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Distinguished Service Award, Healthy Living Grant Winners of 2015 Announced

The Distinguished Service Award Committee and Pennsylvania Medical Society’s (PAMED) Board of Trustees are happy to announce that M. Elaine Eyster, MD, nominated by the Dauphin County Medical Society, is the 2015 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. The Wright Center for Graduate Medical Education, nominated by Lackawanna County Medical Society, is the recipient of PAMED’s Grant for Healthy Living in Ethnic Communities.

Dr. Eyster, a hematologist at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, received the highest honor given to members of PAMED for her work regarding hemophilia patients. She has been performing innovative clinical and research studies, especially on patients with HIV and Hepatitis C related complications.

“I am humbled, extremely surprised, and most appreciative,” says Dr. Eyster. Regarding the nomination, “yes. I was honored but doubtful that I would be given serious consideration.”

In 1970, Dr. Eyster joined the faculty at Penn State Hershey Medical Center in hematology and three years later founded the hematology program. In order to understand the complications of hemophilia, she began banking frozen specimens from her patients.

In the 1980s, when the AIDS epidemic first began, Dr. Eyster was able to return to her samples and trace the path of the infection and its effects on the hemophilia population. Her work indentified and further described the process of how AIDS infects the blood of those with this hemophilia.

“My hopes for the future are the  development of replacement blood clotting factors that can remain active for weeks rather than days, and that can be given subcutaneously rather than intravenously to prevent bleeding; the prevention of the development of inhibitory antibodies that inactivate the transfused factor VIII, rendering it ineffective in stopping bleeding; and the development of effective gene therapy that will enable persons with hemophilia to produce their own Factor VIII instead of having to receive replacement  FVIII on a regular basis,” she says, regarding the future of research regarding hemophilia patients.

The Wright Center has been awarded the Grant for Healthy Living in Ethnic Communities. It received the highest score from three PAMED member judges and the committee agreed with their decision.

“Under the leadership of Dr. Shi and Dr. Maria Montoro-Edwards, our vice president for grants and strategic initiatives, we are so privileged to receive this Pennsylvania Medical Society grant for Healthy Living in Ethnic Communities to support our Asian Medical Home efforts,” says Linda Thomas-Hemak, MD, CEO, and president of the Wright Center. “This generous and inspiring Pennsylvania Medical Society funding will promote our continued outreach efforts to our Asian community to develop and provide culturally sensitive, comprehensive health services ranging from basic screenings to thorough case management and referral coordination to many partnering community resource agencies.”

The Center has plans to build an Asian Medical Home that will be involved with “pop up” clinics and health fairs in neighborhoods that have a high population of Asian residents. These areas include subsidized public housing developments.

Portable equipment will be used in venues that offer privacy and availability of public transportation near Scranton.

“In collaboration with Marywood University, The Wright Center has begun actively promoting culturally sensitive health fairs to engage our growing Asian population in our Asian Patient Centered Medical Home development initiative.”, Dr. Thomas-Hemak says. “This initiative led by our 2014 Teaching Health Center Internal Medicine Graduate, Dr. Qi Shi, strives to better understand and overcome obstacles to high quality and equitable healthcare for this population, such as lack of transportation, language, health literacy and gainful employment”.

In July 2014, PAMED talked to Dr. Thomas-Hemak about a grant the Wright Center received for the training of new primary care providers.

The Distinguished Service Awards Committee met on May 7 to discuss their recommendations for winners. On May 20, the Board of Trustees approved the committee’s initial decisions. Winners were notified and accepted soon after. 

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