Alumni Spotlight: Carol Hirota ’77, ’79, MA, CCC-SLP

The San Francisco Giants, Delta Gamma and University of the Pacific — spend time with Carol Hirota ’77, ’79, MA, CCC-SLP and one is likely to hear about her passion for baseball, education or alumni engagement. When describing her Pacific experience Hirota uses an expression: “From the outside looking in, you can’t understand it; from the inside looking out, you can’t explain it.” She shares, “That is how I feel about my proud affiliation with the Pacific Speech-Language Pathology Alumni Association, the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and University of the Pacific. It is a collegial community that exemplifies pride, history, tradition, excellence and distinction.” Hirota was named the 2016 Pacific Speech-Language Pathology Alumna of the Year. She was honored at the Alumni and Friends Breakfast at the 2017 California Speech-Language-Hearing Association (CSHA) Annual Convention & Exhibition, held in Pasadena, California in March.

She has served on several CSHA committees, including a two-year term as commissioner of association services. She has been recognized by CSHA for her outstanding achievements and service to the profession. “There is always so much to look forward to in our profession; employment options, international networking and opportunities to serve our association and University,” Hirota said.

Simalee Smith-Stubblefield ’83, MA, CCC-SLP shares, “As a colleague she is well respected, dedicated, professional, efficient, ethical and always keeps her student’s best interest at heart. She sets high standards for herself and is wonderful to work with as she is innovative in her philosophy and knows how to problem solve.” She adds, “In addition, she is a great Giants fan and loves going to AT&T Park for a game! Go Giants, go Carol!”

Several years ago, Hirota made the transition from speech-language pathologist to administrator, becoming the principal of the Stockton School for Adults. In this new role, she is a passionate advocate for her students and staff. Hirota is a well-respected and active member of several adult education organizations in California.

Hirota is also actively involved with her alma mater. She devoted eight years of service to the Pacific Speech-Language Pathology Alumni Association and is currently a member of the Pacific Alumni Association board of directors. She has held several prominent positions on University committees, including chair of the Delta Gamma Advisory Team. In her role with Delta Gamma she encourages and champions the members of Pacific’s Delta Epsilon chapter. For her tireless efforts on behalf of Delta Gamma, the University’s division of student life recognized her with the Advisor of the Year Award in 2016.

She is also an avid community volunteer, serving as a member of the Junior League of San Joaquin and the Miracle Mile Improvement District Board. Passionate about literacy, she has volunteered with several literacy organizations at both the local and state level.

Samantha M. Soto ’16, Carol Hirota ’77, ’79, MA, CCC-SLP, Tierney O’Mara ’17 and Simalee Smith-Stubblefield ’83, MA, CCC-SLP at the 2017 California Speech-Language-Hearing Association Annual Convention & Exhibition, March 16-19, 2017 in Pasadena, California.

 

Alumni Spotlight: K. Scott Guess ’83, PharmD, MSPharm, RPh, DAAPM

On February 24, 2017, K. Scott Guess ’83, PharmD, MSPharm, RPh, DAAPM received the California Pharmacists Association (CPhA) Cardinal Health Generations Rx Champions award at the CPhA Western Pharmacy Exchange in Palm Springs. The award recognizes a pharmacist who has demonstrated excellence in community-based prescription drug abuse prevention. This honor recognizes Dr. Guess’ outstanding efforts within the pharmacy community to raise awareness of this serious public health problem.

For over two decades Dr. Guess has been refining his knowledge of pain management. He has been influential in shaping the community pharmacist’s role in the chronic pain management field. Starting with a single patient with chronic regional pain syndrome in 1993, he has expanded his practice to include 800 chronic pain patients.

Using this knowledge base, he developed PainTRac™, the award-winning program which gives community pharmacists a solid foundation upon which they can define a reasonable and personal definition of corresponding responsibility. This program has been instrumental in the prevention and treatment of drug abuse in chronic pain patients. PainTRac™ is a testament to Dr. Guess’ creativity and his ability to develop innovative tools to combat the issue of rapidly increasing prescription drug abuse.

Dr. Guess was awarded the California Pharmacist Association Innovative Pharmacist of the Year in 2012. He has served as an expert witness, assisting attorney on a number of cases that involve the proper dispensing, record keeping and diversion prevention of controlled substances.

In 1983, he earned a doctor of pharmacy from University of the Pacific. As a student, he was a member of the Alpha Phi Omega national service fraternity. For Dr. Guess, his time as a student at Pacific was a formative experience. He shares, “I was taught by world-class experts, expanded my horizons and learned to live with a stranger in a dorm full of strangers who became a dorm full of friends. I learned study habits that I use to this day.”

