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Mercy College Assistant Professor, Kathryn Ryans, PT, DPT, Gains Board Certification in Oncologic Physical Therapy

Mercy is pleased to announce that Assistant Professor Kathryn Ryans, PT, DPT, has become a Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Oncologic Physical Therapy. She is part of a select inaugural class for the oncologic specialization that consists of less than 70 physical therapists from around the country. The certification confirms Ryans expertise in the oncologic specialization and proves her desire to lead in the field, remain cutting-edge and educate others on how achieve the optimal quality of care for patients.

Ryans underwent a rigorous application process to obtain board certification. In order to be eligible to sit for the board exam, she had to complete a minimum of 2,000 hours of direct patient care, develop and submit a case study write up and once accepted, had to pass a national board examination. Ryans exceeded the requirements and was awarded the board certification in June of this year.

Ryans was introduced to the topic of oncologic physical therapy in 2000 as a practicing physical therapist assistant. From then on, she focused on gaining the knowledge necessary to educate others on best practices for rehabilitating cancer survivors. She has since gained her degree from Mercy in 2006 and helped shaped the greater oncologic specialization, standardizing oncologic clinical practice guidelines, systematic reviews on assessment and diagnostic tools and speaking nationally on the topic.

“This is a growing, diverse field that deserves more recognition. So many survivors really need a specialist,” said Ryans. “The board certification carries prestige and will take me to the next level in my career. Maybe more importantly, it could have implications for the specialization as a whole – it may shape the way providers and insurance companies interact with, view and validate oncologic physical therapy.”

Since starting as as an assistant professor at Mercy in 2008, Ryans has influenced the direction of the College’s already diverse physical therapy program by introducing the oncologic specialization into the curriculum. Her coursework encourages students to utilize critical thinking and problem-solving skills to achieve the best patient-centered outcomes in a clinical setting. With the board certification, she plans on evolving her teachings to include even more relevant information that will prepare students to treat the unique, multifaceted needs of cancer survivors.

“It’s exciting for us,” said Nannette Hyland, associate professor and director of Mercy’s physical therapy program. “Every therapist is going to eventually work for someone who has cancer, there’s no way around it. Having a faculty member that is a Board-Certified Specialist in this area ensure that Mercy College DPT graduates will be armed with the best evidence to treat individuals who have survived cancer.”

Ryans will be honored at the American Physical Therapy Association’s Combined Sections meeting in February 2020. Her Mercy colleagues and physical therapy program alumni will be present to celebrate her accomplishment.

Mercy College Holds Poverty Simulation Day

The afternoon of March 1st, over 100 students and faculty participated in a unique poverty simulation designed to better help them understand the complexities and frustrations experienced by future patients who are living in poverty. The simulation exercise was designed to sensitize students and faculty who frequently deal with low-income families as well as to create a broader awareness of poverty among policymakers, community leaders and others.

Participants role-played the lives of low-income families, including some who are disabled, and some senior citizens on Social Security. During the exercise, they had the stressful task of providing for basic necessities and shelter on a limited budget during the course of four 15-minute "weeks." They interacted with other participants role-playing representatives of human service agencies, grocers, pawnbrokers, bill collectors, job interviewers, police officers and others. Difficult decisions needed to be made about affording life necessities or seeking medical care.

School of Health and Natural Sciences Blog

Mercy Occupational Therapy Student Treats Child with Traumatic Brain Injury

Laura McSpedon, occupational therapy student at Mercy College, was featured in the local news for treating a 5-year-old boy with traumatic brain injury. Joseph Federico of New Windsor recently graduated from the Intensive Upper Extremity Summer Program at Blythedale Children’s Hospital after undergoing intensive care for a brain aneurysm he had at age three. While doctors saved his life, he was left paralyzed on his left side and without 40 percent of his skull after numerous surgeries.

McSpedon aided Federico’s rehabilitation at Blythedale by increasing his bodily function and strength. Federico is set to begin kindergarten this fall at Mt. Pleasant Blythedale School, New York’s only public school at a hospital. He can walk, talk and eat on his own, due in part to McSpedon, and is excited to return to activities like playing baseball.

Read more about McSpedon’s work at Blythedale Children’s Hospital by clicking here.

Faculty Recognition

Spring 2019 the Deans presented at the Faculty Recognition and Awards ceremony to mark accomplishments and important career milestones for the following faculty:

Ms. Sandra Bertholf, Promotion to Assistant Professor

Dr. Helen Buhler, Retirement

Dr. Kathleen Kenney-Riley, Tenure

Dr. Debra Zizik, Mercy College Teaching Excellence Award

Dr. Juan Bruses, 2019-2020 Faculty Fellows

Congrats to all recipients within SHNS!

