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ATSU-KCOM student serves as virtual reading tutor

Because Vanessa Ignacio, OMS II, A.T. Still University-Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (ATSU-KCOM), loves working with children, she was excited to spend the coming months working as a reading tutor in the Kirksville, Missouri, community.

Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, Ignacio read to local children at the Adair County Public Library on Saturday mornings. As health and safety concerns grew and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began to recommend social distancing measures, the library temporarily closed, ending the traditional tutoring sessions.

“This is an important period of a child’s education where reading is so important,” Ignacio said. “Part of the reading process is listening and exposing them to new reading material.”

Working with a local elementary school, Faith Lutheran School, Ignacio modified the tutoring program. She will continue to read to students and help them with key reading skills using web-based technology.

By continuing to interact with students online, Ignacio is hopeful they will continue to learn without feeling isolated while social distancing.

“I want the students to know that this isn’t the time to put everything on pause, but to take a new outlook,” Ignacio said. “The most rewarding part of my role is just knowing that I will be interacting and hopefully teaching something to the students.”

Albert “Bert” Simon, DHSc, PA, associate director of A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Health Sciences’ (ATSU-ASHS) Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc) program and former chair of the Physician Assistant (PA) Studies program, has been named 2020 PA of the Year by the Arizona State Association of Physician Assistants (ASAPA).

“I am very honored and humbled to be recognized as Arizona PA of the Year,” Dr. Simon said. “It has been my great fortune to work with so many wonderful PA colleagues over the years.”

Dr. Simon has been a PA in Arizona since 2005. He is an experienced healthcare educator and administrator with a proven record of accomplishment and innovation in the academic arena. Under his direction, the PA Studies program has graduated over 800 entry-level PAs and over 300 postgraduate PAs.

Alongside faculty at ATSU-ASHS, Dr. Simon worked to develop a DMSc program for practicing PAs with tracks in education, leadership, and clinical practice. Last year, he stepped down as the chair and director of the PA Studies program to assist in the management of this new post-professional program.

“There is no doubt that Dr. Simon’s work in Arizona has benefited ASAPA and the quality of PAs in Arizona and subsequently increased the access to quality healthcare to the citizens of Arizona,” said Randy Danielsen, PhD, PA-C emeritus, director of the DMSc program and former ATSU-ASHS dean. “His dedication to the PA profession is well documented and is very deserving of the Arizona PA of the Year Award.”

For Herbert Silva, DMD, a comprehensive care unit director at A.T. Still University-Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health’s (ATSU-MOSDOH) St. Louis Dental Center – a partnership of ATSU and Affinia Healthcare – giving back to veterans is a personal passion. After serving his country as a U.S. Marine during the 1960s and 1970s, he felt it was time to give back to other veterans the best way he knew how. Thus, the MOSDOH Veterans Smile Forward program was born.

Upon leaving the Marine Corps, Dr. Silva attended dental school. For 38 years, he served in general practice and was the co-founder of Chesterfield Dental Associates in Chesterfield, Missouri. ATSU-MOSDOH’s focus on dentistry in the community provided him with the opportunity he needed to give back.

In addition to his work with Operation Stand Down, Give Kids A Smile, and Focus Marines Foundation, Dr. Silva helped to initiate the MOSDOH Veterans Smile Forward program to provide dentures and partials to veterans in need. For the past three years, students who help perform the procedures have been mentored by volunteer faculty.

“We give them back their dignity, we give them back their smile, they’re not afraid to go out in public anymore. They’ve just got their confidence back,” Dr. Silva said.

During his time in the military, Dr. Silva formed friendships and gained a community of support from those who flew Cobra Gunships during the Vietnam War. In particular, he bonded with squadron mates Capt. Joe Gallo, also known as “Cobra Joe” for his skills with the Cobra Gunship, and Lt. Col. Pat Owen.

“I learned early on that the comradery and the bonding that we made ourselves was lifelong lasting,” Dr. Silva said.

Dr. Silva serving in the Marines during the Vietnam War
Dr. Silva stands next to the Cobra Gunship he flew during his time in the U.S. Marine Corps.

