Health Journalism 2011: Field Trips

Health Journalism 2011
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Advance sign-up required. Buses will load at 7:45 a.m. on Thursday at the hotel's front entrance. Lunch will be provided during each tour, with opportunities to talk informally with researchers and other health professionals. Buses are scheduled to be back at the hotel before 5 p.m., in time for the Newsmaker Briefing at 5:30 p.m.


This field trip is full. If you sign up for it, you will be placed on a waiting list.


At the University of Pennsylvania's Roberts Proton Therapy Center, radiation oncologists attack cancer with a beam of particles shot out of a 220-ton cyclotron and delivered into patients at 100,000 miles per second. Hailed by Popular Mechanics as a "Smart Bomb Against Cancer," the technology in the football field-sized center gives Penn's world renowned radiation experts new tools to treat patients who might otherwise have no options. As the world's largest integrated radiation oncology facility, the Roberts Proton Therapy Center is uniquely positioned to conduct clinical trials aimed at identifying and developing the best uses of proton therapy. Since the center's opening last year, physicians have cared for an array of cancers that are challenging to treat with conventional radiation: Those of the brain, lungs, esophagus, spinal cord, head and neck, all so close to vital organs and sensitive healthy tissue that doctors are banking on proton therapy's precision. Tour this high-tech center and learn more about what's new in cancer care.


[Half of Penn visitors will visit this site and half the next.]

Tour a high-tech facility where personalized medicines are made. Don a bunny suit, lab booties, and surgical gloves to experience this "clean" laboratory suite where patients' own cells are engineered to make therapies uniquely suited to their diseases. The Clinical Cell and Vaccine Production Facility enables the translation of novel cellular-based therapies to clinical trials. The CVPF supports more than a dozen trials, many of which are first-in-human, in such areas as cancer, HIV/AIDS and genetic disease. Bruce Levine, Ph.D, director of the CVPF, will explain the science behind some of Penn's more cutting-edge clinical trials.  This lab conducts more clinical trials involving personalized vaccine therapy than any facility in the nation.   


[Half of Penn visitors will visit this site.]

Natasha Richardson. Brett Michaels. Gabrielle Giffords. Soldiers with traumatic brain injuries. Athletes with concussions. They all make headlines, but brain-injured patients remain somewhat of a "black box," with no clearly observable symptoms to sound a clinical alarm when something's wrong. Time is frequently of the essence in treating these very sick patients, and having data from multiple sources instantaneously can be life-saving. Unlock the secrets at Penn's new 22-bed Neurocritical Care Unit - among the most technologically sophisticated neuro-ICUs in the nation - as the multi-disciplinary Neurocritical Care Team rapidly integrates neurologic expertise with multiple streams of monitored data. The team will discuss cross-disciplinary ways Penn is developing specialty applications for technology and pioneering collaborations in medicine, computer science, bioengineering and sociology.


How do you train doctors to have a good "bedside manner?" By teaching them early on how to interact with patients and talk to them in a way that encourages open communication. That's the goal of Drexel University College of Medicine's highly regarded Physician and Patient course. The course takes place inside a suite of exam rooms equipped with digital audio and visual recording capabilities for use in "standardized patient" encounters. Standardized patients are actors who are taught to portray various clinical conditions and who are trained to provide feedback to students and residents. Come inside the control room alongside professor Dennis Novack, M.D., to observe students' interactions with these "patients." Novack, associate dean of medical education, is a leading national expert on physician-patient communication. He will answer your questions and share his assessment as you see this teaching method in action.


While there is no substitute for human interaction, new technology is making it easier for medical students to learn - thanks to the help of robots. Drexel University College of Medicine's brand new state-of-the-art Blue Cross Medical Simulation Center is equipped with the latest high-fidelity patient simulators that exhibit life-like vital signs, including heartbeats, blood pressures, and body and eye movements. These robots are programmed to display a variety of normal and abnormal conditions, and to respond realistically to student interventions, such as intubation, drug injection or cardiac defibrillation. They can even be programmed to speak or cry out in pain. The goal is to help better educate students and residents, improve the quality of patient care, reduce the number of medical errors and enhance communication between physicians and other members of the health care team. Come experience this "hands-on" opportunity to see a sim center in action.



