Featured Alum: Dr. Jeff Brown, Biology 1997

This article is based on an e-mail to Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald from Dr. Jeff Brown, Biology 1997.

Dr. Jeff Brown

Dr. Jeff Brown

Dr. Fitz!

Hey good to hear from you.  I am glad you are teaching still at CBU.  The students value greatly from your presence.  I have been to the campus there to take my little ones for trick or treat, so I have seen some of the new buildings and so forth – really nice.  It seems like yesterday that I was in lab there with you but in fact, it has been 16 years!!  Time flys – truly.  You know I never got accepted to UT.  I ended up going to D.O. school in Kansas City.  I excelled there graduating in the top 10% of the class.  I felt a bit cheated that I did not get into UT.  That actually turned into a good thing – I am very competitive and hate to lose.  Lack of acceptance to MD school made me try even harder.  I scored in the 99th percentile on USMLE step 1 and 95th for Step 2.  I was made chief resident during my Anesthesia residency and got all kinds of great experience.  I went right to work at UAB doing general Anesthesia and then did a fellowship in Cardiac Anesthesia and TEE.  After several years there, I moved back to Memphis.

I said all this to point out that if someone REALLY wants to be a Doctor, then D.O. school is a good option.  I have NEVER had any trouble with credentialing, getting a job, pay or anyone questioning my skill/training.  Having said that—I would not encourage anyone to go into medicine now.  Things have changed so much since I started – declining reimbursement, sicker patients, greater government control-etc. The hours are hard and long. They do not stop when you get out in practice. 60-80 hour work weeks are the norm.  BUT I am very happy. I have great job satisfaction.  I am the only Doctor in my practice able to do Transesophageal Echocardiography.  Because of my background I am part of a select team that does a procedure called TAVR, transaortic valve replacement.  We replace people’s stenotic aortic valves percutaneously, through the femoral artery.  With the TEE I guide the valve to proper position.  We were the first team in TN to do this.  We were selected last year as “Healthcare Heros” and honored from great medical innovation by the Memphis Business Journal.

I married Debbie Conti (I doubt you would know her since she was not a sciences major)  We have two sons, Parker and Connor.  Overall, I have been very successful – but it has been more work than I could have imagined. I thank you very much for all the help you gave me while I was at CBU.  You were a great mentor and friend to me.  I wish you all the best.


Featured Alum 9/14: Reena Patel, Biology 2006 and MHIRT 2005


Bob Dalsania and Reena Patel at the TAS meeting in 2006

Bob Dalsania and Reena Patel at the TAS meeting in 2006

My name is Reena Patel and I graduated from Christian Brothers University in 2006 with a major in Biology. It has always been a life long passion of mine to become a physician. My interest in medicine began at a young age and I knew that medical school was the path for me. This decision was further solidified during my years at CBU. After struggling with the MCAT, I decided that I would not give up dream and pursued other options. I applied to medical school in the Caribbean and was accepted.  Initially, I was terrified at the thought of leaving home, but I knew I could not pass up this opportunity. I attended the American University of Antigua Medical school in September of 2007 and spent 16 months there completing my basic science courses. After that, I started my clinical rotations back in the states. Being a part of a foreign medical school had it challenges. I had to be extremely aggressive as far as trying to get my clinical rotations set up so that I did not lose time. I traveled to many places including Miami, Atlanta, New York, and Baltimore. Through my many experiences during my clinical rotations, I had finally decided that Family Medicine was the specialty that I wanted to pursue. The decision was simple. Family medicine would allow me to see all ages and a diversity of medical diagnoses. I applied to many programs throughout the states, mostly those closest to Memphis because I wanted to be close to home. Also being a foreign medical graduate, I knew that it would be much harder for me because I was competing with US graduates. I was very fortunate to receive many interview opportunities and was especially ecstatic when I got an interview at the UT Family Medicine Residency Program. I was sold immediately. I did rank UTFM number 1 on my match list and was very excited to learn that I would be joining their program starting July 1, 2012! As I am near to completing my 2nd year of residency, I am proud to say that I am going to be one of the Chief residents for our upcoming year. I am so thankful and blessed to do what I do. I love going to work and the diversity of medical problems that I face on a day-to-day basis always keeps my job interesting. On a typical day clinic day, I can see a newborn, teenager, adults, geriatric patient, and obstetric patients that come in for prenatal care and women with gynecological complaints. I am comfortable with managing ICU patients and delivering babies. My job is definitely what you would call full scope family medicine!


