Faculty Spotlight: Tamara Phelan ’08

Tamara Phelan_resizedDiagnostic ultrasound imaging is changing the landscape of the physical therapy profession. Once used primarily for musculoskeletal rehabilitation research, it is now heavily used in clinical research and becoming more accessible to physical therapy clinics. Tamara Phelan ‘08, PT, EdD, FAAOMPT, professor of physical therapy, secured a $25,000 University of the Pacific Technology in Education Grant to purchase the department’s first diagnostic imaging ultrasound. “There was no way to advance into this area without this grant. In the past all we did was talk about it and show it in pictures. It was hard because everyone can see the potential in that but to actually see and have experience with the unit and make it accessible to our students is important,” said Phelan.

Dr. Phelan plans to use diagnostic ultrasound imaging when teaching courses to student physical therapists. “By incorporating this technology, it deepens the learning experience. Exposing students to many different forms of technology helps them learn about appropriate use. They will also graduate with a basic understanding of the tool and hopefully be able to use it in their clinics someday,” said Dr. Phelan.

The benefits of the diagnostic ultrasound imaging are threefold:

  • Physical therapists can use the tool during examination and evaluation to assess the integrity of the injured tissues;
  • It is a vital tool in providing biofeedback during muscle retraining especially when treating deep muscles that can only been seen with advanced technology; and
  • The tool allows for real-time point of care use and provides an image during dynamic movement. This type of evaluation is helpful in cases of shoulder impingement or lumbar instability.

Diagnostic ultrasound will also be used in a research project to determine the differences in the student experience when examining the transversus abdominis muscle. Dr. Phelan explains that the transversus abdominis is very difficult to palpate when contracting. “I will be trying to determine if they can tell the difference between a correct and incorrect contraction when palpating the muscle. My hope is that students can go out in the clinic and be able to tell the difference with or without the unit after this training,” said Dr. Phelan. She also is considering other areas such as providing biofeedback for patients with incontinence and helping to retrain pelvic floor muscles.Ultrasound_resized

She is most excited about the increase in the interest of the technology and how it’s integrated into physical therapy curriculum.

“A lot of technology makes us more efficient and better at what we do and this (diagnostic ultrasound) is that type of technology. In so many areas of physical therapy practice this will improve the efficacy of our practice and we will be able to do a better job in a shorter time period and spend less money. That is fundamental to making the health care system work,” said Dr. Phelan. “If we have the technology and expose our students to the appropriate use of technology that’s a gift that will change how they operate or dictate how they operate for a lifetime as a therapist. So it’s very meaningful.”

Diagnostic ultrasound is one of many technologically advanced tools in the doctor of physical therapy program. Read about the newly acquired GAITRite system here.


Faculty Spotlight: Kate O’Dell

Kate ODell_2_revisedKate O’Dell, PharmD, the new director of professional programs and vice chair of pharmacy practice, has many years working in experiential pharmacy education and has worked as a regional coordinator for the past 10 years. As a current preceptor, she prides herself in her ability to support students as they apply classroom knowledge to practical settings.

As the director of professional programs, Dr. O’Dell is tasked with supporting the integration of the Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience (IPPE) and Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) Programs. She plans to work in partnership with experiential coordinators and staff in an endeavor to streamline operational functions of these programs. She hopes to continue to work with the large cohort of preceptors and decision makers to enhance experiential education to our students. She also plans to redefine some student activities and roles at host institutions as well as developing formal assessments for the Hospital IPPE course.

“Dr. O’Dell’s new role as director of professional programs is pivotal in integrating the Introductory and Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (IPPE and APPE) programs and bringing innovation to elevate the depth and scope so that our graduates are practice-ready,” said Allen Shek, PharmD, professor of pharmacy practice, associate dean for professional programs.

Dr. O’Dell will draw on her recent experience as the coordinator for the Stockton Region. “Being an experiential faculty from two regions (Stockton and Travis) gave me insight on effective methods to build on the interpersonal relationships with the large group of preceptors and decision makers,” said Dr. O’Dell. Prior to this role, she worked in Michigan before joining the School’s faculty as a regional coordinator at Travis Air Force Base.

