Philanthropy in Action

Giving Stories

Study on coronavirus in the healthcare setting

Mount Nittany Health Foundation is pleased to award $62,000 to Carrie Hanley, PhD, MPH, CIC, manager, infection prevention & control, Mount Nittany Health, to support the SARS-CoV-2 Centre County Clinical Cohort serological risk Assessment Trial (4CAST).

Study on coronavirus in the healthcare setting

Mount Nittany Health Foundation is pleased to award $62,000 to Carrie Hanley, PhD, MPH, CIC, manager, infection prevention & control, Mount Nittany Health, to support the SARS-CoV-2 Centre County Clinical Cohort serological risk Assessment Trial (4CAST). The purpose of this study, conducted in partnership with The Pennsylvania State University, is to determine immune responses and risk factors associated with infection in healthcare workers exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

Worldwide, one of the medical community's challenges in battling COVID-19 is understanding the risk factors associated with its transmission The medical and scientific communities have been racing against time to learn more about the virus and how best to treat patients while also reducing and preventing the virus' spread. To that end, research studies and clinical trials have rapidly mobilized to learn about the novel coronavirus to improve treatments, reduce transmission and ultimately prevent COVID-19.

Conducting studies in real-world situations like the 4CAST study, provide invaluable information to address key implementation and feasibility issues in community-based healthcare settings. This is why the health system and The Pennsylvania State University have partnered together for the 4CAST study.

"This study will help community healthcare centers better understand the risks of COVID-19 among frontline healthcare workers. It also allows us to respond in meaningful ways to protect staff and patients alike," shares Dr. Hanley. "We appreciate the Foundation's grant in support of this important study and our efforts to learn more about coronavirus in the healthcare setting."

"Mount Nittany Health Foundation is pleased to fund a study that can help advance the body of knowledge on the novel coronavirus and its impact on healthcare workers," states Simon Corby, executive director, Mount Nittany Health Foundation.

Mount Nittany Health Foundation donors make a difference. Our donors' generosity enables the growth of expertise, advances in lifesaving technology, program improvements, and facility upgrades that meet the unique needs of the communities we serve. Gifts directly support Mount Nittany Health's mission to make people healthier. To learn more about the Mount Nittany Health Foundation, visit foundation.mountnittany.org or call 814.234.6777.

Oncology patient navigators

Removing barriers to getting well

Oncology patient navigators

When patients hear the words, “You have cancer,” they can feel any number of emotions, and it can understandably be overwhelming. Patients may have questions about their health and treatment. They may have concerns about affording their care. They may wonder what resources are available in our community. Mount Nittany Health understands that when you have cancer, the only thing you should have to focus on is getting well. That’s why the health system offers oncology patient navigation services at no charge for those who need them.

“Our role is to remove barriers to our patients’ care,” shares Leslie Finton, MSW, oncology patient navigator. “Our goal is to ensure there are no barriers to receiving treatment. I tell patients and caregivers, ‘I want to lift all of this off of you so you don’t have to worry about the details.’”

The team of oncology patient navigators at Mount Nittany Health are advocates and guides for a patient’s journey through their cancer care. Assistance is tailored to the patient and their family’s personalized needs. As examples, patient navigators can help: •Guide patients through the healthcare system •Direct patients and their families to local resources and support systems •Coordinate transportation to and from treatments and medical appointments •Address questions about insurance and patient assistance programs, work with patients to resolve financial barriers related to being uninsured or under-insured, and assist patients with applying to local and national organizations that may provide financial assistance •Connect patients with appropriate resources for information about healthcare, including clinical trials and second opinions, as well as, treatment side effects and nutrition needs •Coordinate care by communicating with members of the patient’s medical team Patient navigators serve as the common link to the various resources and information individuals facing cancer may need. They are a single point of contact for any questions or barriers that may arise. Because research increasingly indicates that patient navigation improves clinical outcomes by overcoming patient and system barriers, Mount Nittany Health is especially grateful for the longstanding and dedicated philanthropic support for this program.

One such philanthropic partner is Team Ream. Team Ream, a local not for profit, is dedicated to providing support and assistance to families affected by a life-threatening illness, including cancer. Team Ream has donated more than $150,000 for direct patient support via the Team Ream Fund. The fund’s guidelines allow patient navigators to use these financial resources to remove specific barriers to care, such as transportation challenges or expenses for treatment.

Pink Zone, since its inception, has focused their donations on supporting the breast cancer navigation program, ensuring that breast cancer patients can access care. Just this year, Pink Zone partnered with The Kay Yow Cancer Fund, financing the navigation program work with underserved women with any cancer diagnosis.

Patient navigator services are not just for patients but are also for their family and friends. “Our role is as much to support the caregiver as the patient,” Finton shares. “We do whatever we can to remove the barriers for the patient. The team we put together to do that just depends on the individual.”