In 2016, he earned a master of science in pharmaceutical outcome policy, specializing in policy and regulation, from the University of Florida. A lifelong learner, Dr. Guess continues to hone his expertise in palliative care. “Now that the California Board of Pharmacy is allowing the Advanced Practice Pharmacist (APP) license for pharmacists, I have decided to apply for the APP license based on my clinical training as a mid-level practitioner in the pain management of palliative care patients,” Dr. Guess said. “To improve my knowledge in this area, I am currently pursuing a master of science in palliative care at University of Maryland. In the meantime, I continue to work as a licensed pharmacist at a community pharmacy and to build the patient base for my palliative care clinic.”

“It has always been my goal to do the best I can for my patients and my profession by using the knowledge and skill set I have been given,” said Dr. Guess. “It is my hope that all pharmacists will do the same.” The CPhA commends Dr. Guess for the impact that he has had on the issue of prescription drug abuse.

 

Melanie A. Felmlee, PhD Receives AACP New Investigator Award

deans-letter-felmlee-labPharmaceutics and parenting inspired Melanie A. Felmlee, PhD, assistant professor of pharmaceutics and medicinal chemistry, to pursue a grant for research of monocarboxylate transporters. Dr. Felmlee was awarded the 2017 American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy New Investigator Award (NIA) for her proposal entitled “Maturation and spatial expression of intestinal MCT1 in obesity.”

Dr. Felmlee has been studying transporters for the past nine years. This research builds on her previous research of monocarboxylate transporter 1 (MCT1). In her previous research studies, Dr. Felmlee has investigated the behavior of this transporter in the kidney and liver. She shares, “The pediatric part honestly came from my kids,” said Dr. Femlee. “As parents, we want to figure out how kids work.”

“The overall objective of this study is to investigate the maturation and spatial expression of intestinal MCT1 in obesity to improve our understanding of its developmental regulation,” Dr. Felmlee said. She will use the $10,000 in funding from the award to investigate how MCT1 behaves in different regions of the intestine. Throughout the research process she will be assisted by Michael Ng ’20.

She explains that the International Transporter Consortium identified the need for additional research on MCT1. “Monocarboxylate transporters are involved in intestinal drug absorption, yet maturation and spatial expression data are lacking in the literature,” Dr. Felmlee said.

In addition to a patient’s age, obesity could affect drug pharmacokinetics and toxicity. She elaborates, “Alterations in drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and elimination (ADME) due to physiological changes resulting from childhood obesity can influence drug exposure leading to lack of efficacy or toxicity. Physiological alterations in obesity include changes in the expression of drug transporter and metabolic enzymes leading to altered liver function, kidney function and intestinal absorption.”

“The prevalence of childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions, with 42 million children worldwide under the age of five considered overweight,” Dr. Felmlee explains. “Obese children are more likely to require pharmacotherapy, so it is crucial to optimize therapeutic interventions to avoid lack of efficacy or toxicity.”

The goal of this study is to contribute to the understanding of MCT1 so that health care providers can optimize therapeutic strategies in obese pediatric patients by accounting for variations in drug absorption. In addition, a greater understanding of transporters can pave the way for personalized treatment plans for both normal weight and obese pediatric patients. Dr. Felmlee believes that understanding MCT1 “is one small piece” in the development of personalized medicine. “Give them an optimized therapy, the right treatment at the right time,” Dr. Felmlee said.

This grant holds special significance as this is the first external funding Dr. Felmlee has received. The AACP New Investigator Award is tailored to pharmacy faculty who are at the start of their career as researchers. She shares what receiving this grant means to her personally: “It’s a confidence booster. Putting together a grant proposal is difficult and time consuming.” Being awarded the NIA is “validation that someone believes in the research you are doing and believes in you as a researcher.”

Since joining the Pacific faculty in 2015, Dr. Felmlee has found the atmosphere of the School to be supportive and encouraging. She appreciates the friendly, collaborative environment, as well as their balanced approach to teaching and research. She elaborates, “We are really well balanced. I feel supported to teach and given the time and resources to pursue research.” She shares a memory of an interaction with Dean Phillip Oppenheimer, PharmD, where he acknowledged one of her recent accomplishments. “Dean Oppenheimer saw me washing out my coffee mug and congratulated me,” Dr. Felmlee said. “I love those little things.”

 

Alumni Spotlight: Judi Jewett ’95, MA, CCC-SLP

deans_letter_judi_jewett_welcome_back_dinner“I never have to worry about what I want to do when I grow up because I’m doing it,” said Judi Jewett ’95, MA, CCC-SLP. For over two decades Jewett, president of Jewett and Associates, Inc., has worked in private practice and in schools as a speech-language pathologist. She believes, “Communication is a basic need and if you can help someone with their communication you are giving them a gift.”

