Pulse the Magazine of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Summer 2023

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Jason Albers (Health Professions ’17) refuses to be defined by so-called limitations.
Summer 2023

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Volume 33 | Issue 2
Summer 2023 Inside


Jason Albers (Health Professions ‘17) was born to be different. Literally playing off his strengths, Albers takes his drumsticks to create a new beat to his life – one of belonging. Along with finding his place in the world, he also found another invaluable gift – confidence in who he is and what he has to offer.
By Alessandra Singh
Four nurse practitioners have one person in common – Karen Rogers, MD, (Medicine ‘97) whose lasting impact is one they didn’t want to leave behind. Opening Legacy Developmental Pediatrics in Lubbock, Texas, after Rogers’ death, the women have found a way to keep their mentor with them through a clinic established in her honor.
By Tina Hay


Tune in and learn more about a variety of health topics, relevant to patients and providers.
We need makeup on set – or moulage, that is. This tool can make any simulation look real.
Sid Phillips, PharmD, (‘01) will live on through an endowment in his honor.
Jessica Gray, MD, (‘15, ‘18) wants women to blaze a trail in STEM for generations to follow.
Jason Albers (Health Professions ‘17), drummer for Flatland Cavalry, performing a concert at Cooks Garage in Lubbock, Texas.<br />
Photo by Neal Hinkle.
Neal Hinkle
On the cover
Jason Albers (Health Professions ‘17), drummer for Flatland Cavalry, performing a concert at Cooks Garage in Lubbock, Texas.
Photo by Neal Hinkle.
Health Matters A Letter from Our President
Lori Rice-Spearman Headshot
Artie Limmer

Remembering the Life and Legacy of a Beloved Dean

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s quote seems apropos to honor the late Steven L. Berk, MD, our beloved School of Medicine dean and executive vice president of clinical affairs, who died May 26, 2023. 

He will, no doubt, be remembered for his accomplishments as a dedicated physician, esteemed educator and visionary leader. His deep commitment from day one at TTUHSC impacted the mission of our great university. Highlights of Berk’s most impactful work include establishing the Family Medicine Accelerated Track, the first program of its kind in the nation. The program put the School of Medicine at the forefront nationwide in training family medicine physicians. He was vital in introducing medical research and establishing the university’s Clinical Research Institute, significantly increasing the number of published clinical papers by faculty. Berk also helped launch the medical summer research program and remained a staunch supporter, allowing more than 100 students to participate annually.


Editor’s Note

Earning a degree is a major life event. If you use social media, no doubt you’ve seen at least one graduation post in the past couple of months. Each post or video reminds us of friends, family, donors and professors who have a hand in our graduates earning their degrees. In the Summer 2021 issue of Pulse, we asked for your responses to this prompt: “Looking back, I learned the most from Professor _________. Here’s why.” We published the initial responses and have received additional ones since. To commemorate the recent graduation season, we’re sharing the remaining responses from this prompt.


I learned the most from my professors on the Amarillo campus. Dr. Potter (Joan M. Potter-Brunet, DPT) was/is a great mentor to me and keeps up with me every now and then. She was extremely caring and helpful during my schooling.
José Ricardo Garcia PT, DPT, COMT
(HEALTH professions, Doctor of physical therapy ’17)
I learned the most from my pharmacology professor, Dr. Kellie Bruce (associate professor and FNP program director for the School of Nursing). She really gave specifics on how to study and presented it in a way that I found really effective. She told us data on how many times we were exposed to information and how that affected retention. It completely changed my approach to how I study and the frequency and delivery method and was pivotal in my success with the AGACNP (Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner) program.
Jen Baron, BSN, RN, PCCN
(Nursing, RN to BSN ’14)
Adult Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner student
Dr. John Pelley, who taught a subject I had little interest in, Biochemistry, and made it delightful!
Andy Hansen, MD
(Medicine ’75)
Pulse Cover
Dr. (Bernell K.) Dalley was the best professor there and the best anatomy teacher and advisor!
Michelle L. Brochner, MD
(Medicine ’95)

rural america’s relevance

This (“Rural Risk Factor”) is a heartbreaking article that demands an ACTION from everyone that cares about Rural Communities or our Country. This is not unique to Texas but a crisis across America. Join us in making a difference in so many communities that deliver the FOOD, FIBER (Cotton) and FUEL that power our Nation.
Ty Harmon
Posted on linkedIn


Congratulations to the readership survey drawing winners from our Winter 2023 and Summer/Fall 2022 issues — Lisa Platner, PhD, MSN, RN, (Nursing ’04, ’00) and Jerry Sovich (TTUHSC parent). You can be the next winner by completing the readership survey.
Bernell K. Dalley, PhD, retired from TTUHSC in February 2023. He came to the School of Medicine in 1974. John W. Pelley, PhD, is one of the last School of Medicine founding faculty members still teaching at TTUHSC. He joined the school in 1972.
Pulse welcomes thoughts and opinions from our readers via email at pulse@ttuhsc.edu.