Born into an immigrant family, Dr. O’Dell is the youngest of four siblings. She carries with her the spirit of her parents who developed her work ethic, humility and respect. “I strive to do my best and hope to teach my students the same,” said Dr. O’Dell.

In her free time Dr. O’Dell enjoys expanding her mind by studying music theory with her son. “Although my son is much better at piano than me, I am glad to be able to take on this new challenge, to be able to learn alongside him,” said Dr. O’Dell.


School Opens Office of Academic Success and Instructional Support

Dr. William Kehoe
Dr. William Kehoe

As director of the Office of Academic Success and Instructional Support (OASIS), William Kehoe, PharmD, MA, FCCP, BCPS, coordinates support services to help pharmacy and health sciences graduate students achieve academic and lifelong career success. Dr. Kehoe was appointed last August after serving as the department chair of pharmacy practice for the past 14 years.

“Our programs are accelerated, increasing not only the academic demands but also stress levels. We need to provide support services that will help Pacific students reach their highest level of success. The OASIS program is designed to do that,” said Dr. Kehoe.

The School’s OASIS staff works with students to develop personal learning strategies based on individual preferences, time and stress management skills, strategies to improve memory and secure tutors, if needed. In addition, Dr. Kehoe works closely with academic advisors to identify and assist students who may be having difficulties. “I want to encourage all students to feel comfortable about seeking our services. OASIS is not just intended for those with academic problems but for all students who simply want to do better or achieve more,” said Dr. Kehoe.student studying_resized

The challenge with any new program is getting students to respond. Through his elective course, Developing Personal Learning Strategies, Dr. Kehoe is hopeful students will recognize the benefits and take advantage of OASIS services. In fact, his course was so popular this semester enrollment was full. Dr. Kehoe also hosts seminars throughout the year where students can learn about OASIS and the services it provides. “I’ve spoken to others who direct these services and it is a challenge for everyone to get students to come in before problems arise. I must say that to this point I am very happy with where the program is and how students are responding,” said Dr. Kehoe.

Dr. Kehoe brings a lot of experience to his position. He is a member of the University’s student success committee, which was charged by President Pamela Eibeck to investigate “best practices” in the area of student success and make recommendations on how Pacific can assist students. Dr. Kehoe earned a master’s in psychology with an emphasis in behavioral medicine from University of the Pacific in 1995. As part of the program, he completed clinical experiences related to behavior and health, stress management, health psychology, brain function and cognitive psychology.

Students Raise Awareness about Rare Diseases

Cynthia Ly '16 shares why she cares about rare diseases.
Cynthia Ly ’16 shares why she cares about rare diseases.

The No Disease Left Behind (NDLB) student group’s goal is to help enlighten students and the community with the proper knowledge and education regarding orphan diseases. It was created as part of the Phi Lambda Sigma leadership competition and includes Christine Choi ‘16, Lisa Lam ‘16, Jason Ly ‘16, and Derek Sugiyama ‘16. Recently they hosted a charity dinner to raise awareness for rare diseases and garner donations. The proceeds went to support the Lymphoma Research Foundation.

The first speaker of the evening was Michelle Ha ‘15, third-year student pharmacist. She shared personal experiences of how rare diseases affected her family. For example, Vivian, her younger sister, was diagnosed with Lupus. According to the Lupus Foundation of America, lupus is a chronic, autoimmune disease that affects at least 1.5 million Americans. Ha moved the audience with her real-life stories of her family members and their conditions. She shared images that helped the audience see for themselves how much some of these diseases can affect a person physically. Ha explained how it was a learning experience for her to assist her sister in trying to figure out the right prescription and dosage. Ha also expressed the importance of being patient and having faith. “The emotional impact illnesses can have on the patient and their family isn’t something you learn in school. I had to find the balance between being a family member and a future healthcare professional” said Ha.

