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President’s Perspective – January 2024

Cheers to a new year

As we begin 2024, thank you for taking a few minutes to catch up on the latest news and accomplishments of A.T. Still University (ATSU) faculty and staff.

In this issue, you will read about holiday gatherings, strategic plan focus areas, faculty and staff awards, professional development opportunities, and themes defining what makes ATSU graduates unique and highly sought-after. We also remember three ATSU friends.

Holiday gatherings at ATSU locations included visiting with faculty and staff and their families, sharing a meal, gifts for children, and an opportunity to reflect on a year of significant accomplishments. This holiday season, ATSU provided over 500 meals, 130 gifts to children, and 90 prizes to faculty and staff. A big thank you to all who helped plan and deliver a few evenings of holiday happiness across ATSU.

Santa and Mrs. Claus also brought joy and photo opportunities for many holiday gathering attendees. Thank you, Santa and Mrs. Claus!

Giving Tuesday success

Thank you to ATSU supporters, Robert Behnen, MBA, interim vice president of university advancement, and Advancement team members for raising over $26,500 during Giving Tuesday. Please remember to support your college, school, program, department, or ATSU with an annual gift. Your gift will make a difference for a student, program, school, or college and support external advancement opportunities.

2023-2024 strategic plan focus areas

1. Incorporating ATSU’s core professional attributes (CPAs) and osteopathic philosophy into students’ education and experiences

Colleges, schools, and programs continue to support student success with the incorporation of ATSU’s CPAs and osteopathic philosophy into curricula. Not sure what ATSU’s CPAs are? Please visit the core professional attributes webpage.

2. Exploring artificial/augmented intelligence’s (AI) emerging role in healthcare and education

ATSU is making steady progress with several projects, including three AI chatbot projects (Information Technology Services, Enrollment Services, and A.T. Still University-College of Graduate Health Studies) and customer relationship management (CRM) projects. In addition, Google Bard (similar to ChatGPT) has been updated and is available to all ATSU accounts at

ATSU funds were available to faculty and collaborators to pursue innovative projects exploring the use of AI and/or mixed reality (VR/AR/XR) technologies in health professions education and University initiatives. Funded proposals will be announced in early 2024.

3. Student recruitment and retention

Student Affairs is working with interested colleges, schools, and programs to provide additional assistance with recruiting and supporting student success.

4. Cultural proficiency

ATSU’s Dreamline Pathways program is recognized by INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine for the third consecutive year. In addition, ATSU received the Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine for the seventh consecutive year. Congratulations to our Diversity & Inclusion team members.

ATSU’s Grow Our Own program was developed with input from faculty, deans, and senior leadership. The program’s four initiatives support current faculty as well as students and graduates interested in becoming faculty. For additional information, please contact Clinton Normore, MBA, vice president of diversity & inclusion, at

Demand for grads

“We would like to hire all of your graduates.” As I travel throughout the country, this is a common request from healthcare institutions.

ATSU graduates are in great demand due to their excellent interpersonal and patient care skills, understanding of the importance of interprofessional cooperation, and application of Dr. A.T. Still’s osteopathic approach. ATSU’s CPAs and osteopathic philosophy help define educational experiences supporting student success.

Annual required faculty and staff education success

A big thank you to everyone who completed ATSU’s required faculty and staff education! Your assistance helps ensure everyone is informed on policies and ATSU remains in compliance with accreditation, licensing, and oversight agencies. Thank you to Human Resources for facilitating and supporting this education.

In loving memory

During the holiday break, ATSU lost three wonderful friends and colleagues: Jeni Rogers, MHA; Gary Brigham, DDS, MSD; and John George, PhD. We will deeply miss them. Our university is in a better place because they blessed us with their kindness, generosity, knowledge, humor, courage, and love.

Recent ATSU commencement ceremonies

graduates posing with degrees and flowers

College for Healthy Communities
Friday, Sept. 8
Santa Barbara, California
88 graduates
Commencement speaker: Gary M. Wiltz, MD, CEO of Teche Action Clinic, former chair of ATSU Board of Trustees

graduates in regalia posing with diplomas and balloons

Arizona School of Health Sciences
Physician Assistant and Doctor of Medical Science
Friday, Sept. 22
Mesa, Arizona
152 graduates
Commencement speaker: Kathy Pedersen, PA-C, MPAS, associate professor emeritus, University of Utah

Recent ATSU white coat ceremony

students in white coats reading program

Arizona School of Health Sciences
Occupational Therapy
Thursday, Nov. 2
Mesa, Arizona

Faculty and staff updates (as of December 31)

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).

Professional development opportunities

Looking to learn more? ATSU offers many opportunities for professional development through Human Resources, Missouri Training Institute, Teaching & Learning Center, Still Healthy seminars, and UKG. A.T. Still University-College of Graduate Health Studies also offers faculty and staff discounts on programs and courses.

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 Reference code “ATSU” when making a report.

Got golf?

Consider playing in ATSU’s Graduate Health Professions Scholarship Golf Tournament on April 20, 2024, in Mesa, Arizona.

