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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Pioneer in the Use of Deep Brain Stimulation

“Our mission is to innovate, to constantly find new answers. And no one is doing that better today than the people at Penn Medicine.” - Gordon Baltuch, MD

Many people describe Gordon Baltuch, MD, Director of the Center for Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery, as a man of vision. This is not surprising, considering the fact that he’s been developing this skill since he was a boy.

“When I was a child, I was very close to my grandfather, who was a physician in a very different time and place,” Dr. Baltuch says, his eyes twinkling at the thought. “Sometimes he would go to patients’ houses. Sometimes patients would come to our house. On busy days, the living room became the waiting room. It was, at the end of the day, a very social experience.

“It was there that I first realized I could see myself going into medicine.”

Gordon Baltuch, MD
Gordon Baltuch, MD
With this goal in mind, he pursued an undergraduate degree at Harvard, knowing all along what the next step in his path would be. In medical school, he gravitated at first towards neuroscience, then towards the more unknown world of neurosurgery, which just happened to be “a good fit.” The wisdom of his choice of medical specialization was confirmed by his early experience working at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital in the late 1980s, where he was fortunate to be able to witness firsthand and later take part in some of the leading-edge work of the day at the intersection of neuroscience and medicine.

Then, once again, he had a vision of new and greater possibilities in his chosen field. So, in 1994, he packed his bags and headed for Europe, where Professor Alim Louis Benabid was pioneering deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy for Parkinson's disease.

The cause of Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, was at that time and is to this day unknown. The death of dopamine-generating cells in the substantia nigra part of the brain leads to the motor symptoms that traditionally characterize Parkinson’s, beginning with shaking, rigidity and other movement-related manifestations. Cognitive and behavioral problems, even dementia, are associated with advanced stages of the disease. The accumulation of rogue proteins called alpha-synucleins, combined with the lack of healthy dopamine generation and activity, causes the circuitry of the midbrain to function in abnormal electrical patterns and sometimes, in severe cases, to cease functioning at all.

Interested in reading more? 
Check out the full version of A Pioneer in the Use of Deep Brain Stimulation.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Relieve Your Stress With Mindfulness Meditation

Get a fresh start this spring by finding new balance in your work and home life with the Penn Program for Mindfulness.

The Penn Program for Mindfulness teaches how to use meditation as the primary tool for long-term stress management. Mindfulness meditation will help you manage the physical, psychological and behavioral symptoms of stress.

This highly acclaimed eight-week course will teach you a variety of meditation techniques to help cultivate relaxation, clarity and focus in your day-to-day life. You will learn to recognize your unique reactions to stress, find more effective ways to respond to stressful situations and discover how to use your own inner resources to attain greater health and well-being.

Program Details

The Penn Program for Mindfulness courses are offered in eight locations in PA and NJ. Courses will include a two-and-a-half-hour class each week, along with one full-day mindfulness retreat on Saturday, June 7. The registration deadline is April 24. Classes begin the week of April 28.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Center for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery Symposium

The Center for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery, a program for patients who prefer treatment or surgery without the use of blood or blood products such as red cells, white cells, platelets and plasma, will be holding a free symposium on Saturday, May 17.

This event will feature a presentation on the history of bloodless medicine from
Patricia Ford, MD
Patricia Ford, MD, Founder and Director of the Center for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery at Pennsylvania Hospital. It also will include panel discussions on what happens in the operating room, how the hospital identifies bloodless patients and when to enroll with the Center.

Event Details

Date: Saturday, May 17
Time: 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Location: Zubrow Auditorium
                Pennsylvania Hospital
                800 Spruce Street
                Philadelphia, PA 19107

To register, call 800-789-PENN (7366) or email BloodlessMedicine@uphs.upenn.edu.

About the Center for Bloodless Medicine

The Center for Bloodless Medicine and Surgery at Pennsylvania Hospital incorporates advanced technology and world-class medical specialists trained in patient blood management. Founded in 1996, this national and internationally-recognized program treats more than 600 patients per year and has options in nearly every medical specialty.

Bloodless Medicine Facts

  • Bloodless medicine and surgery is a safe, proven and effective method of treating patients without the use of blood or blood products such as red cells, white cells, platelets and plasma.
  • Patients who choose treatments without the use of blood often experience faster healing and recovery times and lower chance of infections.
  • Bloodless medicine reduces reliance and associated costs on regional and national blood supplies.

Friday, April 4, 2014

What to Expect at Your Annual Physical, Part 2: Vaccinations

Lori M. Noble, MD, a primary care physician at Spruce Internal Medicine, located at the new Penn Medicine Washington Square building, discusses what to expect at your annual physical. This is a two-part series. Interested in part 1? Check it out now.

Lori M. Noble, MD
Lori M. Noble, MD
As adults, many of us cannot recall the last time we had to get a routine series of vaccines. Maybe we just have a vague recollection of needing shots before college or before accepting a new job.

That being said, vaccines are an extremely important part of routine care well into adulthood. Some vaccines continue to be recommended for all age groups, while others are offered only at certain age milestones or in those with certain health conditions.

It is important to know what vaccines you may be eligible for, and remember, it’s just a sting or a pinch today that can help prevent disease tomorrow.

HPV vaccination (aka Gardasil)

WHO: Males and females from age 9-26.
WHY: To protect you from four strains of the Human Papilloma Virus, two of which cause genital warts in men and women, and two of which can lead to cervical cancer in women.
NOTES: 1) The HPV vaccine is a series of three shots. The second is given two months after the first and the third is given four months after the second. 2) Not all insurance companies are consistently covering the vaccine for young men, so check with your insurance company before visiting your doctor.

