Class of 2019 Biographies

Darian Allen | Houston

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I graduated from Indiana University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science. Growing up, I always pictured myself as a doctor and thought I would change the world. However as time went on I began to find medical school and a doctor’s lifestyle less and less appealing. My interest in anesthesia began when a close friend got into a car wreck and had a bad reaction during surgery. As I began to research the field, I quickly realized that becoming a certified anesthesiologist assistant was the right career path for me.


Zain Asif | Washington, D.C.

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I was born and raised in Northern Virginia right outside the D.C. metro area. I graduated from George Mason University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. My younger brother has autism, which led me to an interest in the medical field. After graduating, I work at a glaucoma clinic and one of the patients who came in happened to be a CRNA. I shadowed him and immediately knew anesthesia was my calling. I knew I had to be a part of applying medical knowledge in an active, stimulating environment; being required to adapt to many different situations, while making arguably the biggest impact on a patient's life. I am honored to be in the CWRU MSA program and look forward to this life-changing and immensely rewarding experience.


Brian Baker | Cleveland

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I am from Dublin, Ohio, and I have a bachelor’s degree in Biology from The Ohio State University. A conversation with an old friend (to whom I am eternally grateful) put me on the path to becoming a CAA. I’ve always had a strong, innate curiosity about physiology and medicine, and I look forward to mastering the cutting-edge science of anesthesia with my fellow classmates. I spend most of my time either with my dog, Compy (short for Compsognathus); writing web applications of dubious utility; reading as much news as I can tolerate; or with my girlfriend, Janet.


Nick Bontempo | Washington, D.C.

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I was born and raised in upstate New York, where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Biology with minor in Chemistry from Utica College. My interest in the health field began during my first few years of undergrad. My original intent was to attend medical school. Following this decision, I began working on completing the necessary coursework along with setting up various shadowing opportunities. During this time I held two jobs at local hospitals, further immersing myself in the world of healthcare. This exposure put me in daily contact with a number of professionals in a number of specialties. My interest in anesthesia began during that time, leading me to reevaluate my original plans. Following further consultation with professionals working in the field, I found that pursuing a career as a certified anesthesiologist assistant would provide the best fit for me.


Meryl Lee Boutte | Houston

I was born and raised in New Iberia, Louisiana, and obtained my bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Louisiana. I’ve worked as a pharmacy technician in retail, acute care, and psychiatric pharmacy for the past eight years. I truly love working in the hospital setting, and want to do so for the rest of my life. As a hospital pharmacy technician, I’ve worked with anesthesia staff and have seen first-hand the risks and rewards of the profession. After taking the MCAT, I discovered this program and thought it would be a great match with my experience and skill set.


Shane Cahill | Houston

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When I was growing up, I always wanted to go into medicine and help people. My dad is an anesthesiologist so I have always been interested in anesthesia. While earning my bachelor’s degree from Coastal Carolina University, I discovered the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession and I immediately knew the CAA profession was the perfect fit for me. During my senior year of college, I was accepted to the same medical school my grandfather attended, but I knew the CAA profession was what I wanted to do. The CAA profession offers me the ability to help people and make a difference while still having time for a family life.


Addison Cain | Washington, D.C.

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I am from Springfield, Ohio. I attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where I earned my bachelor’s degree in Biology with a focus in pre-medical studies. I have always known that I wanted to pursue a career in medicine, but I was originally unsure which field would be best for me. During my sophomore year at Miami, I learned about the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession. It only took one day of observation in the operating room for me to know that anesthesia was what I wanted to do. Everything about this job was exactly what I was looking for in a career. It was mentally engaging and challenging; it put to use my interest in science, medicine, and the human body; and it allowed for me to be in the operating room, experiencing the exhilaration of being part of a surgical team. Additionally, this career path has the ability to provide me with the freedom and flexibility to pursue my interests outside of medicine.


Paris Carter | Houston

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I was born and raised in Houston, Texas. An unfortunate season-ending basketball injury led to a surgery that changed my life. I met an anesthesiologist who sparked my interest in anesthesia and who spoke highly of the CWRU MSA Program, and I was granted an opportunity to shadow Houston CAAs at the Texas Medical Center. It was love at first sight. I instantly knew that this was the program for me! Although my basketball playing days are over, I am excited to become a player on the anesthesia care team.


Kerlly Castellano | Washington, D.C.

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I was born in Quito, Ecuador, but raised in Orange County, California before heading to Boston University to earn my bachelor’s degree in Biology. While working at Cedars Sinai Medical Center after college, I encountered various anesthesiologists who exposed me to the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession. I have always been interested in the human body, and fascinated by anatomy and physiology. This passion is evident through my love of science and body movement. My enthusiasm for pursuing a career in the anesthesia subspecialty evolved as I observed procedures, learning about the value of anesthesia and how CAAs provide patient care.


