Penn Medicine News Blog Posts by Jessica Mikulski

Jessica Mikulski

Jessica came to Penn Medicine after working for over seven years in media and public relations in the medical association field. She was responsible for media and public relations outreach on behalf of the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery and the American Psychiatric Association, including managing national and grassroots public information campaigns, press outreach for international medical meetings, and crisis communications. She also has experience working in advocacy communications, including regulatory and legislative issues and social media strategy. Jessica attended Susquehanna University where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and later went on to obtain her Master of Arts in Health Communications from The Johns Hopkins University.


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No Magic Number - Penn Medicine Researcher to Be Among Architects of New National Sleep Recommendations

Alarm_Clocks_20101105We’ve all heard it before…“sleep experts recommend you get 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night for optimal health.”

But is that true for everyone? The answer is there really is no magic number.

“For years, members of the sleep research and clinical community have been discussing the issue of sleep recommendations,” says Michael Grandner, PhD, instructor in Psychiatry and member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology. “It’s not like with diet, where we can comfortably recommend a certain number of calories per day based on age and physical activity level. Sleep is a complex puzzle because so many factors play into how much an individual needs, including gender, age, and even your genetics. So a ‘one size, fits all’ block of time may not be the best approach.”

To help solve this puzzle, Dr. Grandner will take part in the first comprehensive review of sleep recommendations in a decade -- the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Time Recommendations Expert Panel (STREP). The STREP initiative, just announced last month, will be comprised of a multidisciplinary team of experts in sleep and from other scientific fields to formulate updated recommendations for age-specific sleep needs.

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Snoozing in Sochi: Penn Expert Discusses Why Athletes Need Sleep for Medal-Winning Performances

OlympicsbedWe all know that getting a good night’s sleep can really make a big difference the next day. You wake up feeling refreshed and energized. Your mind is clear and you can take on the day. And that’s just for the average Joe.

Sleep can also make a critical impact on our ability to perform on an athletic basis. And that’s more important than ever for the top-tier athletes who are taking part in the Sochi Olympics.

“The same way that a world-class athlete needs nutritious food to fuel their body, they need proper rest for peak performance,” says Michael Grandner, PhD, an Instructor in Psychiatry and member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at Penn.  "Insufficient and/or poor quality sleep is associated with weight gain, metabolic dysregulation, fatigue, slowed performance, impaired decision making, and many other outcomes that can impair athletic performance. Also, healthy sleep is important for muscle recovery and repair after exertion, so it may be important for athletes to get good quality sleep in order to avoid injury and improve performance.”

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Art Beat: Penn Medicine Researchers Launch Nationwide Contest to Spotlight Lifesaving AEDs

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The inaugural design in Amtrak's 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.

To celebrate February as American Heart Month, the News Blog is highlighting some of the latest heart-centric news and stories from all areas of Penn Medicine.

It’s a lifesaving device that you might walk by every day and not even notice. Automated external defibrillators, so called AEDs, are lightweight, portable units that deliver an electric shock through the chest to the heart when a person is experiencing a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). These devices are located in thousands of public buildings and businesses in every community, but many in the general public remain unaware of where they are and how to use them in an emergency.

That’s why doctors and designers from the University of Pennsylvania have launched a brand new initiative, called the Penn Defibrillator Design Challenge  to ask artists, designers, and everyday citizens to create and submit eye-catching design ideas for the space immediately surrounding AEDs. They hope that combining public design with an important public health message will help save more SCA patients. It’s a critical mission considering cardiac arrest takes the lives of more than 350,000 people each year in the United States. 

“Unfortunately, AEDs are used less than five percent of the time,” said Raina Merchant, MD, MSHP, assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and director of the Defibrillator Design Challenge, in an interview with WHYY radio.  "That's a huge missed opportunity."  The idea behind the new contest is that by spotlighting AEDs with creative artwork, bystanders will remember where the devices are located and know that anyone can use one on a cardiac arrest victim.

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Penn Medicine Year in Review 2013

With 2014 just around the corner, the Penn Medicine Department of Communications is taking a look back at the many highlights and achievements of our faculty, staff, and students in 2013. From landmark breakthroughs in medical research to system-wide growth, moving forward with new leadership to celebrating milestone accomplishments in patient care, 2013 was another notable year for Penn Medicine. We look forward to the coming year, when Penn physicians, scientists, students, nurses, technicians, and social workers will continue unlocking more mysteries of medical science and finding new ways to heal and help.

Click below for a sampling of research, education, and patient care highlights from 2013 and stay tuned in the coming weeks for our 2014 edition of the Penn Medicine Facts & Figures brochure and the 2014 edition of Simply Because to learn more about how Penn Medicine is committed to a tradition of pioneering medical discoveries and innovations; excellence in training tomorrow’s physicians and scientists; safe and compassionate patient care; and service to the community.

Penn Medicine Researchers Turn to Twitter for Helpful Revelations on an Emerging Addiction Crisis

Twitter_RXOver the past several years, sales of prescription opioid pain medications have more than tripled in the United States. At the same time, researchers have noticed a parallel rise in opioid addiction, overdose, emergency department (ED) visits, and death from these drugs.

Despite these rising figures, addiction to prescription opioids is still widely misunderstood by the medical community and many of the factors that play into a person’s path to abusing these drugs, due in part to the illegal and taboo nature of the problem, are kept secret.

Doctors and other addiction specialists are desperate to find clues into how the line between appropriate use and addiction becomes blurred and now they are turning to social media messages to better understand the roots of this dangerous epidemic.

“As an emergency medicine physician, I am greatly concerned about misuse and abuse of prescription opioids,” said Jeanmarie Perrone, MD, associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Penn and senior author of a new study presented last week at the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) Scientific Assembly that used social media to gain information into this mounting prescription drug epidemic.

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Inside Look: Penn’s Bridge-to-Recovery Research May Help Heal Failing Hearts

An article in the Wall Street Journal this week highlights ongoing research at Penn Medicine looking at a new way to use ventricular assist devices (VADs) for heart failure patients. This same research was also featured in the article “Rest, Recovery, Reconditioning” in a recent edition of Penn Medicine’s System News publication.

Both articles focus on an innovative protocol known as “bridge-to-recovery,” where  doctors at Penn Medicine and a few other centers in the U.S. are embarking on a new clinical trial to see whether or not they can successfully help patients recover  heart function with a left ventricular device (LVAD) after heart failure.

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Penn Medicine Researchers Find Sleep Beliefs Vary Along Racial Lines in Philadelphia

Empty-bedWhen it comes to sleep, Penn Medicine researchers are finding out that some things really are black and white. A new study focusing on the sleep beliefs and behaviors of older women in the Philadelphia area found that older black women in the City of Brotherly Love may be more likely to support certain unhealthy practices, beliefs and attitudes about sleep than their white counterparts.  The findings, published in the Journal of the National Medical Association, also point to differences among black and white women in reported snoring, napping, methods for coping with sleep difficulties, and non-sleep behaviors in bed.

“This study represents one of the first attempts to understand everyday sleep practices and beliefs in the community. Also, this is one of the first opportunities to look at how differences in these practices in beliefs may explain black-white differences in healthy sleep,” said lead study author Michael Grandner, PhD, instructor in Psychiatry and member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at Penn.  “Our results suggests that older black women in our community may be less likely to engage in helpful coping strategies to address sleep problems and more likely to endorse beliefs and attitudes about sleep that may reflect a lack of understanding about the importance of sleep.”

The study included 65 participants recruited from four workshops, held at various community centers in West Philadelphia. All of the subjects were female -- 36 black and 29 white -- with an average age of 69 years.  The women participated in focus groups in which sleep and health were discussed. As part of this, all participants were given a questionnaire to evaluate their beliefs, attitudes, and practices regarding sleep as well as information about sleep complaints.

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Fast, Hot and Ready: Penn Experts Deliver CPR to Your Door

 

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Participants learn CPR at the Mobile CPR Project – Hartford kick-off event.
In the U.S. each year, over 300,000 adults will suffer a sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). More than 90 percent of these victims will die before they reach the hospital, but immediate CPR can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival. Anyone can learn CPR, yet 70 percent of Americans either don’t know how to administer CPR or their training has significantly lapsed.
 
Research has also shown dramatic disparities in CPR training and SCA survival among different racial and ethnic groups. A large study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine specifically looked at disparities in care related to cardiac arrest across the country. Data from 29 U.S. sites were analyzed, with the finding that low-income African-Americans were much less likely to receive bystander CPR when compared to their high-income Caucasian counterparts. A separate study found that up to 76 percent of African American study participants did not know where they could get CPR training. Study participants also cited additional barriers to learning CPR, including the amount of time the training takes, cost, and ability to access locations where the courses are held.
 
That’s why experts from the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine with support of a sponsorship by The Travelers Companies, Inc., have teamed up with the American Heart Association, Hartford area hospitals, community-based organizations and the City of Hartford to launch an innovative community project to bring CPR training to the public at no cost. The new two-year program, The Mobile CPR Project – Hartford, will focus on local communities with low rates of CPR training, using a proctored presentation including a video and instructional kit that teaches CPR in less than 30 minutes.

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Bringing Trauma Care and Research Into Focus

Trauma_Injury_buttonWhile many people carefully research and review which doctors they choose to see for conditions such as cancer and heart disease, most people rarely think about the doctors and nurses that will care for them after a sudden injury brings them to a hospital trauma bay.

Over the last two months, unfortunate events such as the bombings at the Boston Marathon and the recent building collapse in Center City have brought into the focus the critical role that hospital trauma providers play in evaluating and treating patients after catastrophic events.

