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President’s Perspective – September 2022

Milestone celebrations

Thank you for taking a few minutes to catch up on ATSU happenings. As we celebrate our 130th anniversary, it has been wonderful to see students, faculty, and staff return physically and virtually to classes and activities.

This academic year promises to be special as we welcome the inaugural speech-language pathology class, recognize the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine’s accreditation, celebrate the University’s 130th and A.T. Still Memorial Library’s 100th anniversaries, and much more.

While COVID-19 remains on our radar, faculty, staff, and students have successfully navigated updated CDC, local, and state guidance. Thanks to the cooperation of all, infection levels remain low at all ATSU locations.

In this issue of the President’s Perspective, you will find new trustees’ bios, strategic plan areas of emphasis, graduation and white coat pictures, and many noteworthy accomplishments of students, faculty, and staff.

ATSU Board of Trustees

ATSU Board of Trustees appointed officers and elected new members at its quarterly meeting July 22, 2022.

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

Special thanks to outgoing trustees, Paulina Vázquez Morris, JD, MBA, MHSA, and Gary Wiltz, MD, for their visioning and unwavering commitment to and support of ATSU during the past nine year. Special kudos to Linnette Sells, DO, FAOASM, ’82, who as chair of the board, kept everyone actively engaged in an era of virtual board meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Recently elected candidates to the ATSU Board of Trustees are Kimberly “Kim” Perry, DO, MBA, MHCM, FACEP, FACOEP, ’91, of St. Louis, Missouri, and Felix Valbuena Jr., MD, DABFM, FAAFP, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

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

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

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

Online opportunities for alumni and friends

ATSU online programs continue to provide opportunities for healthcare professionals and leaders. If interested in furthering your career through convenient online degrees and certificates, please visit or

Celebrate the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine accreditation

The Museum of Osteopathic Medicine achieved accreditation by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM), the highest national recognition afforded the nation’s museums. The 10-year AAM accreditation brings national recognition to the museum for its commitment to excellence, accountability, high professional standards, and continued institutional improvement. Congratulations to Director Jason Haxton, MA, and the entire museum team for their hard work on this long-awaited honor! If you are able, please come to Kirksville and celebrate the accreditation and rededication of the Museum of Osteopathic Medicine during Founder’s Day, Friday, October 14.

2022-2023 strategic focus areas

  1. Mission-focused scholarship: Continue mission-focused scholarship with support for studies improving community health and health systems, resulting publications, and dissemination.
  2. Agile resource management: Begin gathering and studying data regarding the University’s use of resources.
  3. Engaged, diverse university community: Continue to build upon ATSU’s success in diversity and inclusion emphasizing cultural proficiency.

National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) Community Health Institute & Expo

ATSU students, faculty, and staff at the NACHC CHI poster presentation
ATSU students, faculty, and staff at the poster presentation

NACHC Community Health Institute & Expo was held August 28-30 in Chicago, Illinois. The institute draws leaders and board members from community health centers, state primary care associations, federal agencies, and partners.

ATSU has an increasing annual presence at the institute, with more than 70 students, faculty, staff, and regional directors of education in attendance. As growing numbers of graduates take leadership roles in community health centers, additional community health centers become educational sites, and ATSU and community health centers’ scholarly activity progressively benefits underserved communities.

Organized ATSU activities during the conference:

  • ATSU students, faculty, and staff were recognized during the opening general session.
  • ATSU students, residents, and faculty presented community-oriented primary care research posters.
  • ATSU hosted a reception following the poster session with approximately 200 students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends in attendance.
  • Select students presented their team’s research during a dedicated education session.

International Consortium on Manual Therapies

The inaugural International Consortium on Manual Therapies was held virtually May 4-June 3 with 182 registrants from eight countries. Registrants included osteopathic physicians, physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, structural integrators, PhD scientists, and other manual medical researchers and educators. 

The consortium focused on summarizing current evidence on manual therapies across professions and assessing limitations of current profession-based terminology. The consortium’s long-term goal is promoting a more explicit, descriptive, and scientific nomenclature to facilitate communication and understanding of manual therapy interventions. The consortium aligns with ATSU’s mission of preparing highly competent professionals through innovative academic programs with a commitment to continue the University’s osteopathic heritage and focus on whole person healthcare. 

Special thanks to: 

Jan Baum, MA
Barbara Bevell
Jessica Corrick, DHA
Brian Degenhardt, DO 
Geoffroey-Allen Franklin, MBA
Lynn Hurt, MA
Bryan Krusniak, MBA
Dean Maag
Sean O’Connor, MBA
Corey Sanford
Gaylah Sublette, MBA

Beyond Flexner additional kudos

Thank you to all ATSU students, faculty, and staff who participated in the Beyond Flexner Conference. Some participants were missed in my thank you email, so I would like to recognize them here for their role in making the conference a success.

Howard Asaki, PA-C
Lindsey Bowen
Heidi Buckmister
Maureen Cameron
Greg Chugg
Leslie Chugg
Vikki Courtney
Randy Danielsen, PhD, PA-C emeritus, DFAAPA
Lihua Dishman, DBA, MBA
Samantha Fillerup
Wendy Hardina
Diane Hobbs
Jason Hunsicker
Katherine Jones, MA, OTR/L, CLT-LANA
Sara Kirkpatrick
Mia Mickley
Ami Mikhail, MS, PA-C
David Moise
Leti Munoz
Hanan Omar, BDS, PhD, MSc
Josie Penrod
Shelly Rudd
Marti Salmon
Harvey Simon
Kimberly Skinner, AuD, PhD
Kathy Walker

ATSU commencement ceremonies

ATSU-SOMA student walking in procession

A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH)
Friday, May 13
Mesa, Arizona
74 graduates
Commencement speaker: Nadia Fazel, DMD, MPH, ’14, chief clinical officer of Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless

class photo of ATSU-MOSDOH graduates outdoors on steps

A.T. Still University-Missouri School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-MOSDOH)
Friday, May 20
Kirksville, Missouri
41 graduates
Commencement speaker: Alan Freeman, DMgt, MBA, FACHE, former CEO of Affinia Healthcare

