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President’s Perspective – December 2021

The gift of time with family and friends

Soon ATSU students, faculty, and staff will enjoy a well-deserved winter break. Spending time with family and friends is a true treasure and provides an opportunity to reflect, renew, and take stock of what matters most in our lives.

Thank you for taking a few minutes to read about celebrations, accomplishments, and progress of our students, faculty, and staff. It has been another challenging year for all as ATSU continues to educate tomorrow’s healthcare professionals.

Recent commencement

ATSU PA Graduation 2021

A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Health Sciences (ATSU-ASHS) 
Physician Assistant Studies
Friday, Sept. 10
Mesa, Arizona
69 graduates
Commencement speaker: Albert “Bert” Simon, DHSc, PA, former chair and current professor in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, ATSU-ASHS

Recent white coat ceremonies

ATSU-ASHS Audiology Class of 2024

ATSU-ASHS Audiology 
Class of 2024
Sunday, Oct. 10
Mesa, Arizona
16 students

ATSU-ASDOH Class of 2025

A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH) 
Class of 2025
Friday, Oct. 29
Mesa, Arizona
78 students

ATSU-SOMA Class of 2025

A.T. Still University-School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA) 
Class of 2025
Friday, Oct. 29
Mesa, Arizona
157 students

ATSU-ASHS Physician Assistant Studies Class of 2023

ATSU-ASHS Physician Assistant Studies 
Class of 2023
Friday, Oct. 29
Mesa, Arizona
74 students

ATSU-ASDOH Class of 2024

Class of 2024
Friday, Nov. 5
Mesa, Arizona
80 students

COVID-19 and vaccination update

The University continues to adhere to CDC guidance to prevent and reduce transmission and maintain healthy campus environments. Encouraging our families and friends to be fully vaccinated is the fastest and safest opportunity to continue slowing the spread of COVID-19. As of Dec. 15, 2021, nearly 95% of the faculty and 89% of the staff are fully vaccinated. 

Artificial intelligence technology at ATSU

In January 2020, an ad hoc Artificial Intelligence (AI) team was appointed to explore opportunities for integrating AI into ATSU’s curricula as well as considering roles for AI in various areas, including patient care and University operations. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the team examined current and potential uses of AI to support healthcare delivery, education, and operations at the University. Please click here to review the white paper.

Thank you to the following team members for accepting this challenge and exploring potential AI applications for curricula, support services, and patient care.

  • Matthew Kahn, DDS, MS, FACP, assistant professor, ATSU-ASDOH
  • Valerie Sheridan, DO, FACOS, DFACOS, FACS, dean, ATSU-SOMA
  • M. Lindsay Wright, DMD, MPH, assistant professor, ATSU-CGHS
  • Robert Baer, PhD, professor, ATSU-KCOM
  • Sue Falsone, PT, MS, SCS, ATC, associate professor, ATSU-ASHS 
  • Lora Hanson, MLIS, electronic resources librarian, A.T. Still Memorial Library, ATSU
  • Randy Shockley, senior software developer, administrative computing, ATSU
  • Akshay Vij, BDS, ACT, FAGD, specialty care unit director, ATSU-MOSDOH

Required Employee Education (REE)

More than 1,000 ATSU employees have completed the 2021 REE. Please remember to complete your REE by Friday, Dec. 31, if you have not already done so. This course is critical for ATSU’s ongoing legal compliance and best practice management. For questions, please contact John Gardner, PhD, MEd, director of policy and employee education, human resources, at or 660.626.2113. 

Faculty and staff updates (as of Nov. 30)

Recent promotions: Please view the list of employee promotions (PDF).

Accomplishment kudos: Please view the list of accomplishment kudos (PDF).

Anniversary milestones: Please view the list of employee anniversaries (PDF).

Ideas or concerns?

Please submit your ideas to Each email will receive a personal response from me. Ideas are only shared with the sender’s permission.

If you see something you are worried about, please contact the anonymous Fraud Hotline to report situations or behavior that compromises ATSU’s integrity. The hotline is available 24/7 at 1.855.FRAUD.HL (1.855.372.8345) or

In closing

I would like to wish our entire University community a very happy and healthy holiday season. Thank you to students, faculty, staff, trustees, alumni, and friends for your commitment to ATSU and keeping everyone safe and well.

Yours in service,

Craig M. Phelps, DO, ’84
A.T. Still University of Health Sciences
800 W. Jefferson St., Kirksville, MO 63501 | 660.626.2121
5850 E. Still Circle, Mesa, AZ 85206 | 480.219.6000
Office of the President |  
ATSU Communication & Marketing | 

A.T. Still University of Health Sciences serves as a learning-centered university dedicated to preparing highly competent professionals through innovative academic programs with a commitment to continue its osteopathic heritage and focus on whole person healthcare, scholarship, community health, interprofessional education, diversity, and underserved populations.

As we celebrate commencement and white coat ceremonies of 2021, I have been reflecting on the unique, remarkable year it has been. When the pandemic began, we didn’t know what to expect or when our daily activities would look “normal” again. No one could have predicted the challenges and hardships we would face. Our leadership team didn’t have a roadmap to navigate every situation. But we did have our mission.

ATSU’s mission guides us through every obstacle and challenge we encounter. Whether it’s continuing our osteopathic heritage, ensuring innovative learning opportunities for students, serving the underserved, or embracing diversity and inclusion, the University community has pulled together to advance the mission and achieve goals, even in the most difficult circumstances.

This issue of Still Magazine is a celebration of the hard work and determination of our University community. With the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine working toward accreditation with the American Alliance of Museums, alumni serving on staff of national championship teams, and much more, this magazine captures examples of those who continue to work toward goals, regardless of the challenges, and help others along the way. We hope you enjoy reading their stories.

In this new academic year, ATSU will continue to follow its mission, keeping in mind lessons learned and preparing for new challenges that will inevitably come our way. This year has shown us the importance of remaining connected to one another and what we are able to accomplish when we work together. Thank you for your continued support of ATSU, its programs, and its students.

Yours in service,

Craig M. Phelps, DO, ’84, president

Around the world, museums capture the attention of millions of people each year. From aquariums and zoos to science centers and historical sites, museums have the unique ability to transport visitors to another time and place and immerse them in an educational experience. These cultural hotspots provide insight on specialized topics while showcasing tangible and intangible elements of humanity and the natural world.

Museums are traditionally known for acquiring, conserving, studying, and exhibiting pieces of history and the environment. However, these institutions have become much more by building bridges to the past and bringing history to life. Today’s museums incorporate advanced technology with online galleries and virtual tours in addition to offering educational programming and community outreach.

