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.

Fear of Missing Out Can Negatively Impact Your Life.

If you’re constantly checking Facebook, desperate to see where your friends are and what they’re doing, and then becoming upset when you discover they’re having dinner without you, you may be suffering from a condition known as FOMO, or “fear of missing out.”

Dr. Krista Schenkel, a family practitioner who serves as medical director of Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Strausstown facility, spoke about FOMO recently during a program offered by Women2Women.

St. Joseph is a founding, presenting sponsor of Women2Women, an organization managed by the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry that works to help empower women to become leaders in our community.

FOMO, Schenkel explained, is a form of social anxiety disorder that is becoming increasingly prevalent as use of social media increases. By some accounts, nearly three-quarters of young adults in the United States report experiencing the phenomenon of FOMO.

It is particularly common among those between the ages of 13 and 33.

FOMO can result from the perception that other people are having more fun, or are happier than you are, Schenkel said. In their social media posts, friends may appear to be engaging in exciting activities, seemingly without a care in the world.

However, Schenkel related, social media posts often portray an idealized version of the truth.

“Let’s face it. Most social media posts are not giving the entire truth,” she said. “Anyone can put anything on social media and make their life sound amazing.”
Schenkel referred to her own experience in Disney World, showing a photo of herself with her husband and daughter that she’d posted on Facebook. The photo, she explained, was taken after a very long day. They all were exhausted, with their 3-year-old nearing a meltdown.

In the photo, however, the family appeared to be having a great time.

“We looked so happy, but really we were miserable!” she said.

A danger of the FOMO syndrome is that it tends to cause people to spend more time on social media, taking them away from the really important aspects of their lives.

According to Schenkel, the life of a typical woman contains five priorities: career, sleep, daily obligations, family and social activities.

Once the obligatory parts of a woman’s day are done, such as working, errands, commuting and sleeping, there are not many hours left. That means that it’s really important to carefully consider how those hours are spent.

Using that time for social media can minimize time you spend with your family and friends, and limit activities that you enjoy and make your life ultimately valuable
“Sometimes we get so caught up with what we’re seeing on line that we’re not being involved in the real world,” Schenkel said.

While she is not opposed to Facebook and other forms of social media, Schenkel said it’s important that users are in control of how they use it.

Employing Facebook to organize a hike with friends, and then attending and enjoying the hike is a positive use of social media. However, skipping the hike to stay home and engage in social media is not.

“I’m not saying that Facebook is an evil thing,” Schenkel said. “I’m just saying that you need to be careful about how you utilize it.”

While FOMO seems to be affecting an increasing number of people, there is an opposing movement – JOMO – that also seems to be gaining traction.

JOMO, Schenkel explained, stands for “joy of missing out,” and embraces disconnecting from technology and living in the moment in an attempt to find a balance between the two things.

JOMO allows you to move at your own pace, Schenkel said, and to pay attention to what is happening right now, such as the feel of warm sunshine, the sound of your children’s laughter or the smell of your first cup of morning coffee.

“Those are the things that we should fear missing out on,” she said.

Schenkel reminded the women at her talk that when they are 80 years old and looking back on their lives, they will not regret that they didn’t receive more “likes” on Facebook.

“But, what you may regret is not living out your personal truth or spending more time with the people you love,” she said. “We need to be aware of our priorities so we can all make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Want to find your FOMO score? Take this quiz!

Krista Schenkel, DO Looking for a new family physician that gets what you’re going through? Dr. Schenkel practices at Penn State Health St. Joseph Strausstown and is currently accepting new patients. Schedule an appointment at 610-488-7080.

Prenatal Care Open House Connects Expectant Moms with Health Care

Emily, an Exeter Township woman who recently learned she was pregnant, found a health care home recently when she visited a Prenatal Care Open House at the Downtown Campus of Penn State Health St. Joseph.

“I just wanted to get some more information, because it’s like, ‘we’re pregnant, now what do we do?’” she said. “I didn’t expect to get all this help when I came here today.”

