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7 posts from November 2010


Are J&J Recalled Drugs Safe?

Dr. Dan Hussar talks with WHYY about safe medications despite the J&J recall http://bit.ly/iiGeDL


A 75-year-old feline with more than 9 lives

Dr. Paul Halpern, USciences professor of physics, writes in an opinion piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer: Seventy-five years ago, in November 1935, Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger unleashed a monstrous feline on the world. In one of the most famous thought experiments ever conceived, he envisioned a situation in which a perfectly ordinary cat would become a half-living, half-dead creature. Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/opinion/20101129_A_75-year-old_feline_with_more_than_9_lives.html


Here’s a Proposition for You: The Value of USciences Education

In an earlier blog about our new tagline, we talked about how it encapsulates our value proposition. As we mentioned there, “value proposition” is a marketing term for the benefits that a company or product provides to its customers, what it promises to deliver, and what makes it the better choice for the consumer.


When an institution like University of the Sciences looks at its value proposition, the most important thing to remember is that a brand is only as powerful as the experience it actually provides to the “customer,” in our case, students and alumni. When an organization doesn’t fulfill its brand’s value proposition, it gains the reputation of a snake oil salesman, making grandiose promises it can’t keep, leaving the customers feeling they’ve been had.


 Snake oil 

  It can be just as problematic if an organization doesn’t know its brand value proposition or doesn’t communicate it clearly. Customers may still end up disappointed. They will bring to the organization their own perceptions of what it should be delivering to them, and if it doesn’t, they are unhappy.


In order for everyone to know what to expect of a USciences education, it is important that we clearly communicate our value proposition so there is no confusion on the kind of education students can expect us to provide. It also ensures prospective students understand why USciences is the best choice for a science- and healthcare-focused education.


Our new USciences tagline—“Where science and healthcare converge”—now clearly delineates our value proposition.  Prospective and current students will know we provide a science- and healthcare-focused education that prepares them to be leaders in discovery throughout their careers.



Our history and the heights our graduates have scaled prove that we deliver, that our customers get the value from a USciences education that we promised. Let me give you a few examples of why we know this to be true:

·   We were founded as the nation’s first college of pharmacy 190 years ago in 1821 and that commitment to scholarship is just as strong today.

·   Our alumni include founders of six of the top pharmaceutical companies in the world. 

·   We currently rank ninth in the nation among comparable institutions in the percentage of graduate students who pursue PhD degrees in the medical sciences like biology, chemistry, and physics.

·   Payscale.com has ranked USciences graduates’ salary potential as seventh in the Northeast and eleventh in the nation. 

·   Our acceptance rate into medical school historically has been nearly twice the national average.

·   Historically, within three months of graduation, 90% of our students are employed or have been accepted into graduate school.


We fulfill our value proposition through our obvious commitment to all things science and healthcare. USciences has more than 100 labs open to students, and students have the opportunity to begin hands-on research as early as their freshman year. Because industry leaders need to be well-rounded individuals, we also provide:

·   Strong grounding for all students in the social sciences

·   Competitive Division II athletics

·   A reciprocal agreement with University of the Arts to encourage creative pursuits

·   Study-abroad opportunities to expand their horizons

·   Student clubs and associations that allow students to explore their interests


The USciences community—including our alumni who mentor our students—work hard every day to ensure those who attend USciences and the employers who ultimately hire them receive the value we have promised: an education that puts our graduates at the convergence of science and healthcare, prepared to change the world.


Test reviews to benefit students and teachers

Develop very challenging multiple choice questions that you can use as a review for the students.  These questions should go well beyond factual but involve the highest levels of cognitive processing that you want your students to be able to do.  This review should take place almost a week before the test so the students have time to study appropriately. You can administer these questions in a variety of ways, but the most important part is for you to be able to collect the answers to see where students struggled. 

  • You can put them online and be sure the computer can record how many tries it took each student to get the right answer and which alternatives they selected.
  • You can use IF-AT (scratch- off) answer sheets.  Here collect the answer sheets to see where there were multiple attempts to get the right answer
  • You can use clickers and look at the distribution of selected answers

These challenging questions should motivate the students to study harder and concentrate more on the higher levels of cognitive processing.  You can determine what topics the students had the most difficulty and offer additional help with these topics.  You could put this additional help online, refer them to resources or ask the supplemental instructor to focus on them.


Colds, Flu & YOU

We all know we should wash, wash, wash our hands, but did you also know that a positive attitude and getting some sunshine may also protect and improve your immune system?  Karin Richards, director of exercise science and wellness management, has your November wellness tips to keep you cold-free:


  • The will to be healthy and see the good in life as well as vitamin D from the sun are very powerful immunity enhancers.


  •  A soothing massage will boost your mood and rid your body of unhealthy toxins (but do NOT get a massage when you begin to feel sick - doing so can actually bring on a cold in full force.)


  • When you start to feel drained with all of the holiday rush, try to get some more sleep and hydrate yourself with extra water. Cold air is drier, making it easier to become dehydrated. 


  •  Try the Neti Pot - a nasal rinse with salt water that will flush irritants. The Neti Pot will keep colds at a minimum and may shorten the duration and severity of any current colds.


