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.

St. Joseph Partners with Giorgio to Bring Healthcare to Employees

Many employees of the Maidencreek Township-based Giorgio Group of Companies experience long work days. They commute back and forth to their work sites, and have busy schedules outside of their jobs. All that can make it a challenge to schedule and receive regular, routine medical check-ups.

With that in mind, Penn State Health St. Joseph partnered with Giorgio to bring healthcare services right to the work places of Giorgio employees. Care is provided in a 32-foot recreational vehicle that’s been equipped to serve as a medical facility.

The idea, according to John Morahan, President and CEO of Penn State Health St. Joseph, is to increase access to healthcare, and to get employees to make primary care a priority. Too often, continued Morahan, primary care is not obtained, and treatable or preventable conditions go unchecked.

Community Health Workers Complete Training for Potential Careers in Medicine

There was nothing but smiles as15 students recently graduated as new Community Health Workers during a ceremony at the Langan Allied Health Academy at Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Downtown Campus in Reading.

The graduating class was the 10th cohort to complete the 100-hour training program, a collaborative of Penn State Health St. Joseph, the East Central Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center (AHEC), the Literary Council of Reading-Berks and other local partners.

While in training, students study a variety of topics, including chronic diseases, behavioral health, tobacco cessation, healthcare access and reimbursement, first aid, and basic medical terminology. While some of the work occurs in the classroom, much of it is conducted in the field, as students are encouraged to be out in the community, learning about local resources, making contacts, and exploring what opportunities may be available to them.

Although the program is not set up as training for any particular position, completing it can help lead to a job, explained Laura M. Welliver, a Penn State Health St. Joseph Grants and Special Projects Officer who directs the Community Health Workers program. “It isn’t offered as a job training per se, but those who complete the program report that it really helps them with career change or advancement,” Welliver said. Ahely Espinosa Ramos of Reading said she hopes that graduating from the program will help her to find a job in which she can assist young mothers who are alone, a situation that she had experienced.

”I was that person who needed help and didn’t know anyone,” she said. “I’d love to be able to help someone else who is in that same situation.”

Sherian L. Henry of Spring Township has a background in teaching, but wanted to complete the Community Health Worker training in order to be a more effective helper in her community. “I really wanted to find a way to use my skills in the community,” Henry said. “Completing the program really opened my eyes to the opportunities that are out there.”

A Community Health Worker is defined by AHEC as a “trusted member of the community with a gift for helping people prevent or manage disease or other physical or mental health issues.”

Penn State Health St. Joseph hired Community Health Workers to assist with its Diabetes, Prenatal, Family Practice and Breast Cancer programs, explains Welliver. Graduates of the program also have been hired by agencies such as Berks Counseling Center and Centro Hispano. “It works well to have Community Health Workers in settings that require a lot of patient follow up or intensive case management,” Welliver said.

Since Penn State Health St. Joseph began the trainings nearly four years ago, more than 120 students have graduated. The group that graduated in December was one of the largest cohorts in the program’s history.

“It’s so exciting to see how this program has grown and the students have blossomed,” Welliver said. “There is a dramatic need for Community Health Workers in our community, and every one of these graduates can make a difference.”

Henry O. Mateo Mendoza, the only male to complete the training with this cohort, also is a student at Reading Area Community College and works a full-time job. While finding time for the training program was difficult, he said that having earned the designation of Community Health Worker is rewarding.

“I’ve been through a lot in my life, and if I can help someone with the skills that I’ve acquired, then that’s what I want to do,” said Mendoza, of Reading.

The Community Health Worker training program is offered at least twice a year, and there is no charge to participate. Anyone who would like more information can visit https://www.thefutureofhealthcare.org/community-health-worker-training/ or contact Laura Welliver at 610-378-2474
or lwelliver@pennstatehealth.psu.edu.

Penn State Health St. Joseph Offers Free Breast Screenings

What began at Penn State Health St. Joseph as an annual event is now held monthly to provide breast health care for women who do not have access to health insurance.

Free screenings are provided one day a month at St. Joseph’s Downtown Campus, according to Lisa Spencer, Breast Care Patient Navigator. Most women get routine screenings, but if a problem is detected, further diagnostic screening is available.

Education about breast health also is provided. “We’ve had a number of women who have had issues, and we were able to get them additional imaging,” Spencer said. “Several ladies have been diagnosed with cancer, and we’ve been able to get them into care so they receive the appropriate treatment.”

The program is administered by Penn State Health St. Joseph, and funded by a national grant from the Prevent Cancer Foundation®, based in Alexandria, Virginia. The program, which has been in place for about 10 years, formerly was funded by grants from Susan G. Komen – Philadelphia, Susan G. Komen- National and the American Cancer Society.