Hosted by Kimberly Hunter, OB Nurse Navigator with Penn State Health St. Joseph, Emily received a tour of the Downtown Campus OB/GYN facilities and learned about St. Joseph’s innovative Centering Pregnancy program.

She was excited to hear about the program, which employs a group setting. With a group size of about six, women who are due within the same month interact with one another by learning together, sharing information and supporting one another.

While participating in the Centering Pregnancy program, expectant mothers also receive private prenatal care from Penn State Health St. Joseph providers.

“Centering is unique because there’s a self-care aspect,” Hunter explained to Emily. “I’m really proud of this program, and the women who participate in it really love it.”

The small group setting enables women to bond with one another as they share ideas and concerns and keep each other up to date about what’s happening with their pregnancies.

“It becomes a real feeling of community,” Hunter said. “There’s lots of sharing and concern for one another.”

Low-risk patients are given a choice of participating in the Center Pregnancy program or receiving traditional pre-natal care. About 60 percent choose the Centering option, which is managed by midwives.

“Most women enjoy the bonding and fellowship that happens with that group,” Hunter said. “But the more traditional type of care also is available.”

Before she left the open house that day, Emily was signed up for an intake appointment with a nurse, and feeling far more assured than when she’d arrived.

“This is amazing,” said Emily, who with her husband moved to the Reading area from a small town in Massachusetts. “Everyone here is so friendly and helpful. This place feels like a really good fit for my baby and me.”

Emily was only one of about a dozen women who attended the open house, anxious to learn more about their options for pregnancy care.

“Any patient in the community who appreciates and wants the services of a midwife can come here for those services,” explained Kelly Johnson, Clinic Leader of the Downtown OB/GYN department.

The Downtown Campus also is staffed by physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, medical assistants, community health workers and other staff who assist women throughout their pregnancies.

“Women can get all the care they need here, and then deliver at St. Joseph’s Bern Township hospital,” Hunter explained. “It makes it nice for anyone who lives in the City and might have an issue with transportation. We’ve got a great facility right here, downtown.”

Kim Hunter, MSN, RN, OB Nurse Navigator Planning a pregnancy? Expecting this year? Want to check out our birthing center? Or just have general questions? Call Kim Hunter, MSN, RN, OB Nurse Navigator and let her be your personal guide.
610-378-2569   |   KHunter3@PennStateHealth.psu.edu   |   www.StJoesSpecialDeliveries.org

Hey Ladies…Here’s the Top 5 reasons You Need a Primary Care Physician and a Gynecologist!

By Dr. Jessika Kissling, Obstetrics & Gynecology Physician, Penn State Health St. Joseph OB/GYN Associates

Most women will benefit from having both a Primary Care Physician (PCP) and a Gynecologist, as their specialties cover very important aspects of your health. Many women see only a Gynecologist and consider them their PCP and women also may see their PCP for gynecologic care. But as a practicing Gynecologist, believe me when I say that having both involved can help to make sure you are making the most of your health care. Let me share why.

  1. PCP’s Focus on Preventive Care
    Seeing a PCP regularly, especially for preventive visits will make sure you are receiving the recommended preventive care based on your age, family history, personal history, and risk factors. Emphasis on preventive care will help keep you healthy and identify aspects that need more focus or attention.
  2. PCP’s Offer Personalized Care
    Establishing a PCP allows that Physician or Medical Provider to get to know YOU, your medical history, your needs, your religious or spiritual beliefs, your family, and other aspects related to your care. When you know your provider well, you are more likely to trust their opinions, recommendations, and follow their advice. This allows visits to be more productive as well, as there is less time spent covering topics or history that have been previously discussed.
  3. PCP’s Provide Urgent and Sick Care
    Many PCP offices now are striving to offer ‘same day’ or ‘urgent care’ style visits. By seeing your PCP office they already know your medical history, prior treatments and tests, and can provide better care for you in this urgent setting. If you need follow up they also have the ability to review any prior tests, treatments, and response to help avoid unnecessary costs, repeating of tests, and allow improved diagnosis of conditions with this continuity of care.
  4. PCP’s Collaborate with other Specialties
    PCPs often have close relationships with specialists who provide care outside their expertise, and can help guide you to one that will best meet your care needs. This working relationship helps to improve the quality of care, attention to your medical conditions, and ongoing management of complex medical conditions.
  5. It’ll Result in Lower Costs
    Seeing a PCP and having coordination of care decreases the need for unnecessary tests, visits, and streamlines your care. Typically, care at a PCP office for urgent or sick visits will be much less costly than an ER visit.

