Alumni Stories

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Midwestern University’s amazing alumni, over 25,000 strong, are exemplary healthcare leaders and many of them are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic serving their communities. Now more than ever, our alumni are inspiring students, faculty, and staff. We are pleased to share their personal experiences, best practices, and stories about how this pandemic is impacting their work and their communities.

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Here are just a few stories of hope and resilience amid unprecedented challenges we’ve received from everyday heroes – our alumni.

I graduated from Midwestern Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2007. I am now a Clinical Pathologist with a Subspecialty in Blood Banking and Transfusion Medicine and the Medical Director of the Transfusion Service at Children’s Hospital Colorado. I started a program to collect convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19, and was the third place in the country to do so. Convalescent plasma is a blood donation from a person who has recovered from COVID-19, which will have a high level of virus-neutralizing antibodies, and transfuse it into a patient who is currently ill. Although the treatment is experimental, this therapy is being used worldwide, and data is now coming out to show that it has a significant impact in reducing morbidity and mortality from COVID-19, with very few adverse events. Although we are a Children’s hospital and have had very few COVID-19 patients, we felt it was important to support the community in any way we could, and one of those ways was to supply convalescent plasma to patients at 17 adult hospitals in Colorado and also to facilities in Utah and Illinois. We are all so gratified to know that we are able to make a difference and truly save lives.
- Kyle Annen, D.O. (CCOM 2007)

I am a Family Medicine physician in Lake Geneva, WI. I work for a large health system and had just relocated my practice in September 2019. My patients and colleagues were quite new to me when the Coronavirus pandemic swept America. The first week the country went on lockdown was chaos at my clinic. We were canceling patient appointments, trying to attend to thousands of backlogged virtual visits across two states, and struggled to advise about a virus that we knew very little about. The health department guidelines for COVID19 testing changed daily. It seemed like we should wear masks but the government told us that it was nonsense. Everything was so uncertain.

Then, the chaos just stopped - the state health department didn't have enough tests anyway. Furthermore, the tests we did have took 7-10 days to result. So, the patient calls fizzled out. It was very quiet and slow in the clinic for the next few weeks. We were told to wear masks. No one got through the door without a temperature check. It felt like the eye of the storm.

The hospitals erected huge climate-controlled tents outside the ER in preparation for the COVID-19 surge. I volunteered to take several shifts because I didn't feel like I was helping much in the clinic. The tent environment was surreal; it felt like a movie. Face shields, gowns, gloves, white plastic curtains. Some patients were sick, some just scared. Unfortunately, we still don't have the testing availability to test everyone with symptoms. I tested a handful of patients and a few were positive. What struck me was that some patients I was sure would be positive weren't and some with very mild symptoms were. The problem with working in the ER is that I can't follow up with those COVID-19 positive patients. I hope everything turned out ok for them.

The COVID-19 tents were short-lived because Wisconsin, thank God, didn't have the anticipated surge. But I'm positive this pandemic is far from winding down. Thankfully, testing capability continues to improve. Now my clinic is working on how to safely start attending to routine patient needs. Video and telephone visits were unusual before all this. Now, I suspect, virtual visits will become a regular part of my day for the foreseeable future. That's ok. We can adapt. People say I'm a hero. I don't think so. I signed up for this. The real heroes are those working in grocery stores, utility workers, and essential factory workers. They never planned that their lives would be in danger at work. But they are still showing up and that is truly admirable.
- Rebecca Zimmermann, D.O. (CCOM 2010)

“My family, including my 82 year old Dad and I are doing well. Work has been very challenging and stressful. However, I am blessed to work with many outstanding physicians, nurses and support staff who have come together in this difficult time. This is a time when people's wonderful and beautiful qualities really come out and shine. I see the empathy, kindness, love, compassion, thoughtfulness and passion just pour out of each and every colleague and partner. These are tough times but very meaningful times in which we really have an opportunity to make a very positive impact to the best of our ability. I feel very blessed to be a physician and am most grateful to Midwestern University's Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine to have afforded me the opportunity to be part of this honorable profession.”
-Glenn Milos, D.O. (CCOM 1998)