More and more hospitals are bragging about being the first in the community with a surgical robot. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia will allow you to test drive the da Vinci surgical robot and also learn how the top-ranked pediatric hospital is training the next generation of surgeons. Watch how surgeons operate in very tiny areas of the body working six feet away from the patient. Learn just like a surgical fellow on an adjacent training robot that can be overridden by the surgeon in a flash. Operating the robot is Pat Casale, M.D., one of the first surgeons trained to perform robotic operations on children. As a result of Casale's early training and shared knowledge, Children's Hospital has one of the busiest pediatric robotic surgery programs in the country. Until recently, surgical options included traditional surgery with a large open incision or laparoscopy, which uses small incisions but is typically limited to very simple procedures.  Reporters will be invited to try out and compare those surgical approaches as well.


Heart defects are the most common birth defect in children born today and the experts in the Cardiac Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia diagnose and treat many of the smallest and most complex patients. Standing amidst two spectacular state-of-the-art operating rooms in the Cardiac Center at Children's Hospital, through floor to ceiling windows and oversize monitors, watch small hearts become exposed to the expert hands that will repair congenital heart defects in small patients. A member of the Cardiac Center will share the details of the conditions and procedures you are seeing that showcase the depth and breadth of the program in real-time.


A large collection of low-fidelity and high-fidelity mechanical simulators at Thomas Jefferson  University’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Center support skills building sessions.
A large collection of low-fidelity and high-fidelity mechanical simulators at Thomas Jefferson University’s Clinical Skills and Simulation Center support skills building sessions.

Step into the shoes of a 21st century medical student by experiencing simulated medical surgeries.  While there is nothing quite like the real thing, the Dr. Robert and Dorothy Rector Clinical Skills Center at Thomas Jefferson University trains tomorrow's clinicians and nurses with lifelike, state-of-the-art patient simulators. Come meet "Sim Man" and "Harvey," the "standardized patients" who not only reproduce a wide array of physiological signs, such as blood pressure, heart and breathing sounds, but also allow students to practice basic and advanced clinical skills. Students can insert IVs and urinary catheters, defibrillate, and perform single-lead electrocardiogram and CPR.  Medical directors Dale Berg, M.D., Katherine Berg, M.D., and other staff will demonstrate some of the 300-plus scenarios that can be re-created at the center. Located in Jefferson's Dorrance H. Hamilton Building, the center is equipped with an ER, OR and ICU simulation rooms and other innovative classroom techniques.


The Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine takes personalized medicine to a new level. Physicians are guided by science of medicine but incorporate the art of complementary therapies for an "integrative" way of practicing. Board-certified Jefferson physicians will demonstrate a host of different therapies, including acupuncture, hormone replacement therapy using pellets, high-dose vitamin C to treat cancer and mindfulness-based stress reduction. Physicians treat adults and children for common health problems and complex medical conditions. They are available to work with patients directly or in close consultation with primary care providers or specialists. The visit includes an overview and tour of the new state-of-the art facilities designed around patient comfort and well-being and including unique architecture, light-bathed spaces and a tranquil outdoor garden.

The world-renowned Mütter Museum features medical oddities, antique surgical instruments and the rarely seen collections of the Historical Medical Library, one of the most important such collections in the world.
The world-renowned Mütter Museum features medical oddities, antique surgical instruments and the rarely seen collections of the Historical Medical Library, one of the most important such collections in the world. Credit: George Widman Photography LLC


This field trip is full. If you sign up for it, you will be placed on a waiting list. 


To improve health care, we need to understand why bad things happen and what impact new technologies will have on future care. Visit the nonprofit ECRI Institute, which The New York Times called "the country's most respected laboratory for testing medical products" - and an AHRQ-designated Evidence-based Practice Center - for a bit of both. Go into the nation's only real-life CSI lab focused on forensic health care accident investigations. Hear first-hand stories about its most difficult cases, some involving surgical fires, wrong-site surgery, alarm fatigue, and more. Dive into the country's deepest database of adverse events and near misses as patient safety analysts share lessons learned from national and statewide adverse event reporting systems. Take a virtual tour into the future of health care with insights from the new federal health care technology horizon scanning program. Learn which technologies the public will need to understand and how they will affect patient care.


As the oldest professional society in the nation, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia (founded in 1787) has earned its service mark, Birthplace of American Medicine. Join us as we enter the historic New Beaux-Arts style building constructed in 1908 and explore the disturbingly informative collections and specimens of the world-renowned Mütter Museum, from medical oddities to antique surgical instruments. We will be treated to a viewing of some of the rarely seen collections of the Historical Medical Library, one of the most important such collections in the world.