The Museum of Osteopathic Medicine

Illuminating the past sheds light on the future, and the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine is doing its part to enlighten future generations. Based in Kirksville, Missouri, on the grounds of the founding institution of osteopathic medicine, the museum welcomes visitors near and far who are interested in the history of A.T. Still, DO, and the tenets of osteopathy.

The Museum of Osteopathic Medicine maintains a vast collection of objects, images, documents, books, and more. More than 80,000 artifacts are available for public viewing online, with many of those items found in Heritage Hall, the main gallery, and hallway displays. The collection continues outdoors in the historic Medicinal Plant Garden and at the Still family gravesite. These exhibits are designed for all interest levels, ranging in topics from the early frontier experience and life of Dr. Still to the formative years of the osteopathic profession, first school, and those responsible for the profession’s subsequent growth.

Dr. A.T. Still leans on one of his many walking sticks, circa 1914. Museum of Osteopathic Medicine,
Kirksville, Missouri [2007.63.36.13]

Along with viewing items in the collection, members of the public have an opportunity to conduct research and access scholarly resources. The museum’s International Center for Osteopathic History, which specializes in osteopathic historical research up to 1979, offers a number of books, journals, photographs, documents, and other materials for research purposes.

In terms of education and outreach, Jason Haxton, MA, director of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine, works with schools and professional osteopathic organizations at state, national, and international levels. He spends much of his time on osteopathic history education for ATSU students, faculty, and staff, and even provides online lectures and podcasts.

Haxton, who has devoted his career to studying American antiques and ancient artifacts, oversees all levels of the museum, from collections management and research to exhibit development and installation.He and his staff, including Heather Rudy, MA, the museum’s assistant director, are continually finding new information and new artifacts to help tell osteopathy’s rich history.

As the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine embraces all facets of the osteopathic profession, it more broadly incorporates the history of whole person healthcare, which is tied to all ATSU programs, including dentistry, nursing, public health, physician assistant studies, occupational therapy, physical therapy, athletic training, kinesiology, audiology, and more. Through these curricula and ATSU events, like commencement and Founder’s Day, the museum has become inextricably woven into the University fabric and effectively anchored in the Kirksville community.

“We can directly trace the origins of osteopathic medicine back to this community,” Haxton said. “It is surprising how many ways our history is connected to all aspects of the University.”

Journey to accreditation

With ATSU’s vision of preeminence, all areas of the University strive for excellence at the highest levels, and the museum is no exception. Museum staff has been working toward accreditation for many years with the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). A long-time leader in developing best practices and advocating for museums, AAM is the accrediting body for many high-profile museums, like The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Smithsonian.

In 2000, Haxton and his staff began the slow and arduous task of processing and cataloging the more than 100,000 items in the museum’s collection. In addition, the museum purchased PastPerfect Museum Software and began putting the collection online. This forward-thinking move gave the museum a virtual presence, which was almost unheard of at the time.

Christopher Ferguson (left) and Jason Haxton (right) discuss management of the museum’s collection.

By 2011, after several years of working on the collection and obtaining needed resources, the museum had come a long way. The staff held a Collections Assessment for Preservation visit and received a positive review. The report indicated the museum was doing outstanding work, as it was a model for other museums and on a solid path to meet AAM’s accreditation expectations.

A few years later, the museum began the AAM accreditation process. The museum’s policies, professionalism, and vision for the future received positive feedback, and the staff had successfully processed about 43,000 items, or about 43% of the collection. However, AAM requires 80% of a collection to be accessible before granting accreditation. Knowing they were on the right track, the staff continued processing and cataloging items and hired grant-funded support staff to supplement their efforts.

By October 2020, approximately 85,000 items, or 85% of the collection, were now processed, cataloged, and available online – well above the required amount. With the support of Shaun Sommerer, PhD, ATSU’s vice president for university advancement, the museum restarted its AAM accreditation journey.

Heather Rudy and Jason Haxton review items from the museum’s collection.

Museum staff resubmitted necessary documentation, including a strategic plan, emergency plan, code of ethics, and collections management policy. AAM then provided guidance and multiple reviews before approving the core documents in March 2021. This approval allowed the museum to officially apply for AAM accreditation.

One additional requirement for formal application is support from a director of an active accredited museum. As an active museum in the state, the University of Missouri Arts and Archaeology Museum supported the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine’s application without hesitation, having seen the museum firsthand during professional museum training partnerships.

In late March 2021, AAM accepted the museum’s application and provided a 60-page self-review for the museum to complete within three months. Having recently completed this self-review, the museum now awaits additional information requests from AAM. Once approved, a professional museum visit and review will be held on-site, the final step in AAM’s accreditation process.

The museum anticipates decades of hard work will be rewarded with AAM accreditation, the highest standard achievable in the museum profession. Only about 1,000 of the nation’s estimated 35,000 museums have earned this level of distinction. As museum staff continues working toward processing and cataloging the entire collection, the history of Dr. Still and osteopathic medicine has never been more accessible, even during a pandemic.

“The Museum of Osteopathic Medicine is the largest collection of osteopathy in the world,” Haxton said. “It contains the complete history.”

Back to the beginning

The Museum of Osteopathic Medicine’s artifacts tell a unique story, but so does the museum itself. While it has come a long way through its accreditation process, it has come an even longer way from its establishment nearly a century ago.

These two curio cabinets in Memorial Hall held the museum’s original collection, which mostly included Dr. A.T. Still’s personal belongings. This image was featured in the 1936 Journal of Osteopathy.
Museum of Osteopathic Medicine, Kirksville, Missouri

Dr. Still’s daughter, Blanche Laughlin, started the original museum collection, which consisted mostly of the old doctor’s belongings, including his boots and walking sticks. The collection was housed in two curio cabinets in ATSU’s Memorial Hall, just down the street from the current museum location.

“Much like Dr. Still’s humble beginnings, the collection had humble origins too,” Haxton said.

Before the collection began to take shape in 1934, some osteopathic artifacts had been donated to the Smithsonian in the early 1920s. Although it is still unknown what exactly was donated, historical records indicate those items were part of an osteopathic medicine exhibit that ran at the Smithsonian from the 1920s-60s.