The 2006 biology presenters at the Research Poster Session

The 2006 biology presenters at the Research Poster Session

As I think about my 4 years at CBU, what I remember most is a strong science curriculum, excellent and caring professors, and camaraderie among the university.  It is that strong education that I received at CBU, which is the groundwork of the knowledge that I have acquired today.  Two notable professors that really impacted me were Dr. Fitzgerald and Dr. Ogilvie. I am glad that I chose to go to CBU and I know that the experiences and knowledge that I gained there have got me to the place I am at now. I have a little over 1 year of residency left and then hope to join a group practice in Memphis, Tennessee. I look forward to what my future brings!

Featured Alum 4/14: Ashley Wise Jett, Biology 2004

Ashley Wise Jett

Ashley Wise Jett

My name is Ashley Wise Jett. I earned a Bachelor’s in Science degree from Christian Brothers University in 2004, with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and psychology. I attended the University of Tennessee College of Pharmacy, and graduated in 2008 with a doctorate of pharmacy degree.

I knew as an incoming freshman at CBU that I wanted to pursue a career in healthcare. My mom suggested pharmacy, which led to my first “real job” as a pharmacy technician at Walmart in 2001.  I knew that this would be the best way for me to determine if pharmacy was a good fit for me.  I worked weekends and started at minimum wage.  I have now been with the company almost 13 years, and I am blessed to now be the pharmacist in charge at the Walmart in Oakland, TN.

I know for certain that pharmacy is the profession that I am meant to be practicing.  As a senior at CBU, I was given the opportunity to complete my research project with a professor from UT College of Pharmacy.  I feel that this extra work experience helped to separate me from other pharmacy school applicants. Looking back on my educational career, some of my favorite professors were at CBU. Some of whom I still remain in touch with today.  Their genuine concern and encouragement helped guide me to where I am today.

In pharmacy school, I met my husband. Even though we are both pharmacists, our areas of practice are completely different. While I am a community pharmacist filling prescriptions and counseling patients on their medications, he is a clinical pharmacist at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He works in an outpatient clinic, managing diseases and prescribing medications for various disease states. I can honestly say I love my job. Pharmacists are on the front lines of providing medications to patients. We are also the last line of intervention between a potentially harmful medication and a patient. I have an amazing staff, and being in a small town has allowed me to form genuine relationships with my patients. I am so grateful and blessed to have the educational background from CBU and UT College of Pharmacy, which has led me to such a gratifying career. My husband, Bryan Paul, and I have a 2 year old little girl, Bryley.  I can only hope that one day she will choose CBU to further her education and build lasting friendships like the ones so dear to me.

Featured Person: Dr. Leigh Becker, Professor Emeritus

Instead of our usual featured alum, this month we feature our newest professor emeritus, Dr. Leigh Becker.

Dr. Leigh Becker, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics

Dr. Leigh Becker, Professor Emeritus of Mathematics

Dr. Leigh Becker obtained his Ph.D. in Mathematics from Southern Illinois University and came to CBU in 1979 as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics.  He rose through the academic ranks becoming a Professor in 1992.  He retired from CBU last year (2013), and was awarded the rank of Professor of Emeritus this spring.

Dr. Becker was a dedicated teacher, demanding and yet caring.  He spent a lot of time and effort in preparing his classes.  He wrote a book on Differential Equations that the Math Department at CBU still uses.  He learned to use the web for his courses and posted not only his syllabus on the web but used the web to post solutions to his homework.  He was always willing to help students individually in his office.  Several of his students have gone on to graduate school, and those students comment on how well prepared they were for graduate work based on the courses they took from Dr. Becker.

Dr. Becker was a very important and contributing member of the Mathematics
Department here at CBU.  He was involved in the development of courses and the overall mathematics curriculum.  He was a well liked and respected member of the department.  He also served on several faculty committees including the Policy Committee and the Rank & Tenure Committee.

Even with the high teaching loads and service demands, Dr. Becker found time to do mathematical research, and he regularly published articles on Integral Differential Equations.  He has been invited to give talks in this field at international conferences.  He is still publishing in the field today.