Though physicians and other care team members often refer to individuals, patients and others can reach out on their own as well.

When asked what the biggest reasons are patients either hesitate or don’t participate in the service, Finton supplies a quick response, “One reason: Knowledge that we exist.” Last year, the patient navigators served 500 patients through 1,500 unique interventions. That’s 1,500 barriers removed so patients can focus on getting well. But Finton knows the need is greater.

“We are a free service to our patients. We get them the care they need,” she says. “It shows that the health system not only cares about treating patients medically, but as a whole person. We want people to know navigation exists to remove their barriers and allow them to focus on getting treatment. We are here.”

If you are a person facing a cancer diagnosis or know someone that could benefit from speaking with a patient navigator, please reach out.

Learn more about oncology patient navigators, Kristen Sides and Leslie Finton, and the work they do in these informational videos.

For patient navigator contact information and to view our library of local and national cancer support services, visit mountnittany.org/specialties-and-services/oncology/support-services.

Pediatric speech therapy program

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 1 in 12 children, ages 3 to 17, in the United States has had a disorder related to speech, voice, language or swallowing.

Pediatric speech therapy program

According to the National Institutes of Health, about 1 in 12 children, ages 3 to 17, in the United States has had a disorder related to speech, voice, language or swallowing. Speech and language disorders are communication impairments that can adversely affect one’s ability to speak, understand, read and write. Such disorders include stuttering, difficulty forming words or sounds and difficulty understanding or using words in context. The challenges that come with speech and language disorders may make it difficult for a child to succeed in school.

Children with speech and language problems often need extra help and instruction. Children may receive speech and language services at school, however, these services may not be available during the summer, which could halt or impede progress. In addition, some insurances do not cover speech and language services, making it financially challenging for some to pay for the costs of these services.

To help address this gap in service, Lance Shaner provided Mount Nittany Health Foundation with a philanthropic gift to support our pediatric speech therapy program.

“I am pleased to participate in this needed service,” says Shaner. “I have experienced and witnessed children having issues with their speech having a hard time in school fitting in due to a diagnosed speech impairment. We have supported programs to assist with these types of therapies in the past in this community and know that this can do a tremendous amount of good. It just made good sense fitting in with our support and commitment to children and healthcare in this community. My hope is that it will generate additional philanthropic interest to the program in this very generous community.”

"We remain grateful for the generosity and vision of the Shaner family in supporting our pediatric speech therapy program helping children to find their voice," states Simon Corby, executive director, Mount Nittany Health. Mount Nittany Health’s pediatric speech therapy program began in 2015 and is led by Janet Pennington, MS, CCC/L, speech-language pathologist. Outpatient services offered through the pediatric speech therapy program include childhood speech and language delays, disorders of voice, fluency (stuttering) and swallowing.

“Treatment for speech and language disorders depends on the nature and severity of the problem, the age of the person and their awareness of the problem,” shares Pennington. “As a licensed outpatient speech-language pathologist, I select intervention approaches based on the highest quality of scientific evidence available in order to help individuals of all ages with speech and language disorders.”

At Mount Nittany Health, our speech-language pathologists are specially trained healthcare professionals who work directly with children and their parents, caregivers and teachers, to assess, prevent, diagnose and treat such disorders.

“With early treatment, many of these disorders can be reversed or even prevented,” shares Pennington. “In the case of children, parents should not delay seeking an assessment if they have any questions about their child’s communication skills.”

For more information about speech-language pathology services available at Mount Nittany Health, visit mountnittany.org or call 814.278.4662.

Mount Nittany Health Foundation donors make a difference. Our donors' generosity enables the growth of expertise, advances in lifesaving technology, program improvements, and facility upgrades that meet the unique needs of the communities we serve. Gifts directly support Mount Nittany Health's mission to make people healthier. To learn more about the Mount Nittany Health Foundation, visit foundation.mountnittany.org or call 814.234.6777.

Creating havens of relaxation

The hospital setting can be a place of uncertainty, fear, and sometimes sadness.

Creating havens of relaxation

The hospital setting can be a place of uncertainty, fear, and sometimes sadness. While we rejoice in the birth of a newborn baby, and celebrate the success of a loved one’s surgery, at times, we must make life-altering decisions and even say goodbye to those dearest to us. These moments filled with emotions of joy, sorrow, stress, and relief, create a need for spaces that offer relaxation and reflection. Mount Nittany Medical Center’s chapel and the H. Karl and F. Joan Spackman Barnett Healing Garden, spaces made possible through the generosity of donors, provide important respite areas.

The chapel, which opened in 2015, is designed so that anyone of any faith can feel comforted and connected. The hope is that this beautiful and quiet space meets the needs of many different people, including a welcoming place for patients, families, visitors, and staff.