Dr. A.T. Still’s daughter, Blanche Laughlin, started the original museum collection. Museum of Osteopathic Medicine, Kirksville, Missouri [2000.01.08]

Thankfully, thousands of other artifacts, dating from the early 1800s to present, have been donated to the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine’s collection over the years. These items from Dr. Still’s relatives, osteopathic physicians, and museum supporters reflect the osteopathic profession’s beginnings and ongoing history, with the core of the collection remaining centered on Dr. Still’s professional and private life.

“After 20 years, there are still surprises in artifacts that surface or a new facet of a significant osteopathic leader or story,” Haxton said. “We are constantly gaining more information and a better understanding of our growth and success in worldwide healthcare.”

The Museum of Osteopathic Medicine has always been located on University property, but it was a private entity until the Board of Trustees voted to incorporate the museum in April 1996, under the administration of former President Fred C. Tinning, PhD. Since that time, each University president, including current President Craig M. Phelps, DO, ’84, has supported and encouraged elevating the museum to a higher standard.

“President Phelps has strongly supported the museum in achieving AAM accreditation,” Haxton said. “He believes if the University and its programs strive for the highest levels of accreditation, so should the museum.”

The premier institution of osteopathic history

When the museum was granted a charter by the American Osteopathic Association, it became known as the museum of the osteopathic profession. With recognition of AAM accreditation, it will also position itself as one of the country’s most prominent museums.

“The osteopathic profession is rooted in rich culture and history, which serves to define the distinctiveness of our profession,” said Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, CEO of the American Osteopathic Association. “Some consider the osteopathic profession a ‘branch of medicine.’ Well, I disagree. We are our own distinct tree. The Museum of Osteopathic Medicine is critical and instrumental to preserving our history and illustrating our professional identity.”

Norman Gevitz, PhD, ATSU’s senior vice president-academic affairs and a medical historian, lauds the museum’s efforts, particularly in educating the public.

“The Museum of Osteopathic Medicine is special,” Dr. Gevitz said. “It is the only one of its kind dedicated to history of osteopathic medicine and osteopathic medicine education.”

The museum has proven to be a good steward of its collection, and the staff has worked tirelessly to share osteopathic history with patrons across the globe, all while preserving and cataloging artifacts, preparing them for exhibit, and making them available online.

This two-room building was the first school building of the American School of Osteopathy. It was used from 1892-1894 and was moved to its current location in Heritage Hall in 1994.

Their work is often tedious. Rudy notes her days may consist of cataloging artifacts, which includes assigning numbers to an artifact, photographing the object, placing information into the online database, and creating archival-quality storage for the artifact. Sometimes she builds boxes and artifact travel cases, sews artifact bags, or finds storage solutions for difficult artifacts. Other days, she assists the exhibit manager with installing or removing artifacts from display.

Most importantly, the staff’s daily tasks always center on proper care of the collection, including jumping into action for emergency salvage of artifacts. In one instance, a donor brought in a large collection of framed items that had gotten wet. Rudy’s first instinct was to remove the frame and dry the artifacts, ensuring minimal damage.

“It is always fun finding out new information and uncovering previously unidentified artifacts,” Rudy said. “These little nuggets help make our job really interesting and make you feel like you are saving and telling an important story in history.”

The Still Family Cabin was built in Lee County, Virginia, in the 1820s and was moved to its current location in Heritage Hall in 1994.

The history of medicine as a whole is scattered throughout the world and dates back to Hippocrates. Osteopathic medicine, on the other hand, has more finite roots, and they all lead home to one altruistic person – Dr. Still – and his community.

“When it comes to osteopathic medicine, all paths trace back to Kirksville, the same campus that stood as the American School of Osteopathy,” Haxton said. “That uniquely positions the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine as the premier institution of osteopathic history.”

A key to securing the future and unlocking the past

When museums obtain AAM accreditation, they gain not only the prestigious title of excellence but also access to exclusive resources. For the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine, this will mean access to grant funding, which could provide the museum with financial stability for years to come.

Another valuable benefit is fellowship. Museums holding AAM accreditation are able to network with other high-level museums. The Museum of Osteopathic Medicine’s staff members will be able to keep abreast of important topics and current trends in the field and help the museum continue to be a leading example.

One additional key element of accreditation is the ability to borrow objects from fellow AAM-accredited museums. Earning accreditation shows accountability, as these museums have demonstrated credibility and integrity with respect to their collections and their communities.

Once the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine receives AAM recognition, it will have met standards to show it can be trusted with artifacts from other museums, thereby opening the door to borrowing items relevant to its collection. The first items on the museum’s wish list are undoubtedly those mysterious items donated to the Smithsonian in the 1920s. If those artifacts end up on loan at the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine, they would answer the decades-old question of what was donated and perhaps add more detail to the ever-developing story of osteopathy.

“The possibility of getting those artifacts back as a permanent loan to the museum is so exciting,” Haxton said. “The more knowledge we have, the better we can share our history with the world.”

Haxton, along with every member of his staff, is passionate about the work they do. Their enthusiasm is visible through the details of their work, which are on display within the museum and beyond in the osteopathic community. AAM accreditation will definitely be a high point, but it will certainly not be a stopping point. The museum will stay true to its purpose and will continue its education and outreach about the history of Dr. Still and whole person healthcare.

“The museum is a jewel in the crown,” Dr. Gevitz said. “It marks us off as the first osteopathic medical school and keeper of the flame.”

Ways to support the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine

Become a member

Members help the museum continue to grow as a unique source of osteopathic history. Anyone interested in membership may choose from various levels of support. Visit to learn more.

Provide a financial gift

Financial donations help the museum accomplish its mission of preserving and promoting the history and tenets of osteopathy through collections and research to a global audience.

Donate items to the collection

The museum collects historic materials to support its education, exhibition, and scholarship functions. If you are considering donating items, please call Christopher Ferguson at 660.626.2359.

Dr. Sandra Lindsay becomes first person in U.S. to be vaccinated against COVID-19, ushering in a sense of hope after a devastating year.

Dec. 14, 2020, was going to be a memorable day for Sandra Lindsay. As COVID-19 vaccines neared availability in the weeks prior, Lindsay, DHSc, MBA, MS, RN, CCRN-K, NE-BC, ’21, director of nursing in the critical care division at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, part of Northwell Health, made no secret of her desire to be inoculated as quickly as possible, and Dec. 14 was the day.

She knew she’d be the first person in her hospital to receive the vaccine, and it seemed likely she’d be the first in New York City. She expected attention from hospital administration and perhaps an appearance by the New York governor.

When she sat down that morning and received the injection, media outlets were present, their cameras rolling and flashes firing. She said a few words before trying to say goodbye and head back to work.