When Owen heard about Dr. Silva’s project to make oral healthcare more accessible to veterans, he knew he wanted to help however he could. Armed with information about how to donate, he posted on a Facebook page of squadron mates who flew helicopters during the Vietnam War and other Marine pilots who flew the Harrier with Gallo, asking for donations in memory of Cobra Joe who, unfortunately, lost his life in 1978 flying the AV8 Harrier.

Over time, many, including the veterans who flew in Vietnam, began donating to the program. In 2019, ATSU-MOSDOH students and faculty were able to treat over 110 veterans, topping the previous total of 62 veterans.

Dr. Silva’s hope is that graduates of ATSU-MOSDOH will take the knowledge, skills, and values they’ve gained from their hands-on experiences and continue the legacy of the MOSDOH Veterans Smile Forward program.

“Hopefully our graduates can continue to do this once they get into practice. They can go out and start contributing to veterans and donate their time and their services to veterans,” Dr. Silva said.

To learn how you can help to restore smiles to those in need, visit atsu.edu/support-mosdoh-vets.

A.T. Still University-Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (ATSU-KCOM) professor Trish Sexton, DHEd, MS, FNAOME, ’08, associate dean of curriculum, was invited by the Association of Korean Medicine to speak with the Korean National Assembly and medical school leadership about osteopathic medical education.

Dr. Sexton’s talks focused primarily on the history and accomplishments of osteopathic medical education, including the achievement of full practice rights for doctors of osteopathic medicine and the recent alignment of osteopathic medical education with the single accreditation system.

“Korean medicine has as its main focus, traditional techniques-acupuncture, moxibustion, chuna, herbal medicine,” Dr. Sexton said. “While the education also includes physiology, pathology, etc., the diagnosis and treatment is not the same as ‘western medicine.'”

Because osteopathic medicine takes a holistic approach to healthcare, it combines elements of traditional and western medical treatment. Therefore, many Korean medical professionals are interested in expanding the scope of Korean medical training using osteopathic medicine’s evolution as a model.

John Licciardone, DO, MS, ’82, a graduate of A.T. Still University-Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (ATSU-KCOM), recently received the Regents Professor distinction from the University of North Texas’s (UNT) Board of Regents.

To be eligible for Regents Professor distinction, professors must be full-time and tenured with a distinguished record of teaching, research, and service to UNT. Additionally, they must have received a high level of national and international recognition for their contributions to their profession. Dr. Licciardone is the first professor from UNT’s Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine (TCOM) to receive this prestigious recognition in the college’s nearly 50-year history.

Dr. Licciordone has been with UNT for 32 years, demonstrating commitment to his students and innovation in his profession. He is the executive director of the Osteopathic Research Center and the driving force behind the formation of the PRECISION Pain Research Registry at UNT’s Health Science Center.

Dr. Licciardone’s work extends beyond TCOM. He has authored more than 100 articles, including extensive research in pain management, which have been featured in national and international medical journals. Currently, he holds the Osteopathic Heritage Foundation Distinguished Chair in Clinical Research. Dr. Licciardone has also served as a consultant to the World Health Organization, receiving international recognition for his research contributions and advising on the regulation and safety of osteopathic medicine across the globe.

“I am honored to be the first recipient of a Regents professorship at the Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine,” Dr. Licciardone said. “Over the years, it has been most gratifying to teach courses and interact with students not only in TCOM, but also in the Physician Assistant Studies Program, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, and the School of Public Health.”

Alongside other educational leaders in Kirksville, Missouri, and surrounding communities, Matt Heeren, JD, vice president and general counsel for A.T. Still University (ATSU), discussed the University’s progress in the past year on Wednesday, Nov. 6, at the State of Education address organized by the Kirksville Area Chamber of Commerce’s Governmental Affairs Committee.

According to Heeren, ATSU’s presence in the Kirksville community has continued to grow in the past year. With 3,700 students enrolled, the University is poised to take on new challenges in the future. For example, ATSU’s College of Graduate Health Studies plans to add two new degrees to its program: a master’s of nursing and a doctorate of nursing practice.

Additionally, the Higher Learning Commission recently granted the University, and each of its programs subject to accreditation, 10 years of re-accreditation, the maximum possible length.

“ATSU and its commitment to Kirksville are as strong as they’ve ever been,” said Heeren.

Renelle Conner, DDS, a third-year Postgraduate Orthodontic program resident at A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH), was recognized as one of the top presenters at the 2019 Pacific Coast Society of Orthodontists/Rocky Mountain Society of Orthodontists (PCSO/RMSO) Annual Session posterboard competition at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach in Hawaii.

