Friday, November 17, 2017

An Eventful Fall for Salus - Week of November 17, 2018

Students, Faculty, Residents, Staff, Alumni, Board Members and Friends,

Happy Friday! November is very quickly passing before our eyes. Before we know it, we’ll be sitting around the table eating turkey and cranberry sauce. But, before we get there, there’s lots of great stuff to report that has been happening at Salus - on and off campus.

Our Looking Out for Kids charity fundraiser last Saturday evening was a huge success. We had almost 300 people in attendance at the Philadelphia Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill, Pa. to help us raise money for the important task we conduct each academic year of providing comprehensive vision care to uninsured and under-insured children in the Philadelphia and Montgomery County schools. To all of you who helped organize, contribute to, or sponsor the event, thank you very much! Check out the event on NBC10!

This weekend, the University's Pennsylvania College of Optometry is hosting the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) Clinic Directors and Administrators Special Interest Group Workshop both in Center City and on our Elkins Park campus. I would like to extend special thanks to Dr. Maria Parisi and Mr. John Gaal as well as their staff for taking the lead on organizing the three day workshop along with multiple events. About 120 people will participate in this very comprehensive and important workshop.

In the University's Department of Blindness and Low Vision Studies, Drs. Fabiana Perla, director of the Orientation and Mobility program, and Yi Yang, an assistant professor at Penn State Abington have initiated a collaborative project. Faculty members are joined by three students in our Orientation and Mobility Program along with three graduate electrical engineering students from Penn State in a project to create an electronic travel device for individuals who are blind or have severe visual impairments. The Penn State team has been coming on campus for a series of instructional sessions on Fridays. We’re very excited about this work.

Faculty and students from the University's Osborne College of Audiology (OCA) attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Audiology conference recently and while there, they honored Dr. Jim Zeigler, one of the college’s clinical preceptors, with the George S. Osborne Honors Award. The award, named for the founder of OCA, is presented to an outstanding Pennsylvania audiologist and advocate for their profession. Congratulations Dr. Zeigler!

This weekend, the Pennsylvania Optometric Association will be co-hosting a comprehensive continuing education event in Harrisburg as part of “Dr. Lombardi’s Final Tour.” This event is being held on Sunday, November 19 at the Best Western Premier/Central Hotel and Conference Center in Harrisburg, PA. Following the lectures, there will be a reception from 3:30-5:30 p.m. hosted by the Pennsylvania College of Optometry to celebrate Dr. Lombardi’s upcoming retirement. There will be food, drinks and sharing of memories. We hope to see many PCO alumni there!

Have a great weekend. I hope you can get out and enjoy this great fall weather before it starts to rain tomorrow.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Frosty Fall Friday: Week of November 10th

Students, Faculty, Residents, Staff, Alumni, Board Members and Friends,

Greetings from a frosty fall Friday in Elkins Park! This note is going to be a bit longer than most as I wanted to honor our veterans as well as provide you some history on Veterans Day.

First, I want to congratulate our Speech-Language Pathology faculty and students for representing us at the annual American Speech-Language-Hearing Association meeting in California.  Many of our faculty presented lectures and posters at the meeting, once again, making all of us at Salus very proud!

Dr. Aravamudhan and Dr. Rajan from the Osborne College of Audiology (OCA) also attended the ASHA meeting, where Dr. Aravamudhan serves as a mentor and member of the Council of Academic Accreditation.Dr. Rajan from OCA and Ms. Dawn Ciccone from the Salus Occupational Therapy program were invited by ASHA's Interprofessional Education Committee (IPE) committee to present on their IPE initiatives, which was a real hit with attendees.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Marc Berson, one of our Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) alums, who was on campus lecturing on practice management.  We had a great discussion about the optometric applicant pool, scope of practice, and - because he’s also a runner - we also compared training tips. It’s not unusual for our alumni to come back “home” to Salus to provide real-world experiences to students in all of our programs. I don’t think we thank these folks enough for taking their time to help educate our students, same goes for our clinical preceptors. We couldn’t accomplish what we do without their very generous help.