Pulse logo
Volume 33, Issue 2

Editor-in -chief

Danette Baker, MA

Managing Editor

Alessandra Singh


Jim Nissen


Kim Catley, TR Castillo, Suzanna Cisneros, Carolyn Cruz, Tina Hay, Mark Hendricks, Neal Hinkle, Kami Hunt, Sarah Sales, Emily Shafer, Natalie Stanislaus, John Weast, Melissa Whitfield



Lori Rice-Spearman, PhD
(Health Professions ‘86)

Vice President of External Relations

Ashley Hamm

Assistant Vice President of External Relations

Mattie Been, Amarillo
Jessica Zuniga, Permian Basin
Cyndy Morris, Abilene

Assistant Vice President of
Institutional Advancement

Helen Li

Assistant Vice President of

Holly Russell


Gift Officers

Kevin Friemel, Clarissa Sanchez, Lauren Tidmore, Clifford Wilkes


Jordan Nabers

Contact Us

TTUHSC External Relations
3601 Fourth Street STOP 6242
Lubbock, TX 79430-6242

PULSE is published twice a year. Content may be reprinted only with permission. Discrimination or harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, genetic information, status as a covered veteran or other legally protected categories, class or characteristics is not tolerated. Pulse is distributed in compliance with the State Depository Law and is available for public use through the Texas State Publications Depository Program. In compliance with HB 423, Pulse is available in electronic format at pulse.ttuhsc.edu. If you no longer want to receive the printed version, please notify the editor in writing.
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You can help improve health and quality of life in Texas and beyond. The School of Health Professions at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center offers over 20 different graduate and undergraduate programs that lead directly to in-demand careers in the health care industry such as:
Physician Assistant, Physical Therapy, Speech-Language Pathology, Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Healthcare Management.
health.professions@ttuhsc.edu | 806.743.3220
Scan and Explore Programs QR code
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Tap, Tap, Tap – Is this on?

Live from TTUHSC, it’s Texas Tech Health Check podast– broadcasting health information for both the patient and provider. New episodes air weekly on your favorite platform. Get your notepad ready — you might want to take notes on what TTUHSC experts have to say.
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Listen now to the most popular episode to date!
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Provided by the matador uas consortium

Cleared to Land


Flight attendants, please prepare the cabin for arrival. Okay, not exactly like that, but health care is making a landing with no crew on board. 


The Matador UAS Consortium is dedicated to addressing various health care themes such as organ transport, pathology sample delivery, medication distribution, and search and rescue operations. TTUHSC, partnering with 2THEDGE, founded the project for regulatory, operational and technical opportunities using drones for commercial purposes. They are joined by another 20-plus collaborators from academia, health care, industry and governmental entities.


By the mid-2030s, there will be over 6 million commercial drone flights in the U.S. per day, according to NASA. So, it makes sense, says Phil Sizer, PhD, PT, associate vice president for research innovation, to join the effort, and there is no place better than West Texas.

Establishing the region as a global leader in the drone industry is feasible because of the geography and optimum weather conditions to test the impact on drone flight operations, says Sizer. 


This shift to using drones isn’t one to fear though, says Sizer. The industry brings economic positives by creating new employment opportunities and solving challenges to health care delivery. 

“[Drones] are being used for humanitarian purposes to solve really important problems (that) help with health care delivery across West Texas and all of rural America,” Sizer says.

The strength of our regional campus initiatives is they’re uniquely suited for the Amarillo area.
— Richard Jordan, MD
regional dean of the amarillo school of medicine

The Lure of Amarillo

Thomas Hale, PhD, RPh, executive director of the InfantRisk Center and Grover E. Murray Professor, joined TTUHSC in Amarillo in 1981 because it provided both a research and clinical environment that he could use to develop a career. In his tenure, he’s written six books and published hundreds of papers and abstracts about the use of drugs in breastfeeding and lactating women. He says he’s stayed at TTUHSC in Amarillo for more than four decades to do research, to teach pharmacology to medical students and because it is home to the InfantRisk Center (IRC), which is well-known around the world receiving hundreds of calls every month. 
drawing of Thomas Hale, PhD, Rph
sarah maxwell/folioart
ScopeFaculty profile

Anthony Hewetson, MS

Faculty associate for Medical Education and Cell Biology and Biochemistry for the School of Medicine

In the 1980s and ’90s, Anthony Hewetson, MS, studied zoology and worked as a field biologist, developing a strong interest in comparative vertebrate anatomy. However, in 1998, his career took a turn when he started working as a research technician in the molecular biology lab of Vaughn Lee, PhD, former professor of anatomy at TTUHSC.

Together, they realized that Hewetson wasn’t going to become a molecular biologist — but he would make an excellent anatomy instructor. He enrolled in anatomy courses in the Graduate Medical Education Sciences program and, in 2003, earned a certification in human anatomy.

In addition to Lee, Hewetson said, Branislav Vidic, PhD, and Bernell K. Dalley, PhD, (retired TTUHSC faculty) were critical in developing his skills in dissection and as an instructor.

Anthony Hewetson, MS
Neal Hinkle
ScopeAround Campus

TTUHSC Snapshots

Texas Tech Physicians at ribbon cutting ceremony
Disaster Day volunteer in foil blanket talking with nurse
Students grabbing residency envelopes off table at ceremony
Family at Celebration of Generosity event
Disaster Day volunteer in foil blanket talking with nurse
TTUHSC alumni, donors, faculty and staff in capitol chambers

TTUHSC is making moves

1| Texas Tech Physicians celebrate their expansion to southwest Amarillo, opening a new Texas Tech Pediatric Clinic.
2| Simulating real-life scenarios, Disaster Day gives students interdisciplinary, hands-on experience in addressing crisis.
3| With the rip of an envelope, a medical student’s wait is over, finding out where they’ll be residents and the specialties they’ll pursue professionally.
4| The Celebration of Generosity events recognize the difference that donors make in the lives of the students they support.
5| At TTUHSC’s first Capitol Day in Austin, Texas, on March 8, alumni, donors, faculty and staff, presented information regarding the university’s legislative request to members of the appropriation committees.

This Isn’t Real

Health care and artwork may seem like polar opposites; but when they work together using moulage – the art of applying mock injuries for the purpose of training – students get a more realistic learning experience. Conditions simulated with moulage provide real-life scenarios for students in which they must act accordingly and develop a care plan for their patient – whether a standardized patient (specially trained individuals) or a manikin.
Latex dummy mannequin with special effects injuries on face


Skin color modeling wax is used to create a realistic injury.


Blood paste is used to simulate the blood with a deep red color for the wound.


For extra effects, an airbrush tool is used to enhance areas of red to mimic a trauma injury.


