Posts filed under ‘Features’

Virtual reality helps Penn State Health St. Joseph pediatricians solve a problem

Dr. Jerry Lee, a pediatrician at Penn State Health St. Joseph Downtown Pediatric Practice, holds virtual reality goggles. The device in his left hand looks like a purple box. A cable connects it to headphones that are set on the counter. Dr. Lee is smiling and wearing glasses, a sports jacket, dress shirt and khaki pants. Behind him is a window with a shade. Next to him are wooden cabinets covered in signs. On the counter is a file stand with files.

Dr. Jerry Lee shows the virtual reality goggles that he uses for some patients to distract them from medical procedures.

Doctors at Penn State Health St. Joseph Downtown Pediatric Practice had a problem.

A patient – a 13-year-old boy – was recently in need of immunizations. Doctors also wanted to draw blood, as the boy was taking psychiatric medications that call for routine monitoring.

The problem was that the child, who had recently moved to Reading and was living with his grandmother, was suffering from the results of severe sexual and physical assault, explained Dr. Jerry Lee, a pediatrician at the Downtown Campus.

Post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions resulting from abuse made it extremely difficult for the patient to interact with doctors or allow anyone to touch him.

“It’s really a sad situation,” Lee said. “He’d been through a lot, and even with some medication to calm him, he couldn’t tolerate these procedures.”

After doctors had twice attempted to treat the boy with no success, Lee started thinking outside of the box.


November 14, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

College of Medicine global health collaboration reaps benefits here and there

Penn State College of Medicine Global Health Scholars student Becky Koob presents a pair of pink hospital-grade shoes to Gladys Ampomah-Ababio, head of nursing at Eastern Regional Hospital, Ghana, outside the hospital building. Koob wears a white lab coat over her dress, and Ampomah-Ababio wears a white nurse’s uniform with a purple belt. Other hospital staff stand behind a table of donated shoes, smiling. Richard Yeboako, deputy human relations manager and international relations coordinator at the hospital, stands beside the table.

Penn State College of Medicine Global Health Scholars student Becky Koob, right, presents donated hospital-grade shoes to Gladys Ampomah-Ababio, head of nursing at Eastern Regional Hospital in Ghana. Photo courtesy of Xavier Candela.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Penn State College of Medicine student Becky Koob took the old adage “walk a mile in another’s shoes” literally when she volunteered at a hospital in Kofordua, Ghana, last summer.

After working long days at the Eastern Regional Hospital in worn-out footwear, she decided to do something about it.

“To maintain sterile conditions, the staff can’t wear outside shoes in the hospital, so there was this pile of beat-up, communal shoes for everyone,” said Koob, a fourth-year medical student who is part of Penn State College of Medicine’s Global Health Scholars program. “There were never enough to go around. I had to track down shoes every time I went.”

Koob contacted multiple shoe companies asking for donations and found a willing partner in Calzuro, Italian-made shoes distributed in the U.S. from a base in Ohio.


November 7, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Preventing an incorrect diagnosis starts in the classroom

Dr. Timothy Mosher, chair of the Department of Radiology at Penn State College of Medicine, smiles. Two women wearing white lab coats with the Milton S. Hershey Medical logo on them, smile. Behind them is a PowerPoint slide that says “Recommendations for Improving Reports” and has an image of an arm with a thumb up. Behind Dr. Mosher is a bookshelf with books.

Dr. Timothy Mosher, right, developed a new class at Penn State College of Medicine that teaches students how to identify medical problems, perform an examination and think critically to reach an accurate conclusion.

By Katherine Brind’Amour

A new class at Penn State College of Medicine offers students an opportunity to tackle problems in modern health care that can lead to incorrect or even fatal misdiagnoses.

Technically, there is no single course in medical school devoted to uncovering the correct diagnosis. Instead, the entire curriculum aims to teach budding physicians how to identify medical problems, perform an examination and think critically to reach an accurate conclusion.

But after the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a 2015 report called “Improving Diagnosis in Health Care,” which revealed high rates of diagnostic error and related harm to patients, physicians around the world took notice. And Dr. Timothy Mosher, chair of the Department of Radiology at Penn State College of Medicine, decided to do something about it: develop a medical school course aimed at identifying systemic causes of misdiagnosis—and how to prevent them.

“We are working hard to come up with practical solutions for what we can do to reduce diagnostic error,” says Mosher, who is also a professor of radiology for the College of Medicine. “We’re starting with students—getting them aware of the problem so that as they develop their career, they’ll be thinking about how to bring error prevention into their daily activities.”


October 31, 2018 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Positive attitude beats ‘stupid bum lungs’ for cystic fibrosis patient

Jessie Buffenmyer, wearing a long blue hospital gown over her uniform, stands in a patient room at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and smiles as she holds a Nerf gun. Cystic fibrosis patient Alyssa Kibler sits on her bed, holding a pen and paper in her hands. She wears a cannula in her nose for increased oxygen. An IV pole with machines and an IV bag hanging on it is standing on the floor between Buffenmyer and Kibler.