For many women without health insurance, a mammogram would not be an option without such a program. The screenings are advertised on the hospital’s website, Facebook page, Hispanic radio, and BCTV. Mostly, however, word gets out when one woman tells another that they are available. “A lot of news about our services spreads through word of mouth,” Spencer said.

In addition to the screenings, St. Joseph staff members can work with women who are uninsured to help them locate other services. Staff might help a patient apply for Medicaid, or identify another source of care.

Bilingual social workers and a “promotora” community health worker are available to help those who do not speak English.

“We are committed to helping these women and their families access the healthcare that they need,” Spencer said.

Hundreds of clinical breast exams, screening mammograms, diagnostic mammograms, and breast ultrasounds have been provided, as well as biopsies, genetic testing and treatment. Under the Prevent Cancer Foundation® grant, Penn State Health St. Joseph will work to reduce cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic barriers and improve breast health for Latinas.

In addition to the monthly breast screenings, Penn State Health sponsors annual prostate and oral cancer screenings. Penn State Health St. Joseph offers free breast screenings at the Downtown Campus on monthly basis for women without health insurance. This is an invaluable service to detect issues and get them into care. Bilingual social workers are also on hand to assist with locating other services. Call 610-378-2959 for more information! #PSHSJ

Event Advances the Mission of Opportunity House

A Wine, Women & Shoes event, featuring a fashion show, best in shoe contest, silent auction, designer shopping, dinner, and, of course, wine, raised more than $100,000 for Opportunity House in its first two years.

A third Wine, Women & Shoes event, of which Penn State Health St. Joseph is a sponsor, was held in April at the DoubleTree by Hilton Reading.

According to Kate Alley, vice president of development at Opportunity House, an organization that serves the homeless population, Penn State Health St. Joseph and Opportunity House are likely partners in their efforts to assist members of the community.

“Penn State Health St. Joseph has a history of helping the underserved, and so does Opportunity House,” said Kate Alley, vice president of development at Opportunity House, an organization that serves the homeless population. “We are honored to partner with an organization that cares about the people of Reading and are willing to support our efforts to make their lives better.”

Alley said Opportunity House benefited from the generosity of Penn State Health St. Joseph about 10 years ago, when St. Joseph donated renovated space for Opportunity House to use for its Children’s Alliance Center, an organization that provides services for the victims of child sexual abuse.

“We remembered that generosity and approached St. Joseph again when we were looking for a sponsor,” Alley said.

Wine, Women & Shoes events have been held in cities across the country and have become popular fundraising events for non-profits.

“It’s a good chance to enjoy a fun evening with your friends while also making it possible for Opportunity House to help more than 1,500 people a year in Berks County to be housed, fed, educated, and empowered to stand on their own,” Alley said.

As an added surprise, Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Dr. Michael Abboud also volunteered his time to be one of the event’s 26 Shoe Guys. These men raised money in support of Opportunity House as well as volunteering their time to serve and entertain the women at the event.

Penn State Health St. Joseph – A Key Supporter of Women2Women

Healthcare providers and staff at Penn State Health St. Joseph understand the strength that can be found in a community of women. That understanding, along with an ongoing, overall commitment to women’s health, were driving factors when St. Joseph stepped up to become a founding presenting sponsor of Women2Women (W2W), an organization managed by the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance that works to help empower women to become leaders in our community.

“We believe in the power of women connecting with each other and supporting each other,” said Julia Nickey, Director of Patient and Organizational Engagement at Penn State Health St. Joseph and a member of the W2W Advisory Board. “With that support and camaraderie, women can lead more satisfying and healthy lives.”

In addition to providing key financial support, St. Joseph is active in W2W programming and has provided presenters for events since the organization’s founding eight years ago.

Dr. Jessika Kissling, an Obstetrics & Gynecology Physician presented “Hey Ladies . . . Here are the Top Five Reasons You Need a Primary Care Physician and a Gynecologist,” and Dr. Krista Schenkel, Family Medicine Physician, Penn State Health St. Joseph Strausstown, spoke on “Women & Anxiety, What Your Body is Telling You.”

Karen Marsdale, President of the Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry, praised St. Joseph’s commitment to the Women2Women organization.

“Penn State Health Saint Joseph was one of the very first W2W investors,” Marsdale said. “Not only do they believe in our goals to grow more women leaders, they have provided so many resources to help our organization grow and thrive, including experts to provide education for our members. We are truly grateful to this institution.”

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

Community Health Workers Complete Training for Potential Careers in Medicine

There was nothing but smiles last month as 15 students graduated as new Community Health Workers during a ceremony at the Langan Allied Health Academy at Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Downtown Campus in Reading.