A latex film is placed on top to keep the moulage in place.

VitalsSchool of Medicine

Purposeful Living

For Lisa Dunham, MD, (’97), medical evangelism work in Guatemala makes healing the hurting twofold. “The most fulfilling part is being able to use my medical skills and spiritual gifts to heal.” This work started as a five-year contract supported by several home churches, but 18 years later, Dunham is still serving. “It’s satisfying to be a part of a work that strives to bring the peace of God into people’s lives while healing their physical ailments.”
Lisa Dunham, MD, and her husband, Kemmel, in Guatemala.
Provided by Rick HARPER/Health Talents international
Lisa Dunham, MD, and her husband, Kemmel, in Guatemala.



If asked to name the country’s leading causes of death yearly, answers would include heart disease, cancer and car accidents. But medical errors, which seldom come to mind, are another leading cause that presents significant public health concerns.


Medical errors generally occur when no action or incorrect actions are taken. Studies have shown that health care processes such as assessment and diagnosis, information management, operative care and medication use are among the primary causes of medical error. However, the No. 1 reason investigators believe mistakes occur is the lack of effective communication, an issue that is amplified when English is not the patient’s primary language.


To help address communication hurdles, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), a nonprofit government-sponsored organization, awarded Tetyana L. Vasylyeva, MD, PhD, professor in the School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics, a $438,756 subcontract. The five-year project, studying language barriers for hospitalized children and their families, in partnership with Northwest Texas Healthcare System, will be implemented at TTUHSC in Amarillo. Vasylyeva’s project is part of a more extensive PCORI study directed by Alisa Khan, MD, MPH, from Boston Children’s Hospital.

The current research is based on a pilot study conducted at the hospital from 2014-2017 that produced a 38% reduction in harmful medical errors.

Based upon that pilot study, Vasylyeva said the goal of her project is to compare three different translation approaches with pediatric clinical care patients and their families to see how these approaches may reduce the likelihood of medical errors.

Her approaches:

  • Follow current communication practices with no changes.
  • Add a telephone interpreter to current practices.
  • Include the patient’s entire care team working together with an in-person interpreter.

“We need to get patient feedback in order to work as a team to improve communication and patient safety,” Vasylyeva said. “(By educating) our students and residents, they can better understand how to effectively approach their patients with linguistic difficulties.”


How To Save A Life

A new residency – Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) – attained full accreditation last fall in record time— 15 months. Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education approved the residency with commendation and no citations.

PM&R, or physiatry, focuses on the diagnosis, treatment and management of conditions that cause disability.

The program received 329 applicants for four residency slots. The inaugural class of residents arrive in July 2023.

The program was a dream 20 years in the making of Roger Wolcott, MD, (Medicine ’92) – his leadership and that of community partners, Trustpoint Rehabilitation Hospital of Lubbock, Veterans Affairs Lubbock Outpatient Clinic, Covenant Health, Moody Neuro-rehabilitation Institute and a lead gift from the Moody Endowment.

Jim and Nancy Dines appreciate the role played by PM&R professionals.
john weast
Jim and Nancy Dines appreciate the role played by PM&R professionals.

VitalsJULIA JONES MATTHEWS School of population and public health

The new school graduated its first class – 49 students in May.
Chelsea M. Gerlicki in cap and gown

First Class

The Julia Jones Matthews School of Population and Public Health graduated it sifrst class – 49 students — in May.
Emily shafer, circle e media
Sir Michael Marmot, the current director of the Institute of Health Equity at the University College London, once said, ‘Why treat people and send them back to the conditions that made them sick?’

As a future physician, I wanted to ensure that I could practice to that standard — treating a patient holistically — and that includes their environment and community. As a dual degree student, I knew earning both my Master of Public Health and Doctor of Medicine, simultaneously, would secure that, which is why I chose to pursue my goals at TTUHSC.

TTUHSC is highly involved in the community and has become a cornerstone of West Texas. During my Community-Based Methods and Practice class, I realized the health disparities that exist in East Lubbock. In this class, I analyzed current environmental conditions and health issues while researching plausible future interventions that could bridge the gaps in the area. This class was just another reminder of why I chose TTUHSC and made me look forward to the work we have cut out for us in our own backyard.

— Chelsea Gerlicki, MD, MPH, (Medicine ’23, Population and Public Health ’23)
Julia Jones matthews school of population and public health graduate
Lesly Villanueva, MPH graduating
My education at the Julia Jones Matthews School of Population and Public Health will impact my career in many ways. It helped me gain more knowledge, grow as an individual and see that I can make an impact in my community in various ways. It will help raise life expectancies, enhance quality of life and lower the incidence of diseases. I chose to attend TTUHSC because it offered me the opportunity to continue my education with public health.

“A memorable moment during my studies was being able to use everything I learned and putting it to use with my applied practice experience with LASA Health. My plans following graduation are to hopefully continue my education to be able to be a doctor.

— Lesly Villanueva, MPH, (Population and Public Health ’23)
Julia Jones matthews school of population and public health graduate

Care in crisis

When Courtney Queen, PhD, assistant professor of public health, received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar award, she headed to Riga, Latvia, to research health disparities and inequalities in the country’s young health care system and to teach at Riga Stradiņš University’s Institute of Public Health.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, Queen had to adapt to virtual instruction and research restrictions. Then, Russia invaded nearby Ukraine, bringing more uncertainty and change. Again, Queen adjusted her plans and worked to support her students in a stressful environment.

Queen and Robert Osgood, PhD, a fellow Fulbright scholar in Latvia, published their thoughts on what Fulbright scholars can offer in the face of global crises.

“What roles can we, and should we, play in working amid multiple humanitarian crises,” they wrote in the July 2022 issue of Fulbright Chronicles, published just as they were returning home. “Our fundamental questions became: How do we navigate these changing realities so that we can achieve the goals and objectives for our grant activities, and more importantly, how can we support the work and the lives of those with whom we collaborate?”