In closing

With each new year comes updated lists of resolutions and expectations. 2024 promises to be an exciting but challenging time with advances in AI, an election year, global conflicts, new treatments for cancer and additional diseases, and new regulations and responsibilities affecting each of us.

Throughout 2024 I hope you are able to find time to enjoy family, friends, hobbies, quiet times to catch your breath and reflect on life, and simple pleasures like a walk or hike.

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2024,

Craig M. Phelps, DO, ’84

A.T. Still University of Health Sciences
800 W. Jefferson St., Kirksville, MO 63501 | 660.626.2391
5850 E. Still Circle, Mesa, AZ 85206 | 480.219.6010
1075 E. Betteravia Rd., Ste. 201, Santa Maria, CA | 805.621.7651
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.

Every year at ATSU is exciting and special, and this year was no exception. Our newest college, ATSU’s College for Healthy Communities, celebrated an important milestone, graduating its inaugural class of
88 physician assistants (PAs). The ceremony, featured on Page 10, was a momentous occasion for ATSU, symbolizing years of effort to establish ATSU’s presence on the California coast and further the University’s mission of educating highly competent professionals focused on whole person healthcare.

These new PAs, along with additional recent graduates of ATSU, join an alumni base dedicated to improving care in their communities through innovation, teaching, research, and service. Some of these alumni and their stories are highlighted in this issue: Zeshaun Mirza, MS, ATC, CES, ’11, on Page 30, Taylor Velasquez, DMD, MPH, ’19, on Page 34, Romana Muller, EdD, MSDH, RDH, ’22, on Page 38, and Danielle Barnett-Trapp, DO, ’11, on Page 58.

Additionally, ATSU has outstanding students who are dedicated to becoming the best healthcare professionals possible. One such student is fourth-year ATSU-KCOM student Michael Megafu, who was named the National Student Doctor of the Year by the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. Read more about his story on Page 42.

ATSU’s first priority has been and will always be the education of its students. Faculty and staff in all areas of the University work tirelessly to provide a high-quality educational experience and ensure student success. Through their dedication and the support of alumni and friends, ATSU continues to graduate healthcare professionals who are better prepared to address healthcare challenges facing our communities and our country.

Yours in service,

Craig M. Phelps, DO, ’84, president

One year ago, ATSU alumni, friends, faculty, staff, and students gathered in Heritage Hall to celebrate accreditation of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine by the American Alliance of Museums. At that celebration, ATSU President Craig M. Phelps, DO, ’84, encouraged alumni and friends to support the museum through charitable gifts, with the goal of preserving osteopathic medical history and educating future generations of osteopathic physicians and the public. He also shared a Wall of Honor recognizing donors would be displayed in a year’s time.

During the Founder’s Day 2023 celebration on Friday, Oct. 13, the wall was finally unveiled. The Wall of Honor at the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine recognizes doctors of osteopathic medicine, friends of the profession, and organizations and institutions supporting the field. Currently featuring 100 name plates, the Wall of Honor represents $750,000 in new support.

“The Wall of Honor is not merely a collection of names – it is a tribute to the enduring legacy of osteopathic medicine,” Dr. Phelps said during the unveiling ceremony. “Each name on this wall signifies a commitment to the principles and values that have shaped our profession and guided our journey.”

Wall of Honor recognition levels
Platinum: $50,000 and above
Gold: $25,000-$49,999
Silver: $10,000-$24,999
Patrons: $5,000-$9,999
Friends: $1,000-$4,999

To donate online, please visit

Recognition opportunities are still available, so please consider honoring those who have contributed to the growth of the osteopathic profession, preservation of osteopathic history, and education of tomorrow’s osteopathic physicians.

For more information, please contact
Brad Chambers
Director of Development

A California commencement

ATSU-CHC’s Central Coast Physician Assistant (CCPA) program marked its inaugural commencement ceremony Friday, Sept. 8, graduating 88 students with their master’s degree in physician assistant (PA) studies. Held at The Granada Theatre, an ornate, 100-year-old historical landmark in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Historic Theatre District, the ceremony celebrated the graduates’ transition from students to providers.

Just as their route to the commencement processional was a winding path from two stories below the stage, up the stairs, and around the building, many of the graduates did not take the straightforward path to becoming PA students. Along with several nontraditional students, the class of 2023 is filled with individuals from all walks of life. Some are first-generation college students. Some are children of immigrants. Some have changed careers, and so on. But one commonality among the entire cohort is their desire to provide whole person healthcare to communities in need.

“Your tireless pursuit of knowledge, combined with your unwavering passion for serving the underserved, has set you apart as culturally proficient healthcare providers,” said ATSU-CHC Dean Eric Sauers, PhD, ’97, who welcomed guests and addressed the graduates. “You’ve embraced the ideals of compassion, empathy, and social justice, recognizing that healthcare is not a privilege, but a fundamental human right.”

Dr. Sauers also introduced Donald L. Weaver, MD, senior advisor for the National Association of Community Health Centers Clinical Workforce. Dr. Weaver, a former U.S. assistant surgeon general who was instrumental in helping ATSU develop the CCPA program, congratulated graduates, calling them trailblazers.