Patty Kelly, Physician Referral Specialist Did you like Dr. Kisslings article and want to learn more about her? Or need to find a Primary Care Physician close to home? Call Patty Kelly, Physician Referral Specialist, and let her help you find the perfect fit.
610-378-2001   |   toll free 844-363-0882   |   FindAPhysician@PennStateHealth.psu.edu

Penn State Health St. Joseph Working to Raise Awareness of Sexual Abuse

A case of sexual assault occurs every 98 seconds in America, according to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization.

Tina Roman-Rios, a community health worker in the OB/GYN Department at Penn State Health St. Joseph’s downtown campus, is working to change that.
“My mother raised me to know that I’m important enough to not be in an abusive relationship,” Roman-Rios said. “And I want to let others know that they are that important, too.”

Working toward that end, Roman-Rios created a display at Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Family and Women’s Center at the Downtown Campus. A large bulletin board provides information and facts in English and Spanish, urging people to recognize and take action against domestic violence and sexual assault.

“I designed it so it’s eye-friendly and easy to read,” Roman-Rios said. “You don’t need to understand big words or medical terms to understand what it means.”

The board, along with an information table that Roman-Rios tends to, will remain in place throughout April and into May. April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month.

Safe Berks donated items and information packets that Roman-Rios distributes to people who visit the Downtown Campus.

“I think it’s important to keep this issue in the public eye,” she said. “Sexual violence isn’t something that we can keep quiet about. We get a lot of people coming into this clinic who can learn if we provide information for them.”

In addition to educating patients and their families about sexual assault and prevention, Roman-Rios and others in the OB/GYN and Women’s Care group encourage women to seek help, when necessary.

“We see patients who, for various reasons, are reluctant to call the police in cases of domestic violence or abuse,” she said. “And, that is a problem.” However, she explained, there are other sources of help. “If someone is afraid to call the police, they should call the Safe Berks hotline,” Roman-Rios said. “And, if they can’t call, they can text. The important thing is to seek help. Someone who is abused needs counsel.”

Victims need to remember that sexual abuse happens among every socio-economic group, ethnic group and religion, and that they are not to blame.
“Abuse is never the victim’s fault,” said Roman-Rios, who is studying to be a nurse. “That’s something that everyone needs to remember.”

Roman-Rios admitted that, as a teenager, she did not understand the mentality and circumstances that cause some people to remain within abusive situations.

“I was little judgmental,” she said. “But people should never judge. Abuse very easily can be mistaken for love.”

The OB/GYN and Women’s Care clinic is a safe place where patients who are experiencing difficulty can talk to someone who cares about them, Roman-Rios noted.

“We understand the perils that some of our patients face and we do whatever we can to help them,” she said.

Roman-Rios, who has lived in Reading her entire life, is committed to bringing positive change to the city and her patients that live there.

“I care about this city, and I’m working to make a difference,” she said. “And, I’ll teach my children to work to make a difference, too. I think that we can change things for the better, even if that change starts with a simple board in a downtown clinic.”

How to Find Help

If you, or someone you know, is a victim of domestic abuse or sexual violence, there is help available.

Safe Berks offers a 24-hour, toll-free hotline at 844-789-SAFE (7233). You also can text SAFE BERKS to 20121 for help, or contact by email at peace@safeberks.org.

Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) also offers a 24-hour, toll-free hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673). Or, you can live chat online in English or Spanish on RAINN’s website at rainn.org.

