Posts filed under ‘Alumni’

Focus on emerging technology brings better patient care

Henry Thomas, age 3, of Boiling Springs holds a 3D printed model of his own heart. He stands in front of a background with Penn State Health Children’s Hospital and Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals logos. He is wearing a polo shirt and pants. The model of his heart is on a white plastic block and resembles a gnarled tree.

Henry Thomas of Boiling Springs holds a 3D printed model of his own heart. He had surgery in 2017 to repair a coarctation of the aorta.

By Carolyn Kimmel

When Dr. Robert Tunks sits down with the concerned parents of a child found to have a heart defect, a 3D model of their child’s heart can go a long way in fostering understanding of the treatment options.

The model, generated from data collected from the child’s CT scan or MRI, gives doctors the ability to study a 3D replica of the heart and blood vessels that is unique to that individual patient. This allows for the medical team and families alike to be as prepared as possible prior to a child undergoing surgery or other intervention.

“This technology improves our ability to counsel families in a meaningful and compassionate way,” said Tunks, a pediatric cardiologist at Penn State Children’s Hospital. “It’s such a valuable resource for us and one that directly benefits the patients we care for.”

Rapidly evolving 3D technology was one of several timely topics presented at the 8th Annual Innovations in Healthcare Technology Conference sponsored by the Technology Council of Central PA (TCCP) and hosted by the Center for Medical Innovation at Penn State College of Medicine on Oct. 8.


December 12, 2018 at 10:00 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.


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

The future has arrived: new automated laboratory testing system speeds up results and improves quality

By Katherine Brind’Amour

A woman wearing a lab coat and rubber gloves puts medical specimens in plastic holders. Behind her is a large automated lab testing equipment. A bio-hazard bin is on the right.

Senior Technical Specialist Terri Neibauer prepares to load specimens into the Roche cobas® 8100 system.

When you go shopping for testing equipment responsible for churning out 5,000 or more specimens per day—some of which have life-changing or therapy-altering implications—you have to make sure you really get what you pay for. That’s why a team of more than a dozen people took its time selecting the Roche cobas® 8000 Chemistry Analyzer and 8100 Pre-analytical System, an automated laboratory testing system so complex that you half expect it to whip up a cappuccino with extra froth for you while it processes patient samples on its conveyor belt-style “track.”

“We were looking for a way to consolidate several different analyzers into one system, connected by a very robust automation line,” says Terri Neibauer, senior technical specialist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center’s Automated Testing Laboratory. “We knew that the right system could help reduce the burden of manual sample tracking, expand our offerings for tests and improve our turnaround time, accuracy and quality.”

The team already has assurance they made the right choice.

Automated Laboratory Testing System - Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

A new way of doing things

“The initial perks of the Roche system were practical. It takes the place of numerous analyzers we had all over the lab, each one serviced by a different company with its own procedures,” says Thomas Stipe, manager of the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Administration at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Starting in 2015, Stipe and his laboratory team members made trips to several other hospital systems to see the system and its competitors in action.

“The cobas system processes samples faster and more accurately, so it opens many future opportunities for capacity, quality assurance and research,” says Stipe. “Selecting it was the best way to make the possibilities we wanted available to us all at once.”


April 3, 2018 at 1:47 pm Leave a comment

Penn State Health a National Model for Anti-Bias Policy Protecting Providers

By Gwen Newman

Dr. Hyma Polimera smiles as she holds the hand of an elderly male patient. She is wearing a white lab coat with “General Internal Medicine” on it. The patient is lying in a hospital bed, is wearing an oxygen nasal cannula and has an IV port taped on his arm. A monitor, clock and medical equipment are visible in the background.

Dr. Hyma Polimera talks with an elderly patient during her evening rounds.

Sometimes you make history quite unexpectedly. Such was the case for Dr. Hyma Polimera, an internist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center ­– and the hospital itself.

Polimera grew up in India and had long dreamed of becoming a physician. That dream materialized when she graduated with honors from Andhra Medical College in 2004. After moving to the U.S. in 2008 and completing a residency at St. Luke’s Hospital in Bethlehem, Pa., she joined the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in 2014.

One fall day in 2016, she met a patient suffering from multiple chronic conditions, including dementia. Polimera introduced herself, and the patient’s daughter, who was his caregiver and power of attorney, immediately asked if they could have another physician. Polimera was blindsided. “May I ask why?” she inquired. But the physician suspected, and the woman confirmed: “I’d like to see an American doctor.”

That encounter sparked a sequence of events that would affect not just Polimera and Hershey Medical Center but the entire Penn State Health system and health care providers throughout the nation.


March 27, 2018 at 7:00 pm Leave a comment

From One Cancer to Another

By Katherine Brind’Amour

Man with beard looks through microscope. He wears a white lab coat with Penn State Hershey College of Medicine logo. In the background are test tubes and lab equipment.

David DeGraff examines tumor samples of bladder cancer.

In all of the ways you might think of fighting cancer, perhaps one of the last things on your mind would be to turn one type of cancer into another. After all, who wants to turn a tumor into…a different kind of tumor?

David DeGraff does.

As a 2018 recipient of the American Cancer Society’s Research Scholar Grant for nearly $800,000 over the next four years, DeGraff has big plans for his latest funding. Hear him discuss his findings in this video:

“If we understand what makes a given type of tumor tick, we may be able to force it to become another type of tumor—something that responds to therapy,” says DeGraff, assistant professor of pathology and surgery and a member of Penn State Cancer Institute.


February 21, 2018 at 11:23 am Leave a comment

Prestigious training grant extended five more years

By Heidi Lynn Russell

Penn State College of Medicine has again been successful in extending funding from the National Cancer Institute through a training grant for vital research into viruses that cause cancer. This training grant has been in place for more than 20 years.

This August, the Department of Microbiology and Immunology and the Penn State Cancer Institute were successful in renewing the training grant funding to continue groundbreaking research for another five years – something that many other universities have not been able to achieve, said Dr. Craig Meyers. Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and Immunology. “We’re listed right up there with the big names,” he said. “A lot of universities want it.” Meyers, director of the Viruses and Cancer Training Program wrote the grant. (more…)

November 1, 2017 at 2:12 pm Leave a comment

Over 45 years of research addresses the science of ‘wasting away’


Dr. Leonard “Jim” Jefferson in the forefront with Dr. Scot Kimball.

By Heidi Lynn Russell

What happens in the research laboratories at Penn State College of Medicine doesn’t stay in the laboratories.

It reaches to outer space, as adventurers blast off in rockets. It affects American war fighters in oven-like desert heat. It touches cancer patients and aging Baby Boomers too weak to rise from their beds. And it even affects the average “gym rat” in the weight room.

In short, anyone who cares about loss of muscle mass has benefited from the painstaking work of Dr. Leonard “Jim” Jefferson and Dr. Scot Kimball. The research of these scientists has delved into the mysteries of skeletal muscle for over 45 years. Recently, the National Institutes of Health renewed a grant of $392,000 to continue their work – one of the longest continuously funded such grants in the country. (more…)

June 21, 2017 at 1:19 pm Leave a comment

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