ATSU-KCOM student shakes Dr. Wilson's hand during ceremony

A.T. Still University-Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (ATSU-KCOM)
Saturday, May 21
Kirksville, Missouri
173 graduates
Commencement speaker: Barbara Ross-Lee, DO, FACOFP, president, American Osteopathic Foundation, president, Maryland College of Osteopathic Medicine at Morgan State University (proposed)

three ATSU-CGHS students pose after graduation

A.T. Still University-College of Graduate Health Studies
Friday, May 27
Mesa, Arizona
250 graduates
Commencement speaker: Frank LoVecchio, DO, MPH, FACEP, medical director of clinical research, Arizona State University College for Health Solutions

six ATSU-SOMA students celebrate after graduation

A.T. Still University-School of Osteopathic Medicine in Arizona (ATSU-SOMA)
Friday, May 27
Mesa, Arizona
113 graduates
Commencement speaker: Stephanie Cox-Batson, MD, MA, FACOG, chief medical officer for Near North Health Service Corporation

group of ATSU-ASHS students after graduation

A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Health Sciences (ATSU-ASHS)
Friday, June 3
Mesa, Arizona
328 graduates
Commencement speaker: Craig Velozo, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, director for the Division of Occupational Therapy in the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, College of Health Professions at the Medical University of South Carolina

four ATSU-ASHS PA students celebrate after graduation

ATSU-ASHS Physician Assistant Studies
Friday, September 16
Mesa, Arizona
73 graduates
Commencement speaker: Catherine Alicia Georges, EdD, RN, FAAN, professor and chair of the Department of Nursing at Lehman College, City University of New York

ATSU white coat ceremonies

ATSU-ASHS audiology class photo after White Coat Ceremony

ATSU-ASHS Audiology 
Class of 2025
Saturday, April 16
Mesa, Arizona

ATSU-ASHS DPT class photo after White Coat Ceremony

ATSU-ASHS Physical Therapy 
Class of 2023
Thursday, May 26
Mesa, Arizona

ATSU-ASDOH student celebrate after White Coat Ceremony

Class of 2026
Friday, July 15
Mesa, Arizona

ATSU-SOMA students celebrating after White Coat Ceremony

Class of 2026
Friday, July 15
Mesa, Arizona

five ATSU-ASHS PA students celebrate after White Coat Ceremony

ATSU-ASHS Physician Assistant Studies 
Class of 2024
Friday, July 15
Mesa, Arizona

four ATSU-MOSDOH students pose in white coats following ceremony

Class of 2026
Friday, July 15
Kirksville, Missouri

ATSU-KCOM student walking in recessional after White Coat Ceremony

Class of 2026
Saturday, July 16
Kirksville, Missouri

Students put on white coats during White Coat Ceremony

ATSU-CHC Central Coast Physician Assistant
Class of 2023
Friday, August 26
San Luis Obispo, California

Upcoming white coat ceremony

ATSU-ASHS Occupational Therapy
Class of 2024
Friday, November 11
Mesa, Arizona

Upcoming continuing education activities

ATSU’s Continuing Education department provides support for the University’s schools, graduates, and the professional community to fulfill their potential throughout their careers and ultimately impact patient care and well-being. For a list of upcoming continuing education opportunities, please visit

Faculty and staff updates

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

Thank you for your support of ATSU students, faculty, and staff. We invite you to attend Founder’s Day (October 14 in Kirksville, October 20 in Mesa) or just come by for a visit. For the latest information and updates around the University, please visit ATSU News.

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
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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.

In this issue of Still Magazine, we celebrate our students and their amazing talents and skills. ATSU students are undeniably brilliant, capable people with unique backgrounds and abilities. In addition to progressing through rigorous academic programs, these multifaceted individuals are making time outside of their studies to engage in a wide range of interests and activities.

In this issue, you will also find artistic highlights of our amazing alumni and two board members, G. Scott Drew, DO, FAOCD, ’87, and C. Lisette Dottavio, PhD, CPA.

With the challenges and obstacles of the past two years, we have seen the importance of taking time to enjoy pursuits outside of our professional careers, particularly those of an artistic nature. Whether it’s painting, dancing, playing an instrument, or cooking a family meal, the arts in any form allow us to find joy and meaning in our lives.

I would like to thank the University’s many donors and friends, including the President’s Circle members listed on the following page, who help ATSU continue to educate its students and support its programs. Your generosity and enthusiasm have positioned the University to successfully address challenges and fulfill its mission, even in difficult and uncertain circumstances.

Yours in service,

Craig M. Phelps, DO, ’84, president

ATSU students are incredible people. They are talented not only in the classroom but also outside the classroom. These versatile future healthcare professionals have skills and interests extending beyond their
fields of study. Among those varied and diverse talents are artistic talents – visual, literary, performing, culinary, and more.

With too many healthcare professionals experiencing stress and burnout, it has become increasingly important to find joy and use personal skills and abilities to engage in creative activities. According to ATSU Vice President for Student Affairs Lori Haxton, MA, creative extracurricular activities help students connect with others and develop life skills.

“Pursuing hobbies outside of coursework provides balance,” Haxton says. “These outlets allow students to take a break from studying and engage in something they enjoy. It helps them as students, and it helps
them in practice.”

On the following pages and throughout this issue, Still Magazine highlights a few of the many ATSU students who embrace their artistic and unique talents to express themselves and build resiliency.

Reagan Adair Ballet

Reagan Adair

Adair enrolled in her first ballet class when she was 3 years old. Little did she know it would become a lifelong passion. Now a first-year medical student at ATSU-KCOM, she continues to take classes and help with the company and studios in her hometown as time allows.

“I still remember the day it all shifted,” she says. “I went to see ‘The Nutcracker’ with my Girl Scout troop, and after being in awe of the dancers, I told my mom I was going to audition for the ballet company.”

Her mom was very surprised but supportive, since Adair had been focused more on sports in previous years. A few months later, Adair walked into Capital Ballet Theatre’s doors on the morning of the audition. From that moment forward, dance became a huge part of her identity.

“Dancing taught me hard work, attention to detail, perseverance, and a longing for continued self-improvement,” Adair says. “While ballet and pointe are my foundations, I really enjoy lyrical dancing. I have more freedom and enjoy putting more emotions into movements, rather than focusing on traditional lines and positions.”

Quincy Akaba Visual arts

Quincy Akaba
Visual arts

Growing up in Ghana and Italy and immigrating to the U.S., Akaba has always used art as a means to understand the world and express himself. He was often at a loss for words as he adjusted to different environments, but art helped him find similarities in the world and in people.

“If I could see it, if I could draw it, then I could understand it and connect to it,” Akaba says. “Even without a common language, everyone has something to say.”

Now a first-year ATSU-SOMA student, he still incorporates art into his everyday life. Prior to medical school, Akaba worked as an elementary and middle school teacher for a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) after-school program for underserved, phenomenal youths in Philadelphia. In this program, he exposed students to the possibility of careers in medicine, law, journalism, engineering, and politics while introducing them to various methods of healing, including meditation, journaling, yoga, fitness, and art.

“Not only do I want my students to see the endless possibilities their future holds,” he says, “but I also want them to understand what it means to be whole and achieve balance of the mind and body in life.”

HaEun Park Cello

HaEun Park

Park started playing cello at age 5. Her mother encouraged her and her siblings to play an instrument. Since her two older brothers already played the piano and violin, her mother suggested she play the cello.

