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ATSU-SOMA student hopes to become rural family doctor in community health center

A.T. Still University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA) was exactly the kind of school Weston Burrup, OMS III, wanted to attend, with its friendly faculty, focus on community health center learning and experiences, and education in osteopathic manipulative medicine (OMM). But there was also another reason ATSU was a perfect fit.

“It also helped that my wife was accepted to ATSU-Arizona School of Health Sciences’ Occupational Therapy program,” Burrup said with a smile. 

Burrup is originally from Lewiston, Idaho, and graduated from Brigham Young University in 2019 with a bachelor’s degree in physiology and development biology. 

His desire is to one day work in a community health center.

“I would like to be a rural family doctor in a community health center because of the variety of patient exposures and responsibilities they have,” Burrup said. “I am interested in applying osteopathic manipulative treatment in my future practice and am passionate about treating families. ATSU-SOMA has prepared me for this future career by emphasizing primary care medicine, allowing me to take a year to be an OMM fellow, and showing me how community health centers work.”

Burrup has been involved in several clubs, including the OMM and Anatomy clubs, as well as the Ultrasound Interest Group. He became a student ambassador because he was passionate about spreading awareness of the positive experiences he’s had, and wanted to help others navigate the interview process. 

When he isn’t busy with those responsibilities, Burrup and his wife enjoy fly fishing, hiking, and spending time with their newborn daughter. 

A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Health Sciences (ATSU-ASHS) Doctor of Occupational Therapy program student Kat Bauer, OTD, ’23, could have picked just about anywhere in the country to seek her occupational therapy degree.

Originally from Bozeman, Montana, Bauer attended Montana State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in cell biology and neuroscience. Then she looked south for her master’s degree in biology from the University of Texas at San Antonio. 

When it came time to pursue her doctor of occupational therapy degree, Bauer found her home in the southwest with ATSU-ASHS, saying the University’s mission set it apart.

“I chose ATSU because the mission of providing whole person healthcare to all runs deep in each program, and I greatly appreciated joining an entire healthcare community focused on serving the underserved and being the best practitioners we can all be,” Bauer said. 

She’s found the program to measure up to those expectations and provide unique learning opportunities since beginning classes. The size of the Occupational Therapy department allows students and faculty to develop strong bonds. 

“I think we have an amazing faculty who all greatly care about our success,” Bauer said. “Our small program allows for greater one-on-one relationships, which really helps to enhance our learning and connectedness. I believe they are all super supportive people and willing to help us grow in the individual ways we all need. 

“I am also impressed by the support we get from numerous offices around campus, such as Admissions, the library staff, Security, and Student Life. They are all so crucial to this school being successful and for the students to have access to whatever resources we need.”

Bauer also enjoys interprofessional opportunities that arise from having different graduate health sciences programs housed on the same campus, with many different classes within the same building. 

“This gives us a lot of opportunity to meet and connect with students from other programs that we wouldn’t have had the chance to otherwise,” Bauer said. “ATSU is great at building a community with the same mission to help others.”

Bauer is co-leader of the Adaptive Sports Student Interest Section and a student committee member for ATSU’s Spring Expo. She was previously a mentor for the Occupational Therapy Program, president of the Student Occupational Therapy Association, founder and president of the Wilderness Medicine Club, and president of the Dissection Club. 

She believes in being highly involved to provide the most opportunities to learn and make a difference. She is also pursuing certificates from ATSU in Adaptive Sports and Public Health.

“I love being a leader who strives to make a positive impact both within my cohort and the campus as a whole,” Bauer said. “I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people and love to help contribute to enhancing all of our learning as we grow into the amazing professionals this School trains us to be.”

Additionally, Bauer is a student ambassador for the OT program, having been inspired by other ambassadors during the application process.

“I had the opportunity to meet numerous ambassadors prior to starting school at ATSU and loved how their passion about the mission shined through,” she said. “Not only did they get me excited to attend ATSU, but they helped me to see that coming to this School is to be a part of something much larger than myself, and I wanted to be that person for other potential students.”

Bauer enjoys trail running with her son, and is currently training for her first 50-mile race later this year. She also has a general love of the outdoors and hopes to work that into her future practice.

“I hope to find a way to further connect my passion of working with those who have disabilities with my passion for wilderness,” Bauer said. “I believe everyone should have access to the benefits that nature provides, and I want to be a link so everyone can enjoy this beautiful world we live in.

“I also hope to come back and teach at ATSU in the OT department. I absolutely love teaching and look forward to guiding future OT students to be positive and knowledgeable providers.” 

