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James Farris, PT, PhD

James W. Farris, PT, PhD, is the new chair of the ASHS department of physical therapy. He will officially begin the duties as chair on July 1. Dr. Farris has been on the faculty at ASHS since 2008. Prior to that time, he had 13 years of previous teaching experience in physical therapy with five of those as program director and department chair at Arkansas State University. “He brings a wealth of clinical and educational experience to this job, and we look forward to his leadership in an already stellar PT program,” said ASHS Dean Randy Danielsen, PhD, PA-C, DFAAPA.

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Ninety-two new doctors of osteopathic medicine crossed the stage at the Comerica Theatre in Phoenix, Ariz., on June 8, marking their completion of four years of study in a unique medical school curriculum model. ATSU-SOMA is one of a handful of medical schools across the country utilizing the clinical presentation-based medical education model where students are immersed in clinical care beginning in their second year of medical school.

“When this class first arrived at ATSU-SOMA, I challenged you to personally take charge of your education in order to continue your growth as life-long, self-motivated learners,” said Thomas McWilliams, DO, FACOFP, interim dean, ATSU-SOMA, in his address to students. “As an entire class you have successfully addressed this charge. You now have at your disposal more scientific knowledge than any prior generation of physicians and are ready to move into the next phase of your professional development, your postgraduate training.”

Dr. McWilliams added that his parting request was for students to keep alive the spirit of altruism during residency training. “Your healing touch is exactly what the nation needs at this place and time,” he said.

Also at the ceremony, Donald L. Weaver, MD, chief medical officer for the National Association of Community Health Centers, was the keynote speaker.  In his comments, Dr. Weaver said,  “I believe that Dr. A.T. Still is looking down on this class and faculty, as are many others, and beaming with pride because you are carrying on his tradition: Always looking for the most effective ways to care for those whom you are privileged to serve, committed to a lifetime of learning, and committed to caring for the whole person.”

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Friends and family cheered as the A.T. Still University Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health (ATSU-ASDOH) class of 2012 entered the Comerica Theater in Phoenix, Ariz., for commencement ceremonies on Friday, June 8.

The 68 members of ATSU-ASDOH’s sixth graduating class received their Doctor of Dental Medicine (DMD) degree, 23 of whom also received a Master in Public Health (MPH) through ATSU’s School of Health Management (SHM). In addition, three postgraduate orthodontic program residents received their Doctor of Health Sciences (DHSc) degree.

Said ATSU-ASDOH Inaugural Dean Jack Dillenberg “We are proud of this extraordinary class, and are looking forward to the contributions that they will make in the communities where they choose to practice and serve,” he said.

A significant fact regarding the class of 2012 is the that six graduates are American Indian, which  is believed to be the largest number of American Indians to graduate from any U.S. dental school at one time. “I believe this is probably going to be a high-water mark for some time,” said George Blue Spruce, associate dean at the dental school and co-founder of the Society of American Indian Dentists. All six graduates plan to work with American Indian populations, such as those on reservations or at clinics affiliated with the national Indian Health Service.

ATSU President Jack Magruder presented an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to Ronald F. Pollack, Esq., executive director of Families USA, the national organization for healthcare consumers. Families USA’s mission is to achieve high-quality, affordable health coverage and care for everyone in the country.  Mr. Pollack was also the keynote speaker at the graduation.

Pollack spoke to the graduates about the importance of being a part of the solution for the medically uninsured and under insured. “My wish for you as you launch into your careers is to be a part of fixing the problem of uninsured in this country,” said Pollack. “I urge you and challenge you to think of what you will do to improve oral healthcare for people across the country.”


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The 1st Annual Clinical Presentation Curriculum (CPC) Proceedings was held June 9 on the ATSU Mesa campus. The event was sponsored by the newly formed Clinical Presentation Curriculum – Learning, Education & Research Community (CLEAR).  CLEAR is a group of medical educators interested in facilitating and implementing the clinical presentation-based medical education model.

“Given that many medical schools throughout the world have implemented or are considering implementing the CPC, we hosted what was (to our knowledge) the first Proceedings on the CP model,” said Gene Winfield, DO, assistant professor, ATSU-SOMA and chair, CLEAR committee.

The goals of the Proceeding were to facilitate a connected community of interested faculty in the CPC, to discuss important elements of the CPC and share individual challenges and solutions to these widespread issues, and to develop a shared repository of information on the CPC.

Keynote speaker at the event was Dr. Douglas Wood, ATSU senior vice president-academic affairs.  He encouraged participants to read Educating Physicians, by Cooke, Irby and O’Brien, in celebration of the Beyond Flexner report. “One of the four major areas of U.S. medical education which the authors found deficient was in the area of integration,” said Dr. Wood. “Their definition of integration was bringing together the basic sciences, the clinical sciences, and the social sciences across the model. I think that is what the CPC does.”

Approximately 50 medical national and international educators attended the Proceedings. For more information on CPC and the event, visit www.cpc-clear.org.

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The SOMA class of 2012 enjoyed a night of awards, dinner, and dancing at the second annual Innovator’s Gala, held on June 7 at the Sheraton Hotel in Phoenix, Ariz.

The gala, which was attended by 340 guests, took place the night before graduation and allowed the students to spend time with their peers, SOMA faculty, staff, and their Community Health Campuses (CHCs).

A tribute video was created for the graduating class and can be seen here.


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