“I was already learning to play piano, so she introduced me to another string instrument,” Park says. “One advantage of the cello is it can be played as a bass or melody.”

At age 14, she decided to study abroad in the U.S. She knew flying internationally with a cello would be a constraint because she could only take one other checked bag – and fewer Korean snacks. Nevertheless,
she brought her cello.

“I knew I would be living in a new environment with a new language,” she says. “I had to take my cello with me.” Throughout her youth, she took weekly lessons and played in orchestras, weddings, and church services. Now a first-year dental student at ATSU-MOSDOH, she enjoys playing on her own in her free time.

“I love the sound of the cello, more than any other instrument,” Park says. “Playing and listening to the cello helps me relax and enjoy the moment.”

Mrea Holden Quilting

Mrea Holden

Holden is a second-year physician assistant (PA) student at ATSU-ASHS. A self-taught quilter and seamstress, she knew PA school would be difficult, so she set aside a king size quilt to make during the program, thinking it would take her at least two years.

“I guess I sew fast because I’ve made everything I set aside,” Holden says. “I gave the king size quilt to my husband as a late anniversary gift and to let him know I’m still thinking of him even though my head is in a book.”

She continues to sew projects to keep herself grounded through the stress and many hours of study. She has quilted mug rugs for her study buddies and smaller quilts for family members going through hard times during the pandemic. She has also made masks for healthcare workers.

“I know if I’m having a hard time sewing a straight line, I need to relax,” Holden says. “Sewing is one thing that helps center my inner thoughts.”

Faison Jackson, MPH, ’18 Cooking

Faison Jackson, MPH, ’18

Cooking is one of Jackson’s favorite pastimes. It brings him back to his mother’s kitchen where he learned to cook at age 12. He started off cracking eggs into bowls and worked his way up to chopping ingredients. Then, when his mother felt he was ready, he added ingredients to the pan and watched over the food, cooking each dish with love and care.

Time spent with his mother in the kitchen was filled with encouragement and support. They talked and laughed, and she taught him how cooking could be a stress reliever. However, at such a young age, he didn’t understand what that meant.

“Now as a young adult in physician assistant school, I use my cooking skills after a stressful day of studying to unwind,” says Jackson, a first-year student at ATSU-CHC.

Jackson’s grandmother – his best friend and the “dessert queen” – also helped him develop his cooking skills. He remembers sitting on a bar stool in her kitchen, watching her prepare food for family gatherings.

“Desserts take time and care,” he says. “She taught me if I want to be a future healthcare provider, I have to take time with my patients and show them I care.”

Isaac Coronel Viola, writing

Isaac Coronel
Viola, writing

Outside of dental school, Coronel spends much of his time immersed in music, theater, and writing. Music has been his main passion since fourth grade, when he started playing the viola. His theater and writing journey, though, didn’t begin until college, where he was challenged to express himself in dramatization and learn literary techniques to benefit his writing skills.

A third-year ATSU-MOSDOH student, Coronel has performed with local theater groups and community
orchestras, including performing and writing a piece for the Kirksville Community String Orchestra. While he likes performing in front of an audience, he most enjoys composing choral and instrumental music while at home sitting next to his piano.

He has written a collection of 40 short stories, which are fantasy based with an Aesop’s Fables style of writing. During a struggle with burnout, he was inspired to write a 30-poem collection on the importance of art. He is currently writing one more collection of short stories and a five-novel series.

“The stresses of dental school, as well as being the class president, can be overwhelming,” he says. “The arts allow me to find meaning in stress and even happiness that comes with a difficult career.”

Savannah Rose Photography

Savannah Rose

A second-year dental student at ATSU-ASDOH, Rose grew up with a dentist and a professional photographer, so it was only natural for her to follow in both their footsteps. She began taking photography more seriously within the last six years, and her passion for it has helped her find a creative outlet for stress reduction.

Rose believes it is vital for students going through intense academic programs to find something that brings them joy, stimulates the mind, and helps keep them healthy. Combined with her love of hiking, photography has kept her active and led her to discover amazing places in Arizona and throughout the Pacific Northwest.

“I strive to get out at least every Saturday or Sunday and go explore,” she says. “Ideally, I try to find places to shoot that are inaccessible by car.”

Nasheen Nizamuddin Henna design

Nasheen Nizamuddin
Henna design

Hand skills are important for dental students. Much of their work relies on their dexterity to carry out precise movements. Nizamuddin, a second-year dental student at ATSU-MOSDOH, uses her henna design
ability to help develop her fine motor skills.

Nizamuddin started making henna designs as a hobby when she was 16. She mostly practiced on paper with free-to-use designs while she adjusted to holding the henna cones. Eventually, she started doing freehanded designs and practicing on herself, and after building her confidence, she started making designs for family and friends.

The designs are quite intricate. While they have many variations, certain shapes and elements are used frequently, including flowers, leaves, peacocks, and swans. The designs may be applied anywhere on the body, but certain locations, like the palm of the hand, have more significance.

“Henna requires a lot of attention to detail, as there are many minute features that need to be included in a high-quality piece,” Nizamuddin says. “Because of this, I think henna serves as a great way to refine motor skills, especially when it comes to positioning your handpiece and moving in small increments.”

Judia Yael Malachi, PhD Crafting

Judia Yael Malachi, PhD

Dr. Malachi loves making things with her hands. The first-year physician assistant (PA) student enjoys crafting a variety of pieces and products, including shadow boxes, hair care products, body butters, and T-shirts and other accessories with uplifting sayings.

“There is power and healing in our hands,” she says. “Our hands allow us to create and say so much, without saying a word.”

One of the first pieces Dr. Malachi made was in fall 1997 as an undergraduate student. Her sorority was hosting an informal information session, and she was asked to bring one thing representing her. Being torn about “one thing,” she used magazine clippings and images to create a visual description of who she was and what she saw for her future.

Now as a PA student at ATSU-CHC, she continues crafting because it brings her happiness and healing.

“Working with my hands and creating brings me joy, and this joy is increased when I am creating something for someone else,” Dr. Malachi says. “When I am creating a piece or a product, my mind is clear, I am still and at peace, and I feel God’s power and love working through me.”

Kari Nhi Pham Crocheting

Kari Nhi Pham

Coming from a creative family, Pham has always been interested in the arts. As a child, her mother encouraged creativity and taught her craft skills. When the pandemic hit, Pham began crocheting and started making various projects, including amigurumi, which are small plush toys.

“I do my best to live a sustainable life, and because of that, 100% of my yarn is either cotton or recycled materials,” says Pham, a first-year physician assistant (PA) student at ATSU-CHC. “I also enjoy making coasters and granny squares to hopefully complete a granny square blanket one day.”

Although PA school keeps Pham busy, she still tries to find time to crochet. During her first break from school, she says she went on a “crochet binge” and finished about 20 projects, which she later gave as gifts to family, friends, and classmates.

