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FACULTY SPOTLIGHTS

Anthony J. LaPorta MD,FACS,FACOS, COL.(ret) US Army
Colorado Campus

Where is your hometown?
Milwaukee WI-GO PACKERS

What do you enjoy when not at RVU (family life, interests, and hobbies)?
I am an avid skier, and golfer although I am not very good at either. I've been lucky enough to play ball into my mid 60s to late 60s, to laugh you should see me pitching or even worse trying to run past first base even though I hit the ball to the wall down the line and left field and never could get a second. I love watching my family playing sports especially my sons and grandson having played football, lacrosse, and all of them are just about as bad at me at golf but it is a hoot to be together. My daughter has become one of the bells of my life as she has special interest especially in motor sports and other activities that we get to do together including just hanging around which is probably the best. It goes without saying that the strength for all of this comes from the foundation of our family, my wife Mary. Sharing memories with my family has truly become a past time that I love. Just to give you an idea one of my fondest memories is having turned the wrong way on a Swiss ski resort, the fictitious but legendary James Bond also chased the Bad Guy Ernst Stavro Blofeld down what was called the Eiger glacier. Petrified we did make it all down but my daughter swore she would never ski with me again.

What is an interesting or little known fact about you:
During my career with the Wisconsin air national guard. The unit was called the 128th airfield group. I became a flight surgeon and in those days you actually had to learn how to fly the plane from the right seat. We had many really interesting flights but the one that sticks out the most was we were flying from Milwaukee Wisconsin to Panama City Panama. The call sign of the airplane was Utah 67. It was an extremely large aircraft called KC 97 that had eight turbo props and a top speed of 197 knots. Our flight surgeons at the time were required to have time in the right seat of the aircraft and I was in the right seat leaving the United States in New Orleans air space. Suddenly air traffic control called as I was flying the plane with the following quote " Utah 67 – would you please turn the controls of that aircraft over to someone that knows how to fly it. We are worried." To say the least that cost me a couple rounds of beer with my friends the fellow people on the aircraft I had to swear would never tell the story although now it has fine memories.

How long have you been doing research?
My first research project started as a senior in medical school at the Medical College of Wisconsin. It was with two absolutely legendary physicians, Robert Condon and Joe Geenen. Dr. Condon is best known as the person who developed the bowel prep that saved millions of people from both death and having to have multiple operations with any problem having to do with the colon. Dr. Geenen is essentially the person that developed ERCP. I'll never forget the patient although Hippa now stopped me from telling you his name. He was quite a character and we had identified that he was actually bleeding from a pseudo cyst eroding into a vascular structure in his pancreas. This now seems like an easy diagnosis however it was impossible to diagnose without the invention of ERCP which Dr. Geenen did the time. Sort of like now when the cut suit has now become famous but nobody knew about it before we started to work on it with Strategic Operations. We wrote this up and it started my career. Shortly after that I was lucky enough to identify a cell that turned off the immune system call the suppressor cell. Now of course that has gone on to the identification of the interleukins and proteins that are actually produced by various T cells. This presentation at the Society of University Surgeons triple continent meeting in Philadelphia the week after the world heard about legionnaires disease at the same hotel, the Fairmont in Philadelphia , ended up being the reason I was invited to the University of Oxford which in my mind made all the rest of my career possible.

Where did you get your undergraduate? What was your degree?
I did not graduate from undergraduate school as things were different in those days. I actually had only 92 credits towards a bachelors degree but somehow must've done more than pretty good on the MCAT as I was accepted into medical school and the rest somehow just happened.

What type of research are you currently doing at RVU?
1. My longtime colleague and close friend BG(Ret) Dr Robert Enzenauer we have change the type of lighting that is used on the battlefield away from white light and simply red light to a red green combination that allows one to see blood but not be identified by the enemy. In addition that same company called First Light is now developing a series of other technology we are doing research on that I really can't describe more than it will allow us to do hands-free control of many situation's that will allow us to do remote training and remote surgery in both combat situation and civilian first responder situation.

2. I think most everybody in the world right now and knows that the research we have been doing on surgical education and immersion training has produced beyond spectacular results. The open surgical trainer "the cut suit" has truly now emerged as the substitute for many nights of being up and attempting to make decisions on a live person that would frequently have resulted in catastrophes as we were learning as young doctors. This set of experiences can now be placed into simulation but with a live person being operated on but in the "cut suit. In addition such events as intensive surgical skills week truly allows us to experience the stress and fear of failure without hurting a human being.

3. Somehow all of this has morphed into an understanding of what makes a person resilient, and an understanding of emotional intelligence. This is somehow related to not only the depression identified in medical students and residents but also the PTSD identified in soldiers and first responders. Prompted by Admiral retired Clint Adams along with Dr. Rebecca Ryznar and our colleagues from South Metro Fire and Police including Lt.Ryan Shelton it appears that somehow we have begun to identify some of the root causes of how the status on a bio chemical basis. This in addition to work with Captain Tuan Hoang, Dr. Reginald Franciose, Dr. Marian Safaoui, Dr. Matthew Pena, Dr. Natalie Nevins, Dr Gail Singer-Chang, Dr Michael Czekajlo, Dr German Berbel, Dr. Alan Moloff , Dr. Roy Alson ,Jerry Marlin and our latest colleagues from Touro Nevada Dr. Brad Havins and Dave Clegg has somehow made this vision of training without hurting a reality.

Dr Rebecca Ryznar has now added an entirely new level of understanding to our biochemical quest to understand how this picture of education fits together to make better doctors and human beings.

