Featured Alum:

Our featured alum for this issue is
Jonathan Henderson, PT, DPT, Natural Science 2005

Jonathan Henderson

Jonathan Henderson, PT, DPT, Natural Science 2005

My name is Jonathan Henderson, and I graduated from CBU in 2005 with a B.S in Natural Science and a Minor in Biology.  When I started CBU, my original major was Biology, and I had hopes of attending medical school after graduation from college, but that was quickly changed after I took courses in Organic Chemistry, Physics, and Anatomy & Physiology all in the same semester my sophomore year.  So, as a Biology major, I enrolled in Biological Career Choices.  During that class, I had the opportunity to explore my options for post-professional degrees other than M.D., such as Dentistry, Optometry, and Nursing.  I still couldn’t see myself as either of those professionals.  So, I was introduced to Physical Therapy, and I immediately fell in love.

With the help of Dr. Eisen and his pre-professional health careers advice and Beta Beta Beta’s mock interviews, I was able to apply to various Physical Therapy schools with the necessary guidance and recommendation letters.  After graduation from CBU, I worked at Church Health Center’s Wellness Center as a Therapy Aide/Coordinator.  I then went on to get accepted and enroll in Alabama State University’s Physical Therapy program in Montgomery, AL.  Physical Therapy school was very, very challenging, and I don’t think that I would have survived if I had not experienced and learned through CBU’s challenging science courses. 

I graduated PT school with my Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) in 2010.  Currently, I work at Healthsouth Rehabillitation Hospital – North in Memphis.  There, I have served as a member of the Stroke Team, given staff inservices about patient mobility, served as a Certified Clinical Instructor for current PT students, and I am the 2012 Healthsouth NorthStar (patient survey’s employee of the year).  I love my career, and if not for CBU, I don’t think I would have ever fallen in love.

Featured Alum: Kristi Prevost, Biology 2010

I’m Kristi Prevost, and I graduated in the class of 2010 with a degree in Biology. I have always had a special interest in animals, have worked in various small animal clinics throughout my life, and have always wanted to pursue a career with animals. As a junior in college, trying to find a position with Dr. Fitzgerald for my senior research project, I decided to apply to a few marine mammal facilities for internships. I was fortunate enough to get an internship at Dolphin Cove in Key Largo, Florida. While there, I conducted a behavioral research project studying the social, dominant, and aggressive behaviors and interactions between the bottlenose dolphins there. I spent the summer in the Keys, getting a taste of what it would be like to live in a tropical setting and to work with exotic animals.

Kristi Prevost, Featured CBU Alum

Kristi Prevost with Alfonz, a 19-year old male Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin

After my experiences that summer, I knew I might want to pursue a career with marine mammals. Going into my senior year, I hadn’t completely made up my mind about applying to veterinary school, so I decided that I would work for a year or two before making my next step. On the last day of my exams, one week before graduation, I received a call from my supervisor from Dolphin Cove. She wanted to know if I was interested in a full time position as a Dolphin Trainer in Key Largo; this was a phone call I was not expecting at all. I was offered a dream job, but one thing I was worried about was how far away from my friends and family I would be living. Despite these worries, I ultimately decided that this was an opportunity which I could not pass up. One week after graduation, I was on my way to the Florida Keys. If it weren’t for Dr. Fitzgerald’s senior research class and for all of my professors’ encouragement and support during my four years at CBU, and most importantly during my senior year, I would never have had this amazing opportunity or the courage to make this huge step.

During my time at Dolphin Cove, I learned so much about marine mammal life, conservation, and research. I had the best co-workers I could ask for: four Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins. During my time there, I was exposed to a variety of research projects going on, helped to train and care for the dolphins there, and was also able to help out the veterinarians with various procedures. While I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and appreciate everything I learned, I decided that I wanted to move closer to home and try out a different field of research. I moved back to Memphis and started working at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the department of Infectious Diseases, which is where I am currently employed today. I work in the laboratory of Dr. Robert Webster. St. Jude is one of six WHO (World Health Organization) collaborating centers for influenza research and the only center that focuses on the transmission of animal viruses to humans. My lab is specifically dedicated to the study of antiviral drugs and influenza research. Throughout my time at CBU, I learned a lot which has helped me in my position at St. Jude, starting with Freshman Biology and Chemistry all the way up to Dr. Ogilvie’s Immunology class. I would say that immunology in particular has helped me the most in my position since I deal mostly with antibody-antigen interactions. Many of the laboratory techniques I use on a daily basis are ones which I learned during my time at CBU. I also conduct many experiments testing the efficacy of certain proteins/drugs against influenza using different animal models. I have been in my position at St. Jude for almost 2 years now.

