The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 6, 2014

Strengthening Windber's stock | Institute, med center, stadium draw attention

JOHNSTOWN — Exciting things are happening in the sleepy, northern Somerset County community of Windber.

Windber Research Institute’s exploration into cardiovascular disease earned it prominent recognition.

Its findings on how diet and exercise alter the body’s chemistry to reduce heart disease were published in the prestigious American Heart Association journal, Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics.

“We are very honored and excited to be selected for publication,” Darrell Ellsworth, the institute’s senior director for cardiovascular disease research, told reporter Randy Griffith.

We, too, are excited that such groundbreaking research is taking place right in our own backyard.

It means that doctors anywhere in the world can tap into Windber’s knowledge now that the publication has achieved international recognition.

That lofty status also will help Windber Research Institute attract more projects and quality scientists.

The heralded research followed two groups of volunteers. One group adhered to an exercise regimen with nutrition guidelines and stress management help. The other group did not follow any structured program.

“By doing lifestyle intervention, you are reducing the likelihood that you are going to have atherosclerotic vascular disease,” Ellsworth said.

The institute’s latest findings reinforce its standing in the medical community. It also shows that you don’t have to be connected to a world-renowned hospital with a megamillion-dollar budget to prove your mettle in the world of medicine.

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At nearby Windber Medical Center, newly appointed interim President and CEO Thomas Kurtz wants to bring the luster back to the hospital.

Specifically, Kurtz wants to refocus on the philosophy that brought the center national attention when it was initiated 10 years ago. That mindset features patient-centered care coupled with holistic medicine that includes music, massage and pet and aroma therapies and retraining a spotlight on the Planetree philosophy of treating mind, body and spirit.

“We’ve got to breathe the excitement back into Windber,” Kurtz said earlier this week. “We have not brought it forward and played to its strength.”

Competition helps keep any business or industry on its toes, and the same is true in the medical profession. Although Windber Medical Center does not have the financial clout, or the patient numbers, as its closest rival, Conemaugh Health System, it still has its place as a community hospital.

We envision that Windber Medical Center, with the community’s backing, will be serving patients for years to come.

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The third bit of news out of Rambler Country comes from the other end of town, across Route 56, and specifically targets Windber Stadium.

Windber Area School District is eyeing a districtwide facelift that could cost close to $17 million and would take several years to complete. One part of the facelift is upgrades to the aging stadium.

In a story reported by David Hurst, school officials applied to the NFL Foundation for a grant. The foundation focuses on low- to moderate-income school districts and provides awards up to $200,000.

“We’re right in their wheelhouse,” Windber Education Director Glen Gaye said of the district’s standings within the foundation’s guidelines.

District officials should know by later this month if the foundation honors its request for financial aid.

It would be fantastic to see the 1950s-era stadium upgraded to possibly include a synthetic or grass-blend turf along with state-of-the-art lighting.

And knowing that an arm of the National Football League had a hand in the stadium’s makeover would bring a little added fame to the playing field, and community.

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