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Robots to the Rescue: Penn Medicine Pioneers New Way to Treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Can sleeping actually make you MORE tired? For many patients with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), they awake each morning thinking they had a full night’s rest, only to feel exhausted and unfocused day after day. This counterintuitive situation occurs because OSA sufferers may wake up dozens of times an hour or more each night without even realizing it due to pauses in breathing that can jolt a person out of sleep. The staggered breathing is the direct result of the airway collapsing or becoming blocked during sleep.

That was the case for Penn Medicine patient Daniel Sheiner. At 32, his exhaustion was starting to become an issue while he was at work. He would wake up each morning believing he had slept through the night, but never actually felt any of the restorative benefits. After seeking medical help and undergoing a sleep exam, doctors determined that he had a very severe case of OSA. After many failed attempts with standard front line therapies such as lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, and breathing devices, Daniel learned about a new surgical approach for OSA being pioneered at Penn Medicine.

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First University-Wide Media Training Brings Scientists and the Media Together

A scientist's life is a busy one, and sometimes it can include interacting with the news media to share the findings of their research. But talking to reporters is not something most scientists learn in school. The first Penn Media Training Workshop, aimed at science and medical faculty from across the entire University, was designed to fill that gap.

Held on April 5th and organized by the Office of University Communications and the Penn Medicine Department of Communications with funding sponsorship from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, the program provided training for 30 researchers from the schools of Medicine, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Applied Science, Veterinary Medicine, Dental Medicine and Nursing.

 

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“A Whirlwind of Emotion, Excitement, and Celebration” - Post Match Day Reflections and New Beginnings

In their final post, Jon and Martha Kole, fourth year students at the Perelman School of Medicine, reveal how Match Day unfolded and where they will be heading for their residencies. Congrats to all the students and check out the photo series from this year's ceremony!

 

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Jon and Martha on Match Day
Our wish to match in “a city starting with the letter P” has been granted…P is for Providence! We are both excited to have matched into great programs in Providence, Rhode Island! Martha will be completing her OB/GYN residency in the renown and beautiful Women and Infant’s Hospital, while Jon joins the small cohort nationwide to enter the Triple Board training in Pediatrics, Adult Psychiatry and Child Psychiatry. We are proud to be part of Brown University and enjoy coastal living in the Ocean State. It seems like fate, as Martha’s maiden name is none other than Brown.

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Match Day 2013: "The Day is Upon Us"

SLP0519Match Day is here! At the stroke of noon, 161 Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania students (77 women and 84 men) will gather in an emotion-filled ceremony to open their “residency placement” envelopes and learn where they will spend the next few years receiving their advanced medical training.

Jon and Martha Kole, our Match Day bloggers, will be among this group of excited students...find out how they spent the week leading up to today's life changing experience.

 

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2013 Match Day at the Perelman School of Medicine: Waiting for Match Day Together

On Friday, March 15, 2013 at noon, fourth year medical students at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania will learn where they are headed for their residency training, marking the transition from medical school into a lifetime of healing.

This year, students Jon and Martha Kole will be sharing their thoughts and perspectives during this exciting week of their lives! Married and matching, they have a unique perspective on this major stepping stone into a doctor’s future. We'll check back with the Koles throughout the week!

 

IMG_0079On Tuesday, September 29th 2009 we sat next to each other for the first time at a Phillies game sponsored by the School of Medicine Alumni Office. We were both 1st year medical students at the Perelman School of Medicine. Jon, playful and optimistic, and Martha, passionate and pragmatic, couldn’t have been more perfect for each other. Sparks flew and we were engaged 12/12/10, married 4/14/12 and on 3/15/13 we will ‘Match’ together, hopefully in a city that starts with the letter P. Jon hopes to match in a Triple Board program which will allow him to be certified in Pediatrics, Child Psychiatry and Adult Psychiatry. Martha’s dreams are to provide for women within the field of Obstetrics and Gynecology. But until March 15th, we will continue to keep our fingers (and our toes) crossed!

The process has been long, tiring, expensive, and anxiety provoking (Martha) while exciting, engaging, educational, and enriching (Jon). As with any married couple, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Our ‘Couples Match’ journey started on September 15th at 10:01am as we sat in bed frantically pounding the submit buttons on our computers. At 10:11am our applications were officially sent to a combined 47 programs at 16 cities across the United States. The waiting game began.

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Penn Medicine Researchers Take a Closer Look at Sleep and Heart Health

IheartsleepingWhen most people think about ways to improve their heart health, they consider eating a healthier diet, getting some additional exercise, and possibly sipping a glass of red wine each night. But few people really consider the complex role that sleep – yes, sleep – plays in their overall cardiovascular fitness.

Fresh off our Heart Month blog series and straight into National Sleep Awareness Week, we’re taking a look at the major role that sleep plays in heart health.

“Obesity, heart disease, and diabetes are major diseases facing our population. As our knowledge about these conditions increases, we are learning that many aspects of our health, especially when it comes to our hearts, are intertwined with how we sleep,” says Michael Grandner, PhD, Instructor in Psychiatry and member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at Penn. “The connections are complex and we are just starting to scratch the surface.”

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Heart Month Wrap Up: Hot Topics

  

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Mariell Jessup, MD

 To celebrate February as American Heart Month, the News Blog is highlighting some of the latest heart-centric news and stories from all areas of Penn Medicine.

As we wrap-up our Heart Month blog post series, I asked Penn Medicine’s Mariell Jessup, MD, medical director of the Heart & Vascular Center and the president-elect of the American Heart Association, to weigh in on some of the hottest topics in research and clinical care in the cardiovascular community.

Perils of being sedentary

As a physician, I can’t stress this enough…regular physical activity is critical to the achievement of mental, physical, and cardiovascular health, and contributes substantially to that elusive state of well-being that most people strive for.  A sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

The American Heart Association recommends 30-60 minutes of aerobic exercise three to four times per week to promote cardiovascular fitness, but any little bit of exercise helps!  Even taking three 10-minute walks throughout your day counts towards your fitness goals.  Make an effort to build exercise into each day, walking the stairs instead of taking an elevator, or choosing a space at the far end of the parking lot to get in more walking as you enter a store.

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New Hope on the Horizon: Penn Tests Non-Invasive, Medication-free Treatment for Major Depression

Horizon.tms.blogpostDepression is one of the most common types of mental illness. Estimated to affect over 17 million people in the United States, it can afflict anyone at any time. Patients commonly report feelings of sadness, fear, hopelessness, and worthlessness, even if everything else in their lives seems to be going well.  Depression can impact anything from sleeping and eating patterns to concentration and memory, and often occurs with other serious medical conditions including heart disease, cancer, and stroke. While there are many effective therapies available for patients today, such as medications and talk therapy, depression may be resistant to these treatments.

In 2008, patients were granted a potential reprieve from this life altering condition when the FDA approved the use of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS, often referred to as just TMS) for treatment resistant depression. TMS is a non-invasive technique that excites neurons in the brain via magnetic pulses passed through the scalp. It is a safe and effective, non-drug treatment with minimal side effects for patients with major depression who have not responded to other treatments.  Penn’s Department of Psychiatry was at the forefront of researching the use of this breakthrough therapy for patients with major depression and continues to be a leading center utilizing this approach.

Penn Medicine is currently one of the first research sites in the country that is testing the effectiveness of another non-invasive, medication-free treatment called synchronized transcranial magnetic stimulation (sTMS). This is a new brain stimulation treatment that may also help alleviate symptoms of depression. The sTMS system uses low energy, synchronized transcranial magnetic stimulation synchronized to an individual’s natural brain rhythms as opposed to the stronger, high-frequency pulses utilized with traditional rTMS.  Penn is one of only 16 sites in the country testing this new technology.

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Heart Warming: Penn Medicine Cardiovascular Patients Inspire and Thrive

To celebrate February as American Heart Month, the News Blog is highlighting some of the latest heart-centric news and stories from all areas of Penn Medicine.

In honor of Heart Month and Valentine's Day, we're revisiting some of our most inspirational heart health patient stories from the last year. Penn performs approximately 18,000 heart and vascular procedures each year, but every patient's story is unique. Young and old, these Penn Medicine patients, with the help of their care teams, overcame great health obstacles and we are proud to be part of their stories.

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Penn Medicine 2012 Year in Review

Taking a look back, 2012 has been a year marked by breakthroughs in medical research, system-wide growth, and landmark philanthropic support for Penn Medicine. As we set our sights on the year ahead, we also celebrate the past year's accomplishments and give thanks to the outstanding faculty, staff, and students that are the foundation of Penn Medicine.

Click below for a sampling of research, education, and patient care highlights from 2012 and stay tuned in the coming weeks for our 2013 edition of the Penn Medicine Facts & Figures brochure and the 2013 edition of Simply Because to learn more about how Penn Medicine is committed to a tradition of pioneering medical discoveries and innovations; excellence in training tomorrow’s physicians and scientists; safe and compassionate patient care; and service to the community.

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Trauma and Recovery: Tips for Talking with Children about the Connecticut School Tragedy

Steve_berkowitz2Steven Berkowitz, MD, is a child and adolescent psychiatrist and an associate professor of Clinical Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine. He is also the director of the Penn Center for Youth and Family Trauma Response and Recovery. The Center was founded in 2009 in order to offer the most effective treatments for children, adolescents and their families who are suffering from symptoms of traumatic stress and other difficulties after exposure to violence, crime and abuse.

In this blog post, Dr. Berkowitz outlines some strategies for helping children and teens process their feelings in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

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Unraveling Anesthesia’s Mystery

Anesthesiologist_ORDespite their use in approximately 60,000 surgeries per day in the U.S. alone, medical researchers don’t know exactly how anesthetics cause unconsciousness – or what the true long-term impact of their use could be on the brain and the rest of the body.