All of my experiences at CBU and thereafter have lead me to where I am now, currently finishing my applications for veterinary school for the class of 2017. I hope to start in the fall and am looking forward to the next phase in my life!

Featured Alum: Amanda Fitzgerald, Biology 2011

Amanda Fitzgerald (Click on image for Amanda and Kay)

Part 1: Research Trip
Many of you know that I went on a boating trip to the Gulf of Mexico at the beginning of my graduate school experience. I have begun my program in marine environmental toxicology at the University of Texas at Austin this August. Every summer the lab goes on a sampling trip, I went this summer prior to officially starting classes to see what it was like. I have written a bit about my experiences on the boat and starting as a TA at one of the largest schools in the US. The boat trip in the Gulf was a lot like all my trips to the Gulf Coast Research Lab (GCRL), only MUCH longer on the boat.

Day One, on the Pelican (our boat see picture below): Current location: 29 deg N, 90 deg W; heading due south, temperature 85 deg F. The crew is very friendly and the cook is this old Cajun swamp guy who looks like he has never left this area. He stocked the fridge with all of the best foods, fruits and snacks you can think of and we have free reign of the kitchen. For dinner tonight I had an awesome sandwich with fresh blackberries on the side. We are pushing off at 11:44 pm and our first sampling is due to take place at 4 am. The little town where the boat was docked is called Cocodrie, LA, and it is totally isolated. There is only one road that goes in and out and the town is inhabited by about 400 people and most of them are fishermen or work for fishermen. The equipment on board the Pelican is extensive, if I had to guess I think the net worth of this boat is a few million dollars. There is a guy whose job is only to make sure that all the equipment works. We brought our own stuff including two huge boxes of dry ice and two travel containers of liquid nitrogen. As of now, we are collecting brains and gonads of Atlantic croaker and flash freezing them for later analysis. Due to the large amount of drought the hypoxic area, where we need to collect, is very small this year.

Research vessel: Pelican

Status update Pelican, Day 2. Current Location: 29.36 deg N, 90.00 deg W, water temperature 29.9 deg c. Total injuries=2: 1 blister, 1 puncture wound from angry fish. I can’t see the shore from the boat but it feels like I can due to the amount of oil rigs. It is impressive and the number is multiplied due to unused oil rigs and these miniature platforms that I assume are for trial drills. For every active oil rig there are at least three unused platforms. Sleep was hard to get last night, the sea was very calm but Kay and I, being the only girls and mere graduate students, were subjected to the room closest to the engine. There is also this constant sound of sloshing water due to the fact that our beds are actually underwater. I am thoroughly convinced that the shower is bigger than our bedroom. We woke up this morning to pancakes and fresh fruit and a fresh haul of croaker. One of the scientists on board is doing some tagging experiments and we all got a chance to tag a croaker with a radio transmitter. He then gave us a run down of this $500,000 robot that was lowered into the water. Most of the activity occurs in 10 minute intervals with a couple of hours in between, so I have been alternating reading and watching the TV to keep myself busy. The most interesting character so far has to be the head engineer. Upon his arrival he began cussing repeatedly about this and that, then he sat down and ate almost a whole chicken. He wanders around and grumbles at everyone then disappears upstairs in the cockpit. He’s ranked at about an 8.5 on my 1-10 scale of saltyness.

Status update Pelican day 3: Location 28 deg N, 90 deg W. All day today was spent driving in circles trying to follow the fish we tagged yesterday. Therefore the Internet and TV didn’t work because satellites don’t work in circles??! We finally started working after dinner and one professor didn’t really explain what we were doing at all, and I wasn’t allowed to touch anything. That made me, of course, incredibly frustrated and useless so I dissected brains out of about 15 fish just to keep myself busy. The weather is amazing, the moon looked awesome, I got to see a dolphin and a giant school of fish feeding at night. Drama On the boat: Salty man and Cajun guy got into an argument and I understood about three words total, two of which were curse words. I need to get in on this secret boat lingo.