The second speaker of the evening was Matt Cheung, PhD, RPh, associate director of managed care medical communications at Genentech and adjunct professor of pharmacy practice at the School. Dr. Cheung opened his speech with a video of Haley Okines, a young woman with Progeria. Progeria is a rare disease that causes individuals to age eight times faster. He also discussed different studies, patient/caregiver education and clinical trial participation along with other important roles pharmacists take in the awareness of rare diseases.

Dr. Joel Wagner shares why it's important to know about rare diseases.
Dr. Joel Wagner shares why it’s important to know about rare diseases.

Jason Ly ‘16 shared his thoughts as to why having a charity dinner was important for their organization. “The dinner was important to our organization because it helped raise awareness for rare diseases that we otherwise would not learn about in our curriculum. Our speakers, Dr. Cheung and Michelle Ha, provided a unique perspective into the rare disease world. Michelle provided us with the perspective of the patient, while Dr. Cheung provided us with the perspective of a healthcare professional. Both perspectives were crucial in helping us educate our attendees.” They did a wonderful job and were able to raise a total of $553.00. The NDLB group plan to continue their road for awareness and hope to accomplish some goals set out in the future.

As Lisa Lam ‘16, one of the founding members shared, they are hoping to “reach a larger population outside of the University of the Pacific campus.” She continues, “NDLB is working to improve our quarterly newsletter that highlights new discoveries and drug developments. One of our goals for the newsletter is for it to be read by individuals outside of this campus, and for it to help make people more aware of a problem that exists. We are making strides one step at a time, and hope to see our work inform a larger scale in the future.” Read the most recent newsletter here.

According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) a rare disease is any disease affecting fewer than 200,000 Americans. There are nearly 7,000 such diseases affecting nearly 30 million Americans. To learn more visit http://www.rarediseases.org/.


Student Spotlight: Seth Turner ’15

Turner and his wife, Katie.
Turner and his wife, Katie.

Seth Turner ‘15 put all his eggs in one basket when he applied solely to the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He was so amazed by the School that he did not feel the need to apply anywhere else. Fortunately, he is now a second year speech-language pathology graduate student.

“[The] professors are deeply committed to the students and are at the top of their field,” said Turner. “The program has a small class size and offers tons of individual attention. Furthermore, I would bet that there isn’t a speech-language pathology program anywhere that is more hands-on than University of the Pacific.”

Prior to joining the School, Turner lived in Pasadena, Calif., where he studied theology. While at the seminary he met his wife, Katie, of two and a half years. He had hoped to finish his master’s degree and eventually become a professor of biblical theology and ancient languages, but after working in a local school district as an in-home instructor for special-needs students (who could not attend class because of medical or behavioral issues), he decided to change his career path. After graduation, Turner hopes to continue working with school children, while also working per-diem in a medical setting.

Turner has high opinions of all his professors but Turner’s favorite is Robert Hanyak ‘79, AuD, associate professor of audiology and department chair. Turner said his lectures are very practical and informative but also that he seems to truly care about every student. When asked to give prospective students advice, Turner suggested talking to the School’s professors.

“It is important to gain insight about the profession and what it takes to become a health care practitioner,” said Turner.

Turner was born and raised in Stockton, Calif. He leads a local group that meets monthly to read biblical passages in ancient Hebrew and Greek. In his free time he enjoys playing Frisbee golf with his wife. He also prides himself in his baking abilities, stating he makes a mean apple pie.

By: Matthew Muller ‘14

Students Provide Physical Therapy in Malawi

Dessel working with a patient.
Dessel working with a patient.

With the simple greeting, Muli bwanji, or “Greetings from Malawi,” a professor and her team of physical therapy students were met with a multitude of smiles and soccer games as they treated patients and trained community health workers. “It was a truly welcoming culture that was appreciative of any education or physical therapy skill that we were able to provide,” said Katherine Samstag ‘15, who was part of the December 2014 team.