Richard Davies | Washington, D.C.

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I earned a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Geneseo in New York State. I considered a career in clinical medicine, but wanted to get a better understanding of the overall healthcare system first. This led me to attend the University at Buffalo, where I received a Master’s in Public Health. Upon graduation, I thought about the types of clinical medicine I liked the most and anesthesiology stuck out to me. I had met some certified anesthesiologist assistants a few years earlier while shadowing my brother during his oral surgery residency, and thought the field seemed very interesting and engaging. I shadowed a few CAAs thereafter and found the career to be a perfect fit for me.


Madeline Deabler | Cleveland

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Entering college, I knew I wanted to be in the medical field, but I wasn’t sure which of the professions suited me best. As an undergraduate at CWRU, I studied Nutritional Biochemistry and Metabolism along with Psychology. After spending four years on this campus, I fell in love with the school and the city, and knew I wanted to stay. Once I heard about the MSA Program in Cleveland, I decided to shadow. Needless to say, I loved my experience shadowing a CAA. I observed one of the most special aspects of this career: the way in which anesthesia professionals were able to secure the patients’ trust in a short amount of time, making them feel at ease.


Michael Diskin | Washington, D.C.

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I was born in Detroit, Michigan. While I was originally interested in psychology, my interest shifted to providing clinical care as a physician. In 2011, I completed my bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Human Biology with two specializations before enrolling at Michigan State University's College of Osteopathic Medical School. From the start of medical school I underwent health struggles and surgeries that affected my studies. I remained committed to my intention to improve the quality of life of my future patients who were in similar circumstances, but after much reflection I changed my career plans so that I could become a healthcare provider sooner. I enrolled in a post-baccalaureate program at the University of Pennsylvania and discovered the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession. Having shadowed anesthetists and having wanted a career in the operating room, I knew this was the path for me.


Justin Ellingworth | Cleveland

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I was born and raised in Davenport, Iowa. I graduated from St. Ambrose University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. During my undergraduate studies, I worked as a clinical assistant in the emergency room at Genesis Health Systems in Davenport. This experience solidified my intentions to work in the medical field. After shadowing anesthesia providers, I quickly realized I wanted to practice anesthesia. When I learned about the MSA Program at CWRU and their emphasis on clinical education, I was set on applying.


Maria Fortner | Washington, D.C.

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I grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio and graduated from The Ohio State University with a BS in biology and a minor in public health. Throughout my undergrad years I never knew what I wanted to do and explored a wide variety of professions from education, to business, and then healthcare. I was always drawn more to the healthcare field but I couldn’t find the right fit for me. It wasn’t until a year after I graduated that I was introduced to Case Western Reserve University’s MSA program. After I shadowed a CAA, I instantly became fascinated with the profession and finally knew that this was the right career path for me. After living in Pittsburgh and Columbus I am excited to explore a new city and to be a part of everything the Washington, DC program has to offer.


Madeline Fortune | Cleveland

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I was born and raised in Akron, Ohio. I graduated from Baldwin Wallace University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a minor in Latin American Studies. Throughout my undergraduate career, I knew I wanted to be in the medical field but I struggled to find where I fit in. I was introduced to the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession and the CWRU MSA Program through a neighbor who happens to be a doctor at University Hospitals. As I looked more into the program, I realized that it could be a perfect fit for me. I decided to shadow the program shortly after doing my own research about what CWRU had to offer. After my first day shadowing in the operating room, I knew that this program was the perfect fit. I love that the MSA Program is extremely hands-on and that it will challenge me on a daily basis. I believe that this program will shape me to be the best medical professional I can possibly be.


Amanda Galambos | Cleveland

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I was born in Trenton, New Jersey, but I spent most of my childhood years in the small town of Dover, Ohio. I graduated from Mount Vernon Nazarene University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and a minor in Chemistry. From the time I began my undergraduate education, I knew I wanted to be an certified anesthesiologist assistant. My dad, who is an anesthesiologist, exposed me to the career. After spending a day shadowing a CAA, I was convinced this was the perfect profession for me. I love being in the operating room, but I also love patient interaction so being a CAA will give me the best of both of those worlds. Since I first learned about the profession, I have wanted to attend CWRU because I believe it is the best program out there.


Janet Ha | Washington, D.C.

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At a young age my mother moved my sister and me to Fairfax County, Virginia in hopes of a better life. After high school, I was unsure of what I wanted to major in and took a year off. I began studying IT, but decided to change my focus after taking an anatomy and physiology class that simply took my heart. I transferred to George Mason University, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology. During my last semester at GMU, I became unsure about entering medical school and giving up time with my young family. When I learned about the CWRU MSA Program, I decided to research the program and was able to shadow CAAs at Washington Hospital Center. I realized that getting a Master of Science in Anesthesia would encompass my passion for being in the medical field and allow me to spend time with my family.