Above all, though, Dr. Leigh Becker is a wonderful human being.  He is a dedicated father and husband, and just a wonderful person to associate with.  I am honored to have known and worked with Leigh for well over 30 years!

Featured Alum: Gina Horton Vasquez, Natural Science 1999

Gina with skunk

Gena with a skunk. The skunk was a native species that had been confiscated from someone who tried to keep it as a pet.

My name is Gena Horton Vazquez and I graduated in 1999 with a degree in Natural Science.  I chose CBU because of its small campus size and its excellent and caring professors.   I started off as a  Biology major and during my time at CBU they introduced a degree in Natural Science.  Under the advice of Brother Edward Salgado, I determined that this major better suited my career path.    During my junior year at CBU I was accepted into an internship at the Regional Forensic Center here in Memphis, TN, in forensic anthropology.  I became interested in forensic anthropology when I took a medical anthropology class from Professor Teri Mason.  She introduced me to Dr. Steven Symes at the Regional Forensics Center and the rest is, as they say, history.  After graduating from CBU, I went on to obtain a Masters’ degree in archaeology and Medical Anthropology.

Gina with elephant tusk.

The lion skull (below) and the elephant tusk are photos of me doing forensic analysis on a shipment from Africa.

My time at CBU prepared me for my career in forensics.  I work for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service at the Port of Memphis.  I provide law enforcement and evidence support for special agents and inspectors.  I also provide forensic support for the port by assisting with identification of species, crime scene and evidence photography, evidence processing, and live wildlife handling.  This pretty much means that on any given day, I could be handling anything from thousand dollar handbags to highly venomous snakes, spiders, and scorpions.  I have also helped inspect live wildlife that is being imported into the U.S.  We have seen pandas, lions, Canadian lynx, penguins, and polar bears.

Gena with Lion SkullWe inspect these shipments for many reasons.   We look for licenses, permits, presence of undeclared wildlife (smuggling), and the presence of invasive or injurious species.  This helps to keep our wildlife safe and protected for the enjoyment of the American people and people around the world.

My job has taken me across the states and around the world.  I have been to our National Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon, and I have been to the great polar bear migration in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada.  I am truly blessed to have a career that I love.  I truly feel that CBU prepared me well.

Featured Alum: David Tran, Chemistry 2007

David Tran last year with Justin Edwards, Biochemistry 2012.

David Tran last year with Justin Edwards, Biochemistry 2012.

Enter to Learn, Leave to Serve.  During my time at CBU, one could see this phrase all around campus, but I did not truly comprehend the meaning of this phrase until I was trying to discern what to do with my life. Mass became a time for me to meditate on God’s plans for my life, and I reflected on many different options. Should I follow in my father’s foot steps and become a prosthetist, should I continue to do research, or should I look into some other medical programs, or should I become a teacher?  During my reflections, I would construct a mental pro and con list for each option. Every time I thought about teaching, I felt a sense of calm and peace. When I thought about my other options, I could feel that calmness and peace leaving me and stress replacing them.  The more I thought about teaching, the more it felt it was the right thing to do.

Come to think on it, I have been teaching since I was a freshman in high school. I earned my Black belt in Pa Sa Ryu when I was in the 9th grade. To be a good black belt, one must not only learn and perfect different techniques in katas and sparring, but one must be able to pass on the knowledge to future students. Master Rhea’s greatest hope were for his students to one day surpass him in his skill and ability. During my time at the headquarters, I gained the reputation of pushing others hard, but at the same time being kind and willing to work with students to be their best.

While I was at CBU, I was an active member and a President of the Student Affiliate of the American Chemistry Society (SAACS,) with Dr. Condren as our sponsor.  Every year, we would visit schools in the area, where we performed demos and workshops for the students. We would show a flame test, make slimes, and show many other activities to the students. I always loved to see the smiles and amazement on their faces. Through SAACS, I met many chemistry/science teachers in the area, and I got to see the different side of education careers.

Based on my own experience in martial arts and my time at CBU, I eventually decided to follow what I believe was a sign from God to give teaching a chance. I applied to many high school in the Memphis area and after many offers, I decided to join the faculty at St. Agnes Academy. I have not regretted my decision to teach. The past four years as a teacher have been amazing. I love educating the young minds at SAA because they are energetic, fun, and willing to learn. Working at a school that has similar tradition and values as the Christian Brothers has been a blessing.  Not only do I enjoy teaching the girls at the Academy, but I love getting to know them and their dreams for the future. The Class of 2014 will be the first class I taught to graduate from SAA. It will be sad day when I see them go, but at the same time, I will be excited to see what they will do in the future. I am honored to have the opportunity to help shape their future.