"The development of anesthetic drugs has been hailed as one of humankind's greatest discoveries in the last thousand years," Max B. Kelz, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, said in a recent US News & World Report article. "Anesthetics are annually given to over 230 million patients worldwide. Yet as a society, and even within the anesthesia community, we seem to have lost our curiosity for how and why they work."

But research advances by Dr. Kelz and other faculty in the Penn Medicine Center for Anesthesia Research, one of the largest programs of its kind in the world, are helping to get to the bottom of this 160-year-old mystery.

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A Runner's Heart Healed

 

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Penn patient Elliot Gordon (right) completes a 12k after open-heart surgery
Over the summer, I started training for my first 5K run. I’ve always been running-averse, but it seems like everyone I know has gotten the running bug, so I decided to give it another try. I “trained” using a simple iPhone app and completed the Penn Medicine 5K for the IOA back in September.

I signed up for my second 5K last week, but I’ve been struggling to find the motivation to keep up with my runs. It seems so much harder now that it’s colder and gets dark hours earlier in the evening. But the next time I start to make up a new excuse for why I can’t get my sneakers on, I’m going to remind myself of Penn patient Elliot Gordon, profiled in today’s edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In April 2009, he was training for the Boston Marathon, what would have been his 43rd such race.  But on the morning of April 5, out of the blue, the usually healthy Gordon started to feel dizzy at his home in Princeton Junction, NJ. Within moments, he passed out.

Elliot was suffering from an aortic dissection, the same condition that killed actor John Ritter in 2003. This serious heart condition results from a small tear in the inner wall of the aorta, causing blood to flow between the layers of the wall of the aorta and force the layers apart. If the dissection tears the aorta completely open (through all three layers), massive and rapid blood loss occurs.

After being rushed to a local hospital, it was determined that he needed emergency heart surgery.  He was transferred to the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP).

At HUP, Joseph Bavaria, MD, vice chief, Division of Cardiovascular Surgery and director, Thoracic Aortic Surgery Program, performed an open-heart procedure to have Gordon’s torn aorta removed and replaced with a synthetic graft.

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LVAD for Life

Heart-signLeft ventricular assist devices (LVADs), surgically implanted medical pumps that take over most of the heart's circulatory duties, offer hope to patients experiencing end-stage heart failure. For those who are not medically suited for a heart transplant, implantation of a “destination” LVAD – meaning they will have the device for the rest of their lives – often becomes their only treatment option. A News Blog post from earlier this year details the amazing advances in medical technology that have allowed many patients with ailing hearts to continue to live productive lives with the aid of these small devices.  

While this procedure can extend life and improve health for many, patients and their families will also be taking on a tremendous responsibility in managing their new device and coping with the lifestyle and psychological ramifications of life with a battery operated heart.  Two recent multicenter studies by Penn Medicine researchers have explored some of the issues involved in helping patients understand how the device will impact end-of-life planning and what is needed from a destination LVAD patient’s caregiver.

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Early Observations: A Hospice Volunteer’s Journey

 

Family Room at the Inpatient Hospice Unit at Penn
Family Room at the Inpatient Hospice Unit at Penn
Last month, I wrote a post in anticipation of starting the training necessary to become a volunteer with Penn Wissahickon Hospice. Since that time, I’ve completed training to become an inpatient hospice greeter and actually volunteered twice. Although it’s still very early on in my experience, I think I’ve gleaned a few insights that I wanted to share.

Perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned in this short time is just how extensive and intensive the training process is – and needs to be – to become a hospice volunteer.

It’s no easy assignment and volunteers need to be fully prepared for a variety of issues in their new roles. Research has revealed that hospice volunteers face ethical issues, including dilemmas about gifts, patient care and family concerns, issues related to volunteer roles and boundaries.

Other studies have looked at how the stress of volunteering can take a toll on the individuals, with some studies (although there are few) finding attrition rates as high as 43 percent. There is very little research that has focused on volunteers, but stress plays a major role (both personal and while volunteering) in why some people choose to stop.

These issues, and many that go unreported due to the dearth of research in this area, compel hospice programs to spend a lot of time and resources to train their volunteers.

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First Look: Working Through OCD

OCDblogWhat if you felt the uncontrollable need to wash your our hands up to 100 times per day? Or were over an hour late for work each day because you had to keep returning home to make sure your front door is locked? Or couldn’t stop yourself from imagining horrible disasters striking everyone you love, or worse, imagining yourself being the cause of those horrible disasters?

Most people can’t conceive of living with these kind of obstacles, but for patients with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), these type of issues are fundamental to their daily lives.

People with OCD have intrusive, upsetting, unwanted thoughts, worries, or superstitions so excessive that they cause significant life distress or disruption. They sometimes spend hours each day performing behavioral or mental rituals to temporarily quell their anxiety. Most people with OCD recognize that their fears are irrational, yet feel unable to resist the obsessions and compulsions. The disorder affects up to 4 million people in the United States, but remains a relatively misunderstood condition.  Events such as OCD Awareness Week, held this year from October 8 – 14, seek to educate more people about this condition.

To help OCD patients, a team of Perelman School of Medicine researchers, led by Edna Foa PhD, director of the Center for the Treatment and Study of Anxiety, are conducting the first study that examines whether one of the most effective forms of psychotherapy for obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), exposure and ritual prevention (EX/RP), can help people with OCD achieve and maintain wellness after they stop taking the medications their doctors prescribe for their OCD.

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Learning the Art of Compassionate Care: A Hospice Volunteer’s Journey

HospicehandsTonight I’m taking part in my first volunteer training session for Penn Wissahickon Hospice, where I’ll be learning how to greet visitors and answer incoming calls to our inpatient hospice unit. This unit was the first such inpatient unit opened in the Philadelphia-area back in 2008. I’m excited and nervous.

I first learned about volunteering with our hospice program through our own Penn Medicine News blog. My colleague, Gregory Richter, wrote a post about an innovative program using Reiki Therapy to help our hospice patients with pain management and to relieve stress and anxiety. His post detailed the hard work of a hospice volunteer, Sharon Civa, Entity Information Officer, Corporate Information Services at Penn Medicine, to get funding for this new program. Sharon has been a volunteer for over 12 years. She first became involved after seeing firsthand how important hospice care is for many patients.

By definition, hospice is a concept of care, designed to provide support to patients and their families when they are facing an end of life situation. Hospice does not prolong life, nor does it hasten death. Hospice programs are designed to comfort and provide physical support, emotional support and spiritual support, including pain management, counseling, and medical care.

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The CPAP Conundrum

SleepingCoupleTo CPAP or not to CPAP, that is the question that an estimated 100 million Americans who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) might face in their quest for a better night's sleep. And for many of these patients, this CPAP conundrum -- whether or not and when to wear the device's mask -- may actually revolve around their romantic relationships, a new Penn study has shown.

OSA (commonly referred to as just sleep apnea) is a sleep-related breathing disorder that occurs when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway, causing the body to stop breathing during sleep. OSA disrupts sleep (both the patient’s and their bed partner’s) and can increase the risk of other health problems such as heart disease and stroke. It can also have a major impact on a person's energy levels and mood.

The gold standard treatment for OSA is continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP. The steady flow of air from a CPAP machine keeps the airway open and restores normal oxygen levels during sleep. This helps maintain a steady, healthy level of breathing through the night.

But even though doctors know that CPAP is extremely effective in helping patients with OSA, research has proven time and again that many patients can’t or don’t want to use the device on a nightly basis.  In fact, one study found that up to 83 percent of patients with obstructive sleep apnea have reported they aren’t sticking with the treatment.

Patients commonly cite a variety of concerns with CPAP therapy -- from the noise the machine creates to facial discomfort from the Darth Vader-like mask they must wear. But the new study from a team of researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Boston College, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, pinpointed another common, and often difficult to admit, reason that they leave their machines at the proverbial bedroom door: less intimacy with their non-CPAP using partners.

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If Hippocrates Had a Touch Screen: Perelman School of Medicine Equips New Students with an iPad

IPad_PSOM 022Last Friday, 163 first-year medical students at the Perelman School of Medicine started their journey to becoming doctors at the annual White Coat Ceremony. And for the first time in school history, in addition to receiving two of medicine’s most time honored symbols -- the white coat and stethoscope -- Penn Medicine also equipped these budding doctors with an Apple iPad 3.

The new program represents the latest step in a 15 year technology investment by the School to bring medical curriculum into the digital age, and enables students to have access to a multipurpose learning tool that they will use throughout medical school, in the hospital, with patients, and beyond, says Gail Morrison, MD, senior vice dean for Education and director of the Office of Academic Programs.

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Coping with the Colorado Shooting Tragedy: Penn Medicine Mental Health Experts Weigh In

Police-tapeIn the wake of the tragic shootings in Colorado last week, people across the country are still in shock as they try to contemplate the meaning behind such an evil act of human nature. Twelve people were killed and 59 more are struggling to recover from the injuries they sustained in the violent attack. And while many of them will make full physical recoveries, the memories of the shootings will persist.  Mental health experts are now weighing in to help both the victims and the general public cope with the inevitable fear, anxiety and depression that can follow traumatic events like this.

At the Penn Medicine Center for the Treatment of Anxiety, Edna Foa, PhD , a world renowned expert on post-traumatic stress (PTSD) and director of the Center, says that the people who were injured in the shootings and the people who lost loved ones are the most likely to develop long-term symptoms of conditions like PTSD.

