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 Berks Students Create Videos for St. Joseph

Penn State Health St. Joseph and Penn State Berks celebrates another successful collaborative partnership. Under the instruction of Dr. Kesha Morant Williams, Associate Professor of Communication Arts & Science, the students partnered with Penn State Health St. Joseph Marketing and Medical Group Administration to complete their service learning and community based research project that captures – through video – what Penn State Health St. Joseph is all about.

Under the instruction of Dr. Kesha Morant Williams, Associate Professor of Communication Arts & Science, the students wrote, designed, and directed three “ready to go-live” videos focusing on what makes Penn State Health St. Joseph unique – its services, architecture, innovation, and people. We encourage you to grab some popcorn and take it all in.


Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Innovative Care showcases what makes Penn State Health St. Joseph unique and special including the design of the building and its innovative services.


A Glimpse into Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Culture is a warm portrayal of the people and culture at Penn State Health St. Joseph.


WE ARE Penn State Health St. Joseph highlights what Penn State Health St. Joseph is all about.

Cancer Center Expansion Offers New Cutting-Edge Treatment Options for Berks Community

The Nittany Lion joined in the festivities as a crowd of 75 celebrated the groundbreaking of a new $5.5 million addition to the Penn State Health St. Joseph Cancer Center in April.

By year’s end, patients in the Berks region will benefit from faster, more targeted radiation treatments that are also more comfortable, more precise and come with fewer side effects.

“Our overall mission is to bring hope and healing closer to home, and this allows us to make that happen,” said Dr. Navesh Sharma, associate professor of radiology and chief of radiation oncology for the Cancer Center.

Scheduled to open by year’s end, the 2,400-square-foot addition will accommodate both a growing patient base, as well as a new, state-of-the-art TrueBeam® linear accelerator.

“With this TrueBeam® technology, we have some extremely sophisticated tumor tracking and imaging capabilities,” says Karen Wagner, St. Joseph’s director of oncology services. “The real value of this technology is that it will enable St. Joseph to offer patients options that were previously unavailable here.”

For patients, the expanded Cancer Center will offer a few key benefits:

  • Health care providers can tailor individualized treatment plans much more precisely, drastically reducing treatment time
  • More patients will qualify for nonsurgical alternatives that are less invasive, faster to perform and offer faster recoveries
  • Local patients receive state-of-the-art treatment closer to home

The hallmark of the TrueBeam® linear accelerator is a powerful combination of 2D, 3D and 4D imaging that is updated every 10 milliseconds, monitors a patient’s breathing and body movement and permits faster, more potent radiation doses directly to a tumor site without damage to surrounding tissue or nearby organs.

Dr. Marc Rovito, medical director for the St. Joseph Cancer Center, expressed his gratitude to Penn State Health for its continued commitment to providing high-quality care locally.

“Currently, these patients have to go elsewhere for the TrueBeam® treatment option, but they will not in the future,” Rovito said. “Through Penn State Health providers, cancer patients will have access to the incredible resources of a renowned university teaching and research hospital while receiving high-quality care close to home.”

St. Joseph Cancer Center provides state-of-the-art cancer treatment, including genetic education, counseling and testing for people at high cancer risk, minimally invasive internal radiation therapy for liver tumors and cutting-edge clinical trials research for new cancer treatments.

Penn State Health St. Joseph Cancer Center Cancer Center features a multidisciplinary team of specialists who are dedicated to accurate cancer diagnosis and staging, innovative and appropriate treatment, collaborative relationships with each patient's physicians, and attention to the care of patients and their families. If you or loved one would like to learn more, contact us at 6140-208-8810 or email at info@thefutureofhealthcare.org

Berks Rheumatologist Also Happens To Have Rheumatoid Arthritis

Reading Eagle: Tim Leedy | Dr. Amal Kebede

Dr. Amal Kebede examines patients for a living, guiding them on a path toward relief.

As a specialist in internal medicine and rheumatology, Kebede works with people who are dealing with pain, stiffness and swelling. She addresses complex problems when the immune system has gone awry or patients have aches that won’t go away.

“I don’t know that I chose rheumatology,” said Kebede, who works for Penn State Health St. Joseph. “I think rheumatology chose me.”

When Kebede says this in her office in Exeter Township, she is not just a young doctor waxing poetic about her passion and specialty. She’s telling part of her life story.

Kebede doesn’t just treat patients with rheumatoid arthritis; she has it herself.

