Penn Medicine News Blog: Posts by Holly Auer

Holly AuerHolly came to Penn Medicine following six years as a newspaper health care reporter. She has worked for The Buffalo News, The Post & Courier in Charleston, S.C. and the Scripps Howard News Service in Washington, D.C., and has freelanced for magazines including Glamour, Self and Prevention. She is the recipient of numerous national and statewide awards for her writing and editing. She is a graduate of Syracuse University, where she majored in magazine journalism, and she earned a master’s degree in bioethics at Penn in December of 2009.

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Better Together: Penn Joins Unprecedented Collaboration to Tackle Cancer Immunotherapy

April 22, 2016 // Comments Parker

It had all the makings of a science-fiction blockbuster: A can’t-lose mission with high stakes, an effort to trick a devious enemy into destroying itself, the promise of gizmos like futuristic cell replicas on tiny chips, and a cast of Hollywood’s most beautiful, bold-face names – plus a killer sound... Read more

Ebola Virus Disease: The Facts Are Important

November 6, 2014 // Comments SLP_1734- Brennan

Patrick J. Brennan, MD, is the Chief Medical Officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. He is an infectious disease physician and a former director of tuberculosis control for the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. In this guest post, he writes to share important information about the Ebola virus... Read more

Angelina Jolie’s Cancer Prevention Surgery Puts Basser Research Center for BRCA In National Spotlight

May 15, 2013 // Comments This week, when Oscar-winning actress and humanitarian Angelina Jolie revealed that she underwent surgery to remove her breasts after learning that she carries one of the BRCA gene mutations that put her at high risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer, the news hit home here at the University of Pennsylvania. Just a year ago, Penn announced the creation of the Basser Research Center for BRCA, which was made possible by a $25 million gift from Penn alums Mindy and Jon Gray, in honor of Mindy Gray’s sister, Faith Basser, who died of ovarian cancer at age 44. As the only center in the United States devoted solely to research on prevention and treatment for cancers related to BRCA mutations, Jolie’s story turned a spotlight on the important work in progress there, and the experiences of the many other families with similar cancer risks. Read more

“We Found a Change In Your DNA And We Don’t Know What it Means” – Questions and Challenges in the Era of Massively Parallel Gene Sequencing

April 15, 2013 // Comments Basser image

Women who develop breast cancer while they’re young are often searching for answers about the cause for their disease or what they can do to improve their chances of being cured. While an increasing number of large genetic testing panels promise to scrutinize their DNA to uncover clues, a team of researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine and the Abramson Cancer Center has found that those powerful tests tend to produce more questions than they answer. Read more

Penn Medicine at the Forefront of the Quest to Cure Cancer

March 27, 2013 // Comments Time cover 2

Cover image via This week’s TIME magazine makes an eye-catching, bold proclamation. HOW TO CURE CANCER, the cover reads, with a subhead previewing the story contained inside: “Yes, it’s now possible – thanks to new cancer dream teams that are delivering better results faster.” Much of that team science... Read more

Simply Because

March 1, 2013 // Comments Cut hypertension

“The needs that call Penn Medicine to action in the community are profound. Twenty-five percent of Philadelphians live in poverty – that’s nearly 400,000 adults and children – and one in seven city residents have no health insurance. Hunger and homelessness remain, still, throughout the city. These societal problems only... Read more

Lend a Hand, Save a Life

February 6, 2013 // Comments Lend a Hand_CPR Challenge with partner logos

The Pennsylvania HeartRescue Project, led by the Center for Resuscitation Science in Penn’s department of Emergency Medicine, has partnered with the American Heart Association and the Pennsylvania Bureau of Emergency Medical Services to form the “Lend A Hand, Save a Life” CPR Challenge, which launched last month and will continue through late May. The initiative aims to train 250,000 people across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Read more

Penn Medicine Reaches Out

November 29, 2012 // Comments UCHC

UCHCFrom providing screenings for high blood pressure in West Philadelphia barber shops to arming women who are recovering from addiction with the skills to build new lives with their children, Penn Medicine’s employees reach far beyond our campus community to help, care for, and inspire people to improve their health. Each year since 2007, Penn Medicine has highlighted the work of its faculty, staff and students in Philadelphia and its neighboring communities in Simply Because. Last year’s book is full of the faces and stories of everyone who comes together to be part of these programs. Read more

Image Wizardry: Penn Med’s Prize-Winning Algorithm Speeds Radiologic Testing Process

October 15, 2012 // Comments PICSL-MICCAI-2012

Modern day medical imaging exams have become a critical diagnostic tool for conditions of all kinds – from detecting the earliest breast cancers, long before a tumor could grow large enough for a woman to feel a lump in her own body, to finding malformations in the hearts of tiny...