Common symptoms include nightmares and difficulty sleeping, intrusive thoughts about the shooting,  nightmares, and flashbacks about the shooting, resulting in strong emotional (sadness, fear, guilt) and physical (heart racing, sweaty, upset stomach, shaky) reactions. Some people will also have a loss of interest in their usual activities and experience hyper-vigilance and hyper-arousal. 

“Symptoms immediately following a trauma like this should be expected and viewed as a natural part of the healing process,” she stresses. “We must let these people go through their own process for digesting what happened to them that night. In the coming weeks, support from loved ones can be extremely beneficial to their recovery.”

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867-5309 – Penn Medicine Cardiologists Explore the Benefit of “Telehealth” Devices for Heart Failure Patients

Heart-phoneHeart failure is a common condition that occurs when the heart doesn’t pump as well as it should. More than five million Americans are currently living with heart failure and about 500,000 new cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.  Heart failure patients are monitored routinely in their doctor's office by gauging changes in their weight which can indicate fluid building up in the body a rather crude measure. Patients also sometimes need monitoring of pressures inside the heart, which involves a hospital procedure.

But now, cardiologists at Penn Medicine are testing devices that  allow patients to be monitored from the comfort of their own homes instead of having to make trips to and from the hospital.

A sensor is implanted in the heart or one of the lungs to take pressure readings which are transmitted automatically to the doctor’s office by phone. Medications can be adjusted based on the pressure readings. Depending on the severity of the patient's condition, the provider may check these statistics on a daily or weekly basis to determine the best course of treatment.

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Critical Care Can Lead to Critical Impact on the Brain

CCUEvidence has mounted in recent years that survivors of critical illnesses, such as sepsis and acute organ failure, experience long-lasting cognitive and psychiatric effects long after they have been discharged from the hospital. But many questions about these connections remain. Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine are uncovering some answers through their research on how patients with acute lung injury (ALI) are impacted by neuropsychological impairments, and potentially learning new ways to help prevent these late effects. 

In the United States alone, 200,000 patients will develop ALI each year. ALI, also referred to as acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), is a life-threatening lung condition that prevents enough oxygen from getting to the lungs and into the blood. Medical advances in ALI treatment have led to a dramatic increase in survival, resulting in an expanding population of survivors who must return home coping with problems that stand to impact every aspect of their lives.

Mark E. Mikkelsen, MD, MSCE, assistant professor of Medicine , along with a multi-institutional team of investigators led by Jason Christie, MD, MSCE, section chief, Medical Critical Care, recently published new research examining how ALI survivors from a multi-center trial are being impacted by a variety of long-term impairments. The study appears in the latest edition of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

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Biology of a Sneeze: Rebooting the Airway’s Defense

Scanning electron micrograph of cilia in action in the respiratory tract.Climatologists recently predicted that the 2012 allergy season might be one of the worst on record and based on my own experiences so far this spring, I’m inclined to agree. I’ve been hit hard by congestion, itchy eyes, and worst of all, chronic bouts of uncontrollable sneezing. So when I learned that researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine Department of Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery are in the midst of some interesting research looking at the biology of sneezing, I was quite curious to get the inside scoop.

It might seem obvious -- allergens attack (in the form of pollen, dust mites, and pet dander) and our immune system feels compelled to expel these foreign invaders through a powerful sneeze. But it’s much more complicated than that, especially for patients who already have chronic sinus issues, says Noam Cohen, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. Dr. Cohen is the senior author of a new study, out in the May issue of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology , that examined the biology of the effects of a sneeze on the inner structures of the nose.

“Very little is known about the effects of sneezing on the cells within the nose and sinuses,” he says. “As a matter of fact, almost nothing is known about sneezing.  As an ear, nose, and throat physician who deals with problems of the nose, frequent sneezing is a very common complaint I encounter from my patients.  So we wanted to know: why do people with problems with their noses, such as the common cold, chronic sinusitis, or allergies, sneeze more than people with no problems in the nose or sinuses.”

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Perelman School of Medicine Professors Share their Courses with the World

SOMmapThe Perelman School of Medicine, and other schools from around the University of Pennsylvania, has partnered with an innovative new learning platform to make Web-based courses, taught by some of the world’s foremost experts, available free to the general public.  The platform, Coursera, is the first to host content from multiple world-renowned universities (including Princeton University, Stanford University and the University of Michigan) at one online destination.

"We are delighted to participate in this innovative collaboration that will make high-quality learning opportunities available to millions of people around the world," said Gail Morrison, MD, senior vice dean for Education at the Perelman School of Medicine. "Expanding access to medical science and technology is an invaluable opportunity to better educate the public at large about the true art and science of medicine.”

The online courses include video lectures -- available to anyone, anywhere in the world, with an internet connection -- that feature interactive quizzes, mastery-building interactive assignments and collaborative online forums. Beginning in June, Perelman School of Medicine faculty will provide courses on a variety of medical topics, from cardiac resuscitation to neuroscience.

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Lifeline: Penn Medicine Mental Health Experts Work to Expand Suicide Prevention Strategies in the Emergency Department

Approximately 12 million Americans are seen in U.S. emergency departments each year for mental health-related symptoms. Of those patients, around 650,000 are evaluated for suicide attempts. For many of these people, it’s a frightening stop on the long and painful road of suffering that results from depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.

The usual care for these suicidal patients seen in the ED and other emergency settings is to assess their level of risk in terms of how likely they are to actually harm themselves and then refer them to the appropriate level of care. Typically, when suicidal patients are evaluated in the ED and hospitalization is not determined to be necessary, they are provided with information for outpatient mental health treatment and sent home. But that approach doesn’t necessarily meet the needs of patients or their physicians, who may worry about discharging patients in the midst of a crisis.

“This  ‘assess and refer’ approach can be disconcerting to patients and their families,” says Gregory K. Brown, PhD, research associate professor of Clinical Psychology in Psychiatry in the Perelman School of Medicine. “It can also leave clinicians feeling like they didn’t do enough due to the dire consequences associated with suicidal thoughts in patients.”

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The Affordable Care Act – A “Supremely” Big Debate

This week, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in perhaps one of the most hotly debated cases in recent memory -- whether or not the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ("ACA") – which effectively provides universal health care -- is constitutional.

The law, also referred to frequently by its critics as “Obama Care,” is a major national legislative effort to provide health insurance to more Americans.  At the most basic level, it aims to extend insurance coverage to millions Americans through an expansion of Medicaid and by subsidizing the purchase of private coverage.  Americans would also face a new requirement in 2014 -- to have health insurance coverage of some kind, or face a penalty.

There are two sides to this epic debate. On one hand, supporters of the ACA argue that affordable health care is something all Americans will need at some point in their lives and that requiring citizens to obtain insurance is as fundamental as paying taxes. Experts estimate that there are currently 50 million people in the US who don't have health insurance. The ACA would help to extend coverage to an estimated 30 to 32 million of those people.

On the other hand, some have argued that it is not an economic fact that all people require health care and that Congress exceeded its authority by requiring Americans to maintain health insurance or risk a penalty in the form of a tax.


David_GrandeMDDavid Grande, MD, MPA, assistant professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine and a senior fellow in the Leonard Davis Institute of Health Economics, helps break down this complex case and where the legislation stands now.

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Match Day Madness!

It's the morning of Match Day and medical students across the country are eagerly awaiting their ceremonies. NPR reports on this exciting and emotion filled experience for these future doctors.

 

 

Perelman School of Medicine students will be reporting to Stemmler Hall at 12 pm to accept their match letters. Our bloggers share their thoughts on the final countdown! Good luck to everyone!

Tamara Bockow

Tamara_Bockow_bloggerpicroundededgesIt’s the night before Match Day.  I can’t believe it’s finally here; it’s almost surreal. I am trying to approach this with no expectations. I feel like wherever I match, that is where I am supposed to be. I have to know that things happen for a reason and I’ll end up where I should be. Every place that I ranked is great, and I know I’ll receive great clinical training at any of those places.  However, it would be nice to get my first choice (or maybe even my first or second choice).  I think your residency training shapes the kind of doctor you become. Each institution has it’s own philosophies, and nuance ways of practicing.  Where you train dictates the kind of medicine you will practice – at least to some extent.

Match day is all that everyone is talking about. Med students are making predictions and expressing fears.  All the talk is exciting, but at the same time, it makes me that much more anxious. It’s not like you can forget that it’s happening.

Tomorrow morning a few friends and I are going out for brunch. We all decided that we didn’t just want to sit home alone and “think” about what was going to happen in the next few hours.

I recently read that apparently, the process takes all of five minutes to match the approximately 17,000 med students in the country with all the residencies.  I also found out today that the programs have already been notified about their future residents. Precisely at noon, tomorrow, we will be handed our envelopes, one by one, that hold the key to our future.

 Ben Oshlag

Ben_Oshlag_bloggerpicroundededgesI'm finally starting to get nervous this morning. I didn't really have the chance yesterday, which was jam-packed with moving out of my apartment in preparation for my elective in India, which I leave for tomorrow. Between driving back and forth across the city, and all the packing, lifting, and moving, any creeping anxiety about today was easily pushed to the back of my mind. It was only later last night, when I tried to start winding down, that I could really start to sense how close today was. I managed to get a decent night's sleep, surprisingly, though I am up much earlier than I normally would be on a day I don't have to be anywhere before 11. I'll be packing up one more car-full of stuff before heading over to campus for the match ceremony. Even now, though, I don't know that it's fully hit me that today is the day -- that will probably come when they start reading off names, and I wait for mine to be called. But I can feel the nervous excitement starting to build already, and hope the next few hours of anticipation go quickly, so I can finally find out where I'll be spending the next 3-4 years.

