Health sciences alums use Gettysburg education to serve communities in Pennsylvania and beyond



Health sciences alums

From dentists to doctors, physical therapists to physician assistants, Gettysburg College health sciences (HS) alums use the knowledge they gained on campus to serve their communities – both near and far.

“Gettysburg College is one of the only small, private, liberal arts schools to have a program like this,” said health sciences Prof. Dan Drury. “Our students have the unique opportunity to focus their studies solely on humans as they prepare to enter a health profession.”

The Department of Health Sciences, named as such since 2006, when the department was known as Health & Exercise Sciences (HES), is one of the most popular departments on campus, with approximately 200 current students. New topics are continually explored, including a recent focus on public health.

The quality and breadth of the health sciences department is evidenced by the diversity of careers its alums have pursued, as well as their success. Many alums have moved on to pursue their careers across the country, but others have settled near Gettysburg to serve the community they called home during their time on campus.

“I decided to return to Gettysburg to practice medicine because of my love for the College and community, and I wanted to give back in any way I could,” said Rebecca Cannon ’06, a physician assistant at Gettysburg Adult Medicine. “I know that I wouldn't have been successful in graduate school or my career without Gettysburg College, and am very proud to be an alum -- and now have the opportunity to continue my involvement with the College.”

Cannon, a double major in HES and biology at Gettysburg, pursued a master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies at Chatham University after graduation, later becoming a certified physician assistant.

“Many students in my graduate program did not have as solid of a background in topics like chronic diseases and anatomy and physiology, and had to work extra hard to learn them in an already demanding program,” said Cannon. “Because of the strength of Gettysburg’s health sciences curriculum, I was already comfortable with and interested in topics relating to the human body.”

Cannon isn’t the only alum to feel that the health sciences department prepared her well for further study and a career in medicine, nor is she the only one to return to central Pennsylvania to serve the community.

“All of the classes I took in HES had a direct link to the study of medicine, and that’s an incredible focus to have for someone who wants to pursue a health profession,” said Steven Wylie ’02, a dentist at Verber Family Dentistry in Camp Hill, Pa.

Wylie, an HES and biology double major, graduated from Temple Dental School and returned to central Pennsylvania to practice general dentistry.

In addition to the quality of the curriculum, Wylie also appreciated the learning environment at Gettysburg. “The small school environment was really helpful,” he said. “The classes were similar to those I experienced in dental school, but in a smaller, more nurturing environment. It was good to have those skills before I pursued further studies.”

Another grad to appreciate the learning environment in health sciences at Gettysburg College is Deanna Kloss Adair ’05, a physical therapist at an outpatient clinic in Lewisberry, Pa.

“Several of my peers in physical therapy school had majored in biology or chemistry, or even in unrelated areas such as English. Where many of them had never been exposed to kinesiology or exercise physiology, I felt very comfortable and familiar with this material when I entered graduate school,” she said.

Adair, a double major in HES and psychology at Gettysburg, earned her doctor of physical therapy from Arcadia University and completed an American Physical Therapy Association credentialed orthopedic residency program. In 2011, she passed the exam to become an American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties credentialed orthopedic certified specialist.

“The challenging curriculum within the science departments prepared me for the critical thinking for medical school. The HES department and Gettysburg College were a great fit for my future endeavors and me,” echoed Margaret Hallahan ’06, a resident in internal medicine at Pinnacle Health System in Harrisburg, Pa. “I was able to participate in my extracurricular activities while taking on a challenging academic schedule, which was the perfect recipe for success at my next level of training.”

Hallahan, an HES major at Gettysburg, attended Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM), and will graduate residency in June 2013. Like many others, Hallahan found great value in the research she conducted while at Gettysburg.

“I worked alongside Graham Foose ’06, another graduate of LECOM and fellow internal medicine resident at Pinnacle Health, on research that was being overseen by Dr. Drury. Foose and I conducted research on female athletes and their perception to pain during exercise.”

Another health sciences alum to translate the research he conducted at Gettysburg into a career is Cliff Mason ’03, a research assistant professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center.

“As an undergrad, I was able to conduct research that got published, and that was a great confidence builder,” said Mason. “Dr. Drury helped me obtain a summer research opportunity at the Army Research Institute, where we looked at the heat stress model in soldiers. I also worked with Dr. Drury on research related to muscle contractions while on campus.”

After Gettysburg, Mason pursued graduate school in pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Maryland-Baltimore, where he further explored his interest in conducting research. He received his Ph.D. in 2008, and after a year of post doctorate studies, Mason ended up in the OBGYN department at the University of Kansas Medical Center where he studies how drugs cross the placenta and the causes of preterm labor.

“Research is so central to my career today, I wonder where I’d be if not for the research I conducted during my time at Gettysburg,” said Mason.

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Contact: Nikki Rhoads, assistant director of communications, 717.337.6803

Posted: Mon, 26 Mar 2012

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