“It’s huge for patients to know that their doctor knows what it’s like to sit on that crinkly paper and what it’s like to be examined, rather than just a doctor telling you to do this and this and this,” Kebede said.

Kebede, 35, is a Wilson High School and Albright College grad who completed her medical training at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. After practicing in Lancaster, she recently returned home to work at Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Exeter Ridge Health Complex.

As she continues her medical career in Berks, Kebede carries an optimism and a positivity that shines through.

For a patient receiving a scary diagnosis, that can make all the difference.

“If you work hard, you can overcome obstacles and you can do anything,” she said. “I want to empower patients who are in a similar situation to me that you can do anything.”

Early diagnosis

Kebede acknowledges that she is a bit of an exception to the rule.

Her rheumatoid arthritis was caught over two decades ago when she was just 13 years old.

Kebede remembers walking into a pediatrician’s office, thinking she’d get a clean bill of health. She told her doctor she couldn’t crack a knuckle in her hand, and that prompted an X-ray that got the ball rolling toward her diagnosis.

“It’s a different sort of experience because I didn’t start off with having pain,” she said. “Over the years, more joints became involved and pain became a bigger issue, and then it became about controlling that with medications and physical therapy and exercise.”

Kebede said the diagnosis could have felt scary at the time, but she was only 13, and she’s had a long time to come to terms with it.

At 35, Kebede says there are a few ways she notices rheumatoid arthritis in her life.

“There are certain things I can’t do because of chronic damage and weakness from inflammation,” she said. “Pumping a blood pressure cuff with my left hand, I can’t do that, turning door knobs with my left hand, clipping fingernails on my right hand.”

She takes stairs one at a time, and it’s a 30-minute process to get to the bathroom and back when she gets up in the morning.

“As a 30-something-year-old person, I should be able to run up and down those stairs,” she said.

About rheumatoid arthritis

Kebede’s symptoms from over two decades of arthritis may seem like a lot, but they are not the end of the world, she said. Her condition is well-controlled, and it hasn’t stopped her from earning her medical degree, getting married or having children.

For many patients, medicine has evolved to the point that rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic condition that is very manageable; it’s not a crippling or disabling one.

“Once treatment is initiated, you can slow and in most cases halt the progression of the disease,” she said. “You can prevent people from having disabilities or joint deformities in the future, which is huge. From a productivity standpoint, they can function in their home, remain independent, continue to go to work.”

The cause of the disease is not yet known, but it happens when the body’s immune system attacks joints and organs. That creates persistent inflammation that can break down and damage joints over time.

It affects the fingers and knuckles, hips and knees and shows up in the ankles, toes, wrists and elbows.

“Simple things that people take for granted I just can’t do,” she said. “But I feel fortunate that I had access to care, and I had an excellent doctor and we were able to keep things under control.”

When it comes to arthritis and being healthy, that access is crucial, she said.

“People who have untreated rheumatoid arthritis can have pain, swelling, decreased range of motion, increased difficulty doing simple tasks,” she said. “They can go on to develop premature heart and lung issues, heart attacks, strokes, cancers related to rheumatoid arthritis.”

Firsthand experience

Linda McCormick does not remember when she first started going to Kebede, but she’s been under her care for a few years.

The 69-year-old Reading resident said she has been dealing with mild arthritis in her hands and knees for years, but only decided to see a specialist when the pain started to increase.

McCormick said she was drawn to Kebede by her warm smile and got a sense that she would be a caring doctor. She had no idea about her backstory.

“She knows what it’s like to have pain in your fingers and knees and how difficult that is to deal with sometimes,” she said. “That means a lot. I think most doctors are not going to have that experience with such a disease. They may be knowledgeable about what medications to suggest or what treatment to suggest, but that real compassionate care comes out of her really knowing what that’s like.”

Kebede said her personal experience helps show patients that there’s plenty of hope after the diagnosis, but it also helps when discussing treatment options.

She knows the medications that halt the progression rheumatoid arthritis can come with some harsh side effects, and that is an important thing to consider.

“We never take prescribing medicine lightly,” she said. “Some of our medications can have some toxicities. We have to weigh those benefits and risks. We have to compare that with not being on treatment at all and the risk of the disease itself.”

The future

At 35, Kebede has a lot of years ahead of her, and she knows there will likely be other issues stemming from her rheumatoid arthritis.

As an example, she’ll probably need a knee replacement earlier than other people.

“Sometimes, knowing too much is also a bad thing,” she said. “I think about what the future holds for me. I know I have higher risk than the average person for heart disease because of long-standing chronic inflammation.”