Know Your Risk: Cancer Risk Evaluation Program

If you’re concerned about your risks for developing breast, ovarian cancer, colorectal or other hereditary cancers, the experts in our Cancer Risk Evaluation Program can help. Our doctors and nurses will provide information, evaluation, genetic counseling, and genetic testing, if appropriate, to assist in developing a realistic opinion of your risk status. As an affiliate of the Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute, our Cancer Risk Evaluation Program Coordinator, Donna Lamp, RN, BSN, CCM and Medical Director, Dr. Marc A. Rovito, work collaboratively with Penn State Hershey Medical Geneticist, Maria Baker, Ph.D. and your physicians to review your personal and family history, create a cancer- incidence pedigree (family tree), and offer recommendations for follow-up.

Our experienced oncology professionals will:

  • Determine your risk for developing a hereditary cancer;
  • Assist in developing a realistic opinion of a woman’s breast cancer risk status;
  • Recommend a plan for ongoing screening and risk reduction approaches;
  • Help women understand current breast health management issues and research studies related to breast cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment;
  • Explain the genetics of breast cancer and, when indicated, provide counseling and access to genetic testing;
  • Provide access to appropriate clinical research studies related to breast health or genetic testing consideration for women found to be at high risk;
  • Recommend a plan for ongoing screening and risk reduction approaches for individuals with Lynch Syndrome and other known cancer-related genetic syndromes;
  • Collaborate with medical oncology specialists, surgeons, and pathologists in order to identify individuals at risk for Lynch Syndrome, which include cancers such as colorectal, uterine and or ovarian, and based on personal and family history, provide screening and risk reduction strategies for these patients and their families.

Donna Lamp, RN, BSN, CCM, Coordinator of Cancer Risk Evaluation Program If you’re ready to assess your risk for developing breast, ovarian, and other hereditary cancers, or for more information on the process, contact Donna and let her be your personal guide. 610-378-2457   |   DLamp@PennStateHealth.psu.edu

Women & Anxiety…What is Your Body Telling You

By Dr. Krista Schenkel, Family Medicine Physician, Penn State Health St. Joseph Strausstown

As women, we are very different than men in relation to our bodies, brains, hormones, and genetic make-up. So why wouldn’t we be different in the way we cope with stress? There is ongoing research searching for a reason why, and no solid answers have been found. What we do know is that as women, we have a great deal of responsibility which can create an overwhelming sense of anxiety in our lives.

Anxiety can be a normal reaction to everyday stressors. For example, you may have anxiety when your in-laws are visiting for the week, when you can’t afford to pay an unexpected medical bill that just arrived, or when you have an important examination that you have to pass. Although anxiety makes us feel uncomfortable, it is actually a normal reaction to stress and is a coping mechanism. Anxiety helps us manage our emotions when the in-laws arrive, motivates us to budget for those medical bills, or encourages us to study harder for that exam. Anxiety becomes unhealthy when it begins to interfere with our daily life. Dreading non-threatening everyday activities like riding the bus, talking to a co-worker, or going to a party are signs that anxiety is an interference. This is when it becomes a disorder which often times needs treatment.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV) is a medical book published by the American Psychiatric Association which gives standard criteria for the classification of mental disorders. According to the DSM-IV, anxiety disorders usually present with excessive anxiety or worry over situations, last more than 6 months, occur more days than not, and interfere with social, work, family, or other aspects of daily life. This anxiety cannot be due to the psychological effects of a substance or cause of a medical condition or disorder.

According to the DSM IV, the panic attacks are an abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms: heart palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate, sweating, trembling or shaking, sensations of shortness of breath or smothering, feeling of choking, chest pain or discomfort, nausea or abdominal distress, feeling dizzy, unsteady, lightheaded, or faint, feelings of unreality or being detached from oneself, fear of losing control or going crazy, fear of dying, numbness or tingling sensations, and chills or hot flushes. Panic attacks can happen at any point in time, and unfortunately, many of these symptoms overlap with life-threatening medical conditions such as a heart attack or stroke. This makes the jobs of healthcare professionals very difficult and can create unnecessary labs, tests, and studies. This is why it is important to know the symptoms of panic attacks and try to immediately identify the source of the panic and have a plan on how to calm yourself down. If your plan does not work, then you need to seek help to make sure it is not something more concerning.

