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

Man’s Best Friend Puts Young Patients at Ease

A Golden Retriever wearing a scarf sits on a radiology table with a three-year-old boy. The boy is wearing a hospital smock decorated with tigers. He is smiling and has his arm around the dog. In the background are radiology scanning equipment and a mural of a tree with birds.

Kaia helps Koltin Mason, a pediatric patient from York, get comfortable with the radiology equipment before his appointment in pediatric radiology.

By Marianne Clay

Four-year-old “Jake” wails as he crumples into a corner. Ten feet away looms a large, box-like machine, a CT scanner. For the last half hour, Jake’s parents, a Child Life specialist and a CT technician at Penn State Children’s Hospital, have been trying to both comfort and convince Jake to lie down on the scanner’s table at the machine’s center. “Look,” they say softly, “the table goes in and out of the tunnel like a train.” Their coaxing is not soothing Jake. Will Jake, like other young children, require anesthesia before they can perform this test?

“Kaia,” a pediatric radiologist suggests. “Let’s try Kaia.”

Kaia’s secondary handler and Child Life specialist for pediatric radiology, Alicia Cesare, quickly calls for Kaia. A few minutes later, a 50-pound golden retriever enters the room, her tail gently wagging. Ashley Kane, Child Life Program manager at the Children’s Hospital and Kaia’s handler, aka “mom,” walks over to Jake. Kaia slowly nuzzles the boy. Quietly, the dog and Jake visit together, and soon Kane and Cesare ask Kaia to climb on the scanner table. Kaia loves climbing on tables and looks so happy that Jake follows her. He pets Kaia. Eventually, he climbs on the table and lays down next to Kaia.

Kane suggests Jake give Kaia a high-five, so the boy raises his hands above his head, putting himself in perfect position for the scan. Kane whisks Kaia out of the room, while Jake’s parents stand nearby during his scan. Within moments, it’s finished, and Kane races Kaia back to rejoin Jake.


March 20, 2018 at 10:25 am Leave a comment

Are You Ready to Save a Life?

Two women practice CPR chest compressions on dummies while one person watches. The dummies lie on a carpet with a square-checked pattern. Another person stands in the background.More than 50,000 cardiac arrests occur outside of the hospital each year, according to the American Heart Association. CPR, especially if administered immediately, can double or triple a person’s chance of survival.

“Some people are afraid to learn CPR because they are worried about the liability of it or what’s involved, but it could be your loved one who needs it,” said Scott Buchle, program manager of Penn State Health Life Lion Emergency Medical Services.

He recommends that everyone learn at least Hands-Only CPR, which involves chest compressions without mouth-to-mouth breaths. It’s crucial to call 911 immediately, he noted.

Penn State Resuscitation Sciences Training Center at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center is an authorized American Heart Association Training Center and provides heart association courses, including HeartSaver First Aid, CPR and AED and more advanced classes. All courses are open to members of the community.

See a list of upcoming classes and register on the Resuscitation Sciences Training Center website.

Find community CPR classes on the American Heart Association website.


March 13, 2018 at 1:57 pm Leave a comment

Strong Links in Chain of Survival Give Heart Attack Victim Second Chance

By Carolyn Kimmel

Cardiac arrest survivor Marty Woodfin smiles as she hugs Life Lion Paramedic Jeff Gewertz in the Life Lion garage. In the background, other paramedics smile and talk.

Marty Woodfin hugs Life Lion Paramedic Jeff Gewertz during a lunch to thank the first responders who saved her life.

When Penn State Children’s Hospital pediatrics nurse Marty Woodfin changed her walking routine from her neighborhood to the medical campus last July, she had no idea that decision would save her life—literally.

“It could have so easily been the end of my story that day,” said Woodfin, whose plan was to walk the path around the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center before going home to nap and work nightshift in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

Woodfin, 56, who has no health risks for cardiac arrest, was on the portion of the path that runs along Governor Road when she collapsed in view of passing traffic on Route 322.

“What happened on that day was a ‘perfect storm’ in the chain of survival, where all the links worked,” said Scott Buchle, Life Lion Emergency Medical Services (EMS) program manager. “They say it takes a village to raise a child. We say it take a small village of first responders to save a life.”


March 13, 2018 at 1:55 pm Leave a comment

College of Medicine Student Works to Improve Hygiene of Women and Girls in Nepal

Dozens of men, women and children from a village in Nepal sit in a semi-circle. Aditi Sharma, a student at Penn State College of Medicine, stands in the back row, second from left.

Penn State College of Medicine student Aditi Sharma, standing in the back row, second from left, and wearing a white top, poses with community members in Mid-west Nepal.

Aditi Sharma, a student in the doctor of public health program at Penn State College of Medicine, wants to enhance the quality of life for women and girls living in Nepal through a program that improves feminine hygiene.

A member of the Young Leaders Fellowship Program for the global advocacy group Women Deliver, Sharma was awarded a seed grant from Johnson & Johnson. Sharma developed an educational program for underserved populations living near Surkhet, Nepal, through a non-governmental organization that she co-founded called Kalyani. The program teaches women and girls the importance of feminine hygiene and aims to improve access to sanitary products and shed stigmas about menstruation.

“The aim of our project is not only to promote proper menstrual health and hygiene among women in Far- and Mid-west Nepal, but also to restore the dignity they have been denied for so long,” she said.


March 5, 2018 at 10:20 am Leave a comment

A Beacon of Excellence

Nurses Victoria Lutz and Tabitha Eckert turn a patient lying in a hospital bed. The patient is wearing a hospital gown and has monitor wires on his chest.

Nurse Victoria Lutz, left, and Tabitha Eckert, right, work with a patient in the Surgical and Anesthesia Intensive Care Unit at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

It takes heart, soul, perseverance and empathy to care for critically ill patients. The nurses in the Surgical Anesthesia Intensive Care Unit (SAICU) at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center have been honored for those qualities by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). The Silver-level Beacon Award for Excellence recognizes critical care units for exceptional patient care and healthy work environments.

See photos of the unit’s staff in action on the Medical Center’s Flickr page.

SAICU’s Beacon brings the total to four Beacon Awards for critical care units at the Medical Center, a significant accomplishment. The award is presented at three levels: gold, silver, and bronze. The AACN has presented 36 Beacons to critical care units in Pennsylvania since the award began in 2003. SAICU joins the Pediatric Intermediate Care Unit as a Silver Beacon Unit. The Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) and Heart and Vascular Progressive Care Unit obtained the Gold Beacon designation.

“What makes the Beacon Award so unique,” explains Judy Himes, senior vice president and chief nursing officer, “is how the application process is driven by the nursing staff.” Long and complex, the application takes many hours to complete and, “recognizes excellence for nursing care that results in positive patient outcomes.”


February 26, 2018 at 11:43 am 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

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