Not so fast. As she quickly learned, Dr. Lindsay wasn’t just the first to be vaccinated in her hospital, in the city, or even in the state of New York. She was the first person in the United States of America to receive the vaccine.

And the entire nation was waiting.

“I did not expect the extent to which this happened,” said Dr. Lindsay, who completed her doctor of health sciences degree from ATSU-CGHS in March 2021.

She sat for three different press conference sessions, to maintain social distancing in the massive media crowds. Major networks began calling for interviews. Across the country and around the world, people wanted to hear what Dr. Lindsay had to say.

“It was a whirlwind,” she said. “I did not get home until 10:00 that night.”

It was a long day in a long year, but a day of light instead of so many others full of darkness. Hundreds of thousands of Americans had died from COVID-19, and New York City had grimly represented the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak for many months. A vaccine symbolized the beginning of the pandemic’s end, Dr. Lindsay said, and though she somewhat unexpectedly found herself in the spotlight, she was ready to use that platform.

“I feel hopeful today, relieved,” Dr. Lindsay told the media. “I feel like healing is coming.”

She has continued to share that message whenever given an opportunity, especially when speaking to fellow members of the Black community. Statistics have shown Black Americans to be disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and dying from the disease at rates several times higher than white Americans. Dr. Lindsay understands and respects the hesitancy of many in the Black community to get the vaccine, and hopes she can serve as an example.

Dr. Sandra Lindsay shows her “Crushing COVID-19” sticker. Photo credit: Northwell Health

“Being able to share my experience and hear their concerns and clarify misconceptions, debunk any conspiracy theories they may have heard, that’s been rewarding for me to get the opportunity on these platforms to do that,” said Dr. Lindsay, who experienced no side effects. “The truth matters. Unfortunately, that spreads more slowly than the conspiracies.”

This is a natural role for Dr. Lindsay, who herself is a natural leader. It’s a trait she learned from her grandmother, the matriarch of her family, as she grew up in Jamaica. Her grandmother was a schoolteacher, and even out in the community people looked to her for answers, advice, and counsel.

Dr. Lindsay finished high school and immigrated to the U.S. with her mother. Perhaps to ease the transition from tropical Jamaica to New York City in December, she dived into her education and career aspirations in healthcare. Dr. Lindsay got her associate’s degree in nursing at Borough of Manhattan Community College, then her bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph’s College, and master’s degree from Herbert Lehman College in the Bronx.

As her career progressed, she saw many nurses she looked up to had master of business administration degrees. Dr. Lindsay enrolled at Hofstra University to complete her MBA, at the start seeing it as a capstone to her education, but by the end feeling she had unfinished business. Several of her professors recommended she pursue doctoral studies, and Dr. Lindsay found herself searching for a new program.

Through a recommendation from a colleague, Dr. Lindsay found ATSU, and she liked what she saw. She first set her concentration on global health studies, but later decided to expand her specializations – and course load – to include leadership and organizational behavior.

“I’m a real glutton for punishment,” Dr. Lindsay joked.

In truth, Dr. Lindsay said, she has no regrets about her decisions. She found ATSU-CGHS’ programs well structured and faculty members like her advisor, Kathleen Mathieson, PhD, CIP, incredibly helpful.

“Her feedback in the discussions is appropriate and thought provoking,” Dr. Lindsay said. “She guides you in the right direction and is always available to help.”

Dr. Mathieson has been so influential she’s turned Dr. Lindsay around on research, something which had initially deterred her from pursuing her doctorate but now sees as a key part of her future.

All her future holds remains to be seen, following a year like no other. Dr. Lindsay described the first days of New York’s coronavirus outbreak as a tsunami that struck overnight. Her hospital expanded its ICU capacity from about 50 to 150 beds, which still wasn’t enough to handle the patient load. By February 2021, the volume had decreased, but the kinds of cases were worse in many ways.

“They are just as sick or even sicker, and they are younger this time around,” Dr. Lindsay said in February, while describing the feelings that drove her to seek the vaccine so quickly.

“I’d never been afraid of anything in my career before now. I’m so afraid of getting it because you don’t know how it is going to affect you,” she said. “Some people live. Some people die. It affects males. It affects females. All different skin colors. Whether you have comorbidities or not. It’s so erratic and unpredictable. Long term, how will it affect me? Some people recover very quickly, some people have long-haul symptoms. I could not wait for the vaccine, and I feel a little bit more protected, a little safer, like a burden has been lifted off my shoulder.”

A short while after receiving the vaccine, Dr. Lindsay was contacted and asked to be a part of “Celebrating America,” a primetime national television broadcast on the night of President Joe Biden’s inauguration. In March, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History came calling to add her vaccination record card, scrubs, and hospital badge to its collection. Then in July, Dr. Lindsay traveled to the White House, where Biden presented her with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Outstanding Americans By Choice recognition.

“During the height of the pandemic, Sandra poured her heart and soul, working with patients and keeping her fellow nurses safe,” Biden said. “When the time came she became the first person in America to get fully vaccinated outside the trials. She can now hug her grandson. She’s out there making sure her patients and folks in the community get vaccinated.”

Dr. Lindsay has gratefully accepted her opportunities to represent front-line healthcare workers across the country and continues to try to change minds about the vaccine. It has worked, too, as Dr. Lindsay has received messages from children and adults, thanking her for her bravery and for inspiring them to get the vaccine.

“It is so important to get it,” Dr. Lindsay said. “Otherwise, we can’t move on.”

In December 2020, ATSU-ASHS celebrated its 25-year anniversary. Faculty, staff, and alumni connected with one another online to learn more about the School, including its history and its plans for the future. The celebration started with Ann Lee Burch, PT, EdD, MPH, dean of ATSU-ASHS, welcoming and thanking ATSU President Craig Phelps, DO, ’84; Norman Gevitz, PhD, senior vice president-academic affairs; and Ted Wendel, PhD, senior vice president, university planning and strategic initiatives, for their leadership and support.

Initially, the School was created in 1995 as a branch of ATSU-KCOM called KCOM Southwest Center for Osteopathic Medical Education. During summer 1995, construction was completed on the buildings for classes to start that fall. All students enrolled in the first fall semester signed a letter knowing the School was not fully accredited yet, said Randy Danielsen, PhD, PA-C emeritus, DFAAPA, professor and director of the Doctor of Medical Science program and inaugural dean of ATSU-ASHS.

“Those inaugural students trusted us to create quality programs and obtain ongoing accreditation,” Dr. Danielsen said. “We did not let them down.”