Congratulations to Dr. Lauren Sponseller, chair of our Occupational Therapy program, who was recently selected to the American Occupational Therapy Associations Academic Leadership Institute. Lauren is one of only 20 chosen across the country!  

Today marks the 242nd birthday of the United States Marine Corps. On November 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress, right here in Philadelphia, established the Continental Marines. Since that time, U.S. Marines have distinguished themselves defending our freedoms around the world. During my 33-year Navy career, I had the privilege of serving with the Marine Corps for almost one-third of that time. I even proudly wore their uniform when embedded with the Corps, as all Navy Medical Department personnel do. Tomorrow, November 11th, we also recognize all veterans as we celebrate Veterans Day. A little history:  World War I – known at the time as “The Great War” - officially ended when the Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919.  However, fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of World War I.  Originally designated Armistice Day by President Wilson, November 11 commemorates the armistice that began that day. In 1954, Congress officially changed the name to Veterans Day to recognize all veterans.  

While I was served on active duty, we observed the Navy and Marine Corps birthdays and Veterans Day with ceremonial cake cuttings and a welcome day off. Today, as a retired Navy veteran I find myself thinking of these dates a bit differently. I have been reflecting on how lucky we all are to have men and women who, everyday make sacrifices to ensure we continue to enjoy the freedoms we often take for granted. They do this while being held to the highest of standards, ethically, professionally and morally. Their core values of honor, courage and commitment have been the moral and ethical compass that has guided them for 242 years.  

As healthcare professionals, we have much in common with those who have and currently serve in our Armed Forces. We too have made a commitment to devote our time and energies to serve others. As healthcare professionals, we also must be guided by an ethical and moral compass as we care for those entrusted us.

So, as we celebrate the Marine Corps birthday today, and take time to specially honor our veterans tomorrow, I ask you reflect on how we can leverage our own commitment to always conduct ourselves with honor and have the courage to always do what’s right for our patients. If you see someone in uniform or if you know someone who is a veteran, please take the time to thank them for their service, while I thank you for your commitment to helping others! 

This Saturday evening is our Looking Out for Kids annual fundraiser. While the event itself is sold out, folks can still donate to the charity on our website.

Have a great weekend. Stay warm and stay safe.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Looking forward to the 11th annual Looking Out for Kids: Week of November 3, 2017
Students, Faculty, Residents, Staff, Alumni, Board Members and Friends,

I cannot believe that we’re already into November! There are still leaves on the trees – albeit, starting to change – and the weather has been unseasonably warm. That being said, I know our students and faculty are already thinking about finals, wrapping up this semester and looking forward to the holidays - which are right around the corner!

In the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, Jordan Heidelbaugh and Joshua Heersink were awarded the highly competitive Practice Excellent Scholarship from the American Academy of Optometry Foundation. The scholarship is funded through VSP Global Eyes of Hope Global Charitable Fund and included a travel grant to participate in the American Academy of Optometry’s 96th annual meeting. Congratulations to both of you!

Last Saturday, a group of Salus students, faculty and staff, primarily from our Speech-Language Pathology program, participated in the Moss Rehabilitation Brain Injury Challenge: Race for Recovery in Tyler State Park. Organized by Mr. Bob Serianni, Salus had a great showing with Alison Finklestein finishing second in her age group and yours truly finishing third in my age group (and yes, there were many more than two in Ali’s group and more than three people in mine!) Special mention to Dr. Brooke Kruemmling, Don Kates, Ken Newton, Shelley Slott and Leah Morton for great finishes, tackling those hills and helping to motivate the rest of us! It was a fun event.
We’re at the final stages of preparing for our Looking Out For Kids charity fundraiser next Saturday night (November 11). I had the opportunity to “spread the good word” about Salus and the LOFK event on NBC 10 yesterday when I was interviewed by Rosemary Connors, who will also be our celebrity host. The interview provided a great platform to discuss how the work you all do in the Philadelphia and Montgomery County schools really changes the lives of those students we care for. You can view the full interview here. In addition to highlighting the work that we do in the schools, we’re also honoring Ms. Shelly Yanoff, the former Executive Director of Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) with our Lighthouse Award for the wonderful work she has done on behalf of underprivileged children in Philadelphia. By all accounts, the event is shaping up to be a huge success thanks to the great work of Dr. Sue Oleszewski and her staff as well as the very generous support we’ve received from our many corporate sponsors. A very special thanks goes to National Vision, Inc., our title sponsor and to Essilor and Lindy Properties, our platinum sponsors. If you’d like to donate to the LOFK charity, please go to our website