Johnathan Haag | Houston

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I am from Mentor, Ohio. I graduated from Kent State University with a bachelor’s degree in Biological Science with a concentration in Molecular and Cellular Biology. Once I completed my degree, I worked at the Cleveland Clinic in pediatric intensive care for two years. Through this work, I gained experience in the medical field and built strong interpersonal connections with a multitude of medical professionals. Eventually, my academic advisor and Cleveland Clinic coworkers introduced me to the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession. With my science background, experience in intensive care medicine and shadowing experience, I knew this was the career for me. I applied to Case Western Reserve University’s MSA Program due to their reputation for training excellent certified anesthesiologist assistants.


Austin Hails | Houston

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I attended the University of South Carolina where I majored in Biology and minored in Chemistry, and where I played football. Once I finished my bachelor’s degree, I completed a master’s degree in Clinical Research at the Medical University of South Carolina. Going into the program, I was planning to use it as a bridge to medical school, but after researching my career options I felt that an MSA Program was a better fit for me. Between graduate programs, I worked several jobs including substitute teaching and coaching.


Rhiannon Hainds | Washington, D.C.

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I was born in Illinois, raised in Iowa, and attended the University of Denver in Colorado where I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Biology in 2014. I studied abroad in Peru, Spain, and participated in Semester at Sea during my undergraduate career. For the past few years, I have worked as an ophthalmic assistant in Denver, Colorado and Atlanta, Georgia. I always knew I would pursue a career in medicine, but I was uncertain in exactly what field I wanted to work. My father is an anesthesiologist, so I was exposed to the field at a young age. My father encouraged me to look into the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession. After shadowing, I understood this career encompasses everything I was looking for. I chose CWRU because of the hands-on clinical training approach and the students’ involvement in furthering the profession.


Erin Hammond | Cleveland

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I was born in a suburb of Cleveland, and after relocating many times with my family, we ended up back in the Greater Cleveland area for my high school years. I attended Pensacola Christian College in Florida where I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Natural Sciences with an emphasis in pre-medicine and a minor in English. As I was applying and preparing to enter medical school, I learned about the CWRU MSA program. I realized that, although I wanted the prestige of being a physician, I did not want the lifestyle and schedule of one. Becoming a certified anesthesiologist assistant will allow me to both help others and work in the operating room.


Spencer Harris | Houston

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I grew up in Kingwood, a suburb of Northeast Houston. I graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Business. After working as a personal banker for a couple of years, I realized finance just wasn't for me. I have always enjoyed learning about science, so I thought I should go into medicine. I got my first job at a hospital as an operating room orderly, and I loved it. I enjoyed scrubbing in for surgery and interacting with patients, doctors and nurses. Soon after I got a job as a Spanish medical interpreter, and then an anesthesia technician. I am fascinated with anesthesia and how it works. While I was reading for work, I found out about certified anesthesiologist assistants. I was convinced this was the right career for me as I learned more about the opportunities a master’s degree would provide to increase my knowledge and my skills. I am excited to build on the solid base of healthcare experience I already possess.


Stephanie Herald | Cleveland

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I graduated from Roosevelt University Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Pre-Medicine with a concentration in Neuroscience and minors in Chemistry, Mathematics, and Psychology. The operating room environment always appealed to me, and I thought this meant I should attend medical school. As I started the first year of courses, I realized that the lifestyle just wasn’t for me. I decided to take some time off to work with patients in different settings while I searched for a career that would better suit me. I was fortunate to find out about the CWRU MSA Program through a family friend, and the career piqued my interest. I decided to shadow a certified anesthesiologist assistant and immediately fell in love with the profession. I knew it was the right choice for me. I am so thankful to have found a program and future career that I am passionate about, and am very grateful for the opportunity to pursue this career at CWRU.


Yasmine Hirbawi | Cleveland

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I am from Cleveland, Ohio, and I attended The Ohio State University where I graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. Following graduation, I worked at the Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center as a Research Technician with a focus on myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS. Working at the Cleveland Clinic also gave me the opportunity to shadow multiple physicians, including anesthesiologists. I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in the medical field that involved patient interaction and hands-on work, and that would challenge me to become the best medical professional I can be. After shadowing anesthesiologists, I realized that this was the type of setting I was looking for. I was especially drawn to the amount of case variation and different types of surgeries that I could be a part of every day. A friend of mine informed me of the CWRU MSA Program and, as I looked into it, I decided that this was the career path I wanted to pursue. I believe that CWRU will provide me with the best opportunities in this profession and I am so grateful to be a part of it.