“We welcome each of you to the health center family. Many will be working in health centers across the country, and all of you are indelibly imprinted with the health center community-oriented primary care model – healthcare driven by the community,” Dr. Weaver said. “As trusted leaders in your community, you will be called upon to heal individuals and to heal the community. We’re confident your training has prepared you well for these roles.”

Following Dr. Weaver’s address, ATSU President Craig M. Phelps, DO, ’84, presented the 2023 President’s Medallion award for distinguished service to Ronald Castle, CEO of Community Health Centers of the Central Coast. Castle was recognized for his support in establishing the CCPA program and his commitment to nurturing the next generation of healthcare leaders.

Ron Castle holding award
Dr. Craig Phelps, president of ATSU, presents the President’s Medallion Award for distinguished service to Ronald Castle, CEO of Community Health Centers of the Central Coast.

“I’m just very proud that Community Health Centers has been part of this. It’s a team effort,” Castle said. “We are so excited about your careers ahead and look forward to your serving the underserved, and keep paying it forward.”

O.T. Wendel, PhD, ATSU’s senior vice president for university planning and strategic initiatives, introduced the ceremony’s honorary degree candidate and commencement speaker, Gary M. Wiltz, MD. Dr. Wiltz serves as CEO of Teche Action Clinic and is former chair of the ATSU Board of Trustees.

“Today, in bestowing this honorary degree, we salute Dr. Wiltz’s exceptional legacy and his dedication to community health,” Dr. Wendel said. “His contributions mirror the value of our program and the excellence we envision in our graduates.”

commencement speaker receives honorary degree
Commencement speaker Dr. Gary Wiltz receives the honorary doctor of science degree.

Dr. Wiltz accepted the honorary doctor of science degree then spoke to graduates about the significance of being members of the first class. Of approximately 1,000 applicants, these 88 students were selected for this program. He told them how they were chosen for this opportunity; they were not accepted to this program by accident or luck. He also recalled A.T. Still, DO, and his experience in establishing a new form of medicine and the challenges he faced.

“A first can be likened to a two-edged sword sometimes. It can cut both ways,” Dr. Wiltz said. “It has joys and pains. It can bring reward and punishment. It also has its share of happiness and sadness, confidence and fear, memories and regrets, acclaim and disdain.”

He also spoke to graduates about walking with confidence. From his perspective of 41 years in medicine and having taught and mentored many students from various institutions, he said the most well-prepared graduates come from ATSU.

“Your education will serve you well,” Dr. Wiltz said. “This faculty has no trepidation about sending you out into the medical world.”

The CCPA program

About 60 miles northwest of the ceremony location, in Santa Maria, is where the graduates’ PA education began. On the second floor of the Coast Hills Credit Union, ATSU set up the location for its CCPA program, which welcomed this inaugural class in fall 2021.

CCPA then became the founding program of ATSU-CHC in January 2022 when the Institutional Actions Council of the Higher Learning Commission approved the University’s request to establish its seventh and newest college, ATSU-CHC, as a campus in Santa Maria.

The campus’ home is a 27,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility with a large learning theater, clinical simulation rooms, library space, student break room, and faculty and staff workspaces. Of the 24-month program, students spend the first 12 months on campus engaging in case studies, interactive learning, projects, and preclinical community experiences. Students spend the final 12 months completing clinical experiences in community health centers (CHCs) across the U.S.

group of graduates
Following the commencement ceremony, groups of graduates gather to celebrate. Left to right, front row: Katie Sham and Liny Varghese; back row: Matthew Chan, Christina Handayan, Angelica Lee, Natalie Laskowicz, Daniel Mai, and Rachel Aroneo.

ATSU’s goal for establishing the CCPA program is to educate community-oriented physician assistants who will provide whole person healthcare to the nation’s medically underserved communities. Faculty and staff work closely with students to help them develop professional attributes and clinical problem-solving skills necessary for efficient and optimal patient care. Ultimately, the program aims to produce providers who enter the CHC system and deliver primary care through the specialties of family medicine, general internal medicine, general pediatrics, women’s health, and behavioral health and psychiatry.

“It’s a program unlike any other in the country,” Dr. Phelps said. “It will continue to serve as a model, along with its academic innovation.”

Futures as bright as the sun

Following the commencement address, graduates made their way to the stage one by one to shake hands, receive their diploma, and be hooded. As their names were called, family and friends from all levels of the theater applauded and cheered.

“When you walk through those doors, your life will be forever changed,” Dr. Phelps said during his closing remarks. “The calling to provide care to others is like no other. Patients and their families will share their most intimate details during times of physical and emotional pain, uncertainty, and vulnerability. Fortunately, your families, faculty, and staff have prepared you for this special calling.”

As the graduates lined up for the recessional, they were all smiles and overwhelmed with emotion, knowing they accomplished their goal.

“It’s been a very long journey,” said John Butler, MS, ’23. “It’s more emotional than any of us thought it would be. I’m the oldest member of the class, and it’s been amazing to see some of the younger students become adults and for me to recapture some of my childhood.”