On Monday, Salus hosted an interprofessional training seminar in preparation for the 2017 Veterans Readiness Initiative (VRI) screening events. The first screening will take place at Montgomery
County Community College on November 20. The VRI program was developed to provide multi-sensory screenings to veterans at local community colleges in an effort to identify potential vision, auditory and or vestibular issues they may have as a result of their service. If individuals are found to have problems we can initiate treatment plans and help to ensure these veterans have access to local VA clinics and providers.

Finally, as we approach this beautiful weekend, please keep those family members and friends who were affected by the awful attack in New York in your thoughts and prayers.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Half Way There: Week of October 27, 2017

Students, Faculty, Residents, Staff, Alumni, Board members and Friends,

It’s been another busy week here at Salus with the weather finally turning cooler and mid-terms upon many of our students.  

I’d like to congratulate Jamie Maffit, MS, COMS, CLVT who has been the coordinator of the University’s Orientation and Mobility (O&M) program for several years, has now assumed the role of Program Director. We’re all very excited for this and are looking forward to more great things from Jamie and the O&M program.

As student engagement and extracurricular activities on campus have expanded over the last few years, we have seen the establishment of more student organizations that help to enhance student life. Two recent additions officially began earlier this month, with similar goals of welcoming and educating the Salus community about the populations they serve. The Salus chapter of Hillel was introduced through the event “Sushi in the Sukkah” providing free sushi to attendees in celebration of the Jewish festival of Sukkah. Whereas the Salus Sexuality and Gender Alliance opened its membership to anyone interested in learning about the LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning and intersex) communities that face disparities in health and access to healthcare services. We welcome these diverse student groups to campus.  

On Monday, I was invited by the American College of Healthcare Executives to participate in a very interesting roundtable discussion that centered on value based care and the future of healthcare delivery in the country. I was joined by several CEOs of local healthcare systems, Accountable Care Organizations, insurance providers and non-profit organizations.  As you might imagine the discussion took us all over the map when it came to what we thought the Affordable Care Act might evolve into - if it survives at all. While there was much conjecture about future healthcare policy, everyone agreed that the only real way to begin to lower healthcare costs was to recognize and address some of the root causes of our current situation. Clearly, many of the social determinants of health include poverty, nutrition, getting enough exercise; adequate housing and having a safe environment to live are key factors in obtaining good health. When one’s life expectancy can be measured by zip codes in cities such as ours, addressing these social determinants is key to “moving the needle”. Addressing such maladies as obesity, diabetes and hypertension will be difficult unless significant cultural and behavioral changes are made by a significant percentage of our population. So, while we didn’t solve any problems, it was in a way, refreshing to have these leaders around the table to have a candid discussion on healthcare and where the focus really needs to be. To our students who are preparing to become part of the healthcare system, it will become even more incumbent upon you to integrate mitigation strategies to address many of the issues I’ve mentioned. As you already know, you won’t be able to do this alone. This will require an integrated approach to healthcare that involves many of those professions we teach here at Salus in addition to behavioral health, nutrition and others. It’s a challenging, yet exciting time to be in healthcare and it will be up to your generation to begin to “move the needle” in the right direction. Looking back on the discussions, I hope that you are having similar discussions in your circles as this will affect your practices well into your new careers.

