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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 among the nation’s leading providers of value-based care, serving 1.2 million people in urban and rural communities across Pennsylvania. Founded in 1915 by philanthropist Abigail Geisinger, the nonprofit system generates $10 billion in annual revenues across 126 care sites — including 10 hospital campuses — and Geisinger Health Plan, with more than half a million members in commercial and government plans. Geisinger College of Health Sciences educates more than 5,000 medical professionals annually and conducts more than 1,400 clinical research studies. With 26,000 employees, including 1,700 employed physicians, Geisinger is among Pennsylvania’s largest employers with an estimated economic impact of $15 billion to the state’s economy. On March 31, 2024, Geisinger became the first member of Risant Health, a new nonprofit charitable organization created to expand and accelerate value-based care across the country. Learn more at or follow on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and X.

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Randi Hines
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