Courtney Queen, PhD, assistant professor of public health
Sarah maxwell/FOLIO ART
Portrait photograph perspective of Traci Henegar (in a dark forest/emerald green colored Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Alumni sweatshirt and gold colored necklace) and her son, Davis Henegar (in a grey colored Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Alumni sweater) smiling and posing for a picture together outside
Provided by traci henegar
Traci Henegar and her son, Davis Henegar.

Lessons Worth Repeating

TTUHSC students described their educational experience at the renowned Hazelden Betty Ford Center as life-changing.

Traci Henegar values their feedback; and as an the mother of a former addict, finds their words inspiring. Her son, Davis, died in 2021 at the age of 24, from an accidental overdose. “No one would talk with us about (his addiction), not even the health care providers,” said Henegar, also a student in the Addicition Counseling program.

Learning the School of Medicine students annually go to the center, funded by donor support, Henegar proposed to expand the scope. Her family’s gift created an opportunity for an interdisciplinary group of students to attend training, a first in the Betty Ford Center’s history.

Making An Impact


Originally a metropolitan provider, Sue Ann Lee, PhD, CCC-SLP, didn’t know about the health care challenges that face rural communities. Arriving in Lubbock, Texas, sparked a “big question as a community member” – How can we better provide speech and language services? Some patients travel hours for a 45-minute speech therapy visit, and Lee sees the system needs improvement. In 2021, Lee received a one-year National Institutes of Health preparation grant to study the efficacy of telepractice in treating children with cleft palate. The NIH recently granted Lee an additional five years for her study — the school’s first multiyear NIH grant.
Portrait photograph perspective of Sue Ann Lee, PhD, CCC-SLP in a grey colored cardigan jacket and black button-up dress shirt plus black colored prescription see-through glasses guiding a child (wearing a red bowtie ribbon on her head and black colored shirt with a Minnie Mouse logo on it) on moving a circular ball through a tube activity as they both smile


Medical Laboratory Science (MLS), previously Clinical Laboratory Science, can also be referred to as the “hidden profession,” Tammy Carter, PhD, MT (ASCP), MB (ASCP), Medical Laboratory Science program director, says. We often don’t consider where specimens go for testing or who performs the tests. The same is true for a student interested in science and medicine. MLS is a field in high demand that plays a crucial role in the health care industry. Although patients have regular personal contact with their doctors, nurses and therapists, laboratory professionals work behind the scenes diagnosing illnesses and identifying infections.
Portrait photograph perspective of a student partaking in a scientific activity/assignment (data sampling work) with a few other students around in a laboratory classroom completing the task at hand


Forty years and 21 programs later, the School of Health Professions has graduated 12,050 students who are prepared and ready to enter the workforce. The school’s intentional curriculum design fosters an environment where students learn more than the material for their degree by emphasizing how to work effectively in a professional setting. Given the number of programs, the School of Health Professions is able to do this by offering interprofessional collaboration between all their programs in simulation and patient care. This collaboration prepares interdisciplinary
professionals who are a step ahead in the workforce and highly sought after by employers.
Portrait photograph of a student smiling/laughing as she keeps tab with her finger on a open notebook page talking to another student in a student lounge area


Project: ‘Combat Cancer’

The Society of Toxicology selected Shreyas Gaikwad, a PhD candidate in pharmaceutical sciences, as the 2023 recipient of the Syngenta Fellowship Award in Human Health Applications of New Technologies. His primary project is drug repurposing to combat cancer, specifically pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. “From a patient’s point-of-view, strategies such as drug repurposing provide hope for novel treatment options,” he says.
Portrait photograph perspective of Shreyas Gaikwad (a PhD candidate in pharmaceutical sciences) smiling in a white laboratory gown with blue surgical gloves as he poses for a picture by leaning his left hand on a black table with other scientific equipment nearby
Shreyas Gaikwad, PhD candidate, searches for cancer solutions.



At first glance, Camp New Day is an ordinary summer camp. Take a closer look and you will notice a staff of medical and pharmacy students that give kids with diabetes an experience they can’t get anywhere else.


Summer camp environments can have a dramatic effect on children with diabetes. Extra physical activity and emotional stressors make blood sugars erratic, requiring dosage changes on a day-to-day, if not hour-by-hour, basis. Most summer camps don’t have the medical staff to manage these constant changes.That’s why diabetes camps fill an important gap, said Thomas Parker, PharmD, assistant professor of pharmacy practice at TTUHSC, who also serves as Camp New Day director.


Although diabetes camps most often have medical professionals on-site, the counselors are high school and college students or general volunteers. At Camp New Day, all counselors are in the medical field, including many TTUHSC pharmacy students. They also go through extensive Type 1 diabetes training.

“We want our counselors to have that higher level knowledge so that they can make timely decisions. Instead of relying on outside medical staff,” Parker said, “and have a greater awareness of changes that need to be made.”


Having a staff of trained medical professionals means campers have comprehensive support and education on good medical habits. The camp is also an opportunity for TTUHSC students to gain hands-on patient experience and a better understanding of the challenges those with a chronic disease face in life.

Lexie Greenwood, PharmD, (Pharmacy ‘23) said the camp was a chance to walk beside a person with diabetes, from finger pricks to counting carbs. Berkley Freund, PharmD, (Pharmacy ‘23) added, “It helped me develop a strong sense of empathy for my patients.”


Parker hopes the camp is a source of connection between providers and patients and between children with similar life experiences.

“Some of the kids may be the only ones in school who have Type 1 diabetes. Coming to a camp focused on that allows them to be with peers who understand the extra challenges they go through.”