It’s always nice to see what other academic institutions in our region are up to as we are always looking to explore strategic academic relationships that benefit our students and programs. On Wednesday, we hosted representatives from the University of Scranton on our campus. They have very strong science and pre-medical programs. And, we are looking forward to visiting their campus in the near future to determine where we can help each other out with articulation or other types of agreements.  

Please remember our Looking Out for Kids charity fundraiser is on Saturday, November 11 at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. I recently heard from a student at one of the schools we currently serve. There was a young man who we determined needed glasses and after he received his new prescription, we received the following note: 

“I just wanted to tell you about my trip to Salus University today…Wedens, Marlene and I went to pick up Wedes' new glasses. He was thrilled! He also spoke more in the hour we were together than I've heard him say in a while. He put the glasses on and said "It's like I've come back to earth!" I was wondering where he's been, if not on earth, but he assured me he was exaggerating. We walked outside the building and he said, "It's like I haven't seen these trees in 100 years!"  - pretty funny. He also asked me when he could get Lasik, but I told him I wasn't sure there were Lasik scholarships. Everyone at Salus was wonderful and patient…they also made him feel super comfortable. I told him we kind of look like twins, he apparently doesn't see the resemblance.”

It’s stories like this one that help to make our Looking Out for Kids charity and initiative such a unique, important and rewarding service we provide to our surrounding communities. We cannot do this without the help of those who are willing to contribute to this charity. Our annual fundraising event is the only event we hold that raises funds to support this. Our corporate sponsors have been extremely generous but we really need more. If you know people who might be interested in the great work our faculty, staff and students are doing to change the lives of underprivileged children everyday, please let them know about this work and maybe they can help us provide good vision to more children in need.  

Along the same lines, I’d like to thank all of the PCO faculty and students who participated in the annual Give Kids Sight Day last weekend.  It was a great success and not surprisingly, the fantastic work of our PCO faculty and students was not only greatly appreciated but clearly recognized by all those involved, especially the patients.

On this note, I’ll wish everyone a safe and restful weekend.  Be careful out there on Sunday as I understand we’re in for quite a wash out.  


Friday, October 20, 2017

Celebrating the Grand Opening of CityLife and Other Exciting News

Students, Faculty, Residents, Staff, Alumni, Board members and friends,

It’s a beautiful fall day in Philadelphia.  This week seems to have flown by!

In our College of Education and Rehabilitation, congratulations are in order for the Director of the Speech-Language Institute, Bob Serianni, who has been elected to Distinguished Fellowship of the National Academies of Practice in Speech-Language Pathology. This is a true honor that recognizes Bob’s professional achievements and contributions to both his profession and Salus.  
Last Monday I spent the day in Harrisburg, along with about 35 of our optometry students and many more Pennsylvania optometrists, to discuss several pieces of legislation that will affect the practice of optometry in the Commonwealth.  All of our meetings were met with a great deal of interest and provided an opportunity for us to explain the public health implications of allowing optometrists to practice at the highest level of care as well as to educate legislators about optometric education. We invited legislators we met with to visit Salus to see, first hand, the breadth and quality of education we provide.  

On Wednesday, we celebrated the grand opening of the CityLife primary care clinic that is located on the second floor of The Eye Institute. We’re extremely excited about our partnership with CityLife and the opportunity a primary care medical clinic integrated into The Eye Institute presents to our students, faculty and staff in addition to the wonderful health benefits this will bring to our East Oak Lane and surrounding communities.  If you get a chance, please try to stop by the clinic to see what a great environment of care they will provide for our patients.  
Looking Out for Kids is just a few short weeks away, and we still have tickets left to sell. Remember, this event supports our charity that provides vision care to underprivileged children in the Philadelphia, Norristown and other surrounding school districts. We’ve screened thousands of children to date and really have changed the lives of those we’ve touched. The event is on November 11 at the Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill.  We hope to see as many of you as possible there!

Have a great weekend.  I hope you can get out and enjoy this great fall weather!