Status Update Pelican day 4: Location 29.7 deg N, 90.12 deg W. We are headed to the Mississippi delta to get a severe hypoxic sample and will arrive there at around 2 am. That is how long it takes to get there from our current location. So we are going to be working at 2 am, because that is when we will get there and we have a schedule to keep. I am ready. I slept a lot today so I am prepared for tonight. Today was another long day of nothing, I read about 5 hours and burned through my biochemical book. I also already finished a book I brought with me and am halfway through another. I officially stayed up all night and it has confused me in such a way that I now don’t know what day it is or even when “last night” was. I can’t even really piece together the past two days because I slept a little during the day and a little at night, but not a lot in total. For those skeptics out there, I do have a picture of the sunrise. We went to the mouth of the Mississippi river and that area that was supposed to be severely hypoxic is in fact not at all. We ran a trawl anyway and all we caught was pelagic fish, no oceanic species, so we had to throw them all back. We did however catch a small shark on the last trawl. We snagged the net on something, and it came up with a hole in it. We were pretty worried for a while, but really why should we? We have a Cajun bayou born sailor in our midst and he quickly returned with a small pair of glasses and an old wooden net repair kit. He then proceeded to repair the net by hand. Those Cajun men, they are like a Swiss army knife, I think everyone should have them in their fav 5. The next two trawls we got a whole bag of starfish and a bunch of sponges…so we are running a little low on samples right now. Currently, we are East of the Mississippi in an area that is supposed to be “normal” or unaffected by runoff, because the current moves to the west. The water is a lot darker and there is significantly less wildlife, but the water is deeper so it supports different types of species. Hopefully we will get more than a bag of rocks next time.

We are officially done sampling and on our way back to Lumcon, which is the home base for this boat. There is a storm coming from the south so I am kind of glad that we are done today and not a few days later. It started raining today so I didn’t get to spend too much time outside. We were pretty unlucky with trawling, we only got about 10 fish, but that was enough for our sampling. We are going to spend the night on the boat anyway, even though we will be near land but the town where we are going is like two hours away from the nearest hotel. I’m kind of glad to be back, because it has been however many days and I have cabin fever and I have read all my books and I’m ready to get off the boat! This is my last day on the island, where the laboratory is. It is a barrier island called Mustang Island, South of Corpus Christi. I am spending it recovering from the trip. Now that I am back on solid ground, I have been feeling constantly dizzy and nauseous. If I stand up too fast or for too long I get the feeling I might fall over. All 16 of us on the boat did grow pretty close, it might be due to the forced proximity of sharing just 2000sq feet together or because of how much we had in common. All of us (almost) were there voluntarily and it probably takes a certain type of person to want to spend time on the ocean. Though I did go through some serious bouts of cabin fever, I could see myself getting used to being on a boat for a while which is good because if things go my way I will be doing a lot more of this in my graduate career.

Part 2: Teaching Assistant (T.A.)
I thought I would also share a bit about my first days as a T.A. at one of the biggest universities in the US! I had my first three lab sections and my first full week of class. I thought I would keep you updated on my attempt on turning college freshmen into worldly thinkers of the 21st century…or something like that. The first lab was on nautical navigation, which is pretty cool and just includes being familiar with lat & log. I did manage to make it through all three classes that I teach with only one person asking me “um do we need to know this” and another guy who was using his cell phone to answer all of the questions. This lab was pretty heavy on the math part and I was a bit nervous about how in depth I would need to answer questions, but I pulled through in the end. It’s hard to try to convince people this is something worth knowing when everyone in the class has an iphone with a gps on it. One of my classes is at 8 am and I’m at least 90% sure that no one even remembers what I said the whole time. I’m not sure I even remember what I said. I think everyone’s heart rate and body temperature returned to normal at about 9:30.

Later in the semester: the freshmen had their first exam yesterday. I received a ton of emails such as “I don’t know what to study”, and I even had three students miss lab, because they didn’t study for the test enough. As we were entering the classroom, my professor surprised me by telling me that he had chosen me to stand up in front of the whole class and go over the test. ME?? Talk to 300 students? I have to say it was quite daunting standing up there with a microphone, talking to all 300 of them. However, after a few minutes I have to say I got over it. Two of my labs I T.A. in are really awesome, we are getting along great and all of them are doing well. They even laughed at one of my jokes!!!! But my 8 am is struggling, I walk in and there are 20 crusty eyed college students in their PJs staring back at me, with all the hate and dislike they can muster up at 8:00. I feel about as respected as a DMV employee. I am working on ideas to liven them up, like throwing cereal and bananas at them or brewing coffee in the lab. Next week I’ll experiment. I also have my first exams next week and I am anxious to have them under my belt so I can gauge how the rest of the semester will be.