Celebrating Every Moment

September 21, 2012 // Comments Chemo luau

Chemo luauBeach Boys music, hot dogs, sheet cake and feather boas aren’t the tools oncologists usually use to attack cancer. But along with powerful drugs and targeted radiation treatments, they’ve all played a big role in helping Debbie Hemmes, a 52-year-old Abramson Cancer Center patient from Westampton, NJ, fight lung cancer. Debbie’s daughter, Kelly McCollister, quickly added her own prescription to the list: a special party during each chemo session to help her mom count down the days until she finished her treatment. Read more

Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center Stands Up To Cancer

August 29, 2012 // Comments Stand-up-2-cancer

Armed with $18 million in funding, a group of Penn Medicine investigators who are a key part of the pancreatic cancer Stand Up to Cancer Dream Team are leading the nation’s most innovative pancreatic cancer research projects, which together have enrolled more than a thousand patients – nearly half the number who are participating in clinical trials for the disease across the board. Read more

Connecting the Dots to an AIDS-Free Generation

July 25, 2012 // Comments Baligh_whitecoat_small

This week, HIV advocates, scientists, and patients gathered at the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. – the first time in 22 years the meeting was held in the United States. The group’s charge: mapping out a strategy to usher in an AIDS-free generation. Read more

Sepsis: Deceptive and Deadly

July 20, 2012 // Comments ER_HUP_2012

Sepsis researcher David Gaieski, MD, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine and clinical director in Penn’s Center for Resuscitation Science, spoke this week with several news outlets about the issues raised by the case of the 12-year-old New York City boy who died of sepsis after his infection apparently went undetected at his doctor and an emergency room. explored the reasons why these infections can be so difficult to identify when they’re easiest to treat: Read more

Behind the Scenes of the Drug Approval Process

June 29, 2012 // Comments

This week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a new prescription weight loss drug – the first in more than a decade. Advocates of the drug, which trials showed helped users lose an average of about five percent of their body weight, say it provides an important new weight loss option for the 35 percent of Americans classified as obese. But the medication, which will be sold under the name Belviq, is not without risks. Some studies showed that it causes heart valve problems, an issue that echoes the reasons why the weight-loss drug combination known as Fen-Phen was pulled from the market in 1997. A Penn medical toxicologist and emergency physician, Jeanmarie Perrone, played a role behind the headlines about the drug’s approval, as a member of an FDA advisory committee tasked with reviewing the data about the drug and making recommendations to the agency about whether or not it should be approved. Read more

Pharmacists Play Key Role in Reducing Medication Errors Among Hospitalized Patients

June 18, 2012 // Comments

Drugs used in hospitals are meant to save lives – to battle infections, kill cancer cells, control pain, steady uneven heart beats, and prevent blood clots from forming when patients are unable to get out of bed and move around. But despite these healing powers, medication errors are common, and the consequences can be severe. According to the Food and Drug Administration, medication errors cause at least one death every day and injure approximately 1.3 million people each year in the United States. And countless so-called "near-misses" with incorrect dosing or drug mix-ups go unreported. In response, the federal government and hospitals across the nation have made cutting medication errors a cornerstone of patient safety initiatives. Baligh Yehia, MD, MSHP, MPP, an Infectious Diseases fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, recently published a study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases examining the prevalence of antiretroviral medication errors among hospital patients infected with HIV. Medication errors are a risk during hospitalizations of all kinds, but HIV patients are especially vulnerable. Read more

Giving Back: New CPR Guidelines for Dogs and Cats Informed by Research in Humans

June 13, 2012 // Comments Pet cpr 1

Pet cpr 1In a unique partnership between veterinary experts and physician-scientists who study and treat cardiac arrest in humans in Penn Medicine’s Center for Resuscitation Science, the same research that is saving patients who suffer cardiac arrests will now be put to use saving the lives of beloved pets. The Reassessment Campaign on Veterinary Resuscitation (RECOVER), announced this month, provides the first evidence-based guidelines on how to best treat cardiopulmonary arrest in dogs and cats. Read more

As Cancer Treatments Surge Ahead, Need for Survivorship Care Grows

June 7, 2012 // Comments

As doctors and medical researchers discover more effective cancer drugs that extend survival and increasingly, turn certain cancers into chronic conditions rather than certain deaths, cancer survivorship care is becoming an increasing focus for patients and doctors in specialties of all kinds. Read more

MyHeartMap Challengers Display Creativity, Persistence

April 27, 2012 // Comments Myheartmap screenshot_01.320x480-75

Over 350 people/teams participated in Penn Medicine's MyHeartMap Challenge, hunting down more than 1,500 AEDs, in about 800 unique buildings around the city of Philadelphia. AEDs were most commonly located in office buildings, gyms and recreation centers, and schools. Each one of the AEDs found represents fresh chances to save lives from sudden cardiac arrest, which claims the lives of more than 300,000 Americans each year.

