IUP, IRMC Continues Season 2 of Rural Health Pulse Podcast w/ “Exploring Rural Healthcare Challenges”

IRMC contact information: Annie Rizzo, Director, Marketing & Community Relations, arizzo@indianarmc.org, 724-357-7188
IUP contact information: Christina Koren, Director of Strategic Partnerships, ckoren@iup.edu; 724-464-9864


April 1, 2024

INDIANA, Pa – Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Indiana Regional Medical Center (IRMC)’s podcast, Rural Health Pulse, continues with an episode exploring the challenges and opportunities of rural healthcare with Dr. Lou Pesci, director of IUP’s Institute for Rural Health and Safety.

The Rural Health Pulse podcast is available for free on Spotify and from the IRMC website.

The podcasts include professionals from IRMC and from IUP and is recorded by students in the IUP Department of Communications Media under the direction of communications faculty member Dr. Mark Piwinsky and produced by IUP Director of Strategic Partnerships Christina Koren. Dr. Jim Kinneer, IRMC Chief Human Resources Officer, serves as the host for the shows.

The Rural Health Pulse podcast is part of a continued collaboration between IUP and IRMC on the topic of rural health care, focusing on issues and stories impacting the health of the region and programs and initiatives designed to improve healthcare and wellness.

In this current episode, Dr. Pesci shares his experiences and expertise about navigating the unique dynamics of providing healthcare in rural areas, highlighting the importance of collaboration and innovation in addressing rural healthcare disparities. Dr. Kinneer and Dr. Pesci also discuss the role of the IUP Institute for Rural Health and Safety in bridging gaps and providing essential services to rural communities through the Institute’s multifaceted approach to enhancing rural health and safety, including driver education, improvement programs, and first responder and emergency response team training.

Dr. Pesci has worked with the IUP Institute for Rural Health and Safety (formerly the IUP Highway Safety Center) since 1997. He became director of the Institute in 2010. He is the instructor for the core of Safety/Driver Education teacher certification courses, specializing in teaching the IUP Driver Perceptual Program to a wide range of audiences.

He has served as the principal investigator on more than 30 external funding awards, including contracts, fees-for-service, and state and federal grants ranging from traffic safety programs to health-related issues. Most recently, he helped to establish the IUP paramedic and EMT clock-hour programs within the Institute.

Since 2014, Dr. Pesci has received the IUP Outstanding Centers & Institutes Award, the IUP Sponsored Programs Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Service Award, and two IUP President’s Grantsmanship Awards.

Season two of the podcasts was launched Nov. 16, 2023, as part of IUP and IRMC’s National Rural Health Day events, with an episode titled “Promoting Integrative Wellness in a Rural Community.”

The episode features Nick Jacobs, of Windber, an IUP graduate and Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, the co-founder and president of the Windber Research Institute (now The Chan Soon-Shiong Institute for Molecular Medicine in Windber), discussing the realm of complete holistic wellness with Dr. Kinneer. The episode offers insights into health prevention and wellness strategies developed during Jacob’s tenure as a hospital executive, providing a holistic perspective on healthcare and encouraging innovative thinking for rural communities, particularly when considering the topic of wellness.

Jacobs is also the founder of the Clinical and Translational Genome Research Institute, a research institute that is now part of Southern California University of Health Sciences in Los Angeles. Jacobs is also a consultant with the United States Department of Defense Clinical Breast Care Project.

Season two episode two features IRMC Director of Ambulatory Social Services Rachel Grove and Clinical Care Coordinator at IRMC Physician Group Jonathan Hunte, discussing how they work on a daily basis to help break down barriers to enable patients to overcome challenges in order that they can access services and resources in the local community.

Upcoming episode topics planned for season two include tickborne diseases; IUP research; the Pennsylvania Mountains Rural Health Conference highlights; stream water conservation; and the proposed IUP college of osteopathic medicine.

The Rural Health Pulse podcast was launched in November 2022 in celebration of National Rural Health Day. Dr. Amanda Vaglia, family medicine physician and director of the IRMC Residency Program, is featured on the first episode of season one of the series, discussing the residency program.

Episode two of the podcast is an interview with Dr. Narayanaswamy Bharathan, chair, IUP Department of Biology, and Jackie Sansig, IRMC director of Laboratory and Respiratory Services, discussing the evolution of the same-day COVID-19 testing process at IRMC by Dr. Bharathan, and the difference it made in patient care.

Episode three features Dr. Rick Adkins, professor of mathematics in the IUP Department of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, discussing the community wastewater surveillance system. Indiana Borough has had a sewer surveillance program with Biobot Analytics, Inc., since April 2020. Weekly flow samples are collected over a 24-hour period at the headwaters of the wastewater plant and sent to BioBot Analytics.

Episode four has IRMC’s Dr. Dan Clark, director of Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery and director of IRMC’s Comprehensive Breast Center, discussing robotics in surgery. Since coming to IRMC, Dr. Clark has been integral in IRMC’s successfully obtaining a second da Vinci Xi robotic surgery system. Dr. Clark serves as a national proctor for robotic surgery and plays an important role in certifying robotic skills competency.

IRMC’s five family medicine residents — Dr. Nawar Al Janabi, of Baghdad, Iraq; Dr. Tanvi Bharathan, of Indiana; Dr. Mohit Chhatpar, of New York; Dr. Robin Rodriguez, of Corpus Christi, Texas; and Dr. Narinder Sangha, of California. – are featured on episode five of the podcast.

Episode six interviews Dr. Clark presenting an overview of breast cancer medical education and care from IRMC. Dr. Clark has more than 25 years of breast cancer experience and more than 12 years of experience with genetic counseling. In this role, Dr. Clark serves as a breast surgeon as well as a genetic counselor.

Episode seven features Dr. Steve Hovan, dean of IUP’s John J. and Char Kopchick College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and IUP Distinguished University Professor, discussing IUP’s John J. and Char Kopchick Hall, home to the Kopchick College.

Episode eight is an interview with Wendy Haislip, IRMC Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer, discussing Pennsylvania’s rural health model and workforce challenges.

Episode nine features Erin Clark, director of IUP’s Speech and Hearing Clinic and assistant professor in the IUP Department of Communication Disorders, Special Education, and Disability Services.

Season one concludes with episode 10, a discussion with Katie Donald, marketing and public relations specialist at Punxsutawey Area Hospital, discussing rural healthcare models and challenges.

IUP is a member of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education

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