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The power of positivity: new chair of Medicine plans to double department’s NIH funding and transform medical education

Dr. Thomas, chair of the Department of Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, is pictured in a head-and-shoulders professional photo in his lab, wearing a medical coat with his name and the medical center’s logo on it. He has dark hair and is wearing glasses.

Dr. Thomas Ma aims to improve faculty work satisfaction and build a stronger research program at Penn State College of Medicine.

By Lisa Maresca

When Dr. Thomas Ma first assumed the role of chair of the Department of Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, he wasted no time making changes.

“I’m here to break down barriers and open doors,” Ma said.

Ma left the sunshine of New Mexico for the snow of Pennsylvania in January to assume the post. He previously served as chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of New Mexico – Health Sciences Center (UNM-HSC) and executive director of the UNM-HSC’s Center for Digestive Disorders, Center for Digestive Diseases Research and Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Ma was also director of the New Mexico Veterans Affairs Health Care System’s Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology. He succeeds Dr. Robert Aber, who led the department for 13 years before stepping down as chair in 2017.

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July 17, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Everyday heroes

Margie Gantz, foreground, an advanced EMT with Penn State Health Life Lion EMS, and Life Lion paramedic Mike Pribila pull a gurney with a patient. Margie, a blonde woman with glasses, is wearing a white shirt with a Penn State Hershey Emergency Medicine badge on it. Mike is wearing blue sunglasses. The patient’s face is covered by a hooded jacket.

Margie Gantz, foreground, an advanced EMT with Penn State Health Life Lion EMS, and Life Lion paramedic Mike Pribila transport a patient to the Emergency Department at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

By Lisa Maresca

Not all heroes wear capes.

Some wear shirts, professional cargo pants, a utility belt and boots—the uniform of an emergency medicine technician (EMT).

It was a typical day in late February for Margie Gantz, an EMT with Life Lion EMS, when she came across an extraordinary scene.

Making her third trip to Lowe’s that day while working on a house flip, Gantz came across a man in the parking lot slumped over his steering wheel. Without hesitation, she took action.

Right time, right place.

Riding along with Life Lion EMS - Penn State Health

View photos of the Life Lion team in action on the Medical Center’s Flickr page.

“It was a terrible day, really cold conditions,” recalled Gantz. “I couldn’t see right away what happened. When I came upon him, I thought he had stopped to let pedestrians cross. It wasn’t until I went around him that I saw him slumped.”

Gantz banged on the window but got no response. She quickly directed another passerby to call 911. Together, she and another man broke the car window and were able to pull the man, who had gone into cardiac arrest and was not breathing or moving, onto the pavement to start CPR.

The CPR Gantz performed saved his life that day.

“I just did what I had to do.”

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July 10, 2018 at 10:25 am Leave a comment

College of Medicine students see medicine through global lens

Global Health Scholars Rolfy Perez, Olivia Munizza and Ivana Marji pose with staff at the Hospital Regional de Loreto in Peru during their fourth-year trip. The four-story yellow and white hospital is flanked by palm trees and shrubs.

From left, Rolfy Perez, Olivia Munizza and Ivana Marji join staff at the Hospital Regional de Loreto in Peru during their fourth-year trip.

By Carolyn Kimmel

As she reflects on the past four years at Penn State College of Medicine, Jordan Trubiano points to her participation in the Global Health Scholars Program as a definite asset to her medical training.

“I gained an understanding that there are different strengths and weaknesses in each country’s health system, which will give me a different perspective to offer to future training programs and hospitals where I will work,” said Trubiano, who will do her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

In Ecuador, where she traveled twice—once after her first year of medical school and again last winter—maternal health care is free, and people marvel that health care in America is so expensive and doesn’t cover everyone, she said.

The Global Health Scholars Program appealed to her because it offered two chances to visit the same place. As a first-year student, she worked on nutritional lessons for elementary school students and, during her second trip, she completed medical rotations in reproductive and sexual health.

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June 26, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

After nearly 200 years of anesthesia practice, are patients waking up safer?

Anesthesiologist Dr. Berend Mets of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center secures the endotracheal tube of a patient during an operation. He is wearing scrubs, a mask, a cap and a stethoscope. Above him are lights, a monitor and an IV stand. The patient is out of focus.

Dr. Berend Mets secures the endotracheal tube of a patient during an operation at Hershey Medical Center.

By Katherine Brind’Amour

That’s the question Dr. Berend Mets, chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center seeks to answer with his new book, “Waking Up Safer? An Anesthesiologist’s Record.

“The public has the misperception that anesthesia is just sleep, which we euphemistically call it to allay anxiety,” says Dr. Mets. “It’s not sleep—it’s a medically induced coma. The minute you’re under, your airway can collapse, and it’s our job to keep it open and continually provide oxygen to supply your brain. Anesthesiology doesn’t get the respect it deserves for its importance.”

The book weaves Mets’ personal anesthesiology stories—starting with his training in South Africa using rudimentary techniques, through his practice in England and New York to his current position in Pennsylvania—with the history of anesthesiology. From the field’s advent in 1846 to his own present-day practice at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Mets explains what has contributed to making surgery safer with time.

“I wanted to tell stories about anesthesia and the people who led its quest for safety, using my career to illustrate the development of the specialty,” says Mets. “It started with literally just a finger on the pulse and a blood pressure cuff for me, and now 35 years later it’s similar to the cockpit of a Boeing 737. The transformation is astounding.”

Has this change been meaningful, though? Are patients waking up safer now than 60 years ago, when anesthesia outcomes were first truly measured?

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June 19, 2018 at 10:51 am Leave a comment

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

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