pen and paper in her hands. She wears a cannula in her nose for increased oxygen. An IV pole with machines and an IV bag hanging on it is standing on the floor between Buffenmyer and Kibler.

Jessie Buffenmeyer, a registered nurse, jokes with Alyssa Kibler as she plays a Nerf gun game.

By Carolyn Kimmel

At age 33, Alyssa Kibler has already outlived her life expectancy—twice.

“I wasn’t supposed to live to be a teenager, and then when I was a teenager, I wasn’t supposed to live past 30,” said the Harrisburg woman who was born with cystic fibrosis (CF). “Personally, I feel like I’m going to live forever.”

Her optimism comes partly from new medicines, airway clearance techniques and nutritional support that have given CF patients longer life, but largely from an inner strength that seems to come naturally.

“CF always hangs over your head, but I have this attitude that I won’t give up,” said Kibler, who takes up residence at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center four to five times a year for several weeks at a time to get lifesaving IV antibiotics.

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October 24, 2018 at 12:36 pm Leave a comment

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