“I find it is a great distraction away from medicine and allows me to be in my own world of yarn,” Pham says. “The end result is always something so delightful, and I love creating cute things and making others happy with my talents.”

Anthony Delia Singing, songwriting

Anthony Delia
Singing, songwriting

Delia, a first-year medical student at ATSU-KCOM, is a self-taught guitarist, pianist, and vocalist. He received his first guitar in first grade as an early Christmas present from his parents so he could participate in his class talent show. In sixth grade, he started playing piano, writing music, and singing.

By high school, Delia performed in small coffee shops as a single act to amphitheaters as an opening act for larger bands. He placed first twice in the University of Missouri Creating Original Music Project, a statewide original songwriting competition.

“While living in New York City, I was able to perform and write music with incredibly talented and diverse musicians,” he says. “I remember walking home from class during the evening and joining in with subway jazz bands, street-corner country duos, and singer/songwriter stage performers, all of which have allowed me to better understand others’ experiences.”

Though he enjoys performing, he is most passionate about composing and producing music.

“What started off as a hobby developed into a bridge to others’ feelings,” Delia says. “I’ve always written and listened to music with the notion it is a universal language capable of transcending just about any boundary.”

Laquisha Malone Singing

Laquisha Malone

Since Malone was old enough to walk, she has been singing. The first-year medical student at ATSU-SOMA learned to sing from her paternal grandmother, Earline Malone, who taught her and her cousins songs for church. As she grew up, her love of singing led her to sing in church as a soloist and in a gospel choir.

“I also sang in concert-style choir and as a soloist in school,” Malone says. “I was soprano section leader my senior year of high school.”

With an affinity for gospel music, Malone has sung at funerals, memorials, and community events. Upon entering medical school, she sang “God Bless America” at the School’s 2021 White Coat Ceremony in Mesa, Arizona.

“Singing serves me as a form of expression, stress relief, and worship,” she says. “It also allows me to encourage and uplift others with my gift.”

Jahzeel Paguntalan Violin

Jahzeel Paguntalan

Paguntalan, a first-year physician assistant student at ATSU-CHC, formed an interest in learning to play violin through a unique source: video games. Many of the video games he played as a kid used violin instrumentation. He began taking lessons at 12 years old, and although he felt he was “late to the game,” his background in playing piano eased his learning curve.

The music he learned to play initially revolved around a classical repertoire. As an undergraduate student, he joined a collegiate orchestra and started playing other kinds of music, including soundtracks from video games, which he found enjoyable and nostalgic.

In 2018, Paguntalan began teaching violin to some friends, coworkers, and their children. He then joined a music studio to expand his class, which accentuated his interest in sharing his passion with others.

“It makes me feel grounded in my own capabilities as a human being, despite having worries or troubles that may make me think otherwise,” Paguntalan says. “Even though music and healthcare are two unrelated subjects, the violin helps keep me adhered to my ‘why’ of my pursuit of becoming a healthcare provider.”

Chuck Monteith Athletic training and ice cream

Chuck Monteith
Ice cream making

Chuck Monteith is an associate athletic trainer at Colgate University and a student in the Doctor of Athletic Training (DAT) program at ATSU-ASHS. He has been with Colgate University for 16 years, currently
working with the men’s lacrosse team and all concussed varsity athletes as the concussion recovery manager.

“I started in ATSU-ASHS’ Sport Neurology and Concussion certificate program to improve the management and care of our concussed student athletes,” Monteith says. “As I progressed through
the certificate program, I enjoyed what I was learning and realized continuing through the DAT program would improve me as a clinician and positively affect the student athletes.”

Outside of his work at Colgate University, Monteith is an ice cream maker and owner of Chuckles Creamery. He grew up making ice cream with various rock salt machines, but his business took off in 2010 when he received an automated machine as a gift. Now with two cold compressor units, he typically makes a few batches each week and even more around holiday seasons.

“I enjoy trying out different recipes and techniques,” Monteith says. “I am a big believer of mix-ins. You cannot have too much!”

Tulley Shofner Painting

Tulley Shofner

Shofner, a first-year medical student at ATSU-KCOM, has a true appreciation for the artistic side of medicine. Growing up in a creative household with her father being a woodworker, she always loved the arts and working with her hands. She particularly enjoys painting and ceramics.

In addition, Shofner enjoys music and is a classically trained singer. As she pursues her osteopathic medical degree, she continues to embrace the arts for fun and relaxation.

“I think art has a neat correlation to medicine,” Shofner says. “It relates to so much of what we are learning, especially with anatomy, osteopathic manipulative medicine, and other disciplines of medicine.”

Learn more about Shofner and her selection as the first recipient of the Steinbaum-Levine Endowed Scholarship.

Kristine Thoi Interviewing

Kristine Thoi

When Kristine Thoi noticed a trend of medical students interviewing their classmates on TikTok, she got the idea to interview her classmates and ask about their journeys. Rather than only showcasing students who took the traditional path, the first-year physician assistant (PA) student at ATSU-CHC wanted to show there is no specific route to PA school.

As the youngest of 88 students in her cohort, Thoi felt a bit intimidated to reach out to her older, more experienced classmates. However, these videos, some of which have accumulated more than a million views, have given her an opportunity to learn more about her peers and build her sense of community.

“There are so many nontraditional applicants coming from different walks of life,” Thoi says. “Mostly, I hope these videos answer questions pre-PA applicants may have and inspire people to learn more about the PA profession.”

Jacob Palmer Gaming

Jacob Palmer

Building connections and making friends are the reasons Palmer, a second-year ATSU-MOSDOH student, has been playing video games since high school. Since that time, he has continued to play, and at a highly competitive level.

In college, he began playing League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena video game heavily reliant on coordination and teamwork. The game has a five vs. five (5v5) player format, and each team manages their time, resources, logistics, and skills to gain advantages over opponents.

“I was a League of Legends coach for my alma mater, Southeast Missouri State University, my final year of school,” Palmer says. “I coached our primary 5v5 team and gave position-based coaching.”

By the time Palmer matriculated to dental school, he was ranked in the top 1%-3% of players worldwide. Currently, he does not play League of Legends regularly because of academic commitments, but he maintains his rank in the top 5%-7% of players.

“Right now, I play other faster-paced games I can pause or save,” he says. “I play games with my classmates just about every day after I get home from the gym.”

Husein Kovacevic & Andy Le Speedcubing

Husein Kovacevic & Andy Le

ATSU-KCOM first-year medical student Andy Le (right) was 5 years old when his dad bought him his first Rubik’s cube. He played with it for a few hours and became so frustrated, he threw it into his bin with his other neglected toys. Over the years, it collected dust in the corner of his room until fifth grade when he came across a YouTube tutorial. He was then able to solve the cube in about two minutes.

