Our Passion, Your Health

Our Passion | Your Health features stories on the latest happenings at Penn State Health St. Joseph. Check out our blogs, recipes, patient stories, program highlights, and new services that represent our passion...your health.

Penn State Health St. Joseph Hand Therapists Help Patients Get Back to Life

An injury to the hand can be devastating, resulting in an inability to perform basic tasks, to work or to enjoy favorite activities. Hand therapists at Penn State Health St. Joseph have seen the results of injuries to the hand again and again, and are dedicated to helping patients improve their conditions and get back to their lives.

Jennifer Neiheiser, a certified hand therapists, demonstrates a therapy technique.

“It’s amazing what you take for granted when it comes to your hand,” said Jennifer Neiheiser, an occupational therapist who has been certified as a hand therapist for 14 years. “Just stop and think about everything you would not be able to do if you didn’t have the use of your dominant hand.”

Hand therapists also treat wrist and elbow problems, and some address shoulder injuries, as well.

Although physicians and therapists have recognized the need for specialized therapy for patients with hand injuries since World War II, the first certification program was not established until 1991.

“It’s a relatively new specialty,” explained Monica Rush, director of rehabilitation services. “People were doing hand therapy, but there wasn’t that structure around it.”

Injuries to hands and fingers are among the most common workplace injuries, and can be complicated because of the way the hand is constructed. There are 28 bones in each hand.

“It’s a lot concentrated in a little area,” Neiheiser said. “When you think about it, your hands are your connection to the world.”

Someone working toward certification as a hand therapist is an occupational therapist with a minimum of three years of clinical experience, completion of 4,000 hours of direct practice in hand therapy, and passing of an exam. Once certified, hand therapists must complete ongoing continuing education in order to maintain their status.

Aaron Dearstyne, occupational therapist, exhibits a device used when working with hand therapy patients.

Aaron Dearstyne is an occupational therapist at Penn State Health St. Joseph who is working toward becoming a certified hand therapist. It is a demanding undertaking, he said, but the work is important.

“Patients who lose the use of one or both of their hands really suffer,” Dearstyne said. “That often leads to depression because they can’t work, or support their families or enjoy the activities they used to. If we can help someone to come back from a devastating hand injury, we’re making a difference.”

A hand injury can be caused by a traumatic event, such as a hand getting caught in machinery or a fall. Hand pain also can be caused by a condition such as arthritis or carpal tunnel syndrome.

St. Joseph is seeing more patients with serious damage to their hands, such as that caused by a crush injury, because patients are being referred to the hospital from Hershey Medical Center. Four or five hand surgeons at Hershey refer patients to St. Joseph therapists, who treat over 100 patients a month on an outpatient basis.

The first step in hand therapy, said Dearstyne, is to work at healing any wounds.

“We work with the physicians and physician assistants at Hershey to make sure the wounds heal properly,” he said. “After that, we can start our work with the patient.”

One of their goals, explained Neiheiser, is to teach patients exercises they can do at home in order to assure that their progress continues.

“Our goal is always to help patients get as much function back as possible,” Neiheiser said. “So, a big part of what we do is teaching patients what they can do at home to improve function and keep their healing going.”

While patients are still being treated at the hospital, they work with therapists in a specialized setting that enables them to practice tasks of daily living and regain as much use of their hands as possible.

While the goal is complete recovery, sometimes that is not possible, Neiheiser said. In those cases, therapists become psychologists and cheerleaders, urging patients to focus on what they can do, instead of what they cannot.

“So much of it is the attitude a patient has,” she said. “If somebody is only thinking about what they can no longer do instead of about the things that they can do, they tend not to do as well. We work really hard to try to keep our patients positive.”

Hand Therapy is available at the Medical Office Building at St. Joseph Medical Center.
Call 610-378-2975 to schedule an appointment or learn more here

Three Physicians and Friends Team up in a New Medical Practice in Robesonia

Similar goals and values, mutual admiration for one another and some fortuitous timing resulted in three friends and colleagues becoming partners in Penn State Health St. Joseph’s newest medical practice in Robesonia.