Seeking help for anxiety does not mean that you will be immediately started on a medication. There are many different modalities available for treatment of anxiety. Complementary or alternative medicine includes stress and relaxation techniques, meditation, yoga, and acupuncture. Increasing your physical activity level can also relieve stress and anxiety. There is cognitive behavioral therapy which focuses on identifying, understanding, and changing your thinking and behavior to relieve your anxiety. If all other methods fail, medications can be added. These include Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Prozac and Zoloft and Selective Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors (SNRIs) such as Cymbalta and Effexor. Occasionally, benzodiazepines are needed for breakthrough panic attacks. Benzodiazepines need to be used with extreme caution as they are highly addictive and only relieve anxiety for a short time.

If you believe you may be suffering from anxiety, start by actively identifying the things in your life that cause anxiety as well as the things that make you happy and relaxed. Next, balance them out! Find ways to decrease your heavy workload day to day, force yourself to take time for yourself doing things you enjoy, and practice daily meditation exercises and yoga. Most importantly, try not to be wonder woman; she is a fictional character who doesn’t exist and you will be setting yourself up to fail. If needed, seek professional help. There is nothing wrong with asking for help, however there is a problem with losing who you are because of things you cannot control on your own.

As appeared in Winter edition of Women2Women Magazine

Patty Kelly, Physician Referral Specialist Did you like Dr. Schenkel’s article and want to learn more about her? Or need to find a physician, program, or medical practice close to home? Call Patty Kelly, Physician Referral Specialist, and let her help you find the perfect fit.
610-378-2001   |   toll free 844-363-0882   |   FindAPhysician@PennStateHealth.psu.edu

Celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month with Early Detection

Breast cancer is today’s second leading cause of cancer death in American women. While research continues to seek ways to prevent, detect, and treat this disease, it is essential for you to stay informed – so that you can make smart decisions about your health.


Free mammograms are offered to uninsured or underinsured women through a Susan G. Komen grant. Call 610-378-2959 to schedule your appointment.

If you are covered by insurance and would like to have a mammogram, contact your family physician for a prescription. You may then call 610-378-2100 to schedule your appointment.

Celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month with Risk Assessments

If you’re concerned about your risks for developing breast, ovarian cancer, colorectal or other hereditary cancers, the experts in our Cancer Risk Evaluation Program (CREP) can help. Our doctors and nurses will provide information, evaluation, genetic counseling, and genetic testing, if appropriate, to assist in developing a realistic opinion of your risk status. Our Cancer Risk Evaluation Program Coordinator, Donna Lamp, RN, BSN, CCM and Medical Director, Dr. Marc A. Rovito, work collaboratively with Penn State Hershey Medical Geneticist, Maria Baker, Ph.D. and your physicians to review your personal and family history, create a cancer- incidence pedigree (family tree), and offer recommendations for follow-up.

Donna Lamp, RN, BSN, CCM, Coordinator of Cancer Risk Evaluation Program If you’re ready to assess your risk for developing breast, ovarian, and other hereditary cancers, or for more information on the process, contact Donna and let her be your personal guide. 610-378-2457   |   DLamp@PennStateHealth.psu.edu

Women’s Services adds Dr. Lesley Sweeney, expands to Exeter Ridge Health Complex

Our Women’s Health team of gynecologists shares a unique perspective on Women’s Health— all women doctors dedicated to providing personalized care to women of all ages. Penn State Health St. Joseph is committed to treating each woman’s specific health needs and concerns with experienced, compassionate care. All from a woman’s unique perspective. Plus, because we’re part of Penn State Health, we have direct access to hundreds of our fellow Penn State Health specialists, 24/7/365.