A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Health Sciences (ATSU-ASHS) celebrated the graduation of 73 students from its Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program on Sept. 16, 2022, in Mesa, Arizona. 

Ann Lee Burch, PT, EdD, MS, MPH, ATSU-ASHS dean and associate professor, told graduates to use their skills to make a difference in the lives of their patients, and find joy in their work. 

“Class of 2022, you will take your new knowledge, skills, critical inquiry, professionalism, and that steady commitment to compassion and integrity, and continue to make a difference in the lives of so many. Throughout your professional lives, keep listening to your patients, your mentors, professions outside of your own, your colleagues, your friends and family,” Dr. Burch said. 

“For those very challenging days, find your stride. Walk steady. And finally, stay curious, committed, true to who you are and where you have come from, and you will leap over any obstacles in your way and continue to find deep meaning and joy in the important work of bringing optimal health to individuals and communities.”

ATSU President Craig Phelps, DO, ’84, conferred an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to commencement speaker Catherine Alicia Georges, EdD, RN, FAAN, professor and chair, Department of Nursing, Lehman College.

From 2018-20, Dr. Georges served as the national volunteer president of the American Association of Retired Persons, the largest consumer organization in the world. She served as the fifth president of the National Black Nurses Association. In addition, she is president of the National Black Nurses Foundation and a lifetime member of the National Black Nurses Association and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Her fellowships include the New York Academy of Medicine and American Academy of Nursing. She was named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing (2019), Most Distinguished Alumna of Seton Hall University (2020), and the 2021 Lifetime Legacy Awardee by the American Academy of Nursing. Dr. Georges was elected chair of the national Easterseals Board of Directors in October 2021. She is the first Black female volunteer to serve in that role.

Dr. Georges told the class of 2022 their voices would be critical addressing healthcare inequities in a post-COVID-19 world. 

“In many parts of our country, your zip code becomes the manner in which you are treated. We call it health disparity by location, and in many instances, because of one’s race and ethnicity,” Dr. Georges said. “Making automatic assumptions about patients is antithetical to good healthcare. The scope of your contribution will reflect your capacity for recognizing the individuality of every patient, and truly listening; the tenets on which this curricula were built.

“I urge you in your careers to share your perspective, to look for opportunities for leadership, to find a place at the tables where policies are set. No seat? Bring your own chair. Door closed? Open it. I urge you to use your voice. You as physician assistants will be pivotal to creating a culture of health in our country. A culture that embraces prevention, as well as treatment. A culture that seeks to shed biases, and rid the country of the chronic disease of racism. You must create a culture that meets head-on the external factors that produce such inequitable outcomes.” 

Watch the full ceremony below…

A.T. Still University of Health Sciences (ATSU) Board of Trustees appointed officers and elected new members at its quarterly meeting July 22, 2022.

The following trustees were elected as officers: Chair Herb B. Kuhn, of Lohman, Missouri; Vice-chair Isaac R. Navarro, DMD, MPH, ’08, of Visalia, California; and Secretary Michelle L. Mayo, PhD, of Durham, North Carolina.

Newly elected trustees are Kimberly Perry, DO, MBA, MHCM, FACEP, FACOEP, ’91, of St. Louis, and Felix M. Valbuena, Jr, MD, DABFM, FAAFP, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

Dr. Perry is an osteopathic physician with more than 30 years’ leadership experience in emergency medicine, clinical education, and managed care in St. Louis. Dr. Perry has held positions as senior vice president and chief medical officer for Kindred Healthcare in Louisville, Kentucky; chief medical officer for United Healthcare in St. Louis; dean of medical education and chief of emergency medicine at BJC Christian Hospital; and various roles at SSM Health, including director of emergency medicine at St. Joseph Health Center and attending physician at DePaul Hospital. Dr. Perry is currently the regional chief medical officer for SSM Health.

Dr. Perry earned a bachelor of science degree in chemistry from Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island; doctor of osteopathic medicine degree from ATSU’s Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (ATSU-KCOM) in Kirksville, Missouri; and master of health administration in care management and master of business administration degrees from University of Phoenix in Phoenix. She has served in numerous leadership roles with ATSU, including service with the Kirksville Osteopathic Alumni Association (KOAA) for two terms and as KOAA chair in 2019. Dr. Perry was also actively engaged with student education, serving five years as director of student medical education for ATSU-KCOM’s Missouri/Christian Hospital region site.