Future Veterinary Professionals Live Animal Demonstration

The Future Veterinary Professionals Club organized their second live animal encounter this fall semester. The Vice President of the Club, Christal Luna, brought in some of her exotic animals to the Dobbs Ferry campus for an educational meet and greet. She discussed the importance of veterinary care and preventative medicine practices. This is especially important when it comes to animals since they can not tell us when they are feeling sick. Luna explained what it is like owning and caring for exotic animals, and talked about some of the physical characteristics that make each animal unique. Attendees were able to ask questions about exotics and had the chance to see some animals they have never seen in person before.  Luna is also a licensed wildlife rehabilitator and explained her duties as a rehabilitator, and what is required to obtain and maintain her license. Those who attended interacted with three different species of snakes, a juvenile bearded dragon, an adult crested gecko, and a tegu; a very large lizard that closely resembles a monitor lizard.

All of her animals are rescue animals and each have a unique story detailing how Luna ended up caring for them. This is a special event that the club hopes to continue to do in the future. As veterinary professionals they find it important to educate those in the program and those in different majors and programs, that there are many different kinds of animals out there.

Natural Sciences Greenhouse Project

The department of Natural Sciences proudly announces the construction of a greenhouse structure, located outside of the G-level of Main Hall. Dr. Minorsky and Dr. Deb have taken the lead with outfitting the greenhouse and have assisted in drafting the blueprints. Construction is aimed for completion during the spring 2019 semester and the school cannot wait to see what grows and flourishes within!

Mercy Undergraduate Research Success

The news that the Allied Genetics Conference 2020 (TAGC) had been canceled brought a moment of silence in the science community of the Genetics Society of America (GSA). Soon after, however, the community of GSA put an effort to hold its first online version of this important international research conference. TAGC 2020 Online, held from April 22 to 25, was a great success with participants nationwide as well as from other countries. In fact, it was reported that this conference garnered epic participation of over ten thousand researchers worldwide. Resilience may be an appropriate word to describe this. Coincidently, resilience has been a value shared by motivated students at Mercy College. This shared virtue between GSA scientists and Mercy students may explain the fact that four undergraduate students at Mercy were among the poster presenters at TAGC 2020 Online, along with other undergraduates, graduates, postdoctoral fellows, and scientists from prestigious colleges and universities.

If one happens to stop by the blog site of GSA, it may catch the eyes for the Victoria Finnerty Travel Award, which is to sponsor excellent undergraduate researchers to present their research at the Annual Drosophila Research Conference. This year, the annual Drosophila conference was part of TAGC together with the conferences of other genetic model organisms, such as yeast, zebrafish, and mice. For TAGC 2020, Mercy sophomore student Isabella was one of the fourteen 2020 Victoria Finnerty Travel Award recipients ( Among the recipients of this prestigious award are the undergraduate students selected from colleges and universities nationwide, including the University of North Carolina, the University of Houston, and the University of California.

Does this honor come from resilience? Time goes back in the spring semester of 2019. Mercy junior student Patrick was taking an upper-level course called Genetics. It happened that the professor conducted a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE) as the lab component. For this CURE, students needed to conduct an original research project that addressed the stability of chromosomes, especially the ends of chromosomes called telomeres, by studying unknown genes. The scientific curiosity grew in this minority student. By the end of the spring semester, Patrick was convinced to follow the professor to conduct research in the summer as a volunteer research student. For eight weeks of pleasant and productive time spend together with the professor and other volunteer students, Patrick was able to identify some candidate genes for further investigation on their potential to regulate the stability of telomeres, which might shed light on our understanding of cancer development in humans. The curiosity of science only grew stronger. Patrick decided to take the BIOL 370 Research in Biology I course to conduct experiments to answer his original scientific question in the fall semester of 2019.

This time, however, Patrick joined a research class of seven biology-major students: Sydney, Murad, Billy, Isabella, Chad, Allaysia, and him. Patrick found the class comfortable as he worked with Sydney and Murad together in the summer. The class was challenging with the failures of numerous experiments. The professor said that it was not a surprise since the research project was an original study and some of the experiments were usually done by graduate students. Furthermore, one might sense an atmosphere of competition. This was due to that each student had an individual mini-project and that the research progress, unfortunately, was reflected by the experimental results, which sometimes was either yes or no without a gray area. One might suspect a problematic scenario of the students. On the contrary, the students were encouraged and loved to work as a team to share ideas and to help each other, although they had to keep their own experiments moving forward. To the professor of this class, it was the biggest reward no matter the scientific experiments were successful or not. The motto, “Be competent,” “Earn respect,” “Be considerate,” and “Help others,” is the professor Dr. Zhou’s philosophy and visible on his laboratory website for students.

In this competitive and yet cooperative environment, Isabella grew to the capacity to conduct independent experiments to dissect the salivary glands of the larvae of common fruit flies called Drosophila. Unfortunately, until October 16, there was still no discovery for the whole team when they participated in the 52nd Annual MACUB Conference at Monmonth University in New Jersey, which was organized by the Metropolitan Association of College and University Biologists. A poster judge commented that the research was original and creative and hoped that the students could continue their experiments to achieve some findings. At the end of the conference, the students were cheerful for other students of other colleges and universities when they were announced for poster presentation awards. That might also be a moment to look at ourselves. How much work had we done? How hard had we performed?

