Posts tagged ‘Hershey Medical Center’

Graphic Content, With Good Intentions


For our latest issue, we sat in on Michael Green’s class at Penn State Hershey that teaches medical students about the power of comics. But it’s not the only initiative in which Penn State is using graphic narratives to help raise understanding and empathy around difficult health issues.

Although a handful of universities like Rutgers and Ohio State have published books about the comic culture and cartoonists, the Penn State Press has dedicated an entire series to the graphic medicine genre. English professor Susan Merrill Squier, who has been teaching comics to grad students since 2011, co-edits the series with physician and artist Ian Williams. The first book, published in 2015, was Graphic Medicine Manifesto, a volume of scholarly essays and visual narratives that is as much an intro to “comics in medicine” as a declaration for its place in this world.


In just under two years, Penn State Press has published at least seven other graphic memoirs, on subjects from caring for a mother with Alzheimer’s (Aliceheimer’s) to parenting a daughter with Down Syndrome (Hole in the Heart). One book getting a lot of press right now is My Degeneration by Alaskan cartoonist Peter Dunlap-Shohl about his daily struggle with Parkinson’s. Says Publishers Weekly: “The narrative covers the fear and determination that make up [his] daily life, from the terror of suddenly unable to walk to the triumph of still being able to dress himself.”

People are reading—and sending pitches—from around the world. Squier recalls how one customer bought Graphic Medicine Manifesto for a brother with incurable throat and jaw cancer: “[His brother] had basically all the treatment he could have, but was now just trying to find a way to live with the situation. And he was blown away by the possibility to express what he was really feeling and not able to get out yet.”

Squier and Green are also part of an international committee that organizes an annual global conference on graphic medicine. Says Green: “We’ve brought together communities of artists and scholars and physicians and teachers and patients, all around this common interest in comics in medicine.”

Amy Downey

February 22, 2017 at 5:23 pm 1 comment

Inside Our January/February 2017 Issue

jf17_cover_blogLook for a welcome pop of color inside your mailboxes soon: You won’t be able to miss the striking aracari named Beatrice gracing the cover of our Jan./Feb. issue. This toucan is just one of the magnificent models featured in “Critter Close-Ups.” Michael Faix, a wildlife photographer and staffer at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, shares his pictures and the stories behind them starting on p. 42.

In “Learning in the Dirt” (p. 24), Dana DiFilippo ’92 discovers the Penn State students who are managing their own working farm on campus. (It turns out that they’re learning as much about themselves as they are about growing food.) Also in the issue, we take a look at the profound legacy of the Craighead family, which includes two leading conservationists and a bestselling author, in “Three of a Kind.”

We also asked readers for memories of getting mail at college and received dozens of great responses. Whether it was a sweet surprise, like mom’s baked-from-scratch cookies, or a love letter in a long-distance relationship—we learned that, years after opening these envelopes and packages, they still remain some of your most special deliveries. Start reading the letters on p. 32.

More from the issue: a profile on Kaia, the adorable golden retriever puppy who is making her mark as a full-time employee at Hershey; a story about Nike CEO Mark Parker ’77; and a recap of the amazing season for the 2016 Nittany Lion football team.

What do you think about the new issue? Let us know by commenting below or emailing us at

Amy Downey, senior editor

December 20, 2016 at 12:49 pm 4 comments

Hershey’s Harry Bramley Talks Concussions

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 2.14.03 PM

In our July/August 2016 issue, “A Lasting Impact” raises some questions about the diagnosis and treatment of concussions. In that feature, we talked to pediatrician Harry Bramley ’99r (right), medical director of the Penn State Hershey Concussion Program, about the safety measures you can take after—or even before—a blow to the head. (You can find the original Q&A, “Off the Field,” on p. 42.) Below is an extended interview with Dr. Bramley offering more valuable advice for parents, players, and patients alike. 

How often do you see patients?  Depending on the season, I personally see 25 to 50 patients with mild brain injuries each week. But not all are from sport-related concussions: some are there because of motor vehicle accidents or diseases like meningitis. I also see patients on the whole spectrum of age, but focus mainly on children, adolescents, and young adults.

Any common concerns?  A common question is the risk of early onset dementia or chronic traumatic encephalopathy following concussion. The likelihood is rare for most people. For the vast majority, they are fine and live a normal life.