“You get to know everyone so well,” said Christina Handayan, MS, ’23. “You form study groups, and everyone knows what each other is going through. You really form a bond. It’s like a family you build with the other students.”

graduate with family
Maria Celedon, MS, ’23, celebrates graduation with her family.

Many graduates said crossing the stage was a feeling of excitement and relief. That moment was the culmination of everything to that point – the time and effort put into applications, studying, projects, tests, and rotations.

“My family came to mind,” said Armando Soltero, MS, ’23. “I have three boys and a wife, and these past couple of years there was a lot of time away from them. I’m finally going to have some time to be with them again every day.”

Soltero, like others in his class, is excited to start the next phase of his journey.

“I’ve been hired by a CHC in Santa Maria,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting started and doing what we’ve been preparing for these last couple of years.”

“For them to take a chance on us, and for me to take a chance on the program, we’ve all worked so hard these last two years, this is literally a dream come true,” said Monica Tran, MS, ’23. “To be part of something, the beginning of something, is amazing.”

“We were the first class. We were able to be the pioneers for all of the classes that follow,” said Faison Jackson, MS, ’23. “I’m grateful to be on this journey … to be the first class, learn medicine, and become the best PA I can become.”

Zeshaun Mirza, MS, ATC, CES, ’11, has been enjoying great success as an athletic trainer. He’s been an athletic trainer with the NBA’s New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns, off-season athletic trainer for Phoenix Suns’ all-star guard Devin Booker, and personal athletic trainer for 14-year NBA veteran forward James Johnson.

The ATSU-ASHS Master of Science in Athletic Training program alumnus would put athletes through full-body and workout sessions and send them on their way with exercise instructions, resistance bands, mobility wedges, and more.

More often than not, a lot of those items didn’t make their way back to him.

“‘Why doesn’t every athlete have their own kit,’” Mirza asks, “‘where they can just take their stuff with them, wherever they go, and it’s theirs?’ Then I thought, ‘Does this even exist?’”

Now, thanks to Mirza, it does.

Mirza launched The Z KIT LLC in January 2020, seeking to fill a gap for athletic trainers and the athletes they serve. The 15-piece Z KIT ( contains essential equipment for athletes to complete crucial training tasks and rehabilitation, all packed in a convenient carrying case for easy transport to the gym, home, and arenas across the world. He’s cleared 500 units sold and is launching a crowdfunding campaign to produce additional kits.

Zeshaun Mirza and Devin Booker
Zeshaun Mirza was the off-season athletic trainer for the Phoenix Suns’ all-star guard Devin Booker.

A U.S. Army veteran, Mirza has always been seeking ways to improve the delivery of athletic training,
first focusing on his own skills. He graduated from Illinois State University with a bachelor of science degree in athletic training but knew he wasn’t finished with his education.

“I felt like all I had was the bricks of athletic training. I didn’t have a real good structure or foundation. I always wanted to work with the best athletes in the world, I wanted to work at the top, but I just had the pieces,” he says.

Mirza had a clinical director who heard of ATSU’s program and knew of his student’s interest in pursuing an advanced degree.

“He said, ‘If you can get into that school, I’d be very impressed,’” Mirza says. “I took it as a challenge.”

Mirza applied to three schools. ATSU called him back first.

“I accepted right away on the phone,” he says. “I didn’t think twice. This is one of the top post-professional programs.”

Zeshaun Mirza and James Johnson
Zeshaun Mirza works with 14-year NBA veteran forward James Johnson.

He had high praise for the faculty, recalling courses led by ATSU-ASHS’ Tamara C. Valovich McLeod, PhD, ATC, FNATA, FNAK, FNAP, chair and director, athletic training; Barton E. Anderson, DHSc, AT, ATC, ’03, professor; Alison Snyder Valier, PhD, ATC, FNATA, professor; and Eric Sauers, PhD, ’97, now dean of ATSU-CHC.

“The courses were hard,” Mirza says. “They were all very tough professors, but they wanted the best out of you. I really enjoyed that.

“The program solidified things for me and put those bricks together, providing me a more holistic approach to patient care.”

This past June, ATSU-ASDOH assistant professor Taylor Velasquez, DMD, MPH, ’19, conducted research at the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, Germany, representing ATSU as the only American university approved to do research at this level.

This monumental opportunity for Dr. Velasquez can trace its roots back eight years ago, when, as a first-year dental student at ATSU-ASDOH in Mesa, Arizona, Dr. Velasquez was the first student selected to participate in the A.T. Still Research Institute’s (ATSRI) Student Clinician Researcher Development Program, sparking his passion for research, which continues at ATSRI today.

“Research is unique in the sense you can kind of play with what you want to. If your interests are in special needs, or in orthodontics, you can learn more about that field by doing research,” he says.

Growing up as the oldest of five, Dr. Velasquez remembers many difficult trips to the dentist with his siblings, specifically with his two younger brothers who have autism.