Le started improving his time in high school when he met a fellow classmate who was also into “cubing.” He bought a speedcube, a newer version used in competitions, and more and more classmates began playing.

“We all taught each other how to solve it, and being as competitive as I was, I got it down to around 20 seconds,” he says. “By the end of college, I was able to get it under 15 seconds.”

In 2018, Le participated in his first speedcubing competition, held by the World Cube Association.

“You think you take this hobby seriously until you are competing next to a 13-year-old who can solve the Rubik’s cube in less than 10 seconds,” he says. However, cubing has allowed him to make many friends who share the same hobby, including fellow ATSU-KCOM classmate Husein Kovacevic (left).

“Cubing has also been an excellent way to keep my hyperactive brain occupied,” Le says. “It definitely comes in handy as a way to take off a little edge in school.”

For Kovacevic, he first solved a Rubik’s cube in seventh grade, also after watching a YouTube tutorial. It only took him a few weeks to learn how to solve it in 30 seconds. He says the most challenging part was remembering move combinations to get the pieces in the right spot.

“Being able to solve a Rubik’s cube has helped me learn how to stay calmer under certain situations,” Kovacevic says. “It has taught me to not panic and just trust the process.”

From its roots in Kirksville and the farmland of northeast Missouri, to Mesa, Arizona, and the footsteps of the nearby Superstition Mountains, to St. Louis and the iconic Gateway Arch, ATSU’s story of meeting underserved communities’ needs is writing its next chapter in the strawberry fields of the California coast.

ATSU, local officials, and guests welcomed the Central Coast Physician Assistant (CCPA) program’s inaugural class of nearly 100 students on Sept. 27, 2021, in Santa Maria, California. Then on Jan. 10, 2022, the Institutional Actions Council of the Higher Learning Commission approved the University’s request to establish its newest campus, ATSU’s College for Healthy Communities (ATSU-CHC), in Santa Maria.

“This is the next step in a strategic plan reflecting the national appeal of our programs and our influence,” says O.T. Wendel, PhD, senior vice president for university planning and strategic initiatives and interim ATSU-CHC dean. “This application’s success was a team effort.”

Establishment of a new college and campus is key in receiving approval for access to Title IV funds from the U.S. Department of Education. Those funds provide students access to financial aid through various federal programs.

The campus’ home is a 27,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility, which includes a large learning theater, clinical simulation rooms, library space, student break room, and faculty and staff workspaces. Administrative offices for Community Health Centers of the Central Coast Inc., an instrumental partner in developing the CCPA program, are located in the facility as well.

CCPA will educate culturally humble, diverse physician assistants to serve the primary care needs of medically underserved communities. The 24-month, entry-level program seeks applications from first-generation college students, historically underrepresented groups, and economically disadvantaged students. The first cohort includes 14 students from ATSU’s Hometown Scholars program, and students speak nine different primary languages.

“We make diversity a priority. It is among the driving factors in the admissions process,” Dr. Wendel says. “We’ve tried to eliminate barriers that are commonly faced in other programs. That approach yielded a culturally diverse class.”

Students have been overwhelmingly impressed by the program. John Butler, a first-year student, is pursuing a second career as a physician assistant after more than two decades in the entertainment industry. At first, the 47-year-old student wasn’t sure what to make of things like “flipped learning,” but quickly saw the benefits.

“You put five people in a pod, and we teach each other,” he says. “Being 47 years old, I’m new to that. I’m like, ‘Where’s the lecture? Where’s the PowerPoint?’ But all day long, we go through cases and have a chance to workshop and argue passionately and kindly to each other about what certain things are, and our professors are there for us to guide us through it.

“I’ve been really impressed by the program so far. It has surpassed my expectations.”

The program is already making a difference. More than a third of the class, as well as faculty and staff, volunteered at Community Health Centers of the Central Coast’s Day of the Farm Worker event in December 2021, which provided medical screenings, vaccinations, healthcare education and resources, and more to the community’s underserved farm workers. The added assistance from ATSU helped the event serve nearly 70% more people than the previous year.

CCPA students will spend their first 12 months in Santa Maria, engaging in facilitated learning with case studies, interactive learning, projects, and preclinical community experiences. For their final 12 months, ATSU has collaborated with the National Association of Community Health Centers to integrate student clinical experiences in 20 community health centers.

ATSU-CHC is closely aligned with the mission of the nation’s community health centers, and possible future programs on the campus would be developed to meet workforce needs of those vital healthcare providers. Both the name “Healthy Communities” and acronym “CHC” were selected with intention.

“The name relates to the mission and relationship ATSU has with community health centers,” Dr. Wendel says. “Their mission is to increase the health of the communities in which they are located. This college’s purpose revolves around the workforce needs of community health centers nationwide. We wanted to reflect their mission in our name.”

Accreditation update
On July 15, 2021, the Accreditation Review Commission for Physician Assistant Education (ARC-PA) granted Accreditation-Provisional status to the CCPA program sponsored by ATSU. Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program, that has not yet enrolled students, appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding Accreditation-Provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the Standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students. Accreditation-Provisional does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. It is limited to no more than five years from matriculation of the first class. The program’s accreditation history may be viewed on the ARC-PA website.

“College for Healthy Communities, ATSU’s seventh college/school, will continue advancing our mission and provide greater student, personnel, programmatic, and geographic diversity. We have been welcomed with open arms by the Central Coast community and are humbled by the engagement and support received.”
– ATSU President Craig M. Phelps, DO, ’84

When David S. Steinbaum, DO, graduated from ATSU-KCOM in 1930, little did he know he would become the first in a long line of family members dedicated to the osteopathic profession. It was the Depression era, and he had returned to Bayonne, New Jersey, to be near his family. He set up his practice in his home, which was common for physicians at the time, and he treated many relatives, including delivering several nieces and nephews.

Over time, Dr. David Steinbaum’s home and practice grew to include his son-in-law, Howard M. Levine, DO, ’54, who practiced with him for 35 years, and then his son, Fred Steinbaum, DO, ’68, and grandsons, Steven M. Levine, DO, ’78, and Martin S. Levine, DO, ’80. As the patriarch was always accessible to his immediate and extended family members, his influence of compassionate patient care and service to the profession left a lasting impression on the younger generations.

“My father really loved the College and advocated for the profession,” says Dr. Fred Steinbaum. “He worked actively for ATSU-KCOM, and every year, he visited all the colleges in New Jersey to meet with advisors and talk about osteopathic medicine as a possible avenue for their graduates.”

The Steinbaum-Levine family has continued its legacy of service and philanthropy with local, state, and national osteopathic organizations and osteopathic schools, including ATSU-KCOM, which has graduated 13 of the family’s 22 doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs).