Richard Hsu | Houston

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After earning my bachelor’s degree in Cell Biology and Biochemistry from the University of California, San Diego, I taught math and science. After a few years, I began to wish I could put my education to greater use. A friend who had entered the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession suggested that I look into becoming a CAA. I discovered a profession that would put my scientific education to greater use while maintaining a healthy work-life balance. I had previously considered a career in medicine, and was delighted to find a profession that would require me to continually learn and hold myself to a high standard.


Jesslin James | Houston

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I grew up in the Houston suburbs, and graduated from Houston Baptist University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. I was exposed to the healthcare field during my undergraduate studies, and began volunteering at Memorial Hermann. The combination of my interest in science and in working with patients led me to pursue a career in healthcare. While researching different opportunities, I discovered the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession. I became interested in this profession when I saw how hands-on it was and how much CAAs are involved in the medical journey of a patient. It is also a flexible career that provides a balanced lifestyle.


Tyce Johnson | Houston

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In 2016, I graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology. Under the guidance of healthcare provider parents, I envisioned myself having a profession in healthcare, too. While shadowing at Conroe Regional Medical Center, I met a certified anesthesiologist assistant who had graduated from the CWRU MSA Program. After talking to him about the profession, I realized that this was the career I wanted to pursue. Being a part of a team has always been important to me. During high school, I played football and rugby, and worked alongside my teammates to achieve our school’s first state championship my senior year. While at UT I was a part of the paintball team, which won several NCAA tournaments. The ability to cooperate with each other and to work effectively as a team was crucial to our success.


h2>Alex Jurcisin | Washington, D.C.

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I was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. During my senior year of high school, I decided to enroll in the United States Marine Corps. After completing boot camp, an injury ended my time in the Marines. I was then faced with the decision of what to do next. I had decided to enlist in the Marines because I wanted to help people, so I decided to enroll in High Point University, where I could earn a bachelor’s degree in Biology and achieve that same goal.


Parth Kalola | Washington, D.C.

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I spent most my life in Galloway, a small suburb outside of Atlantic City, New Jersey. In 2013, I graduated from Drexel University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. When it was time to choose a major, I decided on the premeded track, but it wasn’t until I shadowed an anesthesiologist that I realized what I wanted to do in life. The anesthesiologist, Dr. Ashish Sinha, was the person who introduced me to the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession. I began doing research immediately and applied as soon as I could. I didn’t get in the first time, but I didn’t stop there. Instead, I decided to find a profession that would allow me to work and continue my journey towards becoming a CAA. I enrolled in a program to become a Sleep Technologist and then began my Masters in Biomedical Sciences at Rowan University. After 3 years of long night shifts, studying for the MCAT and finals, and filling out applications, I finally made it. I was accepted to all the schools I applied to, including CWRU. I chose to go to CWRU because I knew that no other program would better prepare me for my career as a CAA. I believe the experiences that lie ahead of me will be one of a kind.


Samuel Kelly | Cleveland

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I am from Cleveland, OH, and graduated from John Carroll University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology. I learned about the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession during my sophomore year of college, and became interested in the field. At first, I attempted to go the route of an accelerated nursing program in order to become a nurse anesthetist, but things fell through. I remembered CWRU’s MSA Program and shadowed a CAA, and immediately fell in love with the program and everything involved with it. I decided that the MSA Program was a perfect fit for me.


Emilie Lanter | Cleveland

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I graduated from Thomas More College in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology. My original plan was medical school, but a year spent taking medical school coursework in the Special Masters Program at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine made me come to the difficult realization that I didn’t want to be a doctor after all. I began working in cardiovascular research at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where providing anesthesia to mice undergoing surgery piqued my interest in the field. I was lucky to have two friends in the CWRU MSA Program who helped me realize what a perfect fit the certified anesthesiologist assistant career is for my interests and lifestyle.


Andrew Le | Washington, D.C.

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Before entering this program, I earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology at Northern Arizona University. I was unsure of what exactly I wanted to do with my future, but I knew I wanted to do something in medicine. Over the course of the summer, I researched various programs and came to the conclusion that the certified anesthesiologist assistant program at CWRU would be the best fit for me. I am thankful for having this opportunity to be a part of this program.


Daniel Lee | Cleveland

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I earned a bachelor’s degree in Biological Science from The Master’s University, during which I developed an interest in Organic Chemistry and Physiology due to amazing professors. Originally, I was going to go to medical school; however, life circumstances pushed me to reconsider my option. This caused me to consider other careers, which eventually led me to discover the CWRU MSA Program. This program truly brings together everything that I desire: one-on-one patient interaction; involvement in science and healthcare; critical thinking; and work-life balance. Furthermore, when shadowing at CWRU, I found CAAs to be friendly and enthusiastic about their career.