What symptoms do you look at?  The four major ones are: physical symptoms, such as headache, dizziness, or problems with balance; sleep, or, more specifically, trouble falling or staying asleep; emotional disturbance such as anger, depression, anxiety; and cognitive dysfunction including concentration, memory, and processing speed. We find out the ongoing issues that they deal with from month to month, then come up with a treatment plan starting with what symptoms tend to be the most troublesome for the patient.

Does age matter?  It appears that the younger individual is more vulnerable when it comes to a concussion. They take longer to get better versus high school, versus college, versus professional athletes. The symptoms of a middle school kid seem to linger on longer, which might be because of a developing brain.

How do you feel about return-to-learn guidelines?  We have a certified teacher in our clinic who meets with the families and is part of the team putting together a return-to-learn strategy. So maybe the patient goes from half days to full days, or maybe limited to one exam a day and reduced homework assignments. Return-to-learn, for us, is bigger or as big as a return-to-sport focus. That’s the first thing we have to do and move forward from there.

Amy Downey, senior editor

July 18, 2016 at 2:32 pm Leave a comment

Spanier Vows to “Vigorously Fight” State Budget Cut

Penn State President Graham Spanier knew the University’s state appropriation was likely to be cut. Speaking at a news conference Wednesday morning at the Outreach Building in Innovation Park, he said that because of Pennsylvania’s budget crisis, University officials had been developing contingency plans for a number of scenarios.

What he didn’t expect was what Gov. Tom Corbett proposed Tuesday morning: a 52 percent reduction, which would drop Penn State’s 2011-12 appropriation from the state to $165.1 million, down from the $347 million the University is receiving this fiscal year.

“This is beyond anything we could possibly imagine,” Spanier said.

The cut in funding to the four state-related universities (Penn State, Pitt, Temple, and Lincoln) and the 14 state schools is believed to be the largest one-year cut in the history of American higher education. Spanier called it “a devastating vision for public education in Pennsylvania.”

The potential effects of such a drop in funding—which must be approved by the Pennsylvania legislature—could include (more…)

March 9, 2011 at 5:49 pm 3 comments

Hershey Medical Center Making a Name for Itself

An artist's rendering of the lobby at the new children's hospital.

I’ll admit it: When I think Hershey, Pa., I first think chocolate. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone with that word association answer, but I discovered Monday that for many people, the name Hershey provokes a different response—high-quality medical care and innovation.

That’s just one of the things I learned as I tagged along with Penn State’s development staff on a tour of the Hershey Medical Center. That’s one of those Penn State campuses we at the magazine know we don’t cover enough, and it was clear by the end of the day that there are plenty of stories to tell. For example:

— The Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute opened a 175,000-foot center last year; it’s a beautiful building (“green” and with lots of natural light, thanks to a giant skylight and other windows) where state-of-the-art research and treatment is happening. We saw, for instance, a radiation machine that reduces treatment from 20 minutes to two. One of the center’s goals is to keep cancer patients at home with their families as much as possible, so all treatment is done on an outpatient basis. And it is getting millions of dollars in research grants from the National Cancer Institute; right now, for instance, researchers are looking into a “hot spot” of colorectal cancer in Scranton and trying to determine whether there is any environmental factor.

— Caring for children is obviously a lot different than caring for adults, but one thing never occurred to me: When children are hospitalized, it’s important to have space for parents, too. Which is why Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital is preparing to build a freestanding children’s hospital—one with rooms big enough for parents to stay with a sick child. Currently, the children’s hospital is crammed onto a floor of the existing medical center, and the only place for parents to stay is in a room at the end of the hall with 12 benches. It’s first come, first serve, and only one parent per child. Raising funds for the hospital, which is slated to open in 2012, is one of the priorities for the upcoming capital campaign.

Our piece on Dan Shapiro from the March/April issue.

— And I got to hear, in person, from Daniel Shapiro, the subject of our Everyday People feature in the March/April issue. Shapiro serves as a medical consultant to Grey’s Anatomy and other television shows, making sure that medical information—especially psychiatry, his speciality—is accurately presented. He walked us through the changes he made in a script because a psychiatrist was giving a patient with post-traumatic stress disorder incorrect—and possibly dangerous—advice. The patient was told to “let it go,” which is a treatment for substance abuse (and, Shapiro noted with a grin, something Hollywood tends to be familar with), but is the exactly wrong treatment for PTSD. “I don’t want an Iraq veteran watching TV to hear, ‘Let it go,'” Shapiro said. “That’s wrong.”

Look for some of these in upcoming issues of the magazine.

Lori Shontz, senior editor

March 18, 2010 at 8:53 am 1 comment

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