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Are you up-to-date? Penn State Health colorectal screening survey gains national attention

Bobbie Mann of Lebanon, Pa., smiles with her arm around Dr. Thomas McGarrity, a gastroenterologist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. She has blonde hair and is wearing a sweatshirt. Dr. McGarrity is wearing a white lab coat with the Medical Center logo on the right and his name and “Gastroenterology & Hepatology” on the left. They are standing in front of a colonoscope and three monitors.

Bobbie Mann of Lebanon, Pa., right, has been getting an annual colonoscopy from Dr. Thomas McGarrity since 2008.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Life could look a lot different for Mike Hamonko than it does, thanks to a screening colonoscopy that many people turning 50—the recommended age for average-risk screening—dread and often postpone.

Lucky for him, the Harrisburg-area resident didn’t attach any particular aversion to the procedure—or the colon-cleansing process the night before—so he scheduled it right away.

“The prep was annoying, but annoying isn’t that bad, considering they can catch something as bad as cancer,” said Hamonko, whose primary care physician recommended the screening test.

He awoke from the procedure to the surprising news that he had a precancerous tumor.

“Mike’s case shows the importance of the family doctor making the screening recommendation and the patient following up,” said Dr. Thomas McGarrity, gastroenterologist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. “Mike had no symptoms and no family history of colon cancer.” (more…)

March 6, 2019 at 10:37 am Leave a comment

Lifesaving help from across the globe

Jim Miller, center, toasts his donor, Stefan Eichert, right, with John Moore, left, the businessman who invited Miller to accompany him on a trip to Germany. All three men are wearing casual shirts and jeans and holding mugs of beer. A candle is on the table in front of them. Behind them is a marbled wall and a wall decorated with slats of wood.

Jim Miller, center, toasts his donor, Stefan Eichert, right, with John Moore, left, the businessman who invited Miller to accompany him on a trip to Germany.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Sometimes the worst things in life can turn up gifts that far outlast the trial. That’s what Jim Miller tells people.

The Red Lion man was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome—a pre-leukemic syndrome—in October 2012 and given the choice of a stem cell transplant or other treatment alternatives that may have resulted in about two more years of life. He chose the transplant.

Although the wait for a match lasted a year—during which time chemotherapy and 27 blood transfusions achieved partial control of the disease—Miller never expected his donor would hail from across the globe.

(more…)

February 27, 2019 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

Project ECHO prepares doctors to manage addiction care closer to home

A large screen contains 12 mini screens showing physicians participating in Project ECHO. The participants are looking into their own web cams as they participate in the session; some are smiling and giving a thumbs up while others are serious. In the foreground, an out-of-focus screen reads “Pop Quiz: Which of these drugs is an opioid?”

Physicians from across Pennsylvania discuss best practices for treating opioid use disorder during the first Project ECHO session at Penn State College of Medicine.

By Katherine Brind’Amour

For patients suffering from opioid use disorder, and for the physicians in small towns across Pennsylvania who are their first level of care, Project ECHO offers hope. The effort aims to give primary care physicians the tools they need to treat the growing group of Pennsylvanians addicted to opioids—many of whom live in regions with no specialized addiction resources. It’s a win-win: patients get a doctor who can treat them close to home, and physicians get to expand their knowledge, their professional network and their relationship with their patients.

The concept comes from a physician at the University of New Mexico who wanted to shorten the wait list at his gastroenterology clinic. Now, more than 220 institutions around the world use Project ECHO for at least 90 disease topics. And Penn State Health researchers hope to influence them all.

“Research evaluating the project hasn’t kept pace with growth of the movement clinically,” says Dr. Jennifer Kraschnewski, director of Project ECHO at Penn State College of Medicine and a Penn State Health primary care clinician-investigator who studies community health interventions. “It is our goal to create an evidence base to support the model and its ability to mentor primary care providers outside of urban academic hubs. We also aim to learn how to best grow and use Project ECHO as an intervention.”

(more…)

February 20, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Patients find this prescription for therapy is music to their ears

Marissa Aulenbach, right, a board-certified music therapist at Penn State Children’s Hospital, plays a guitar while registered nurse Lauren Libhart tends to 4-month-old Caden Hoover. The baby is lying in a crib with wires and monitors attached to his body. Aulenbach is wearing a blue, long-sleeved shirt and jeans. Libhart is wearing blue scrubs, a headband and glasses. Several toys are in the crib.

Marissa Aulenbach, right, a board-certified music therapist at Penn State Children’s Hospital, plays her guitar while registered nurse Lauren Libhart tends to 4-month-old Caden Hoover during his stay for a heart condition.

