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Palliative medicine offers added support when you need it most

CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. – Geisinger’s palliative medicine program has expanded into Centre County through the work of Nicki Vithalani, M.D. Palliative medicine is essential to the care of patients with any sort of serious illness, including cancer, dementia, ALS or a progressive or serious illness affecting quality of life.

Dr. Vithalani saw an opportunity to expand palliative medicine services into Centre County with the help of Melissa Lightner, CRNP. The providers are now seeing patients at Geisinger Scenery Park and at 65 Forward State College.

“Our inpatient service was steadily growing, and the outpatient clinic was thriving too, and then the pandemic hit. When everything shut down, we switched much of our clinic to virtual care,” said Dr. Vithalani. “I think the pandemic highlighted how important our field is — it’s crucial to know someone’s wishes during times they cannot speak for themselves. By meeting with patients and families, we can discuss what type of care someone would or wouldn’t desire.”

Palliative medicine is more than just end-of-life care. It’s an extra layer of support for people facing serious or life-threatening illnesses and is a service that complements but doesn’t replace treatment for a patient’s condition. Palliative medicine is an option at any time throughout a patient’s treatment course — even as early as a diagnosis. The goal is to prevent or treat symptoms as early as possible; before the illness or treatment can take a toll on the patient’s well-being.

Palliative care allows for symptom management, coordination of healthcare services and clarification of the patient’s goals and priorities. It helps the entire family be on the same page in planning treatment. Conditions that may warrant a referral to palliative medicine include metastatic cancer, dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, stroke, and end-stage heart, liver, kidney or lung disease.

To learn more about palliative medicine, visit or call 717-242-7297.

About Geisinger
Geisinger is committed to making better health easier for the more than 1 million people it serves. Founded more than 100 years ago by Abigail Geisinger, the system now includes 10 hospital campuses, a health plan with more than half a million members, a research institute and the Geisinger College of Health Sciences, which includes schools of medicine, nursing and graduate education. With more than 25,000 employees and 1,700+ employed physicians, Geisinger boosts its hometown economies in Pennsylvania by billions of dollars annually. Learn more at or connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Randi Hines
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