Jess Spivey

Jess_spivey_bloggerpicroundededgesIt’s Match Day morning, finally! My plans:

1. Find Nemo. First, I’ll probably go for a quick swim. I'm an incredibly inefficient swimmer, and focusing on technique takes major concentration. It’ll be a great way to keep from thinking too much about the match.

 

2. Get some sustenance. Match Day calls for a hot chocolate from Wawa.

3. Be lazy. I think I’ll lounge around on the couch for awhile. I might take a cat nap or I might watch The Price is Right, but I won’t feel like a true MS4 unless I make sure to waste some time.

4. Meander over to school. I’ll listen to music on the way. Before every test in medical school, I would listen to a song called “Auto Rock” by Mogwai, so I’ll probably just stick with that. It’s both calming and invigorating, which seems appropriate for Match Day.

5. Rip open a really important envelope. I’ll probably accidentally rip the letter a little bit too, since I’m usually hasty with things like that. I guess these hands were never meant for neurosurgery.  I’ll read the bold part first. If it’s anything like lecture notes, all of the important stuff should be in bold.

6. Relax for three months. Residency spot secured!

Isabela Wieczorek

Isabela_wieczorek_bloggerpicalsoMy boyfriend asked, “how excited are you about March Madness?” I went ahead and made a bracket, but told him I won’t be able to concentrate on games and scores until I have Match Day off my shoulders. As much as I have tried to distract myself today, Match has managed to get rid of my appetite and make my hands shake. Sleep has also been eluding me and I don't think I'll sleep soundly until I know a bit more about what the next 4 years will look like.

I try to picture what will happen tomorrow: my name will be called, I will walk to the stage to receive my envelope, walk back to my seat, and probably have a friend open the envelope for me. When I was a college senior waiting for my MCAT score, my best friend was the one who logged onto the website and told me the grade. Strangely, the process of opening a webpage or an envelope just exacerbates the anxiety I feel.

Tomorrow morning, my boyfriend arrives from a red-eye flight, and my roommate leaves early to go take Step 1 (a very big day for her as well!). My plan is to get up and have breakfast and coffee at home, and then try to squeeze in a workout before the festivities begin. And it will be quite a celebration. After the ceremony we will have brunch and champagne outside of Dunlop auditorium. At 2pm we move on to a local bar for drinks and appetizers, and later many of us will go to dinner and end the night dancing.

13 different cities, 15 different programs… I know that wherever I end up, be it East or West coast, large or small city, warm or cold weather… it is going to be up to me to work as hard as I can to become like one of the brilliant and inspiring dermatologists I met on the interview trail.

Anticipation and Excitement Lead the Way to Match Day

Our medical student bloggers share their feelings on the days (hours and minutes!) leading up to the Match Day!

Tamara Bockow

Tamara_Bockow_bloggerpicroundededgesMatch day is around the corner. I know it’s a few days away, but I am still having trouble sleeping! I know there will be screams, tears and hugs. Penn has the nerve-wracking yet exhilarating tradition of calling students to the front of the auditorium one by one and handing each of us an envelope.  I suppose you can choose to open your envelope on stage or wait until you get back to you seat. I think I might open it at my seat. I want to preserve that tiny amount of privacy; I need to open it alone.

It’s weird to think that our future is so unknown right now. This will be the most important day of my future career thus far. Match day is the day that I will learn my fate; in fact, it’s the day my fiancé and I will learn our fate.  He is currently living in another city and is not in medicine. I am hoping to be close to him, geographically, so we don’t have to deal with a long distance marriage.

Match day is the culmination of years of work. It’s hard to believe that I am now 27, and I have been in school since I was 5! I have worked so hard to get to this day. From organic chemistry lab and MCAT studying to gross anatomy lab and Step 1 studying, it has taken so many steps and careful decisions to get to this day. I know I would never be here if it weren’t for the support and love of my parents.

Match day signifies the beginning of my transformation from a medical student to a neurologist. In about three months, we will begin our future jobs.

Ben Oshlag

Ben_Oshlag_bloggerpicroundededgesYesterday, I found out that I matched. I didn't find out where -- that comes Friday -- just that, come July, I am not going to be unemployed. The truth is, all we got was four words: "Congratulations! You have matched.", and then brief instructions about checking the NRMP website on Friday. Not the most elaborate or celebratory of announcements. Still, those four words, as simple as they were, helped me sleep last night. The uncertainty of the match process can be difficult, and after our rank-lists are in, everything is out of our hands, so it was a relief to finally start to close in on the finish line.

I enjoyed this past fall on the interview trail -- traveling around, getting to know the programs, meeting my future colleagues, trying to decide what kind of residency would best fit me. A smaller or larger program? Academic or community? Three years or four? Where did I want to be, and how important was that compared to everything else? The variety, especially in Emergency Medicine residencies, is astounding. Even among my top choices, there are major differences in the programs, and I know that where I end up will guide the course not only of my next few years, but likely my entire career. I know that no single program is "perfect", and weighing the pros and cons of each was often difficult, but by the time I got to the end, I had settled on a handful of programs I knew I would be very happy and excited to match into.

Since the end of interviews, I have done what I can to keep myself distracted, with rotations, and research, and planning a global health elective in India. But my mind has consistently returned to the anticipation of this week, of finding out what that next step will be. And so I wait, with 150 or so of my classmates, and thousands more across the country, for Friday morning, my fingers crossed with a mixture of nervousness and excitement.

Jess Spivey

Jess_spivey_bloggerpicroundededgesFor me, the start of fourth year brought about both uncertainty and freedom. To avoid becoming overwhelmed by the application process, I tried hard to capitalize on my newfound spare time and maintain a balanced life. I didn’t want to look back and feel I’d forgotten to enjoy my final year of school simply because I was so wrapped up in all of the uncertainty. As such, I’ve stayed active by working on research, keeping in shape, preparing (kind of) for some triathlons, and watching pretty much every free movie on Netflix. I planned some trips, and in April, I’ll be heading to California with some classmates to run a Ragnar Relay. Because of the relative freedom of fourth year, I’ve been able to foster my personal interests, and it has been so refreshing.

 Keeping myself busy, I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to keep from thinking too much about this whole match thing. I knew I would likely match, which was reassuring. Plus, every single program I included on my rank list impressed me, and having lived all over the United States, I felt open to the possibility of training at any of the programs. So up to this point, the thought of matching hasn’t been overly consuming. And when my family and friends have asked about it, I’ve typically minimized the importance of Match Day.

 On Monday, we all received an email outlining the list of Match Day festivities. There’s the ceremony, a reception, two class events, and a mixer the following evening.  My first thoughts were that this all seemed a bit excessive. But thinking about it, when you strip away the congratulatory indulgences, Match Day is about people realizing a longtime dream, and I’m no exception. As much as I’ve tried to downplay the significance of Match Day, the truth is that Friday will be a very meaningful experience. Regardless of where I end up, Friday brings confirmation that I will become an anesthesiologist, and that’s huge.

Isabela Wieczorek      

Isabela_wieczorek_bloggerpicalsoKeeping Myself Busy

Matching in Dermatology is no easy task. I knew I had to apply to a large number of programs and go on as many interviews as possible. Not only this, but I also had to apply to and interview separately for internship, the one year of internal medicine required before starting the 3-year dermatology residency.

November and December were distressing months - would I get enough interviews? The magic dermatology interview number is 8-10, where one can start feeling more comfortable about matching. I waited patiently for my interview invites, checking my e-mail multiple times a day, heart pounding each time my phone buzzed. My worries were assuaged once I surpassed the magic number, and I switched my focus to performing well on interviews.

Although the cross-country flights and long interview days drained me, I grew more and more excited about starting my career in dermatology. I met numerous inspiring, brilliant, and dedicated dermatology residents and attendings – I looked forward to having such top-notch teachers and colleagues. 

At the end of January, I finally settled back in Philly. During the past few weeks, I have kept myself busy with class, friends, and practicing for Spoof, the medical school play. This past Monday I found out I matched - now I wait until Friday to open the envelope that will tell me where I will be for internship and dermatology residency. Meanwhile, I am thankful for all of the distractions in my life that keep me from dwelling too much on Match Day!

 

The Nose Knows: Modern Rhinoplasty Techniques Improve Quality of Life and Function for Patients

Rhinoplasty, frequently referred to as a "nose job," dates back to ancient India but is infamous in popular culture due to the changing profiles of our favorite music and movie stars. The procedure generally involves surgically reshaping the structures of the skin, bones, cartilage, and nasal passages of the nose. 

Aside from the celebrity set, modern rhinoplasty procedures have become an increasingly common surgical procedure over the past few decades for a variety of underlying concerns, including functional purposes and cosmetic appearance. In fact, over 130,000 people undergo the procedure each year, according to statistics from the American Academy of Facial Plastic Surgeons.  As with many other surgical procedures, the technology and practice behind rhinoplasty has come a very long way, especially in the last 30 years.

Now, new research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania indicates that the modern techniques used in rhinoplasty are showing excellent improvements in patients’ quality of life and function as compared to older techniques used for the procedure.

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2012 Match Day at the Perelman School of Medicine

“Match Day” marks one of the most important days in a medical student’s career. Match Day is held annually to announce the results of the National Residents Matching Program (NRMP), which places graduating medical students with residency programs throughout the country. On March 16, 2012, the wait will be over for Perelman School of Medicine students who will open their envelopes revealing the location where they will spend their years of residency training.

Stay tuned over the next week as Penn’s medical students share their thoughts and perspectives during this exciting week of their lives – in their own written words, and on video – via a special Match Day blog and live tweets throughout the day. Family, friends, and news media can follow the excitement via the blog and by using the #PennMatch hashtag on Twitter.