Nancy Long | Washington, D.C.

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I graduated from the University of South Carolina with a major in Biological Sciences and a minor in Medical Humanities. I enjoy studying anatomy and learning about the wonderful intricacies of the human body, and I’ve always known that I wanted a career in the medical field where I could use this passion to serve others. While shadowing in the operating room, I observed the certified anesthesiologist assistants in the room and the care they provided to their patients. I didn’t know much about the profession at the time, but it was very eye-opening to see what a vital role they played into the patient’s overall surgical care. After researching the anesthesia field and shadowing more CAAs, I realized this was the profession I wanted to pursue.


Reecha Martis | Houston

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I am a native Houstonian, and I graduated from the University of Houston in 2016. After researching many careers throughout my undergraduate studies, I chose a future in medicine because it was the only field that could give me the sense of purpose and responsibility I wanted. For the longest time, I thought medical school was the only possibility for me to find that satisfaction. As I grew older, however, I realized that I needed an option in medicine that would also allow me to have a balance between my work and my home life; it was around that time that I found out about the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession. I shadowed an anesthesiologist who introduced me to the CWRU MSA Program. It was the perfect fit! This is a career where I can become a skilled medical professional and make a difference while having the time to pursue other interests. To be accepted into this distinguished program is very humbling.


Melissa Mermiges | Cleveland

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I am from Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and I graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in Human Biology. I have always dreamed I would work in the medical field, but after graduating I was very unsure of what I wanted to do. I took a year off trying alternative options. Then a podiatrist suggested I look into becoming a certified anesthesiologist assistant. I shadowed at University Hospitals, and loved the atmosphere of trust that the CAA established with his patients. I really enjoy how CAAs didn’t have to limit themselves to one specialty, and they get to see a variety of different surgeries throughout their career. I went into the medical field with the hope that I would one day be able to save someone’s life, and I feel this profession is the perfect choice for me. Some of my other interests include my German Shepherd, Game of Thrones, and travel.


Jake Miner | Cleveland

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I graduated from The Ohio State University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Public Health. After graduation, I worked at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center as a Clinical Research Specialist in the Stem Cell Transplant Program. While there I had the opportunity to work alongside a variety of physicians on a daily basis. My initial career aspirations were to attend medical school, but as time went on my desire began to dwindle. Eventually a friend of mine who was familiar with the CWRU MSA Program proposed it as an alternative. After shadowing, I knew that being a certified anesthesiologist assistant was the profession that fit my skills and personality best. Shortly thereafter, I began working in the operating room at Southwest General Hospital as an anesthesia technician, which further solidified my desire to become a CAA.


Emilia Morales | Washington, D.C.

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Born and raised in Monterey, California, I moved across the country to Saint Peter’s University, where I double majored and graduated with Honors with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and Biotechnology. While there, I also completed my honors senior thesis in pediatric psychiatry during a pre-medical internship program at Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons and conducted biotechnology research at Rutgers Medical School. After graduation, I worked as a medical scribe at CityMD in Manhattan before moving back to Monterey to focus on studying for the MCAT. During my time in Monterey, I volunteered and worked at Central Coast Pain Institute. In my free time, I worked in fundraising and catering, and trained for the Big Sur half marathon and international marathon. My time at the pain institute solidified my desire to pursue anesthesiology, and I look forward to the rewarding journey ahead.


Emily Mycyk | Cleveland

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My path to becoming a student in the CWRU Anesthesiologist Assistant program is a bit winding. As a young college student, I had no idea what career I wanted. I ended up graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Advertising from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. After a few unfulfilling years working in sales, I realized I was in desperate need of a career change. On a whim, I decided to enroll in an EMT-B class to explore medicine, and after a week I was hooked. I completed a post-baccalaureate pre-health program at Loyola University Chicago with the initial intention of becoming a physician’s assistant, but, as fate would have it, a friend knew a certified anesthesiologist assistant practicing in Wisconsin that he thought I should shadow. After my shadowing experience, I knew this was the career I wanted for myself.


Elizabeth Nguyen | Houston

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I am originally from Jacksonville, Florida, and moved to the Dallas area where I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Dallas. Throughout my life, I’ve been drawn to the healthcare field. I realized the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession was what I wanted to pursue after meeting a CAA, and this decision was further solidified when I had the opportunity to shadow in the operating room at Memorial Hermann, There, I gained insight from the anesthesia care team and observed the processes taking place to ensure excellent patient care. I feel extremely fortunate to be a part of the CWRU MSA program, with Houston being home to one of the largest medical centers in the country, coupled with the program’s emphasis on clinical training.


Catherine Olumba | Washington, D.C.

