As chair of ATSU’s Board of Trustees and CEO of a community health center, Ann Thielke, JD, BSN, RN has a deep passion for whole person healthcare. She has spent many years in the medical field, both as a nurse and a healthcare lawyer. A tireless advocate for her patients, she has dedicated her career to improving the accessibility of quality medical care. Her passion isn’t just professional, though. It’s personal.
A few years ago, someone close to Thielke became very sick. Doctors had no idea what was wrong. Although her loved one was receiving care at one of the state’s best hospitals, Thielke soon became frustrated by physicians who failed to treat the whole person.
“Don’t talk about my family member as just a gallbladder or just a kidney,” says Thielke. “I embrace the osteopathic view of the person as a whole being.”
Eventually, the family received a diagnosis of autoimmune disease. The condition could be managed with lifestyle changes.
“The journey that it took us to get there was pretty horrific,” says Thielke. “I thought I might lose a loved one.”
The experience invigorated Thielke’s commitment to osteopathic medicine. When former chair G. Scott Drew, DO, FAOCD, ’87, invited her to join the University’s Board of Trustees, her response was “an immediate, resounding ‘yes.’”
“ATSU cares deeply, not just about its students, but also about the communities it touches,” says Thielke. “The ripple of its impact goes far beyond Kirksville and Mesa. I was so honored by the opportunity to serve on the board. It was the perfect fit for my passions and beliefs. I feel like I can leave a legacy here.”
Thielke was drawn to ATSU not just for its longevity and stability, but also for its dynamism and flexibility. Since she joined the board in 2013, much has changed. Underrepresented groups comprise a greater portion of the student body. Through its community health center partnerships, the University has increased access to care around the country. Even the makeup of the board has evolved. A year before Thielke’s appointment, only one woman sat on the Board of Trustees. As of last year, the University boasts a female-majority board.
Thielke is especially impressed by the leadership of ATSU President Craig Phelps, DO, ’84.
“When ATSU says, ‘We’re going to look at something, and we’re going to change it,’ it happens,” says Thielke. “Dr. Phelps has really encouraged this.”
As the first institution of osteopathic medicine, the University has left an indelible mark in the field. With such passionate leaders at the helm, the University’s greatest contributions to whole person healthcare may still lie ahead.