She reflects on what inspired her to pursue a career in speech-language pathology (SLP). “There was a video that I absolutely fell in love with. The speech-language pathologist was teaching a hearing impaired child to speak. I thought, ‘That’s it, that’s what I want to do.’” She also found the variety of opportunities available within the profession very appealing. Jewett adds, “I have always been fascinated by all of the things you can do in SLP.”

She explains why she chose Pacific for her masters of arts in communicative disorders: “I liked the philosophy of the School.” She says that choosing Pacific was “one of the best choices I’ve made.” She adds, “I absolutely love Pacific; all of the staff, all of the faculty, all of the students. I always feel connected to Pacific even though I graduated many years ago. They have a wonderful program that I can’t recommend enough. They support each student to be the best clinician they can be.”

Jewett was a speaker at this year’s Welcome Back Dinner, an annual event where alumni and experienced speech-language pathologists serve as guest speakers for round-table discussions with current SLP students. She shares, “One thing that I like about the Welcome Back Dinner is that it takes place just before students have their first interaction with their clients.” Jewett brought with her almost 700 books which she distributed to undergraduate and graduate SLP students. The books had been donated to First Book, a non-profit social enterprise, by Random House Golden Kids. First Book receives donations of new books from publishers, which are then available to educators who work in settings where the majority of the students come from low-income families.

One of the books Jewett brought was “Monkey: Not Ready for Kindergarten” by Marc Brown. Jewett explains that in the book the monkey is doing activities such as playing with blocks and coloring. By bringing props to a speech therapy session, such as coloring books and blocks, the client can engage in the activity instead of only listening. Jewett stresses the importance of helping children form positive associations with books during the pre-literacy phase. By introducing an interactive element, the child is able to practice literacy skills, regardless of their age or skill level. Also, the speech-language pathologist can ask the child about both what the character in the book is doing and what they themselves are doing.

Jewett’s passion for sharing the gift of communication crosses linguistic and cultural boundaries. Jewett traveled to what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina shortly after the Bosnia War ended in 1995. “I first went to Bosnia as part of a church program,” Jewett said. “I went to a youth house, the schools were not up and running at this point.” She noticed that one child wasn’t engaging in the activities that were going on around her. Jewett was told, “‘She’s deaf, there’s nothing you can do.’” Jewett thought to herself, “‘I’m a speech-language pathologist, I do know there are things I can do.’” The girl could only use a few gestures, which her mother understood, but she was unable to communicate with her father who had been blinded in the war. Jewett worked tirelessly until she found hearing aids.

Finding hearing aids was only the first step. “You have to also provide therapy,” explains Jewett. “You can’t just hand them hearing aids like audiology tourism.” Jewett arranged for the girl to have speech therapy. On her return trips she observed the impact it had made on the girl’s life. She shares, “She went from gesturing to actually participating in conversations.” That initial interaction sparked the creation of the Bosnia Speech and Hearing Project. Jewett shares, “Bosnia is the place that has captured my heart. The people there are now my family. I didn’t have family when I first went, but now I do.”

She believes that it is our responsibility to reach those individuals who otherwise would not have access to the services they need. She encourages her fellow speech-language pathologists to give back of their time and talent. “There are some people outside of our settings that also need communication, that is a basic need,” Jewett said. “Find those settings where we can use our knowledge and skills.”

 

Faculty Spotlight: Zhu “Kerrie” Zhou ’14, BPharm, PhD

deans-letter-zhu-zhou“I’ve always wanted to work in academia,” said Zhu “Kerrie” Zhou ’14, BPharm, PhD, assistant clinical professor of pharmaceutics and medicinal chemistry. She was inspired by her parents who are both professors. Through her parents she has observed the lasting impact a professor can have on the lives of his or her students. She shared a story of when her mother’s students held a reunion. At the event, former students who Dr. Zhou’s mother had taught three decades ago shared how grateful they were for the positive influence she had on their lives.

In her role as a professor, Dr. Zhou’s goal is to help her students discover their unique strengths. “I always think that every student is an individual,” Dr. Zhou said. “My goal here is to help them to become life-long learners.”

Originally from Nanjing, China, Dr. Zhou earned a bachelor of pharmacy from China Pharmaceutical University. She moved to New Zealand to attend University of Auckland where she earned a bachelor of science in food science. She shared that the highlight of living in New Zealand was the people she met through the university’s international housing. “I met friends from all over the world,” Zhou said. She stays in touch with those friends through email and Skype.

Speaking from experience, her advice for both exchange students and international students is to take advantage of the opportunity to experience a different culture. She recommends immersing yourself in the culture and being willing to go outside your comfort zone. She believes that communication is the key to success when adapting to a new environment. She adds, “I think it is very important to be open-minded.” Dr. Zhou has found that when you show an interest in the culture of those around you it can forge friendships with people from all over the world.