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I was born and raised in Washington D.C., and ever since I can remember I have had a strong interest and desire to enter the medical profession. I attended Bowie State University and received a bachelor’s degree in Premed and Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations. I later earned a master’s degree in Corporate Communications. I began to research different medical professions, and came across the certified anesthesiologist assistants. I fell in love with it as the profession, and felt that it encompassed all of the ideals I wanted to have in my career—caring for patients and having work-life balance.


Amy Patel | Houston

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I began my undergraduate studies with the intention of pursuing a career in medicine. I graduated from Georgia Southern University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology in May 2015. During my sophomore year, I volunteered at the local hospital in the anesthesia department. After volunteering and shadowing the different anesthesia providers, I realized that the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession was ideal for me. By becoming a CAA, I will have hands-on patient care experience, be in the operating room, work as part of a team, and have a balanced lifestyle.


Nick Peterson | Washington, D.C.

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I attended The Ohio State University, receiving my bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry in 2014. In Fall 2015 I began a post-baccalaureate pre-medical program at American University until I enrolled in the Master of Science in Anesthesia Program. I was first made aware of the CWRU MSA Program through various family members during my undergraduate years. I realized being a certified anesthesiologist assistant was the career for me after witnessing my fiancée and friends go through the program. Seeing how rewarding the program and profession was for them led me to do my own research confirmed that this was the perfect career for me.


Trena Pilegaard | Washington, D.C.

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I came to Case Western Reserve University's MSA Program in a roundabout way. Born and raised in California, I went to undergrad at Christendom College in Front Royal, Virginia and earned a bachelor’s degree in English Language and Literature. After that, I moved to Rome, Italy to work as Residence Coordinator, then to Arlington, Viriginia to work in education, and then finally to Washington, D.C. where I worked as a lobbyist for agricultural issues. Nevertheless, I have always been interested in the medical profession. The field combines my love of science and helping people into one job—but I knew that I didn't want to be a nurse or a doctor. I considered becoming a physician assistant for a time, but after working in several jobs where I had worn multiple hats I wanted a career with a very specialized focus. When I heard about CWRU MSA Program from a friend who is a certified anesthesiologist assistant, it piqued my interest. After some research, I knew this was the field I wanted to work in. It was specialized! I was also extremely impressed with CWRU's location in Washington, D.C. and the students and staff I met there.


Kristen Porvasnik

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I have always been interested in pursuing a career in the medical field. After spending some time in high school shadowing in the operating room, I found everything that I was looking for in the profession of an anesthesiologist assistant. With this in mind, I graduated from John Carroll University in 2016 with a bacehlor’s degree in Cell and Molecular Biology. Following graduation, I worked as an anesthesia aide at Southwest General Health Center.


Mohammad Pradhan | Washington, D.C.

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I was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. I graduated from the University of Georgia with my bachelor’s degree in Biology. Growing up, I was always involved in volunteering, especially at my local mosque, which developed my interest in helping people. Throughout my education, I found I have a passion for science. Biology, biochemistry, and microbiology were always my favorite subjects, and they made me become more fascinated with the human body. Combined with my interest in helping people, I was led to a career in medicine. After researching different fields and talking to my professors I decided to join the anesthesia care team as a certified anesthesiologist assistant because it was the perfect balance and was exactly what I was looking for.


Samantha Prochaska | Cleveland

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I was raised in Canal Fulton, Ohio before attending The Ohio State University. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Accounting, and have worked as an auditor and SEC Financial Reporting Accountant for the last 9 years. After working three different types of accounting jobs and still being unsatisfied with my career, I began to realize that the problem wasn’t the job—it was me. After speaking with a friend of mine who was an anesthesiology resident at CWRU, I became very interested in the MSA Program. I began the educational requirements to get into the program while continuing to work my full-time accounting job, and began learning more about the MSA Program at CWRU and about the CAA career. After all of the coursework, research, and shadowing experiences, I was convinced that this was the right choice for me.


Jonathan Rifici | Cleveland

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I am from Cleveland, Ohio, and I graduated from West Virginia University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering. I worked in the chemical field for three years before deciding to make a career change. I have always been drawn to the medical field, and after shadowing several certified anesthesiologist assistants I knew this was my true calling. The biggest draw of both the program and the profession was the interaction with the patients. The CAAs I shadowed demonstrated a remarkable ability to comfort and calm the patients during one of the most stressful and often terrifying events in life. Witnessing this really inspired me. In addition to excellent patient care, I was drawn to the intellectual challenges that CAAs encounter on a daily basis. The on-the-spot problem-solving combined my love for engineering and medicine into one perfect package.