The graduating class was the 10th cohort to complete the 100-hour training program, a collaborative of Penn State Health St. Joseph, the East Central Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center (AHEC), the Literary Council of Reading-Berks and other local partners.

While in training, students study a variety of topics, including chronic diseases, behavioral health, tobacco cessation, healthcare access and reimbursement, first aid, and basic medical terminology.

While some of the work occurs in the classroom, much of it is conducted in the field, as students are encouraged to be out in the community, learning about local resources, making contacts, and exploring what opportunities may be available to them.

Although the program is not set up as training for any particular position, completing it can help lead to a job, explained Laura M. Welliver, a Penn State Health St. Joseph Grants and Special Projects Officer who directs the Community Health Workers program.

Community Health Worker graduating class in December 2017.

“It isn’t offered as a job training per se, but those who complete the program report that it really helps them with career change or advancement,” Welliver said.

AlehyEspinosa Ramos, Community Health Worker graduate, addresses the class about her experience.

Ahely Espinosa Ramos of Reading said she hopes that graduating from the program will help her to find a job in which she can assist young mothers who are alone, a situation that she had experienced.

“I was that person who needed help and didn’t know anyone,” she said. “I’d love to be able to help someone else who is in that same situation.”

Sherian L. Henry of Spring Township has a background in teaching, but wanted to complete the Community Health Worker training in order to be a more effective helper in her community.

“I really wanted to find a way to use my skills in the community,” Henry said. “Completing the program really opened my eyes to the opportunities that are out there.”

A Community Health Worker is defined by AHEC as a “trusted member of the community with a gift for helping people prevent or manage disease or other physical or mental health issues.”

Penn State Health St. Joseph has hired Community Health Workers to assist with its Diabetes, Prenatal, Family Practice and Breast Cancer programs, explains Welliver. Graduates of the program also have been hired by agencies such as Berks Counseling Center and Centro Hispano.

“It works well to have Community Health Workers in settings that require a lot of patient follow up or intensive case management,” Welliver said.

Since Penn State Health St. Joseph began the trainings nearly four years ago, more than 120 students have graduated. The group that graduated in December was one of the largest cohorts in the program’s history.

Henry O. Mateo Mendoza receives his diploma from Kim Zientek, lead instructor of Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Community Health Worker program.

“It’s so exciting to see how this program has grown and the students have blossomed,” Welliver said. “There is a dramatic need for Community Health Workers in our community, and every one of these graduates can make a difference.”

Henry O. Mateo Mendoza, the only male to complete the training with this cohort, also is a student at Reading Area Community College and works a full-time job. While finding time for the training program was difficult, he said that having earned the designation of Community Health Worker is rewarding.

“I’ve been through a lot in my life, and if I can help someone with the skills that I’ve acquired, then that’s what I want to do,” said Mendoza, of Reading.

The Community Health Worker training program is offered at least twice a year, and there is no charge to participate. Anyone who would like more information can visit www.thefutureofhealthcare.org/community-health-worker-training or contact Laura Welliver at 610-378-2474 or lwelliver@pennstatehealth.psu.edu.

Working to Overcome Antibiotic Resistance Program Aims to Trump Overuse of Antibiotics

With its new Antimicrobial Stewardship Program, the Penn State Health St. Joseph pharmacy has created a multi-disciplinary team focused on curtailing the routine-and oftentimes uncalled for-use of antimicrobial agents – known to most people as antibiotics. It is one way St. Joe’s is working to address the concern for a growing number of patients who are resistant to these bacteria fighting medications.

The stewardship group was founded in August and is led by Evan Slagle, PharmD, BCPS, St. Joe’s Antimicrobial Stewardship Pharmacist. Physician oversight of the program is being provided by Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Deb Powell.

Slagle says the group’s objective is to develop strategies to work on the optimal selection, dosage and duration of antimicrobials within St. Joseph.

He says antibiotic resistance is growing faster than the new drugs becoming available. And, as resistance grows, meaning antibiotics are not the effective treatment for some people they used to be, it can lead to severe consequences including higher mortality rates, increased lengths of stay and growing costs of care.

Slagle noted the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug administration, as well as Congress and the White House also are advising and monitoring how the healthcare system is addressing the issue.

Slagle is working with the stewardship group and caregivers on a number of pharmacy driven initiatives which are in place, and others will be coming, he added.

“Most of the immediate focus of our group has been to make sure we are meeting the stewardship standards of our accreditation/regulatory agencies,” says Slagle. “Our infection rates have been very good. Many of the strategies we have been enforcing are supporting this positive trend.”

Halloween Safety Tips

Stay safe this Halloween with some quick tips

Stay safe this Halloween with some quick tips. Stay safe this Halloween with some quick tips

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