Jim Thorpe project receives state funding

The acquisition of a Carbon County medical building is getting a boost from the state. 

Jim Thorpe Site LLC, through the Carbon Chamber and Economic Development Corporation, was approved for a 15-year $1.76 million loan at a 2.5 percent reset interest rate from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority. 

The money will be used to help acquire and renovate an 8,400-square-foot medical facility located at 1122 North Street, Jim Thorpe.  

The facility will be leased to St. Luke’s Health Network Inc.   

The total project cost is $3.53 million, and the company has committed to creating 35 new full-time jobs and retain eight positions within three years. 

It was one of eight PIDA loans totaling $8 million across the state. 

“It’s critical to support the growth of our businesses and give them the help needed to thrive here in the commonwealth,” said Gov. Tom Wolf. “The PIDA loans approved today will allow these companies to expand operations, create new jobs and boost the economies in their surrounding communities.” 

So far in 2022, PIDA has approved more than $27.6 million in low-interest loans that have resulted in $58.68 million in private investment and supported 767 created and retained full-time jobs. 

Carbon County doctor earns wilderness medicine certification

Daniel Plavin, MD, uses his wilderness medical training to administer health services on challenging and wild terrain when he is not taking care of patients in one of St. Luke’s Rural Health Care Centers.

The chief resident physician at St. Luke’s Rural Residency Program defines wilderness medicine as “the practice of providing medical care in resource-deprived areas, where definitive care is more than an hour, and often days to weeks, away.”

“This could be in the mountains, desert, at sea, anywhere there’s not ready access to modern medical care,” he said.

“Wilderness medicine takes critical thinking, creativity and improvisation, since there are few supplies,” Plavin said. “You have to be inventive with what you have and repurpose items in ways they weren’t originally meant to be used.” A belt can serve as a tourniquet. Tree branches are used to fashion a bone splint. A triangular piece of cloth has many purposes: it can filter drinking water, protect the head from sunburn or cover a wound.

In his spare time, the 27-year-old Jim Thorpe native volunteers on the local search-and-rescue team, works as an EMT firefighter and is an avid hiker, camper and scuba diver.

Combining his love of the outdoors and passion to help people is part of his DNA, Plavin said, which led him to pursue a novel certification over the past two years from the Wilderness Medicine Society of America. That certification is held by only a handful of other doctors at St. Luke’s and just over 600 around the country. In July, Plavin learned he had earned the title of a Fellow of Wilderness Medicine (FAWM), an esoteric specialty to add to his MD credentials.

During training Plavin made presentations to physicians on topics ranging from tick borne disease, water purification, wilderness hemorrhage control and improvised splinting techniques and attended wilderness medicine conferences nationwide. He was also required to demonstrate and document his use of wilderness-based medical skills.

Plavin’s fondest experience was traveling to Moab, Utah, he said, where he camped with a group of medical students in Arches National Park while teaching practical wilderness medicine skills. He continues to train first responders in Carbon and Monroe counties, including through hands-on field exercises. He said he hopes to educate the next generation of physicians at the St Luke’s Rural Residency Program.

One does not have to travel far in Carbon County to find wilderness, mountains, lakes and rough trails, Plavin said, something he has done since his youth.

Once his residency training is complete in June 2022, Plavin said he will run a family medicine office in his native Jim Thorpe. He said he plans to continue volunteering as a first responder, teaching, training and rescuing victims of incidents and accidents in urban and rural locations.

One of his goals, he said, is to go to the base camp at Mt. Everest, one of the highest mountain peaks on Earth, to prepare mountaineers for their final ascent to the peak and treat those suffering from altitude sickness, dehydration or hypothermia, all which are common risks of making this climb.

Wilderness medicine extends the physical boundaries and elevates the challenges of taking care of people in unusual settings, Plavin said. “There’s so much overlap between family medicine and wilderness medicine, which I find stimulating. … This is all right up my alley. It’s always been my dream and is everything I do and want to do.”

St. Luke’s implants new device to help woman’s failing heart work better

St. Luke’s University Health Network is the first hospital in Northeastern Pa. to implant a new pacemaker-like device, the Optimizer, into a patient that prompts her heart muscle weakened by heart failure to squeeze more strongly with each beat, giving her more energy and quality of life.

The Optimizer consists of a small electrical generator, surgically implanted under the skin of the upper chest, and two metal wires, or leads, that are inserted into the lower heart chamber, called the ventricle. Generator pulses timed precisely to heartbeats provide “cardiac contractility modulation,” (CCM™) a proprietary clinically proven, new, FDA-approved heart failure therapy that helps the heart squeeze oxygen-rich blood out of the heart to the rest of the body.

Armenia Arroyo, of Bethlehem, says she is feeling “much better” since St. Luke’s cardiologist Steve Stevens, MD, inserted the Optimizer under the skin of her chest and connected its leads to her heart on May 21.

“I walked 3,800 steps, (nearly two miles)” said Arroyo, 63. Before having the device implanted, she was able to walk only a block before becoming tired. She said heart failure is a family condition she inherited from her father; she has had it since she was 40.

“This treatment is a game-changer for heart failure patients who have advanced symptoms and a very poor prognosis,” says Dr. Stevens.

His colleagues at St. Luke’s Heart & Vascular Center, Darren Traub, DO, Sudip Nanda, MD, and Hardik Mangrolia, MD, will also perform the procedure.

“According to extensive research, the Optimizer improves quality of life, changes one’s outlook and has the potential to significantly reduce deaths from Class III heart failure,” Dr. Stevens, said.

