Keith is the founding director of the Computational Biology Institute at George Washington University. He studies computational biology, population genetics and bioinformatics, and he helps develop and test big data methods of DNA sequence analysis. He applies this work to the study of the evolution of both infectious diseases (especially HIV) and crustaceans (especially crayfish). Keith has published more than 250 peer reviewed publications, as well as three books. He has been a Fulbright Visiting Scholar to Oxford University (England) and an Allen Wilson Centre Sabbatical Fellow at the University of Auckland (Australia). He has received a number of awards for research and teaching, including the American Naturalist Society Young Investigator Award, an NSF CAREER Award, a PhRMA Foundation Faculty Development Award in Bioinformatics, Honors Professor of the Year award at Brigham Young University, ISI Highly Cited Researcher, and the Edward O. Wilson Naturalist Award. He recently was elected a Fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). At K, Keith majored in biology and studied abroad in Madrid, Spain. After graduating, Keith served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Puyo, Ecuador. He earned his master’s degree (statistics) and his Ph.D. (biology and biomedical sciences) from Washington University.
Thomas received Virginia Tech’s 2015 Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine Outstanding Senior Award, which recognizes exceptional academic achievement and leadership by a graduating senior. Thomas received his D.V.M. degree in May. At K he earned his bachelor’s degree in biology. He also earned a minor in Chinese and did his study abroad in Beijing, China. At VMCVM he was a member of the Gamma Sigma Delta Agriculture Honor Society, received the Robert C. Brown Career Life Sciences Award in Leadership (2013 and 2014), and served as a research assistant, student member on the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine dean’s search committee, and as a student interviewer for the college’s class of 2018 applicants.
Last year Class Notes reported that David was named Physician of the Year in Sonoma County (California) for getting his small town of Healdsburg to raise the purchase age of tobacco products to 21 years. He said at that time that he hoped to make the change statewide within a year. Well, a year later he’s happy to report that this has happened. On June 9, 2016, California became the second state (after Hawaii) to set the tobacco purchase age to 21. Dave says it will make a huge difference in the health of the state! “And,” he adds, “It will spread nationwide soon. See what a K graduate can accomplish!”
Rob gave an interview on WUNC 91.5, North Carolina Public Radio, on May 18. He talked with radio host Frank Stasio about science in general and Rob’s latest book, The Man Who Touched His Own Heart. An article on Rob will appear in the December issue of LuxEsto.
In September of 2015 Dianne transitioned from working full-time (for more than 16 years with HealthPartners Geriatrics as a nurse practitioner) to a new position as clinical assistant professor with the University of Minnesota School of Nursing. There she teaches courses within the Doctor of Nursing Practice program and maintains a Faculty Clinical Practice with HealthPartners two days a week. In November 2015 Dianne became president of Minnesota Nurse Practitioners, where she is leading the organization to expand networking and professional support for nurse practitioners statewide.
Dianne also returned to Spain for the first time since her study abroad experience in 1978. She and her husband, Wes, participated in a three-week bike tour of more than 400 kilometers through the region of Catalonia. Dianne continues to live in Lake Elmo, Minnesota, with Wes. Their son, Taylor, is a recent computer and electrical engineering graduate from Michigan Technological University, now working in Helsinki, Finland, and their daughter, Katy ’12, is a master’s degree candidate at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan.
The young people who come into the office of Sara Wiener ’03 often have nowhere else to turn for help. They are scared, anxious and sometimes living with families who do not fully understand them.
But they do know one thing: they want to be able to live a fully authentic life. They know the body they were born with does not house their true selves. And even in a day and age when public discussion about transitioning to another gender is more commonplace, the social stigma is still strong, and support systems oftentimes are shaky at best.
“The kids I see have been so distressed,” says Wiener. “Some say they’ve attempted suicide. Some are bullied at school. Others have hurt themselves. The stress on them is often incredible. Trans and gender non-conforming kids have always existed, but often in the shadows.”