So far I’m having a great time, I seem to have gotten used to all of the walking around this huge campus, but not quite accustomed to the commute time. I never allow enough time to get anywhere so as a result I am still usually late. All in all I feel well prepared for my life as a graduate student and I’m enjoying the change of pace. Austin is fantastic! Hope you enjoyed reading about my first Gulf sampling trip and the start of the semester from the other side. It is overwhelming at first the size of the classes compared to CBU, but the graduate classes are smaller and the labs that I teach are, too. Until next time.

Featured Alum: Vaskin Kissoyan, Computer Science 1996

Hi, I’m Vaskin Kissoyan. I graduated from Christian Brothers University in 1996 with a BS in Computer Science and a minor in Psychology. I’m currently the CEO of Lokion Interactive, and I’d like to tell you the story of the very first CBU web site (http://www.cbu.edu.)

In 1993, I had my first introduction to the Internet. I was at the CBU computer center using the VAX VMS system. Up until that time I had been working with pre-Internet networks such as the BBS-based Fidonet. That first glimpse of direct access to the Internet was a watershed moment for me. I was hooked. I had dreamt of a world that was interconnected, and, suddenly, what had seemed like science fiction became real possibility.

Part of my fortune was timing–it was a great time for nerds–but my classroom experiences at CBU allowed me and encouraged me to apply lessons to this new public network we now know as the Internet. During a junior year semester project, I was able to research and develop using the latest Internet technologies, which were just beginning to flourish. Under the direction of Dr. Yanushka and armed with a Dec Alpha machine and a T1 line, I researched the new software needed to make websites. It was a software package provided by CERN, the famous physics lab where Web technologies were invented. These days that same software lives on – more or less – it is best known as “Apache.”

My curiosity about the web resulted in CBU’s first website. I proceeded to evangelize the technology by surreptitiously installing the Mosaic browser (predecessor to Netscape, Internet Explorer, Firefox, etc.) on every computer in every lab on campus. I literally went computer to computer installing it, setting it to auto-start and making www.cbu.edu the start page. In its earliest iteration, the CBU website consisted of a few very basic items, such as contact info and a picture of the bell tower. Realizing the potential of the web site as a marketing and communications tool, I lobbied the head of the admissions office to use the website for recruiting. Eventually, faculty and staff got interested and once a new system administrator was hired, he took over the care and feeding of website, which is now hosting this article. I am very proud to have been involved with CBU and web technology at such a historic moment in time.

As graduation approached, I looked for ways to apply my skills and start a career in the industry I loved. Together with my friends Marcus Stafford and Mike O’Hearn, I built Quest Interactive Media, which produced web applications for FedEx, Harrah’s and International Paper. We created some of the best technology that Internet software of that time could offer. This type of work caught the eye of USWeb, a firm that was building a national network of Internet-focused teams.

When Quest Interactive Media was merged into USWeb/CKS (later known as marchFIRST) in 1998, I moved to the Washington, D.C.-area to join a large eCommerce group. There I further refined my experience in various fields, building sites for National Geographic, Tower Records, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and many other big brands. Ever since that time, I’ve been involved heavily with eCommerce, specifically enterprise-level eCommerce systems.

Twelve years ago, I helped found Lokion Interactive, a Memphis-based interactive agency, that picked up where Quest left off in its pioneering role in the high-tech web services market. Today, we have an excellent roster of Internet experts, and we work with many prominent clients, helping them with digital strategy, design, and software development. We can execute on the entire array of services required to deliver a great customer experience on the web, mobile phones, kiosks, or other devices.

I’ve always been very vocal about the outstanding education that I received at Christian Brothers University and am especially proud to have been taught by Drs. Yanushka and Bedrossian in the Computer Science department. During my time at CBU, I was also very lucky to have attended a couple of Electronic Engineering (EE) classes taught by Dr. Olabi. One particular class covered everything from the basic logic of “AND and OR” gates to burning a 4 bit microprocessor as a final project. I’ve held onto the final project report from that class. I never delved any further into EE, but the mere fact of understanding CPU interaction on that level has helped me with problem solving and has given me a very unique perspective when it comes to software design and coding.

My bottom-line advice to young students and alumni alike is that education is not solely about facts and grades. Learning to enjoy the journey of discovery and be comfortable with a constant flow of change is much more valuable in the long term. Dive into the industry you’re most likely to be involved with and just read about it. Listen to a niche podcast. The more time you invest in that, the more comfortable you will feel making the important decisions that affect your future.

Vaskin Kissoyan
CBU Class of ’96

Featured Alums: Rebecca Scott Crow, D.O., Biology 2008 and Robert Scott, M.D., Ph.D., Chemical Engineering 2002

Editor’s note: This month we have a brother and sister pair of featured alums. Rebecca graduated from the School of Science with a Biology major, and Robert graduated from the School of Engineering with a Chemical Engineering degree. Below is their story.