Understanding that beauty can be soothing, Blake and Linda Gall, Kathy and Jerry Dittmann, and the late Barbara Palmer donated exquisite stained glass windows by artist David Lee Csicsko to decorate the sacred space. The stained glass windows feature birds, trees, water, and other natural elements, bringing nature inside, and giving the intimate space both a traditional and contemporary feel. It is a beautiful place to pray, meditate, or simply sit and quietly reflect. The chapel is located just inside the main entrance of the Medical Center next to the lobby, and it is open all day, every day.

The H. Karl and F. Joan Spackman Barnett Healing Garden – just outside of the chapel – is an acknowledgment that nature and green space are vital to health and wellness. Created in 2014, through the passion and dedication of Nancy and Richard Dixon with their gift to start the project, the space provides patients, visitors, and staff ample space to take a quiet moment to themselves.

The practice of introducing nature into healthcare settings has grown significantly in recent years. Research has demonstrated that therapeutic landscapes, such as the healing garden, have a profound impact on patients, their families, and healthcare workers. Patients exposed to such spaces experience less pain and stress, and their overall emotional states improve. This can result in shorter hospital stays and increased satisfaction for patients, families, and healthcare staff.

Donors from our generous community made the Healing Garden possible and are featured on leaf plaques throughout the garden. In return, we have welcomed our community members to visit, take a stroll, or find respite for both mental and physical wellness in one of the beautiful outdoor living rooms.

While visitor restrictions are currently in place at the Medical Center to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are grateful to have this sacred space available for all our patients, staff, and providers, especially during these difficult times.

It seems fitting that in a place that cares for people during each stage of life, in moments of joy and sorrow, there are places like the chapel and the Healing Garden where one can simply let go and feel at ease.

Mount Nittany Health Foundation donors make a difference. Our donors' generosity enables the growth of expertise, advances in lifesaving technology, program improvements, and facility upgrades that meet the unique needs of the communities we serve. Gifts directly support Mount Nittany Health's mission to make people healthier. To learn more about the Mount Nittany Health Foundation, visit foundation.mountnittany.org or call 814.234.6777

Pink Zone supports patients

Pink Zone's extra effort benefits breast cancer patients

Pink Zone supports patients

On the night before the annual Penn State Lady Lion Play for Kay Pink Zone basketball game, there is a Pink Eve celebration. At last year's event, Pink Zone held a surprise auction – a spur of the moment fundraising event where attendees generously donated funds to support the purchase of gift cards for breast cancer patients. This incredible extra fundraising effort raised $5,000. The funds – made available this month – come at a critical time to support breast cancer patients as they battle cancer and the fallout from COVID-19.

This support is particularly important in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cancer patients are experiencing economic distress due to reduced work hours, loss of income and potential loss of employer-based health insurance. Angelique Cygan, RN, oncology breast navigator, shares, "It is incredibly meaningful to help patients during this especially stressful time while also enabling access to care and allaying their fears." Cygan is supported in this effort thanks to the generosity of Pink Zone. Indeed, several patients have shared with Cygan that they were prepared to stop treatment due to lost jobs and income. Further, patients often face transportation challenges to obtain necessary treatment, and COVID-19 has only further exacerbated this barrier to care. This gift ensures that Cygan can help ease the financial burden of transportation through Sheetz gift cards to offset the cost of gas. This important assistance helps patients get to and from their necessary medical appointments.

Cygan states, "The gift cards are much needed and appreciated, but even more powerful is the community support behind each card. When I give the patient the gift card, I explain how individuals in our community have come together to lift them up and support them - they are not alone. That is the moment I see patients regain strength and the will to continue their journey."

"We are so grateful to the Pink Zone for their generosity. This gift allows us to provide much-needed direct support to ease some financial burden, allowing patients and their families to focus on their care and treatment," says Simon Corby, executive director, Mount Nittany Health Foundation.

Jeanne Mathis Halpin

Mount Nittany Medical Center’s nurses are committed to providing excellent care to older adults. Donors help ensure this.

Jeanne Mathis Halpin

Jeanne Mathis Halpin, RN, Clinical Supervisor of the Medical Center’s Medical/Oncology Floor, implemented a program called Nurses Improving Care for Healthsystem Elders (NICHE). She says, “Our unit requested and received funding from one of the donor funds managed by The Foundation for Mount Nittany Medical Center to purchase items that provide cognitive stimulation for hospitalized older adults. Our goal is to enhance the experience of geriatric patients at Mount Nittany Medical Center by introducing therapeutic activities to help them stay alert during hospitalization. She added, “A hospital stay can be boring and seem endless for older adults, particularly those who are alone. While our private rooms provide many advantages, they can be isolating, too.”

