Leslie Walker-Harding, MD, Brings Integrated Health Care Approach to Penn State Children’s Hospital

Photo of Leslie Walker-Harding, MD
Leslie Walker-Harding, MD

Leslie Walker-Harding, MD, has joined Penn State Health as medical director, Penn State Children’s Hospital and pediatrics department chairperson, Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Prior to her arrival on the East Coast, Dr. Walker-Harding served as division chief of adolescent medicine at the University of Washington and Seattle Children’s Hospital, and co-director of the Seattle Children’s Adolescent Substance Abuse Program (ASAP). Dr. Walker-Harding brings with her a philosophy of providing an integrated approach to health care, including the medical, mental health and social needs of rural communities.

In an effort to work together for the children throughout the region, Dr. Walker-Harding brings forth her philosophy with Children’s Hospital faculty and staff to continue their work around the health and wellness of the youngest patients, as well as those approaching adulthood. “I’m very interested in how academic centers can impact community health,” states Dr. Walker-Harding. “Whether it’s called population health or even public health, it’s really about improving the health of the communities we have the ability to impact.” Continue reading “Leslie Walker-Harding, MD, Brings Integrated Health Care Approach to Penn State Children’s Hospital”

Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Follow-up Clinic Provides Early Intervention for Congenital Heart Patients

Recent studies have confirmed the link between medical issues requiring Intensive Care Unit (ICU) treatment and developmental delays in children with congenital heart disease.1,2 The Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Follow-up Clinic at Penn State Children’s Hospital is one of fewer than 20 programs in the country designed to provide both early assessment and early intervention for this population.

Dr. Tierney consults with the family of Lily Bagnato, a 16-month-old with truncus arteriosus, at the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Follow-up Clinic.
Dr. Tierney consults with the family of Lily Bagnato, a 16-month-old with truncus arteriosus, at the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Follow-up Clinic.

Children are typically referred to the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Follow-up Clinic by pediatric cardiologists or cardiothoracic surgeons, and are monitored at ages associated with significant developmental milestones through childhood and adolescence (6-9 months, 18 months, 24 months, 3 years, 5 years, etc.). Areas monitored include a child’s receptive and expressive language, cognitive development, play skills, adaptive skills and fine and gross motor development. “Our evaluation is based on a combination of screening, rating scales and direct testing,” says Cheryl Tierney, MD, associate professor of pediatrics and section chief, behavior and developmental pediatrics. “This allows us to provide an individualized plan for each patient. Our multidisciplinary team includes a nurse practitioner, cardiology physician assistant, occupational therapist, pediatric neuropsychologist and a feeding specialist who is a speech and language pathologist.”

Continue reading “Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Follow-up Clinic Provides Early Intervention for Congenital Heart Patients”

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Follow-up Clinic Monitors At-risk Patients Throughout Early Childhood

Penn State Children’s Hospital is also home to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) Follow-up Clinic, which seeks to improve outcomes for babies deemed at-risk for later difficulties, especially those born prematurely and with high-risk premature conditions. While the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Follow-up Clinic focuses on the medical and psychosocial development of children born with heart problems and provides services through patients’ teen years, the multidisciplinary staff at the NICU Follow-up Clinic provides services to children born with any condition that would increase their risk for developmental delays. Children can continue to receive services with the NICU Follow-up Clinic until they reach preschool age.

Started in late summer 2015, the clinic is already outpacing its capacity and plans are in place to expand services to meet the growing demand. While it is too early to identify any significant outcomes or volume data, anecdotal evidence indicates that the programs have experienced rapid growth as evidenced by the need to expand the hours.

The clinic staff are also planning to pool data from multiple patients in order to generate a database that will be used in future research efforts.

Specialized Concussion Program Adds to Pediatric Trauma Care

Harry Bramley, DO, examines a patient in the Pediatric Trauma Program.
Harry Bramley, DO, examines a patient in the Pediatric Trauma Program.