I am currently completing a Spinal Cord Injury Medicine Fellowship at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. All residents and fellows have been deployed to work on COVID-19 units. The hospital service was very intense at the peak of the patient surge with unsuccessful codes outnumbering healthy discharges. Now the situation has improved, and we are discharging more patients home. It has been incredible to see everyone come together to support each other. Every day at 7 pm the city erupts with everyone clapping for frontline workers. I am blessed to have the opportunity to be part of the healthcare team taking care of New York during this pandemic.
-Matthias Linke, D.O. (AZCOM 2003)

“I graduated from Midwestern University’s Nurse Anesthesia Program in 2016. I thought the training and clinical experience were outstanding, which made the transition into my profession seamless. My combined anesthesia and critical care backgrounds have made this role a good fit. We were trained to be independent anesthesia providers in school, and this has been an enormous benefit over the last few years. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the cancellation of elective surgeries at my medical center, and I have been repurposed as a Critical Care Nurse Anesthetist in one of the COVID ICUs. While it’s scary being on the front lines, I have without question felt well-prepared to take on this role. I am lucky to be on an incredible team of healthcare providers exhausting every resource and emotion to take care of these critically sick patients. While I'd be lying if I said there wasn't some anxiety going into the hospital for this crazy mix of day and night shifts, I'm excited to be able to help my patients through this pandemic in any way I can and to be part of such an incredible team of people.”
- Josh Matlin, CRNA (CHS-Glendale 2016)

-Tyler Fix, D.M.D. (CDMI 2017)

I am a MWU 2009 graduate and currently work at St. Luke’s Hospital, Chesterfield MO as a Certified Clinical Perfusionist. Last Friday, April 24th 2020 we discharged the first COVID-19 patient to be put on ECMO, survive, and be discharged in the state of Missouri!
My colleague and I, along with our Cardiothoracic surgeon put him on ECMO in our COVID Critical Care Unit on April 6th and was taken off ECMO successfully on April 13th! Our patient was a St. Louis Police officer and this was a local and national celebration!
We are currently putting together a case study and will be publishing a paper on our experience as Perfusionist’s, and the ECMO techniques we used during this case.  Thank you for honoring all the frontline hero’s!
- Andrea Carroll M.S., CCP (CHS-Glendale 2009)

“I just got back from being deployed by the Federal government for two weeks, first to Miramar, CA to help repatriate the passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship as they were put into Federal quarantine, many of whom were sick with COVID-19. Then, I was part of an aeromedical evacuation team helping to fly these patients/passengers back to their home states. The entire U.S. changed in the two weeks I was gone, and I was able to finally get home last week. In northeast Pennsylvania, we are one hour’s drive from NYC and are now battling the crisis at home with not enough hospital beds, staff, and PPE―things that every part of the U.S. is experiencing right now. Things are easing slightly over the past 3-4 days, and we are starting to be optimistic that the curve is flattening, as it appears to be in NYC. We are getting through this.”
- Jonathan A. Goldner, D.O., FCCP, FCCM (CCOM 1983)

“I work in outpatient primary care (internal medicine) in Elk Grove Village, IL at Alexian Brothers Hospital. We are doing mostly telephonic and virtual visits with our patients; it has been a flurry of activity getting these new platforms up and running in a short period of time. So far, it has been working really well and is providing a great way for us to remotely care for our patients during this pandemic. The physicians who I work with are the leads in opening an acute respiratory clinic next week for possible COVID patients (who are not critical) to be evaluated in an outpatient setting that is not the emergency room. This will be of great benefit to many “in-between” patients who have been, up until now, encouraged to self-monitor at home – the ones who are sick but not sick enough for hospitalization. This will allow them to be evaluated by a doctor in full PPE in an appointment-only setting where patients will be seen on a one-in, one-out basis. I will be running the office and handling all of the usual outpatient visits and needs during their deployment. I am proud to be a PA and to contribute during this unbelievable time in healthcare!”
- Lisa McCloskey, M.M.S. (CHS-Downers Grove 2005)

- Travis Shelton, Pharm.D. (CPG 2009)