November is a Month Full of Healthcare Challenges

November is a significant month for healthcare. And while you might think you can sit on the sidelines and watch the action, there is actually some participation required.

Hopefully, the month started with active participation in the elections of Nov. 2. It’s no secret that these mid-term elections resulted in major changes to the make up of both the Congress and Senate. The new Republican Congress has already declared its top priority as the repeal of healthcare reform legislation – this calls into question what if any provisions of the 2,000-plus pages will become reality. The shaping of these changes will in part be based on citizens voicing their opinion on the direction healthcare reform should continue to take. Of course, this is something that is likely to take many more months to settle.

November 15: The lame duck Congressional session began Nov. 15. It also marked the start of the open enrollment period for older Americans to change their prescription drug plans. The open enrollment period to choose a new Medicare Part D plan will continue until Dec. 31 when the plan that is selected will be locked for most Medicare beneficiaries for the entire 2011 calendar year. Obviously, this requires seniors to actively evaluate which plan offers the most value and then enrolling in that plan. Seniors can go to Medicare.gov to evaluate which plan offers them the most or have their local pharmacist complete an assessment of the plans for them.

Mid-November: Some time between the middle and end of the month, the Deficit Commission is set to present their report. The commission is tasked with proposing ways to reduce the Federal deficit, which could reach $1.6 trillion by the end of this year. To balance the budget by 2015, excluding interest payments on debt, means officials would need to find roughly $240 billion in annual savings, according to commission documents. Given this significant amount, even changes to Medicaid and Medicare are possible. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that if laws don't change, federal spending on healthcare alone will grow from five percent of gross domestic product in 2010 to 10 percent in 2035. Because of these numbers, big changes to Medicare and Medicaid are more than possible. The most likely change is expansion of the means testing on Medicare premiums.

November 30: But as a physician and someone who cares deeply for older Americans, perhaps the most significant date for the month does not occur until the very last day of November. That is when an over 20 percent cut to Medicare providers is set to go into effect unless Congress does something. This cut had been set to go into effect at the beginning of 2010 but was delayed several times during the year. A long-term fix to these reductions would cost over one quarter of a trillion dollars which may be difficult to come up with at a time when there is so much concern over government spending…although, if these cuts are put into place, finding a physician to care for older adults will certainly be a challenge. Older adults would be wise to develop a relationship with a group practice especially one that is part of a large health system as they would be least likely to abandon Medicare beneficiaries.

And while November is certainly a big month for healthcare, it may just be the beginning of even bigger months to come. For as the new Congress begins work on reshaping the healthcare landscape, there will certainly be lots to watch, learn about, and actively participate in well beyond what’s occurring this month.

Dr. Richard G. Stefanacci is an internist/geriatrician and associate professor of health policy at University of the Sciences. He can be reached at r.stefan@usp.edu.


Alzheimer’s Disease: Tips to Ensure a Meaningful Holiday Season

The holiday season is a time of togetherness where families and friends gather to celebrate and give thanks. When a relative or family friend experiences memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease, however, Thanksgiving dinners and holiday gatherings can be particularly trying.  

“Family members may be unsure of how to approach a loved one who experiences memory loss, repeats conversations, forgets members of the family, and is confused,” noted Dr. Stephen Moelter, associate professor of psychology at University of the Sciences. “This can cause family members to feel uncomfortable.” Dr. Moelter believes that adults and children alike can arm themselves with ways to engage people with memory difficulty to ensure a more meaningful holiday season.  

  • Family members must educate themselves about Alzheimer’s disease.  Learning more about the disease will help family members understand the importance of keeping their loved one safe and surrounded by supportive people. Helpful information can be found on the Alzheimer’s Association’s website www.alz.org, while younger children may benefit from videos such as HBO’s “Grandpa, do you know who I am?” available online at www.hbo.com/alzheimers.

  • Engaging people with Alzheimer’s in conversation and keeping them involved in activities is vital to their health. Dr. Moelter suggests that conversation should be at the level of the loved one and it is ideal to let them lead. Fundamentally, although it may sometimes seem unusual, family members should know that it is okay to answer repeated questions with the same answers. “What matters most is that we answer with interest and a positive tone and understand that it is not helpful to question the person about the memory problem or to challenge them to remember,” added Dr. Moelter. Challenging the person with Alzheimer’s can lead to increased anxiety and may make memory, cognition, and behavior worse. Such challenging or “testing” of your family member will not help them to remember more.

  • When speaking, family members should try to ask questions that rely on “old knowledge” and encourage reminiscing about holidays past. In general, people with memory problems have the best memory for distant events with more impairment as the people and events to be recalled become more recent. For instance, it may be easier for the person with memory problems to talk about the holidays when they were a child or young adult compared to a more recent holiday.

  • Parents should prepare their children for conversations and can help by offering suggestions of things to ask their family member. Topics may include those that parents know are strong and positive and old memories such as hobbies, jobs, or family events. “Alzheimer’s can be especially challenging for children to comprehend,” admitted Dr. Moelter. “It is important parents understand this and give younger children permission to keep interactions brief if they feel uneasy.”
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