At first, the School had four programs: Physician Assistant Studies, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Sports Healthcare. The first graduation was held in August 1997 for Sports Healthcare and Physician Assistant Studies, and their diplomas stated the original name, KCOM Southwest Center. Shortly after this graduation in 1998, ATSU-ASHS became its own school.

ATSU-ASHS was growing and needed more space. Hence, the School moved to Mesa, Arizona, during the 1999-2000 academic year. The new campus had over 50 acres and plenty of room for expansion. Dr. Danielsen explained how they continued to add more programs and developed post-professional programs in each discipline.

Construction of the School at its current location in Mesa, Arizona.

Today, the School has many more programs than the original four. They have residential programs in Athletic Training, Audiology, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Physician Assistant Studies. Their online programs include Athletic Training, Audiology, Physical Therapy, and Doctor of Medical Science. The School has also added residency programs and online certificate programs.

All ATSU-ASHS departments have made great accomplishments and look forward to more success to come. Each department chair, including Eric L. Sauers, PhD, ATC, FNATA, ’97, chair and professor, interdisciplinary health sciences; Tabitha Parent-Buck, AuD, chair and professor, audiology; Jyothi Gupta, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, chair and professor, occupational therapy; Lori Bordenave, PT, DPT, PhD, ’07, chair and associate professor, physical therapy; Michelle DiBaise, DHSc, PA-C, DFAAPA, ’14, chair and professor, physician assistant studies, delivered remarks and highlighted goals of their respective departments.

ATSU-ASHS will be growing in many ways in the coming years. Dr. Burch is proud of the School’s history and is looking forward to future accomplishments. For example, Dr. Burch said the School would build on its efforts in diversity, equity, and inclusion; continue to develop flexible and innovative curricular modules driven by chairs and program directors; and expand research productivity from faculty, students, alumni, and the continuity and potential of interdisciplinary collaboration.

“Individuals and communities need graduates of ATSU-ASHS, providers who believe in whole person healthcare, serving the underserved, and a lifelong commitment to learning and service,” Dr. Burch said. “The School is a success because of the contributions of each and every member of the ATSU-ASHS community.”

In honor of ATSU-ASHS’ 25-year anniversary, please visit to support the School and its initiatives.

2020 tested sports in ways never before imagined. ATSU alumni made certain their teams were up to the challenge.

Zeroes filled the scoreboard in Walt Disney World, and the Los Angeles Lakers were 2020 NBA champions.

Two weeks later, a 97-mph fastball from Julio Urías blinked past Willy Adames, and the Los Angeles Dodgers won the 2020 World Series.

And a little more than two months after that, with one final kneel down to run out the clock, the Alabama Crimson Tide captured the 2020 NCAA Football national championship.

Three teams in three different sports, climbing to the tops of their respective mountains during seasons in which they had to combat COVID-19 while conquering their competition.

Three teams in three different sports, delivering supreme athletic performances under the brightest of lights.

Three teams in three different sports, all powered by A.T. Still University.

While television cameras followed LeBron James’ celebration, ATSU-ASHS alumna Nina Hsieh, MS, ATC, CSCS, CES, ’03, held the Larry O’Brien Trophy tightly. In 2019, Hsieh was the first woman to become a head athletic trainer of an NBA team. The next year, she became the first woman head athletic trainer to win a championship in any major American professional sport.

“I watched basketball growing up and since you were a child you’ve seen that trophy and seen it being held, and never did you think it would happen to you,” she said. “It’s amazing.”

As on-field celebrations waned, Brandon McDaniel, MS, ’10, and Thomas Albert, DPT, ’04, found themselves on the pitcher’s mound at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, surrounded by their families and hoisting Major League Baseball’s top prize. Both Iowa natives and ATSU-ASHS alumni, McDaniel, a strength and conditioning coach, and Dr. Albert, assistant athletic trainer, have each been with the Dodgers for several promising seasons in which they came up short.

“It was awesome, finally, to get it done,” Dr. Albert said.

With crimson and white confetti raining at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida, Matt Rhea, PhD; Paul Constantine, MS, ’21; and David Ballou, MS, ’09, soaked in the scene. Dr. Rhea, Alabama football’s director of sports science, is an ATSU-CGHS professor of kinesiology who came to ATSU in 2006 to develop the online master’s program, then under ATSU-ASHS. Ballou, the Tide’s director of sports performance and one of the program’s first graduates, recruited Dr. Rhea to work with him at IMG Academy in Florida and later at Indiana University, where they met Constantine, an assistant strength and conditioning coach. Constantine then enrolled in ATSU-CGHS to pursue his master’s, and when Alabama football coach Nick Saban came calling in early 2020, the trio headed south to Tuscaloosa. Now, they had become champions.

“It was surreal,” Constantine said.

Dr. Rhea was on faculty at Southern Utah University when he saw ATSU-ASHS was seeking someone to develop an online master’s program in kinesiology. Attracted by the University’s forward thinking, he pursued the position and led the department for four years before stepping into a faculty role, which allowed him to explore consulting opportunities.

University of Alabama football Director of Sports Science Dr. Matt Rhea studies the scene during a preseason workout in summer 2020. Photo credit: UA Athletics

“I have to express gratitude to ATSU President Dr. Craig Phelps and ATSU-CGHS Dean Dr. Don Altman and the willingness on the part of the University to let me get out and connect with our students like that, to work from different places and in different capacities,” Dr. Rhea said.

It wasn’t until Ballou spoke to him about designing and launching a sports science program at IMG Academy when his consulting work took him onsite. The program’s success and strong working relationship he developed with Ballou later led them to Indiana’s football program, and their reputation grew in college football, all the way to Saban’s office.

University of Alabama football Director of Sports Performance David Ballou shouts instructions during an offseason workout in spring 2021. Photo credit: UA Athletics

Ballou works with athletes in the weight room and on their conditioning, while Dr. Rhea’s role involves data collection, assessments, and data projections to develop evidence-based practices. The entire system focuses on power, rather than just getting players to be bigger and stronger.

Constantine began his career as strength and conditioning intern at Baylor University, supplementing his income with a part-time job at a barbecue joint and earning the nickname “Coach Brisket.” In 2013, he took a position as head strength and conditioning coach at Houston Baptist University, and seeking to further his experience, took a job at Indiana in 2016. Ballou and Dr. Rhea arrived two years later, and Constantine quickly became a valued staffer with a deep understanding of their system.

