Penn State Health mentors cutting-edge student scientists

By Jennifer Vogelsong

Two teenage girls in a research lab look into microscopes. Both are wearing lab coats and gloves.

Science Research Institute participants Rachel Maurer, front, and Rachel Kesselring examine the shape and structure of mammalian cells under a microscope.

Rini Kaneria suspects that a peptide found in wasp venom could break down cancer cells.

Kyle Blimline wants to know if DNA extracted from maggots found on corpses could help identify crime victims.

And Rachel Maurer works as part of a team developing a way to use 3D printing and bioglass to create custom bandages and heal wounds faster.

These researchers aren’t employed by scientific laboratories, academic institutions or medical centers. They’re all teenagers who spend their days attending a rural public high school in Berks County.

Their work has drawn the attention of medical professionals at Penn State Health, financial support from cutting-edge companies and invitations to international science and engineering fairs.

Adelle Schade, a science teacher at Conrad Weiser High School in Robesonia, Pa., spent the past decade building a program now known as the Science Research Institute (SRI) that engages 130 students in scientific research of personal interest, some of which has patent potential.

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June 12, 2018 at 1:18 pm Leave a comment

Hershey Medical Center Neurosurgery gets the gold: hosts Society of Neurological Surgeons

by Peggy Koach

Three male neurosurgeons perform brain surgery. All three are wearing scrubs, surgical caps, surgical masks and glasses. The surgeons on the right and left have head-mounted neurosurgery magnifier loupes. Blood is visible through plastic tubing connected to a patient who is lying on the table. The patient is covered with a plastic sheet.

Penn State Health neurosurgeons perform brain surgery at Hershey Medical Center.

Name the top prize in any major field of endeavor and its associated host city quickly comes to mind—Nobel and Stockholm; Oscar and Los Angeles; the Olympic gold medal and, most recently, PyeongChang.

Now add to that honorary roll call: Hershey, Pa.

The Department of Neurosurgery at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center captured its own version of gold when it hosted the 109th annual meeting of the Society of Neurological Surgeons (SNS), the world’s oldest neurosurgical professional organization, from May 19 to 22. The prestigious event showcased presentations by Penn State College of Medicine faculty members and Milton S. Hershey Medical Center neurosurgeons.

The SNS consists of the country’s top neurosurgery clinicians, researchers and educators and is limited to 220 active members. Notably, six SNS members are from the College of Medicine or Hershey Medical Center.

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June 5, 2018 at 12:30 pm Leave a comment

College of Medicine grad student among young scientists chosen to meet Nobel laureates

By Carolyn Kimmel

A young man working in a medical research lab inserts liquid into a test tube. He is pushing a plunger with his thumb. The photo is shot at an angle. The man is wearing a lab coat and rubber gloves. Other lab equipment is on the table, and a door is behind him out of focus.

Robert Nwokonko performs research on calcium signaling in cells, which can help improve understanding of autoimmune diseases and diseases that compromise the immune system.

When he started his studies at Penn State College of Medicine, Robert Nwokonko never imagined his research would land him in the company of 43 Nobel laureates.

The fourth-year biomedical science graduate student from Downingtown, Pa., will travel to Lindau, Germany, for the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting from June 24-29. He will join 600 students, doctoral candidates and post-doctoral scholars under the age of 35 competitively selected for the rare chance to hear from some of the world’s most lauded scientists and researchers.

This year’s meeting is dedicated to physiology and medicine and will set two records—the most Nobel laureates ever assembled at a medicine meeting and the most diverse set of participants who represent 84 countries of origin, according to meeting organizers.

“To be among most of the living Nobel laureates and hear them talk about the future of research and their sciences—that’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Nwokonko, the first College of Medicine student to attend the event. “I was really excited and surprised when I found out I was chosen.”

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May 29, 2018 at 2:24 pm Leave a comment

Unconventional College of Medicine students show that work/life balance is possible

By Emily Jacobs

Dr. Laura Brubaker, left, and Dr. Benjamin Abney smile in front of the Penn State College of Medicine sign. They are wearing physician lab coats with their names and the College of Medicine logo on them. Dr. Abney has a stethoscope around his neck. Behind them is a road and the College of Medicine building.

Dr. Laura Brubaker, left, and Dr. Benjamin Abney graduated from Penn State College of Medicine after spending more than a decade in the workforce and raising their own families.

The road to medical school is not always a straight path. Some students enter medical school with several years of influential life experience.

On May 20, 145 medical students graduated from Penn State College of Medicine, prepared to enter the next phase of their medical education as residents. This year, graduates were asked which classmates stand out as the best examples of College of Medicine values. The overwhelming majority nominated Benjamin Abney and Laura Brubaker.