Meet our 2012 Match Day bloggers!

Tamara_Bockow_bloggerpicroundededges

Tamara Bockow

Tamara Bockow is originally from Seattle, WA.  Tamara graduated summa cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania in 2007. She majored in the Biological Basis and Behavior and minored in the Wharton Health Care Management program. Before starting medical school, Tamara spent a year working as a HealthCorps coordinator, teaching inner-city Brooklyn high school students about health, science and nutrition.

Tamara was named a 21st Century Merit Gamble Scholar and given a full tuition merit-based scholarship to medical school.  While in medical school, Tamara has co-authored a textbook chapter on gender differences in the brain. She worked as an associate editor and authored a chapter in a medical nutrition book. Additionally, Tamara founded a new organization and successful mentorship program for Penn medicine female faculty and students called the Elizabeth Blackwell Society.  She has been actively involved in student government all four years, and is the current president, and past co-president of the Student Interest Group in Neurology. Finally, Tamara has been actively involved in the Neuroscience Pipeline Program, a multi-tiered mentorship and neuroscience education program for West Philadelphia high school students. This year she is the head coordinator. Tamara will be matching in Neurology.

Ben_Oshlag_bloggerpicroundededgesBen Oshlag

Ben Oshlag is originally from Memphis, TN, and graduated from Tufts University in 2001, earning a B.A. in Computer Science and Philosophy. After college, he continued at Tufts, earning a M.S. in Computer Science in 2003, before spending five years working for the MITRE Corporation as a Network Systems Engineer. One career-180 later, while working on his post-bacc, he completed training as an EMT, and went on to teach for EMT courses at Tufts and Boston University, providing the initial spark for his interest in Emergency Medicine.

While in medical school, Ben has remained active in the community. He developed specific interests in working with both underpriveledged youth and the homeless population through the HEAL & NYAP programs and Penn's UCHC Clinic. He managed to combine those interests the summer after his first year when he participated in the Bridging the Gaps program, working at Covenant House, a local shelter for homeless 18-21 year olds, to promote healthy nutrition and lifestyle choices with the residents. He has also developed his interest in sports medicine, volunteering as medical staff at Penn Relays and other school athletic events, as well as focusing his scholarly pursuit project on sports-related concussions in children. Ben has also been active at Penn, serving on the Admissions Committee for the School of Medicine for two years, and as the Treasurer for both his class and the Medical Student Government. For relaxation, he enjoys playing in a number of local soccer and softball leagues, as well as attempting to turn his head full of useless information into discounted food at local trivia nights. Ben is applying in Emergency Medicine.

Jess_spivey_bloggerpicroundededgesJess Spivey

Jess Spivey is originally from Austin, TX, and graduated from Colorado College in 2002 with a B.A. in Biology. Following college, Jess volunteered for Americorps as a team leader for the Student Conservation Association. The team focused primarily on wildland fire prevention and suppression, and this experience led Jess to further pursue wildland firefighting. She subsequently became a member of the Midewin Interagency Hotshots, a U.S. Forest Service firefighting crew, and spent several years working on fires throughout the country. Though her interest in conservationism and environmental issues remains strong, Jess ultimately decided to leave the Forest Service to pursue another longstanding interest—medicine.

In medical school, Jess is active as a class representative. She was a coordinator for Guatemala Health Initiative’s annual spring break trip to Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala. A Bridging the Gaps intern, Jess spent the summer after her first year working with a team that provided educational outreach to Latino immigrants in South Philly. Jess is interested in medical education, and served as a clinical course representative during clerkship year. She is also working with Dr. Jose Pascual on a study examining the utility of video review as an educational tool in the surgical intensive care unit. In her spare time, Jess enjoys cycling and soccer, and generally tries to spend as much time outdoors as possible. She completed her first half-Ironman triathlon in 2009 and is currently training for another in June. Jess is applying in Anesthesiology. 

Isabela_wieczorek_bloggerpicalsoIsabela Wieczorek

Isabela Wieczorek grew up in Brazil and Potomac, MD. She graduated summa cum laude from Cornell University in 2008 with a B.S. in Microbiology. While at Cornell, she served as a Vice President of the 2008 Class Council, earning an award for "Outstanding Team Player."

At Penn, she has been active in the Medical Student Government and planned numerous events for classmates ranging from barbecues to Penn's first Multicultural Fair. Isabela also served on the Admissions Committee for two years, and as a recruitment co-chair for the Latino Medical Student Association. After spending a summer in Brazil seeing the effects of skin disease on quality of life, and conducting research in cutaneous lupus erythematosus with Dr. Victoria Werth, she has decided to pursue a career in Dermatology.

iPod-like Advances Changing the Face of Cardiac-Assist Technology

To celebrate February as American Heart Month, the News Blog is highlighting some of the latest heart-centric news and stories from all parts of Penn Medicine.

VADThis month marks the five-year anniversary of Penn Medicine’s first implantation of a temporary total artificial heart (TAH) in a patient suffering from end-stage heart failure. See the full story here.  

In 2007, this device was viewed as a major breakthrough in cardiovascular surgery, used as a “bridge-to-transplant” for patients who were waiting for a donor human heart.  Originally designed as a permanent replacement heart, the TAH device is currently only being used as a bridge to human heart transplant for patients dying because both sides of their hearts are failing (irreversible end stage biventricular failure). 

The patient, a Philadelphia-area native, is still doing well.  While the device was only in place for less than a month (he went to receive a full heart transplant in March 2007) the technology proved to be a life-saving medical innovation. At the time, patients who received a TAH spent their days in the hospital, tethered to a rolling device weighing more than 400 pounds that required frequent monitoring, their artificial hearts ticking audibly in their chests. One HUP patient spent 310 days with the device implanted before receiving a transplant in 2009.

But in just the five short years since HUP’s first TAH procedure, cardiac-assist technology for heart failure has moved leaps and bounds. A separate class of devices, known as ventricular assist devices (VADs), have proven to be an invaluable tool in the ongoing search to replicate the very intricate and delicate functions of the human heart.

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What Becomes of the Broken Hearted? Penn Cardiovascular Institute’s Tissue Bank Uses Broken Hearts to Unlock the Mysteries of Heart Failure

To celebrate February as American Heart Month, the News Blog is highlighting some of the latest heart-centric news and stories from all parts of Penn Medicine.

BrokenheartIt may seem thoroughly unromantic, but researchers at Penn Medicine’s Cardiovascular Institute are hoping for some broken hearts this Valentine’s Day.  But these broken hearts could wind up being the unlikely heroes in the ongoing search for new therapies to treat one of the most common health conditions in the world – heart failure.

According to the American Heart Association, about 5.7 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from heart failure. Statistics also show that, each year, 670,000 new cases are diagnosed and more than 277,000 people will die of heart failure.

Physicians working to understand and develop new therapies for heart failure rely on human tissues for their investigations. Many of these valuable tissues come from diseased or “broken” hearts that are replaced by transplantation or repaired by implanting medical devices that help keep the heart going. One of the world’s largest repositories for this type of tissue resides right here in Philadelphia, at the Penn Cardiovascular Institute’s Human Heart Tissue Repository.

The program, led by Kenneth Margulies, MD, professor of Medicine and research director for the Heart Failure and Cardiac Transplantation Program at Penn, allows surgeons, physicians and researchers to work together to understand why certain heart defects, such as heart failure, occur and how they can be more accurately treated.

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Growing Pains: Adult Congenital Heart Disease Patients Find a Home at Penn

To celebrate February as American Heart Month, the News Blog is highlighting some of the latest heart-centric news and stories from all parts of Penn Medicine.

Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the number one birth defect in the U.S., affecting one out of 120 babies. This group of conditions consists of a defect or malformation in one or more structures of the heart or blood vessels that occurs before birth. Some of the most common forms of CHD are heart valve defects, defects in the walls between the atria and ventricles of the heart, and heart muscle abnormalities that can lead to heart failure. Though some forms of CHD were once considered lethal, dramatic surgical and medical advances over the past several decades now allow more than 90 percent of these children to live into adulthood.

Now, for the first time ever, there are more adults than children living with CHD in the U.S. It is estimated that there are approximately 1 million adults living with CHD in the U.S. alone and these numbers are expected to keep growing by about 5 percent each year.

A major issue for these adults is the common misperception that the surgeries they had as children were "curative.”  Many patients often leave the medical system when they reach adulthood, thinking they are ok, only to return in their late 20s, 30s, or beyond - during a crisis.

Programs that bridge the gap between pediatric and adult care are crucial to keeping these patients healthy. That’s why Penn Medicine and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia joined forces to create the Philadelphia Adult Congenital Heart Center.

“Adults with congenital heart disease are not just ‘big kids’,” says Yuli Kim, MD, assistant professor of Medicine and director of the Penn Medicine Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program . “Many are survivors of pediatric heart disease and others still are diagnosed for the first time in adulthood.  At the Philadelphia Adult Congenital Heart Center, we address the complex healthcare needs of this population by providing comprehensive care to the whole person. Our team includes cardiologists, geneticists, pulmonologists, and reproductive specialists. We have the resources of two world-class institutions to tailor care for each patient.”

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Perelman School of Medicine Joins Forces with First Lady Michelle Obama to Support the Health of Our Nation’s Veterans

Michelle_ObamaThis month, the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania united with First Lady Michelle Obama and more than 100 other members of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to improve the health and wellness of military service members and their families as part of the new Joining Forces initiative

As an advocate of this new initiative, the Perelman School of Medicine has pledged to commit our integrated mission of education, research and clinical care in helping to train the next generation of physicians and researchers to provide the quality of care to our honored veterans.