Heart failure is a debilitating and often fatal condition in which the heart muscle, weakened following a heart attack or years of high blood pressure, worsens and is unable to adequately supply oxygen-rich blood to the body. It affects an estimated 6.5 million Americans and nearly 26 million people worldwide. About 700,000 U.S. patients with Class III heart failure, whose medicines fail to relieve their life-limiting symptoms, could benefit from the new device, he said.

Persons suffering with advanced heart failure often struggle with progressively worsening symptoms that include reduced energy, shortness of breath and frequent hospitalizations as their heart pumping function or “ejection fraction” declines.  A normal ejection fraction is 60 percent.

According to Dr. Stevens, patients with an ejection fraction of 25-45 percent, who don’t get sufficient relief from their medicines, would likely be candidates for the Optimizer device.

This breakthrough heart-improvement technology, FDA approved in 2019, has been clinically shown not only to relieve symptoms but also to help the heart muscle strengthen over time, much in the way a person’s physical exercise enhances their muscle tone and work capacity.

Dr. Stevens and his fellow cardiologist/electrophysiologists will implant the battery-powered device in a sterile, operating room-like environment. Following an overnight stay at St. Luke’s Bethlehem hospital, Arroyo went home and soon begin to experience better heart health, including more energy. She recharges the generator weekly at home, which takes an hour.



97% of physicians in St. Luke’s network now vaccinated against COVID-19

As of May 6, 97% of St. Luke’s University Health Network physicians were fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Bethlehem-based health network.

To drive up the employee vaccination rate, the network launched an extensive, sustained internal communications campaign to educate employees on the importance of vaccination to achieve herd immunity, according to the health network.

This campaign included regular town hall meetings led by St. Luke’s president and CEO Richard A. Anderson and other senior leaders, who provided detailed vaccine updates, as well as testimonials from employees who were sickened by but survived COVID -19.

“Our employees recognize that COVID-19 is a public health crisis,” said Dr. Jeffrey Jahre, vice president of medical and academic affairs and section chief emeritus of infectious diseases. “In order to protect our patients, families and communities, our employees stepped up to perform their civic duty, they got the shot.”

10 area hospitals earn an A rating for safety, one receives a D

10 hospitals in the greater Lehigh Valley earned an A grade in the spring 2021 Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade report, including three Lehigh Valley Hospital campuses, and six St. Luke’s hospital campuses.

The Leapfrog Group, a national nonprofit that publishes the health care quality assessment twice a year, grades hospitals from A to F based on publicly available information on hospital errors, accidents, injuries and infections.

Lehigh Valley Health Network’s Cedar Crest, Hazleton, Muhlenberg, and Pocono campuses all earned A grades. Over at St. Luke’s University Health Network, the Allentown, Anderson, Monroe, Quakertown, Sacred Heart and Bethlehem hospital campuses all garnered A ratings.

St. Luke’s Gnaden Huetten campus earned a B.

In Berks County, Reading’s Penn State Health St. Joseph earned an A grade. Also in Reading, Tower Health Network’s Reading Hospital received a B for hospital safety from Leapfrog.

St. Luke’s Easton campus did not fare as well with a C rating while Tower Health’s Pottstown Hospital rated worse, with a grade of D.

The full report can be read here- https://www.hospitalsafetygrade.org/


St. Luke’s named top teaching hospital in the nation

St. Luke’s University Hospital’s campus in Bethlehem PHOTO?FILE

Bethlehem-based St. Luke’s University Hospital was ranked the top major teaching hospital in America for 2021 by IBM Watson Health.

IBM Watson Health, a division of New York-based IBM, releases an annual top health system list in April that is published by New York-based Fortune magazine. IBM reviewed 324 health systems in five main categories for the list. The categories are: clinical outcomes, operational efficiency, patient experience, financial health and community health.

It is the first time St. Luke’s University Health Network made the list for Fortune’s top 5 medium-sized health systems, coming in at number two.

“This recognition is especially significant at this time as our community contends with the COVID-19 epidemic,” Rick Anderson, St. Luke’s President and CEO, said. “… I cannot thank our outstanding physicians, nurses, other staff and leadership team enough for their dedication and commitment to outstanding quality patient care.”

Pennsylvania’s UPMC Pinnacle Harrisburg was ranked seventh major teaching hospital in the United States for 2021.

New St. Luke’s residency program merges athletic training and occupational medicine

Most days you can find athletic trainer Nilvia Vazquez on the brewery floor at Breiningsville’s Samuel Adams, teaching employees how to properly lift a case of Hard Seltzer or performing ergonomic assessments and reviewing workplace injuries.

St. Luke’s University Health Network’s resident Athletic Trainer Nilvia Vazquez works with Sam Adams at the Fogelsville brewery – photo submitted

As the first resident in St. Luke’s Athletic Training: Prevention and Wellness residency program, she is preparing for a career in creating healthier and safer workplaces.

In fact, workplace musculoskeletal disorders cost companies more than $60 billion each year in medical expenses and lost production time, according to Kyra Dodson, manager of occupational medicine, prevention and wellness for St. Luke’s.

Mike Malchitsky, senior health and safety manager at Samuel Adams, has seen positive results across safety, production and general employee well-being since Vazquez began her residency at the brewery, he said.

Vazquez, who is approaching the completion of her year of residency training, much of it spent at Samuel Adams, said she considers “injury prevention at work (to be) the simplest, yet the most powerful tool we can utilize to ensure a safe workplace.”