By Carolyn Kimmel

After 12 days in the hospital, Hershey resident Anita Heckert could tell her optimism was waning, so when her occupational therapist suggested music therapy, she was game.

“To have someone come and spend time with me that didn’t involve needles, drawing blood or an MRI was very appealing,” said Heckert who was in Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for complications due to colon cancer.

As Jan Stouffer, board-certified music therapist with the Music Therapy Program at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, quietly played guitar, she gave Heckert an ocean drum to play.

Hundreds of small ball bearings in the drum combined to sound like gentle waves at low tide coming across the sand—and transported Heckert back to a happy day years ago when she and her sister, each with their small sons, visited Assateague Island and frolicked on the beach with six wild ponies splashing nearby.

As Stouffer encouraged her to remember the strong and faithful mother she had been in that moment, she reminded her, “That person still exists—you are that person.” The encounter served as a turning point in Heckert’s emotional outlook.

(more…)

February 13, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Listening, connecting are hallmarks of new president’s style

Deborah Berini, president of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, leans on a concrete wall overlooking Penn State Children’s Hospital. She is wearing a suit, top and a pearl necklace. She has straight, shoulder-length hair and is smiling. A colorful metal sculpture is in front of the Children’s Hospital.

Deborah Berini, president of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, says she was drawn to Penn State Health by its collaborative environment.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Dressed in scrubs and leaning in to smile reassuringly at a baby and his parents, Deborah Berini is doing what she likes best—connecting with people.

The president of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is shadowing Cara Kapaun, a registered nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU).

“It allows me to be present in the environment, get to know the people, see what is working and what isn’t—and all of that allows me to be a better advocate for our patients, staff and faculty,” said Berini, who took over the helm at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in September, becoming its first female president.

Meet Deborah Berini, president of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

See more photos of Hershey Medical Center President Deborah Berini on Flickr. (more…)

February 6, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Destination safety: teen driver education a priority at Penn State Children’s Hospital

A teen boy smiles and holds the wheel of the driving simulator One Simple Decision. Next to him is a man with glasses, gray hair and a beard. Behind them are a table and chairs, carpet and a wooden cabinet.

A teen boy experiences the dangers of distracted and impaired driving through the simulation-based program One Simple Decision.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Penn State Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Erich Batra and his daughter had a special date with an important goal last fall—to drive safer and smarter.

The pair were part of the first Alive at 25 driver’s awareness course presented by the Penn State Trauma Community Outreach team. Designed by the National Safety Council, the course teaches drivers age 15 to 21 and their parents strategies for keeping safe on the road and tackles decision-making and responsibility-taking.

“My daughter is a very good driver, but I felt like the course would be a good reminder for her and for myself,” Batra said. “Any opportunity we have to reinforce what good driving behavior looks like is worth it, and teens need to hear it from someone other than their parents or driving instructor.”Alive at 25

                                 See more photos of the Alive at 25 course on Flickr.

(more…)

January 30, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Building confidence one internship at a time

Members of the Project Search Class of 2018 at Penn State College of Medicine are shown in a square format, with three photos in three rows. Each student strikes a pose or makes a face. Bryce Boyer smiles broadly, Cheyanne Wilson puts her hand on her hip and purses her lips, James Silver fans his hands out on either side of face, Ava Pyles smiles and gives a thumbs up with each hand, Ethan Parrish smiles, Marissa Nice looks sideways and laughs, Emily Swanic smiles and holds up one hand with palm facing upwards, James Morrison look serious and Samantha Brace smiles.

The Project SEARCH Class of 2018 at Penn State College of Medicine. From top-left to right are Bryce Boyer, Cheyanne Wilson, James Silver, Ava Pyles, Ethan Parrish, Marissa Nice, Emily Swanic, James Morrison and Samantha Brace.

By Carolyn Kimmel

For the first time, 18-year-old Cheyanne Wilson says she feels noticed for who she really is—and encouraged to become all that she can be.

“I always felt different my whole life—this is the first time that people look at me like I’m a person,” said Cheyanne, who is spending the school year as a Penn State Health intern through Project Search, a program with more than 500 sites across the globe that teaches students with disabilities transferrable, marketable skills in a real work setting.

The Harrisburg youth is challenged by her internship in the Penn State College of Medicine Clinical Simulation Center and excited about upcoming internships in endoscopy and patient transport before she walks across the stage in Junker Auditorium at the Project Search graduation in May.

“Everyone here takes time to help me learn and not just push me through to get me out of here,” Cheyanne said. “Project Search has helped me a lot.”

(more…)

January 23, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

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