Gala 2017: Honorees

COMMUNITY

WELLBEING

INNOVATION

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Susan F. Sordoni, MD
and Volunteers in Medicine

Louis D. DeNaples Jr., MD, FACEP

 

Robert W. Naismith, PhD

Susan F. Sordoni, MD is proud of her blue-collar roots, which she believes inspired her desire to serve. “I was the first in my family to go to college, so I know the value of education. My family taught me that if you don’t give, you don’t get – and if you’ve been given a lot, then you have much to return,” she said. This was the philosophy behind her founding of the Volunteers in Medicine clinic in Wilkes-Barre.

Dr. Sordoni founded the clinic quickly on the heels of receiving her medical degree when she was in her 40s. “Going to medical school was a dream come true for me,” she said. “And because I was an older student, I think I had a different perspective. I knew that all doctors live in towns and their towns are only as good as the whole – their service makes a difference.”

Determined to make her native Wilkes-Barre a better community, Dr. Sordoni founded her free clinic on the Volunteers in Medicine (VIM) model, a national nonprofit that invites dentist and physician volunteers to practice “pure medicine.” Dr. Sordoni said the Wilkes-Barre clinic has treated 15,000 patients over the nine years it has operated. For this she thanks the clinic staff and the nine doctors and 13 dentists who donate their time and skill.

“I am humbled to be honored by the medical school,” Dr. Sordoni said. “But I am more grateful to honor the VIM clinic. It’s the most important community agency I’ve ever been involved with. And I am grateful to our 100 volunteers – 70 of whom have been with us for nine years. My honor is their honor.”

Louis D. DeNaples, Jr., MD, FACEP wanted to return to northeastern Pennsylvania after graduating from the University of Michigan Medical School, and training at Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan.  As a physician trained in emergency medicine, he believed there was great potential for his specialty to improve the health and wellbeing of his hometown community and his neighbors.  Since he came home in 1997, he has devoted himself to this idea. In 1998, Louis DeNaples, MD, FACEP, Steven Brunetti, D.O., FACOEP, and Saul Rigau, DO, FACOEP, founded Emergency Services PC. Their mission: Improve emergency care in northeastern Pennsylvania. Their initial steps started with recruiting only board certified leaders in Emergency Medicine. They set standards of care in quality, safety and efficiency — standards governed by the precept of putting patient first.

Emergency Services PC expanded its role in northeastern Pennsylvania by branching out into pre-hospital emergency care. The team started Pennsylvania Ambulance LLC and was joined by Chris Taramelli, a long-standing EMS provider in the area, who helped build Pennsylvania Ambulance and then acquire Transmed Ambulance LLC.  Together, Emergency Services, Pennsylvania Ambulance and Transmed now employ 300+ pre-hospital personnel all devoted to the same patient-centered standards of care.

Sean Morgan, MD (board eligible), emergency medicine physician, was recruited to assume a role that is new and unique to northeastern Pennsylvania. Dr. Morgan is able to render pre-hospital emergency care to patients by going directly to the scene of 911 emergency calls.  Dr. Morgan has also developed a “ride-along” program to enhance the emergency medicine education of residents and medical students.

Most recently, Dr. DeNaples and team expanded their mission nationwide with the development and implementation of a one-of-a-kind, patented software system.  Created with the same patient-centered ethos in mind, the software was designed to standardize care for millions of Emergency Department visits annually across the United States. The software focus is patient safety first, as well as Emergency Department efficiency.

Despite the enhancements to care, innovations and education, Dr. DeNaples said “he and his team do not qualify for any special accolades. We are supposed to be the best at what we do.” He also said, “I think there’s an art to doing things correctly and being fiscally responsible as you do it, that’s our job and we are honored to do it.”

Robert W. Naismith, PhD has been an innovator all of his life, founding a series of successful biopharmaceutical and financial companies focused on the healthcare and life sciences industries over a 40-year career. He is driven more by the thrill of pursuing bold ideas than monetary gain, but he’s never had a problem achieving both. “I’ve always believed that good ideas find success and that’s proven true throughout my career,” he said. In his decades building an enviable string of successes, however, Dr. Naismith said one idea has dwarfed all his others. “The medical school founding – that is the penultimate in community innovation,” he said.

The story begins with an economic development meeting Dr. Naismith was invited to attend. “The subject of the meeting was whether it was feasible to lure the biotech industry here,” he said. “This was in the early 2000s, just as the tech bubble was growing. I thought, ‘No, it’s not possible.’ We just didn’t have the intellectual capital in NEPA.”

Despite his reluctant “no,” the question continued to nag Dr. Naismith. “Eventually, I thought why not go with a big, brash idea? If we really want to go big and change the region, why not a medical school?” he said. From that point onward, Dr. Naismith said, “There was no such thing as ‘thinking out of the box,’ because there was no box – only obstacles. But many of those obstacles turned out to be advantages.” To illustrate, he cites the school’s community-based, distributed campus model. “We used this model because it didn’t make sense to try to acquire or build a hospital,” he said, adding that immersion in community ended up being a unique advantage as concerns with our regional health have grown.

Dr. Naismith is most proud of the fact that the school has leveraged the public’s good will to advance programs to benefit the health, wellbeing and the economic future of the community. “The school has made a healthier and more prosperous community possible,” he said. “That’s an honor, but it’s not mine alone. It takes a community of innovators to found a medical school. There are literally sores of people who made this a reality.”

 

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