Posts filed under ‘Profiles’

A career for the ages: Eyster revolutionizes understanding of HIV and hepatitis C

An older woman wearing a white lab with the Hershey Medical Center logo on it sits next to a microscope in a research lab. Behind her is a man at a computer, lab equipment and binders on a shelf.

Dr. Elaine Eyster’s work revolutionized the world’s understanding of the natural history of HIV infection in individuals with hemophilia.

By Katherine Brind’Amour

It’s not every day you meet someone who changed the way the world understood the development of HIV and hepatitis C or any other infectious disease. But that is precisely the accomplishment of Dr. Elaine Eyster, distinguished professor of medicine and pathology at Penn State College of Medicine and the 2018 recipient of Penn State Alumni Association’s Honorary Alumni Award.

“In the early 1980s, it became apparent to us that our patients with hemophilia were coming down with unexpected infections,” says Dr. James Ballard, professor of medicine, pathology and humanities at the College of Medicine, who was hired as a hematology fellow by Eyster in 1975 and has worked with her ever since. “Although we didn’t know at the time what it was, we suspected something pretty bad was happening.”

By a stroke of either serendipity or genius, Eyster had stored plasma from her hemophilia patients for years, and as co-founder and long-time director of the Hemophilia Center of Central Pennsylvania, she and fellow clinician-researchers were able to use those samples to research the epidemiology of the emerging infection: HIV.

“She was at the right place at the right time with the right ideas, and that is something that doesn’t happen very often,” says Ballard.

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September 11, 2018 at 10:00 am 1 comment

Lorelei’s story: helping others is written on her heart

Thirteen-year-old Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer lies on the ground and smiles, surrounded by five heart-shaped pillows called Heart Hugs. The pillows have colorful hand prints or triangular patterns on them.

Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer is surrounded by her Heart Hug pillows that have been sent to more than 20,000 children around the world.

By Carolyn Kimmel

When Lorelei McIntyre-Brewer picks up a pen, her words—and her imagination—take her to places her heart never could.

“When I write, it’s just me and my adventures, and nothing can stop me,” said the 13-year-old Duncannon girl, who has already won three local writing competitions.

In reality, she knows hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart defect, does stop her without warning. The three lifesaving open-heart surgeries she had by age 3 and 30 other procedures and hospital stays have a way of doing that, she admits.

“I don’t want people to see me just from one angle. I want them to see the real me, not just the girl with half a heart,” she said. “To me, my life is normal. People think it’s sad, but I have the best doctors and nurses in the world.”

Some of them are located right here, at Penn State Children’s Hospital, where Lorelei has been coming since she was born with the left side of her heart severely underdeveloped. Her rare heart condition was discovered at 21 weeks, after her twin brother, Rory, died in utero.

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July 31, 2018 at 2:30 pm Leave a comment

The power of positivity: new chair of Medicine plans to double department’s NIH funding and transform medical education

Dr. Thomas, chair of the Department of Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, is pictured in a head-and-shoulders professional photo in his lab, wearing a medical coat with his name and the medical center’s logo on it. He has dark hair and is wearing glasses.

Dr. Thomas Ma aims to improve faculty work satisfaction and build a stronger research program at Penn State College of Medicine.

By Lisa Maresca

When Dr. Thomas Ma first assumed the role of chair of the Department of Medicine at Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, he wasted no time making changes.

“I’m here to break down barriers and open doors,” Ma said.

Ma left the sunshine of New Mexico for the snow of Pennsylvania in January to assume the post. He previously served as chief of the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the University of New Mexico – Health Sciences Center (UNM-HSC) and executive director of the UNM-HSC’s Center for Digestive Disorders, Center for Digestive Diseases Research and Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Ma was also director of the New Mexico Veterans Affairs Health Care System’s Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology. He succeeds Dr. Robert Aber, who led the department for 13 years before stepping down as chair in 2017.

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

After nearly 200 years of anesthesia practice, are patients waking up safer?

Anesthesiologist Dr. Berend Mets of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center secures the endotracheal tube of a patient during an operation. He is wearing scrubs, a mask, a cap and a stethoscope. Above him are lights, a monitor and an IV stand. The patient is out of focus.

