Posts filed under ‘Features’
By Carolyn Kimmel
If someone had told Tim Harner a year ago that he would run in the Boston Marathon this month, he likely would have laughed – or cried— because the number one item on his bucket list seemed so unattainable.
Yet on April 17, he crossed the finish line of one of the nation’s top races, living the message that he wants to give other cancer survivors: “Never give up hope. Live life; don’t let life live you.”
Harner, a lifelong runner, was just 29 years old when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a cancer of the blood and bone marrow that progresses rapidly. His diagnosis in November 2015 began a journey that would challenge his resolve to live but ultimately transform his life. (more…)
By Carolyn Kimmel
Third-year medical students Nathan Wong, Anne Chen and Wilson Chan munched on lunch as they talked through their notes in a group study room at the Harrell Health Sciences Library, Research and Learning Commons at Penn State College of Medicine.
To study better, they could grab a marker and write on the white board walls of the room, turning them into one large study guide with great visibility. Or they could pull up a PowerPoint presentation from class on the large screen on another wall.
“These are good spaces for students to study together; there were none here before,” Chen said. “Now the library accommodates different types of study styles. There are still cubicles if you are a self-learner, but if you are a group studier, like us, you can use one of these new rooms.”
“Our old library was old looking; this is much more a place where you want to come,” Wong said. (more…)
By Jade Kelly Solovey
During future physicians’ four years in medical school, they expect to be exposed to many different environments. They become acquainted with the emergency room, operating room, delivery room and every other room in between. Instructors at Penn State College of Medicine hope to help their students become familiar with one more room-the kitchen.
Fourth year medical students at the College now have an opportunity to participate in a Culinary Medicine course to learn cooking and nutrition basics, which they can then pass on to patients. Culinary Medicine is a new evidence-based field in medicine that blends the art of food and cooking with the science of medicine.
By Jade Kelly Solovey
In a second floor, 300 square foot chemotherapy infusion suite in Penn State Cancer Institute are some dumbbells, some stretchy bands, two treadmills, a recumbent bike, a weight bench, some physical therapy tools, and a raised mat. It’s not much and it’s not very big, but for researcher Kathryn Schmitz, Ph.D., it’s what she wanted.
“What I asked for and got in coming to Penn State Cancer Institute was the exercise medicine unit in an oncology clinical setting,” Schmitz said. She needed it for her work.
With the help of an experienced master trainer, this is where she and her team plan to make exercise part of the standard of care for cancer patients as they research the role of nutrition and exercise in cancer treatment and recovery. She has several clinical research studies underway or in development. (more…)
By Ashley Davidson
Olivier Noel is only 28 years old, but he’s already changing the face of genetics research.
The Haitian native is in his sixth year of Penn State College of Medicine’s MD/PhD Medical Scientist Training Program and was recently recognized by Forbes as one of the country’s brightest young entrepreneurs on its “30 Under 30” list in the science industry. He’s the founder of DNAsimple, a startup aimed at accelerating genetics research by connecting DNA donors with research scientists. The company provides scientists with access to critically important samples, significantly speeding up the pace for genetics research.
“People don’t realize it can take years to get samples, but really only a month to get an assignment done … which is a little bit ridiculous,” Noel said. “It’s a problem for geneticists across the board. You can have a million dollars to do a study, but waste three years trying to get samples.”
Noel explained a “light bulb” went off when he attended a genetics conference at the recommendation of Dr. Roger L. Ladda, whom he had been shadowing with the intent of focusing his residency on genetics.
“The keynote speaker at the conference was talking about how he was studying a disease not really prevalent in the Western world and the way they were able to get a DNA sample to validate was through Facebook. The joke at the time was that Facebook is the new way of doing genetics. I realized, wow, that worked well for one case but that’s not the way science should get done,” Noel said.
Noel’s big break was when the company was accepted into the Y Combinator program, which includes such notable alumni as Dropbox, Airbnb and Reddit. DNAsimple was one of 32 companies accepted from more than 6,500 applicants worldwide, he said. But he credits his PhD advisors — former Penn State faculty member Dr. Glenn S. Gerhard and Penn State College of Medicine Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology James Broach, PhD — for teaching him about genetics and exposing him to Penn State Institute for Personalized Medicine.
“I think if I didn’t go through the Institute for Personalized Medicine, there’s no question DNAsimple wouldn’t exist,” Noel said. “My whole exposure to the genomics world, biobanking, how it’s done and the status quo, is absolutely from my experience at the Institute.”
While Noel currently is a guest at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine — where Dr. Gerhard now serves as the chair of the Department of Medical Genetics and Molecular Biochemistry — he’ll return to Hershey to complete his program at Penn State, which he loves.
“For medical school, I had a few options and Penn State was one of them,” Noel explained. “I knew I was going into the MD/PhD program, which is eight years, so it was really important that not only the academic level was where I wanted it, but also community wise I wanted a place where I could see myself living for eight years, no problem. There was more than just the academics. I love the people. I love the Penn State culture. I’m the biggest Penn State football fan in the world now over the past couple years. But research was the last thing that just got me. Research won me over. Penn State is the place to go.”
As for being named to the prestigious Forbes list, it’s still a little surreal. Even as he begins to close in on seed funding with investors.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” he said. “It’s extremely humbling, to be honest. All the hard work you put in is being recognized.”
When Duncan McDermond studied abroad in a rural African hospital during college, he saw firsthand the correlation between doctors who live among their patients and their ability to understand, gain trust and ultimately provide better medical care.
It’s that kind of holistic approach to medicine that drew McDermond to apply for an innovative program where students are helping to shape Penn State College of Medicine’s curriculum.
“If medical providers do not understand the needs of a community, they will be inherently less effective at treating them,” said McDermond, a Messiah College graduate who is interested in carrying on the legacy of his grandfather, a missionary doctor, who founded the rural hospital in Zambia where he studied abroad.
The ability of firsthand experience to inform and reinforce education is nothing new, but at the College of Medicine, the idea is being given top priority in a first-of-its-kind initiative that could serve as a national model to transform how medicine is taught.
McDermond and four other student design partners – students who have been accepted to the College of Medicine but will defer enrollment until the fall of 2017 – are now College of Medicine employees at University Park. They will work with faculty to develop and pilot a flexible and integrated program of study.
You’re in a foreign country, unfamiliar with the language and you suddenly are in an emergency room gravely ill. No one speaks your language. You’re frightened, confused and miming your symptoms to a doctor who is actually trying to ask about family history or medication allergies.
This scenario is common for many immigrants to the United States and the health care providers who care for them.
To address this situation, bilingual medical students attending Penn State College of Medicine can now participate in a medical interpreter training and certification program through the Health Federation of Philadelphia.
The program was the result of happenstance when Dr. Patricia Silveyra, assistant professor of pediatrics, biochemistry and molecular biology, and humanities, attended a meeting of the Latin American Medical Student Association where a group of bilingual students questioned why they couldn’t use their second language to help their patients.
“You can’t just show up and translate because you’re bilingual,” Silveyra explained. Medical interpreters require training and certifications, and they need to understand the value of cultural competency. (more…)