She first came to Pacific to pursue a doctor of philosophy in pharmaceutics and chemical sciences. After earning her PhD, Dr. Zhou worked as a research scientist in the Department of Pharmaceutics at University of Washington. While living in Seattle, Dr. Zhou worked as a research scientist at the Center of Excellence for Natural Product and Drug Interaction Research, where she conducted research on how different herbs interact with drugs.

Dr. Zhou explains that in many Asian cultures natural products are commonly used as dietary supplements. She emphasizes the importance of pharmacists taking the time to discuss with their patients what natural products or traditional medicines they may be using. For example, green tea and grapefruit juice may interact with certain medications, causing adverse side effects. “As a pharmacist communication skills are very important,” Dr. Zhou said. “Part of communication is understanding different perspectives. It is very important to understand cultural needs.” Dr. Zhou encourages her fellow health care professionals to approach the interactions they have with patients with an attitude of respect. She believes there should be a balance of being mindful of the patient’s cultural perspective and helping them understand how to follow the treatment plan that has been prescribed.

She enjoys watching movies, playing badminton, playing table tennis and traveling. She shares, “When you are traveling you embrace new cultures and different experiences.” One of her favorite things is sharing a meal with family and friends.

 

PT and SLP Collaborate for a Study on Respiratory Muscle Strength Training

deans-letter-fairburn-isettiCarl L. Fairburn III ’10, PT, DPT, assistant professor of physical therapy, and Derek Isetti ’08, PhD, CCC-SLP, assistant professor of speech-language pathology, have teamed up for a research project to explore if respiratory muscle strength training (RMST), commonly used in physical therapy, can benefit patients who are having difficulty with speaking. For this study Dr. Fairburn and Dr. Isetti are focusing on individuals with Parkinson’s disease, as often these individuals experience diminished lung capacity and decreased speaking volume.

Ultimately, the goal of this study is to improve the quality of life for individuals with Parkinson’s disease by improving their pulmonary function, which in turn could make it easier for them to speak. Vocal loudness is intricately related to the amount of air pressure an individual can generate within the lungs. It is Dr. Fairburn and Dr. Isetti’s theory that as pulmonary function and strength improves with respiratory strength training this could have a translational effect on vocal loudness when speaking.

In this study, participants are trained on how to use small, portable respiratory trainers. “These are small hand-held devices that are typically spring-loaded,” said Dr. Fairburn. “They apply a resistance to the user when they are either breathing in or breathing out. The trainers are calibrated to each individual with resistance adjusted based on the user response.” Calibration is important as these devices employ the progressive overload principle. Dr. Fairburn explains, “Placing strain on the muscle causes adaptive hypertrophy and growths in strength. The diaphragm and muscles in the rib cage can be strengthened to improve the individual aspects of pulmonary function.”

Dr. Fairburn is the lead investigator of the study. “My responsibilities are recruiting and selecting candidates, study design and selecting outcome assessments that relate to pulmonary function and quality of life in Parkinsonism,” Dr. Fairburn said. “We also measure thoracic expansion, or how much movement they get in their rib cage.” In addition, he trains the study’s participants on how to use the respiratory devices and teaches them the exercise protocol. Dr. Fairburn also assesses “how much their respiratory function affects their quality of life.”

Co-investigator Dr. Isetti lends his expertise as a speech-language pathologist. “I’m essentially obtaining baseline measurement data on the participants,” Dr. Isetti said. Once he has established a baseline of the participant’s vocals he then follows up at two week intervals with a vocal assessment. “Some of the things we are looking at are maximum phonation time, or the length of time someone can sustain a sound, and vocal loudness, how loudly someone can project their voice.” In addition, he measures pitch range. He also assesses their perceived vocal handicap before and after the respiratory strength training, as well as the amount of self-perceived effort that a participant feels is necessary in order to produce speech.

Dr. Isetti emphasizes the importance of seeking out the expertise of a speech-language pathologist. “RMST is not designed to be a replacement for speech therapy,” stresses Dr. Isetti. “However, if use of respiratory trainers is shown to improve vocal outcomes they could be a valuable ancillary treatment, complementing the patient’s speech therapy.”

Several doctor of physical therapy students are involved in this research study: Alycia Clark ’17, Andy Westhafer ’17 and Amanda Whalen ’17. “Their responsibilities include assistance with data collection and helping perform some of the outcome assessments,” Dr. Fairburn said. This study is just one way that students have the opportunity to work alongside Pacific faculty. Dr. Fairburn shares, “A large number of our students are involved in research projects or state and national-level presentations. Opportunities outside of the classroom are available to all of our students should they express their desire to pursue research activities.”