Both students took the road less traveled to medical school, entering the College of Medicine after more than a decade in the workforce and while raising their own families.

Laura Brubaker previously worked as a labor and delivery nurse at Women & Babies Hospital in Lancaster, Pa. Most recently, she served as an HIV program coordinator before entering medical school to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology. She chose the College of Medicine based on recommendations of physicians she worked with, as well as its proximity to her family, good schools and outdoor activities.

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May 22, 2018 at 10:47 am Leave a comment

Putting physicians on the fast track to family medicine

By Michael Modes

Dr. James Kent, a medium-height white male with brown hair and a beard dressed in a white lab coat and wearing a stethoscope around his collar, counsels a male patient seated on the edge of his hospital bed. The male patient has short, dark hair and is wearing an Oxford shirt.

Dr. James Kent is doing his residency as a family medicine physician at Hershey Medical Center.

Across the nation, especially in rural areas, America is facing an acute shortage of doctors to practice family medicine. Most medical schools are in big cities, so many small communities lack resources to draw top candidates to their region. With older practitioners retiring and fewer candidates ready to take their place, Penn State College of Medicine launched an accelerated program to allow students to complete medical school in three years and enter practice one year earlier.

In 2017, Dr. James Kent became the first graduate of the accelerated program, which allows students to complete medical school in just three years, followed by a three-year residency at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

Part of the College of Medicine’s Family Medicine Accelerated Pathway, also known as a 3+3 pathway, the program allows graduates to save a year of tuition and living expenses, which could add up to $70,000. Kent was also selected for the Chambersburg Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (LIC), which provides $20,000 in tuition reimbursement if he chooses to practice in one of Summit Health’s underserved areas.

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May 15, 2018 at 10:59 am Leave a comment

The Power of a Nurse: Penn State Health debuts photojournalistic project for National Nurses Week May 6-12

Mackenzie Bosse, a nurse in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, leans over an older male patient and holds his hand. He is lying in a hospital bed and has a nasal cannula device for oxygen in his nose. A saline bag and other medications hang from a portable IV stand behind them, and a vital signs monitor is above the patient.

Mackenzie Bosse, a nurse in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, helps a patient feel more comfortable.

By Carolyn Kimmel and Jenn Knepper

In nursing school, Chelsea Stoner learned all the necessary skills—patient assessment, medication calculations, charting—to train her for a career in health care, but nothing could prepare her for the raw emotions she would encounter.

“In every patient, I saw my neighbor, my father, my grandmother…I found myself crying in the supply room, in the parking garage and at home,” said Stoner, who works in Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s Medical Intermediate Care Unit (MIMCU). “To protect myself, I decided to shut it all off. I clocked in, did my job and left…But then I lost the most important part of nursing—the human connection.”

In time, Stoner, a registered nurse for four years, learned how to balance the many aspects of her role—technician, caretaker, physician partner, encourager—and contributor to some of the most important moments in a person’s life story.

“Some of these patients have lived for almost a century, and I get the honor of being the last person to care for them, to hold their hand and to pray with them,” she said. “This is what gets me through the day and helps me to keep doing what I’m doing.”

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May 7, 2018 at 10:48 am Leave a comment

College of Medicine students combine teamwork, community health

Hershey Plaza Apartments resident Millie Taylor sits at a table and practices brushing a large set of plastic teeth as Penn State College of Medicine students look on. Taylor is wearing a patterned blouse, From left, the students are wearing a sweater jacket, a sweater and a lab coat. Behind them are bookshelves filled with books and games.

Penn State College of Medicine students teach Hershey Plaza Apartments resident Millie Taylor proper dental care.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Millie Taylor is stir-frying healthier dinners and not spending a fortune on them, thanks to information she learned from Penn State College of Medicine students at monthly health fairs that she doesn’t even have to leave home to attend.

“They taught me how to eat healthy on a limited budget and all kinds of other things, too,” the resident of Hershey Plaza Apartments said. “It’s a wonderful thing they’re doing. A lot of our neighbors here don’t get to the doctor or the dentist on a regular basis.”

Over the past three years, the College of Medicine’s Interprofessional Student Organization (IPSO) has facilitated 21 health fairs at the senior apartment complex that combine multidisciplinary learning with community health service.

Students from all disciplines—including the physician assistant program, nursing, medical, pharmacy, physical therapy and nutrition—plan and carry out the health fairs around themes such as diabetes and cardiovascular risk, medication safety and bone density evaluations.

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May 2, 2018 at 12:40 pm Leave a comment

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