“Not only is the Steinbaum-Levine family generous financially, but they are also generous with their time and engagement in the osteopathic profession,” says Lori Haxton, MA, vice president, student affairs, ATSU. “They have been loyal to the College through the generations.”

The family members strive to support ATSU-KCOM and its students in perpetuity. Believing scholarship support is the current area of greatest need and reward, they recently re-established the Steinbaum-Levine Endowed Scholarship. Currently, this endowment produces a $10,000 scholarship awarded annually to an accepted first-year student who demonstrates strong academic achievement, motivation for the study of osteopathic medicine, and financial need.

Tulley Shofner, OMS I, receives the first Steinbaum-Levine Endowed Scholarship award.
Tulley Shofner, OMS I, receives the first Steinbaum-Levine Endowed Scholarship award.

The purpose of this endowed scholarship is to help address the financial pressure students face in today’s medical school environment. First-year tuition costs are at all-time highs, according to the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, with the average annual cost over $50,000 for public and private osteopathic schools. This increased student loan debt, combined with decreasing physician reimbursement rates and time commitment to complete their education, weighs heavily on students who are contemplating school and specialty options.

In recent years, some medical schools have responded to these challenges by offering reduced and even free tuition. The goal of tuition-free education, which is often funded by donors through endowments, allows students to pursue the specialty of their choice, rather than feeling pressured to choose high-paying specialties. As more medical schools have announced plans to offset tuition costs, competition for students has increased.

“With ATSU-KCOM being a private institution, we have to compete with state universities for our students,” Haxton says. “Medical schools within public universities typically have lower tuition rates, which puts us at a disadvantage with students who are concerned about costs.”

Dr. Fred Steinbaum, who has represented the family in funding the endowment, says they are committed to growing the scholarship to support more than one student annually, as well as expanding the scholarship to a four-year award for each recipient.

“The medical profession has changed,” Dr. Fred Steinbaum says. “We need to have more opportunities in medicine for doctors who will serve underserved communities and promote a holistic and humanistic approach to medical care, like the approach I learned in Kirksville.”

Dr. Fred Steinbaum is passionate about education and teaching. A general practitioner and then medical
oncologist, he completed his training at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) and went into practice with three doctors of medicine (MDs), two of whom also completed training at MSK and one at MD Anderson. He believes his DO background gave him an advantage over his MD colleagues when caring for patients and their families. Dr. Fred Steinbaum wants to promote the osteopathic approach and, through this scholarship, secure enrollment of students who will continue the osteopathic tradition.

In fall 2021, the Steinbaum-Levine Endowed Scholarship announced its first recipient, Tulley Shofner, a first-year ATSU-KCOM student from Denver, Colorado, and graduate of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

“My first encounter with osteopathic medicine was when I had a rotated vertebra, and I saw a DO who used osteopathic manipulative treatment to realign my spine,” Shofner says. “From then on, I was impressed with the holistic approach and emphasis on treating the whole patient with preventive and self-restorative, science-based medicine.”

Her commitment to osteopathic medicine was further strengthened with her volunteer and clinical experiences. She served as a leader for a health education outreach program and coordinated health discussions with residents of a transitional shelter. Through these discussions, she felt gratitude and reward from educating people about health topics and communicating science through conversations. In addition, she learned about financial and social hurdles for marginalized populations and structural shortcomings impeding equal access to care.

Shofner’s experiences have motivated her to pursue osteopathic medicine to provide quality care for her future patients and ameliorate some shortcomings of the healthcare system through her patient interactions. When Shofner received notification of the scholarship, she felt the financial award was a blessing. She also felt it was a vote of confidence in her potential, which was especially important during
her first semester at ATSU-KCOM as she transitioned into medical school.

“The faculty and administration tell us all the time that we belong here and deserve to be here,” Shofner says. “This scholarship was tangible evidence that they believe I can do this and make a good physician.”

Learn how you can support the osteopathic profession and future students like Shofner through the Steinbaum-Levine Scholarship Endowment or by establishing a similar endowment. For more information, please contact Brad Chambers, director of development, at or 660.626.2494.

“We are forever grateful to the Steinbaum-Levine family for their generosity and support to ATSU-KCOM.”
– ATSU President Craig M. Phelps, DO, ’84

To say Michael Sampson, DO, FAOASM, ’92, delivers care in challenging environments is a complicated understatement.

Complicated, because as the ringside physician for All Elite Wrestling (AEW), and formerly in the same role with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), some of those challenges are in the script. When he’s tending to a wrestler and their opponent tries to take his head off with a kendo stick, Dr. Sampson ducks, shouts, and goes about his business for the TV cameras.

An understatement, however, because those made-for-TV moments are a mere fraction of what Dr. Sampson is handling. Whether he’s performing osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) on 7-foot-tall, 400-pound Paul Wight (formerly known as The Big Show), or aiding an accidentally concussed wrestler and being punched in the face in the process, there’s no shortage of moments falling outside typical physician care.

His career has taken him across the country and around the world, with stops in collegiate athletics, the classroom, and higher education administration, and the ATSU-KCOM alumnus has found his home in the world of professional wrestling. Osteopathic medical education in Kirksville, Missouri, and training and mentoring on rotations, residency, and fellowship provided him a foundation, but Dr. Sampson reached his position through a willingness to seize opportunities when presented – even if those opportunities are in areas in which he was initially unfamiliar, like professional wrestling.

Dr. Sampson in action helping wrestler “Hangman” Adam Page.

“I was never into professional wrestling. I’d gone to one show in Pittsburgh with my friends after college, and only watched it occasionally on TV,” Dr. Sampson says. “Now, here I am, having worked at two of the major professional wrestling organizations. Not many doctors can say that. It’s an amazing thing to have this on my resume, but it wouldn’t have happened if I’d have said ‘no.’”

Originally from Monaca, Pennsylvania, Dr. Sampson majored in biology and minored in microbiology at
Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania. That’s where he first learned about osteopathic medicine and was
encouraged to apply to ATSU-KCOM when he decided to pursue medicine.

Calling the College a “factory for sports medicine doctors,” Dr. Sampson found many fellow alumni as willing mentors along his chosen path, including Dixie Tooke-Rawlins, DO, FACOFP, ’80, now president and provost of Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) and former director of residency at Metropolitan Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Craig M. Phelps, DO, ’84, ATSU president and former Phoenix Suns team physician; Linnette Sells, DO, FAOASM, ’82, ATSU Board of Trustees chair and team physician for Georgia Tech; and Gunnar Brolinson, DO, FAOASM, FAAFP, FACOFP, ’83, vice provost for research and chair of sports medicine at VCOM.

While he was on faculty at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM)-Georgia and working as a team physician for Georgia Tech athletics, WWE reached out with a job offer to become a ringside physician. The organization was seeking a doctor of osteopathic medicine who performed OMT, and Dr. Sampson’s reputation for proficiency was widespread.

