In your corner: Pediatric Complex Care team advocates for children with multiple medical needs

Dr. Laura Murphy, pediatrician with Penn State Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Complex Care Program, smiles and bends down to greet her patient, Brinda Rizal, who is in a wheelchair. Brinda, who has braids and is wearing a sweatshirt and pants, is strapped into the wheelchair and looks up at Murphy, who is wearing a polka dotted shirt and pants and wears a stethoscope around her neck. Brinda’s mother, Basudha Rizal, wearing glasses and a printed top and pants, is sitting in a chair against the wall. She smiles at her daughter. A soap dispenser, pamphlet rack and folders are hanging on the wall of the exam rom.

Dr. Laura Murphy greets 8-year-old Brinda Rizal of Harrisburg during an appointment as her mother, Basudha, looks on.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Ask Dina Gonzalez about her son Alejandro’s diagnosis, and she has no specific answer.

The list of health challenges the 10-year-old boy faces, however, numbers at least eight items – seizure disorder, cortical visual impairment, chronic lung disease among them – and managing them is daunting.

“Dealing with the doctors can be hard,” the Lebanon mother said. “A lot of them are good at what they do, but they have tunnel vision for their own specialty, and they don’t take into account all of Alejandro’s conditions and medications.”

Her son uses a wheelchair and requires 24/7 monitoring. Gonzalez says she often feels like a prisoner to his frequent, respiratory-compromising seizures – which require her to give oxygen, stimulation to the chest and rescue breaths.

Worrying about whether insurance will continue to pay for his medical equipment, coordinating all his speech, occupational and physical therapy with specialist appointments and finding time for her older son pose a constant challenge.

Enter Dr. Laura Murphy and the Pediatric Complex Care team at Penn State Children’s Hospital.


May 8, 2019 at 9:56 am Leave a comment

National Brain Bee creates buzz for next generation of neuroscientists

Cedar Cliff High School junior Thussentham Walter-Angelo, winner of the 2019 Central PA Regional Brain Bee, bends over a clipboard on his lap and writes answers during the 2019 USA National Brain Bee, held April 12-14 at Penn State College of Medicine. He is seated in an auditorium, surrounded by other students. He wears a plaid shirt, gray pants and glasses.

Cedar Cliff High School junior Thussentham Walter-Angelo, winner of the 2019 Central PA Regional Brain Bee, answers a question during the 2019 USA National Brain Bee.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Thussentham Walter-Angelo remembers the question from a second-grade school report: What do you want to be when you grow up? His answer then was the same as today – a neurosurgeon.

“I was always interested in neuroscience,” the Cedar Cliff High School junior said. “There’s just so much to learn and not a lot that’s known. This competition is a great way to prove yourself.”

Walter-Angelo, who won the 2019 Central PA Regional Brain Bee sponsored by the Central PA Chapter of the Society for Neuroscience, was one of 56 contestants at the 2019 USA National Brain Bee Championship April 12 to 14 at Penn State College of Medicine on the campus of Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.


April 24, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

See Me Now: Program reunites patients and emergency department doctors

Ed Frederick hugs Dr. Elizabeth Werley at the first “See Me Now” program. Ed has white hair and a moustache and is wearing a gray sweatshirt. Dr. Werley is wearing a long-sleeved sweater. Behind them are cafeteria tables and chairs. A large light fixture is above them.

Ed Frederick thanks Dr. Elizabeth Werley at the first “See Me Now” program for helping him during a trauma he suffered last spring.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Edward Frederick plans to retire soon with full use of both legs – something for which he will always be grateful to staff at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, and he wanted them to know it.

The Londonderry Township man had just dropped off his wife at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center for a doctor appointment last spring when he had an accident in the parking lot that caused extreme blood loss.

“I knew I was in big trouble,” he said. “I managed to drive myself to the front door of the hospital, but I lost consciousness while I was being taken in. The next thing I remember was being wheeled from the emergency department to the operating room.”

Dr. Elizabeth Werley, an emergency department physician, oversaw triage care that ultimately saved Frederick’s life. Within 15 minutes of arriving, he was headed to the operating room for leg surgery.

“We were able to do something that we trained for years to do, and our rapid response team worked together so smoothly,” Werley said. “Otherwise, I’m confident he would have died, but that day, we saved somebody’s life.”


April 17, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

Twenty years in medical school? What’s so mini about that?

Penn State College of Medicine’s Mini Medical School participants, from left, "Sir" Robert Griscavage, Bonifacio Dewasse, Robert Hairston, Ruth Miller, William Miller, Rebekah Miller, Perry Emes, Marylou Martz and Joan Decker pose in front of a Nittany Lion statue in the rotunda of Hershey Medical Center. Behind them a hallway is visible.

From left, “Sir” Robert Griscavage, Bonifacio Dewasse, Robert Hairston, Ruth Miller, William Miller, Rebekah Miller, Perry Emes, Marylou Martz and Joan Decker celebrate 20 years of participating in Mini Medical School.