Every year, more than 700 children are evaluated at Penn State Children’s Hospital as a result of a traumatic injury. Injuries from trauma, including a playground fall or motor vehicle accident, are a leading cause of death in children.1 “As one of only four Level 1 pediatric trauma centers in Pennsylvania, Penn State Children’s Hospital provides advanced care to local and regional residents,” says Medical Director Brett Engbrecht, MD. “Specialized programs and expertise, including that in our growing Concussion Program, contribute to the advanced trauma care we provide.”

Continue reading “Specialized Concussion Program Adds to Pediatric Trauma Care”

Imaging Gently: Penn State Children’s Hospital Leads the Way in Reducing Radiation Exposure Risk

MRI images showing two axial views of retrocecal appendicitis (the second with fat saturation to make the inflammation more easily seen). The appendicitis is located at the posterior aspect on the right of the patient (reader’s lower left).
MRI images showing two axial views of retrocecal appendicitis (the top with fat saturation to make the inflammation more easily seen). The appendicitis is located at the posterior aspect on the right of the patient (reader’s lower left).

Sharing in the mission of the Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging to improve “safe and effective imaging care of children worldwide,”1 Penn State Children’s Hospital has become a national leader in utilizing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) to diagnose pediatric appendicitis. By using MRIs instead of conventional computerized tomography (CT), physicians at Children’s Hospital are limiting their patients’ exposure to potentially harmful radiation.

The Alliance for Radiation Safety in Pediatric Imaging, sponsor of the Image Gently® campaign, has grown quickly to a coalition of health care organizations, including Penn State Children’s Hospital, “dedicated to providing safe, high quality pediatric imaging worldwide.”2

Continue reading “Imaging Gently: Penn State Children’s Hospital Leads the Way in Reducing Radiation Exposure Risk”

Customized Approach to Treating Pediatric Colorectal Conditions, Special Emphasis on Anorectal Malformations

Colorectal conditions in children can be debilitating and impact quality-of-life. Some conditions, like Hirschsprung’s disease, pediatric pelvic developmental abnormalities and anorectal malformations, are present at birth. Other conditions, such as inflammatory intestinal diseases (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), rectal prolapse and debilitating constipation occur later in infancy and childhood. Many of these conditions require surgical treatments.

Fortunately, help is close by at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital with the Pediatric Colorectal Program directed by pediatric surgeon Dorothy V. Rocourt, M.D. Many children with pediatric colorectal conditions also suffer from constipation and poor bowel control; however, with proper bowel management, most can achieve continence. The program provides expertise in the treatment of these problems and related disorders, with a particular focus on bowel management in patients with anorectal malformations. Alissa Bergstresser, MSN, CPNP-PC, is the program manager for the Penn State Hershey Pediatric Colorectal Program, which also includes pediatric urologists, adolescent gynecologists, child psychologists, nutritionists and pediatric gastroenterologists who collaborate to develop a customized plan to meet each patient’s needs. Continue reading “Customized Approach to Treating Pediatric Colorectal Conditions, Special Emphasis on Anorectal Malformations

Despite the Best of Intentions, Healthy Eating Messages Could Have Harmful Consequences

Childhood obesity rates have almost tripled since the 1980s.1 Since the attitudes of parents, caregivers and physicians can have a lasting impact on children, it is vital that healthy eating messages are communicated in a supportive, non-shaming way. This encourages children to make beneficial food choices while maintaining a positive sense of self.2 “Positives are always better than negatives,” says Martha Levine, M.D., director, intensive outpatient and partial hospitalization programs, Penn State Hershey Adolescent Medicine and Eating Disorders division.

Fortunately, schools are becoming more involved with helping children make healthier choices; however, even with the best of intentions, sometimes those messages can have a negative impact. With annual weigh-ins and a “BMI report card,” results can be damaging, even shameful for children who cannot yet fully understand proper context or have the maturity yet to process it properly. The focus can turn to weight without a focus on health, and that can lead to dangerous eating behaviors. With the only dedicated eating disorder programs in the area, Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital hopes to counteract the potential negative effects of these well-intentioned health messages. Continue reading “Despite the Best of Intentions, Healthy Eating Messages Could Have Harmful Consequences”