TDaP vaccination (aka Adacel, Boostrix, Daptacel)

WHO: All adults age 19 and older should receive a single dose of Tdap to replace a single dose of the “every 10 year” Td booster.
WHY: To boost protection against Pertussis (which is the infection that causes whooping cough in children), in addition to boosting protection against Tetanus and Diphtheria. There has been an increase in whooping cough in children because as adults, our protection (i.e immunity) against the infection goes down. We can then transmit it to children who are not fully vaccinated.
NOTES: All pregnant women should receive the vaccine with each pregnancy, regardless of prior vaccination.

vaccinations Flu vaccination

WHO: All adults once per year (typically August-February).
WHY: To protect against the influenza virus and complications, such as pneumonia.
NOTES: There are multiple kinds of flu vaccines, and your doctor will recommend the best one for you based on your age and any other medical conditions you may have.

Pneumonia vaccination (aka Pneumovax)

WHO: One time in all adults age 65 and older AND in all adults under age 65 with any of the following: diabetes, COPD (i.e. emphysema), HIV, heart failure, asthma, chronic hepatitis, cancer or current smokers. WHY: To protect against potentially deadly pneumonia infection and its complications.
NOTES: 1) If the vaccine is given before the age of 65 for any of the above conditions, a second dose should be given as a booster at age 65. 2) In those adults whose immune systems are poor (i.e. cancer patients on chemotherapy), a booster should be given every five years, regardless of age.

Shingles vaccination (aka Zostavax)

WHO: One time in all adults, age 60 and older, who have ever had chickenpox (or whose chickenpox history is unknown).
WHY: To protect from the reactivation of the chicken pox virus, which can cause a painful, blistering rash, called shingles. The rash can leave behind permanent nerve damage at the site of the rash, leading to chronic pain.
NOTES: 1) Adults whose immune systems are very poor should not get the vaccine. 2) The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) currently recommends vaccinating all adults over the age of 50, but insurance companies are currently not approving the vaccine for those between the ages of 50-59. 3) If you have Medicare, you may need to get this shot administered at your local pharmacy, NOT in the doctor’s office, in order to be covered by insurance. Ask your doctor or your pharmacist if this applies to you.

The relationship you build with your primary care doctor is one of the most important you’ll ever have. Primary care providers are there to listen to your special concerns and help you make informed decisions about maintaining your health. If you have additional questions, please speak with your physician.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring into Good Health

 Spring is here - at last! The flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and people seem to have just a little extra hop in their step. But if you're still finding it difficult to get out of hibernation mode, Penn Medicine offers some spring wellness suggestions to help:

Get Up, Get Out and Get Active

It can be hard to get back into the swing of things, especially after the harsh winter many of us just endured. Your body, though, will thank you once you get out into the fresh air. Go for a jog, hike, walk the dog, do some yard work, anything that gets your body moving.

Ever think about trying a 5k or 10k run/walk? Now is the perfect time to sign up and give it a shot. Check out a few upcoming runs sponsored by Penn Medicine.


Set goals for yourself in terms of the amount of activities you want to do in a week and have fun reaching them.

Eat Healthier

We know, it's easier said than done. But here's really why: with the additional outdoor activities you’ll be enjoying in the nice weather, your body needs more vitamins and nutrients. Spring is when many different fruits and vegetables come into season, which means your grocery store will be stocked with all kinds of produce. Take advantage of these fresh foods by integrating them into your diet. Not only are they good for you, but they will give you extra energy.

Be Prepared for Allergy Season

We all know the saying, “April showers bring May flowers”. For those that are prone to sniffles and sneezes as the weather warms, now is the time to prepare a plan of defense.

Although the thought is to open windows and allow some fresh air to come in, this can have consequences to those suffering from allergies. By keeping windows closed during this time of year, you can reduce the amount of pollen entering the house. It is also recommended that you change filters in air conditioning units and vents frequently throughout springtime.

When venturing outside, wear sunglasses and a hat to block pollen from landing on your head or entering your eyes. After being outside for an extended period of time, be sure to shower to remove any pollen from your hair and skin.

Finally, talk to your doctor about a seasonal allergy drug that may be appropriate for your symptoms. Or, just schedule an appointment before the season really kicks in.

Get Ready for Spring Cleaning

Did you know there are health benefits to spring cleaning? Not only can spring cleaning help reduce sneezing and sniffling by removing dust buildup, it can also help your mental health. By living in a clutter-free environment, you can reduce stress and anxiety. Remember that spring cleaning needs to be an ongoing activity because of the additional foot traffic, pollen, etc.

A few tips to guide your cleaning:
  • In an attempt to control pollen, wash bedding every week in hot water.
  • Wash throw rugs every couple weeks to reduce mold.
  • Change filters in air conditioning units and vents every 30-60 days.

Work Out With Your Dog

Work out with your dog
Taking long walks or runs with your dog can help both of you stay in shape! The recommended time per day for walking your dog is 30 minutes. Just think, you can burn calories and enjoy time with your pup. In fact, a 140-pound woman walking at a leisurely pace for a half an hour can burn up to 100 calories! Of course your pet benefits as well.

Benefits of getting fit with your dog include:
  • Motivation to exercise – there's nothing like an workout partner who's waiting by the door with a wagging tail to keep you motivated!
  • Helps digestive system – a brisk walk can help aid digestion after a big meal.
  • Increased cardiovascular fitness – steady movement can get your heart rate up and can help lower blood pressure.
  •  Improve balance and coordination.
All the above benefits go for your dog as well. In addition, this time together strengthens the bond between you and your pet, and leads to a strong, trusting relationship.

Spring brings many opportunities, so say goodbye to snow shovels and warmer jackets and say hello to extended days and new outdoor adventures. Like all good things, this time of year is fleeting. So be sure to make the best of it!

For more helpful tips and information, check out Patient Resources section.

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