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When the patient is the teacher, the lesson is compassion

Penn State College of Medicine students Matthew Chapman, left, and Yuriy Pechenyy sit on a couch and talk to Maria English, a longtime participant in the Patients as Teachers program. English sits in a chair with her feet on an ottoman. She is wearing a long-sleeved sweatshirt, jeans, sneakers and glasses. Chapman is seen in profile wearing a long-sleeved shirt and has short hair. Pechenyy is seen from behind wearing a white dress shirt. A small table with family photos is next to English.

Penn State College of Medicine students Matthew Chapman, left, and Yuriy Pechenyy talk to Maria English, a longtime participant in the Patients as Teachers program.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Matthew Chapman was nervous – even scared – when he thought about meeting his first patient face-to-face.

The first-year Penn State College of Medicine student soon found out he had nothing to fear.

“After going for the first time with my partner, I loved it,” said Chapman, who is part of the College of Medicine’s Patients as Teachers Project that pairs first-year students with established patients for one-on-one mentoring. “I think this will help give another perspective on what our patients have to deal with, besides just following medical advice.”

Patients as Teachers
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May 22, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

An artificial heart saved my life: LVAD patients and families share stories at reunion

Al Dolatoski and his wife Joyce hold hands and hold microphones as they sing Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” during the LVAD Celebration of Life. Al is sitting in a wheelchair and wearing a sweatshirt and hat. He has an LVAD hanging by a strap around his shoulder. Joyce is wearing a flowered dress and hat.

Al Dolatoski and his wife Joyce sing their rendition of Sonny and Cher’s “I Got You Babe” during the LVAD Celebration of Life.

By Bonnie Adams

Al Dolatoski felt short of breath and just didn’t feel well on Dec. 16, so his wife took him to an area hospital. There, he suffered a massive heart attack and underwent emergency heart bypass surgery.

Joyce Dolatoski remembers the panic she felt when he repeatedly coded in the intensive care unit and was resuscitated five times. She was relieved when told that he was being flown to Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

The couple told their story at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s annual Left Ventricular Assist Devices (LVAD) Reunion on April 26. The six patients who attended share a history of severe heart failure that required an LVAD to pump blood throughout their bodies. About the size of a D battery, the devices can be used as a bridge to a heart transplant or as an alternative to transplant.

LVAD Celebration 2019 - Milton S. Hershey Medical Center (more…)

May 15, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

In your corner: Pediatric Complex Care team advocates for children with multiple medical needs

Dr. Laura Murphy, pediatrician with Penn State Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Complex Care Program, smiles and bends down to greet her patient, Brinda Rizal, who is in a wheelchair. Brinda, who has braids and is wearing a sweatshirt and pants, is strapped into the wheelchair and looks up at Murphy, who is wearing a polka dotted shirt and pants and wears a stethoscope around her neck. Brinda’s mother, Basudha Rizal, wearing glasses and a printed top and pants, is sitting in a chair against the wall. She smiles at her daughter. A soap dispenser, pamphlet rack and folders are hanging on the wall of the exam rom.

Dr. Laura Murphy greets 8-year-old Brinda Rizal of Harrisburg during an appointment as her mother, Basudha, looks on.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Ask Dina Gonzalez about her son Alejandro’s diagnosis, and she has no specific answer.

The list of health challenges the 10-year-old boy faces, however, numbers at least eight items – seizure disorder, cortical visual impairment, chronic lung disease among them – and managing them is daunting.

“Dealing with the doctors can be hard,” the Lebanon mother said. “A lot of them are good at what they do, but they have tunnel vision for their own specialty, and they don’t take into account all of Alejandro’s conditions and medications.”

Her son uses a wheelchair and requires 24/7 monitoring. Gonzalez says she often feels like a prisoner to his frequent, respiratory-compromising seizures – which require her to give oxygen, stimulation to the chest and rescue breaths.

Worrying about whether insurance will continue to pay for his medical equipment, coordinating all his speech, occupational and physical therapy with specialist appointments and finding time for her older son pose a constant challenge.

Enter Dr. Laura Murphy and the Pediatric Complex Care team at Penn State Children’s Hospital.

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May 8, 2019 at 9:56 am Leave a comment

National Brain Bee creates buzz for next generation of neuroscientists

Cedar Cliff High School junior Thussentham Walter-Angelo, winner of the 2019 Central PA Regional Brain Bee, bends over a clipboard on his lap and writes answers during the 2019 USA National Brain Bee, held April 12-14 at Penn State College of Medicine. He is seated in an auditorium, surrounded by other students. He wears a plaid shirt, gray pants and glasses.