I graduated from Midwestern in 2014 and participated in many different roles while going through pharmacy school, such as being the class president and a resident assistant. I have been a part of the Walmart team for 10 years, and recently I’ve taken on a new role to assist site operations for Walmart Health, including services such as primary care, dental, community health services, labs, x-rays, optometry, audiology, etc. As we continue to evolve this model in the mist of the COVID19 pandemic, we continue to serve our communities by providing many of these essential health services. We have also helped the government with COVID-19 testing through a public-private partnership, working with HHS, state and local officials, and our lab partners. I have had the amazing opportunity to help coordinate and work with a variety of associates to ensure optimum operations of our Walmart Health Centers. This has truly been a team effort, and it wouldn’t be possible without our associates on the front lines who continue to adapt to serve our patients. I also want to thank our associates in the office who support this work. I couldn’t be prouder of how we have stepped up to work together to support our communities.
-Haresh Desai, Pharm.D., M.B.A. (CCP 2014)

“These are very trying times that none of us have experienced before. Because of the highly contagious nature of COVID-19, we’ve had to adjust our treatment protocols. We have four ophthalmologists and three optometrists in our practice and 22 support staff. We are covering for 30 optometric and a multitude of D.O. and M.D. practices in the southwest Chicago suburbs for urgent and emergent eye care. In order to not compromise our whole office, I decided to break up our staff into four skeleton teams and shut down two of our three offices. Each team staffs our central main office on a rotational daily basis. That way, if one team gets quarantined/compromised, we still have three left to handle eye emergencies. So far, we’ve only had one team compromised, and they will be back off quarantine in three days. Our system is working out well so far, and my technician and doctor staff who are in close proximity to patients are wearing gloves and masks even though they weren’t recommended until today. Our skeleton office staff are maintaining six-plus feet apart spacing. We are constantly washing our hands and changing gloves between patients. We also removed any reading material from our waiting room and constantly wipe down the furniture. We space emergency patients out every 20-30 minutes to limit patient exposure to others in the waiting room. We only allow the patients in the exam room and encourage friends and family to wait in the car. It has impacted our bottom line, as we survive on elective surgery which we shut down two weeks ago. Thank goodness for the stimulus CARES Act Loan we are applying for this week. We have kept paying the hourly staff and are supplementing their lost wages with weekly bonuses and keeping their health insurance paid by having the ophthalmologists defer their salary. In addition, the optometrists have offered to defer half their salary until we recover. We will get through this, and obviously we all will have to make compromises and sacrifices to help others. Let’s all do our share and more.”
- Stephen Krates, D.O. (CCOM 1981)

“Along with a small grassroots group of clinicians here in Michigan, I have been working to build a directory and resource guide to better connect mental health clinicians with front line responders, and we are almost up and running! We have been working with the Michigan Psychological Association as well as related other agencies to make this happen. While the COVID-19 pandemic and related closures haven't been easy for any of us, the hope is that we will have an extensive list of Michigan psychologists and other licensed mental health providers available front and center to provide support to our front- line staff so they can continue doing their work with more support.”
- Sarah J. Jurkovic, Psy.D., HSP (CHS-Downers Grove 2014)

-Brandon Koolick, Pharm.D. (CPG 2019)

Dominik Kaltenbach, M.B.S., a 2019 graduate of the Biomedical Science Program on the Downers Grove Campus is a member of the Abbott Lab Research Team that is working on developing new tests to detect the novel coronavirus. “I am very proud to be part of Abbott’s Research & Development team that has already achieved much to allow the most rapid and reliable diagnosis of the coronavirus,” Mr. Kaltenbach said. “Abbott’s R&D teams work around the clock on several very important projects and assays for coronavirus detection.”

Mr. Kaltenbach has been working with his colleagues to develop a serological test that can measure the amount of antibodies or proteins that are present in the blood when the body is responding to an infection like the coronavirus. Abbott's test can detect the IgG antibody to SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2). According to Abbott, the antibody test is to be used on the company’s ARCHITECT i1000SR and i2000SR laboratory instruments, which can run up to 100 to 200 tests an hour.