Not only did his brothers influence his decision to pursue dentistry, but through his brother, Gabriel, Dr. Velasquez was first exposed to Special Olympics. Since 2008, Dr. Velasquez has volunteered at the state and national level games.

“I’ve been doing Special Olympics for a long time, and it’s a very integral part of my life,” he says.

At the Special Olympics World Games, Dr. Velasquez screened athletes for four days as a volunteer dentist with Special Smiles, a section of the Special Olympics’ Healthy Athletes program, which provides free health screenings for participating athletes.

He did not provide direct dental care, but athletes were instead referred to local dentists who were able to see them on an emergency basis. For many athletes, meeting Dr. Velasquez was their first experience meeting an American citizen.

“They usually had their coach with them to help translate,” he says. “Meeting the athletes for the first time and trying to communicate was a fun experience because I was just trying to learn a phrase to say, ‘Hi, how are you?’ in that language to make them a little bit more comfortable.”

Showing the coaches the importance of their athlete’s need for dental care was an important part of Dr.
Velasquez’s process during each screening as well.

“Showing the coach, ‘Look at this tooth right here, this tooth is really hurting him, even though he’s not
complaining about it.’ Education, the importance of it, the lack of care in their home country, played a big part in it,” he says.

Now that Dr. Velasquez has returned to the U.S., the second step of the research process will begin at ATSRI.

Ann Eshenaur Spolarich, PhD, RDH, FSCDH, professor, assistant dean for research; Maureen Perry, DDS, MPA, MAEd, associate dean, Advanced Care Clinic; Karen Fallone, RDH, instructor; Marc Shlossman, DDS, MS, associate professor; and Lanvi Lu, D2, along with other students and collaborators from ATSRI, will work to analyze data recovered from the games.

“As one of the ATSRI directors, I am thrilled to see the goals of this program have been fully realized,” says Dr. Spolarich. “We are so happy to have Dr. Velasquez back at ATSU-ASDOH as a new faculty member and that he has already started the continuation of his research journey.”

Some of the questions ATSRI will analyze during data collection include what areas of the world have the most significant gaps in dental care, why certain countries lack resources, and what outreach needs to be done to address these disparities.

“This data could hopefully impact patients on a real level by giving them care in that proper area,” Dr.
Velasquez explains.

In alignment with the University’s commitment to serving the underserved, the aim is to help determine how Special Olympics can place more dental care resources in communities needing it most.

Dr. Velasquez adds, “I was just a volunteer, so I try not to make it about me as much because I think the whole mindset of ATSU-ASDOH is community first. It’s all about the athletes. It’s all about the community. It’s how we have jobs and why we work.””

Romana Muller, EdD, MSDH, RDH, ’22, assistant professor, ATSU-MOSDOH, was born in Czechoslovakia, a country once under a communist regime. When she was just 11 years old, her family had to make the difficult, and potentially dangerous, decision to flee the country. In doing this, Dr. Muller’s parents could have been sent to prison. However, they got lucky when, on their last try, a guard allowed them to cross the border between Yugoslavia and Austria. From there, they immigrated to Canada.

Although necessary, this transition to a new country was hard on Dr. Muller. She experienced a huge language barrier as she did not yet know English and faced challenges assimilating to a new society.

“I remember the first day I was at school. I didn’t know what people were saying,” Dr. Muller says. “I could hear and see that people were talking to me, but I couldn’t understand, and I could not respond. It felt like I didn’t have a voice.”

Because of her experience, Dr. Muller is working to make sure other immigrants are able to find their voice when it comes to oral health.

“I have a passion in my heart for individuals who don’t speak English because I was there, in their shoes,” Dr. Muller explains. “As a child, I had to interpret for my parents during healthcare appointments. So, I know these barriers exist.”

Dr. Muller, along with her team of ATSU students, is breaking down language barriers between immigrant patients and their dental care providers at the St. Louis Dental Center. She is determined to increase access to written materials in languages other than English. To achieve this, the team is actively translating clinical forms necessary for patients to receive dental care, into as many languages as possible.

“I always say that when we get patients who come in from linguistically diverse communities, we need to do what we can to give them a voice,” Dr. Muller says. “Our clinic has close to 4,000 patients on record who speak a language other than English. There are currently 48 different languages spoken. We have always provided free interpreter services, and now, with this project, we are growing our portfolio of translated documents.

“I had a vision to tap into the diversity of our students and faculty who have the ability to communicate, read, and write in different languages. I envisioned utilizing those talents to build a library of forms in different languages for our patients.”

So far, the team has successfully translated forms into 12 different languages, but there is still work to be done. Dr. Muller will continue to recruit students to join her translation team as long as support and funding are available.

“We’re doing what we can; it’s an improvement to what we had before,” Dr. Muller says. “I look at this project as if we are building a library of bilingual forms. Whenever we translate a form, we put it onto the bookshelf, so it’s always going to be there. When I get students on the team who can speak, read, and write in another language, then I can add to the library.”

Dr. Muller’s team is also developing and implementing assessments to test literacy in oral health terminology. So far, they have tested Spanish speakers and English speakers. In addition, the team developed educational components to teach patients what certain dental terms mean. Currently, these components are being prepared for translation into more languages.