Rebecca Scott Crow, D.O., Biology 2008, and Robert Scott, M.D., Ph.D., Chemical Engineering 2002, are both alumni of CBU. This brother and sister pair were born and raised north of Memphis in the Shelby Forest area to now retired Shelby County school teachers. Christian Brothers University’s well known reputation in science and engineering made it the obvious choice for their desire to pursue higher education after graduating high school. Rebecca said, When I was still a sophomore in high school, I remember going to CBU’s campus with my older brother on multiple occasions. I spent time with him in the engineering lab, library and the campus apartments. I knew even then I was going to follow in his footsteps and choose CBU as my collegiate home. While Rebecca was studying Biology at Christian Brothers and serving as an active member in Alpha Xi Delta sorority, Robert was working on his Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering at Temple University in Philadelphia which he received in 2008. Reflecting back, Robert said, At that time we were both at a crossroads, both trying to decide what we wanted to do with our lives. The training CBU provided us in the basic sciences had prepared both of us to pursue futures in medicine. We agreed medicine was a fascinating field of study and was a career goal that we could each make a difference in our own unique way.

Rebecca Scott at the 2008 TAS meeting where she received a Best Paper Award for her paper, “Parats Mutant Flies Show Neuronal Damage After Ischemic Injury” by Rebecca Scott, Biology, CBU; Lawrence Reiter, Neurology, U T Health Science Center.

In 2008, Robert began at East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine, and the same year Rebecca attended Lincoln Memorial University DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine. The brother and sister duo, both starting medical school at colleges less than two hours apart, proved to be an excellent support system. Having my brother so close during such a grueling school schedule was a blessing. It is always great to have the support of someone else going through the same thing you are, it just makes it so much better when its family, said Rebecca Crow. Rebecca married Vincent Crow, a native of Little Rock, AR, in December 2010. Vincent was a member of Kappa Sigma fraternity and graduated from Christian Brothers in 2008 in Mechanical Engineering. This May, Robert and Rebecca both graduated from their respective medical schools. Rebecca will be an interning physician at The University of Oklahoma in Tulsa to begin her training in Internal Medicine. My goal is to do further training after I finish the Internal Medicine residency by pursuing a fellowship in Geriatric Medicine. After seeing such a strong need for these physicians with the booming geriatric population, I decided this is the area I could have the greatest positive impact in serving a generation worthy of so much respect. Robert will start his first year of post graduate training in Psychiatry at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. There he hopes to expand his knowledge and skills in research and medicine to impact psychiatry as a whole. I feel like my graduate training in Biomedical Engineering has given me invaluable insight into the world of research allowing me to pursue a career in academia. At the same time, my medical school education has taught me the importance of forming a personal connection with patients.

Both agree that Christian Brothers Schools of Science and Engineering set the groundwork for their future careers. During my interviews for residency, one of the physicians I spoke with mentioned he had heard great things about Christian Brothers and had several friends who had sent their children there. It was exciting to hear CBU’s good reputation preceded me from several states away, said Rebecca. Both hope to one day return to Memphis to practice and positively impact the Memphis community.

Featured Alum: Ting Wong, Biology 2010

Ting Wong at her whitecoat ceremony. Image courtesy of Don Pham.

The note below is from Ting Wong, Biology 2010, writing to Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald. Ting is currently in Pharmacy School in Florida.

I miss you dearly! I won’t be able to come back home this Thanksgiving since the ticket price to fly back home is very expensive. I will be back for Christmas. I don’t know when, but the cheapest flight will probably be to Atlanta and then I’ll ride back home with my sister.

Pharmacy school is very interesting and I enjoy every day and every single minute of it being in West Palm Beach, FL. I am super involved in organizations and am an advocate in fund-raisier ideas for a professional pharmacy fraternity, Phi Delta Chi. Proceeds of the fundraiser and events that we do as a group are donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I found that the world of science is very integrated, and I realize that there are several people who have common interests with me. Also, I met a faculty member at NOVA that we were involved with in research at UTHSC. I love going back to school and getting to meet students and professors. The classes are going really fast, and there is a lot of material to learn in all the pharmacy core courses. But the quality of education from Christian Brothers University really did prepare me well for these graduate courses. So far, moving to West Palm Beach was a journey that I am glad I made. I am becoming more independent and learning how to manage time wisely. I am also becoming an advocate for several great ideas for the University and building up my leadership skills, something that I have always shied away from. My activity in school organizations in the College of Pharmacy is enhancing my networking skills and refining my professional behavior here at Nova Southeastern University as I commute back and forth to the main campus in Davie or in Fort Lauderdale. The faculty and staff here at the satellite campus in Palm Beach really make sure students practice professionalism and are present in class with our white coats on at all times. Faculty members on site are really helpful and communicative even though we are a satellite campus. All class lectures are broadcast via the main campus. We have a brand new building this year that is situated at a great spot by the highway and very close to a luxury mall, fine restaurants, and shopping centers in downtown Palm Beach Gardens.