University of Alabama football Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach Paul Constantine points the way for players during an offseason workout in spring 2021. Photo credit: UA Athletics

“The system we run requires a much higher level of strength coach, a higher skill set,” Dr. Rhea said. “That’s where the education piece is very helpful. Paul was seeking that education and had become very knowledgeable in our system and familiar with the way we were operating. ATSU’s program has served him well.”

They started work at Alabama in early March 2020, just days before the pandemic brought the world to a halt. Fortunately, they were pivoting to an area in which they had great expertise – distance learning.

“People who had no idea what Zoom was were frantically trying to figure out how to communicate and have meetings,” Dr. Rhea said. “I had been doing it for 10 years. I believe we were far more effective working with our athletes, because we went into online professor mode.”

Student-athletes returned to campus in June, and Constantine continued putting into practice what he was learning through his studies. Pursuing dual certificates in sports conditioning and corrective exercise & orthopedic rehabilitation, he was gaining renewed knowledge in how the body works, moves, and trains, and immediately applying it in a high-performance model.

“It’s helped me, especially working with athletic trainers, being able to speak their lingo,” Constantine said. “I know my role and they know their role, and we also know sometimes there is a little gray area. We both know what we’re capable of doing and function well within our roles.”

The Crimson Tide entered the 2020 season ranked No. 3 nationally and two seasons removed from their last championship. Navigating those expectations was nothing compared to challenges brought by the pandemic.

“The biggest challenge we faced was the uncertainty,” Dr. Rhea said. “We have a system built on different progressions, and those are important, but you never knew what athletes would be able to show up and train with you on any given day. We didn’t even know what coaches would be able to be there.

“I have to give credit to our healthcare people for getting protocols in place that at times were very challenging and restrictive, but also gave us a chance to do this safely and effectively.”

Originally from Burlington, Iowa, Dr. Albert triple majored at Upper Iowa University before deciding an advanced degree in physical therapy was his next step. ATSU’s program – and Mesa, Arizona’s warm climate – appealed to him.

“My first semester at ATSU, I felt like I’d learned almost as much as I did in four years as an undergraduate athletic training major,” Dr. Albert said. “That was impressive, the thoroughness of anatomy and physiology right out of the chute.”

He met his future wife, Amanda, at ATSU-ASHS and began working his way into professional sports, initially with the Harlem Globetrotters, who were based in Phoenix. He later worked with a company now known as Select Physical Therapy, and, in 2012, was hired as a rehabilitation coordinator with the Cleveland Indians. In 2016, he landed a job with the Dodgers.

Los Angeles Dodgers Strength and Conditioning Coach Brandon McDaniel works out pitcher Clayton Kershaw at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Photo by Jon SooHoo/© Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC 2018

McDaniel grew up in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and played college baseball at Wayne State. Wanting a career in baseball, he switched his major to exercise science and earned an internship with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2007. He enjoyed the job but also found himself in situations where he didn’t feel he had the knowledge to be truly proficient. He started researching master’s programs when a co-worker, Mubarik Malik, MS, ’08, told him about ATSU’s nascent online program.

“I could work at my own pace but also, being on the road, I was able to get out and continue to do my job,” McDaniel said. “It forced me to get outside the box of things I knew about the field, about fitness. It was more philosophical. It gave me the platform to realize there’s more to life than three sets of 10 and running a mile as fast as you can.”

After completing his degree and again seeking to advance his knowledge, he latched on with Mark Verstegen at Athletes’ Performance, where he worked in the program’s military training division for two years. Impressed with the organization, the Dodgers looked to hire strength coaches from the company and, in 2012, McDaniel got a job with their minor league affiliate. He was promoted to the majors later that year.

McDaniel and Dr. Albert were in the middle of spring training when Major League Baseball sent everyone home on March 12, 2020. The performance staff shifted to doing what they could remotely, helping players train and stay ready for when baseball returned in July. That return was far from normal, with COVID-19 protocols governing the number of players who could be in training and weight rooms, and the amount of time staff could spend working with them.

Despite the challenges, Los Angeles got off to a great start and coasted into the postseason as heavy favorites before finding themselves on the verge of elimination in the National League Championship Series. They trailed Game 5 early before rallying to a win, dominated Game 6, and came from behind again in Game 7 to advance to the World Series.

Dr. Albert said the stress of the NLCS comeback made the team feel more at ease in the World Series against Tampa Bay. After splitting the first four games, the Dodgers took the next two for their first championship since 1988.

Los Angeles Dodgers Assistant Athletic Trainer Dr. Thomas Albert with his family and the Commissioner’s Trophy after the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series win. Photo credit: LA Dodgers

“We’d tasted failure for seven years in a row, many times as the favorites to win it all,” McDaniel said. “It was really gratifying to know how hard it was to do that, most importantly for the players. Watching their reactions, watching them hold that trophy up. That was the most gratifying thing, knowing I’ve been fortunate enough to walk beside them and maybe help facilitate a little of their career along the way and help put them in a position to win.”

Los Angeles Dodgers Strength and Conditioning Coach Brandon McDaniel pose with their respective families and the Commissioner’s Trophy after the Dodgers’ 2020 World Series win. Photo credit: LA Dodgers

For Hsieh, a master’s program was always part of her long-term plans, and following her undergraduate degree from California State-Fullerton, a mentor steered her toward ATSU-ASHS.

“I was looking to make sure I was going into a postgraduate program specific to athletic training,” she said. “There were schools where I could go and get a master’s in kinesiology and do some graduate assistantship in an athletic training room, but I wanted to enhance my skills and education with something specific to athletic training.”

Nina Hsieh provides treatment to guard Alex Caruso during a game in Walt Disney World during the 2020 season. Photo credit: LA Lakers

Hsieh got a job as an athletic trainer at University of California-Santa Barbara and spent her summers working at Los Angeles Lakers’ camps. In 2008, she was hired as an athletic trainer with the Lakers’ developmental league affiliate, and in 2016, she was promoted to assistant athletic trainer with the NBA team.

Just three years later, in 2019, she ascended to head athletic trainer of the Lakers, becoming the first woman to do so in the NBA.

“Obviously, it means a lot. It’s huge,” she said. “I’ve never wanted to put myself in a category of being a female head athletic trainer, even though you have to look at it that way. For me, it’s always been that the job is mine because I am qualified for the job. I don’t look at it as being the only one, although there are certain moments when I have to look at it that way, to help the future and all of the females who have dreams of working toward this.”