Penn has a long history of supporting research and clinical care programs that directly benefit our nation’s active duty and veteran military populations. From our mental health professionals advancing treatments for conditions like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), to training military surgeons to manage penetrating trauma injuries on the battlefield and re-animating damaged nerves, Penn’s physicians and researchers have built a fruitful collaboration with their colleagues at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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The Cocktail Party Effect – How Neuro-Auditory Research Helps Out in Social Gatherings

SoundThe holiday party season is over. But for Maria Neimark Geffen, PhD, assistant professor of Otorhinolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine, the party must go on.

The focus of Dr. Geffen’s research is on understanding how the brain processes sound information in the natural world. An example of how this research impacts everyone is a relatively common phenomenon known as the “cocktail party effect.” 

“When we walk into a crowded room, such as a noisy cocktail party, and begin a conversation with another person, it takes our ears and brain  time to process what the other person’s voice is saying against the background of the other voices," says Dr. Geffen. “It may seem simple enough, yet it is an astonishing feat of our auditory system that we are able to do it at all.”

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Deck the Halls, but for Heart Health, Don’t Over Indulge This Holiday Season

Holiday-drinks(3)An extra serving of turkey and stuffing, one too many glasses of eggnog or wine: The holidays have a special way of enticing us to overindulge in our favorite foods and drinks.

But for some people, that extra piece of pie can lead to some scary, heart-related symptoms.

Around this time of year, Irving Herling, MD, director of Consultative Cardiology in the Penn Medicine Heart & Vascular Center, regularly finds himself talking to his patients about “holiday heart” syndrome.

“This is a syndrome where people, who are otherwise healthy for the most part and don't have any underlying health troubles, experience heart palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness , or feel faint after they have been drinking or eating too much,” says Dr. Herling.

The name “holiday heart” was first coined in the late 1970s to describe the presentation of an acute disturbance of a heart rhythm (most often arising from the upper heart chambers or atria) in a person who had consumed a large amount of alcohol, such as during a holiday party. The condition seems to happen to people who are generally healthy with no predisposition for arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms).

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Celebrating 10 Years of Collaboration in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS

 

Flags-cropped On Monday, October 10th, members of the Botswana-UPenn Partnership (BUP) will travel from Africa to join their colleagues on Penn’s campus to celebrate 10 years of medical and academic collaboration.

The partnership began in 2001, when Penn Medicine sent one physician to the southern African nation. That was during the height of an HIV/AIDS epidemic that former Botswana President Festus Mogae said had people dying “in chillingly high numbers.”

“Our original mission in Botswana was to train [healthcare] providers to care for patients with HIV/AIDS and its complications,” says Harvey Friedman, MD, chief, Infectious Diseases Division in the Perelman School of Medicine and current director of the Botswana-UPenn Partnership.

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An Adventure Comes to an End: Lessons Learned from Botswana

Flags-cropped In her final post for the blog series, Perelman School of Medicine student Hayley Goldbach reflects on what she learned during her trip with the Botswana-UPenn Partnership and how the experience has changed her life. We’re glad to have Hayley back on Penn’s campus and thrilled that she shared her adventure with us!

 

 

 

Leaving Botswana and Wrapping Up

Hayley Goldbach

I really didn't want to leave Botswana. Like REALLY didn't want to leave. To the point where I was scheming up ways that I could change my plane ticket (turns out if I didn't fly home on the 10th the next available flight was on the 31st so that was a no go).

But alas, resistance was futile and I had to say my goodbyes. My flight was in the evening but I insisted on a full day at clinic/lab. We had a celebration with the path lab people (complete with a cake we brought to say thank you for putting up with us), hugged all the nurses, checked that the VisualDx was running OK and promised everyone I'd come back as soon as possible. My flight was uneventful and I was home in no time (and by no time I mean a full 26 hours later)  Le sigh. I miss Botswana already.

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Just a "Typical" Day in Botswana

Flags-cropped For many people, a typical day includes waking up, having breakfast, going to work, coming home, having dinner, and going to sleep. Sometimes, if we're being good, we'll sneak in a workout. But then again, most of us aren't studying medicine abroad in Gabarone, Botswana! Perelman School of Medicine student Hayley Goldbach shares what a "typical" day is like for her as she continues her medical school studies (and blog posts) with the Botswana-UPenn Partnership. 

 

 

Hayley Goldbach

Given that today was fairly typical, I thought I'd share my agenda in excruciating detail…

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Keeping (Very) Busy in Botswana

Flags-cropped In a third post documenting her trip with the Botswana-UPenn Partnership, Hayley Goldbach details her busy schedule in Bots!

 

 

 

Week 1 Update

Hayley Goldbach

Apologies for my radio silence as I adjusted to life here in Bots. Part of it is that I have so much to say that the thought of condensing it into a few posts is overwhelming. But before I work myself into a tizzy-I thought I’d start with the basics: what I’m doing here and what my schedule is. One of the coolest things about this trip is the fact that I’m pretty much in charge of myself. I was sent here to help with the vulvar cancer study but I’ve already gotten to dabble in so much more:

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Botswana Bound!

Flags-cropped In a second post documenting her trip with the Botswana-UPenn Partnership, Perelman School of Medicine student Hayley Goldbach lets us know she has arrived safe and sound in Botswana...minus a few issues getting out of the United States!

 

 

 

 Hayley_airport

Hayley Goldbach

Just wanted to let everyone know that I safe, sound, and sitting in the Penn flats in Gabarone. As for my travels: the drool was indeed copious, the lines long and the airline rules mystifying but the bottom line is that I'm here and so excited to begin my Botswana adventure.

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From Philadelphia to Botswana – A Medical Student’s Voyage Halfway Around the World

Flags-cropped This summer, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania  student Hayley Goldbach will travel to Botswana as part of the Botswana-UPenn Partnership to study dermatology and women’s health.

The program that Hayley is participating in was formed by the Government of Botswana, the University of Botswana, and the University of Pennsylvania in 2001 to build capacity in Botswana in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Penn has taken a broad interdisciplinary approach to train health care personnel throughout Botswana in prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and its complications, to develop outstanding post-graduate training programs at the University of Botswana with an emphasis on Internal Medicine and its subspecialties, to offer experience in global health to Penn trainees, and to develop joint research programs that address issues relevant to the health and welfare of the citizens of Botswana.

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What's Next? The Day After Medical School Graduation...

In her final post to the graduation blog, the newly minted Dr. Jenny Rowland describes her graduation experience and shares what's next for her as she continues her travels down the path to becoming a physician healer. Congratulations Dr. Rowland...we'll be here waiting for your return.

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Graduation: Finally Adding "MD" After Your Name

In her second post to the blog, as the day of graduation approaches, medical student Jenny Rowland ruminates on when she will officially be a "doctor" and her journey to adding "MD" after her name.

The Moment of Graduation

Jenny Rowland

My six-year-old just asked me, “Mom- when do you get to be a doctor?”  I paused to think about her question.  Do I tell her tomorrow - the day I graduate from medical school and can write MD after my name?  Do I tell her six years – the time it will take me to finish intern year, radiology residency, and a fellowship?  Or, do I tell her whenever I feel competent enough- and who knows when that day will be?  I told her “July”- one and a half months from now when I start intern year- and she said, “oh- that’ll take forever.”  If she only knew.

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Milestone Moments: 2011 School of Medicine Graduation

On May 15, 2011, 147 students will embark on their careers as doctors as they graduate from the School of Medicine. Not only will it be a memorable milestone for the students, but also for the School of Medicine itself.

This year’s graduation ceremony will serve as the final commencement for students and faculty under the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine moniker. It was just announced that the School of Medicine has been given the largest single gift ever to the University of Pennsylvania, $225 million from Philadelphia philanthropists Ruth and Raymond Pearlman. It is also the largest single gift to name a medical school in United States history. In 2012, students will officially graduate from the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

It will also be the final graduation ceremony for Arthur H. Rubenstein, MBBCh, Executive Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and Dean of the School of Medicine. Dean Rubenstein announced last year that he will be stepping down from his position in June 2011. He will present the commencement address and symbolically bid the students and faculty a fond farewell after10 years of extraordinary service to the School of Medicine.

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Home Sweet Home at Penn

In our final 2011 Penn Med Match Day post, Katie Baratz Dalke reveals she'll be staying right here at Penn for her residency in Psychiatry and she might even get a puppy out of the deal too! We are also pleased to note that Danielle Brown has matched at Penn for residency in General Surgery. To watch all of the excitement unfold, be sure to check out the entire Penn Med 2011 Match Day video!

Katie receives her match envelope.

Katie Baratz Dalke

Well, the Match has come and gone.  I am thrilled to announce that I got my first choice, a Psychiatry residency here at Penn! Not only do I absolutely love the program (especially the amazing faculty with whom I'll get to work), it means that I get to stay in Philly with my husband, Sam.  We love the city and are excited to be finally together after 4 years of long distance. 

I can't wait to get started in mid-June.  It will be so exciting to stay a member of the Penn family and to start working with Penn medical students! Until then, though, I'm going to try to enjoy my time off.  I'll finish up my Masters in Bioethics and travel to spend time with my family and Sam.  And we're hoping to adopt a puppy (which I'd like to call Match, seeing as we chose the one we'd like on Match day)!

 Oh! I almost forgot--we have two performances of Phallus in Wonderland, this year's Penn Med Spoof, this Saturday, March 26, at 4pm and 7pm in Dunlop auditorium.  For information, please email [email protected].

St. Patrick's Day Luck for Matching Medical Students

Match Day was an absolutely beautiful - and lucky - day for our three medical student bloggers. In our first post-Match post, Renee Betancourt takes a moment to share her exciting residency placement  news.