I also love the sunny weather here in Florida. Right now, the weather is on average in the 78-80′s and always sunny! I live just 7 minutes from the beach, so at times, I can go surfing or just watch the sunrise and sunset on the weekends when I am free. I am also just 1 hour away from Fort Lauderdale and an extra 30 minutes more from Miami. This is a wonderful spot to go to school. I am making a new group of friends and they are very helpful and supportive since we are along on this long journey together. I am actually looking forward to upper level clinical courses and doing my rotations in the next years to come.

For the first time, since the day I received my white coat, I am actually proud to be a student pharmacist advancing the science of pharmacy and its allied interests. I am also proud of the decision I made and the road I have chosen. I will make the best of it! This profession is necessary to help communities and patients understand the most safe, efficient, and proper ways of drug consumption. I am becoming more attentive and aware and caring. I keep myself busy at all times by volunteering and participating in community events (e.g., walks, car washes, diabetes operation screenings). I haven’t left my art side either, as I am also making jewelry, designing, and taking photos. Keep me updated and tell everyone in the UT lab I miss them too, and I appreciate your help in getting me into pharmacy school.

Since I did research throughout my undergraduate years at Christian Brothers University, it motivated me to practice good independent study skills. Since my first research experience was done at Meharry Medical and then at Vanderbilt the following summer, I was able to work on a project that I became engaged in with a mentor. By being engaged as a student researcher I learned several techniques that expanded what I learned in my courses at CBU. Most importantly I was able to interact and socialize with different minority groups, and I learned about different cultures. When I went to Brazil the next summer through MHIRT, I was excited to build my research experiences up to an international level in a foreign country. It was my first time to travel outside the country and away from my family. I learned to adapt quickly to the new culture, a new mentor, a new language and people in Brazil, and I became less of an introvert. From these experiences, I continued to be involved with and engaged in biomedical sciences and work at UTHSC. All of these experiences in laboratory research helped me interact with different professions with the same interests for sciences. I also expanded my social skills and communication skills as I presented my research projects at various conferences and symposiums. After entering pharmacy school, I continue to search for research experiences with other health divisions at the main campus in Fort Lauderdale. Overall, my education and research experiences after graduating from CBU definitely improved my leadership skills, and I became engaged both in graduate school and in community outreach programs and volunteer opportunities.

I really want to say thank you, Dr. Fitz!!, to you and all those who have been such a great help to get me to where I am now. I wouldn’t have been able to get here without your support and help in keeping me motivated and feeling loved.

love you much,
see you soon!


Featured Alum: Dr. David Parker

Editors note: the text below was supplied by the Mississippi Optometric Association (MOA).

Dr. Philip Marler of Carthage (right), immediate past president of MOA and chair of the awards committee, presents the Optometrist of the Year Award to Dr. David Parker.

Dr. David Parker of Olive Branch Named Optometrist of the Year by MOA

Dr. David L. Parker of Olive Branch Eyecare has been named the James Brownlee Optometrist of the Year by the Mississippi Optometric Association. MOA presents the award annually to recognize significant contributions to the profession of optometry and the general public. The winner was announced at the MOA’s Annual Fall Conference and Vision Exposition, held in November in Jackson. Dr. Parker will now be nominated for the American Optometric Association’s Optometrist of the Year award and the Southeastern Council of Optometrists’ Optometrist of the South award.

Dr. Parker graduated with honors from Southaven High School in 1987 and completed his undergraduate studies at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tenn. He graduated magna cum laude from the Southern College of Optometry of Memphis in 1995. While at SCO, he served as a teaching assistant, was a member of the Contact Lens Society and received the first year Outstanding Clinician Award from the faculty. Upon graduation, Dr. Parker founded Olive Branch Eyecare. He worked part-time and on weekends in underserved areas of Memphis for two years before devoting all of his time to the new practice, which now has a staff of four optometrists, two ophthalmologists and ten full-time technicians and opticians.