The NBA regular season was three-quarters of the way to its conclusion when the league suspended operations March 11, 2020. Teams returned for a mini training camp in their home cities in July before everyone relocated to Orlando, Florida, for continuation of play in what became known as “the bubble” at Disney World.

Aside from navigating COVID-19 protocols, Hsieh and her staff needed to find ways to ramp up player activity progressively to avoid injuries. Part of finding success comes with developing positive relationships with athletes.

“You’ve got to have that rapport so the athletes trust you and everything you ask them to do, and they’ll do it without any kind of reservation or pushback,” Hsieh said. “You ask them to do something and they’ll do it because they know you’re asking them to do something that’s going to better them.”

Los Angeles stormed through the playoffs’ first three rounds before meeting the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. An MVP performance by James lifted the franchise to the title in six games, and Hsieh, who grew up watching Laker championships on television, experienced the thrill of helping deliver one.

“If you watch me on TV, you’ll never see me show much emotion, because this is my job. It’s professionalism,” she said. “Once it’s over and we had that success, the emotions came out.”

Nina Hsieh holds the Larry O’Brien Trophy after the Lakers won the 2020 NBA Finals. Photo credit: LA Lakers

Six individuals, spread across three different teams in three different sports, all champions, with roots at ATSU. All have earned great success and are well networked in their professions. For one school to be represented like this in one season, they said, is unprecedented.

“That’s incredible,” said Hsieh. “I’m obviously a big fan of the ATSU program. It’s helped me to get where I’m at and helped a lot of people succeed in life. For this to happen in the same year, with COVID, bringing home titles, that’s incredible, and I think it speaks very highly of the school.”

In working with their colleagues across the profession, a single school doesn’t come to mind in these circles as “the place” connected with championship-level success. Perhaps that’s about to change.

“The thing that tied us all together and brought us all together has been ATSU,” Dr. Rhea said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation, many ATSU programs made adjustments to their clinical rotations, shifting from hands-on, in-person labs to virtual simulations. As time went on, many students and faculty members were feeling burnt out on virtual simulations, which prompted two faculty members from ATSU-ASHS’ Occupational Therapy (OT) department to develop a unique learning opportunity. Adam Story, PT, DPT, OTR/L, OTD, MTC, and Jennifer Radziak, OTD, OTR/L, CHT, researched and planned an alternative strategy for the Fieldwork Level I occupational therapy pediatric rotation.

“Students are usually in person with therapists and patients,” Dr. Radziak said. “We wanted to make sure we gave them an experience that would prepare them for their level II internships, where they are actually out in the community working with an occupational therapist and real patients.”

When they were earning their respective degrees, Drs. Story and Radziak briefly learned about hippotherapy – a style of therapy used by occupational, physical, or speech therapists where horses are used to facilitate specific treatments. While there are countless benefits to this type of therapy, it is not regularly taught in detail as part of the traditional OT curriculum.

“When I was in school in Florida, we had a section of the class where they put up a PowerPoint and said, ‘This is hippotherapy. It is amazing; it does amazing things,’” Dr. Story said. “There are all these different things you can work with it. And that’s it. Let’s move on to the next subject.”

“I had a few hours of observation,” Dr. Radziak said. “It was a blip on the radar.”

After researching CDC guidelines and taking all University required safety precautions, Drs. Story and Radziak created a week of hippotherapy fieldwork for students to have a hands-on experience, while keeping safety a top priority. In addition, they created an online option for any student who did not feel comfortable attending the in-person fieldwork experience.

“We have the in-person crew and the online crew,” Dr. Story said. “The online component parallels the in-person experience.”

Hippotherapy offers a distraction for patients during therapy treatments and may lead to more productive therapy sessions. In one instance, a client had some tone in one of her legs. While she was on the horse, one of the side walkers was able to give her a little pressure and stretch her leg over a longer period of time.

“If you were in a clinic, how long is a kid going to sit there and let you stretch their leg?” Dr. Radziak said. “But if they’re are on a horse and they’re doing some other things, and they’re playing and having fun, they don’t realize the whole 45 minutes they are on the horse they are getting that stretch.”

Drs. Story and Radziak are excited about the offering of hippotherapy as part of the OT curriculum. It will provide an additional type of therapy for students to add to their toolbox for the future.

“Even people who are kind of afraid of horses, or who are not quite interested in hippotherapy, have a better sense of what it can offer,” Dr. Story said. “These 56 students are going to go out into the world, and if they have a perfect situation where a patient could benefit from hippotherapy, they will know about it and will be able to refer the patient for it.”

Founder’s Day in Kirksville, Missouri, is an event the University looks forward to every year. This past year, some changes were made to ensure the celebration took place in the safest way possible. Even though it may not have looked the same, it was important for ATSU to continue its annual tradition.

Virtual Alumni Recognition Ceremony

All 2020 Kirksville Osteopathic Alumni Association (KOAA) Honors Excellence Awards winners and alumni were recognized online via Zoom. Those attending the ceremony viewed a slideshow with information about the winners and names of alumni celebrating graduation anniversaries.

Classes of 1970, 1980, 1990, and 1995 were recognized as they celebrated their 50th, 40th, 30th, and 25th anniversaries. The class of 1970 became members of the Gold Medallion Club for being alumni for 50 or more years. Some alumni highlighted their practice/specialty, spouse, children, current location, personal interests/hobbies, fondest memory of medical school, favorite recollection, and most influential ATSU-KCOM faculty or staff member.

In addition to the ceremony to recognize alumni, virtual reunions took place, and many alumni were able to reconnect with old friends.

“When I first came to Kirksville to attend medical school, it felt as if I were coming home … ATSU has provided me the opportunity to fulfill the dream I had at 9 years of age to become a physician and psychiatrist.”

– David Goldman, DO, JD, FCLM, ’91

Winners of 2020 KOAA Honors Excellence Awards

Honorary KOAA Membership
Phyllis Domann & Mary Ann Hill

Distinguished Service Awards
Nancy Parrish & William J. “Bill” Wobken

Living Tribute Award
Howard S. Levine, DO, ’87

Alumnus of the Year
David Goldman, DO, JD, FCLM, ’91

Fred C. Tinning, PhD, DOEd (hon.), ’14, Founder’s Day Osteopathy Lecture

Suzanne R. Steinbaum, DO, FACC, FAHA, ’94, presented “Living from the Heart”: An Osteopathic Approach to Heart Disease.

Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, FACC, FAHA, '94

“Living from the Heart’ represents my holistic approach to women and heart disease. It was wonderful to be able to discuss the role of lifestyle, including diet and exercise, along with psychosocial issues, in evaluating heart disease. The key to overall heart health is prevention, and addressing all aspects of a woman’s life is an essential part of that.”