More Tests, More Answers? Not Always

April 9, 2012 // Comments Screen shot

The Choosing Wisely initiative, announced last week by the American Board of Internal Medicine Foundation, aims to spark conversation among both doctors and their patients about the types of tests and treatments that are likely to be unnecessary, and perhaps even harmful. More tests, the group explains, does not always mean better care – and overuse of these diagnostics is a huge contributor to the United States’ surging medical costs. The issue of overtesting is a special challenge for emergency physicians. Most of the time, patients are unknown to them, and sometimes, unconscious or otherwise too sick to explain their symptoms or medical history. That often means starting from scratch with determining what might be wrong, and making calls to their previous physicians doesn’t always yield answers, especially during off hours. Read more

A Million Chances to Save a Life

February 23, 2012 // Comments Raina Merchant bio picture

Would you be able to find an automated external defibrillator if someone’s life depended on it? Despite an estimated one million AEDs scattered around the United States, the answer, all too often when people suffer sudden cardiac arrests, is no. In a Perspective piece published online this week in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality Outcomes, Penn Medicine emergency physician Dr. Raina Merchant outlines the tremendous potential associated with greater utilization of AEDs in public places. In cases of ventricular fibrillation – a wild, disorganized cardiac rhythm that leaves the heart unable to properly pump blood through the body, which is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death – quick use of an AED and CPR improve a patient’s chance of surviving by more than 50 percent. Read more

AEDS: A Lifesaver, Not a Liability

February 9, 2012 // Comments MHMC_pressrelease flow image

It’s Day 10 of Penn Medicine’s MyHeartMap Challenge, and more than 200 teams have signed on for the hunt, submitting more and more AEDs each day. From the farthest reaches of the city – all the way up in Northeast Philly’s Pennypack Park area to the Philadelphia International Airport in Southwest Philly – and throughout Center City, participants are snapping pictures and sending them to our team. Read more

Penn Medicine Kicks Off Heart Month With MyHeartMap Challenge

February 1, 2012 // Comments Myheartmap screenshot_02.320x480-75

To celebrate American Heart Month, the News Blog is highlighting some of the latest heart-centric news and stories from all parts of Penn Medicine. Just in time for the start of American Heart Month, Penn Medicine kicked off the MyHeartMap Challenge yesterday. For the first time, the wisdom of the... Read more

HUP Puts Patients and Families Front and Center

January 23, 2012 // Comments Advisory council

A year into the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania’s new Patient- and Family-Centered Care Initiative, big changes are in place to help our patients play a more active role in their care, and improve support for their loved ones during stressful -- and often frightening or unexpected -- hospitalizations.... Read more

Exercise: The “Underrated Wonder Drug” for Cancer?

October 13, 2011 // Comments Weightlifting pic

The nation’s 2.4 million breast cancer survivors already have strength in numbers, and they’re a powerful lobby for research funding and public awareness campaigns about early detection of the disease, but ongoing research at Penn Medicine offers them the chance to gain literal strength. Read more

“A Warning Bell About Vaccine Fear-Mongering”

September 21, 2011 // Comments Dr. Arthur Caplan_Speaking BW

Arthur Caplan, PhD, director of the Center for Bioethics in the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, last week challenged Michele Bachmann to produce evidence to back up her televised claims that the HPV vaccine – which prevents the strains of the virus that cause cervical cancer -- has "very dangerous consequences" including causing “mental retardation.”

UPDATE: Hurricane Irene Announcement

August 26, 2011 // Comments

UPDATE: Sunday, August 28, 2011 10:15 AM EDT As Hurricane Irene pulls away from the Philadelphia region, Penn Medicine's facilities - the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Hospital, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center and Penn Medicine at Rittenhouse - report no disruption of service to our patients. We had...

