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.

Collaborative Partnerships Lead to National Recognition – Again

Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center recently earned national recognition for its commitment to delivering a higher standard of patient care.

The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association approved St. Joseph Medical Center for the Get With The Guidelines® — Stroke Gold Plus with Honor Roll Elite award, which recognizes the hospital’s commitment to ensuring that every stroke patient receives treatment according to nationally accepted recommendations and standards.

“We have been Gold Plus for years, but 2019 was the first year we achieved Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite,” says Wendy Clayton, clinical program coordinator, quality and performance improvement. “It was the result of great work on the part of our Emergency department, the physicians, the nursing staff and our EMS partners. We improved our processes, but it is really about that collaborative relationship between all key partners.”

St. Joseph Medical Center also earned the American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines® — Heart Failure Gold Plus with Honor Roll award. Once again, while the hospital previously has earned the Gold Plus recognition for treating heart failure patients, this is the first year it achieved the Honor Roll award.

The American Heart Association also renewed St. Joseph Medical Center’s Mission Lifeline® Heart Attack Receiving Center Accreditation. The three-year accreditation recognizes centers that meet or exceed quality of care measures for people experiencing the most severe type of heart attack, ST-elevation myocardial infarction (STEMI), in which blood flow is completely blocked to a portion of the heart.

“We are thoroughly committed to providing our patients the highest quality cardiac care centered on current scientific research,” Clayton says. “Having this accreditation renewed highlights our accomplishments, as we strive to improve the overall treatment and care for our heart attack patients.”

New Machine at Penn State Health St. Joseph Advances Treatment for Cancer Patients

Written by Susan Shelly – Reading Eagle Correspondent

The Bern Township hospital has acquired a TrueBeam linear accelerator.

The star of the show during an open house last week at Penn State Health St. Joseph was not a hospital official, physician or even the Penn State mascot, who joined the< event celebrating a $5.5 million expansion to the hospital's cancer center.

Central to the event was the hospital’s new TrueBeam linear accelerator, a state-of-the-art machine that delivers what is said to be the most advanced radiation technology available to remove tumors. The linear accelerator is fully integrated for image-guided radiotherapy and radiosurgery.

It can be used to treat cancer anywhere in the body where radiation treatment is appropriate, including lung, breast, prostate gland and head and neck.

The TrueBeam linear accelerator enables providers to capture and analyze data relating to a particular patient, and to adjust the type of radiation delivered depending on
the patient’s needs.

“As a technology, this allows us to treat cancers faster, with a lot greater precision and accuracy,” explained Dr. Navesh Sharma, a radiation oncologist at the cancer

Sharma, who is nationally and internationally known for his expertise with Selective Internal Radiation Therapy, or SIRT, a treatment that targets tumors in the liver with
precise, high doses of radiation while sparing as much normal tissue as possible, is excited about the acquisition of the TrueBeam linear accelerator.

“It’s another tool that helps us to deliver the very best care possible to our patients,” Sharma said. “It definitely enhances the capabilities that we had in the past.”
Penn State Health St. Joseph also has an older model linear accelerator, but it has less capacity than the new one.

Sharma, who came to Penn State Health St. Joseph in 2015 from the University of Maryland, said that knowing the hospital would be acquiring the TrueBeam linear
accelerator factored into his decision to make a move.

“That’s one of the things that lured me here,” he said. “Knowing that I would get to work with this machine was a motivating factor for me.”

Experts at the University of Maryland developed the software for the TrueBeam linear accelerator, said Sharma, who also is a faculty member at Penn State Health Milton
S. Hershey Medical Center, and he was well aware of its capabilities.

Complementary to the TrueBeam system is an extracranial tracking system used to treat prostate cancers.

Calypso Extracranial Tracking, known as the GPS for the prostate, tracks tumors in real time, detecting the slightest movement of the tumor and guiding the physician in
repositioning of the patient, if necessary.

This, explained Sharma, enables him to target the tumor with extreme precision and avoid affecting healthy surrounding tissue. It also reduces the amount of time needed
to deliver the treatment, down to about five minutes from 20.

Planning for the new linear accelerator, which was delivered in September and saw its first patient in December, was in the works for three years, according to Tamara
Devries, a radiation therapy physicist at Penn State Health St. Joseph.

A 2,400 square-foot wing including a specialty vault was added to the cancer center to accommodate the linear accelerator, which weighs 15,000 pounds.
“It was quite a project, because we wanted to make sure we got it exactly right,” Devries said. “We waited for a long time for this machine.”

The TrueBeam system, which requires 16 computers to operate, is the only such machine available in Berks County, according to John R. Morahan, president and chief
executive officer of Penn State Health St. Joseph.

The radiotherapy system will be an important tool for the capable doctors in the hospital’s cancer center.

“We are pleased to be able to put the power of TrueBeam into the skilled hands of Penn State Health doctors like Dr. Sharma,” Morahan said.

Liver Cancer Patients Have Local Access to Minimally Invasive, Life-Extending Treatment at Penn State Health St. Joseph Cancer Center

Originally Published in Central Pennsylvania MD News on October 18, 2018

Penn State Health St. Joseph Cancer Center integrates tissue-sparing yttrium-90 selective internal radiation therapy (Y-90 SIRT) into treatment of liver cancer, offering many local patients improved outcomes over conventional treatments alone.