David Tran with his research poster in 2005.

David Tran with his research poster in 2005.

My teaching and testing style were shaped by my time at CBU and my martial art experience. My philosophy on always being accessible to my students comes from Dr. Merat.  I will always remember Dr. Merat giving us his home number and telling us if we ever need help out side of class, we could always call his number during certain hours in the evening. Just knowing I could get help anytime was a major comfort.  Granted, I don’t give my numbers to the girls to get help after school, but I do encourage them to meet with me before, during and after school. When I teach, I try to pattern     myself after Dr. Ogilvie and Dr. Burke. I am tough and expect much from my students, but at the same time, I make sure I smile and encourage the girls to improve and to make them know I care. My girls can thank Dr. Busler for my testing style. While I was enrolled in his courses, I hated his test format (of assigning 50 points to old material and 100 points to current material). Now, however, I have come to value what he was trying to teach us. You CAN’T FORGET anything in chemistry. These are among the most influential, but there are so many other CBU teachers who influenced how I teach my students.

Christina Brown

Christina Brown

Not only did I found the place I should be, I am married to the love of my life, Christina Brown Tran, class of 06. Without her support, I could have made a totally different career decision, and I am grateful for her influence. Without my wonderful education at CBU, I know I would not be the same person I am today.

Featured Alum 10/13: Rob Kissell, Biology 1986

Rob Kissell

Rob Kissell is the tough guy in the middle with his jacket unzipped!

I am one of a few of the biology majors in the class of 1986 at CBC that did not go into the medical profession. Instead, I pursued my passion of working with wildlife. I chose this profession, at least in part, because of the senior project I conducted – the prevalence of Sarcocystis in white-tailed deer. Through collaboration with people at Memphis State University (now University of Memphis) during my senior project, I became acquainted with the wildlife research in Dr. Michael Kennedy’s lab. CBC introduced me, both directly through research and indirectly through networking, to a direction that has brought me to the point I am today as a wildlife ecologist.

After leaving CBC, I pursued a M.S. degree in Biology at Memphis State University. I studied the ecology of two ecologically similar furbearers – raccoons and Virginia opossums. I found myself thrilled with the discovery of how ecological systems work and conducting the science to answer ecological questions. The applications to management naturally followed.

My interests led me to the intermountain west where I acquired my Ph.D. from Montana State University working on bighorn sheep, mule deer, and feral horses. I experienced many wonderful days observing my study animals at the edge of a 1000’ precipice or on the top of a mountain. I fell in love with the intermountain west and grew in my understanding of how species relate to one another regardless of where they live.

I landed a job as a wildlife biologist for Mississippi and realized after a few years I missed the academic life. I moved back to the intermountain west to work as a research associate for the University of Idaho directing a mule deer project in Hells Canyon. Yes, it is called that for a good reason, but the raw beauty of that canyon is found nowhere else. That allowed me to make the transition back to academia and back to the southeast for the last time.

Today I am at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.  I was promoted to Full Professor in July. As I made the transition from student to professor I have recalled many of the professors I had along the way and how much I learned from them. Two professors from CBC had a greater influence on me than they will ever know or that I can put into words; they were Br. Dominic Dunn and Dr. Stan Eisen. Br. Dominic always encouraged me and showed me what dedication meant. I took a field ecology course one summer with Dr. Eisen and he showed me and the other students how fun ecology could be. These are but a couple of facets of the profession I try to pass along to students in my classes. No one gets where they are in life without support from those around them. I am thankful for all those at CBC who supported me.

Featured Alum 9/13: Huong Tran

Huong Tran and Alicia Scarborough

Huong Tran (left) with classmate and fellow CBU alum Alicia Scarborough at their Nursing graduation.

It has been a little over two years since I have graduated from Christian Brothers University. It seems like it was just yesterday that I was walking across the outdoor graduation stage receiving my undergraduate degree in natural science. Now, two years later, I just graduated from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center with my Masters in Nursing. I plan on going back to school in fall of 2014 to get my Doctorate in Family Nurse Practioner to travel to third world countries to teach others basic health care practices.