Casey Nesbit, DPT, DSc, assistant professor and director of clinical education shared her passion for training health care workers with her students. Since 2006, Dr. Nesbit has visited Saint Gabriel’s Hospital and organized two-week trips for students. Last year’s trip included Samstag, Michael Dessel ‘15 and Meiying Lam ‘15. The students prepared for the Malawi trip with an elective course consisting of weekly seminars to discuss common health conditions as well as the local Chewa culture and the Chichewa language. In addition, they prepared materials for a community health worker training course.

The three-to-four day physical therapy course trains 20 health workers who serve villagers with chronic illnesses and disabilities. The program is essential to the local population because according to Dr. Nesbit, the hospital lacks a physical therapist and “there are only 25 physical therapists” in the entire country. The education the School provides is vital to a country where “physical therapy is a relatively novel idea,” said Dessel. As the students trained health workers, they were able to improve their Chichewa skills and eventually were able to have simple conversations and provide therapy instructions to their patients.

Students in front of St. Gabriels Hospital.
Students in front of St. Gabriels Hospital.

The collaborative educational experience is one the students benefited from and will use in their new careers. Dessel plans to begin his physical therapy career in New York City upon completion of his clinical internships. He hopes to eventually obtain his orthopedic clinical specialist certificate. Lam anticipates working in outpatient care as a certified orthopedic specialist for under-served communities after completing a residency. Samstag plans to move back to her home state of Washington. She looks forward to working as a pediatric physical therapist in Seattle.

Dr. Nesbit will keep living up to her teaching philosophy and “focus on active engagement, self-direction, reflection and guided discovery.” Every year, she plans to continue the incredible, real world education that the Malawi trip provides for the students at the School.


Student Spotlight: Sunny Nagra ’16

Sunny Nagra_resizedSunny Nagra ‘16 comes from a family of entrepreneurs and has successfully integrated his pharmacy knowledge and entrepreneurial prowess with the development of a mobile application (app) called ‘Immunizations – Find, record, and learn about your next vaccine.’ “The goal of the app is to help give Pacific’s Operation Immunization Committee the potential to impact more patients,” said Nagra. Thanks to Nagra, patients can search for the School’s immunization clinics, educational events and local immunizing pharmacies. Patients can even record their vaccination records electronically through the app.

Nagra is an integral member of the American Pharmacist Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) and serves as co-chair of its Operation Immunization Committee. “I love working on this committee because the other co-chairs and project managers all work together in order to make sure that we always have successful events that positively impact patients’ lives,” said Nagra. He joins committee members, who provide services and education, at community clinics and health fairs. The joy and thankfulness of the patients is always very rewarding for him.

At the 2014 APhA-ASP midyear meeting, Nagra was honored with the APhA-ASP member recognition for the Pacific chapter. He received the award because of his steadfast involvement in the organization. He plans to continue in his dedication to the betterment of the pharmacy profession and patients’ lives. Since March Nagra has served on the APhA-ASP National Communications Standing Committee, which contributes to the association’s publication and various other electronic communications.

Nagra foresees rapid advancement in pharmacy practice and hopes to be a part of that progress. “The pharmacist can play a larger role in patient care with the introduction of [mobile] health, consumer wearable biometrics and other new technologies,” said Nagra.

Recently, Nagra created his second app, Provider Status, which allows users to find out if they live in a Medically Underserved Community, learn more about Provider Status and how pharmacist can help bridge the health care gap and find representatives in Washington, DC to advocate for pharmacists and Provider Status.

In addition to developing apps for iPhones, Nagra enjoys photography. In high school, he won the local Congressional Art Competition which earned him an exhibition spot in the U.S. Capitol for a year.


Alumni Spotlight: Mimi Tran ’04, ’05

Mimi Tran_resizedMimi Tran ‘04, ‘05 is a speech-language pathology clinical instructor at the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Her return to the classroom allows her to reconnect with faculty, serve as a mentor to students and hopefully make a positive impact on her students’ careers. In addition to teaching, her second semester, she is grateful for the opportunity to inspire determination and passion in students as they work with clients at the Speech and Hearing Clinic. “My teaching philosophy is that we not only need to challenge our students, but also ourselves as professionals. We all need to be reminded that we are in a helping profession. In order to help individuals in need, we need to continue to educate ourselves and maximize the full potential of our clients based on the knowledge and resources that we have,” said Tran.