Survival Benefit

For patients with metastatic right-sided colorectal cancer liver metastases, yttrium-90 selective internal radiation therapy (Y-90 SIRT) in addition to chemotherapy yields increased overall survival of approximately five months compared with chemotherapy alone, according to a study in Clinical Colorectal Cancer that was co-authored by Navesh Sharma, DO, PhD, FACRO, section chief of Radiation Oncology at Penn State Health St. Joseph Cancer Center and associate professor of radiation oncology at Penn State College of Medicine.

In patients with liver-only metastases from colorectal cancer, Y-90 SIRT in addition to chemotherapy improves control of disease in the liver by approximately eight months, according to a study led by Dr. Sharma and published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology

Y-90 SIRT is indicated for a wide range of patients with cancer in the liver, including those who are not candidates for surgery, and its local availability and the expertise at Penn State Health St. Joseph Cancer Center spare them the need to travel to major metropolitan facilities.

A Focus on Precision

Limiting damage to healthy tissue by precisely targeting cancer cells during radiation therapy is crucial because the liver is especially sensitive.

“A low dose of radiation to the entire liver can do great harm to a patient,” says Navesh Sharma, DO, PhD, FACRO, section chief of Radiation Oncology at Penn State Health St. Joseph Cancer Center and associate professor of radiation oncology at Penn State College of Medicine. “That’s why Y-90 SIRT is indicated for patients with liver-predominant disease that poses a risk for immediate liver-related problems.”

Y-90 SIRT delivers radiation to cancerous liver tumors through millions of resin microspheres containing yttrium-90. The procedure involves inserting a catheter into the femoral or radial artery through a small incision in the groin. The catheter is threaded to blood vessels that feed the tumors, and the spheres are delivered through the catheter.

“Yttrium-90 is a beta emitter, which emits radiation for only short distances,” Dr. Sharma explains. “That enables us to deliver a high dose to tumors without the radiation spreading too far, thus protecting the rest of the liver.”

Prior to the procedure, an arteriogram maps the area’s blood vessels, some of which are then blocked off to ensure the microspheres do not travel outside the prescribed area. The brevity of the procedure on the day of treatment — less than two hours, including half an hour to infuse the spheres — allows patients to return home from Penn State Health St. Joseph Cancer Center the same day.

Accurate Timing

The oncology team at Penn State Health St. Joseph Cancer Center maintains robust communication throughout a patient’s course of treatment to ensure optimal timing of Y-90 SIRT.

High-Level Expertise

A board-certified radiation oncologist, Navesh Sharma, DO, PhD, FACRO, section chief of Radiation Oncology at Penn State Health St. Joseph Cancer Center and associate professor of radiation oncology at Penn State College of Medicine, is an internationally recognized expert in yttrium-90 selective internal radiation therapy (Y-90 SIRT).

Dr. Sharma served as the United States’ principal investigator for an international phase III clinical trial on Y-90 SIRT that was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2016 and The Lancet Oncology in 2017.

“I’ve been involved with the procedure since 2010 and previously led one of the largest Y-90 SIRT programs in the country,” he says. “I’ve spent a lot of time learning the accurate dosimetry and application of Y-90 SIRT and its appropriate integration into the continuum of cancer care for patients.”

“Specialists in interventional radiology, radiation and medical oncology are all on the same floor as I am, so we can plan Y-90 SIRT before chemotherapy has even begun,” Dr. Sharma says. “We treat patients in a way that complements the flow of other treatments they are undergoing. That level of multidisciplinary collaboration in a high-volume center such as ours is rare.”

Lifesaving Care, Rapid Recovery

Thomas Souders, who was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer in 2012 and learned it had metastasized to his liver in 2015, has benefited from Dr. Sharma’s expertise. In 2015, Souders underwent Y-90 SIRT after having previously undergone chemotherapy.

“I was able to make it through Y-90 treatment much easier than chemotherapy,” he recalls. “It was more comfortable, and I had a quicker recovery. I even fell asleep during the procedure itself, and I was out of the hospital within an hour after it was over.”

Chemotherapy required him to visit the treatment center four times weekly for multiple weeks, whereas Y-90 SIRT required only three visits over three days. The first was to map the arteries that would carry the microspheres; the second and third were to administer treatment.

Souders doubts he would have known about Y-90 SIRT were it not for its local availability at Penn State Health St. Joseph Cancer Center. He believes that without the treatment, he would not be alive.

“The sooner patients seek treatment options, the better,” Dr. Sharma says. “In the past, the stage IV colorectal cancer survival rate was four to six months. Now, it’s over two years. Offering targeted Y-90 therapy for patients with liver-predominant disease allows them to sometimes get breaks from more toxic chemotherapy and improves their control of disease in the liver based on clinical trials. Integrating chemotherapy and Y-90 SIRT appropriately is what we are able to do well with the experience and open interaction we have here at St. Joseph Cancer Center.”

To learn more about Y-90 SIRT at Penn State Health St. Joseph Cancer Center or to refer a patient, visit thefutureofhealthcare.org/cancer-center/y-90 or call 610-898-SIRT (7478).

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.

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