But she also believes more work is happening to get to the cause of her condition and new therapies and medications could be on the horizon.

In the meantime, she carries that optimism and hope with her wherever she goes while encouraging patients to do the same.

It’s worked out pretty well so far, she says.

“I’m here to tell you it isn’t necessarily what you are afraid of,” she said. “You can have a good outcome from this disease, and I’m that example.

“A lot of patients respond really well to that.”

Types of pain

Osteoarthritis: The protective cartilage inside the joint breaks down, making movement of affected joints more difficult and painful. In time, bones of the joint may rub directly against one another, causing severe pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis: The joints and other organs are attacked by the body’s own immune system. The immune system primarily goes after the lining of the joints, called the synovium. Over time, the persistent inflammation breaks down the joint and damages it permanently.

Psoriatic arthritis: An autoimmune inflammatory disease in which the immune system attacks the body, causing inflammation and pain. Psoriatic arthritis affects the joints, causing arthritis; the connective tissue where tendons or ligaments attach to bones, causing enthesitis; and the skin, causing psoriasis.

Fibromyalgia: Is considered a central pain syndrome in which the brain and spinal cord process pain signals differently. A touch or movement that doesn’t cause pain for others may feel painful to you. Something that is mildly painful to someone without fibromyalgia may hurt you even more. It is characterized by widespread pain that may come and go or be constant. It’s also associated with fatigue, sleep problems, inability to concentrate and mood troubles.

Gout: A form of inflammatory arthritis that does not cause body-wide inflammation the way rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis does. In gout, uric acid crystals cause problems, resulting in extremely painful joint inflammation. Gout usually affects the large joint of the big toe, but also affects other joints.

Source: arthritis.org.

Medical Fitness Program Keeps Patients Moving and Motivated

Before lung transplant surgery eight and a half years ago, Margie Pratt of Douglassville found herself in an extremely difficult position.

Suffering from severe lung disease, Margie was desperate for the surgery, as she required constant use of oxygen and had very limited physical ability.

In order to qualify for the surgery, however, she needed to be able to walk 600 feet in six minutes. To put that into perspective, she needed to be able to walk the length of a football field, turn around and walk back to the starting point within six minutes.

While that would not be difficult for most healthy people, it seemed nearly insurmountable to Margie. Until, that is, she met up with Cheryl Tutella, a Penn State Health St. Joseph Clinical Exercise Physiologist.

Cheryl would meet Margie in the parking lot with a wheelchair and escort her into St. Joseph’s medical fitness exercise facility in Exeter Township. Once inside, she would work one-on-one with Margie, who eventually was able to meet her goal and qualify for the transplant.

These days, Margie exercises after the fitness center several days a week, combining a cardio workout with strength training.

“Before my surgery, Cheryl took me into a back room and worked with me,” Margie recalled. “I couldn’t even talk. It was really, really bad. I give all the credit to her and this facility for helping me prepare for the transplant.

The beauty of St. Joseph’s medical exercise program is that participants are closely supervised, and any issues can be detected before they become serious problems. New member are extensively evaluated, and re-evaluated each year. And, Cheryl keeps an eye out for any potential problems on a daily basis.

That’s how she was able to intervene when cardiac rehab patient Joe Kurpiewski of Exeter Township started experiencing a decreasing heart rate in March.

Joe, who had a valve replacement in September 2016, had been to see his cardiologist just a couple of weeks earlier, but had begun not feeling well since then. Cheryl was monitoring his heart rate and was concerned that it was getting lower.

One day he came in feeling poorly, and Cheryl made the decision to contact his cardiologist.

“We picked up on the problem and interfaced with his cardiologist,” she said. “It turned out that he needed a pacemaker, and he got to the hospital and had one installed.”
Joe’s wife, Joanne, who is a nurse, said Cheryl’s intervention was key.

“She knew that something wasn’t right and she wouldn’t ignore it,” Joanne said. “She was our hero, that’s for sure.”

Dr.Fay Weaver, a retired physician who lives in Exeter Township, is recovering from her second knee replacement. While the gym has been key in her rehabilitation, she also enjoys the social aspect of the facility.

“For me, it’s not just the physical benefit,” Fay said. “There’s always laughter here. People genuinely want to know how you’re doing. It’s a nice social atmosphere.

Bob Fritz of Robeson Township underwent cardio rehab following a heart attack two years ago, and since then has had a knee replacement.

