Support ATSU
  • About
  • Programs of Study
  • Admissions
  • Alumni
  • Departments
A.T. Still University Home

About the Institute

Administrative Team

The Research Institute’s Administrative Team assists, mentors, and nurtures local faculty, students, and particularly clinicians in applying for and conducting sponsored research projects, both intramurally and extramurally, thus developing a stronger research environment throughout the University.  Apart from actively conducting research, the Administrative Team also contributes to the educational mission of the University by providing research training to interns, residents, faculty, and other osteopathic and biomedical degree programs.  The following provides a brief overview of the Administrative Team members.

Brian F. DegenhardtBrian F. Degenhardt, D.O., C-SPOMM
Director, Still Research Institute
Assistant Vice President, Osteopathic Research, ATSU
Center Director, Center for Osteopathic Palpatory Diagnostic and Therapeutic Studies

Brief Biosketch PDF

As assistant vice president for osteopathic research at ATSU and as the director for the Still Research Institute, Dr. Degenhardt always has osteopathic research foremost in his mind. 

In the past 10 years, Dr. Degenhardt has participated in a broad range of research investigating Osteopathic Manipulative Treatment (OMT).  Some research has focused on the effect of OMT on various conditions:  otitis media, infant feeding disorders, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia, and osteoarthritis.  Other studies have investigated the impact of OMT to enhance immune response to vaccination, on cardiac variability in subjects post MI, on electrical skin resistance, and on patient-reported outcomes after OMT.  He has also participated in the evaluation of the impact of a student wellness program and curricular reform on medical students.  

Dr. Degenhardt’s primary research goal is to advance the understanding of the body’s neuromusculoskeletal response to therapeutic touch.  His first step towards this goal is to develop instrumentation and methodologies that can be used as objective measures in clinically applicable manual medicine research and educational endeavors.  Once developed and well refined, these procedures will be disseminated to others who wish to incorporate such methods into their research. 

Once the instrumentation and methodologies have been developed, Dr. Degenhardt’s next research goal is to continue to objectify the palpatory characteristics of different tissue types and the different characteristics between normal and abnormal tissue.  To do so, he anticipates receiving training to utilize current and other developing noninvasive monitoring systems/ technologies (i.e. ultrasound, surface electromyography, low radiation level fluoroscopy, or/and gait analysis equipment) and incorporate them with the methods previously described. 

Success at this level may allow him to proceed into the next and likely final phase of his research career.  Dr. Degenhardt wishes to evaluate the long-term effects of physical trauma on the neuromusculoskeletal system and the role manual medicine has in the management of these individuals.  He hypothesizes that early manual intervention will minimize the development of aberrant central and spinal reflexes, improve tissue healing and improve long-term function.

Christian FossumChristian Fossum, D.O. (Europe)
Associate Director, Still Research Institute
Assistant Professor, Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, KCOM

Brief Biosketch PDF

Christian’s research interests are concerned with gaining a deeper understanding of osteopathic manipulation.  He is involved in several local and international studies.

Together with researchers at the European School of Osteopathy (ESO) in England, Christian is developing, piloting, and validating a questionnaire designed to chart adverse patient reactions to manipulation.  Data is gathered from immediately after treatment to seven days after treatment.  Also in collaboration with the ESO as well as with Unitec in New Zealand and Dr. Brian Degenhardt, assistant vice president for osteopathic research and director of the Still Research Institute, Christian is collecting and comparing data from these three research sites on intra- and interobserver reliability of common palpatory tests.  Student researchers are active participants in this project.

In collaboration with multiple KCOM researchers, Christian is involved with two projects that investigate the effect of osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT) on pain.  One project uses a rat model to study changes in gene expression after OMT; the other project looks at inflammatory blood markers in subjects with low back pain.  The low back pain study also utilizes “quantitative sensory testing and measurement of pain pressure thresholds to measure changes in perceived pain.”

A final project for Christian uses a laser doppler flowmeter to investigate the reliability of manual palpation of the cranial rhythmic impulse as measured by Traube-Hering oscillations in blood flow velocity and is in collaboration with Dr. Eric Snider, assistant professor of osteopathic manipulative medicine at KCOM.  For the future, Christian would like to expand his research to further investigate the physiological components of somatic dysfunction.

John T. HeardJohn T. Heard, Ph.D.
Vice President, Research, Grants and Information Systems, ATSU
Assistant Professor, Family/Community Medicine, KCOM

Brief Biosketch PDF

Dr. Heard serves as ATSU’s vice president for research, grants, and information systems and oversees the management of approximately 90 grant programs annually at KCOM and the Arizona School of Health Sciences (ASHS).  In addition, his staff establishes and supports administrative uses for information systems at KCOM, ASHS, SHM, ASDOH, and the new College of Osteopathic Medicine-Mesa. 

