Hershey Medical Center facing future with certainty and innovation

HERSHEY, Pa. -- On the 50th anniversary of its groundbreaking today (Feb. 26), Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State College of Medicine’s Dr. Craig Hillemeier told the Penn State Board of Trustees that the organization is meeting the challenges of its industry with innovation and inspiration. Hillemeier, dean of Penn State College of Medicine, chief executive officer of Penn State Hershey Medical Center and Health System, and Penn State’s senior vice president for health affairs, highlighted the organization’s performance during 2015 at the board’s meeting.  

“For all you have heard about health care reform, increased competition for research dollars and physician shortages, I am pleased to report that Penn State Hershey is prepared to face that future and will continue to be an innovator in health care,” Hillemeier said. “Like true Penn Staters –  Penn State Hershey is growing and innovating.”

The college -- historically recognized among the leaders in the training of primary care physicians — launched an accelerated medical degree program, known as Penn State 3+3 program. The program allows students to complete medical school in three years followed by three years of family medicine residency training at Penn State. The new 3+3 curriculum will educate and train highly skilled family doctors to practice in the new health care delivery system, with potential for this accelerated program to expand into other disciplines.

The year also was highlighted by continued growth at the College of Medicine’s University Park Regional Campus, including:

  • Planning for the March opening of a student-run clinic in Tyrone that will provide free health care to the community.  Under direction of faculty advisers, students will deliver non-emergency care to families in the Tyrone area. 
  • Welcoming six family medicine physicians to the region as part of a new residency in Family and Community Medicine in collaboration with Mount Nittany Medical Center.
  • Recruiting six students who will work with faculty to create a full medical school curriculum at the regional campus. The first class of 12-16 cohorts who will complete all four years of medical school in State College are expected to start in the summer of 2017, with exciting opportunities to collaborate with colleagues in other Penn State colleges at University Park.

Hillemeier told trustees that an 18 percent increase in research funding and a prestigious National Institutes of Health Pioneer Award highlighted the fiscal year 2015 research mission accomplishments. Other research achievements for the year include:

  • $4.15 million to Dr. Steven Schiff, a professor of neurosurgery and engineering, through a prestigious Pioneer Award from the National Institutes of Health — the first Pioneer Award for Penn State — to study the causes of sepsis infection in newborns in sub-Saharan Africa;
  • $14 million to Dr. Chris Sciamanna from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to study the effectiveness of a strength training program for older adults who have had a fall-related fracture;
  • The launch of a website to help pediatricians determine appropriate weight loss in breast-fed newborns. The Newborn Weight Tool, or NeWT, is being used by providers nationwide.

Hillemeier reviewed the organization’s 2015 financial performance, highlighted by increased inpatient and outpatient volumes, and a positive bottom line. He then noted that the healthcare landscape continues to move toward population health management, under which reimbursement will be determined by how well health systems care for each patient – instead of how much care is provided to each patient. At Penn State Hershey, this change is giving rise to new collaborations to enhance quality and safety, reduce infections and improve patient satisfaction.

One example is telemedicine. This month, Penn State Hershey launched a program that uses the principles of telemedicine to connect people with ALS — for whom mobility is often a significant challenge — with their care team electronically. This program joins LionNet, Penn State Hershey’s telemedicine program for stroke, and a program that allows dermatologists to conduct consults via telemedicine.

Hillemeier highlighted several examples of Penn State Hershey earning recognition, including:

  • Ranking among the top for quality and safety among university health system peers nationwide;
  • Earning U.S. News and World Report Best Children’s Hospital ranking in eight of 10 specialties;
  • Employing 175 physicians named to the annual Best Doctors in America list;
  • Being named a Joint Commission top performer;
  • A second designation as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, the only one in southcentral Pennsylvania and one of 60 nationwide.

Hillemeier acknowledged the commitment of Penn State Hershey employees, noting that in 2015, employees donated more than 40,000 hours to projects designed to improve the health of surrounding communities.

Penn State Hershey’s commitment is also felt around the world, particularly in Ghana, where the organization partnered with local doctors and teachers to start the nation’s first private and first rural medical school, MountCrest University. A group of fourth year medical students, residents and faculty is in Ghana through March to provide clinical care and explore opportunities to assist with clinical initiatives. (Follow their journey through regular updates on Penn State Medicine.) Students in the college’s Global Health Scholars program will be traveling with faculty in June to undertake a community health project related to nutrition. 

Hillemeier noted several examples of the many ways people gave generously of their time or money in the past year to support the missions of Penn State Hershey, including:

  • Penn State students raised nearly $9.8 million for Four Diamonds during THON 16, the culmination of months of planning and fundraising; money raised by THON covers the treatment costs for pediatric cancer patients as well as cancer research at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital and Penn State College of Medicine.
  • The John E. Morgan Foundation in Tamaqua, Schuylkill County, recently committed $1 million to establish an endowed scholarship to benefit medical students at the College of Medicine. This commitment – and the Stabler Foundation’s $1 million gift a few years ago – represent the largest contributions the College has received for scholarship support.
Last Updated February 26, 2016