Anything else you would like to share:
I cannot be prouder of our team here at RVU. Dr Bruce Dubin(ret dean), Dr Tom Told, Dr Dave Ross, Dr Sue Carter, Dr Joel Roberts, Dr. Ryznar and by far most importantly Deidre McGee. Deidre has been the absolute solid care taker of the entire project. Without her it could not have been held together .I slate them all. I hope I have not forgotten any. The students search for answers has fueled it all.Perhaps more than any Dr Charles Hutchinson's success in life after the start of the projects fueled us the hardest.The Best part is I know under the leadership of Dr Dean Gubler this will all continue.

This is all founded on the rock fueled by my wife. That is that the heart of of a person is good, and that hard work and partnership is how to get it done. Thank you to my family.



Benjamin Brooks, PhD
Southern Utah Campus

Where is your hometown?
Casper, WY

What do you enjoy when not at RVU (family life, interests, and hobbies)?
I love spending time with my family and my dogs. We travel in our RV and to our place in Alaska.

How long have you been doing research?
I have been doing research for 20 years in proteins.

Where did you get your undergraduate? What was your degree?
I have an undergraduate degree in Mathematics from the University of Wyoming, although I do have most of my undergraduate credits from the University of Utah.

What type of research are you currently doing at RVU?
I do vaccine work and drug target characterization. I do have several other projects in orthopedics, DEI, and OB/GYN. I mentor students in the project they are interested.

Anything else you would like to share:
I am married to the best wife and researcher.



Isain Zapata, PhD
Colorado Campus

Where is your hometown?
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

What do you enjoy when not at RVU?
I enjoy eating new food, specially ethnic food. African, Asian, Latin american, Middle eastern... I also enjoy music, I have been producing electronic music for many years and have had the opportunity to showcase my work in many venues.

What is an interesting or little known fact about you?
My main directions always incorporate creativity. I like music and research because I can contribute with new ideas. Replicating what already exists is not wall interests me, I always try to add something new.

How long have you been doing research?
I have been doing research for over 15 years which include my graduate studies. I have dedicated my entire professional career to research.

Where did you get your undergraduate? What was your degree?
I attained my Bachelor's degree in Chemistry in Mexico at the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez. I got there also a minor in food technology but my main research line through the years has always been in biology, genetics and data analysis.

Did you do any research while in undergraduate? What was it?
Not  really, research opportunities at my undergraduate institution were not significant at that time, however, I got a lot of hands on experience working with the food industry and developing projects in a similar fashion to research projects.

What type of research are you currently doing at RVU?
At RVU I work for the most part as a data analyst. At some point every research project will likely need an analyst and because of that, I am involved in many different projects; from clinical trials for novel surgical procedures, epidemiological assessments of opioid usage in rural populations to evaluations of mental health proficiency within particular ethnic minority groups. For my personal research, I work on canine behavioral genomics. I do this work in collaboration with a team of researchers from several institutions across the nation. Our work in sponsored by federal agencies and private enterprises. Anything else you would like to share:
Creating an original idea is very hard, but executing that idea into a reality is even harder. Make sure you always surround yourself with the type of people who can help you grow your ideas and turn them into a reality. Don't forget to be there for those who are getting there as well.



Anthony Pappas, PhD
Southern Utah Campus

Where if your hometown
Boca Raton, FL

What do you enjoy when not at RVU?
I am an avid runner. I love to be out running early enough to watch the sunrise. I also enjoy cooking and baking. My New Year's resolutions is to try a new recipe every week.

What is an interesting or little known fact about you?
I maintain an electronic "Gratitude" journal. I add 2-3 entries per week. I strongly recommend this!

How long have you been doing research?
I have been involved in biomedical research (in one way or another) for the past 12 years.

Where did you get your undergraduate? What was your degree?
I completed my undergraduate degree at Florida Atlantic University (FAU). My degree was in Psychology. I completed my PhD in Neuroscience at the University of Vermont.

Did you do any research while in undergraduate? What was it?
My undergraduate research examined the influence of alcohol on spatial recognition tasks. My graduate research examined the impact of hemorrhagic stroke on cerebral blood flow.

What type of research are you currently doing at RVU?
As an anatomist, I am particularly interested in tissue structure and function. Here at RVU, I've been using histologic techniques to examine tissue morphology. Recently, I worked with one of our OMS-2 students to confirm the presence of salivary glands within the lateral walls of the nasopharynx. I have another project underway to investigate morphologic changes in the retina and optic nerve of a blind individual.



Rebecca Ryznar, PhD
Colorado Campus

Where if your hometown
New Hartford, Connecticut

What do you enjoy when not at RVU?
Playing and listening to rock music, reading good AI books, going on hikes with my dog Hendrix.

What is an interesting or little known fact about you?
I brew beer! Getting ready to brew a batch of a belgian white ale. 

How long have you been doing research?
Since my undergrad so over 10 years now. 

Where did you get your undergraduate? What was your degree?
I got my PhD from Wesleyan University in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry 

Did you do any research while in undergraduate? What was it?
Undergrad and Master's I did research in the area of cardiac physiology studying the activity and regulation of ryanodine receptors. For my PhD my thesis focused on epigenetics, specifically investigating the link between flux in metabolism and changes in gene expression.

What type of research are you currently doing at RVU?
Currently at RVU, my research focus is on the biological basis of resilience ie how stress biomarkers can help to screen, diagnose and treat PTSD, depression and anxiety related disorders.



ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine has developed several specialized educational tracks and programs to further develop the education of interested students. These range from 3.5-year-long tracks to single-semester elective courses.

Student research/scholarly activity is a vital part of health provider education. Research enhances critical thinking skills and increases medical knowledge, as well as preparing students for graduate medical education. Therefore, all students are encouraged to participate in research activities while at RVU.

During their third and fourth years of medical school, students work on clinical externships, under the guidance of preceptors. RVU students have externships available to them through Colorado and the other Mountain West states.