Portrait photograph perspective of Balakrishna Koneru, PhD, '19 (Senior Researcher Scientist, School of Medicine Cancer Center) smiling and posing for a picture with dark black colored prescription see through glasses in a light blue colored button-up dress shirt with the front collar open, dark black colored dress pants, and wearing a digital watch device as he rests one of his hands over the other

Two Are Better Than One

Some high-risk neuroblastoma (HRNB) tumors use a mechanism called alternative lengthening of telomeres (ALT) to achieve immortality. With that in mind, Balakrishna Koneru, PhD, (Biomedical Sciences ’19) a senior research scientist for the School of Medicine Cancer Center, found intensification of chemotherapy with double autologous stem cell transplants (ASCT) were more beneficial to patients than a single ASCT.
Patients experience significantly improved survival rates after receiving double ASCT in a national phase III clinical trial. We demonstrated that ALT HRNB tumors have poorer survival rates relative to non-ALT tumors receiving single ASCT.
— Balakrishna Koneru, PhD, (’19)
Senior researcher scientist
school of medicine cancer center

Stand By Me

Portrait photograph perspective of Abigail Rickli and her twin sister, Avery Rickli outside in a snowy cold Christmas village location looking at each other in the eyes as they both smile as one of the sisters is wearing a black long-sleeve shirt with an open tan colored cardigan button-up shirt, blue denim jeans, and a pearl colored necklace and the other sister is wearing a white puffy jacket with a green long sleeve shirt plus white jeans
Abigail Rickli and her twin sister, Avery Rickli, are alike in the ways you’d imagine twins to be: They played the same sports, earned the same scholarships in high school, chose the same university, elected the same major and live in the same apartment. In conversation, they regularly finish each other’s sentences. Avery jokingly describes their relationship as “Copy/Paste.”

They have something else in common that sets them apart: They’ve stuck together through a childhood and adolescence full of trauma and upheaval.

The Ricklis grew up in California with a mother prone to addiction, rage and neglect. When they were 10, they were removed from the home and placed in foster care, separated from their older sister and brother. Their foster mother eventually adopted the twins, but they were miserable in their new family; they describe their adoptive mother as short-tempered and controlling and say she kept them from their biological siblings for five years. Eventually, social workers intervened. When the twins were 15, they returned to foster care and years later reunited with their biological siblings.

Through it all, the Ricklis excelled in school and sports. “School was always the one thing in our control,” Abigail explains, adding, “The stereotype of teenage foster kids is that they’re reckless, crazy teenagers on drugs. We were fighting so hard against that stigma. We were not going to be like that.”

VitalsSchool of Nursing

A Career Bigger Than Me

My name is Meagan Prehn, BSN, RN, (Nursing ‘20) and I earned my BSN not just for me.

When I was 11, I was in a car accident resulting in a spinal cord injury that left me paralyzed from the waist down and wheelchair bound.

From that moment on, I wanted to make the most out of life and inspire others, which led me to the medical field.

Now, in my work at Child Neurology Consultants of Austin, Texas, serving as a pediatric nurse, I recently had a moment where I got to see everything come full circle.

A patient who also uses a wheelchair came in, and I watched her face light up when she saw me. The patient’s mom said, “You don’t know how awesome this is … to have a nurse in a wheelchair because she wants to attend medical school but hasn’t gotten the most positive feedback.”

This is precisely why I went into nursing – to inspire kids to keep going.

The medical field should be prepared for people with disabilities because we are capable of doing anything. Our disability is our strength.

Meagan Prehn, BSN, RN photographed in her wheelchair outside near shrubs, she wears a black dress and a Texas Tech grad stole beneath her long curly hair, she smiles at the camera

Provided by Meagan Prehn, bsn, rn

four female and one male nursing student, all wearing bright red Texas Tech scrubs, stand together and smile for a group photo
four female and one male nursing student, all wearing bright red Texas Tech scrubs, stand together and smile for a group photo

Provided by Amanda Jensen

Nursing students are ready to make their mark in the health care field of Texas.

Front-line Reinforcements

Mansfield Methodist Hospital partnered in fall 2021 with the School of Nursing to expand the Traditional BSN program in Mansfield, Texas, establishing the hospital-based program. Graduating 29 students in the first year, the nursing program joins the fight against an impending shortage in Texas of 16,000 nurses by 2030.
Jason Albers pictured wearing a green cap, white button up shirt and jeans, leaning against a wall with graphic signs and looking beyond the camera

Jason Albers (Health Professions ’17) is the drummer for Flatland Cavalary.

I Belong

I underline
I underline
Strapping his hands to drumsticks, Jason Albers (Health Professions ’17) played not only into the hearts of others but also into finding comfort in his own skin.
paint brush graphic

By Alessandra Singh

a da bum bum. Ba da bum bum. Jason Albers’ (Health Professions ’17) mom finally had enough of her 15-year-old’s incessant tapping at every countertop, pot or pan within his reach. The solution, she figured, get the boy a drum set — but only on one condition – he played when she wasn’t home, Albers recounts with a laugh.

For some, a drum is merely its definition – a percussion instrument sounded when struck with sticks or the hands. To others, it’s just a great addition to their favorite music. Then there’s Albers, where drums brought a sense of belonging for a little boy who came to realize that he is different than his peers.

crayons and stethoscope with Legacy Developmental Pediatrics card

‘Thanks, Doc’

Four nurse practitioners honor their late mentor in the best way they know how: by establishing a pediatric practice in her memory.

Photographer JOHN WEAST
When you walk in the front entrance of Legacy Developmental Pediatrics in Lubbock, Texas, you’re welcomed by a photo of five women with warm, friendly smiles. Four of them are the owners of the clinic. The fifth is no longer living; she died unexpectedly in February 2022. But she’s there in spirit.

In fact, she’s the reason the rest of them are there.

