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.

Body Zone Lunch and Learns Draw Capacity Crowds

In an effort to target community members where they are, Penn State Health St. Joseph sponsored a series of five Lunch and Learn programs earlier this year at the Body Zone Sports and Wellness Complex in Reading.

With topics such as coronary artery disease, obesity management and the importance of exercise after menopause, the sessions drew capacity crowds eager to hear from providers.

“Not only did we fill the meeting room for each presentation, but the offices represented saw new appointments made as a direct result of the provider education,” says Julia Nickey, regional director, marketing and communications. “We’re already looking at increasing the number of programs we offer, when our contract comes up for renewal.”

Penn State Health St. Joseph also will explore evening programs as it develops future Lunch and Learn offerings.

“We want to attract different Body Zone members as well as the lunch crowd and are considering sports medicine as a topic for the 5 to 7 p.m. crowd,” Nickey says. “One of the biggest benefits of this program is that we are reaching a new audience within our community, but we’re meeting them where they want to be reached — at a favorite meeting spot.”

Harp Music Offered at Hospital for Patients, Visitors and Staff

Wendy Thompson has learned a lot about the gifts of music since she took up the harp three years ago and started playing her instrument in hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

She has seen the music she plays comfort people who were very sick, including several who would pass away in her presence. She listened to an elderly woman who suffered from severe dementia sing along with her as she played, remembering every word of the old song.

Thompson, who trained through Bedside Harp, a harp therapy instructional and certification program based in Bensalem, Bucks County, has witnessed powerful responses to her playing, not only from patients, but also from family members, friends and hospital staff.

“This really has exceeded my expectations,” Thompson said. “It’s lovely to play for people, but I didn’t realize that I would get so much out of it. It’s extremely rewarding.”

Having recently moved to Berks County from Bethlehem, Northampton County, Thompson offered her talents to Penn State Health St. Joseph. Barbara Moyer, director of volunteers, was delighted to bring her on board.

“I heard her play and it was really special,” Moyer said. “I was moved by the music and the way that Wendy conducts herself.”

Playing a harp in a hospital is one thing, Thompson explained, but being mindful and aware of who is around you and how the music is being received are quite other things.

“There are a lot of things you have to think about when you’re playing for someone who is sick,” she said.

Cultural differences, personal preferences regarding music, attitudes of family members, the physical, mental and emotional condition of the patient and other factors all affect how Thompson interacts – or doesn’t interact – with patients.

Normally, she explained, she simply walks through a hallway, quietly playing a simple tune or even just notes on her harp.

She’ll slow down in front of a patient’s room, seeking signals that indicate whether or not her presence will be welcomed. If a patient shows interest, she will stand in the doorway or enter the room. If not, that’s okay, as well.

“I’m never offended if someone doesn’t want music,” Thompson said. “It’s strictly a personal preference.”

On a recent day in the hospital, Thompson was warmly welcomed into the room of a male patient whose wife and daughter were visiting.

She played several songs, chatting in between as the family engaged her in conversation about their own musical experiences. They thanked her warmly as she left for the next room, where the patient occupying it had no interest in listening to harp music.

“Every room is different,” Thompson noted. “I’ve learned to be very observant since I started doing this.”

At the door of each room, she’ll look for clues that might help her decide what to play. Someone who has a bible next to their bed might enjoy hearing a hymn, for instance. Balloons in the room could indicate that a child is there.

Once, Thompson related, she had begun to play in a patient room when she noticed that the patient’s hands were shackled to the bed, indicating that he was in police custody.

Without pausing, Thompson continued to play.

“I didn’t need to know any more about that,” she said. “My job was to cheer him up and provide comfort.”

While patients are a priority, the harp music is also targeted to staff members, many of whom appreciate a little diversion from their busy routines.

“I have a series of songs that are intended to be uplifting to staff,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s harp music is expected to continue to be heard throughout the hospital, filling a space where sometimes words fail.

“Music often says things that words cannot,” Thompson said.