Years of practical experience have taught Tran that conventional methods are not always effective for every client. Therefore, she encourages students to use their intuition in treatment techniques particularly in challenging cases. She loves hearing students report accomplishments, such as when they are finally able to hear their clients speak without difficulty.

Tran hopes to continue working as a clinical instructor as she builds a stronger relationship with the Pacific community. She also looks forward to keeping touch with her peers through the Speech-Language Pathology Alumni Association where she serves as board member. In the larger civic community, Tran plans to volunteer more of her time at the local women’s shelter and animal shelter. She also enjoys spending time with her dogs; a 6-year-old French Mastiff and 12-year-old Corgi. Her other hobbies include running and art; she enjoys sketching, oil painting, calligraphy, crocheting and origami.


Student Spotlight: Rebecca DeCarlo ’16

Rebecca DeCarlo_resizedRebecca DeCarlo ‘16 studied linguistics at University of California, Berkeley but it was an internship working with an aphasia support group at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Martinez that solidified her passion for speech-language pathology. She chose Pacific because of the School’s outstanding faculty and students and family-friendly environment. “Every time I visited [everyone]…seemed so happy and proud to be there,” said DeCarlo. She also was impressed by the opportunities for clinical experiences.

She has high hopes for her future career. “I plan to make aphasia awareness a personal mission and hope to start a group for patients and their families,” said DeCarlo. She would like to contribute to the well-being of her community through organizations like the Veterans Affairs Hospital.

Originally from Bakersfield, Calif., DeCarlo tried several career paths before deciding to become a speech-language pathologist. She worked in a New York City diner, managed a men’s salon at Saks Fifth Avenue and worked as a personal assistant and then as an esthetician. DeCarlo loves to travel and in her free time, enjoys cooking her favorite Italian dessert, panna cotta, for friends and family. She also is a collector of vintage, foreign language grammar books. One of her prized possessions is a 1938 Latin text book she found in New Orleans.


Student Spotlight: Shivani Bhakta ‘15

Shivani Bhakta_resizedShivani Bhakta ‘15 began her fascination with speech-language pathology when her cousin received speech therapy for a cochlear implant. While studying linguistics at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) she volunteered at the Speech and Audiology Clinic in its early childhood intervention program.

Bhakta chose Pacific for its small class size. She also was impressed with the School’s outstanding faculty, accelerated program and experiential learning requirement. “I appreciated how the graduate program coordinated and provided all types of clinical experiences for the students,” said Bhakta. She is a student clinician at University of the Pacific’s Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic. Bhakta and the other student clinicians facilitate weekly meetings and guide discussions for Pacific’s aphasia community group which is led by Larry Boles, PhD, CCC-SLP, professor of speech-language pathology. The group provides a forum for clients who suffered from strokes and strives to help them regain communication skills through interactions with family and friends. Learn more about Dr. Boles and the aphasia group here.

In the future, Bhakta hopes to contribute to her profession through research; and providing clinical opportunities for future speech-language pathology students. She also plans to volunteer her time at community outreach events. Last year she participated in the “Night at the Ball Park” which was organized by alumnus Benjamin Reece ‘01, ‘08. The event gives families with disabilities the chance to attend a baseball game free of charge. “It was nice to bring together families and give them opportunities to share similar experiences. Overall, a goal of mine is to be involved with or create a group that provides events like this to clients and their families,” said Bhakta.

Although her family emigrated from Africa, Bhakta is ethnically Indian and was born in the U.S. An experienced dancer, she participated in competitive hip-hop from seventh grade through her sophomore year at UCLA. During her junior year at UCLA, Bhakta also competed with the cultural Indian dance team.