Translation team members
Dr. Romana Muller meets with past and current members of the translation team. From left to right, along with the languages in which they are fluent, Svyatoslav Danylyk, DMD, ’23, Ukrainian; Khoa Dang Vincent Nguyen, DMD, ’23, Vietnamese; Sinhareeb Emara, D4, Arabic; Dr. Romana Muller, Czech; Zohal Alizai, OMS IV, Dari and Pashto; and Pedram Majbuleh, D4, Japanese.

Community service is an important part of the project. The team has delivered translated oral health education materials and intake forms to community events organized by the International Institute of St. Louis and the St. Louis Give Kids A Smile organization’s Tiny Smiles program.

“One of the biggest barriers in the lack of language access in healthcare is that the cost of translations is enormous,” Dr. Muller explains.

To complete this project, Dr. Muller has been awarded two separate grants, the most recent one being an ATSU internal grant, the ATSU Underserved Community Scholarly Improvement Grant. The first grant she received, In Any Language, Improving Oral Health Translates into Better Lives, was an external grant from the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis, which does not usually give grants to schools.

“They just took a chance on us,” Dr. Muller says. “My dream came true when I got that grant. I have always wanted to do something like this, and I never thought that it would happen.

“My vision for the long term, if I had continued funding and support, would be to take our forms that we are developing and make them available on a website where every dental school in the U.S. could access and utilize them with their patients. I think it is much needed.”

Dr. Muller is proud of what she and her team have done and will continue to do. She recognizes she couldn’t do any of this work without the help from her student translation team. She also has a team of reviewers, who are native speakers of languages included in the project, to ensure quality control.
Some of them are recent ATSU-MOSDOH graduates who have previously contributed to the project as student translators and volunteered to stay on as reviewers.

In addition, Dr. Muller appreciates the support from ATSU- MOSDOH Dean Dwight McLeod, DDS, MS, and Vice Dean Poonam Jain, BDS, MS, MPH; ATSU staff; Affinia Healthcare administrators and staff at the St. Louis Dental Center; and other volunteer reviewers. She is grateful to those with ATSU Sponsored Programs, grant support teams, and Research Support, along with the Lutheran Foundation of St. Louis.

“I think we’re making these people feel like they are welcomed, considered, and included, and I think that’s what means so much to them. Having been there myself, I understand how significant that is,” Dr. Muller says. “It’s just so groundbreaking and so life-changing. I hope this project can continue.”


Larisa Macedo, DMD, ’21
Reyberto Guzman Elias, DMD, ’22
Hanan Kayali, DMD, ’22
Julianna Phan, DMD, ’22
Svyatoslav Danylyk, DMD, ’23
Sharon Murza, DMD, ’23
Khoa Dang Vincent Nguyen, DMD, ’23
Lisandra Nodarse, DMD, ’23
Syeda Zehra, DMD, ’23
Parisa Ebrahimi, D4
Sinhareeb Emara, D4
Pedram Majbuleh, D4
Zohal Alizai, OMS IV


Hanan Omar, BDS, PhD, MSc
Shaista Rashid, BDS, MS, MPH
Ahmed Zarrough, DDS, DSc, BDS

ATSU-MOSDOH alumni and students
Larisa Macedo, DMD, ’21
Sima Shakiba, DMD, ’21
Julianne Phan, DMD, ’22
Svyatoslav Danylyk, DMD, ’23
Sharon Murza, DMD, ’23
Khoa Dang Vincent Nguyen, DMD, ’23
Lisandra Nodarse, DMD, ’23
Syeda Zehra, DMD, ’23
Jannette Covarrubias, D3

The email’s subject line was ordinary enough. Something like “National Student Doctor of the Year results,” recalls Michael Megafu, now a fourth-year student at ATSU-KCOM.

Megafu was on his third-year rotations at Bayonne Medical Center in New Jersey, checking his email on his phone. He clicked to open the message and reveal its contents.

As expected, it was the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) announcing its national student doctor of osteopathic (DO) medicine winner, selected by AACOM’s Council of Student Government Presidents from a pool of nominees from every DO school in the U.S.

What Megafu didn’t expect was the word to begin the email: “Congratulations.”

“I was in utter shock,” Megafu says. “Me? I’m Student Doctor of the Year? I screamed in the middle of the hospital. I was really loud. Everyone looked at me like, ‘Mike, are you OK?’ I would have never imagined it in a million years.”

Megafu’s path to this point had hardly been a straight line. For much of his life, he’d wanted to be a teacher. He played college basketball at St. Joseph’s University, New York, starting and averaging a double-double in each of his four seasons. And when he decided to pursue his medical education, Megafu was turned down in two application cycles before earning his opportunity and choosing ATSU-KCOM.

But in explaining how it felt to win the award, Megafu perhaps best explains how he arrived at the moment – a combination of determination, gratitude, and modesty, which set a foundation for learning, growth, and success.