Gregory Rivenbark | Cleveland

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Being a Greater Cleveland native, I’ve lived my entire life in this area. I grew up close in Elyria, Ohio, and began my college career at Lorain County Community College. After completing a wide range of prerequisites, I was offered a scholarship to Cleveland State University’s Mandel Honors College to continue my pre-medical education and to finish an bachelor’s degree in Biology in their Honors Program. I am a first generation college student, and I graduated summa cum laude from CSU, having earned a bachelor’s degree Biology with honors; a yearlong research internship and capstone project; and a thesis. Serendipitously, I received information on the CWRU MSA Program while I was considering applying to medical school. Upon meeting with the faculty and staff and shadowing CAAs, I realized this was the career that I had been searching for. Based on the strength, atmosphere, and culture exemplified by this program, I have no doubt that I will become a CAA worthy of carrying on the MSA Program legacy. During my two years at CSU, my beautiful daughter, Olivia, was born. She is the absolute light of my life.


Chloe Roush | Houston

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I am originally from Phoenix, Arizona. In May 2017, I graduated from The University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in Physiology. My undergraduate career was focused on science with the goal of attending medical school. After shadowing several doctors and spending time with friends connected to the medical field, I realized that I did not want the lifestyle of a physician. When I received information from Case Western Reserve University regarding the MSA Program in Houston I was very intrigued. After researching the program and shadowing an anesthesiologist, I realized it would be a good fit for me. This program gives me the opportunity to work in the medical field and be involved in various surgical cases. In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, dancing, country music, and time at the gym!


Johnathan Runnels | Houston

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I attended Rice University where I completed my bachelor’s degree in Business Management and competed on the Fighting Owls baseball team. After being drafted by three different teams in Amateur Major League Baseball, I signed a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers. A rotator cuff injury ended my days playing baseball, but I knew there was another career ahead of me, just undiscovered. While speaking with my Rice University mentor I was given information about the MSA Program at Case Western Reserve University. I immediately knew this program was right for me. After completing post-baccalaureate science courses at the University of Houston and shadowing in the operating room, my future career path was reaffirmed.


Mark Schamber | Houston

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I graduated from Hillsdale College in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Biology, but my interest in medicine and even anesthesiology began long before. By high school, I set a career in medicine as my goal and, after taking chemistry, decided anesthesiology was the most interesting. During college, I worked as an emergency room and family practice scribe, which showed me other aspects of medicine and helped me get a better grasp on what lay ahead of me. Finally, in April of my senior year, I heard about certified anesthesiologist assistants and immediately set about applying. In the year since, I have been working as a medical assistant and continuing my education by pursuing a master’s degree in Biomedical Science. CWRU’s MSA is a very challenging program, which I am thrilled to be a part of.


Nicholas Simpson | Cleveland

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I graduated from Saint Louis University in 2012 with my bachelor’s degree in Nuclear Medicine Technology. I enjoyed my time working as a nuclear medicine technologist in the St. Louis area, but always wanted to do something more. Finally, a friend of mine suggested I look into becoming a certified anesthesiologist assistant. Her husband is in the profession, and she thought it would be something I would enjoy. After shadowing, I agreed with her! Each and every professional I had contact with spoke highly of Case Western Reserve University’s Master of Science in Anesthesia program, so I was thrilled when I was accepted.


Akash Sinha | Washington, D.C.

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I was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, and graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s degree in Biology with a minor in Business. Since I was a child, I knew I wanted to work in a medical profession. Throughout my college career, I was involved in genetic research, shadowing, and volunteering. I originally planned on attending medical school, but decided to pursue other options. After speaking with a current CWRU MSA student and looking into the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession, I knew this was the right path for me. I was particularly interested in the CWRU MSA Program because of the immediate hands-on learning and clinical exposure.


Kevin Sistani | Washington, D.C.

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From a young age, I knew I would be staying close to home and becoming a Terrapin at the University of Maryland. It was in high school when I knew I was leaning towards a bachelor’s degree in Biology. After some years working in a neuroscience research lab, I realized I wanted more patient interaction. This motivated me to attend some pre-health society meetings where I was fortunate enough to have a representative from Case Western Reserve University's Washington, D.C. location come to speak about the MSA Program that was being established in the area. I believed it would be an amazing fit for my specific learning style, particularly because of the early hands-on experience.


Nathan Sosebee | Houston

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I was born and raised in Weatherford, Texas,, and my family’s involvement in medicine is what sparked my interest in the field. I earned my bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Sciences from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in 2014. In 2015, I earned my master’s degree in Medical Sciences from the University of North Texas Health Science Center. After graduation, I spent a couple years applying to medical school without success while working as a firefighter and EMT-B in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I was nearing my mid-twenties, and medical school was not as appealing as it had been when I graduated, primarily due to the number of school years I would have ahead of me. I also wanted a career with a more balanced lifestyle. I heard about the MSA Program from a professor in graduate school. After researching the program, shadowing an anesthesiologist, and a couple of certified anesthesiologist assistants at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, I applied to the program. I enjoyed my experience in the operating room, the teamwork approach to patient care, and the work-life balance.