Gloria Rosado Takes the Lead on La Belleza Event

Working from her small office in the Downtown Campus’ Family and Women’s Care area, Gloria Rosado is a driving force behind the popular La Belleza de Nuestra Salud community event, held for each of past nine years.

Geared to Reading and Berks County Latina women, the event was held in October in the main ballroom of the Abraham Lincoln Ballroom.

La Belleza de Nuestra Salud, which translates to “the Beauty of Our Health,” features educational speakers and presentations, beauty services including chair massages and hand treatments, health screenings, exhibits and food. All presentations and events are in Spanish.

Rosado, a Penn State Health St. Joseph OB/GYN social worker who serves on the committee that plans and organizes the event each year, said it’s a great deal of work, but all worthwhile.

“La Belleza is a health fair for Spanish speaking women, and it’s important to our community,” she said. “It lets people know what services are available and it brings people together.”

The ongoing opioid crisis was the theme of this year’s fair, with a panel discussion covering a variety of related topics. Dr. Janie Simmons, director of opioid overdose prevention initiatives or the Center of Drug Use and HIV/HCV Research, was the keynote speaker, presenting a Spanish version video about Naloxone, an overdose-reversal drug.

“We know that the opioid problem is a crisis, and we wanted to address that this year,” Rosado said. “In addition to Dr. Simmons, we had a panel of speakers and also therapists on hand to talk to patients and family members about opioid use and treatment.”

Hundreds of people attended the event, for which there is no cost.

Education is extremely important for the Latino community, explained Marlin Jusino-Bobe, a Penn State Health St. Joseph pediatric social worker, and the La Belleza event gives educators a chance to reach out to members of that community.

Jusino-Bobe works to help parents understand what services are available for children who are having trouble in school and need extra help.

“We realize that there’s a lot of need for special education for the children, and we want to help parents understand how to get help for that,” she said.

Also, Rosado explained, Latinas need to understand what health services are available, and why tests like mammograms and colonoscopies are important.

“Latinos need these services and this education, and they need to hear it in their native tongue,” she said. “If a person does not receive clear and concise medical instruction, it could have very serious consequences.”

Members of the Latino community are less likely to receive diagnostic screenings and tend to be diagnosed with serious diseases such as cancer later than members of some other ethnic groups.

While the theme of La Belleza de Nuestra Salud always deals with a serious issue, the tone of the event is fun.

Women get to catch up with one another, sharing news of their families, their jobs and their lives. They enjoy good food, get handouts from exhibitors and learn more about what’s happening in their communities.

With a number of community sponsors, including Penn State Health St. Joseph, the event has grown significantly since its start in 2010.

Rosado hopes La Belleza will be held next year at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Reading, as it was last year. That location was not available for this year’s event.

“We’re hoping that more and more people will get involved and the event will continue to grow,” Rosado said. “It’s an important resource for Latinas, and everyone looks forward to it.”

Centering on Parenting Program to Kick Off in January

Building on its highly successful CenteringPregnancy program, Penn State Health St. Joseph will in January begin offering a CenteringParenting clinic at its Downtown Campus.

A kick-off event was held at that campus on October 16, when pediatric providers and others learned about the intent of the program and how it will be implemented and run.

Start-up costs for the program were funded by a grant from the Boston-based Centering Healthcare Institute.

“This has been something we’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” said Laura Welliver, Grants & Special Projects Coordinator at Penn State Health St. Joseph. “We knew from our successful CenteringPregnancy program that this was the logical next step.”

Kim Hunter, OB Nurse Navigator, explained that the CenteringParenting program pairs 6 to 8 mothers, along with their partners, support persons and same-age infants together in community with their healthcare providers for the first two years of the babies’ lives. Each session serves as a well visit for babies, while also providing education, fellowship and support for parents.

“This is a proven program that benefits all involved,” Hunter said. “We want healthy moms, healthy babies and healthy families that make healthy communities.”

Participation in the CenteringParenting program has been shown to increase compliance with immunizations, well child visits, breastfeeding and other aspects of care. It promotes healthy lifestyles, gets patients actively involved in their care and promotes bonding among groups of parents and their children.