Dr. Berend Mets secures the endotracheal tube of a patient during an operation at Hershey Medical Center.

By Katherine Brind’Amour

That’s the question Dr. Berend Mets, chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center seeks to answer with his new book, “Waking Up Safer? An Anesthesiologist’s Record.

“The public has the misperception that anesthesia is just sleep, which we euphemistically call it to allay anxiety,” says Dr. Mets. “It’s not sleep—it’s a medically induced coma. The minute you’re under, your airway can collapse, and it’s our job to keep it open and continually provide oxygen to supply your brain. Anesthesiology doesn’t get the respect it deserves for its importance.”

The book weaves Mets’ personal anesthesiology stories—starting with his training in South Africa using rudimentary techniques, through his practice in England and New York to his current position in Pennsylvania—with the history of anesthesiology. From the field’s advent in 1846 to his own present-day practice at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Mets explains what has contributed to making surgery safer with time.

“I wanted to tell stories about anesthesia and the people who led its quest for safety, using my career to illustrate the development of the specialty,” says Mets. “It started with literally just a finger on the pulse and a blood pressure cuff for me, and now 35 years later it’s similar to the cockpit of a Boeing 737. The transformation is astounding.”

Has this change been meaningful, though? Are patients waking up safer now than 60 years ago, when anesthesia outcomes were first truly measured?

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June 19, 2018 at 10:51 am Leave a comment

College of Medicine grad student among young scientists chosen to meet Nobel laureates

By Carolyn Kimmel

A young man working in a medical research lab inserts liquid into a test tube. He is pushing a plunger with his thumb. The photo is shot at an angle. The man is wearing a lab coat and rubber gloves. Other lab equipment is on the table, and a door is behind him out of focus.

Robert Nwokonko performs research on calcium signaling in cells, which can help improve understanding of autoimmune diseases and diseases that compromise the immune system.

When he started his studies at Penn State College of Medicine, Robert Nwokonko never imagined his research would land him in the company of 43 Nobel laureates.

The fourth-year biomedical science graduate student from Downingtown, Pa., will travel to Lindau, Germany, for the 68th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting from June 24-29. He will join 600 students, doctoral candidates and post-doctoral scholars under the age of 35 competitively selected for the rare chance to hear from some of the world’s most lauded scientists and researchers.

This year’s meeting is dedicated to physiology and medicine and will set two records—the most Nobel laureates ever assembled at a medicine meeting and the most diverse set of participants who represent 84 countries of origin, according to meeting organizers.

“To be among most of the living Nobel laureates and hear them talk about the future of research and their sciences—that’s an opportunity of a lifetime,” said Nwokonko, the first College of Medicine student to attend the event. “I was really excited and surprised when I found out I was chosen.”

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May 29, 2018 at 2:24 pm Leave a comment

Unconventional College of Medicine students show that work/life balance is possible

By Emily Jacobs

Dr. Laura Brubaker, left, and Dr. Benjamin Abney smile in front of the Penn State College of Medicine sign. They are wearing physician lab coats with their names and the College of Medicine logo on them. Dr. Abney has a stethoscope around his neck. Behind them is a road and the College of Medicine building.

Dr. Laura Brubaker, left, and Dr. Benjamin Abney graduated from Penn State College of Medicine after spending more than a decade in the workforce and raising their own families.

The road to medical school is not always a straight path. Some students enter medical school with several years of influential life experience.

On May 20, 145 medical students graduated from Penn State College of Medicine, prepared to enter the next phase of their medical education as residents. This year, graduates were asked which classmates stand out as the best examples of College of Medicine values. The overwhelming majority nominated Benjamin Abney and Laura Brubaker.

Both students took the road less traveled to medical school, entering the College of Medicine after more than a decade in the workforce and while raising their own families.

Laura Brubaker previously worked as a labor and delivery nurse at Women & Babies Hospital in Lancaster, Pa. Most recently, she served as an HIV program coordinator before entering medical school to specialize in obstetrics and gynecology. She chose the College of Medicine based on recommendations of physicians she worked with, as well as its proximity to her family, good schools and outdoor activities.

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May 22, 2018 at 10:47 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.

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

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