“I am certain that through the release of this test and its increasing availability, we are now a big step closer to controlling the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mr. Kaltenbach said. “My team, in cooperation with other teams, is currently working on also releasing this assay on the Alinity i system. Combined, the up to 20 million tests produced per month for the ARCHITECT i1000SR and i2000SR expected in June, plus more tests for the Aliniti i instruments, and other molecular tests such as the ID Now Point-of-Care test already released, will allow for testing for people who need it and the ability to quickly identify and isolate those infected. An antibody test like this also opens up several research opportunities for a better understanding of the disease development caused by SARS-CoV-2,” he added.

In the midst of this crisis, Mr. Kaltenbach reached out to his faculty mentors at Midwestern University to express his gratitude for the education he received. “I am very thankful that Midwestern University has prepared me well and continuously fueled my knowledge and dedication to research, which allows me now during these difficult times to contribute my part to the solution,” Mr. Kaltenbach said. “Midwestern taught me more and offered me more opportunities than I could have ever imagined.”
-Dominik Kaltenbach, M.B.S. (CGS-IL 2019)

Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine alumna Dr. Leslie Easley and her team recently worked with a local toy company, Burgeon Group, to build an aerosol box for use during patient intubation. The design, invented by Dr. Lai Hsien-yung in Taiwan and made freely available via Creative Commons, shields doctors and patients during intubation to prevent possible aerosol transmission of contaminants.

Working with Dr. Easley, the Burgeon Group went from prototype to successful patient interaction within five days. Dr. Easley named the new tool the "London Box" after her son. Having suffered several personal tragedies in the year leading up to the pandemic, Dr. Easley says that helping develop the London Box helps her to focus on the positives of helping those in need.

“Being able to be a part of something that helps protect healthcare workers helps me cope with my grief and have purpose and hope for the future. This is what happens when people come together for the greater good. I am proud to be a Midwestern graduate and to now be training our next generation.”
-Leslie Easley, D.O. (AZCOM 2007)

The area where I am working is being hit hard during this pandemic. I work for a 25-bed critical access hospital in Winslow, AZ, that not only serves the local community but also the surrounding Native American population through the Indian Health Service. Because of our limited resources we have been faced with the challenge of taking care of COVID-19 patients alongside managing surgical patients who are sometimes COVID-19 positive themselves. We have really had to come together as a medical staff to provide the much-needed care our community so desperately needs. The situation has been difficult both physically and emotionally for all of us. It has been extremely difficult for me to see my fellow colleagues and staff getting sick with the virus, and we just experienced the death of one of our beloved staff members from COVID-19 last week. I have been staying at the hospital in the call room rather than going home each day because I want to limit possible exposure to my wife and daughter for fear of bringing the virus home. Just like many hospitals, we are in need of more PPE, which also adds to the stress. As a physician, I have never been more proud of our profession. I have seen health professionals put aside their fears and come to work each day to provide care to patients who desperately need our help.
-Brian A. Bucina, D.O. (AZCOM 2006)

Four Midwestern University College of Pharmacy-Glendale (CPG) alumni have played a significant role in launching COVID-19 drive-thru testing facilities in Arizona. Walgreens has partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to open these facilities providing testing to eligible individuals at no cost. They are providing tests in the triple digits every day at each location. We are so proud of our CPG alumni!
Pictured left to right: Joy (Giolando) Reese, Pharm.D. (CPG 2006), Allison (Dell) Miller, Pharm.D. (CPG 2005), Caity Bumgardner, Pharm.D. (CPG 2019) and Paul Stoneburg, Pharm.D. (CPG 2009)

We are so proud of Midwestern University College of Pharmacy-Glendale (CPG) alumnus, Dr. Kevin Borg, CPG Class of 2001, whose compounding pharmacy, Potter’s House Apothecary, located in Peoria, Arizona made hand sanitizer and donated hundreds of bottles to first responders in the Valley.  Dr. Borg and his team got to work as soon as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave pharmacies the approval to make their own hand sanitizer.  "As soon as I saw that guidance come out, I was like, 'This is something we have to do,'" said Dr. Borg.  
-Kevin Borg, Pharm.D. (CPG 2001)

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