Pacific is committed to creating an environment where interdisciplinary collaboration thrives. Speaking from personal experience, Dr. Fairburn has found that when physical therapists work with speech-language pathologists they can become a “cohesive, collaborative rehabilitation team.” Dr. Isetti adds that when students are exposed to rehabilitation research that is being developed outside of their own discipline they are better prepared to meet the needs of their patients in strategic and innovative ways.

 

Faculty Spotlight: Kenneth D. Billheimer, AuD

deans_letter_ken_billheimer“There is very little I have not seen clinically,” said Kenneth D. Billheimer, AuD. Between time spent as the owner of a private practice and working as an audiologist for the U.S. Army he has seen first-hand hearing loss from a wide range of causes.

Dr. Billheimer is a clinical instructor for Pacific’s doctor of audiology (AuD) program and an audiologist at the Hearing and Balance Center in San Francisco. Dr. Billheimer earned his bachelor of arts in communication disorders and a master of science in audiology from California State University, Fresno. He earned a doctor of audiology from Arizona School of Health Sciences.

What led you to pursue a career in audiology?
Dr. Billheimer: “It was purely by accident. In my studies, I took undergraduate audiology classes and developed a great interest in hearing and hearing rehabilitation. The next thing I knew I had taken all of the possible undergraduate courses in audiology, so graduate school was the next choice.”

What led you to join the Pacific faculty as a clinical instructor?
Dr. Billheimer: “When I sold and ‘retired’ from private practice, I knew I would need to find a purpose for what was left in life. I engaged a colleague of mine who has left the profession and is a career coach. She coached and counseled me into the next chapter. During this time, as fate would have it, I shared a cab at a national conference to my hotel. Dr. Rupa Balachandran and I sat next to each other. We talked about the Pacific audiology program and agreed to meet later that summer. The rest is history.”

For nearly 30 years you were the owner of a private practice, Hearing Science of Pleasanton. How does this background help you as you train Pacific’s audiology students?
Dr. Billheimer: “I bring to the faculty at Pacific a business acumen that will help the students I teach see the non-academic side of audiology practice.”

What are the greatest rewards and challenges of training AuD students?
Dr. Billheimer: “The greatest challenge and joy is working with a generation of students who are two generations younger than I am. Although I am in an academic environment, my experience is in the private sector as an audiologist and a businessman. I find myself buried in the same books that the student use for all their classes. I need to be prepared to answer challenging questions from bright students.”

What do you find most rewarding about working with audiology students?
Dr. Billheimer: “They are so excited to make a difference in the world. In teaching audiology as a clinical instructor, I get the greatest joy in passing on to the students my years of clinical experience from private practice, working in a teaching hospital with ear, nose and throat (ENT) residents, industrial audiology and other medical center practice settings.”

What notable changes to the profession have you witnessed over the course of your career?
Dr. Billheimer: “One of the most profound changes in audiology is early identification of hearing loss. Today identification is close to birth with the use of a tool called otoacoustic emissions. This inexpensive procedure is administered in the hospital by putting a small tip in the infant’s ear and doing a test that lasts a few minutes; it is not at all invasive. Also, we now have very sophisticated digital hearing aids and cochlear implants. All populations benefit from this technology and the success rate is the best it has ever been.”

In what ways did your experiences in the U.S. Army and the U.S. Army Reserve impact how you approach your profession as an audiologist?
Dr. Billheimer: “At one time audiologists did not fit hearing aids, it was considered unethical. In the military audiologists did everything, including fitting hearing aids. We were familiar with hearing aids long before the rest of audiology. My first Army experience was in a hospital that supported a division of 15,000 soldiers attached to a mechanized infantry group. I spent time in tanks and near large weapons measuring their sound levels. The second part of my Army experience was in a teaching hospital with residents in ENT. It impacted my career in identification and treatment of noise induced hearing loss. It gave me a compassion and understanding of the grief that an individual experiences as a result of losing his or her hearing as a result of a single incident. When I see a veteran in my clinic I have a sense of where they have been and the type of noise and other exposures they may have had.”

What are your hobbies?
Dr. Billheimer: “My greatest love is my garden. I love wildflowers and have a large garden; if it’s not raining or really cold I am outside in the yard. I love classic cars. I have a completely restored 1961 Nash Metropolitan convertible.”

 

 

 

Student Spotlight: Jennifer Elaine-Connsalvi Hodges ’16

jennifer_hodges_resizeIt was a bomb blast on the other side of the world that inspired Jennifer Elaine-Connsalvi Hodges ’16 to become a speech-language pathologist. Before coming to Pacific Hodges earned a bachelor of arts in child and adolescent development from San Francisco State University in 2008 and worked at the Ronald McDonald House. “While working at the Ronald McDonald House in San Francisco I met a 1 year old child from Baghdad who had become deaf due to a bomb exploding near his home,” said Hodges. “A non-profit called No More Victims flew him and his father to the United States and sponsored a cochlear implant for him.”