Although some days are difficult, he said he always feels better after a workout at the fitness center.

“People who have never exercised might feel embarrassed or afraid when they first get here, but there are always people to get you started and help you,” Bob said. “Sure, some days you don’t feel like coming, but once I get here, I’m always glad that I did.”

Monica Rush, director of rehabilitation services for Penn State Health St. Joseph, said that Cheryl and other staff members work hard to make fitness participants comfortable.

“We want you to have that comfort level and be confident that you can meet your goals,” Monica said. “We know how important exercise it, and we know that nearly everyone can benefit from it. The staff here can help you figure out the best program, and monitor you as you work toward those goals.”

 

About Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Medical Fitness Program

  • Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Medical Fitness Program facility is located in a state-of-the-art fitness facility at 3970 Perkiomen Ave. in Exeter Township.
  • Both people who are undergoing physical therapy and those who are exercising on their own use the facility.
  • Physical therapists work with patients, while those exercising on their own are supervised by Cheryl Tutella, a Penn State Health St. Joseph Clinical Exercise Physiologist, and other staff.
  • Nearly anyone qualifies for St. Joseph’s Medical Fitness Program.
  • The membership rate is $49 a month, but some insurances, including Silver Sneakers and Silver and Fit, participate.
  • Contact Cheryl Tutella for more information at 610-779-1330 or ctutella@pennstatehealth.psu.edu

St. Joseph Pharmacist Has a Cherished Connection to WE ARE

For former Penn State football player Wally Triplett, WE ARE, is more than the university’s now famous chant. It’s a proclamation that was collectively voiced by Triplett’s white Penn State teammates 70 years ago as they all voted to cancel a regular-season game at the University of Miami, rather than honor segregated Miami’s request to not bring their African American players to the game.

Triplett’s story, well told in the link below that was recently featured on ESPN, is also well known to St. Joseph’s pharmacist Darryle Tillman, Triplett’s cousin.

Darryle reports that Triplett still lives in the village of Lamott, Pa, a neighborhood in Cheltenham Township near Philadelphia that was founded as a way station on the underground railroad.

Tillman says that Triplett was one of the first African-Americans to be drafted by and play for a National Football League team. He was a member of the Detroit Lions in the 50s and was on a team that won a championship game, before it was known as the Super Bowl.

To learn about the ‘true’ significance of WE ARE, please click on the video below.

Lives of Penn State Health St. Joseph Donors Mirror Hospital’s Core Values

Ray and Carole Neag’s long history of giving is reflective of the core values of Penn State Health St. Joseph, said President and CEO John R. Morahan during a recent event to honor the couple.


Photo Courtesy of The Reading Eagle

“Ray and Carole together are all about improving health care and improving the lives of the most vulnerable among us,” Morahan said. “Their lives mirror the core values of this institution.”

A recent gift from the Neags will help Penn State Health St. Joseph to continue to practice and improve on its core values of reverence, integrity, compassion and excellence.

The Wyomissing philanthropists donated $2 million, with which St. Joseph purchased a da Vinci Xi robot that can be used to perform surgeries that are less invasive and quicker, requiring less healing time and less medication to deal with pain.

“With this generous gift from Ray and Carole Neag, we can now begin offering to the Berks County community the latest in cutting edge technology with the da Vinci Xi,” Morahan told a group gathered at the hospital to recognize the Neags.

The robot will be used at first to perform hysterectomies and other gynecological surgeries, and then expanded for other types of surgeries, including prostate, colorectal and general procedures.

It is the most advanced robotic medical technology available in Berks County, according to Marissa Miller, a surgical technician from Schuylkill County who is helping to train St. Joseph staff to use the robot.

“This is the only Xi in the area,” Miller said. “This patient population is getting the highest quality equipment available, and that equipment was not available in Berks County until now.”

The co-founder of Arrow International, now Teleflex Medical, a company that provides specialized medical devices, Ray Neag has a keen appreciation for advanced technology, especially that which is designed to benefit the medical field.

“New technology is the thing that we need for our community and our friends at St. Joe’s,” he said. “This is a great community, and we have to keep giving to make it even stronger.”

Carole Neag, a former emergency and maternity nurse, said that she and her husband are passionate about contributing to medical and educational causes.

“We come from a medical background, and we believe strongly in the value of education,” Carole said. “We want our gifts to help as many people as possible.”

While the Neags provided most of the funding for the da Vinci Xi, the cost of purchasing the machine, renovating an operating room to house the robot and training staff exceeded $2 million.

