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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.”


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.


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.


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.”


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

Unintentional pioneer: Tim Card is Penn State Cancer Institute’s first patient in cutting-edge cancer treatment

Tim Card and his wife, Tricia, walk the hallways of Penn State Cancer Institute after he receives CAR-T cell therapy infusion. Their backs are toward and the camera, and they are silhouetted against a window. Tricia puts her hand on his back. Tim is pushing an IV pole, and an IV bag with medication hangs from the pole. A rainbow is painted on the window.

Hours after his CAR-T cell therapy infusion, Tim Card and his wife, Tricia, walk the hallways of Penn State Cancer Institute.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Looking back, there were clues that Tim Card would soon be fighting for his life—his body was sending signals that he was misreading.

Because who would ever think a 40-year-old owner of a CrossFit gym and father of seven suddenly would have an aggressive form of cancer?

“I knew I was ‘off,’ but I couldn’t pinpoint it, and it wasn’t all the time. I figured I was just tired,” the Mount Joy resident said, recalling how he felt in September 2017. Then, a month later, he got a pain in his side that wouldn’t go away and finally took him to the ER. Had he pulled a muscle? Eaten something that didn’t agree with him?

Five biopsies later, the unfathomable was suddenly real: diffuse large B-cell lymphoma, centered on his left side with cancerous lymph nodes above and below his diaphragm.


January 16, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Penn State mounts broad attack on opioid addiction in Pennsylvania

A low-angle view of Captain Jennifer Fan, acting deputy director of the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, speaking at a podium. Behind her is a screen with a PowerPoint slide and a blue curtain below it. Fan has short, brown hair and wears glasses.

Captain Jennifer Fan of the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention discusses new substance abuse prevention initiatives at Penn State College of Medicine’s Addiction Symposium.

By Katherine Brind’Amour

A startling 13 to 16 people die each day in Pennsylvania due to opioid overdose, among the more than 70,000 Americans who succumbed to the epidemic in 2017, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That gives Pennsylvania the dubious distinction of being ranked near the top of opioid-related death rates in the U.S.

“Alcoholism is still the most common substance use disorder, but it has been eclipsed by the opioid crisis because people are dying,” says Dr. Sarah Kawasaki, medical director of the Advancement and Recovery opioid addiction treatment program at Pennsylvania Psychiatric Institute. “It’s killing people in the prime of their lives. Children are without parents. The number of deaths is what makes this epidemic so important.”

That’s why the clinicians, researchers and administrators with Penn State Health and Penn State College of Medicine have united to fight the opioid crisis. Their weapons are evidence-based clinical treatment, research and education, and they are aiming at every phase of the problem ― from pre-addiction through treatment and recovery.


January 9, 2019 at 11:51 am Leave a comment

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