– Suzanne R. Steinbaum, DO, FACC, FAHA, ’94

Founder’s Day parade

To allow for social distancing, part of the celebration included a “backwards parade” in place of traditional events. Students and their families attended the parade and collected goody bags from ATSU staff members as they drove through each station.

The University mascot, Bucky, greeted people as they drove through campus.

Those driving through the parade received catered meals in to-go boxes.

Featuring ATSU-ASHS Dean Ann Lee Burch, PT, EdD, MPH

Diversity of ATSU faculty, staff, and students, including diversity of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic class, sexual orientation, religion, gender, and ability, greatly enriches our living and working environments each day. Graduating healthcare professionals who come from vastly different trajectories and backgrounds will serve society at large and create a better world. I believe diversity within the health professions helps to reduce health disparities in communities that may exist due to lack of understanding, bias, or in some instances access. Respect for differences, recognizing the unique nature of an individual, is the goal, and tolerance is not enough. ATSU-ASHS faculty are currently engaged in research, teaching, and service focusing on how social determinants of health shape education and healthcare outcomes. Every piece of science in this focused area helps move diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives forward.

Each day at ATSU and beyond can be a point of reflection on diversity, equity, and inclusion. Whether serving on an admissions committee or a hiring committee, teaching in the classroom, or walking the halls or meeting by Zoom, each person can make a difference in treating others fairly, engaging in inclusive communication, and welcoming newcomers to the University as a whole.

I know ATSU is committed, deeply committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and I celebrate that commitment now and into the future.

Carl Whalen, DO, PhD, ’20, wanted to be just like his grandfather. Growing up, Dr. Whalen often witnessed his grandfather in action as the only physician in the small town of Bruce, Wisconsin. He was on call 24/7 as a general practitioner and surgeon.

“I spent a lot of time at my grandparent’s house while growing up, and even as a young boy, I saw and appreciated the dedication my grandfather had for his patients,” Dr. Whalen said. “His willingness to care for his patients, regardless of their ability to pay, left a lasting impression on me.”

To Dr. Whalen, being a physician was more than an occupation; it was a calling. Though he felt the calling, he didn’t initially pursue medicine because he struggled with self-confidence and worried what he would do if one of his patients died.

“I was afraid of death,” Dr. Whalen said. “I was young, and I didn’t understand this was part of being a physician.”

Dr. Whalen’s passion for science led him to study organic chemistry. After earning his PhD, he had a career in the pharmaceutical industry where he oversaw 200 preclinical drug studies, then a job as a certified eye bank technician where he recovered corneas from post-mortem donors, coming face to face with his fear of death.

“I now had to face death every day with calmness, sympathy, respect, and stamina,” Dr. Whalen said. “My becoming a physician will not change the inevitability of death, but my experiences with the deceased will help me serve the living in a more respectful, reverent manner.”

Dr. Whalen moved to Philadelphia in 2009 to take a new position as a national director in charge of finding human research tissue for scientists. After six months on the job, the company lost funding, and Dr. Whalen lost his job.

“Depression set in. I had moved to Philadelphia with my wife, and we felt we had no option but to succeed there. Losing my job was devastating,” he said. “A few months after losing my job, I realized I was suicidal. I needed to get out of Philadelphia for a couple weeks to clear my head.”

So, Dr. Whalen headed to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to stay with his sister, who helped him seek medical attention. After several weeks of wrestling with depression, he decided to stay in New Mexico a little longer. During that time, he needed something to occupy his time and mind, so he enrolled in a biology class at Central New Mexico Community College.

“I was certainly the only PhD scientist in my BIO 1492 class,” Dr. Whalen said. “As simple as the class turned out to be for me, it gave me a purpose. I had class all day on Saturdays. At least for that one day a week, I had a reason to get out of bed.”

By this time, his wife told him not to come back to Philadelphia, essentially ending their marriage. He now had to start over. Though he really wanted to be a physician, he still lacked confidence and was concerned about being the one solely responsible for patients. He also thought, at age 48, he might be too old to start medical school, knowing how many years it would take to finish the program. But feeling motivated from the class, Dr. Whalen considered becoming a physician assistant (PA), where he could earn his degree quicker, have responsibilities like a physician, but have a doctor supporting him and ultimately being the one responsible for patients.

Dr. Whalen began taking more classes to satisfy the prerequisite courses needed for PA school. Before long, one of his instructors asked, “Why aren’t you teaching chemistry here?” With that nudge, Dr. Whalen sent his resume to the dean and was hired to teach chemistry at Central New Mexico Community College while he continued his classes.

He later added tutoring to his responsibilities and tutored over 40 students in a five-year span. When one of his students approached him to seek guidance on dropping one of his chemistry classes, Dr. Whalen told this student about his ambitions of becoming a physician but also confessed his concern about his age. Then the student said, “You’re going to be five years older in five years, you might as well be a doctor too.”

With his prerequisites complete and no more excuses, he was ready to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), determined to pursue medical school.

“My MCAT exam was on a Saturday afternoon,” Dr. Whalen said. “In the morning before the exam, I had organic chemistry lab to teach. Instead of finding a replacement, I went ahead and taught the lab. It kept me calm before my exam. Then after the exam, I went to a Saturday night tutoring appointment.”

After taking the MCAT, Dr. Whalen continued teaching and tutoring while applying to medical schools. Two years later, he was accepted to ATSU-SOMA.

“The most important thing about ATSU is they were the school that gave me the chance,” Dr. Whalen said. “I will always be grateful for that.”

Dr. Whalen started medical school one week short of his 54th birthday. It took about nine months before he found his stride. After many sleepless nights fraught with worry, stress, and anxiety, Dr. Whalen realized he needed to take things one day at a time, instead of focusing on larger goals.

“You can only live your life one day at a time,” Dr. Whalen said. “Even now, when I finish residency, I have to take another exam before I can be a board-certified pediatrician. There is always one more exam down the road.”

Since his childhood days of watching his grandfather care for patients, Dr. Whalen has accepted his calling and found his sense of purpose. Currently a first-year resident in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Dr. Whalen takes full advantage of time he spends with preceptors and truly values his learning experience. While he is still planning his future, his No. 1 goal is to be a good doctor.

“Really follow your heart and try to put your best foot forward,” Dr. Whalen said. “Everyone wants to know what kind of doctor you want to be. I have always answered it the same way; I just say I want to be a good one.”