Friday, October 13, 2017

Greetings from AAO Conference: Week of October 13th

Students, Faculty, Residents, Staff, Alumni, Board Members and Friends,

Greetings from Chicago where many of us have been attending the annual meeting of the American Academy of Optometry and Armed Forces Optometric Association. It’s been just a wonderful and PACKED week!

Monday we celebrated commencement for 71 students from Physician Assistant Studies, Audiology, Public Health, Speech-Language Pathology and Clinical Optometry with an Advanced Studies Certificate programs. This was the first time we’ve held our fall commencement exercise at the Kimmel Center and it was fantastic. Our guest speaker and honorary degree recipient, Dr. Rachel Levine, the Physician General of Pennsylvania and Acting Secretary of Health, gave an inspirational and informative talk. As an openly transgender women, she focused her message on transitions and how they impacted her life. She emphasized the importance of diversity and acceptance in all aspects of life. Dr. Levine left the students with some advice for the future telling our graduates, “have big goals for your career and be open to finding yourself not necessarily where you intended to go, but where you were meant to be.” She concluded by saying, “Try to keep your idealism. Life might take you on many different turns and many unexpected paths, but I am confident the education you received here will prepare you for all those roads.”  I think her words would apply to any of us. Dr. Levine clearly left a very positive impression on all of us.

In the College of Education and Rehabilitation, once again our Occupational Therapy (OT) team are showcasing at state meetings. They most recently attended the Pennsylvania Occupational Association’s conference where a number of students and faculty presented posters and gave presentations. This weekend, they are headed for the New Jersey Occupational Therapy Association (NJOTA) conference. Several faculty members will be presenting and student/mentor posters will be posted.  Andrea Tyszka, associate professor, will be presenting and will be receiving the award for The Certificate of Appreciation: Contribution to the Community through OT Practice Award for NJOTA this year. Dr. Fern Silverman, director of the OT doctoral program, and Dr. Lauren Sponseller, director of the OT department, will be presenting independent lectures, while Dr Sponseller, Dr. Brooke Kruemmling, assistant provost, and Brianna Brim, MOT, OTR/L, CPAMS, instructor and academic fieldwork coordinator, will all be presenting with students. Additionally, several of our students will be presenting posters with their mentors. They are:

  • Zac Saunders  ’17OT/Dr. Barbara Schwartz-Bechet, interim dean, College of Education and Rehabilitation
  • Ciara Bell OT ’17/ Dr. Barbara Schwartz-Bechet, interim dean, College of Education and Rehabilitation
  • Rebecca Miller ’17OT/Brianna Brim, MOT, OTR/L, CPAMS, instructor and academic fieldwork coordinator
  • Nina Goldfedder OT ’17/ Ciara Bell OT ’17/Brianna Brim, MOT, OTR/L, CPAMS, instructor and academic fieldwork coordinator

While at the American Academy of Optometry meeting, several of our faculty members and former students received high honors and 10 faculty members successfully challenged the Fellows exam and became Fellows of the Academy.

Dr. Mitchell Scheiman dean of Research and Biomedicine program director,  was the Glenn A. Fry lecturer this year. This is the second highest honor the Academy awards. Dr. Scheiman was recognized for and lectured on his groundbreaking work in convergence insufficiency. Dr. Lorraine Lombardi, interim dean for the College of Health Sciences, received the Michael G. Harris Family Award for Excellence in Optometric Education for her more than 40 years of sustained excellence in optometric education. Dr. Luigi Bilotto, a 1994 resident and adjunct professor, received the AAO-Essilor Award for Outstanding Contributions to International Optometry.

The following PCO faculty received their Academy Fellowship:

• Dr. Kriti Bhagat, assistant professor
• Dr. Byung Josh Kim, assistant professor
• Dr. Harpreet Minhas, instructor
• Dr. Siva Meiyeppen, instructor
• Dr. Laine Higa, assistant professor
• Dr. Jamie Neiman, assistant professor
• Dr. Mary Jo Thomas, instructor
• Dr. Andrew Meagher, instructor
• Dr. Kelsey Moody, instructor
• Dr. Ashley Maglione, instructor

I want to congratulate all of our awardees and new Fellows. These accomplishments represent years of hard work and a dedication to excellence that is the hallmark of our remarkable faculty - in all programs!