There are 61 CenteringParenting clinics across the country, with 39 more on their way to opening.

Liz Stern, a public health professional who serves as a consultant for the Centering Healthcare Institute, praised the Penn State Health St. Joseph team for its work of putting together a CenteringParenting program in just 10 weeks.

“I’m really impressed with how quickly this all came together,” she said.

Stern told physicians, nurses, medical assistants and support persons at the kick-off event that each of them will be vital to the new program.

“All of you in your different roles will be very important in making Centering successful,” she said.

Those involved with the program will undergo a two-day training program in November.

The CenteringParenting program begins when babies are one month old and continues through their second birthdays. Parents will be taught how to weigh and measure their babies and document the information in a special notebook, available in either English or Spanish.

Each meeting also will include activities involving babies and parents, refreshments and education.

“It’s a lot of fun and fellowship,” explained Stern. “But, if you hear a lot of laughing, don’t let that fool you into thinking there’s not important work happening there.”

The inaugural CenteringParenting group will meet January 7 and be made up of babies who were born in November and early December. Each group will include two facilitators, a pediatric provider and a community health worker, in addition to parents and babies.

Hunter said that Penn State Health St. Joseph, a certified Baby-Friendly hospital, is thrilled that it will have both CenteringPregnancy and CenteringParenting programs for patients.

CenteringPregnancy is a 10-session program during which 8 to 12 women due to give birth at approximately the same time meet for two hours, during which they receive prenatal care and education. Women typically bond during these sessions and had expressed interest in continuing to meet once their babies were born, Hunter explained.

“Women love the CenteringPregnancy sessions and kept asking why did they have to stop getting together when the baby was born,” Hunter said. “Now, with CenteringParenting, they won’t have to stop.”

Learn more about the Centering Healthcare Institute and the CenteringPregnancy and CenteringParenting programs at centeringhealthcare.org.

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

Downtown Family Residency Practice “Prescribes” Reach Out and Read Program

Penn State Health St. Joseph Downtown Family Residency launched the Reach Out and Read Program on September 6, 2018, championed by Dr. Christina Raguckas. The Reach Out and Read Program is a partnership with healthcare providers to promote literacy to pediatric patients. Exposure to reading in the first six years is critically important because this is when 95% of brain development occurs. Fifty percent of children living in poverty will arrive to kindergarten with below grade level reading skills, which can limit their success in school and lessen their likelihood of graduating. 91% of children do receive routine pediatric care at least yearly; making pediatric healthcare practices a great location to connect with future readers.

When a child arrives for a wellness visit, he/she is presented with a new, age and language appropriate book. The Residency Provider introduces the book to both the patient and parent, explaining the importance of literacy and reading aloud to young children. Patients and parents are excited to receive a new book and the Residency Providers are happy to promote such an important foundation of learning to the families.

The Family Residency Practice did not want the literacy initiative to just stop there. During many visits, siblings are also present. The practice has been able to offer books provided by the generosity of The St. Joseph Medical Center Foundation to siblings and older readers. Practice staff have also taken the time promoting activities for parents and children at the Reading Library; providing calendars of free activities to further promote literacy and family togetherness to their patients.

In the short time since the program’s inception, the Family Residency Practice has shared Reach Out and Read with 63 pediatric patients and their families. Each day – through the connections being made – great stories are beginning at the Downtown Campus.

Cooking Demonstration Attracts a Crowd at Downtown Campus

The summer squash salad with herbs was met with approval during a recent tasting in the lobby of Penn State Health St. Joseph’s Downtown Campus, with some people returning for a second serving.

“This is really good,” one woman commented. “I don’t think I’ve ever had this kind of squash before.”

And that, according to Chef Chris Dibiase, nutrition services manager at Penn State Health St. Joseph, is just the point of the Downtown program.

“We want to introduce people to vegetables that they may not be familiar with, Dibiase said. “The point is to encourage people to seek out and eat these healthy foods.”