Dr. Harlan Kutscher, who practiced urology at St. Joseph before retiring, and his wife, Carole, donated funding for staff training.
That training is being supervised by Dr. Stephanie Estes, director of Hershey Medical Center’s robotics program. Estes also expressed gratitude for the generosity of the Neags and Kutschers.

“I am really grateful, and our entire community is grateful,” Estes told the couple. “Your energy and interest in this, coupled with a caring staff, will make it possible for us to improve our care for our patients.”

Penn State Health St. Joseph’s experienced surgeons and robotics-assisted surgery team now offer additional minimally invasive surgical options using the da Vinci Xi surgical system. If you have any questions or would like more information, contact 610-378-2898 or email info@thefutureofhealthcare.org

Here’s How The Solar Eclipse Could Damage Your Eyes

If you are looking forward to viewing the upcoming solar eclipse Aug. 21, do not take chances and wear appropriate eyewear, advises an ophthalmologist at Penn State Health.

“Even the darkest sunglasses you could buy in the drugstore are not adequate,” said Dr. Joseph Sassani, ophthalmologist at Penn State Health.

He warns that some unscrupulous vendors are selling “fake” eclipse glasses on the internet and elsewhere.

Normally the sun is too bright to look at, protecting our eyes from damage. But in the eclipse, the partial coverage by the moon allows some of the white light to be blocked. The red spectrum can come through, which can burn the retina.

Dr. Sassani describes the damage that viewing the sun during an eclipse could do to your eyes:

There’s no safe amount of time to look at the sun during a solar eclipse without proper eye protection, Sassani said. How quickly the damage occurs depends on how much of the sun is visible.

Pennsylvania guide to the Great American Solar Eclipse

Right after being burned there is swelling of the retina, and scarring and disruption of vision can result. Some restoration could occur over time, but it isn’t a sure thing.

The area of the retina that provides most of our vision is only 1.5 mm across, he adds.

Kids are at particular danger in viewing a solar eclipse, and shouldn’t be unsupervised. “They have a tendency to look over the glasses,” he said, and may not understand the dangers.

He said it might not be a bad idea to keep kids inside, and watch the eclipse on the NASA web site.

Read the recommendations on safe solar eclipse viewing from the American Academy of Opththalmology.

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.

Vascular Surgeons Save Lives with Specialized Techniques, Knowledge

Increased understanding of the vascular system, better technology, improved diagnostic abilities and advanced techniques have enabled Penn State Health St. Joseph vascular surgeons to provide better, less invasive treatments for patients suffering from a variety of vascular-related diseases and disorders.

The board-certified surgeons at Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Vascular Institute treat all types of vascular disease, including conditions such as peripheral arterial disease, carotid disease, varicose veins and aortic aneurysmal disease.

They also perform balloon angioplasty and stenting for peripheral arterial disease, and provide dialysis access for patients suffering from kidney failure.

With the exception of the brain and heart, Penn State Health St. Joseph’s vascular surgeons treat any area of the body affected by vascular disorders.

“Vascular medicine and surgery covers a wide and diverse area of expertise,” explained Dr. Varuna Sundaram, who has been a vascular surgeon with Penn State Health St. Joseph for about three years. “We treat any vascular disorder that occurs outside of the brain or the heart.”

Vascular-related disorders in the heart or brain are treated by other specialized physicians and surgeons at Penn State Health St. Joseph’s.

Dr. Sundaram and Dr. P.V. Pathanjali Sharma, surgeons at Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Vascular Institute, perform about 60 surgeries a month, each tailored to the individual needs of the patient. Many of the surgeries are highly specialized.

One of the most common conditions addressed by Penn State Health St. Joseph’s vascular surgeons is peripheral arterial disease (PAD), which affects more than 10 million people in the United States.

PAD is a condition in which plaque forms in the arteries, leading to a lack of adequate blood supply to limbs that are dependent on those arteries for blood flow. While it commonly affects the legs, PAD also can affect the arms, as well as the heart and brain.

Progression of PAD can be a slow process, but as the condition worsens it can cause pain in the legs and feet; ulcerations; and, in severe cases, gangrene, which can lead to limb loss.

While some risk factors for PAD are unavoidable, others can be reduced with lifestyle changes.

“There are two risk factors you can’t change, and those are aging and genetics,” Dr. Sharma said.

Other risk factors include tobacco use, obesity, diabetes, uncontrolled hypertension, kidney failure and high cholesterol.

