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College of Medicine staff, students rally around colleague battling cancer

For a decade, Susan Snyder has cleaned the morgue and cadaver labs at Penn State College of Medicine, seeing and doing things many would prefer not to. She considers the students and professors who work alongside her to be like family.

So when the 48-year-old Environmental Health worker from New Oxford was diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer in January, her work family rallied around her, donating nearly 400 hours of unused Paid Time Off (PTO) to her so she would be able to receive treatments and recover without worrying about finances.

Students at the College of Medicine didn’t have PTO to donate, so they set up a GoFundMe site and raised nearly $1,700 to help with medical expenses. Snyder said that was a godsend because one of her medications cost more than $1,600 after insurance.

Catherine Hirshbock, administrative coordinator, said lab manager Holly Travagli suggested that staff do something for Snyder since she does such a great job taking care of their lab. So twice, Hirshbock sent out emails requesting PTO donations – once for Snyder’s surgery and a second time when she needed to miss work for chemotherapy treatments.

“It was an easy way to help Sue and ease her mind financially,” Hirschbock said.

Snyder rang the bell at Penn State Cancer Institute on Aug. 19 to celebrate her last cancer treatment and is now back at work.

“I feel so loved,” she said. “I work with a great bunch of people.”

PTO Donation Program

Employees of Penn State Health, Hershey Medical Center, Penn State College of Medicine and Penn State Health Medical Group community practice division may donate a portion of their primary PTO or vacation time to another employee suffering a personal illness or family illness. See details of the PTO Donation program on mySolutions. To donate PTO to an approved recipient, submit a request. To apply for the program, submit an application.

College of Medicine employees can access the donation form from the College of Medicine Human Resources page (internal access only; login required).

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