Cedar Cliff High School junior Thussentham Walter-Angelo, winner of the 2019 Central PA Regional Brain Bee, answers a question during the 2019 USA National Brain Bee.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Thussentham Walter-Angelo remembers the question from a second-grade school report: What do you want to be when you grow up? His answer then was the same as today – a neurosurgeon.

“I was always interested in neuroscience,” the Cedar Cliff High School junior said. “There’s just so much to learn and not a lot that’s known. This competition is a great way to prove yourself.”

Walter-Angelo, who won the 2019 Central PA Regional Brain Bee sponsored by the Central PA Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience, was one of 56 contestants at the 2019 USA National Brain Bee Championship April 12 to 14 at Penn State College of Medicine on the campus of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

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April 24, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

See Me Now: Program reunites patients and emergency department doctors

Ed Frederick hugs Dr. Elizabeth Werley at the first “See Me Now” program. Ed has white hair and a moustache and is wearing a gray sweatshirt. Dr. Werley is wearing a long-sleeved sweater. Behind them are cafeteria tables and chairs. A large light fixture is above them.

Ed Frederick thanks Dr. Elizabeth Werley at the first “See Me Now” program for helping him during a trauma he suffered last spring.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Edward Frederick plans to retire soon with full use of both legs – something for which he will always be grateful to staff at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and he wanted them to know it.

The Londonderry Township man had just dropped off his wife at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for a doctor appointment last spring when he had an accident in the parking lot that caused extreme blood loss.

“I knew I was in big trouble,” he said. “I managed to drive myself to the front door of the hospital, but I lost consciousness while I was being taken in. The next thing I remember was being wheeled from the emergency department to the operating room.”

Dr. Elizabeth Werley, an emergency department physician, oversaw triage care that ultimately saved Frederick’s life. Within 15 minutes of arriving, he was headed to the operating room for leg surgery.

“We were able to do something that we trained for years to do, and our rapid response team worked together so smoothly,” Werley said. “Otherwise, I’m confident he would have died, but that day, we saved somebody’s life.”

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April 17, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Twenty years in medical school? What’s so mini about that?

Penn State College of Medicine’s Mini Medical School participants, from left, "Sir" Robert Griscavage, Bonifacio Dewasse, Robert Hairston, Ruth Miller, William Miller, Rebekah Miller, Perry Emes, Marylou Martz and Joan Decker pose in front of a Nittany Lion statue in the rotunda of Hershey Medical Center. Behind them a hallway is visible.

From left, “Sir” Robert Griscavage, Bonifacio Dewasse, Robert Hairston, Ruth Miller, William Miller, Rebekah Miller, Perry Emes, Marylou Martz and Joan Decker celebrate 20 years of participating in Mini Medical School.

By Bill Landauer

In her seat near the front of Junker Auditorium at Penn State College of Medicine, Ruth Miller chuckled.

Teams of her younger classmates were using CPR to revive two mannequins simulating cardiac arrest. The exercise was meant to show the importance of teamwork in a crisis.

“But how do you learn to think on your feet?” someone asked.

Ruth thought of a joke.

In her 81 years on the planet, among all the lessons about art, music and medicine she’s collected, Miller knows comic timing.

For 20 springs, Ruth has been coming to the College of Medicine Mini Medical School — the program in which faculty and full-time students share their knowledge with the community. She might move a little slower than when she was a 61-year-old freshman, but Ruth is just as engaged as ever and is, by now, an expert class clown.

How do you learn to think on your feet? “You stand up a lot,” Ruth said.

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April 10, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

From medical education to medical controversies, humanities are key, new chair says

Bernice Hausman, chair of Penn State College of Medicine’s Department of Humanities, stands in a library with her arms crossed and smiling. She has short, gray hair and is wearing glasses, a sweater, a T-shirt, casual pants and a brown belt. Five rows of bookshelves filled with books are to her left.

Appreciating the humanities is an integral part of preparing to practice medicine, says Department of Humanities Chair Bernice Hausman.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Few medical schools have a humanities department, which makes Penn State College of Medicine — the first medical school in the nation to institute a humanities department — the perfect match for Bernice Hausman, its new chair.

“For the work I do, this is a dream job,” said Hausman, who holds a doctorate in feminist studies and critical theory and came to the College of Medicine in November 2018 from Virginia Tech, where she chaired the English department. “Generally, medical schools may have one course in the humanities. Not many have an entire department.”

Appreciating the humanities is an integral part of preparing to practice medicine, Hausman said. “The ability to understand social context and social relations is critical for a doctor because medicine is, after all, a people-oriented profession,” she said.

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April 3, 2019 at 2:10 pm Leave a comment

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