Physicians Meredith Gable, Robert Mandel, and Roland Newman began staffing the new family practice in May, and have been busy getting assimilated in the Western Berks community.

So far, they report, business is good.

“We do everything from newborn to palliative and hospice care,” explained Dr. Mandel. “Patients have their choice of doctors, but then we will always pick up for each other if one of us isn’t available.”

The physicians met in 2013 when Dr. Gable, 29, and Dr. Mandel, 33, and were residents in St. Joseph’s Family Residency Program and Dr. Newman, 39, was a faculty member there. They got along well, enjoyed each other’s company and discovered that their philosophies regarding the field of medicine were closely aligned.

With graduation looming on the horizon for Dr. Gable and Dr. Mandel , they began thinking about their options.

Knowing that Penn State Health St. Joseph was looking to expand its healthcare services to Western Berks, where it did not yet have a presence, the doctors decided to look into staffing it. They got Dr. Newman on board, and the three of them presented themselves as a team.

“I came to Dr. Newman and Meredith and asked what they thought about us coming together as a group,” said Dr. Mandel. “It seemed like the timing was good, and we all thought we’d be good partners.”

Leadership agreed, and the doctors got working to help design their new office space at 410 E. Penn Avenue in the former Giannotti’s Italian Kitchen, just across from Conrad Weiser High School.

EKG, lab services, physical therapy, and x-ray also are offered at the site.

“We were able to contribute our ideas regarding the design and look of the space,” Dr. Gable said. “We wanted to make it a comfortable and functional place for our patients and staff.”

The doctors also were able to hire their staff and set the tone for the practice.

“We want to offer high quality, comprehensive care in a family-oriented and collaborative atmosphere,” said Dr. Gable.

The doctors work well together, discussing concepts and problems in shared office space.

“This room is our fish bowl of ideas,” said Dr. Mandel. “I can’t tell you how many times a day I turn around to bounce idea thought off of Dr. Gable or Dr. Newman. I think that’s a good way to work.”

The friends and partners are excited about their new venture and are already planning how they’ll expand the practice. Family practice is an important specialty, said Dr. Newman, and in the past residents of the western part of Berks County did not have much high quality family care readily available in their community.

Their practice is accepting new patients, and the doctors are looking to engage community members in becoming partners in their health care. Each of the doctors spends a half day each week at nearby Phoebe Berks Village and Health Care Center, and are looking to become increasingly involved in the community.

“We look forward to working with our patients and the Greater Western Berks area,” said Dr. Newman. “Quite honestly, family medicine is the backbone of the medical system, and all of us are very committed to it.”

Robesonia's primary care physicians are available for adult and children wellness visits and routine screenings, non-emergency illnesses like earaches and sore throats, sports physicals and immunizations, and conversations about your health questions and concerns.
Call 484-987-3456 for an appointment or learn more here

Penn State Health St. Joseph’s welcomes Dr. Jorge Bustillo, Orthopedic Surgeon

Dr. Jorge Bustillo has joined the medical staff and the orthopedics team at Penn State Health St. Joseph. He specializes in the diagnosis and surgical treatment of patients with diseases, degenerative conditions and injuries affecting the body’s bones and joints including sports injuries. He also focuses on the foot and ankle, including Achilles tendon problems, ankle instability, heel pain, flat feet, sprains, and fractures, and is particularly capable of addressing foot and ankle reconstructive surgeries, including ankle replacement.

He completed a medical internship at Greenville Memorial Hospital, Greenville, South Carolina and his orthopedic surgical residency at SUNY at Buffalo. He completed a fellowship in Orthopedic Foot & Ankle Surgery at Allegheny General Hospital, Pittsburgh, Pa.

He is board certified in Orthopedics and is a member of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the American Orthopedic Foot and Ankle Society.

He also has served as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at the Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine.

Dr. Bustillo earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla., and his medical degree at Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tenn.

He joins Chief of Orthopedic Surgery Dr. Martin Ross and Wayne Luckenbill, physician’s assistant, in the medical office building on the St. Joseph Bern Township campus.

Appointments can be made by calling 610-378-2996.