Welcome back to the 2021 Tillman Scholars Spotlight! Each week, we highlight a few of the remarkable veterans and military spouses from our 2021 scholar class! These 60 individuals continue to embrace service beyond self in a variety of fields, from diversity and inclusion to medical breakthroughs, to make an impact and create a better tomorrow.
Today, we’re focusing on scholars pursuing impacts in health care. With the values of Pat Tillman instilled in them and through leadership development, scholarships, and the support of a global community, they’re furthering their capabilities to become leaders in their individual impact areas.
Danielle O’Neill, Columbia University
“WE MUST WORK TOWARDS CREATING A HEALTHCARE SYSTEM THAT IS EQUITABLE FOR ALL, AND AS A FUTURE NURSE PRACTITIONER, I WILL LEAD THE CHARGE FOR EQUALITY AND PATIENT’S RIGHTS.”
While training in the ER, Danielle saw firsthand how ethnicity, race, religion, and socioeconomic status affected the quality of healthcare that Indigenous patients received. she knew that she wanted to become a patient-centered healthcare provider that combated the healthcare system’s biases and inequity and would thus begin her journey to become a family nurse practitioner. Danielle’s long-term goal is to build collaborative medical centers in underserved communities. To create a place where physicians, nurse practitioners, dietitians, physical therapists, social workers, and mental health counselors work together under the same roof to provide continuity of care to patients to improve their health and overall quality of life.
Caitlin Clason, University of Pennsylvania
“AS A VETERAN, FUTURE SCIENTIST AND BIOETHICIST, I AM DEDICATED TO CLOSING THE RESEARCH GAP ON VETERANS’ HEALTH ISSUES AND ADVOCATING FOR OUR RIGHTS AS RESEARCH SUBJECTS.”
Cat is bringing her lived experience as a clinician and veteran to the field of research as she pursues her Ph.D. in nursing with a focus on the singular healthcare needs and patient population concerns of female veterans. She hopes to continue her career investigating the healthcare needs of female veterans, while getting a master’s of bioethics to better advocate for service members and veterans who are human research subjects.
Shanna Mueggenberg, Johns Hopkins University
“EVERY PATIENT DESERVES INNOVATIVE CARE WITH A PERSONALIZED APPROACH. AS A NURSE LEADER, I WANT TO DEVELOP A SYSTEM THAT EVALUATES THE WHOLE PERSON, NOT JUST THEIR CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE.”
Shanna wants to improve patient outcomes for cardiovascular surgical patients. To achieve the necessary skills to accomplish this, she has been accepted into the doctor of nursing practice clinical nurse specialist program at Johns Hopkins University. Working with an interdisciplinary care team, Shanna plans to develop a program that performs community education regarding cardiac disease prevention and management, acute care for every patient undergoing heart surgery, and post-discharge outreach and follow-up. Shanna believes that every patient deserves innovative care with a personalized approach.
Jamie Fleshman, Emory University
“EVERYONE HEALS DIFFERENTLY, AND I WANT TO INFLUENCE PHYSICAL THERAPY AND HEALTHCARE POLICIES SO THAT INDIVIDUALIZED AND QUALITY CARE IS THE PRIORITY.”
Jamie is seeking out a dual doctorate of physical therapy and master of public health program at Emory, where she now strives to acquire the skills necessary to implement community-based rehabilitation programs for the most vulnerable and marginalized populations in society. Jamie’s personal experience as a queer-identified woman in a time of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has inspired her work of helping to address healthcare disparities disproportionately affecting the LGBTQ+ community. She does this currently through the development of educational programming for physical therapy students and faculty that gives voice and perspective to the struggle of LGBTQ+ individuals.
Naomi Koenig, University of Arizona
“A LOVING ACTION CAN HEAL EVEN THE DEEPEST OF WOUNDS. I MAY NOT BE ABLE TO HELP THE ENTIRE WORLD, BUT THE WORLD NEEDS ALL THE HELP WE CAN GIVE.”
Naomi worked as a civilian medic and nurse. Her passion was fueled further by volunteering on a strike team during Hurricane Katrina and one of the first to respond to the I-35 bridge collapse. Naomi is a family practice provider in the rural Midwest, serving underserved populations with an emphasis in veteran and Indigenous healthcare needs. Recognizing the mental health crisis escalating, Naomi decided to return to school to pursue her doctoral degree in psychiatry to help her community heal.
Jena Burkhart, University of Puget Sound
“IN LIFE, YOU MUST RELENTLESSLY PURSUE WHAT TRULY SETS YOUR SOUL ON FIRE. I AM DEEPLY PASSIONATE ABOUT HEALTHCARE AND DEDICATED TO ADVANCING THE FIELD OF REHABILITATION MEDICINE FOR ALL.”
After experiencing a significant knee injury during her train-up for a military school in 2015, Jena had negative experiences navigating the military’s arduous medical system. She soon saw that her negative rehabilitation experiences were not limited to just her. She saw the same frustrations felt across the formation, regardless of how elite the military unit was. Jena is currently serving as a troop commander at Fort Bragg and is leaving active duty this fall to attend the University of Puget Sound. She is pursuing a career in physical therapy to enhance the quality of life of others by making rehabilitation care more accessible to service members and underserved rural communities.