“When I was first selected to win ATSU-KCOM Student Doctor of the Year I was super humbled, because our school really brings out a lot of good students who are not only educationally sound, but actually doctors. People who have good bedside manners, people who you want to have on your team to deliver patient care,” Megafu says. “To win the national award, I was even more surprised and more humbled. It reminds me of how much I represent the people who voted for me.

“It’s not just a personal accomplishment, it’s representative of all of the student doctors across all of the different institutions. We all go through the same grind; we all have the same struggles we’re facing to become osteopathic physicians. It’s really easy to be discouraged, but the most important thing is patient care. We’re doctors at the end of the day and our patients matter most, so we go through all of these struggles for the patients and that’s what I try to demonstrate and emulate.”

Megafu was born in Brooklyn and grew up in Queens. Healthcare was a big part of his life, with his mother a nurse and his father a public health investigator for the New York State Department of Health, but Megafu believed he wanted to be a teacher. Throughout his undergraduate studies, with a major in biology, he taught during the summers, and following graduation, he entered the teaching profession.

Something, though, kept pulling him toward medicine. Megafu said in high school he’d done an early exposure program in the health sciences and that sparked his interest, and that interest continued to grow until he decided to apply and eventually earn a seat with ATSU-KCOM.

Megafu with AACOM leadership
Michael Megafu poses with AACOM’s Immediate Past Board Chair Dr. H. William Craver (left) and AACOM’s President and CEO Dr. Robert A. Cain (right) after accepting his award

His next challenge? Leaving all he knew in New York City and moving halfway across the country to Kirksville, Missouri.

“I moved in on the Fourth of July. The next day, I’m getting my stuff together, my family is leaving, and I actually cried. I was miserable,” Megafu says. “The adjustment was tough.”

What settled him was what had initially appealed to him about ATSU-KCOM, and why he’s come to love and appreciate a place he chose to return to for his final year of rotations.

“The family-oriented nature and community vibes I got from ATSU were unparalleled. Kirksville breeds a lot of nice people who are supportive and friendly. I was able to establish relationships not only with my classmates, but with faculty, people in the community, my church, the school I taught at, and just being part of different organizations,” he says. “In the city, you’re forced to build small circles and hang onto your own. Kirksville brings you together. You get to know people on a deeper level.

“My first sub-internship in orthopedic surgery is in Kirksville. People ask, ‘You’re going back to Kirksville?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, it was great. I missed it and the family I built there.’”

His path to this point may have been windy, but Megafu’s destinations from here are clear. Graduation in 2024. Residency. Then, in some form, a return to teaching. It has long been a passion for Megafu, who earned a medical education fellowship at ATSU-KCOM, and he is quick to point out how closely medicine and education are related.

“The word doctor means teacher in Latin,” he says. “My goal is to blend it all together. Whether I work at an academic center or a private practice and am affiliated with a medical school, I want to be able to be both a teacher and physician.

“I want to educate and inspire the next generation of, not only doctors, but medical professionals. That’s what I plan to do. Actually, let me change that. That’s what I will do.”

Every year, the ATSU community gathers to celebrate Founder’s Day and honor the life and legacy of the University’s founder, A.T. Still, DO. The 2023 all-campus celebration began in Kirksville, Missouri, from Oct. 12-14, then in Mesa, Arizona, on Oct. 19, and Santa Maria, California, on Oct. 25. ATSU alumni, students, faculty, and staff reconnected with one another and enjoyed a variety of activities showcasing their pride in the University’s history and enthusiasm for the future.

Dr. Roger Beaumont speaking

Tinning Founder’s Day Osteopathy Lecture
Roger W. Beaumont, DO, C-ONMM, AOBFP, ’69, delivers the Fred C. Tinning, PhD, DOEd (hon.), ’14, Founder’s Day Osteopathy Lecture. In his lecture, “The New Era of Body, Mind, and Spirit Medicine,”
Dr. Beaumont says, “Remember, every moment matters. Never forget, every choice matters.”

alumni getting on bus for city tour

Community bus tour
Alumni and guests participate in a bus tour of the Kirksville community and see how the town has changed since their days as students.

alumni and students at tables

Alumni and student breakfast
ATSU-KCOM and ATSU-MOSDOH alumni and students meet for breakfast, spending valuable time talking with and learning from each other.

Gold Medallion members posing

Reunion Banquet and Alumni Recognition Ceremony
At the Reunion Banquet and Alumni Recognition Ceremony, ATSU welcomes back the class of 1973, which celebrated its 50-year anniversary and joined the Gold Medallion Club. Gold Medallion members in attendance include (left to right, front row) Paul Haight, DO, ’68; Kenneth Harris, DO, ’68; Roger W. Beaumont, DO, C-ONMM, AOBFP, ’69; William Stanley, DO, ’73; Randal Sparks, DO, ’73; (second row) James “Mike” Ritze, DO, ’73; George Kessler, DO, ’73; Dennis Smallwood, DO, ’68; Floyd Stevens, DO, ’63, (back row) D. Kent Mulford, DO, ’73; Daniel Moore, DO, ’73; and Michael Murphy, DO, ’73. Not pictured: Nils Olson, DO, ’73

student running with football

Women’s flag football
The second-year ATSU-KCOM and ATSU-MOSDOH flag football team defeats the first-year squad, 21-13, during the annual game at the Thompson Campus Center field.