Connections of a Lifetime Download the Alumni App Today
Download on the app store
Download on the app store
TTUHSC iPhone app mockup
Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Alumni Association
Scan the QR code to learn more about the TTUHSC Alumni Association App

In Honor of His West Texas Spirit

Shawn Hodges, PharmD, (Pharmacy ’01) was inspired by his late friend and former classmate Sid Phillips, PharmD, (Pharmacy ’01), when he wanted to give back to the school that made him the leader he is today. Seeking to support future pharmacy leaders and honor Phillips, who exemplified a true West Texas way of caring for his patients. Hodges established a scholarship endowment.
Provided by Cheri Phillips

Gift for Future Pharmacy Leaders

“Can we just talk about the patient, rather than the therapy?” said Sid Phillips, PharmD, (Pharmacy ‘01) to resolve a debate amongst fellow pharmacy classmates. That’s the kind of guy Sid was – salt-of-the-earth, who lived a life devoted to three values – God, family, and honest work – a man that former classmate, Shawn Hodges, PharmD, (Pharmacy ‘01) calls “a true West Texan.”

Hodges remembers being struck by Phillips’ ability to zero in on an issue. He had a certain spirit – a “grit,” if you will. It was this spirit that connected Phillips, a quiet fifth-generation cattleman, and Hodges, a charismatic Dallas native – and drew them to the Jerry H. Hodge School of Pharmacy. Hodges describes it as an “entrepreneurial spirit” — a hunger for innovation, excellence and leadership. But there was one other key ingredient to this recipe — that if absent, just wouldn’t produce the same result.

“I’ll give them this drug, but how good is your malpractice insurance.” Another colloquialism of Phillips that his widow, Cheri Phillips, said challenged physicians during his residency at St. Luke’s Hospital in Livingston, Texas. “He saw pharmacy as something to be invested in, and pharmacists as people who got to change how patients were cared for.”

A genuine care for people was the connection between Phillips and Hodges, and the final ingredient found rooted in their alma mater. That genuine care led Hodges to give an endowment scholarship to the pharmacy school in Phillips’ honor who died in 2021.

“He reflected that West Texas pioneering spirit. He was the embodiment of the personality that Tech has to offer,” said Hodges.

The endowment is meant to encourage student recognition of the value in the school’s advanced curriculum and resources, and support future pharmacy leaders, something that Phillips was equally passionate about. “If the students can be proud of where they are, that money would be well-spent,” Hodges said.

RoundsDermatology dual Degree

Love the Skin You’re In

Two medical schools had accepted Austin Cope, MD, MBA, (Medicine ’15), but he began to doubt his career choice following a newfound desire to become an entrepreneur. In favor of starting his own business, Cope withdrew his applications. Ironically, amidst it all, he received acceptance to the TTUHSC School of Medicine MD/MBA program.
Austin Cope, MD, MBA
Provided by Austin Cope, MD, MBA
Austin Cope, MD, MBA, at the grand opening of his new clinic.


Best defenses against aging: sunscreen and retinol.
RoundsCall to action
Ashley Edling, MPH, (Public Health ’19) in blue cardigan holding mug
carolyn cruz

Calling All MPHs

Ashley Edling, MPH, (Public Health ’19) takes a different approach to the job market.
What do public health professionals bring to the nonprofit industry?

For Ashley Edling, MPH, (’19) the question is easy. Viewing health holistically fosters a unique perspective for nonprofit work, allowing public health professionals to connect dots such as how social determinants of health impact other areas of life. In tandem, the public health degree program teaches students to be creative and flexible, thinking outside of the box to create solutions.

Specifically, for Edling, her degree has enabled her to better approach community members of her nonprofit, Network for Community Ministries, with a big-picture understanding of the situations they face. “Public health is different for everyone because, by definition, public health is very broad.” So, to promote and protect her community members, she observes where they live, where they work and where they play.

Make your mark in the LBK typography

See why the Director of Operations for Nemalife calls Lubbock home

The desire to make a difference helped guide Kellen Ketchersid to Texas Tech and along his career path. His education and early job experiences led to a full-time position at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, which eventually led to his return to Lubbock.

“Lubbock is a great fit for us,” said Ketchersid. “It’s a wonderful place to raise a family and we appreciate the values, people and culture of West Texas.”

As Director of Operations at NemaLife — a company that provides data-driven intelligence to accelerate research — Ketchersid wants to ensure people feel valued and wake up excited to come to work and make a difference daily.

“We work with a broad range of industries to screen and test compounds,” said Ketchersid. “Our highly efficient testing and screening service helps streamline research and lab experiments so companies can prioritize and focus on the right studies to continue.

The Texas Tech Innovation Hub at Research Park provides an extraordinary opportunity to work on the leading edge of science and technology.” According to Ketchersid, the future is now, and it’s in Lubbock.

“It’s inspiring to be part of a team of smart, innovative people working together to prevent problems and discover solutions,” said Ketchersid. “We’ve received federal grants to study Alzheimer’s and our technology was launched as far as the International Space Station to test how the neuromuscular system is affected by microgravity.”

As a husband and father of three, he and his wife also make their mark as active volunteers in the community, their church and their kids’ schools.

“It’s a blessing to be able to make a difference at work, raise my family and enjoy life in Lubbock,” said Ketchersid.

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Update Catching Up With TTUHSC Alumni & Friends

Jessica Gray, MD posing in scrubs with stethoscope

Christina Chen, DNP, APRN, PMHNP-BC

Jessica Gray, MD

UMC Health System, Lubbock, Texas

Medicine Graduate: 2015/Resident: 2018


Motherhood and medicine might be the most challenging combination in Jessica Gray’s, MD, life, but it’s undoubtedly the most rewarding. It’s a dual role she doesn’t want to see discourage her female counterparts from pursuing the STEM field. 

Women bring a unique perspective to medicine and are vital in partnering with female patients in their health. A study published during Gray’s residency suggested female physicians may provide a higher quality of care as compared to their male counterparts in part due to their innate nature to listen and connect with their patients. Gray and colleagues were amused by this small study and hoped to prove it right. 

