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Rural Health Pulse Podcast by IUP and IRMC Continues with Episode on Community Wastewater Surveillance System

Community news | Friday, January 20, 2023

Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Indiana Regional Medical Center (IRMC)’s podcast, “Rural Health Pulse,” continues with an episode on the community wastewater surveillance system.

Dr. Rick Adkins, professor of mathematics in the IUP Department of Mathematical and Computer Sciences, will be discussing the ongoing project and COVID-19 analytics in Episode 3, which will be available on Jan. 20.

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.

Information about levels of COVID-19 in the samples are sent to Indiana Borough officials, who release this data weekly on the Indiana Borough website and its social media via an infographic that shows if the levels are increasing or decreasing.

Dr. Adkins began work to collect samples on campus for analysis by BioBot Analytics in March 2021.

In addition to Dr. Adkins, the wastewater project team includes Dr. John Benhart and Dr. Richard Hoch, professors of regional planning in the IUP Department of Geography, Geology, Environment, and Planning; Dr. Prashanth Bharadwaj, interim dean of the Eberly College of Business; Dr. Yongtao Cao, faculty member in the IUP Department of Mathematical and Computer Sciences; Dr. Hilliary Creely, dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research; Roland Francis, Indiana Borough pretreatment coordinator/assistant wastewater superintendent; Dr. Steve Hovan, dean of the John J. and Char Kopchick College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics; Christina Koren, IUP director of strategic partnerships; Dr. Richard Neff, IRMC Chief Medical Officer; Khatmeh Osseiran-Hanna, vice president, IUP Division of University Advancement; Dr. Kristi Storti, director of IUP’s Public Health program; Dr. Hao Tang, faculty member in the IUP Madia Department of Chemistry, Biochemistry, Physics, and Engineering; and Robert Wilson, director of Institute for Mine Mapping, Archival Procedures, and Safety.

The goal of the IUP and Indiana Borough collaboration is to build a community wastewater surveillance system that includes data collection, modeling, forecasting, and public health interpretations.

In fall 2022, Francis, a 1984 IUP graduate, joined IUP on a part-time basis as the project field director, charged with growing the research project to connect with other rural health care areas of need, such as expanding the testing capabilities and portfolio relative to the wastewater surveillance project.

The podcast, which is available for free on Spotify and from the IRMC website, will have monthly episodes through August 2023.

The podcast launched in November in celebration of National Rural Health Day on Nov. 17, 2022. 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 Koren. Dr. Jim Kinneer, IRMC Chief Human Resources Officer, serves as the host for the shows.

The podcasts are 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.

The first episode of the series features Dr. Amanda Vaglia, family medicine physician at IRMC, discussing the IRMC residency program. Episode 2 features 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.

Upcoming episodes, all which will be available on the last day of the month that they are scheduled to be released, are:

  • Dan Clark, IRMC director, Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery; director, IRMC Comprehensive Breast Center, discussing robotics in surgery (February 2023)
  • An introduction to IRMC residents (March 2023)
  • Dan Clark, IRMC director, Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery; director, IRMC Comprehensive Breast Center, discussing breast cancer (April 2023)
  • Steve Hovan, dean, IUP John J. and Char Kopchick College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, discussing IUP’s Kopchick Hall, future home to the Kopchick College (May 2023)
  • Wendy Haislip, IRMC Vice President and Chief Nursing Officer, Pennsylvania rural health model and workforce challenges (June 2023)
  • Erin Clark, clinic director at IUP’s Speech and Hearing Clinic and assistant professor in the IUP Department of Communication Disorders, Special Education, and Disability Services, discussing the clinic’s community outreach (July 2023)
  • Katie Donald, Marketing and Public Relations Specialist at Punxsutawey Area Hospital, discussing rural healthcare models and challenges (August 2023)