Dr. Valbuena is chief executive officer of Community Health and Social Services Center in Detroit. As a bilingual/bicultural physician, Dr. Valbuena is committed to providing culturally proficient healthcare in one’s native language to ensure a better understanding of and compliance with medical treatment. He is an active supporter of Federally Qualified Health Centers, currently serving as clinician representative on the Board of Directors of the National Association of Community Health Centers and board member of the Michigan Primary Care Association. Dr. Valbuena is a 2007 recipient of the Degree of Fellow from the American Academy of Family Physicians and diplomate of the American Board of Family Medicine. Dr. Valbuena holds a bachelor of arts degree in psychology from the University of Notre Dame and his medical degree from Universidad El Bosque in Bogota, Colombia.

“ATSU is fortunate to have outstanding trustees committed to the University’s mission and vision,” said ATSU President Craig Phelps, DO, ’84. “We welcome Drs. Perry and Valbuena and look forward to benefiting from their insights, knowledge, and experiences.”

“Once again, people from all backgrounds are stepping forward in important governance roles to aid ATSU in its mission of educating our nation’s future healthcare clinicians and leaders. With a committed board and talented university leadership, the support for students and their success has never been stronger,” said Kuhn.

The following trustees will continue their service on the board: Rosie Allen-Herring, MBA, of Washington; Danielle Barnett-Trapp, DO, ’11, of Glendale, Arizona; Reid Butler, JD, of Phoenix; Marco Clark, EdD, of Notre Dame, Indiana; Jonathan Cleaver, DO, FAOCD, FAAD, FASMS, ’08, of Kirksville, Missouri; Reid Downey of Atlanta; Linda Eremita, MUA, of Pittsburgh; Alan Morgan, MPA, of Stafford, Virginia; Linnette Sells, DO, FAOASM, ’82, of Alpharetta, Georgia; Floyd Simpson, CFA, CAIA, of Philadelphia; and Bertha Thomas of Kirksville, Missouri.

The next board meeting will be Oct. 14, 2022, in Kirksville, Missouri.

For those who may wonder whether dental school is too overwhelming, too daunting to attempt, A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH) student Omar Yaacoobi, D3, shares a different perspective. 

“I enjoy being an ATSU student because I am able to have a very manageable school/life balance,” Yaacoobi said. “There are many opportunities to become a better clinician, while also being able to maintain your social life through the University’s collaborative and integrated environment.”

Students sit outdoors in front of an A.T. Still University sign.
Omar Yaacoobi, D3, poses with classmates.

Yaacoobi holds degrees in biochemistry and molecular biology from University of California, Davis, and calls both Springfield, Virginia, and Concord, California, his home. When he decided to pursue dental school, ATSU-ASDOH’s commitment to serving the underserved and opportunities it provides to gain clinical experiences were two factors which aided Yaacoobi’s decision.

Omar Yaacoobi, D3, and classmates pose for a photo in a photo booth during Founder’s Day.

Also helping him with his choice were the School’s student ambassadors, and the support he gained from them sparked his interest in becoming an ambassador himself.

“I became a student ambassador because when I was a pre-dental student, student ambassadors helped guide me to the position that I am in today with their honesty and assistance,” Yaacoobi said. “I hope to provide that same help to those who were once in my shoes, so that others can achieve their goals.” 

Yaacoobi also serves as the graphic designer for ATSU-ASDOH’s chapter of the American Student Dental Association. He also enjoys playing soccer, football, volleyball, and tennis, and enjoys hiking and discovering new places while taking in the Arizona scenery. 

He also touts his role as a coach with the 2021 ATSU Powder Puff Football championship team.

Omar Yaacoobi, D3, poses with members of the 2022 Founder’s Day Powderpuff Championship team

After graduation, Yaacoobi plans to own his own general dentistry practice and dedicate time to volunteering to help those in need.

“ATSU-ASDOH has paved the path for a successful career through their early introduction into the clinic, and providing high exposure to real life scenarios through patient care, practice management and networking, and many volunteering opportunities,” Yaacoobi said.

A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Health Sciences (ATSU-ASHS) Doctor of Physical Therapy program student Everett Lunt, DPT, ’24, has felt right at home since beginning classes on the Mesa, Arizona, campus.

“I love the community and friendliness of students and teachers,” Lunt said. “I love being able to have a great place to learn and grow in my field. The support that my cohort gives to one another has truly made school easier and much more fulfilling.”

Everett Lunt, DPT, ’24, poses with his child.

Lunt is from Snowflake, Arizona, and has a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology from Arizona State University. When he decided to advance his education, ATSU-ASHS fit and not only because it was close to home.

“The School has a great reputation, and awesome and helpful faculty who care about our future as PTs,” Lunt said. “I’ve met great mentors and friends from ATSU, and so far it’s lived up to all the hype.”