“It is important that we as a society challenge young women – starting in elementary and middle school – to strive for careers in STEM fields by showing them there are role models around them in their community,” said Gray.

“(Young girls and women alike), don’t be scared of a future that isn’t already paved out for you, set your own course,” she said.

And when you take that first step, you can bet that Gray will be your biggest fan.
— Alessandra Singh

Provided by Jessica Gray, MD
UpdateNews & Notes
  • News & Notes

    Jerry H. Hodge School of Pharmacy

    Alexandria Arnett, a second-year pharmacy student, was selected as the Student Pharmacist Board Member of the American College of Veterinary Pharmacists for 2023-2024.

  • Hiranmoy Das, PhD, pharmaceutical sciences professor, accepted an invitation to be a member of the editorial board of the Journal Diseases & Research.
  • Bonnie Dugie., PharmD, (’00) received the Texas Society of Health System Pharmacists Fellows award.
  • News & Notes

    School of Medicine

    Yaw Adu, third-year medical student, was chosen by the International Myeloma Foundation for the Medical Student Scholars for Health Equity in Myeloma Mentoring program.

  • Racquel “Rocky” Bono, MD, (’83) joins Red Cell Partners as a senior advisor.
  • David Cummings, MD, (’98) has been reappointed by Gov. Abbott to the Cancer Research Institute of Texas Oversight Committee.
  • Jessica Gray, MD, (‘15, ‘18) is named the team physician for the Texas Tech Lady Raiders basketball team.
  • News & Notes

    Friends we’ll miss

    Steven L. Berk, MD, died May 26, 2023. He was dean of the School of Medicine and executive vice president of clinical affairs.

  • Sandra Michelle Hash died January 25, 2023. She was a member of the STaR program through speech and language pathology.
  • Steven Williams Eldridge, PhD, (’19) died February 4, 2023. He was a business administrator and professor at TTUHSC.

UpdateNews & Notes

Ross Allen, JD, MS

Integrated DNA Technologies, Menlo Park, California (Remote)

Health Professions Graduate: 2005

Science and Law Collide

Ross Allen, JD, MS, has parlayed his science education at TTUHSC into a successful career in an unexpected field: law.

The pivot came toward the end of his master’s program in molecular pathology when he realized that working in a lab wasn’t for him. A faculty member told him about her daughter’s work as a patent lawyer, and a light bulb went off: “I realized that there’s another career path I could pursue — as a lawyer in biotech,” said Allen.

Portrait of Ross Allen JD MS wearing suit with bushes behind him
Provided by Ross Allen, JD, MS
Today, Allen is general counsel for Integrated DNA Technologies, a supplier of DNA and RNA fragments for use in research and medicine. He relies on his scientific background, especially in intellectual property litigation, where he needs to understand — and explain to jurors — the complex ideas in a patent dispute.

Although Allen started college with no inkling he’d become a lawyer, he’s grateful for how it’s all worked out. “(With a) scientific background, there are a lot of doors that can open.”

— Tina Hay

UpdateNews & Notes

Debra Danforth, DNP, RN, APRN, FAANP

Director, The Charlotte E. Maguire, MD, and Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare Center for Clinical Simulation
Florida State University College of Medicine, Tallahassee, Florida

Nursing Graduate: 2019

The first of her kind

Debra Danforth, DNP, RN, APRN, FAANP, has been leading Florida State University’s College of Medicine’s standardized patient program for nearly 20 years. Her long-term goal was always to become a full professor — a rank that at FSU COM, no other nurse practitioner had achieved.
Debra Danforth wearing a red dress
Provided by Debra Danforth, dnp, rn, APRN, faanp
First step: earn a doctorate, which Danforth pursued at TTUHSC, focused on objective structured clinical examination (OSCE). Replicating what she saw at TTUHSC, Danforth brought OSCEs to the nursing school at FSU that never had one.

“We recorded a session with a standardized patient, made sure it was what we all wanted, and that the faculty were grading it the same way,” she said.

In honor of Danforth becoming the first nurse practitioner to earn tenure at FSU COM, the Florida Nurse Practitioner Network named her Nurse Practitioner of the Year in 2022.

— Kim Catley

UpdateNews & Notes

Brad Youngblood, PhD

Allakos, San Francisco, California

Biomedical Sciences Graduate: 2014

Allergies: From Miserable to Manageable

Do you suffer from severe allergies? If so, additional relief is on the way.

Brad Youngblood, PhD has spent the past seven years at Allakos, an antibody company based in California, developing novel drugs that reduce the effect of allergies and chronic inflammation by targeting certain pathogenic cells. Spreading awareness is key when developing new drug treatments, said Youngblood. Earlier this year, Youngblood and his team presented at American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, the largest allergy conference in the United States, over a new drug that will soon be tested on humans called AK006. The drug is able to modulate pathogenic cells to limit the severity of skin reactions from allergies so patients can live normal, allergy-free lives. “That is what gets us out of bed every morning,” said Youngblood. “When we talk to patients about these drugs, we can see it on their face- the impact it has on these people’s lives.”

— Natalie Stanislaus

portrait of Brad Youngblood PhD wearing red collared shirt
PROVIDED BY Brad youngblood, phd

UpdateNews & Notes

Christine Lucio, MPH

City of Abilene, Abilene, Texas

Population and Public Health Graduate: 2018

Don’t Leave it to Data

Data doesn’t always paint the whole picture. At least that’s what Christine Lucio, MPH, assistant director of public health for the City of Abilene, Texas, discovered. Research compiled by the County Health Rankings reveals that Taylor County residents, included in Lucio’s service area, have more access to exercise opportunities than most Texans but are physically less active.