As a leader for research development at ATSU, Dr. Heard oversees the ongoing development and enrichment of the research culture at the University by working with faculty in the development of research plans, identifying necessary research equipment, and sourcing research funding opportunities.  In September 2006, a proposal submitted to the ATSU Board of Trustees by Dr. Heard, along with Dr. Brian Degenhardt and Gaylah Sublette, MBA, was approved for development of a graduate-level program (MSc-PhD) in osteopathic clinical research at ATSU.  Specific objectives of this program include: development of graduate-level programs in osteopathic clinical research which are geared towards maximizing the research capabilities of osteopathic practitioners; development of a Master’s of Science (MSc) degree introducing interested individuals to the concepts of clinical research; development of a doctoral program culminating in the PhD degree for those MSc graduates who desire to pursue osteopathic clinical research and/or scientifically improve their practices; establishment of  external centers of research excellence among ATSU-affiliated graduates, both nationally and internationally, in selected areas of osteopathic medicine, especially in aging/development studies; and development of a global group of recognized and respected osteopathic researchers whose expertise can be utilized to expand the power of various research projects.

It is hoped that this dual-degree program will extend the influence of ATSU with regards to osteopathic clinical research, increase the number of competent clinical researchers within the profession, and increase the influence of the osteopathic profession both nationally and internationally by educating a cadre of osteopathic practitioners in the methods and techniques of clinical research.  Current plans are underway to receive approval from the North Central Association to offer this degree.

Jane C. JohnsonJane C. Johnson, MA
Director, Research Support, ATSU
Instructor, Family/Community Medicine, KCOM
Chair, Biostatistics and Data Management Core, Still Research Institute

Brief Biosketch PDF

Ms. Johnson serves as the chair for the biostatistics and data management core for the Still Research Institute.  In addition, she is the director of research support and oversees a research support staff which consists of two research coordinators, a scientific writer, and a research project manager.  As a biostatistician, Ms. Johnson collaborates with students, residents, and many ATSU researchers, both clinicians and basic scientists, providing help with research design and data analysis.

Some of the clinical projects that Ms. Johnson is currently involved in are the Multicenter Osteopathic Pneumonia Study in the Elderly (MOPSE), the reliability and accuracy of palpatory diagnostic tests, the effect of OMT on blood biomarkers, and the relationship between bone mineral density and somatic dysfunction.  A couple of basic science projects she is working on look at the antiemetic effects of a cannabinol compound on cannabinoid receptors and the relationship of amino acid conservation in the RadA protein to UV survival.  With students and residents, she is investigating the immune system response to the splenic pump manipulation technique as well as the reliability of cranial strain patterns.

An independent project Ms. Johnson is working on involves simplifying the Medical Education Hassles Scale-R© (MEHS‑R).  This is a 101-item questionnaire that assesses hassles, or stresses, experienced by medical students.  In order to have a tool to measure different types of stress that medical students experience (time pressures, financial concerns, etc.), Ms. Johnson wants to determine whether subscales exist within the MEHS-R which can be used for research purposes.  To make this tool more useful for tracking changes in students’ stress levels, it needs to be administered frequently.  However, the length of the tool is time prohibitive for students.  Ms. Johnson believes she has been able to reduce the MEHS-R to 53 items, “a more manageable length questionnaire for medical students who already have enough stress in their lives.”

Bryan KrusniakBryan Krusniak, MBA
Assistant Vice President, Information Technology and Services, ATSU
Chair, Information Technology Core, Still Research Institute

Brief Biosketch PDF

Under the direction of the assistant vice president for information technology and services, Bryan Krusniak, MBA; a team of 22 highly trained and competent computer specialists provide a broad technical foundation on which both clinical and institutional research can be completed and expanded.  This foundation includes infrastructure to support local and remote data collection via the internet.  ATSU has a solid network infrastructure that is continually being upgraded.  The network includes protected data centers at both campuses, significant bandwidth to the Internet, and multiple web-, database-, and application-servers.  Moreover, as a result of the ITS staff’s experience in using this infrastructure to deliver secure content, collect data, and track projects across a geographically diverse audience; the information technology core of the Institute is regularly implementing new technologies to make access to data, analysis software, and collaboration tools available from any internet-connected device more readily available.  The network also takes advantage of SAN (Storage Area Network) and virtual server technologies enabling the University to easily add data storage and processing capacity. 

In addition, the KCOM campus is nearing completion of a newly constructed 45,000 square foot Information Technologies/Information Commons building.  This state-of-the-art structure supplements existing distance learning and collaboration technologies to disseminate information about research and evidence-based medicine.