Dr. Conner’s research, titled “Survey of Orthodontic Treatment Offered to Native Americans on Reservation,” placed third out of the 23 poster presentations at PCSO/RMSO Annual Session.

“As an immediate chair and posterboard judge at the PCSO/RMSO Annual Session, I am so proud of Dr. Conner’s accomplishment,” said Jaw Hyun Park, DMD, PhD, MSD, MS, professor and chair, postgraduate orthodontics, ATSU-ASDOH.

During the annual session, Dr. Park, who also serves as the American Board of Orthodontics (ABO) director representing PCSO, helped present the new ABO scenario-based exam to attendees.

On Thursday, Nov. 7, Andrew Taylor Still, the founder of A.T. Still University (ATSU) came to life during the Missouri premiere of “Dr. A.T. Still – America’s Healthcare Disruptor,” a one-man portrayal by Patrick Lobert, PhD.

From the controversy and success that characterized osteopathic medicine’s earliest days, to “Osteopathy Day” at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, each of the portrayal’s five acts told a story about the founding and growth of osteopathic medicine from Dr. Still’s perspective. Combining history and humor, the portrayal gave the audience a unique view of Dr. Still’s success story.

“It tells you about the people involved, how Kirksville came to be the place of osteopathy,” said Jason Haxton, MA, director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine. “The world looks at us today for what this innovative man, Andrew Taylor Still, did and how so many people benefit from it.”

In addition to the portrayal, attendees entered into attendance prize drawings, took photos with a Dr. Still cutout and the ATSU mascot, Bucky, and viewed items from the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine, including Dr. Still’s hat and a 3D printing of his healing hand.

More than 350 people attended the free event, including students, faculty and staff, community members, and descendants of Dr. Still.

On Saturday, Nov. 2, the A.T. Still Research Institute at A.T. Still University’s (ATSU) Kirksville, Missouri, campus hosted its 11th annual Interdisciplinary Biomedical Research Symposium (IBRS). This event provided an opportunity for graduate students, undergraduate students, residents, faculty, and regional researchers across biomedical disciplines to present their research to peers.

IBRS included oral presentations, poster presentations, and a keynote speaker. This year’s Neil J. Sargentini, PhD, Memorial Keynote Address featured Kerry Magruder, PhD. Dr. Magruder’s presentation discussed Galileo, the collaborative nature of his accomplishments, and how an interdisciplinary and creative culture continues to lead to innovation.

Seventy-seven researchers across 10 disciplines presented their research at the symposium. A panel of 40 judges determined the winners for best overall research and runner up, the Neil J. Sargentini, PhD, Award for Best Graduate Student Research, the Jack Magruder Award for Best Undergraduate Student Research, and the Still OPTI Award for Best Resident Research. Each award was accompanied by a cash prize between $100 and $250. Elyse Curry, OMS II, and Kale Golden, OMS II, won the top prize of best overall research for their infectious disease study titled “Purification of Persistence Inducing Factor for Staphylococcus aureus SH1000.”

Suhail Akhtar, PhD, assistant professor of biochemistry at A.T. Still University-Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (ATSU-KCOM), participated in research that is now receiving attention from the medical community.

Dr. Akhtar worked alongside a team of medical experts whose research discovered that mouse fetuses do not develop in a sterile in utero environment. Instead, they have their own gut microbiota, or bacteria living in the gut. These bacteria aid in metabolism and the development of the immune system. The gut bacteria were found to be transmitted from the mother to the fetus. Similar research by a different team has confirmed that the same is true for human fetuses and mothers.

“It has long been assumed that the human fetus develops in a sterile environment and gets colonized with bacteria only during or after birth,” said Dr. Akhtar. “However, identification of human-associated bacterial DNA in the amniotic fluid and infant meconium has challenged this assumption.”

The findings of these research studies could help determine new intervention strategies. During risky pregnancies, if a premature birth is anticipated, doctors could target maternal gut microbiota for modification to support the transfer of beneficial bacteria and suppress the transfer of pathogenic bacteria to the infant gut, boosting the fetal immune system and reducing the risk of early-life infection.

ATSU RESEARCH NEWSLETTERS