Jessie Buffenmeyer, a registered nurse, jokes with Alyssa Kibler as she plays a Nerf gun game.

By Carolyn Kimmel

At age 33, Alyssa Kibler has already outlived her life expectancy—twice.

“I wasn’t supposed to live to be a teenager, and then when I was a teenager, I wasn’t supposed to live past 30,” said the Harrisburg woman who was born with cystic fibrosis (CF). “Personally, I feel like I’m going to live forever.”

Her optimism comes partly from new medicines, airway clearance techniques and nutritional support that have given CF patients longer life, but largely from an inner strength that seems to come naturally.

“CF always hangs over your head, but I have this attitude that I won’t give up,” said Kibler, who takes up residence at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center four to five times a year for several weeks at a time to get lifesaving IV antibiotics.


October 24, 2018 at 12:36 pm Leave a comment

The Big Picture: Science of health systems class prepares next generation of doctors

Dr. Craig Hillemeier speaks in front of a class of Penn State College of Medicine students. He is wearing a suit, tie and glasses. Behind him is a screen with a PowerPoint slide of a map. The students are seated in stadium seats. A row of empty chairs is in front of Dr. Hillemeier. On the wall is a large monitor. A gray rectangle is mounted on a brick wall behind the students.

Dr. Craig Hillemeier discusses why health systems must change to meet the goals of improving the health of the individual and the community’s population at a reduced cost.

By Carolyn Kimmel

When Dennis Madden decided to become a doctor, he didn’t realize that practicing medicine in the 21st century would entail negotiating a health system that includes much more than treating patients.

“This generation of medical student is expected to do a lot more,” said the first-year Penn State College of Medicine student. “We’re expected to think socially, medically and globally, to be drivers of research and to think about the finances behind the health system, too.”

The challenge, Madden said, is overwhelming and exciting—a sentiment shared by many of the students who are in a College of Medicine class called Science of Health Systems, where they are studying ramifications of an emerging model of health system and how it will impact the way they will practice medicine.

The class is meant to prepare them to become something that their professor, Dr. Jed Gonzalo, associate dean of health systems education at the College of Medicine, calls a “system citizen.”


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

“Every day is a gift:” 500th heart transplant patient celebrates milestone with gratitude

Dr. John Boehmer, left, touches David Wheeler’s neck. Boehmer is wearing a white lab coat with the Hershey Medical Center logo on it. Wheeler is propped up on a hospital bed and is wearing a hospital gown and surgical mask. Behind them is a shelf with medical equipment and cables.

Dr. John Boehmer, a cardiologist at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, examines David Wheeler before performing a biopsy on his heart.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Not a day goes by that David Wheeler doesn’t think about the fact that the heart beating in his chest isn’t the one he began life with 56 years ago.

A former self-described workaholic, the Williamsport resident sounds almost poetic as he describes a new outlook on life.

“I lie in bed every morning and hear the birds chirping, the wind blowing, the smell of grass being cut,” said Wheeler, a maintenance man at a local container company for 23 years. “I think people take life for granted. I know I did. I thank God for every day I wake up.”

  • Watch a video of Penn State Health heart transplant recipients “Sharing their Heart Stories.”

Wheeler’s heart transplant, which took place on June 23, marks the 500th heart transplant since Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center began doing the transplants in 1984. It’s the only hospital between Pittsburgh and Philadelphia that performs heart transplant surgery.

“It’s a significant milestone for us,” said Dr. Behzad Soleimani, surgical director of heart transplantation and mechanical circulatory support at Penn State Heart and Vascular Institute. “Our longevity speaks to the quality of the work we do. Our one-year survival rate is more than 90 percent, which is among the best in the nation.”


October 11, 2018 at 10:02 am Leave a comment

Penn State College of Medicine leads transformation of medical education

A young woman medical student stretches out her arm while smiling. Two other woman students listen to her. They are seated at a round table. Behind them are other students at round tables.

Amarpreet Ahluwalia, a medical student at Penn State College of Medicine, smiles during a small group session at the American Medical Association conference.

By Katherine Brind’Amour

Being selected to host the American Medical Association’s (AMA) “Accelerating Change in Medical Education” conference both acknowledged Penn State College of Medicine’s hard-won expertise in health systems science and enabled its leaders to share strategies for revolutionizing medical education.

More than 120 medical students, residents, physicians and educators from 27 schools across the U.S. attended the student-led consortium Aug. 3-4 in Hershey.

The College of Medicine has emerged as a leader in the field since receiving a $1 million, five-year grant from the AMA in 2013 to develop and implement curriculum changes supporting health systems science and medical education transformation.

“To me, health systems science is essentially good care. It’s not a separate entity—it’s being cognizant of all facets of your patient’s life, putting the patient at the center of your work and understanding how to make the system work for that patient,” says Amarpreet Ahluwalia, the College of Medicine student chosen to co-lead the planning of the AMA conference.


October 4, 2018 at 11:11 am Leave a comment

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