student making tie-dye shirt
students at bonfire

Alumni, students, faculty, staff, and their families enjoy Still-A-Bration with dinner, a bonfire, s’mores, and live music with Truman State University’s a cappella group, True Men.

student riding mechanical bull

Arizona campus celebration
Featuring a dunk tank, carnival games, pie-eating contest, mechanical bull, and more, the Arizona campus holds its annual Founder’s Day celebration for students, faculty, staff, and their families.

person rock climbing

Rock climbing
Students, faculty, staff, and family members attending the Arizona campus celebration have the opportunity to practice their rock-climbing techniques.

students playing powderpuff football
fans at Arizona campus powderpuff game

Powderpuff games
Throughout the week, powderpuff teams on the Arizona campus compete for the Super Puff Championship. The Physical Therapy team wins 26-12 against the Occupational Therapy/ Speech-Language Pathology/Audiology team. The Occupational Therapy/Speech-Language Pathology/ Audiology team wins the coveted Spirit Stick.

See more photos from Founder’s Day 2023 on ATSU’s social media pages. #ATSUPride

When Danielle Barnett-Trapp, DO, ’11, was asked to join the ATSU Board of Trustees in 2021, she jumped at the opportunity. A member of ATSU- SOMA’s inaugural class, Dr. Barnett-Trapp, a clinical associate professor at Midwestern University’s Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine, is the first ATSU-SOMA graduate to serve on the board, something she views as an honor.

“I just love A.T. Still University,” she says. “I’m a huge believer in its approach and its mission. I feel like the school is really grounded in osteopathic principles and treating people as humans.”

While her path to osteopathic medicine may not have been as direct as others in the profession, her love of teaching was always apparent. When Dr. Barnett-Trapp began her undergraduate studies at Northern Arizona University, she wanted to be an elementary school teacher. However, she switched gears and majored in biology and minored in chemistry. She still wanted to teach but at a higher level. When her father, an osteopathic family physician, asked her what she planned to do after graduation, she still wasn’t 100% sure and considered teaching high school biology or anatomy.

“My father told me if I went to medical school, I could teach on a graduate level. That’s why I pursued medicine,” she says. “I naturally liked it, and I was naturally curious about it.”

However, despite her love for medicine and science, teaching was still Dr. Barnett-Trapp’s main goal.

“I realized that doctors are teachers and teach their patients and their families,” she says. “It came full circle for me.”

Although her father graduated from the Chicago College of Medicine, Dr. Barnett-Trapp, who grew up in
Arizona’s Phoenix metropolitan area, opted to stay close to home and chose ATSU-SOMA because of its innovative curricular model.

“Being in ATSU-SOMA’s first class allowed us to have a lot of impact and shape the School and its reputation in the Valley and my community,” she says. “It was really important to me.”

Dr. Barnett-Trapp felt extremely prepared when she graduated because of the clinical experience ATSU-SOMA students receive.

“You might not realize it while you’re going through school because you’re just learning, but when you get out there and start comparing yourself to other students and residents, you can see how prepared you are and how comfortable you are with patients,” she says.

After graduating, Dr. Barnett-Trapp completed a family medicine residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.

“I always knew that’s the avenue I wanted to go because I wanted to have a very broad knowledge base. I didn’t want to focus or specialize in one area,” she says. “If I wanted to have an impact in the teaching environment, a broad knowledge base was important.”

After three years, she joined the faculty at Midwestern University and continued practicing family medicine, gaining experience in a wide array of treatment modalities, which she says made her a better educator. She also completed an academic medicine fellowship at the University of Arizona.

Now, in addition to teaching second- year medical students at Midwestern University, she sees patients at the university’s outpatient clinic. She also works in urgent care to hone her skills.

“When people ask me what I teach, it’s kind of hard to explain,” she says. “I teach students how to be a doctor, how to think critically, and how to integrate everything they’re learning in those basic science courses to seeing a patient in an exam room.”

As for what’s in store for her future? Dr. Barnett-Trapp says she thinks about it all the time.

“I definitely will remain in academics. I’ll be in academics for my whole life. That was always my focus. I want to remain clinically active as well, still seeing patients and keeping up with medicine to better educate our students on what it’s like when they get out of school,” she says.

Dr. Barnett-Trapp also says she’ll serve on the board as long as they’ll have her. Members serve in three-year terms for a maximum of three consecutive terms, or nine years. The board meets approximately four times a year across the three campuses to immerse themselves in ATSU programs and see how they may best support the University and its programs.

In addition to ATSU’s Board of Trustees, Dr. Barnett-Trapp serves on the Arizona Osteopathic Medical Association Board of Trustees and Executive Committee.

“One of my other areas of passion is advocacy for the osteopathic profession and protecting the profession for future students,” she says. “I’ll continue to do that in whatever capacities are presented to me.”