Renee Betancourt and her spouse

Renee Betancourt

I matched at the University of California San Francisco Family Medicine Residency Program. I am so thrilled about this program. The program's focus on underserved medicine is what attracts me most, followed in short order by the stellar primary care research, diverse and talented residents, and the beautiful city of San Francisco. My spouse and I are already trying to learn about the different neighborhoods in San Francisco and planning our big move across the country. I feel so lucky, like I'm on a cloud. I'm so proud of our class, many of whom matched into incredibly competitive programs. Luckily for me, there's a little cohort of Penn Med 2011 folks heading out to San Francisco. West Coast - here we come!

Renee was also interviewed by KYW Radio - check out the story here.

See the full suite of Penn Medicine Match Day news, as well as last year's Match Day student blogs, at the Penn Medicine Match Day feature site.

Staying Busy on Match Day Morning...

It's the morning of Match Day (and St. Patrick's Day!) and medical students across the country are on the edge of their seats waiting for 12 p.m. to finally come. In our latest blog post, Renee Betancourt shares her Match Day morning ruminations and her plan for the day.

We encourage all the Penn Med Match Day students to share their thoughts throughout the day by using the #PennMatch hashtag and by following @PennMedicine on Twitter. Good luck to everyone!

Renee-headshotRenee Betancourt

Finally, Match Day is here. The anticipation continues to mount. Ever since Monday, when I found out by email that I matched (somewhere), I haven't been able to sleep past 2:00 in the morning. And last night was no different. I awoke at 2, 4, and then let my mind run wild from 5 until 6, when I finally got out of bed. I need a plan to keep me sane for these next six hours. So here it is:

  • Go for a run around Clark Park
  • Finish the run at one of the local coffee places (maybe Green Line) and pick up some fresh croissants
  • Distract myself by preparing and then sitting down to a very gourmet brunch (brie-stuff croissant french toast with berry compote and maple syrup)

If I still have extra time, I'll do the dishes! Stay busy -- that's the mantra.

I'm currently on a rotation right now and it's great to have the whole medical team behind me. Yesterday, everyone -- residents, fellows, and attendings alike -- recounted their own Match Day stories to me. And when noon rolled around, everyone looked at me as if to say, "This time tomorrow..." Well now, it's here. Soon, I will have my own Match Day story. And next year, I'll join the ranks of physicians who wistfully remember the day they got their envelope.

See the full suite of Penn Medicine Match Day news, as well as last year's Match Day student blogs, at the Penn Medicine Match Day feature site.

The Culmination of Medical School

In a new vlog clip added to our Match Day blog, Danielle Brown describes the match day process and her anticipation as she awaits her surgical residency placement.

 

See the full suite of Penn Medicine Match Day news, as well as last year's Match Day student blogs, at the Penn Medicine Match Day feature site.

The Future Is Right Around the Corner

In a new update to our Match Day blog, fourth-year medical student Renee Betancourt, hoping to match in Primary Care, shares her thoughts as she eagerly awaits her match results and a cross country move to continue her medical education.

Renee-headshotRenee Betancourt

I can't believe that Match Day is finally around the corner. Now the idea of taking on the role of physician is becoming real. While I was interviewing at different programs and when I was making my decisions about the programs, the idea of being a physician remained a theoretical one. As Match Day approaches and I know that I will step into that role next year, I find that I am more critical of myself as a clinician than before. If I don't know the answer to a question, or if I forget an aspect of the History and Physical, I remind myself that next year, my mistakes could have real consequences. Now I understand the zeal with which residents scan new review articles and UpToDate. Good can always be great, and great can always be perfect.

In the meantime, almost all of the programs on my rank list are on the West Coast. So I am also looking forward to and anxious about my new future city, likely at least 3,000 miles away. My spouse and I cannot wait to open the envelope to find out the destination of our cross country move. Our families are from Philadelphia. My mom, grandmother, and mother-in-law will all sit around us as we get the news. I know that they're sad that we're leaving, but they've already started looking into various frequent flyer programs for visits.

I am enthusiastic about all of the programs at the top of my list (1, 2, and 3). Interestingly though, they're quite different from one another. Each program emphasizes a different aspect of Family Medicine that thrills me. So part of my anticipation is in wondering about the type of education I will receive next year. Will it be in a large academic medical center? In a tightly-run community hospital? Will I be admitted to a program that also offers me the opportunity to pursue an MPH during residency? All of these questions run through my mind. Soon enough, I'll find out.

See the full suite of Penn Medicine Match Day news, as well as last year's Match Day student blogs, at the Penn Medicine Match Day feature site.

The Journey to Match Day

 

At the stroke of noon on Thursday, March 17, 147 University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine students will gather in an emotion-filled ceremony to open their “residency placement” envelopes and learn where they will spend the next few years receiving their advanced medical training.

Match Day is the climax of a process that began in the fall through the National Residency Matching Program (NRMP), which helps pair graduating medical students with the hospital or medical center of their choice. But really it’s the culmination of years of hard work, sleepless nights, and personal and professional fulfillment that medical students face on their way to becoming doctors.

In her first post to this blog, Penn fourth-year medical student Katie Baratz Dalke looks back on her path through medical school and shares her hopes for the future.

A Light At the End of An Email

Katie-headshotKatie Baratz Dalke

The last year has found me unusually attached to my email.  Not just in my typical "Is there a sale at Banana Republic?" or "Did my Bioethics Masters advisor answer that question?" manner, but in an existential and emotional way.  It’s to the point that my husband says that my relationship to my email is more significant than ours.  He’s joking.  I think...

My tumultuous love-hate relationship with my email began last summer, when ERAS (the online residency application service) opened for business.  As I compiled my application for a residency in Psychiatry, email was beautiful, a way for me to contact the people who wrote me letters of recommendation and to get help from my advisors about my personal statement.  Together, email and I reflected on my time at Penn Med, remembering my amazing months on psychiatry at the VA and at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and the wonderful mentoring relationships I’d developed with attendings in Psychiatry as well as in Pediatrics, Internal Medicine, and Radiation Oncology.  We recalled the way that my extra-curricular experience working with and advocating for patients with chronic medical diagnoses  helped me to realize that medicine is, for me, helping people to cope with illness and enabling them to achieve the best quality of life possible.  The summer was hot, the Phillies were winning, and life with my email was good.

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A Change of Heart

On Tuesday, the American Heart Association released new guidelines for the prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in women.

According to the AHA, in 2007, CVD caused about one death per minute among women in the U.S. This represents over 420,000 deaths -- more deaths than cancer, chronic lung disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and accidents combined. And as CVD is the leading cause of death in women in every major developed country, there is a strong need to provide doctors and patients with evidence-based recommendations on how to address this monumental health problem.

Mariell_jessup_hvc The panel of experts convened to put the new guidelines together warns that awareness of  specific CVD risk factors continues to be a barrier to women for receiving optimal care. So I decided to ask Penn’s own Mariell Jessup, MD, medical director of the Penn Medicine Heart and Vascular Center and an international expert on women’s heart health, to explain how these new guidelines will help fight CVD.

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New Diagnostic Tools and Advanced Research Go Hand-in-Hand to Prevent Heart Disease

Massheartphoto2Physicians and scientists at Penn Medicine are combining the power of new diagnostic tools and advanced research to help patients learn about their cardiovascular health and prevent disease. This month – celebrated as American Heart Month  by health professionals across the country – is the perfect time to highlight some of these efforts and the importance of awareness and prevention of heart disease.

As heart disease is the number one killer in America, understanding the risks and taking the right preventive steps for those who are at risk is critically important.  New research  released this week from the CDC shows that most Americans are not doing enough to control their high blood pressure and high cholesterol, two major contributors to heart disease, despite access to low-cost, effective treatments.

For patients who have some risk factors, Penn Medicine is now taking prevention a step further by offering a personalized genetic test to determine if they are at greater genetic risk for heart disease. The new test will identify eight potential warning signs in patients’ DNA. Knowing helps doctors develop prevention plans tailored to the individual's needs.

Daniel J. Rader, MD, director of Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine and Lipid Clinic at Penn Medicine recently discussed this new test in a news interview.

“This test gives us increased information about the probability of developing a very serious potentially fatal disease and allows us to tailor our therapies more specifically to that individual based on their genetic makeup,” said Dr. Rader.

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A Unique View from the Head of the Operating Table

For many of us, the new year is a moment to reflect on opportunities for change in our own lives. Taking on a new exercise regimen or resolving to save more money are common and laudable goals, as many of us seek to be healthier and manage our finances more wisely. But many of us know that all too often, something that seems so simple may nonetheless be hard to attain.

And when it comes to change on a much bigger scale – making people healthier while saving money throughout the U.S. healthcare system – similar principles apply. What seems simple isn’t always so. Healthcare reform was passed last March, and debates continue surrounding difficult questions related to the utilization and costs of healthcare in the U.S.  And with the new year a whole new slate of healthcare reform changes have gone into effect. Perhaps one of the biggest areas of debate is a challenge faced by policy-makers, physicians, patients and families alike: how to deliver care (or receive it) that values the preferences of patients and their families while also controlling the rising costs in medicine?

A recent perspective published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Mark Neuman, MD, assistant professor of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, offers new insights into this question from the standpoint of physician decision-making.

Dr. Neuman was prompted to write the perspective after he watched a popular YouTube animated video* where a surgeon and an anesthesiologist negotiate performing a surgery on a new patient. The snarky theme of the video – made humorous through adorable animated characters – struck a chord with Dr. Neuman and many others in the medical community.

I recently spoke with Dr. Neuman about his views on the issues from the head of the operating table…

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