Hodges continues, “They stayed at the Ronald McDonald House for a year and a half. I witnessed the SLP working with him day in and day out after the implant. I’ve been blessed in my life to see a variety of beautiful things across the globe, but this experience far exceeds all else. Here was an innocent child of war who lost the ability to hear because of an American bomb drop. I was watching him sit in San Francisco with an American SLP who was completely volunteering her time to help in his rehabilitation. His mother and younger brother were stuck in Jordan for two years due to visa issues. I took the father and son to the airport to pick up their wife and mother two years later after the rehab and cochlear implant. I watched the reunification of a family that had fallen victim to the worst parts of humanity. He was able to speak and hear his mother. The tears just wouldn’t stop from all parties. That experience planted a seed that I just couldn’t shake; I wanted to help people take their God-given right to communicate.”

Hodges revealed her academic challenges when she started college at Rancho Santiago Community College, “I started from the beginning at the local junior college with really low math and English courses and retaught myself basic concepts. I struggled and changed my major a couple times, but I began to learn how I learn and the lights went on.” She found that the key to her academic success was understanding her personal learning style and creating a strategy for studying. She explains, “I needed silence to study, good lighting, repetition, visual, tactile and audio for information input. That took discipline, time, effort and sacrifice. Once I started seeing the results of my efforts I realized it wasn’t that I wasn’t smart, it was that I didn’t prioritize my learning nor did I understand how I learned.”

Being accepted to Pacific’s speech-language pathology (SLP) program was a decisive turning point. She shares, “Earning my way into University of the Pacific was one of the biggest and scariest accomplishments of my life. Little did I know it was just the medicine I needed. […] I felt like an equally contributing member of group work. I also had intriguing conversations with my incredible professors who always took the time to explain a topic or question me further to challenge my understanding. I came out of my Pacific coursework more confident than ever. Whatever obstacles come my way in the future I know not only will my creativity and social skills carry me, but I can also rely on my intellect that Pacific helped me realize.”

Hodges is the recipient of the Janet Nimtz Endowed Scholarship, which is awarded to an individual who plans to complete a medical internship. Pursuing her career goals required a significant financial investment. “This scholarship made a significant difference in my attitude about my debt,” said Hodges. Her plans after graduation are to pursue a career in rehabilitation. By making what she has invested in her education mentally easier to handle, it is easier for her to focus on working toward her goals of helping clients regain their communication skills.

Balancing life and the rigors of graduate school is challenging, but Hodges is undeterred and continues to pursue to her passions. In addition to working weekends at a restaurant in San Francisco, she is the president of a non-profit organization called Le Donne d’Italia. She founded Le Donne d’Italia in the North Beach district of San Francisco to promote and preserve Italian culture and Italian female heritage.

When asked if she would recommend SLP as a career Hodges exclaimed, “Do it!  Not only will you always have a job that makes you feel like you’re contributing to the world, but you’ll also never get bored. I have yet to find another career that is so versatile.”

 

Student Spotlight: Vien Vu ’17

vien-vuAn unquenchable thirst for understanding fitness led Vien Vu ’17, CSCS to pursue a doctor of physical therapy (DPT). He is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and a certified personal trainer. “So many times as a personal trainer I got frustrated. I didn’t know the answers to certain problems,” said Vu. He earned a bachelor of science in kinesiology from San Jose State University. What drew Vu to Pacific’s DPT program was the faculty and the resources available to students.

While working as a personal trainer he observed that professionals within the fitness industry discuss research findings, but there is a lack of quality, evidence-based information directed to the general public. He elaborates, “This is a passion of mine. There is so much stuff on the internet that is rubbish.” In response he launched a blog and podcast. His goal for How Fit Works is to help dispel misconceptions and misinformation about fitness by providing quality information and scholarly, peer-reviewed resources.

Vu’s philosophy is, “What’s not measured can’t be managed.” He shares, “I have an obsession with spreadsheets and numbers. I love data.” His zeal for collecting data has a practical purpose. He asks, “How can you measure change if you don’t have data?” Vu also emphasizes moderation and consistency. “Three times 52,” said Vu. “Who cares what you do in the gym? Show up three times a week, every week. Make it a routine like brushing your teeth.” He is committed to following his own advice. He makes it a priority to go to the gym even during finals week. “No matter how stressed I am I go, because I know I will drop the habit if I don’t continue and in terms of stress I will feel worse if I don’t go.” He emphasizes that it important to take care of yourself. “If you don’t take care of yourself you can’t take care of others.”