Ken PamperinKen Pamperin, MS, CCRA
Project Manager, Research Support, ATSU
Director of Operations, Center for Osteopathic Palpatory Diagnostic and Therapeutic Studies, Still Research Institute

Brief Biosketch PDF

Mr. Pamperin received his bachelor of science degree from United States Military Academy in West Point, NY and his master’s degree in engineering psychology from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, IL.  He joined KCOM in March 2004 as project manager in the first multi-center randomized, controlled research trial examining the efficacy of osteopathic manipulative treatment of pneumonia in hospitalized elderly patients.  This study, known as the Multi-Center Osteopathic Pneumonia Study in the Elderly or MOPSE, received $1.5 million in support from a consortium of nine osteopathic-supportive foundations lead by the Foundation for Osteopathic Health Services and The Osteopathic Heritage Foundation.  As project manager, Mr. Pamperin has been responsible for the direct oversight and training of the research coordinators at each of the five participating sites throughout the U.S.  In addition, he ensures compliance with the Internal Review Board (IRB) processes, such as facilitating data collection/management, quality control, coordination of subject recruitment, informed consent, and the required activities/ reporting of each respective research coordinator.  Mr. Pamperin also performs programmatic, fiscal, and grants management duties (including execution of annual consortium/contractual contracts, proper and timely expenditure of grant funds at the Coordinating Center, and preparation and submission of regular progress and fiscal reports to the ORC/funding agency) and produces reports required by the Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB).  In March 2007, Mr. Pamperin received a certification as a Certified Clinical Research Associate.  He has also taken on the additional role of director of operations for the Center for Osteopathic Palpatory Diagnostic and Therapeutic Studies.

Neil J. SargentiniNeil J. Sargentini, Ph.D.
Associate Professor/Chair, Microbiology/Immunology, KCOM
Center Director, Mechanistic Studies Center, Still Research Institute

Brief Biosketch PDF

As the newly appointed center director for the Center of Mechanistic Studies under the Still Research Institute, Dr. Sargentini is involved with interdisciplinary collaborative research that investigates whether gene transcription can be observed or biochemical markers exist that quantify the responses to osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT).

Early in Dr. Sargentini’s research career, he looked at genes involved in the repair of x-ray induced damage, which led to the discovery and mapping of the radA, radB and radC genes.  One of his current research projects focuses on RadA protein in Escherichia coli.

Recent work has resulted in the creation of a knockout mutant of the radA gene.  This mutation has facilitated a major alanine-scanning mutagenesis project to map the functional domains of RadA protein.  More than 200 alanine substitution mutations have been created and tested for effect on radiation survival.  Dr. Sargentini is also testing the roles of hypothetical zinc finger, RecA and Lon motifs in RadA protein.  Two other projects utilizing student researchers involve a statistical analysis of the relationship between RadA amino acid conservation and radiation resistance, and a study of two mutations that confer an unusual and unexpected cell filamentation phenotype.

Current work with RadA protein involves overproduction, purification, and testing of biochemical functions that are predicted from the alanine substitution mutant work.  Dr. Sargentini expects that future work will lead “to an understanding of RadA protein’s biological role in DNA repair.”

Dr. Sargentini has also become involved in two new research areas.  One project involves studies on the effect of cat’s claw extract on survival and mutagenesis of x-irradiated cells.  A second project uses gene expression technology to probe the biological basis of osteopathic manipulative treatment for musculoskeletal problems.  This latter project is multidisciplinary in design and is in collaboration with Dr. Vineet Singh in Microbiology and Immunology; Dr. Christian Fossum, associate director for the Still Research Institute; Dr. Brian Degenhardt, assistant vice president for osteopathic research and director of the Still Research Institute; Dr. Lex Towns, professor and chair of anatomy at KCOM; and Ms. Jane Johnson, director for research support, ATSU.

Gaylah SubletteGaylah Sublette, MBA
Associate Vice President, Grants and Program Development, ATSU

Brief Biosketch PDF

During her 19-year tenure at ATSU, Ms. Sublette has co-authored approximately 300 award-winning grant applications on behalf of the University and local community bringing in nearly $40 million in grant funds to date.  Specifically, she specializes in the development of medical education and community outreach grants and provides comprehensive technical assistance in the development of research-related grant proposals as well. 

As associate vice president for grants and program development, Ms. Sublette oversees a staff that has a long history of success in assisting PIs in obtaining extramural funding from Federal, state, and private sources.  Her comprehensive grants team heavily assists with the preparation of non-competing continuation proposals and grant-related progress/final reports.  Additionally, services such as pre-award consultation/review, post-award oversight, and programmatic and fiscal tracking/reporting are all provided by experienced and well-trained experts within this department.  This team also offers faculty development programs in successful grantsmanship and produces a monthly funding opportunities newsletter and a helpful grants manual (outlining all relevant grant- and research-related policies/procedures).

Ms. Sublette holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Truman State University and a Master’s of Business Administration from William Woods University.