With the generous donation from The Foundation, their unit was able to purchase many items which can be used with all patients, not just those with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

An example of this donation in use was observed when an 84-year-old patient with advanced dementia was frequently crying out and trying to pull out her IV. She was agitated and unable to rest; so one of the nurses brought in a doll and asked the patient to hold it. The effect was immediate. The patient stopped pulling at her IV and quieted down, and within the hour was sleeping—all the while tenderly cradling the doll in her arms.

The Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund

Doreen Perks, Founder of the Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund (named for her husband who died in 2005 of melanoma), knows firsthand about the costs associated with living with cancer.

The Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund

She feels fortunate that her family was able to weather the financial hardship, but she learned by talking with other patients in the waiting rooms while her husband was undergoing treatment that people could be "knocked off center" with the financial burdens of dealing with cancer. She heard stories about people losing their jobs, not being able to afford their mortgage or rent payments, or choosing between paying an electricity bill and feeding the children. “What kind of choice is that?” says Doreen.

Individuals can apply for assistance for groceries, household bills, and transportation and lodging from the Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund, which also makes donations to facilities that provide cancer care. Mount Nittany Medical Center was the recent recipient of a generous grant of $8,800. This grant will provide hospitality carts delivered to families who have a loved one in the hospital with end-stage cancer. The carts will facilitate the serving of specially prepared snacks to families so that they can spend as much time as they need at the bedside of their loved ones.

Since its inception in 2006, the Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund (BPCAF) has helped to ease the financial burden of individuals and families in our local communities – including Blair, Centre, Clearfield and Huntingdon counties – that are battling cancer, by providing funding for basic necessities so their focus is on treatment and recovery.

“As someone who lives, works, plays and raises a family in this community, we see the impact of cancer every day in those closest to us and those around us,” says Greg Hayes, chair, BPCAF board of directors. “What makes a strong community is a healthy community, including community pride and the participation in organizations like the Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund, which is so critical to that healthy community approach. To be productive member of this community, it’s necessary to engage in these ways to benefit the people and the area that give us so much.”

To learn more about the Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund, please call 814.231.2692 or email info@bobperksfund.org.

Austin's Playroom

Thanks to the generosity of the Pittsburgh-based Mario Lemieux Foundation as well as donors to The Foundation for Mount Nittany Medical Center, Mount Nittany Medical Center opened Austin’s Playroom for its young patients and their siblings.

Austin's Playroom

Accompanying hospital officials for the ribbon cutting ceremony were Nathalie Lemieux, wife of Mario Lemieux and chair of Austin’s Playroom Project, and their son, Austin, for whom the playroom is named. Executive Director of the Mario Lemieux Foundation, Nancy Angus, also traveled from Pittsburgh for the event.

“We are incredibly proud and deeply honored that Nathalie Lemieux and the Lemieux Foundation selected Mount Nittany Medical Center as their latest site for an Austin’s Playroom. Austin’s Playroom Project is a wonderful and much needed service for thousands of families across several states. We cannot thank them enough for this amazing gift,” said Steve Brown, FACHE, president and CEO, Mount Nittany Health. “Parents often have limited time visiting their hospitalized child and speaking with medical staff because they also have to manage their other children. The playroom will help solve that by providing the siblings a safe and child-focused place to occupy their time while mom or dad is with the patient. And, when our young patients are feeling better, they too, can enjoy the playroom,” said Brown.

In 2000, Nathalie Lemieux expanded the Foundation’s scope of charitable giving when she created Austin’s Playroom Project. Austin’s Playroom at Mount Nittany Medical Center is the 28th playroom to be established. Each Austin’s Playrooms features comfortable child-size furnishings, as well as games, toys, books, electronics, an aquarium and child-friendly artwork. Mount Nittany Medical Center’s Austin’s Playroom was uniquely and personally designed by Nathalie Lemieux and features an interactive gaming kiosk, train table, wall-mounted games, and large screen TV/DVD player, inside a brightly painted room.

Austin’s Playroom Project was created from Nathalie and Mario Lemieux’s personal experience while caring for their profoundly premature infant son at Magee-Womens Hospital. While caring for Austin and meeting with medical personnel at the hospital, Mario and Nathalie realized there was no comfortable, fun, engaging place for their two young daughters, both toddlers at the time, to wait for them.

It was on Nathalie’s first Mother’s Day with Austin that she developed a plan to help parents facing the same issue by raising funds for playrooms throughout western Pennsylvania and beyond.

“We are so pleased to open this new playroom at Mount Nittany Medical Center,” said Nathalie Lemieux. “We are happy to play a part in helping families in the emergency department. Our goal is to reach as many people as possible, and we are thrilled to bring Austin’s Playroom to State College and serve the central part of our state. Opening each and every playroom is like a dream come true.”