For Pacific’s students, faculty and staff who are interested in taking their physical fitness to the next level Vu recommends taking advantage of the resources at the Baun Fitness Center. The center has a group of nationally certified trainers and offers over 35 fitness classes. In addition, the Baun Fitness Center hosts free “Ask a Trainer” sessions on Mondays from 5-6 p.m. and Thursdays from 6-7 p.m. For more information contact Fitness Coordinator Caitlin Sommers at csommers@pacific.edu or 209.946.7300.

 

Alumni Spotlight: Alexa Hukari ’03, DPT

alexa_hukari_resizeBallerina, firefighter, veterinarian, circus performer. How many people grow up to be what they dreamt about at a young age? For Alexa Hukari ’03, DPT her childhood aspiration became a reality. At the age of 12, Hukari decided she wanted to join the circus when she grew up. Hukari recalls thinking, “I have to do that, I have to be a part of that.” She adds, “In high school people teased me about running away with the circus.”

Upon graduating from Pacific’s doctor of physical therapy (DPT) program she sought a position working with circus performers in Las Vegas. This led to the opportunity to do strength and conditioning, as well as physical therapy, for the performers of Cirque du Soleil.

Hukari met her husband, Ming Fang, in Barcelona while they were working on the same show. Fang was an acrobat in a Chinese troupe and Hukari was working as a physical therapist touring with the show. The two made for an unlikely couple; he didn’t speak English and she didn’t speak Mandarin. The strong connection between the two overcame cultural and linguistic barriers. In 2009, his partner was injured and she got the opportunity to audition as a replacement. She landed the part, which later led to the opportunity for Hukari and Fang to perform together in “Absinthe®” by Spiegelworld Las Vegas.

Hukari was 5 years old5 when she started gymnastics. She went on to be a U.S. National Acrobatic Gymnastics Champion and six-time California State Champion. While her background in gymnastics helped prepare her for the physical demands of her role in “Absinthe®,” there are distinct differences between preparing for a competition and training for performing. She explains, “It’s different when you are training for competition and you are working to peak once a year, one amazing moment. Working in ‘Absinthe®’ is 10 shows a week, it’s less about training for one peak moment and more about consistency.”

When performing week after week the focus is on being healthy, staying strong and avoiding injury. Core strength is key. She adds, “Acrobatics is really hard on your body. I try really hard to focus on all of the small things that add up to making your body strong.” Her background in physical therapy gives her a deeper understanding of maintaining physical fitness, which helps her to stay disciplined. “If I get injured I know how to come back from that injury and how to prevent it in the future when possible.”

When considering different career paths physical therapy was a natural choice. She shares, “I wanted to do something where I could stay involved in gymnastics or acrobatics.” Also, she has always wanted to know “how the body works and how to make it work better.” Hukari has found that being an athlete has made her a better physical therapist. She explains, “I can ask the right questions about what patients need.” This allows her to treat patients more effectively. Hukari emphasizes the importance of gaining the trust of  patients. When working with an athlete she  relates to the demands they put on their body as well as  the goals they want to achieve when rehabilitating from injury.

When reflecting on her experience at Pacific what stands out to Hukari is the faculty. Even after graduating Hukari felt like she could go to them for advice if she was uncertain about the best way to approach a certain aspect of a patient’s therapy. She adds, “I had the resources to make good decisions to help people.” She is grateful for her education, which has opened doors to opportunities far beyond what she could have imagined.

To read her story in her own words read “East meets West, and we fall in love.”

 

Faculty Spotlight: Roshanak Rahimian, PharmD, MSc, PhD

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Roshanak Rahimian, PharmD, MSc, PhD, professor of physiology and pharmacology was awarded a $302,428 National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant for the study entitled, “Diabetes, Estrogen and Endothelial Dysfunction.” The NIH grant allows Dr. Rahimian to continue her research on the vascular effects of estrogen. She contributes the experience and expertise gained from two decades of working in the field of estrogen and vascular reactivity to her role as principle investigator. “I have been working on the area of women’s health since I started working on my PhD project at University of British Columbia back in 1995,” said Dr. Rahimian.

lation-based reports providing statistical evidence that premenopausal females become vulnerable to cardiovascular diseases in presence of diabetes,” said Dr. Rahimian. “Despite the sex-associated differences in physiological processes and functions, as well as pathological development and progression of diseases, research has predominantly involved male subjects and many knowledge gaps and paradoxes still remain.”

According to the World Health Organization diabetes affects more than 400 million people worldwide, over half of whom are women, and the number of diabetic patients is estimated to rise by more than 50 percent within 20 years [International Diabetes Federation, Diabetes Atlas, 7th Edition, 2015]. Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) is the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in diabetic patients.