The cooking demonstration and tasting program, held on the fourth Tuesday of every month from 1 to 2 p.m., was started in June as an outreach to city residents, explained Lisa Weaver, Healthy Community Program associate for Penn State Health St. Joseph. The hospital also offers a farm market each Tuesday from noon until 4 p.m. at its Downtown Campus.

“That way, people who taste whatever we’re offering on a particular Tuesday can just walk a few feet and purchase the vegetables they just ate,” Weaver said. “The goal is to get them to use these healthy foods when they cook at home.”

The market, located in a room just off of the lobby, is offered in partnership with the organic farm at Blue Mountain Academy in Tilden Township. It is open to anyone, with cash, checks, credit and debit cards and SNAP accepted for payment.

Patients who are part of St. Joseph’s Veggie Rx initiative, an innovative program that offers vouchers that can be redeemed for fruits and vegetables to patients suffering from conditions such as diabetes or obesity, also can use their vouchers at the farm market.

“We want to provide better access to fruits and vegetables for people who could benefit from them,” said Nicole Rhoads, a registered dietician with Penn State Health St. Joseph.

The Veggie Rx program is designed to expand patient knowledge of nutrition while increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables, Rhoads explained. Vouchers also can be redeemed for produce at the Penn Street Market.

Offering portions of healthy foods to people who are coming and going at the Downtown Campus works toward both of those goals.

“People who try these healthy foods not only get the nutritional information about them, they also get to experience how delicious they are,” Weaver said.

In addition to the herbed squash salad offered at the Downtown Campus tastings, Chef Dibiase has served up a kale salad with chicken, a jicama slaw and an edamame salad. All of them were well received, particularly the kale salad.

“Some people were a little hesitant at first because they didn’t know what it was – they’d never eaten kale before,” Dibiase said. “But, once they tried it, they loved it.”

The next tasting is set for Tuesday, Oct. 23.

Summer Squash Salad with Herbs

  • 2 pounds zucchini and yellow squash (about 2 of each), halved lengthwise and sliced ½-inch thick
  • ½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh dill, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, pressed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ cup distilled white vinegar
  • ¼ cup water, room temperature
  • ¼ cup olive oil

In a large bowl, toss together all ingredients until combined. Cover and chill for 2 hours. Serve cold.

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.

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 & Sciences, 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.

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.

150 Minutes to a Healthier Life

Who is ready to hang up the winter coats, put away the snow boots and get off the couch? It’s hard to believe that spring is here, but it is. This is the perfect time to get outside and restart our New Year’s resolution to exercise.

Penn State Health St. Joseph is here to help! We created a program, FIT150, that encourages everyone to “fit” in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (or

75 minutes of vigorous exercise) every week as recommended by the top heart and cancer research centers. 150 minutes is only 2 hours and 30 minutes – less than the time it takes to binge 3 episodes of This Is Us!

This formula has the following benefits:

  • Reduces the risk of some cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes
  • Reduces high blood pressure
  • Reduces cholesterol
  • Helps with weight loss
  • Elevates your mood
  • Increases your energy levels
  • Strengthen bones and muscles.

How does this break down?

  • At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150. If your time is limited, split the 30 minutes into a 15 m
    inute morning and an evening session.
    OR
  • At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity
    AND
  • Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.

What is Moderate Aerobic Exercise?

Moderate aerobic exercise includes activities such as brisk walking, tennis doubles, spring cleaning, swimming, and mowing the lawn.

What is Vigorous Aerobic Exercise?

Vigorous aerobic exercise includes activities such as running, cycling, tennis singles, and playing soccer and basketball.

There is an exercise routine for everyone. Find something you like to do, and it suddenly doesn’t feel like a dreaded activity. You will see results and feel good about those 150 or 75 minutes a week.

Hard to get started? Engage a friend, family member or a co-worker to take the FIT150 pledge with you. Together, you will be on the road to fitness and improved health.

We are proud to be partners with some local fitness centers YMCA, BLDG. 7 Yoga and Corps Fitness. If you take our FIT150 pledge, we’ll email you free gym passes.  Put your sneakers on, take the pledge and get moving! http://www.thefutureofhealthcare.org/fit150/

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.