Wiener, 34, is extending a much needed helping hand.
Since 2008, she had been working as a clinical outpatient psychologist at a Massachusetts medical center, counseling “medically complex” young people—kids with genetic disorders, poorly controlled Type 1 diabetes, and other medical issues. The work was satisfying, but she had a yearning to return closer to her native home of Plymouth, Michigan.
“So I approached the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) and said, ‘You don’t have a pediatric gender services office, and I’d like to start that here.’”
The health system listened.
The UMHS, which for 20 years had been attending to the health care needs of transgender adults—one of the first hospitals in the nation to do so—agreed it was a good idea. Wiener got the job and early this year became UMHS’s manager of comprehensive gender services.
“It’s my dream job,” she says. “It fits with who I am and my politics.”
The story of how Wiener landed in the growing world of transgender health care is a testament to the self-directed, lifelong style of learning championed so much at K. Wiener, who holds a Master of Social Work degree from Smith College in Massachusetts, had next to no formal training in gender dysphoria or transgender health care. During her graduate studies, she remembers exactly one course that dealt with gender issues, and then only in a cursory way.
“I got a bunch of books and journals and spread them out on a table and thought to myself, ‘How am I going to do this?’” she recalls. “But I knew I had the skills. K gave me the know-how to teach myself on my own. Embracing lifelong learning—that was kind of hammered into you as a K student. I was thinking of the College when I did this. And I did it.”
Research shows that about 80 percent of prepubertal children who identify with a gender other than that assigned at birth do not go on to become transgender adolescents or adults, she says. Instead, they may grow up to become gay, lesbian or bisexual.
The majority of adolescents in puberty who are struggling with their gender during or after puberty will go on to become transgender as adults, Wiener adds.
“It’s this constant voice telling them, ‘This is not me,’” she says. “For many people, it does not go away.”
She does a lengthy clinical assessment before making any recommendation for medical intervention, assessing the young person’s current functioning, family environment, any co-morbid mental health issues (PTSD, depression or chronic anxiety, trauma) and gender histories.
Young people enter her office looking for answers about everything from hormone therapy to surgical procedures. Their families—sometimes conflicted about how to address their child’s gender identity—also are a part of the consultation, receiving support from Wiener’s office as well. Any minor must have the consent of their parent of guardian before going forward with any therapy.
“Some parents have a hard time with what their child is going through,” Wiener says. “Some think it’s a phase the child will move through, or are having trouble accepting what’s going on. These parents need support, too. Here, we have a holistic approach.”
LuxEsto spoke with Wiener just a month after she started her new position. Already, she had seen young people and their families from across the state. In Michigan, there is only one other health care provider willing to prescribe hormone therapy to transgender young people, she says.
“Trans people want and deserve to be integrated. They often want or need specialized medical and any number of other support services. We can do that here.”
Wiener’s work also puts her on the front lines of the of the social justice movement for transgender rights and inclusion.
“It’s different from outpatient psychotherapy. When I did that work, the social justice advocate part of me wasn’t activated. I wasn’t making the kind of changes I wanted to help make. When I do this work, I feel like I am really making a difference—and it feels awesome.”
She’s already been emotionally touched by her work.
She remembers a father who brought his 6-year-old natal male child into her office for feedback regarding how to manage the child’s preferences for clothing typically associated with girls. The child came through the door “all dolled up,” Wiener says, wearing a pink dress, bows in his hair and clutching a magic wand.
“Dad came in looking for direction, wondering what he should do. After a thorough assessment, I was able to assure the father he was doing the right thing by supporting the child in the child’s unique gender expression. The relief I saw on his face was incredible, just that simple bit of advice ended up helping them both.
“I get to be a part of a young person’s life and help them become who they truly are, removing barriers so they can be their authentic selves and connect them with what they need. It’s an honor to see people become themselves. It is so rewarding.”