He has served the MOA as a board member, secretary, treasurer, vice president, president-elect, president, and past president. He remains active in the MOA and serves on several MOA committees including the Finance Committee. As president of MOA, Dr. Parker testified before the Senate Public Health Committee regarding scope expansion, which helped lead to program enhancement the following year. He was also president at the time board certification was being considered nationally and was one of the first Mississippi optometrists to take the American Board of Optometry examination. He was among the first 400 in the nation to pass the examination and be conveyed the distinction of Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry.

He currently chairs Optometry for Progress, the optometry political action committee for the state, and is the founding member and co-chair of the MOA Past-Presidents’ Council. He also is a member of the American Optometric Association and Northwest Mississippi Society of Optometrists and serves on the AOA’s Student and New Graduate Committee. Dr Parker represented Mississippi on the National Optometric 20/20 Summit and has served as a delegate to the AOA House of Delegates. He is a current member and past chairman of the Southern Eye Associates Advisory Board. He has served as an adjunct faculty instructor for the University of Alabama-Birmingham School of Optometry and continues to serve as an adjunct faculty instructor for the Southern College of Optometry. To date, more than 22 student doctors have seen patients under his care and are now practicing in Mississippi and throughout the country.

Dr. Parker travels on behalf of advocacy to Washington, D.C. each year and serves as a key liaison on optometry-related issues to federal and state legislators.

Dr. Parker’s greatest passion has been mentoring students pursuing optometry, and he continues to host high school and college students who are considering optometry as a career. He and his staff provide vision screenings at multiple elementary schools each year, and he is also an InfantSEE provider. In addition, Dr. Parker supports frequent medical mission trips to Kenya and Sierra Leone.

Dr. Parker and his wife Ashleigh were married in 1993 and have four children: Allie, Jack, Luke and Jude. Dr. Parker enjoys coaching baseball and basketball and is an avid golfer. He and his family are members of Getwell Road United Methodist Church in Southaven.

The Mississippi Optometric Association, founded in 1947, represents more than 500 doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants and technicians in more than 80 communities across the state. Optometrists examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the visual system, the eye and associated structures as well as diagnose related systemic conditions. The mission of the profession of optometry is to fulfill the vision and eye care needs of the public through clinical care, research and education, all of which enhance the quality of life of patients.

Featured Alum: Jason Sass, Mathematics 1999

My name is Jason Sass and I am a graduate of the class of 1999 with a degree in mathematics.

I recall my experience at CBU. During my undergraduate years at CBU I worked in the Math Center on campus. I have always loved to help others and tutoring math seemed to be a perfect fit. At the Math Center I helped other students wrestle with mathematical ideas and guide them, but never did all of the work for them. Instead I would help them see for themselves why something must be true or help them with a particular computational technique. It was quite fun and enjoyable to see them make progress and experience that ‘now i get it understanding’. It helped me to better understand as well, so this was a good experience for me.

I had initially majored in chemical engineering, but later switched over to math. I just couldn’t give up my passion for mathematical thinking and learning and sharing ideas. I would often stay in Plough Library on campus for hours and hours reading the many books and studying just for fun. Often I would be one of the last students to leave each night when the library closed. I would also hang out in the computer lab and chat with other students. It was always fun to learn new computer programs and write some programs of my own in the computer lab.

I took this curiosity about computers to the next level when I started working as a part time contractor for FedEx. There I provided computer technical support to gain some practical experience, all while still a student at CBU. It was a balancing act to manage both school and work, but quite doable, especially if you are determined and focused. So, I continued working there for about a year until I was offered a full time position at FedEx. I thought FedEx was a good company, so I decided to accept. In 1999 I completed my studies at CBU and was working full time for FedEx.

Initially I worked in the Customer Technology Services department at FedEx for a few years and provided technical support. Thereafter, I began working in the software development area in the Information Technology Division, focusing my energies on mission critical projects in the Retail sector at FedEx. I continued to learn new computer technologies and software development techniques. I believe my background in math has helped me to rapidly learn these new technologies. It was quite an enjoyable and fast paced environment. The environment is quite dynamic and there’s always new business objectives to meet. I’ve found it useful to reason carefully and critically when dealing with conflicting and even contradictory requirements and goals. Mathematical training has helped in this regard. I’ve held various positions throughout the years and currently I am a programmer advisor. In this capacity I work with a team that provides web services solutions for global customers. Specifically, we provide a web services interface for customers integrating with FedEx by providing functionality to ship with FedEx. So, we allow customers to perform business transactions with FedEx over the Internet no matter where they are. I enjoy working with the many folks at FedEx. I’m on my 13th year with FedEx and have received many awards for excellence, including several hall of fame awards and most valuable player award at FedEx.