With this information, Lucio took to the streets to ask the community members why this was. She uncovered the issue: roaming dogs made them feel unsafe, discouraging physical activity such as running, walking and biking. This is the power of public health – listening.

Christine Lucio, MPH holding an iced coffee and ipad
Emily shafer, circle e media
“It’s easy for public health professionals to collect data to inform our processes, programs and policies, but in gathering experiences and actually listening to community members, we gain a knowledge you can’t always gain from static data,” she says.

— Alessandra Singh

UpdateNews & Notes

Cody Clark, PharmD

Big Country Dermatology Pharmacy, Abilene, Texas, and Spring Hill, Tennessee

Pharmacy Graduate: 2014

Finding a niche in pharmacy

Cody Clark, PharmD, realized he could own a pharmacy business when he was introduced to independent pharmacy owners while at TTUHSC.

Though, he knew he needed to find a niche to compete with national pharmacy chains. Talking with a dermatologist friend, he discovered a challenge to filling specialty prescriptions.

portrait of Cody Clark, PharmD
Provided by Cody Clark, PharmD
With this information, he opened Big Country Dermatology Pharmacy in 2015 that now has two locations and the ability to ship to 17 states. The pharmacy simplifies the process for patients in three key areas:

  • Processing rebate cards for brand-specific medications.
  • Dispensing the highly regulated acne medication Accutane.
  • Offering compounding services that produce creams and ointments at less than half the cost of average compounding pharmacies.

“Dermatology patients aren’t served well in regular pharmacies,” said Clark. “We pride ourselves on using our expertise to get medications in their hands.”

— Kim Catley

Similarly, the first couple years of medical school — the basic sciences — position a student for success in their academic career, residency and professional practice. <b>Guy Hirsch, MD, (Medicine ’75) chose to give a medical student that head start, establishing the Rachel Hirsch Bradley, PhD, and Benjamin Hirsch, MD, Scholarship in the School of Medicine.</b></p>
<p>He included this one-time scholarship award for a student of academic merit in his will, naming it for his children, Bradley (GSBS ’06) and Hirsch (Medicine ’08).</p>
<p><b>“With all the unknowns when a student begins medical school, there ought to be one solid piece of ground to land on,”</b> Hirsch said. “Eliminating the worry on that first part of their debt allows a student to delve deeper into their studies” — and gives them a greater chance to finish strong.
Benjamin Hirsch, MD, and Rachel Hirsch Bradley, PhD, with their father, Guy Hirsch, MD.
In a relay, each strategically positioned racer contributes to the team’s overall success.
While several factors determine the order in which each person will run, the lead runner often sets the tone for success.
Similarly, the first couple years of medical school — the basic sciences — position a student for success in their academic career, residency and professional practice. Guy Hirsch, MD, (Medicine ’75) chose to give a medical student that head start, establishing the Rachel Hirsch Bradley, PhD, and Benjamin Hirsch, MD, Scholarship in the School of Medicine.

He included this one-time scholarship award for a student of academic merit in his will, naming it for his children, Bradley (GSBS ’06) and Hirsch (Medicine ’08).

“With all the unknowns when a student begins medical school, there ought to be one solid piece of ground to land on,” Hirsch said. “Eliminating the worry on that first part of their debt allows a student to delve deeper into their studies” — and gives them a greater chance to finish strong.

Texas Tech Foundation logo
To make your GIFT OF IMPACT, contact Nathan Rice, CFRE, at giftplanning@ttu.edu or 806.742.1781.
In a relay, each strategically positioned racer contributes to the team’s overall success.
While several factors determine the order in which each person will run, the lead runner often sets the tone for success.
Similarly, the first couple years of medical school — the basic sciences — position a student for success in their academic career, residency and professional practice. Guy Hirsch, MD, (Medicine ’75) chose to give a medical student that head start, establishing the Rachel Hirsch Bradley, PhD, and Benjamin Hirsch, MD, Scholarship in the School of Medicine.

He included this one-time scholarship award for a student of academic merit in his will, naming it for his children, Bradley (GSBS ’06) and Hirsch (Medicine ’08).

“With all the unknowns when a student begins medical school, there ought to be one solid piece of ground to land on,” Hirsch said. “Eliminating the worry on that first part of their debt allows a student to delve deeper into their studies” — and gives them a greater chance to finish strong.

Similarly, the first couple years of medical school — the basic sciences — position a student for success in their academic career, residency and professional practice. <b>Guy Hirsch, MD, (Medicine ’75) chose to give a medical student that head start, establishing the Rachel Hirsch Bradley, PhD, and Benjamin Hirsch, MD, Scholarship in the School of Medicine.</b></p>
<p>He included this one-time scholarship award for a student of academic merit in his will, naming it for his children, Bradley (GSBS ’06) and Hirsch (Medicine ’08).</p>
<p><b>“With all the unknowns when a student begins medical school, there ought to be one solid piece of ground to land on,”</b> Hirsch said. “Eliminating the worry on that first part of their debt allows a student to delve deeper into their studies” — and gives them a greater chance to finish strong.
Benjamin Hirsch, MD, and Rachel Hirsch Bradley, PhD, with their father, Guy Hirsch, MD.
Texas Tech Foundation logo
To make your GIFT OF IMPACT, contact Nathan Rice, CFRE, at giftplanning@ttu.edu or 806.742.1781.

‘Pressure Makes Diamonds’ – Did You Gain More Than a Degree?

Share your TTUHSC love story with us at pulse@ttuhsc.edu for an upcoming issue.
Devin Del Rio, BSN, RN, (Nursing ’21) surprised his classmate and girlfriend, Leianne Maugeri, BSN, RN, (Nursing ’21) with the grandest of gestures when he proposed in front of fellow classmates at their graduation. The proposal was a sweet ending to a year of trials — work and school, complex family dynamics and home displacement. As Del Rio said, “Pressure makes diamonds,” and for them, it made a forever love, and a full life together.
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