The Degenstein Foundation
Committed to central Pennsylvania
Not much is known about the potential health impacts of unconventional natural gas extraction in the Marcellus Shale, including the chemical composition of hydrofracturing fluids and the specific health outcomes of exposure to those chemicals. A Degenstein Foundation-funded research initiative will change that.
Thanks to the generosity of Charles B. Degenstein, the Degenstein Foundation dedicates its resources to improving the quality of life in central Pennsylvania, and for decades has recognized Geisinger Health System as a partner in that mission. Gifts totaling more than $8 million have supported cardiac rehabilitation research, clinical innovation, women's health, autism, endovascular neurosurgery, and many other research and renovation projects.
In response to a recent unrestricted gift of $1 million, made by the Degenstein Foundation in honor of Geisinger President and Chief Executive Officer Glenn D. Steele Jr., MD, PhD, Geisinger has launched a pioneering study of the potential health, environmental, and quality-of-life impacts of natural gas extraction. The study will look at detailed health histories of hundreds of thousands of patients who live near the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation in which energy companies have already drilled about 5,000 natural gas wells.
"The Foundation board is always in search of innovative funding opportunities like Geisinger's Marcellus Shale Research Initiative that have the potential to better the lives of the residents of the central Susquehanna Valley," says Michael Apfelbaum, co-trustee of the Degenstein Foundation.
"The landscape surrounding our neighbors is in a state of immense change," added co-trustee Jeffrey Apfelbaum. "This project will make a difference in our region as we seek to better understand the shifts occurring around us.
The first large-scale, scientifically rigorous assessment of the health effects of natural gas production, the Marcellus Shale Research Initiative will use data from the electronic health records (EHRs) of Geisinger Health System, Guthrie Health, and Susquehanna Health. This partnership and 10 years of EHR patient information, combined with the capabilities of Geisinger's Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Laboratory, will allow for unbiased research that cannot be duplicated elsewhere.
"The Degenstein Foundation's support of this research project comes at a critical time for the residents of Pennsylvania who live in the Marcellus Shale region," says Glenn D. Steele Jr., MD, PhD, Geisinger President and Chief Executive Officer. "The establishment of reliable and valid data regarding the potential health impacts of Marcellus Shale gas drilling is essential for informed policy decisions."