Finally, I’d like to remind everyone about Looking Out For Kids on November 11th. We hope many of you can attend this important fundraising event.

Have a wonderful weekend.  Be safe and have some fun.


Friday, October 6, 2017

Upcoming Fall Commencement: Week of October 6th

Students, Faculty, Residents, Staff, Alumni, Board members and Friends,

I’m certain many of you have had the terrible events in Las Vegas on your minds most of the week - I know I have. Gun violence has grown in epidemic proportions in our society and presents a huge public health challenge. I want to ensure we keep the families and friends of the 58 victims and all of those who were injured during the course of this senseless violence in our thoughts and prayers.    

On a much brighter note, I want to remind everyone about Monday’s commencement at the Kimmel Center. This is the first time we’ll be holding fall commencement in this venue. Of note, 13 of our international students will be receiving their degrees during the ceremony for the very first time. We are also honored to welcome Dr. Rachel Levine, the Physician General of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Acting Secretary of Health, as our guest speaker and honorary degree recipient. Dr. Levine has led the fight to tackle opioid abuse in the Commonwealth and is the highest ranking transgender person in Pennsylvania government. Dr. Levine is a highly regarded pediatrician who graduated from Harvard College and the Tulane University College of Medicine. I am certain that her comments will be extremely timely and interesting.  

In the University’s College of Education and Rehabilitation, representatives from our Occupational Therapy Program will be representing Salus at the annual Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association meeting in State College. Lauren Sponseller, Fern Silverman, Andrea Tyszka, Brianna Brim and Caitlyn Foy are presenting sessions at the meeting and the following students, along with their mentors, are presenting posters:

  • Janelle Hottel, with Dr. Fern Silverman
  • Jenna Napier, with Andrea Tyszka
  • Emily Shiflet, with Dr. Lauren Sponseller
  • Ciarra Bell, with Dr. Barbara Schwartz-Bechet
  • Courtney Hahn and Alicia Tallia, with Dr. Fern Silverman
  • Jennifer Swiski, with Dr. Barbara Schwartz-Bechet
  • Hope Ann Wahlmark, with Brianna Brim
  • Regina Wilson, with Dawn Ciccarone

I’d like to congratulate Brooke Jamgochian who has been selected as the next Student Member of the Board of Trustees (SMOTBOT). In her capacity as the SMOTBOT, Brooke will represent the student body on the University’s Board of Trustees for the next two years. We all look forward to working with her!

It’s been an extremely busy week at The Eye Institute, Pennsylvania Ear Institute and Speech-Language Institute as we rolled out the new NextGen electronic health record. I’m happy to report, that minus just a couple of minor hiccups, the transition has been going smoothly. As with any transition to a new technology, people will have to get used to the new system and learn its idiosyncrasies. A great deal of credit for this weeks’ successful rollout goes to our clinical faculty and contractor trainers. I’d like to especially recognize Dr. Andrew Meagher who has really taken the lead with our clinical faculty and has served as a super-user and trainer extraordinaire. I’d also like to thank Mr. John Gaal and his staff for their patience and persistence in getting us to this point. In the long run, NextGen will allow us to work more efficiently and effectively, which benefits both our patients and staff.

Later today, we kick off National Physician Assistant (PA) Week and will also be recognizing the 2017 Physician Assistant Alumna of the Year, Christine McAndrew ‘09. Christine currently works alongside the chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. Members of the PA program hosted a reception at the Hafter Center from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m. on Friday.   

Finally, next week, many of our optometric colleagues will be off to Chicago to attend the annual meeting of the American Academy of Optometry.  Dr. Scharre and I will be joining them so we can participate in many of the meetings as well as in our Alumni reception which will be held on Thursday, October 12th at the Palmer House from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. I’m hoping we get to see many alumni, staff and students during our time there.