The Best Father’s Day Exchange? More of Dad

Gadgets, neck ties, hunting equipment, grilling supplies—no matter which Father’s Day token you might unwrap this weekend, what your loved ones are asking in return is simple: for you to stay in good health so they can enjoy many years ahead with you.

This Father’s Day also marks the conclusion of National Men’s Health Week, two celebrations that call to mind how valuable the men in our lives are. “We owe it to our children to remain healthy for them,” says Dr. John Banerji, a urologist at Penn Highlands Healthcare. “This Father’s Day, let’s resolve not to procrastinate a medical visit.”

In this spirit, Dr. Banerji and some of his Penn Highlands colleagues offer tips for the men in our region to stay well. They’ve also graciously shared what each loves most about being a dad.

Practicing with Penn Highlands Urology in DuBois and Clearfield, Dr. Banerji highlights the current data demonstrating that men in the United States have a four- to five-year lower life expectancy than women. With prostate cancer as the number-one most common cancer in men, Banerji says, “Father’s Day is an occasion to encourage men to visit the family doctor or their urologist for detection, co-ordination and treatment of urological issues.” Screening for prostate cancer is particularly important, especially for men with a family history of prostate cancer, African-American men, and men with new onset urinary symptoms or blood in their urine. Along with all this, Dr. Banerji shares that his favorite part of fatherhood is “the opportunity to pass on values like love and respect for everyone, which were given to me by my father, along with the opportunity to learn a lot of cool things from my daughter, who is a teenager. I enjoy seeing her becoming a responsible and empathetic adult.”

Dr. Chris Varacallo is a sports medicine physician who, with his wife and three daughters, recently welcomed his first son. Dr. Varacallo urges folks to understand that in addition to routine screenings Dr. Banerji recommends, everyday choices also make a big impact on our overall health and the longevity of our joints. “When it comes to weight loss and the impact on joints, I like to tell patients that even one pound of weight loss can help pain before you need a joint replacement,” Dr. Varacallo says. “That one pound actually creates four pounds of force on your joints, per step.” He also notes sleep and hydration as two essential factors in keeping the body well that often get overlooked. “Sleep is the time when the body repairs and heals itself, and inadequate sleep can cause chronic aches and pains.” Meanwhile, many of us don’t realize that because dehydration can lead to fatigue and longer-term illness, “hydration helps with better energy and cell function,” Dr. Varacallo says. About fatherhood, he reflects, “My favorite thing is that no matter what happens during the day, at home I have my number-one fans to greet me. They’re ecstatic—and now we’ve got some testosterone in the house!”

Mark Hoffman, Penn Highlands service line director of rehabilitation services and occupational health, echoes Dr. Varacallo’s philosophy on the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. Hoffman says, “I’m a firm believer that I’d rather lose one pound 50 times than 50 pounds, one time.” Hoffman stresses the benefits of strength training, walking, swimming, or biking, but adds that no matter what form your movement takes, it will help to maintain weight, promote strength, and keep the cardiovascular system healthy. “The things you’re already doing are part of exercise, including activities around the home,” Hoffman says. “If you’re mowing the lawn or washing the windows, that’s all part of healthy activity.” Hoffman is known to exercise often with his daughter and two sons, all between 18 and 22 years. On the best part of being their dad, he says, “The greatest thing for me is to watching my children grow and succeed in life. Their successes feel like mine. I’m very proud!”

With colon cancer as the third leading cancer diagnosis for men, Tom Barr, a registered nurse in Penn Highlands Gastroenterology Services, raises the importance of good colon health. “A colonoscopy can help find or remove a polyp so it doesn’t turn to cancer,” Barr says. While he notes that the risk for colon cancer varies between individuals (depending on factors like family history and personal history), Barr reveals that one universal aspect of keeping the colon healthy is the uncertainty many patients feel about a colonoscopy. “A lot of people don’t like to have it done because of the colon preparation and fear of anesthesia.” At Penn Highlands, Barr says, “We recognize it’s not routine for a lot of people, but it’s routine for us—and it’s very safe.” On his most-loved part of fathering his daughter and stepson, Barr says, “There are so many things, but watching them learn and have those a-ha moments are the best.” He sends us off with a saying from Dr. Rich Latuska, gastroenterologist at Penn Highlands: “Dr. Latuska often says: ’Get the test, get the polyp, get the cure.’”

And get the best health care for men at Penn Highlands. To the fathers, grandfathers, and father figures in our community, we wish you a very happy Father’s Day and many more. To learn more about the highest-quality healthcare, visit