Local Penn Staters participate in the fight against COVID-19

Carissa Ackley
April 21, 2020

During the widespread uncertainty caused by COVID-19, Penn Staters are doing their part in the battle against the pandemic by contributing their unique clinical and research experience.

head shot young man wearing glasses in shirt and tie

Dr. Daniel Devine graduated from Penn State in 2010 as a Schreyer Honors Scholar.

IMAGE: Dr. Daniel Devine
head shot of young man in shirt and tie

Dr. Michael Devine graduated from Penn State in 2008.

IMAGE: Dr. Michael Devine

Dr. Michael Devine and Dr. Daniel Devine trace their roots back to Phillipsburg, New Jersey. After graduating from Freedom High School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the brothers decided to attend Penn State Lehigh Valley (PSU-LV) and enroll in the 2+2 program. Through this program, they began their college education at PSU-LV and completed their degree at University Park, each graduating with a bachelor of science in biology.

Michael Devine graduated in 2008 and Daniel Devine in 2010, a Schreyer Honors Scholar. Both went on to also graduate from medical school, complete residency training in internal medicine, and subspecialty fellowships in geriatric medicine; Michael Devine at Johns Hopkins Hospital and Daniel Devine at Harvard’s Massachusetts General Hospital.

“Even back then, we always liked Penn State—it’s an excellent school with excellent research opportunities,” said Daniel Devine. “Right now, research is more critical than ever before.”

Now, the brothers are focused on exploring a new method of health care in their practice Devine Concierge Medicine, with plans to open May 1, based in Wayne, Pennsylvania. Their approach addresses traditional primary care limitations while transforming the doctor-patient relationship into a fluid model of communication. Through telephone and home services, they hope to prevent overcrowding in hospitals while providing preventive medicines to keep patients healthy. Their other business, Devine Hospital Medicine, is partner of Abington-Lansdale Hospital Jefferson Health, located in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.

As health care practitioners, they have witnessed the increasing sweep of COVID-19 firsthand through their work with medically complex, older adults—a group that is experiencing a crushing need nationwide for personalized primary care in the midst of the pandemic.

“Currently, we are serving many patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. We are on the front lines of this pandemic,” Michael Devine said.

“We feel like in response to COVID-19, our new practice is really equipped to answer the unique needs of older adults right now. Although we will take on fewer patients, we’ll be able to stay a lot more involved with them than traditional methods of health care allow. We view our approach as an ongoing conversation with our patients,” said Daniel Devine.

However, both are determined to make a difference in the community.

“This is what we signed up for,” said Michael Devine, speaking of the enormous strain currently faced by medical professionals everywhere. “Right now, there is a huge need for services geared towards geriatric patients, so we’ve been working a lot, but we are holding up fine. The hospital we partner with is taking care of us as we try our best to help these patients.”

Both doctors are clear-sighted in what objectives must be met in order to overcome COVID-19.

"We need both the research side and the clinical medicine side to overcome COVID-19"

-- Penn State alumnus Dr. Daniel Devine

Kathryn Colonna Worrilow, founder and CEO, LifeAire Systems, couldn’t agree more.

headshot of woman with short hair and in red blazer

Kathryn Worrilow, founder and CEO, LifeAire Systems, serves on the Lehigh Valley LaunchBox Advisory Board.

IMAGE: Kathryn Worrilow

Worrilow earned her doctorate in anatomy and cell physiology from the University of Virginia School of Medicine and completed her postdoctoral fellowship in reproductive physiology and infertility at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. She has served as the scientific director of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) Programs for more than 20 years and her work has led to the development and design of the LifeAire Systems, a patented and transformational air purification technology. As a longtime supporter of PSU-LV, her community experience includes the time she is devoting to Lehigh Valley LaunchBox as a board member.

Although designed for use in IVF laboratories to control and remove the variable of ambient air from the process of culturing the human embryo in an in vitro environment, hospitals are investigating this system as a potential means of increasing filtration measures in order to address the spread of infectious diseases in health care settings. This is because from the invention’s onset, the bar was set high.

“When creating the LifeAire technology, we chose the anthrax spore because that is the most difficult biological spore to kill. We provide a much higher lethal dose by virtue of the technology itself. While it wasn’t designed specifically for COVID-19, we know the level kill it attains and thus provides a comprehensive kill of COVID-19,” Worrilow said.

Worrilow’s company is now getting calls from hospitals about putting LifeAire Systems in to protect their ICU space of their non-COVID patients who need critical care. She is also fielding calls about adding LifeAire to mobile testing tents housing COVID-positive patients in order to kill COVID-19 in the air. Locally, one health care system has already explored the power of LifeAire.

“St. Luke’s is the first local hospital pre-COVID-19 to install our technology. It was a pure health care, non-IVF installation. Now that the study is complete, we are in the process of publishing the results,” Worrilow said. “In this study, one floor was protected by LifeAire Systems and the other was protected by HEPA filtration, which is the standard in health care. To compare the two, the data is overwhelming—patient length of stay was significantly reduced on the floor with the LifeAire technology.”

LifeAire has also installed its transformational technology in a leading long-term care facility towards the reduction of illness, infections and the wellness and protection of the residents.  

"Our technology was initially designed to protect the human embryo, but it is the vision and heart of our company and team that it can help others along a continuum of care - from the living embryo in IVF to the patient in the hospital to those residents in senior living," Worrilow said.

As her company ramps up production to meet the future demands of hospitals, Worrilow remembers the lasting impression she received from the PSU-LV community and how it mirrors the role of the community at large in stopping COVID-19.

“Any interactions I’ve had with the PSU-LV campus — through teaching, or through LaunchBox  — have been beyond impressive. This campus is dedicated to academic excellence and it is consistent, which means that PSU-LV students are receiving an education that teaches them to be outside-the-box thinkers that become entrepreneurs and the providers of solutions,” Worrilow said. “It confirms my belief that many people from different backgrounds and fields are coming together in a great way to contribute their unique expertise to solve this problem of COVID-19.”

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 27, 2020