Upon coming back from the MACUB conference, the students gave their best try for the remaining time of that semester, which was less than two months. It was until the end of November that the door of science was finally opened a bit for those hard-working students. Patrick, Billy, Sydney, and their teammates were able to demonstrate that two candidate genes that were identified in the past summer, when mutated, led to elongation of the telomeres, a breakthrough of this research project that started in the spring semester of 2018. At this moment, the students appreciated the beauty of scientific research—the ability to unravel the truth of natural phenomena. That moment could be lost had the students not been persistent and resilient. As an outcome that accompanies their hard work, Patrick was awarded the FASEB DREAM Mentored Poster/Platform Presenter Award from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), and Isabella won the Victoria Finnerty Travel Award. Billy, through this exciting journey, was convinced to pursue a research career and has now been accepted to the Integrated Biomedical Sciences Ph.D. program at Rush Medical College, Rush University, receiving a full scholarship for the 5-year program. Sydney successfully led the team platform presentation at the 9th annual Westerchester Undergraduate Research Conference and is pursuing an interdisciplinary field that combines art and science. What they may not know is that behind their success, the Department of Natural Sciences and the Dean’s Office of the School of Health and Natural Sciences worked diligently and successfully managed to provide the required research equipment and space for the research courses to happen.

Sucre Boliva Medical Mission

Dr. Shari Berkowitz, faculty member, and 2nd-year graduate student, Roseanne Grateraux, from our Communication Disorders program joined Healing The Children, Northeast on a medical mission to Sucre, Bolivia this September. They joined surgeons, anesthesiologists, a pediatrician, a cardiologist, and nurses from different states who all came together to treat children with cleft lips and cleft palates. On this trip, Dr. Berkowitz and Ms. Grateraux provided assessment, counseling, and treatment to approximately 50 children of Sucre, Bolivia. They provided pre- and post-surgery speech pathology services to the children with cleft lips and palate who also presented with speech, language, and feeding/swallowing problems. In all, approximately thirty children had surgery to repair their cleft lip or cleft palate.

Two teenagers, both fourteen years old and born with cleft palates, were able to get surgery for the first time. These children had never received any type of therapy and had lived their whole lives with communication, feeding, and swallowing difficulties. Another child with a cleft lip and palate, 1-month-old, was withdrawn from a feeding tube and given milk from a special bottle provided by the Speech Team for the first time.  This infant was too young and small for surgery, but the Speech Team worked with the parents on feeding and speech development strategies. The baby will receive surgery in January, when the team returns to Bolivia. The Speech Team provided therapeutic intervention and counseling to all children and their families who came to speech clinic, including children with developmental delays, and collaborated with the onsite child learning center. “Having this opportunity to serve children in so much need and apply what I’ve learned in graduate school is truly priceless.” said Ms. Grateraux. Dr. Berkowitz and Dr. Buhler, program director, have been traveling across the globe with Healing the Children, Northeast since 2011. 


This fall, SHNS received a $1,000,000 grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for Inclusive Excellence in Science Education, led by Dr. Renee Haskew Layton and Dr. Maddie Narayanan. In addition, our Langston Fellows, (Kathy Kenney-Riley, Shair Berkowitz and Kimberly Rapoza from SSBS) will start their 3-year $600,000 grant from the National Institute for Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation research NIDILRR. A BIG Congrats to all!

Past SHNS Blog Entries

The Biology Program was awarded a $2.289 million dollar S-STEM grant from the National Science Foundation: "Collaborative Research: Institutional Collaboration to Recruit, Retain, and Graduate Low-Income Students in Biology." This is a multi-institutional grant under the direction of biology faculty Dr. Anthony Canger and Dr. Renée Haskew-Layton (Co-PI) that will award up to $10,000 in scholarship funds to 24 incoming biology freshmen (for Fall 2018). In addition to the scholarship, the grant will support high-impact practices to facilitate the success of low-income students pursuing undergraduate degrees in biology. These high-impact practices include project-based learning, undergraduate research, CATALYST programs to prepare students for the transition to college, and targeted faculty/peer advising.

Every spring, Mercy’s communication disorders department fields a team of made up of faculty, students, and their families, called Hear4U, to walk in the Westchester/Rockland chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) Walk4Hearing (team pictured above from 2014). This annual fundraising event raises money as well as awareness of hearing loss, providing equipment, instruction, and scholarships to people with hearing loss (for our Walk, it would be in Westchester and Rockland counties).

Please join our team, donate, walk with us, and support our efforts for this worthwhile cause! Link to the HLAA Walk4Hearing:

Click on this link, choose the FIND A WALK TAB, then click on MAY 16 WESTCHESTER/ROCKLAND WALK4HEARING. REGISTER TO JOIN A TEAM from the top tabs, then either register as a new walker or a Returning Walker (if you walked with us last year) to join our team Hear4U. Note that $4 out of every $10 we raise will come back to the Mercy College Speech and Hearing Center to purchase audiology-related equipment, materials, and tests.