And now, Women’s Health is even more accessible and convenient as we welcome Dr. Lesley Sweeney to our team and announce the expansion of Women’s Health to the Penn State Health Exeter Ridge Health Complex. It’s the care you want, the way you prefer it. Close to home or work. And woman to woman.

Learn more at thefutureofhealthcare.org or call 610-378-2898 for an appointment at either location.

The 411 on Varicose Vein Treatments

Unsightly varicose and spider veins are easy to ignore when they’ve covered up during the winter, but when skirts and shorts replace winter pants they become painfully obvious.

Varicose veins are a result of venous insufficiency or poor venous circulation, explained Dr. Varuna Sundaram, a board certified vascular surgeon at Penn State Health St. Joseph.

varicose veins

This occurs when the deep veins that keep blood moving up from your legs to your heart and lungs do not work properly, and blood backs up into the superficial veins under the skin. The veins swell because of the blood that collects in them, resulting in varicose veins that are enlarged, bulging and often blue or red in color. Spider veins are smaller varicose veins that appear on the surface of the skin.

Varicose and spider veins don’t cause serious problems for most people, but they can be the source of pain or discomfort, and in some cases increase the risk of cellulitis and bleeding wounds. In severe, chronic cases, venous ulcers can occur and could result in the loss of a limb or even death, Dr. Sundaram said.

If you suffer from unsightly varicose veins, whether or not they cause pain or discomfort, there are effective evaluations and treatments that can help alleviate the condition.

The first step in treating varicose veins is graded compression stocking therapy which Dr. Sundaram called the “best first line, non-invasive method of treatment.” Also, many insurance companies require that compression therapy be tried before any other treatment will be approved.

If compression stockings fail to improve the condition, a vascular surgeon will use a venous duplex ultrasound to further evaluate and determine if a patient might benefit from surgical intervention.

If so, available treatments include the following:

  • Cosmetic laser surgery
    This procedure utilizes a laser that delivers pulses of light energy, causing blood within the vein to coagulate. This eventually destroys the vessel and forces the blood back into the deeper veins. Several treatments normally are needed to achieve optimal cosmetic results.
  • Sclerotherapy
    A solution containing an ingredient that irritates the vein lining is injected into the vein, causing an inflammatory response. That response results in localized swelling, or phlebitis of these tiny veins, and causes them to close. Several treatments are usually required.
  • Endovenous Laser Ablation Treatment
    A fairly new technique, endovenous laser ablation uses a laser to create intense, localized heat in the varicose vein. The heat causes the vein to shrink and close, but leaves it in place, causing little bleeding or bruising. The procedure requires no surgical incisions.

Cosmetic laser surgery, sclerotherapy and endovenous laser ablation treatment are performed in the office as outpatient procedures, requiring little or no anesthesia. Patients generally can resume normal activity with a day or two of the procedure. Typical time off for endovenous laser ablation is three days.

  • Vein ligation with stripping
    This surgical removal of the vein is the traditional treatment for large varicose veins. The procedure is performed in the operating room under anesthesia. Incisions are made at the groin and below the knee, and a wire passed through the vein. A bullet is attached to the end of the wire that, when pulled back, tears and removes the vein. Bleeding is minimized using compression stockings, but vein stripping can result in significant swelling and bruising that usually resolves within six weeks.
  • Ambulatory Phlebectomy
    Also performed in the operating room under anesthesia, this procedure entails making small incisions over bulging veins and using specialized tools to remove them. The tiny incisions do not require stitches and heal with minimal scarring, but can cause moderate bruises and discomfort. Compression stockings are used for several weeks following the procedure.

Vein ligation and ambulatory phlebectomy also are outpatient procedures, usually requiring three days off from normal activities.

Nearly a quarter of adults suffer from varicose veins, and 6 percent have more advanced, chronic venous disease that includes skin changes and venous ulcers, Dr. Sundaram said. If you are bothered by varicose veins and want to learn more about available treatments, which may or may not be covered by insurance, you can contact the Vein Center for a consult at 610-378-2499.

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.