"Mystery Shopper" Studies: A Science, Not a Trap

July 27, 2011 // Comments Rhodes_web

Within hours of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' announcement that they planned to use a group of "mystery shoppers" to study access to primary care across the country, outcry erupted among physicians who felt the study was deceptive and unfair. "Snooping," some called it. A poor use of tax dollars, others said. Days later, the department announced they were putting the effort, which would have surveyed more than 4,000 physicians in nine states, on hold. This week in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Karin Rhodes, an emergency physician and health care policy researcher here at Penn's Perelman School of Medicine -- herself an expert in studies designed using the "secret shopper" method -- responds to the outcry in a "Perspective" piece aimed at taking the so-called "mystery" out of these studies. Read more

Save a Life With Your Cell Phone

July 20, 2011 // Comments Myheartmap

A group of Penn Medicine researchers is set to save lives with cell phones cameras -- and they're challenging the public to help. The MyHeartMap Challenge, a contest that will launch this fall, is sending thousands of Philadelphians to the streets to locate as many automated external defibrillators (AEDs) as they can find. Read more

The Beauty of Healing: New Salon Program Helps Cancer Patients Cope

April 27, 2011 // Comments Nail-beauty-of-healing-cropped

In pursuit of a cure, cancer patients must turn their bodies over to doctors, nurses and family caregivers. But the human touches that are ultimately meant to be healing – needle sticks for placement of chemotherapy lines and blood samples, positioning on the table for radiation treatments and imaging tests, and countless physical exams – often feel anything but soothing. The Beauty of Healing, a new salon-based program for women dealing with cancer that is helping patients at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, aims to inject a unique type of TLC into cancer care. Read more

New Visitation Policies: Comfort During Hard Times

April 22, 2011 // Comments Patient-family

The Joint Commission and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services now formally call for hospitals to make provisions for each patient, if they choose, to be accompanied any point during their stay by a family member, friend or other support person. As part of HUP’s Patient- and Family-Centered Care Initiative, leaders have rolled out new ways to accommodate visitors and help them support their loved ones during these often scary, stressful times. Read more

Inside the Roberts Proton Therapy Center

April 14, 2011 // Comments

We hosted a group of more than 25 journalists this morning from the Association of Health Care Journalists meeting being held this week here in Philly. One of their stops on our medical campus was to the Roberts Proton Therapy Center. Read more

What's Wrong With This Picture?

March 11, 2011 // Comments Patient-safety-fair-2011-019

HUP's Nursing Patient Safety Unit is a simulation set up to highlight common hospital safety issues and errors, sort of like the medical error version of the "What's Wrong?" pictures on the back of Highlights magazine for kids.

Making Medication Safety a Priority

March 10, 2011 // Comments Medication-safety

Medication safety is an important priority at Penn Medicine, and steps are taken throughout the hospital, from the pharmacy to the bedside, to make sure patients receive the proper medications. Read more

Committing to Patient Safety

March 7, 2011 // Comments Pharmacywaynemarq

Penn Medicine kicked off Patient Safety Awareness Week today, with a plethora of activities and training initiatives designed to get our staff members talking about and learning more about something that’s at the heart of our work here: Keeping patients safe while they’re in our hospitals.

New Study Means Less Surgery for Some Breast Cancer Patients. But Which Ones?

February 23, 2011 // Comments

When news about a practice-changing breast cancer study hit earlier this month following its publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association, newly diagnosed breast cancer patients at Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center had questions. Many of the patients who called or brought up the study during their appointments in the days afterward had seen news stories about the study and were confused. Did these findings apply to them? Did they still need the surgery they had planned? Read more

Penn Emergency Doc Brings His Voice to Time Magazine With New "Medical Insider" Column

February 10, 2011 // Comments

Zachary Meisel, an emergency physician at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania who is also a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar, is's new "Medical Insider" columnist. A month into his new venture, he has taken on topics including the patient-directed "Google medicine" phenomenon, why abdominal pain is... Read more

Great Expectations: The Promise of Phase I Trials, Through Patients' Eyes

January 28, 2011 // Comments

A new study out this week from the bioethics think tank the Hastings Center is giving a voice to a group of patients that we don't hear much from -- the cancer patients who join Phase I clinical trials. For any given early trial, this group is small in number,... Read more

Complementary Medicine During Cancer: A Prescription for Hope?

January 13, 2011 // Comments DSC_6189

Cancer patients often say that their illness changed their lives in fundamental ways, both for better and for worse. Studies show that even amidst the uncertainty that the disease – and sometimes even with a terminal prognosis -- cancer can help patients find a new sense of purpose, peace, and... Read more

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