It was during alumni weekend that I visited the updated CBU campus and toured the new sciences building. I was impressed with the open and bright rooms and whiteboards. I remember when I was a tutor on campus the Math Center was in a room with old wooden floors that creaked wherever you walked. But, now the Math Center is modernized and bright and there’s no more creaking floors. How lucky the current students are today! I saw the offices of my old professors, such as Dr. Becker and Cathy Carter Grilli and the various science classrooms. It’s nice that the math department had ‘moved up’ and is no longer in the basement.

In my spare time I’ve revived my interest in music. I used to play violin in the Memphis Youth Symphony many years ago and the piano. Now, I currently play my piano just for fun whether it’s Mozart or the London Symphony in D Major by Haydn or a modern rock song. In addition I like to tutor math and have done so for some time now. I always like to learn new things and I believe my CBU education has helped to encourage me to never stop learning.

Featured Alum: Hannah Shackelford, MHIRT 2007 and Biology 2008: Graduate Student Goes to China

Hannah Shackelford in China

This is from an original article written by Dr. Judith Cole and Hannah Shackelford for the Biology Newsletter at the University of Memphis. It is printed here with their permission.

Hannah Shackelford is currently working on her Master of Science degree at the University of Memphis with Dr. Kent Gartner, a long time collaborator of Dr. Malinda Fitzgerald and Dr. Mary Ogilvie. Hannah went to Shanghai during the summer of 2010 and the following is a description of her trip.

During my summer in Shanghai, China in 2010, I studied at Shanghai Jao Tong University, School of Medicine in Dr Junling Liu’s laboratory. Dr. Liu was a former post-doctoral fellow of Dr. Gartner. Dr Liu’s lab is in the Department of Hematology, and he specializes in platelets. During my time in the lab, I was able to participate in many experiments including bone marrow transplantation in mice following irradiation, immunohistochemical analysis of blood vessels, and the effects of anti-thrombotic drugs on tumor metastasis. Studying in Dr Liu’s lab was a great experience. Not only was it interesting to see scientific research performed at an advanced institution, it was a unique experience to see it performed by individuals of another culture.

In addition to learning useful laboratory techniques, I was able to spend some time exploring several Chinese cities. My mother and two sisters came to visit, and we toured areas of Beijing, Xi’an and Shanghai. We climbed The Great Wall of China, observed the Terracotta Warriors and walked through sacred areas like the Summer Palace and Forbidden City. We even had the chance to visit a typical Chinese home to see how the people live. It was surreal to stand in historical places you have seen many times in photographs or on television, and thanks to the connections at the University of Memphis I was given the opportunity to do so. It was a summer that I will never forget.

Featured Alum: Jarad Braddy, Biology 2000, D.D.S. 2005

When Dr. Ogilvie asked me to write this essay, I immediately thought back to the moment when I decided upon my career path. While bored in a statistics class I began to daydream and contemplate my future. The idea of being a dentist simply came to me during this daydream. I had never considered it before, but quickly realized it was a perfect fit. I graduated from CBU in 2000 with a degree in Biology and went on to University of Tennessee Dental School. After a challenging five years (I actually had to repeat a year due to a mono infection!), I finally graduated from UT in 2005. After passing all of my boards, I began working in a practice in Southaven, MS. About six months later, I bought into the practice and the company, Drs. Joe, Braddy and Simmons PLLC was formed. I now have two partners, Dr. Stephen Joe and Dr. Rhett Simmons. Following my epiphany in my sophomore statistics class, I truly believed that dentistry was going to be a great career for me, but I never expected to enjoy my work as much as I do. I simply love the variety of people I have the opportunity to care for daily. At least ten times a day I hear the phrase “I hate the dentist.” (One patient went so far as to state he would rather be getting an exam by a gynecologist. This patient was a man.) Instead of bothering me, I take these statements as a challenge. It’s my job to make sure my patients have the best experience possible while receiving the best care possible. My favorite part of my job is when one of these challenging patients actually begins to enjoy their time at my office. I am so thankful that I not only enjoy my work as much as I do, but I also have been able to watch our practice grow despite the challenging economy. We have outgrown our current office location and will be constructing a new, larger building soon. I am so excited about the future of our company and look forward to all the challenges and rewards that are headed our way.