“We could help get them back to what they do the best by using OMT,” Dr. Sampson says. “There are so
many applications, and I could help people get better faster than just throwing pills at them, or having them put on braces. You’re putting the body back into optimal position to heal itself. Doctors, we don’t heal people. We just put their bodies back optimally to get them to heal.

“Allowing people to do what they do, just by knowing the anatomy, biomechanics, and nervous system of the body, is amazing. I know the athletes really appreciate that, and I enjoy it because I see the results. Treat the whole person. I’ve been able to diagnose a lot of people just by asking questions, and not treating where their pain is, but what’s causing their pain, and getting rid of their pain.”

Dr. Sampson made a brief return to academia after five years with WWE, serving as founding chief academic officer at PCOM-South Georgia before AEW called with an opportunity to return ringside. Initially, he could manage those duties alongside his academic schedule because the new organization’s handful of events were all on weekends, and his reputation and OMT skills quickly earned him respect with AEW’s roster.

It’s a mutual feeling, he says.

“I have the utmost respect for professional wrestlers,” Dr. Sampson says. “They’re entertainers, they’re stuntmen and women, they’re actors, and they’re amazing athletes. On top of that, they are the most thankful and humble, and respectful to what we physicians and trainers do for them.”

As AEW grew and eventually expanded to weekly, live, nationally televised events in different cities, Dr. Sampson faced a choice, and he began full time as AEW’s ringside physician in early 2020.

Again touring the country, Dr. Sampson makes it a point to invite sports medicine clubs from local health sciences schools to come backstage when AEW is in town. He encourages medical students and young professionals to be open and willing to learn from those around them, including people in different healthcare disciplines.

“Whatever field you go into, be the best in that field you can be,” Dr. Sampson says. “Take in everything. Work with other parts of the medical team. Know how to work with people, know their strengths, and respect them for their strengths within their fields.”

And for doctors of osteopathic medicine, Dr. Sampson has one additional recommendation.

“Learn your OMT, and know the value of it,” he says.

Featuring Poonam Jain, BDS, MS, MPH
Vice Dean for Clinical Affairs and Advanced Dental Education
St. Louis Dental Center, ATSU-MOSDOH

On the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion at ATSU, I will focus on the St. Louis Dental Center, which houses the main clinic for ATSU-MOSDOH. I will never forget the first time I walked through the front doors of the center. I was struck by the diversity of patients waiting in line to check in, the staff at the front desk, the few students and faculty who were walking in or out of the front lobby, and the staff members who stopped by the front desk to talk with the receptionists. Although most dental schools have a diverse population of patients, this was different. The diversity I refer to here spanned across ethnicity, race, languages spoken, age, gender, socioeconomic status, and physical ability.

Later, after I joined the School as an administrator, I learned ATSU had been the proud recipient of the Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award for several years. This award is certainly well deserved. The patients we serve at the St. Louis Dental Center speak about 56 different languages and come from diverse backgrounds, and the center affords equal opportunity for each patient to receive the highest quality dental care at affordable prices. The faculty and staff members who serve at the center are diverse as well. The School has a system of shared governance and includes the input from students, faculty, and staff in the decision-making process. The goal is to empower our students and employees to have a voice in the decisions affecting us all. This is, of course, not an easy or comfortable process at all times, but in the end, the only way to move forward in this ever-changing global environment. I am proud to work for ATSU, which really acts on its stated mission, and that gets me through some of my toughest days here.

Wrestling has always played a significant role in Afsoon Roshanzamir Johnston’s life. Being born in Iran in the early 70s, wrestling was and still is the national sport. Her father was a wrestler and always wanted a son to follow in his footsteps. Although Johnston, MSPT, ’00, was an only child, her father believed she could do anything a boy could do. His mindset was more progressive from the rest of the country, as men and women didn’t have equal opportunities. Throughout her childhood, Johnston’s father would teach her wrestling moves in their living room, and he would let her win wrestling matches against him while her mom refereed.

Johnston as a child in Iran in the 1970s
Johnston as a child in Iran
in the 1970s.

Johnston’s home life was a stark contrast to the outside environment. First, the revolution happened, and her country became the Islamic Republic of Iran. Rights for women were turned back about 100 years, and women were very limited in what they could do. Then, Iran went to war with its neighboring country, Iraq. This was a very scary time for Johnston. She would be relaxing at home, and suddenly a siren would go off – she had to rush to the basement as fast as possible because Iraqi warplanes were dropping bombs. Sometimes at school many seats were empty, and it didn’t mean those students were sick; it meant their houses had been bombed and they or their family had died. For Johnston, growing up there was tough, and her parents didn’t want that life for her. To give her a better future, they decided to risk everything and immigrate to the U.S.

Even through her experiences in war-torn Iran, Johnston said the hardest part of her life was those first few years in the U.S. She was only 11 when her family moved, and American culture and society was very different from what she had known. Johnston didn’t speak a single word of English, which made it challenging for her to communicate or express herself. By the other students, she was seen as the weird kid. When some students would learn where she was from, they would call her a terrorist and tell her to get out of their country.

Afsoon Johnston wrestles with her father
Johnston was taught to wrestle by her father.

As she struggled to find acceptance, she learned two very important things. First was the value of an education, something no one could take away from her. Second, even though other kids wouldn’t interact with her, that changed when it came to sports. During recess, she was always the first one picked for teams because of her athleticism. Johnston thought sports could be her ticket to fitting into this new environment.

Eventually her parents were able to save enough money to buy a house and move, which meant a new school for Johnston to start high school. At the time, cheerleading was the all-American girl thing to do, so Johnston joined the team. Once winter sports rolled around, she was cheering for the wrestling team, which was only for boys. As she watched the team wrestle, she thought about how she was cheering on the sideline when instead she could be out there wrestling too.

Under Title IX, Johnston knew legally the school couldn’t stop her from joining the team. She walked up to the wrestling coach in her cheerleading uniform, weighing 98 pounds, and said she knew the sport well and wanted to try out for the team. The coach was hesitant at first and not knowing who her father was, called him to see if he would say no. To the coach’s surprise, Johnston’s father was thrilled by the idea and fully supported her desire to wrestle. She earned her spot easily by beating the team’s starting varsity wrestler in her weight class. By joining the team, she received a lot of criticism from other people and the media for being a female wrestler. She had to prove herself – to others and for girls who loved wrestling – and she did so by working incredibly hard.

Johnston wrestles at a meet with her father by her side
Johnston wrestles at a meet with her father by her side.

From the time she started wrestling, more and more girls started going out for predominantly male sports. By her senior year in high school, for the first time ever, women’s wrestling had a world championship. Johnston made the national team, went to the championship, and won the first medal for the U.S. women’s team.

Johnston in action at a wrestling match
Johnston in action at a wrestling match.