With that being said, I couldn’t have been more blessed to have graduated from an undergraduate college focused on empowering their students to serve their community and beyond. Christian Brothers taught me to push myself further than what my set expectations were, but I couldn’t have done it without the tremendous support of the staff members there. To this day, I remember Dr. Merat, Ms. Miller, Dr. Eisen, Dr. Ogilvie, you and MANY more to name off that saw the potential in me that I hadn’t seen in myself before.

Ms. Miller, especially, is a significant person in my life still. When I was at CBU I had done work study for her. She saw how dedicated I was and how much I wanted to learn the ins and outs of science. She trusted me to come in on my own free time to mix solutions for freshman labs and she was kind enough to give me access to one of the labs on a weekend to study in a quiet environment. SHE is the reason why I am passionate to help others and see others succeed. I get that epiphany feeling when things click because you have that person who is willing to be patient and who is willing guide you through the steps. Maybe I can even continue Ms. Miller’s legacy at CBU and come back to influence others on a path of learning and service; the Lasallian path.

Featured Alum: Robert Appling, D.P.M., Biology 2003

My name is Robert W. Appling.  I graduated from Christian Brothers University in 2003 with a Bachelor’s in Biology with Minors in Chemistry and Psychology.  Like many, I chose CBU for the excellent science department and overall reputation of the university.  During my grandfather’s final days, largely due to diabetes and many years of smoking, I began talking to the physicians I’d encounter.  Quite a few were CBU graduates.  Later in high school I came to CBU for a campus tour and met with Dr. Eisen to discuss what CBU had to offer.  I knew it was the right choice for me.

Dr. Robert Appling

Dr. Robert Appling

During my junior year at CBU, I began searching for the right career path.  A representative from a podiatric medical school came to CBU to discuss podiatric medicine and surgery.  I became interested in the field of podiatry due to the extent of diabetic care and limb salvage that modern podiatrists provide.  I began shadowing my current employer, Dr. Brian Shwer, at his office in Southaven.  I then applied for admission to several podiatric medical schools after visiting one in Chicago and one in Miami.  In 2008, I finished my Doctorate of Podiatric Medicine and began three years of surgical training in Atlanta.  After completing residency training, I moved back to the Memphis area to join Dr. Shwer’s practice.

Now that I am back in the Memphis area, I have devoted much of my practice to limb salvage.  I work in close conjunction with many cardiovascular surgeons that perform lower extremity revascularization as well as infectious disease physicians for the management of bone infection as surgery (amputation) is not the primary solution when there is a chance to heal.  Besides my passion of limb salvage surgeries, I also perform elective surgeries of the foot.   I am presently on staff with Baptist-DeSoto, Baptist-Memphis, Saint Francis-Memphis, Saint Francis-Bartlett, and multiple ambulatory surgery centers.    Without my educational foundations from CBU, I do not believe I would be where I am today.

Featured Alum: Christina Brown Tran, Biology 2006

Christina Brown

Christina Brown

My name is Christina Brown Tran. I graduated from CBU in 2006 with a major in biology and minors in chemistry and behavioral science. I started CBU knowing that I wanted to go medical school to become a surgeon. However, life had different plans. I did not get accepted to medical school for the 2006-2007 school year and I was devastated. With the support of some amazing teachers and friends, I found my “plan B.” Little could I have known at the time, my new path would turn out to far surpass my original plan.

I got a job working as a clinic assistant at the Church Health Center, a not-for-profit clinic that provides healthcare for the working uninsured. Through that opportunity, I realized importance of service to the poor. I also went to graduate school and received a Master’s of Science in Epidemiology and worked on a childhood obesity study and a brain development study.

I started medical school in August of 2010 and it was terrible. It has been the hardest thing I have ever done- hours upon hours of studying, missing friends and family, and special events. I spent the first two years of medical school wondering if I had made the biggest mistake of my life. But, thankfully, third year changed everything. During the third and fourth years of medical school, students are let loose in clinics and hospitals. Third year has reminded me of why I have been studying so hard- to take care of my patients.

Through all the tears and laughter of the last eleven years, CBU has played a huge role in my life. I met some of my best friends in Dr. Ogilvie’s freshman biology. I met my husband in the Spain Auditorium. I met some of my best advocates in their shoebox offices in the old Science building. I was incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to attend CBU.