According to Dr. Rahimian, “The risk for CVD is lower in premenopausal women compared to age-matched men. This difference disappears in the postmenopausal years and is presumably related to the reduced levels of female sex hormones, in general, and estrogen, in particular. However, premenopausal women with diabetes not only lose this sex-based cardiovascular protection, they actually experience a higher relative risk of CVD compared to diabetic men, which suggests that diabetes abolishes some of the beneficial effects of estrogen. Given this epidemiological evidence, the question arises as to what mechanisms underlie the loss of sex-mediated vasoprotection in diabetic women. This proposal will explore the basis for the loss of sex-based cardiovascular protection.”

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While there has been extensive research into diabetes in males, much less is known about how diabetes affects the risk of cardiovascular diseases for females. Dr. Rahimian shares, “The NIH has been recently directing basic and clinical scientists to consider potential sex differences and perform their studies using both male and female subjects. My laboratory has made significant contributions to the study of sex differences during this era. We previously reported sex differences in vascular dysfunction in a model of type 1 diabetes (T1D), a project which was also supported by NIH from 2009 through 2013. However, the pathophysiology of type 2 diabetes (T2D) may differ from that seen in T1D, and it is known that the incidence of T2D is rapidly increasing worldwide.” Dr. Rahimian explains, “Over the past decade, obesity and diabetes have reached epidemic proportions in developed countries and has become one of the most serious and challenging health problems in the 21st century. Therefore, we proposed to examine vascular function in arteries using an established obesity-induced T2D model. The knowledge gained from this proposal will ultimately enhance our understanding of the mechanisms underlying the vascular dysfunction in diabetic premenopausal women. The enhanced insight into these mechanisms is expected to eventually also be beneficial for the male population.”

Dr. Rahimian emphasizes the collaborative nature of research. She elaborates, “I couldn’t have received this grant without the support of my school and university, and my dedicated past and current graduate, undergraduate and pharmacy students. As well as, my outstanding collaborators Dr. Leigh Anderson at Arthur A. Dugoni School of Dentistry, Dr. Peter Havel at University of California, Davis, who provided us with a novel and validated model of type 2  diabetes, and Dr. Linda Shortliffe at Stanford University, the consultant on this study. I also appreciate the excellent support of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs at Pacific.”

 

 

Student Spotlight: Benjamin Thompson ’18

slp-student-spotlight-benjamin-thompson2_resizeMusical festivals set Benjamin Thompson ’18 on the path to a career in audiology. “I began to wear earplugs at music festivals after a close friend recommended I consider protecting my hearing,” said Thompson. “Soon after I began personal research into the effects of noise on our auditory pathway. Audiology resonated with me because I enjoy working with people to improve their communication.”

For Thompson, music and audiology go hand-in-hand. He shares, “I would like to become more involved in hearing loss prevention campaigns for musicians and music lovers.” He adds, “Many of my friends are musicians, music lovers or work in the music industry and experience tinnitus. […] Hearing loss provides unique challenges to every individual.”

Thompson grew up in Newport, Rhode Island. He earned a bachelor of arts in communication and health from College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina. While living in Charleston he collaborated with local audiologists to conduct a research study about ear plug usage and concert attendance among college students.

Results of the study showed a lack of knowledge about noise-induced hearing loss and served as his motivation to design a community education event. “Of respondents, 70 percent have experienced tinnitus after attending a concert and 90 percent have never used ear plugs,” Thompson explains. “Short-term tinnitus, ringing in the ears, may be a precursor to hearing loss. With the results, I organized a hybrid education and entertainment event called ‘Decibel: Hearing Conservation Seminar’ with a presentation by a local audiologist.”

Pacific’s doctor of audiology (AuD) program brought Thompson to California. “I chose to be a part of Pacific’s inaugural class because of the need for audiologists in California,” shares Thompson. “Pacific’s AuD program in the second year consists of classes three days a week and clinical experience two days a week. I enjoy this balance of theory and practice because it allows students to exercise our knowledge immediately. Our program introduces students to Pacific’s Hearing and Balance Center in downtown San Francisco from the beginning of the program. We are one of the select accelerated AuD programs in the country. The fast-paced nature of the program is challenging. It requires sharp mental focus and diligence.”

Thompson loves being outdoors either camping, hiking or surfing. His ideal weekend would be exploring California’s untamed coastline, either in Big Sur or the Lost Coast. He  found a way to combine his love for outdoor adventures with his passion for audiology. “This August I organized a fundraiser titled, ‘Hiking for Hearing: California to Guatemala.’ I hiked the 210-mile John Muir Trail from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney. The trip raised money for an audiology mission trip to Guatemala this fall that two Pacific classmates and I plan to attend.”

Thompson encourages those who are interested in pursuing a career in audiology to learn more about the different specialties within the profession. He adds, “Pacific’s AuD program accepts students from a diverse background of undergraduate studies.” To learn more about Pacific’s audiology program go to pacific.edu/aud