After high school, Johnston wanted to continue wrestling and her education. She received her bachelor of science in kinesiology and exercise science from the University of California, Davis. She trained with the men’s wrestling team there and was still able to compete for the national women’s team. But while wrestling, Johnston tore her ACL, which required months of physical therapy.

After going through her recovery, she realized physical therapy would be the perfect career for her. She came across ATSU-ASHS and loved its program because it was ahead of its time. Johnston was able to continue her wrestling career while taking online classes to earn her master of science degree in physical therapy in 2000. Also during this year, she hoped women’s wrestling would be added to the Olympics, but when it was not, she decided to retire from wrestling to start her career and family.

Four years later, in 2004, women’s wrestling was added to the Olympics. At the time, Johnston was nine months pregnant. This was a very bittersweet moment for her because that is where she wanted to be, and she had won against girls with gold medals around their necks. However, she was thrilled to see women’s wrestling finally in the Olympics and women accepted in the sport.

Johnston (right) achieves her dream of coaching in the Olympics, helping Team USA win its first gold medal in women’s wrestling in 2016.
Johnston (right) achieves her dream of coaching in the Olympics, helping Team USA win its first gold medal in women’s wrestling in 2016.

In 2012, the coach of the women’s wrestling national team contacted her and wanted her to be involved in the sport again. She went back to help as a physical therapist and as a coach. Then in 2016, she reached her dream of coaching in the Olympics in Rio – the first year the U.S. won a gold medal in women’s wrestling.

The book “Afsoon” was recently published about Johnston’s life, including her time in Iran, moving to the U.S., and achieving her dreams.
The book “Afsoon” was recently published
about Johnston’s life, including her time in Iran,
moving to the U.S., and achieving her dreams.

Today, Johnston continues coaching and practicing physical therapy. She uses her story to motivate others to reach their goals and often gives inspirational speeches to various groups and organizations. The book “Afsoon,” which was recently published, gives a detailed account of her life in Iran, moving to the U.S., and achieving her dreams. Her message to others is with hard work and motivation, anything is possible.

“Don’t limit yourself, believe in yourself, and follow your dreams,” Johnston says. “As a female athlete, you can still have a family, you can still have a career, and you can still balance everything and bring it all together.”

For Chad Taylor, DO, MPH, ’13, chance led to becoming a doctor. Originally a political science major, he was completing his undergraduate studies at Minnesota State University when he finished an Intro to Biology class in the top five – out of 500 classmates.

His biology professor asked him what he was planning to do with a political science degree. Dr. Taylor
said he wanted to help people and make a difference.

Dr. Williams encouraged him to take additional science courses, including chemistry and a higher-level biology course. If Dr. Taylor excelled in those courses, Dr. Williams wanted to follow up and discuss a career path in medicine.

Dr. Taylor did excel, and Dr. Williams helped him get a shadowing position with Ann Barry, MD, the clinical director of a local free clinic.

“It was through Drs. Williams and Barry that I learned to really love medicine, and I learned this was my calling,” Dr. Taylor says.

While shadowing Dr. Barry, Dr. Taylor saw the power a physician had to change a person’s life through education and general wellness, and advocating for patients. This drew him to osteopathic medicine. The mission of ATSU and especially ATSU-SOMA to educate primary care physicians to help underserved
populations was “right up his alley.”

“We learned things from our professors that books can’t teach: how to make eye contact, how to help someone who might be physically struggling to get up on the exam table, and how to create a connection,” says Dr. Taylor.

During his rotations in Kingman, Arizona, Dr. Taylor met a dermatologist who saw promise in Dr. Taylor’s way with patients. He was offered a job at the dermatology practice on the third day.

“It was very bizarre to be offered a job in dermatology,” Dr. Taylor says. “My first love was primary care, but I chose dermatology because this was the only dermatology practice that accepted state-sponsored insurance and offered a sliding scale for cash-pay patients with no insurance.”

After a few years as a partner in the Kingman practice, the practice closed during the pandemic.

Now, Dr. Taylor serves his alma mater as a regional director for medical education in Flagstaff, Arizona, working with second- through fourth-year medical students. Additionally, Dr. Taylor practices family medicine and dermatology in a small clinic setting.

“It is so wonderful serving my home community of Flagstaff,” Dr. Taylor says. “I am very happy and fulfilled in these two positions; I love to teach, and it suits me well!”

So much of medicine is about relationships. Doctors seeking to work in rural areas are practicing medicine, but taking care of people.

That’s a philosophy ATSU-KCOM alumna Katheryn C. Norris, DO, ’02, tries to instill in the residents she manages at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, where she serves as a physician and director of medical education and residency for Sollus Northwest Family Medicine Residency Program, in Grandview,

“People just really want a doctor to be with them,” Dr. Norris says. “Don’t forget you’re caring for a person who is part of something bigger than themselves. They are someone’s spouse, mother, father, parent,
child. They are part of the community. Everything that happens to that person affects outwards.”

Dr. Norris, whose father served in the U.S. Navy and mother worked as a registered nurse, moved around a lot as a child, but spent many of her formative years in western Washington. After leaving the Pacific Northwest for Kirksville, she ended up on rotations in Mesa, Arizona, including sports medicine in the office of ATSU President Craig M. Phelps, DO, ’84. She did her residency at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, and her first job post-residency was with Arizona State University’s campus health service.

Initially, she and her husband thought they’d remain in the Southwest and raise their newborn, but they ended up in central Washington to be closer to family. Dr. Norris began work at Sunnyside Community Hospital, which had a long history of employing doctors of osteopathic medicine. Many of the patients she encountered had prior histories with ATSU-KCOM alumni.

“I never had to explain what a DO was,” Dr. Norris says.

A few years later, and after gaining some experience in hospital administration, she was hired to begin the residency program at Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, a federally qualified health center serving rural Washington and Oregon residents. The program was part of a push to attract and retain young physicians, and increase availability of care.

Dr. Katheryn Norris (right) speaks with residents Beverly Khodra, MD, and Jessica Roberts, DO.
Dr. Katheryn Norris (right) speaks with residents Beverly Khodra, MD, and Jessica Roberts, DO.

In 2020, Dr. Norris was honored for her work and named Family Medicine Educator of the Year by the Washington Academy of Family Physicians.

“When I look up and I see people who are doctors helping people in our communities, and I was a part of that, it’s very humbling,” she says. “It’s tremendous to be part of people’s journeys as they find themselves.”

To Dr. Norris, a key part of success in rural medicine is physicians knowing the boundaries of their own expertise, and how to find solutions when an answer is beyond them.

“Sometimes, there is the right thing and the wrong thing, but sometimes there are a bunch of right things,” Dr. Norris says. “Know what you know, know what you don’t know, and know where to ask for help. You need to know that last part, because your patient deserves that answer.”