Vital, perhaps a tad overlooked, and with a “porch time” aspect unique to K, Kalamazoo College’s Discovery Externship Program has connected students and alums since 2002. The externship provides students with valuable observation and participation in a field of their choosing, and, unlike a traditional internship (or any undergraduate program in the country) it also provides students homestays with K alumni. Opportunities range in character and geography, from helping at a community kitchen and farmer’s market in Chelsea, Mich., to working with children on the autism spectrum at Daily Behavioral Health in Cleveland, Ohio, to getting up close and personal with octopi in the crystal waters of the Caribbean for the Northeastern University Marine Science Center.
One of the program’s early alumni adopters, Andrew Terranella ’99, M.D., saw immediately how K students might benefit from time spent at his work. A physician with the Public Health Service, Terranella works with Indian Health Services to provide care to reservations in the southwest United States. In 2008, when he arrived at his first post-residency job as a pediatrician on the Navajo Reservation in Kayenta, Arizona, he called his alma mater.
“We often had medical students come to the reservation,” said Terranella, who serves on the College’s Alumni Association Executive Board, “and I thought it would be fun to have a K student come out, so I called Pam Sotherland [program and data manager at the Center for Career and Professional Development]. She said, ‘Well, we have a new thing called an externship.’”
Terranella and Sotherland composed a description of his medical, rural externship, and soon after two young women, Anna Hassan ’10 and Lauren Torres ’10, signed up and made their way from a verdant Michigan summer to the red dirt and open skies of the Southwest.
Terranella wanted to maximize the benefit of externship for the students by providing some hands-on, brains-on work in addition to job shadowing. “We were launching a program in the clinic called, ‘Adventures in Medicine,’ which was a summer science project for local children and teens,” Andrew explains. “I had a general idea for the program, but I wanted the K externs, along with two medical students, to design the curriculum and administer it.” First things first, though. “We wanted to have one week of orienting to the place and to get to really know each other, so we went on a river trip on the Green River in Utah, which was a blast.” After that, the externs had time to plan and then implement the three-week science program. It is the time students spend with alumni during homestays that differentiates the discovery externship program from any other.
In addition to having the chance to see what a physician does, Anna and Lauren worked with students from area schools, in the process learning how to run a biomedical summer class and how the tribal community functioned. That interaction is important to Terranella. “I think it’s important for people to see that reservations exist,” he explained, “because there is an entire group of Americans that people don’t pay a whole lot of attention to. And yet the reservation is beautiful country, the people are fantastic, and the medicine is really interesting, a type that you won’t see in an academic setting.”
Through hosting externs, Terranella also hopes to inform others of the importance of public health and Indian Health Services, specifically. “Having students come here is a great way to share the cultural experience of working with IHS. Cultural competence is not something you may always learn about in medical school or as an undergrad,” he explains. In fact, in part because of that arid and exhilarating summer at Kayenta, Hassan went on to get her Master of Public Health degree and now works with underserved communities in New Orleans.
Terranella keeps in touch with many of his externs, and credits the homestay aspect of the program for fostering a close-knit bond. “Undoubtedly an important part of the experience is just having one-on-one time—what we call ‘porch time’, which is sitting together after a work day and chatting about anything. Porch time makes externships something more valuable than just getting to see my work. It’s about experiencing a life, as well. What is work-life balance like? What is like to be an IHS doctor living in Tucson? And I get to ask questions of the students and find out about their passions.”
Because of the rewards of hosting, Terranella has offered an externship to K students every year that he can. In addition to those of Hassan and Torres, he has provided externships for the following K students: Emily Parsons ’11, Jenny Kwon ’16, Elizabeth Lenning ’16, Miranda Doepker ’16, and Karina Duarte ’18. And he intends to create an externship at his new job—deputy director of a tribal hospital on the Tohono O’odham reservation in southern Arizona—as soon as he’s settled.
“It’s a really great experience. I’ve loved having the students.”
To get involved in the externship experience, visit the Host an Extern page at Kalamazoo College’s website. Here, you can see past externships, find tips on creating a successful externship and see what past hosts say about their experience.