By Bill Landauer

In her seat near the front of Junker Auditorium at Penn State College of Medicine, Ruth Miller chuckled.

Teams of her younger classmates were using CPR to revive two mannequins simulating cardiac arrest. The exercise was meant to show the importance of teamwork in a crisis.

“But how do you learn to think on your feet?” someone asked.

Ruth thought of a joke.

In her 81 years on the planet, among all the lessons about art, music and medicine she’s collected, Miller knows comic timing.

For 20 springs, Ruth has been coming to the College of Medicine Mini Medical School — the program in which faculty and full-time students share their knowledge with the community. She might move a little slower than when she was a 61-year-old freshman, but Ruth is just as engaged as ever and is, by now, an expert class clown.

How do you learn to think on your feet? “You stand up a lot,” Ruth said.


April 10, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

From medical education to medical controversies, humanities are key, new chair says

Bernice Hausman, chair of Penn State College of Medicine’s Department of Humanities, stands in a library with her arms crossed and smiling. She has short, gray hair and is wearing glasses, a sweater, a T-shirt, casual pants and a brown belt. Five rows of bookshelves filled with books are to her left.

Appreciating the humanities is an integral part of preparing to practice medicine, says Department of Humanities Chair Bernice Hausman.

By Carolyn Kimmel

Few medical schools have a humanities department, which makes Penn State College of Medicine — the first medical school in the nation to institute a humanities department — the perfect match for Bernice Hausman, its new chair.

“For the work I do, this is a dream job,” said Hausman, who holds a doctorate in feminist studies and critical theory and came to the College of Medicine in November 2018 from Virginia Tech, where she chaired the English department. “Generally, medical schools may have one course in the humanities. Not many have an entire department.”

Appreciating the humanities is an integral part of preparing to practice medicine, Hausman said. “The ability to understand social context and social relations is critical for a doctor because medicine is, after all, a people-oriented profession,” she said.


April 3, 2019 at 2:10 pm Leave a comment

Penn State Health doctors help Ephrata baby born with rare condition breathe easier

Natasha Himes kisses her newborn baby boy as she holds him on her chest. He has surgical tape on his face and his wearing a striped shirt. Natasha has long curly hair and is wearing a cotton top.

Natasha Himes comforts her son Knoxley as he recovers from surgery.

There was nothing unusual about Natasha Himes’s seventh pregnancy or delivery. Like her previous six, both were easy and uncomplicated. While all of her other children were born in a hospital, the Ephrata woman wanted to have this baby at home.

Dec. 19, 2018, started out as any ordinary day. Himes’ children, ranging in age from 2 to 13, completed their homeschool lessons, and the midwife visited. The baby wasn’t due until Christmas, but he had other plans.

At 3:53 p.m., Knoxley came into the world, weighing 8 pounds, 8 ounces, and 21 inches long. “I was in labor just 53 minutes,” Himes said. “The midwife walked in as I was pushing.”

When the midwife saw Knoxley had a cleft palate, he was transferred to the neonatal intensive care unit at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital where he was diagnosed with Pierre Robin syndrome. According to the National Institutes of Health, the rare condition occurs in about 1 per 8,500 births. (more…)

March 27, 2019 at 10:00 am 2 comments

Taking PULSE: on 10th anniversary, educational outreach program gets more diverse

Seven high school students who won the 2018 poster session at Penn State College of Medicine’s PULSE program smile in front of a poster presentation on endocarditis. One young man and six young women stand in a row and smile. They are dressed in casual clothes. Behind them on the left several people are visible through a doorway.

The 2018 PULSE poster session winners celebrate their prize-winning presentations. From left are Ian Hammond of Central Dauphin East High School, Nivedita Dubey of East Pennsboro Area High School, Avni Sanghvi of Central Valley High School, Jerusha George of Hershey High School, Dalia Shvartsman of Harrisburg Academy, Gellila Asmamaw of Manheim Township High School and Alexis Singleton-Robinson of Harrisburg High School SciTech Campus.

By Bill Landauer

Three high school students sat in the front row of a Penn State College of Medicine lecture hall and listened to Madison Goss.

They actually paid attention. That can be rare in a room full of teenagers, Goss has found — even well-accomplished ones handpicked to be part of college-level program designed to introduce potential doctors and nurses to the field.

“These students were so attentive to my lecture and weren’t playing on their phones or computers like some of their classmates,” she said.

The image stuck with Goss, who wanted these students, in particular, to hear her. Though she was excited about working with all 100 participants, the three girls had been part of a new group. The Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion had provided transportation so they could participate in the PULSE program. The office works to increase diversity at Penn State Health and Penn State College of Medicine.

The rides to the Hershey campus are helping the program get back to one of its key goals — helping a greater variety of people learn about medicine.


March 20, 2019 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

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