Some of those mentors include student ambassadors, who helped Lunt learn about ATSU’s program during the application process. 

Lunt was so inspired by the ambassadors that he chose to become one after he was accepted.

“I thought I could help future and current students learn about the many opportunities that ATSU brings to the Mesa Valley,” Lunt said. “I’ve learned so much in the DPT program and hope to inspire others to strive to learn the most they can.”

When he isn’t in class, Lunt enjoys activities like basketball, hunting, and most importantly, spending time with his wife and their child.

Everett Lunt, DPT, ’24, poses with his child.

Ultimately, Lunt plans to absorb as much as he can while attending ATSU-ASHS and put the University’s mission into practice after he graduates. 

“I hope to be the best physical therapist I can be, and ATSU’s mission of whole person healthcare has given me the resources and mindset necessary to achieve that goal,” Lunt said.

A.T. Still University’s (ATSU) Dreamline Pathways program received the 2022 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, the largest and oldest diversity and inclusion publication in higher education. The Inspiring Programs in STEM Award honors colleges and universities that encourage and assist students from underrepresented groups to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). ATSU’s Dreamline Pathways program will be featured in the Sept. 2022 issue of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

This is the second consecutive year ATSU’s Dreamline Pathways program was recognized by INSIGHT Into Diversity.

Inspiring Programs in STEM Award winners were selected by INSIGHT Into Diversity based on efforts to inspire and encourage a new generation of young people to consider careers in STEM through mentoring, teaching, research, and successful programs and initiatives.

“Congratulations to ATSU Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion Clinton Normore, MBA, and his team on this well-deserved recognition,” said ATSU President Craig Phelps, DO, ’84. “Providing support and guidance to young students interested in pursuing an education and career in health sciences can make the difference for those students in realizing their dreams. When leaders in the field do more to foster access, we will ultimately find more success in building diverse and inclusive networks of healthcare professionals.”

“ATSU has been working very hard to be culturally proficient and create opportunity and access for the demographic group we refer to as HUGs (Historically Underrepresented Groups),” Normore said. “The Dreamline Pathways program is an example of that commitment. Stephanie McGrew, MHA, ATSU assistant director of diversity & inclusion, and the program’s community partners have demonstrated ground-level leadership on how effective collaborations like these could be. We are humbled by the honor of this award and recognize there is still much work to be done.”

INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine selected ATSU’s Dreamline Pathways program because of its unique approach to introducing K-12 students to graduate health professions programs. ATSU partners with school districts and community-based organizations, offering experiential learning opportunities to students. These collaborations introduce young minds to career opportunities in healthcare, and nurture students through campus and graduate student engagement opportunities.

“We know that many STEM programs are not always recognized for their success, dedication, and mentorship for underrepresented students,” said Lenore Pearlstein, owner and publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine. “We want to honor the schools and organizations that have created programs that inspire and encourage young people who may currently be in or are interested in a future career in STEM. We are proud to honor these programs as role models to other institutions of higher education and beyond.”

For more information about the 2022 Inspiring Programs in STEM Award and INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine, visit insightintodiversity.com.

A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Health Sciences (ATSU-ASHS) Doctor of Occupational Therapy program student Rebecca Downs, OTD, ’24, knew her personality matched up with what was necessary to be a strong student ambassador for the University. 

But that wasn’t the only reason Downs took on the responsibilities of the student leadership position.

“I became an ambassador because I wanted to help students feel comfortable coming to ATSU, or help them decide to come here,” Downs said. “I greatly appreciated having friendly student faces at the interviews and the tour that I came on. Student ambassadors helped me to feel more excited and less nervous about OT school, so I wanted to pay it forward.”

Downs is originally from Cleveland, Ohio, and holds a bachelor of science in exercise and sport science with a minor in psychology from BYU-Hawaii. Student ambassadors played a large role in her selecting ATSU-ASHS, as did the impression made by faculty and the campus itself in Mesa, Arizona.

“I love the whole person healthcare emphasis,” Downs said. “I liked the background of the professors and the overall feel of campus. Ambassadors also helped me make the decision to join ATSU because they were so friendly, and from what they had said I really liked the sound of this school.”

She enjoys what she’s found at ATSU-ASHS, notably the ATSU Center for Occupational and Physical Therapy. The pro-bono clinic provides student doctors opportunities to perform occupational and physical therapy treatments under the supervision of department faculty and staff, and extends care to those who cannot otherwise afford such services.