Dr. Sharma, who has been with St. Joseph’s since 1993, said one of the most significant advances in vascular medicine is the increased ability to treat patients with minimally invasive techniques.

Conditions that used to be treated with open, invasive surgeries now can be addressed through minimally invasive methods, greatly reducing hospital and recovery times for patients.

Surgeons also employ hybrid practices, which combine a surgical approach with a minimally invasive one. These practices mean that surgeons have more and better options for treating patients.

“We can lower the chance of mortality by combining a minimally invasive approach with the open, surgical approach,” Dr. Sharma said.

Specialized rooms called hybrid rooms also offer surgeons the option of employing open surgery or using minimally-invasive techniques, as they contain equipment necessary for both approaches.

“We’ve seen advances in technology that help us with planning for each surgery we do,” Dr. Sharma said. “We have a game plan that’s always backed up by a Plan B and a Plan C.”

Gene therapy is another exciting area of advancement in vascular medicine, as it has the potential to enable doctors to treat vascular disease that previously was untreatable.

Penn State Health St. Joseph’s vascular surgeons are carefully studying the research as scientists and doctors continue to move ahead in this area.

“We’re looking forward to the day when the targeted therapies can be used to address and treat vascular disease that currently cannot be treated,” Dr. Sundaram said.

Varuna Sundaram, MD, RPVI, is a board-certified vascular surgeon at The Vascular Institute at Penn State Health St. Joseph. Appointments can be made by calling 610-378-2499.

Hero Training via St. Joseph’s Family Medicine Residency Program

Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Family Medicine Residency Program is attracting attention as the demand for physicians – particularly family doctors – increases throughout the country.

Medical school graduates must complete a residency program before they are permitted to work as independent physicians.

St. Joseph’s three-year residency program accepts 21 medical school graduates, with seven in each year of training.

Residents train in various areas of medicine, changing about every four weeks to a different specialty. All of the doctors, however, maintain continuity providing patient care throughout all three years at St. Joseph’s Family and Women’s Center at the Downtown Campus.

“There’s something changing for residents all the time, but the common thread is that they’ll all provide continuity of care in our outpatient family medicine office,” explained Dr. Michael J. Bradley, Director of St. Joseph’s Family Residency Program.

Residency programs such as the one at St. Joseph’s are necessary to a physician’s training.

Responding to a nationwide need for more doctors, medical schools are graduating more physicians. Since residency positions have not increased at the same pace with medical school graduates, there increasingly is a shortage of positions for residents.

To address that problem, national accreditation agencies are working to create a single graduate medical education accreditation system within the United States. The change would enable physicians who hold Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degrees and those who hold Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) to train under a unified system.

There currently are different programs for D.O.s and M.D.s.

“There’s been support to make post-graduate medical training the same for M.D.s and D.O.s, and now we’re at this point where they’ve decided to merge through the Single Accreditation System (SAS),” Bradley said. “There no longer will be two programs.”

All residency programs will need to be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), and M.D.s and D.O.s will be required to train together with standardized requirements for completion. As an osteopathic accredited program, St. Joseph’s Residency Program currently can accept only those with D.O. degrees.

The move toward a single system is expected to create more residency and fellowship positions for the increased number of graduates.
“There simply aren’t enough residency positions to accommodate all the physicians graduating from medical schools,” Bradley said.

The change is expected to particularly benefit those with D.O. degrees, as, nationwide, there currently are more residency positions for M.D.s than D.O.s.

Residency programs are vital in the training of new doctors, Bradley explained.

“The goal of the residency program is to take a medical school graduate and train them to the point where they can be an independent physician,” he said. “It’s a chance to hone the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired into the ability to effectively treat patients.”

When a resident graduates from St. Joseph’s program, he or she is qualified to begin working or to pursue a fellowship, which provides further training in a specialty.

“We graduate high quality, attending physicians who are able to succeed in various job roles,” said Bradley, who is a 2003 graduate of St. Joseph’s Residency Program and Director since 2012.

St. Joseph’s Family Medicine Residency Program will continue to gain prestige as emphasis on the importance of family doctors increases.
“The family doctor is increasingly being recognized as a leader,” Bradley said. “They really connect with patients, and they have a passion for learning all areas of medicine. We’re turning out heroes here at St. Joe’s.”

Michael Bradley D. O., Director of St. Joseph Family Residency Program If you would like to learn more about the Family Residency Program please contact Dr. Michael Bradley for more information. 610-378-2440 | MBradley1@pennstatehealth.psu.edu