“Some of the professors volunteer their time to work in these clinics for free. Students do the same,” Downs said. “I like how, as students, we get to practice our skills while helping the clients.”

Downs has also become active with the Student Occupational Therapy Association (SOTA) and as an anatomy teacher’s assistant, doing dissections in the cadaver lab. 

“I really enjoyed our anatomy course and I found the human body very fascinating,” she said. “As for SOTA, I liked the idea of being able to expand my areas of interest by joining the special interest groups, such as pelvic floor therapy. It is also nice knowing there is a SOTA chapter at every OT school, and that helps me feel like all OT students are united.”

Outside of the classroom and clinic, Downs spends time with her orange tabby cat, Sunny, and caring for her plants. She enjoys walks with her husband, cooking, baking, running, yoga, watching TV shows, and spending time with family and friends.

Downs will graduate with her doctor of occupational therapy degree in two years, and hopes to work part time as a pelvic floor therapist, and part time in a more traditional OT setting.

“I like how as an OT, if I find I don’t like a setting, I can easily switch gears and make myself at home in another,” Downs said. “The opportunities are endless.”

ATSU’s professors have a vast array of experiences, providing students with expert mentors in any area of OT. Downs also described the emphasis on mental health in the program, with a class specifically for learning about mental health conditions, interpersonal relationships, and how to be aware of clients’ mental health states.

“I like how the students are all pretty close-knit, as well as the professors,” Downs said. “Typically, I feel like our professors treat us as equals and they are really respectful towards us as future colleagues. 

“I appreciate how students’ mental health is important to the school. Student Life puts on many activities and opportunities for us to de-stress. That is just one small example of everything ATSU does to show the University cares for its students.”

A.T. Still University-College for Health Communities (ATSU-CHC) Central Coast Physician Assistant (CCPA) program students recently volunteered to help increase skin cancer awareness and provide some protection against the sun.

Students stand four across holding a long piece of fabric.
ATSU-CHC students hold fabric donated to make bandanas for community members.

Students set up a table at the Nipomo Fleamarket in Nipomo, California, Aug. 14, 2022, and handed out more than 800 bandanas, made from fabric donated to ATSU-CHC from local vendors. 

Additionally, students handed out skin-cancer prevention materials in Spanish and English from the American Academy of Dermatology. According to the Academy, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Broad spectrum sunscreens of SPF 30 or higher with water resistance of at least 40 minutes are most recommended. Additionally, individuals are advised to seek shade and wear sun-protective clothing, including a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, whenever possible.  

A.T. Still University-College for Healthy Communities (ATSU-CHC) Physician Assistant program student Matthew Chan, PA, ’23, is well on the way to reaching his goals through the Central Coast Physician Assistant program.

“What I love about being an ATSU student is the support that faculty have provided me,” Chan said. “They make themselves available for me to bounce questions or ideas off of, and give me both the textbook and the in-practice scenario answers. Being a new program, I love that faculty are receptive to student feedback and do their best to adjust things accordingly to help supplement our learning.

“ATSU is helping to pave the road to my goals by providing me the resources and support I need to become a knowledgeable, culturally-aware and empathetic healthcare provider.”

Originally from Brooklyn, New York, Chan is a 2014 graduate of Syracuse University, with bachelor of science in nutrition science, a bachelor of arts in biology, and a minor in psychology. Chan was attracted to ATSU because of its mission and values of creating providers to serve medically underserved communities. 

“Their focus on shaping culturally aware and competent healthcare providers will make a big impact on the care of the patients in these communities,” Chan said. 

Chan has taken an active role as an ATSU-CHC student, becoming president of the Physician Assistants for Central Coast Community Health Student Society, and a student ambassador. 

“I became a student ambassador because I wanted to share with other applicants my experiences of the program,” Chan said. “Being in the shoes of other applicants at one point, I know how nerve-wracking the process of applying and interviewing can be. I want to be there to answer their questions and ease their worries.

“One of my great achievements in the past year was the mentoring I’ve provided to PA applicants through advising, essay revisions, and mock interviews, where I’ve helped 28 students reach their dream of getting into PA school.” 

When he’s not studying, Chan enjoys learning about food culture, cooking, and “most importantly, eating.” He enjoys roaming the beach with friends, traveling, watching NBA games, exercising, and walking his friends’ pets. 

Ultimately, Chan hopes to become a well-rounded clinician who effectively treats and educates his patients.

“I look forward to acquiring a role within healthcare where I can utilize the growing field of medical informatics and data to improve current workflow and systems. Eventually, I would also like to return to ATSU as a professor and help with the education of the next wave of PAs,” Chan said.

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