Kera Sparks | Cleveland

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I grew up in Grosse Ile, Michigan and graduated from Grand Valley State University in April 2017 with a major in Biomedical Science and minor in Chemistry. For the last year of my undergraduate career, I was a part-time student while working full-time as a Med Tech at an assisted living facility. I have always had a passion for the medical field and I knew I wanted to pursue further schooling past my undergraduate degree. I began researching master’s degree programs and came across the MSA Program at Case Western Reserve University. I immediately started exploring this profession, and realized it was exactly what I was looking for: patient contact, time in the operating room, and opportunities to expand my knowledge about the effects of medication on the body. I shadowed a CAA at University Hospitals, which further confirmed that this profession was a perfect fit. CWRU’s emphasis on clinical exposure was a huge draw for me because I am a firm believer in learning by doing rather than just watching.


Joiesah Sunga | Houston

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I graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in May 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in Neurobiology. During and after college I volunteered at St. David's Medical Center as a nurse aide ensuring patient comfort and care. I also volunteered as a research assistant at the Neuroscience and Spine Institute assisting in the development of various stroke education projects. I discovered the MSA Program and the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession at the UT career fair, where I spoke with students from the CWRU Houston location. I quickly realized that this career was perfect for me because it merged my interests in neurology, anesthesia, and patient care. The Houston program is ideal because I want to train at the prestigious Texas Medical Center, and it is close to my hometown, Austin.


Annabelle Tsai | Houston

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I am from Katy, Texas, but lived abroad in Malaysia and China for eight years. During that time I became interested in healthcare and frequently volunteered on medical mission trips to Southeast Asia. I graduated from Lawrence University, earning a bachelor’s degree in Violin Performance and Biochemistry while also competing on Lawrence’s NCAA Women’s Fencing team. I knew that I wanted a career in the medical field so I researched healthcare professions, and found the MSA Program. After researching the career and shadowing certified anesthesiologist assistants, I knew I would enjoy this rewarding profession. I’m excited and honored to be a part of CWRU’s Houston MSA program.


Scott Vazquez | Washington, D.C.

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I grew up in North Canton, Ohio. After graduating high school, I took two gap years to play junior hockey in Boston. From there, I attended Hamilton College, where I earned a bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience with a minor in Dance. During the summer before my sophomore year, I shadowed a few physicians, one of whom was an anesthesiologist who told me about the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession. I was extremely interested in the idea of being an important member of a medical team and working in the operating room. Once I decided that medical school was not for me, I shadowed a CAA and quickly realized that this profession would allow me to accomplish my career goals while helping others in a challenging, hands-on environment.


Michael Vo | Houston

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The medical field has always captivated me, and being a healthcare professional has been my lifelong goal. In 2016, upon graduating a year early from Baylor University with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry, I decided to explore career options. I was looking for a program and a profession that suited my personality. Having a gap year allowed me to I pursued my interests. Because I possess attention to detail, I worked fixing iPhones, iPads, and computers. I also traded currencies because I appreciate the decision-making aspect of calling a transaction. In 2015, I had stumbled upon the CWRU MSA Program through the pre-health office at my school, and it had sparked my interest. During my gap year, I realized that the MSA Program aligned with my interests best because of its time-efficient and specialized curriculum, which culminated in a career through which I can support my family in a well-balanced fashion. I am happy with my decision to pursue a career as a CAA.


Yuanyuan Wang | Cleveland

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I received my bachelor’s degree in Biology from Zhejiang University, China, and continued my study in molecular biology and biochemistry at SUNY-Binghamton before moving to Cleveland to be with my family. Having always been passionate about healthcare, I decided to pursue a career in the field of anesthesiology upon graduation. Therefore, when I learned about the certified anesthesiologist assistant profession and the MSA Program at Case Western Reserve University, I requested a shadowing opportunity as soon as I could. The shadowing experience and further research assured me that the CAA profession would be the perfect career choice for me. It satisfies my desire to comfort and care for others in need; it furthermore combines my interests in biochemistry, challenging problem-solving, and direct patient interaction; and allows practitioners a balanced lifestyle.


Andrew Wikaryasz | Cleveland

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I am from Dexter, a small town near Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’ve always been fascinated by the body, its mechanics, and its chemical functions. I graduated from the University of Michigan in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Biomolecular Sciences and a plan to pursue a career in healthcare. After graduation, I became a patient care tech at a nearby hospital, and received great hands-on experience and greater opportunities to shadow doctors in different fields. I found out about Case Western Reserve University's Master of Science in Anesthesia Program through a medical school expo that was held at the University of Michigan, and I fell in love. I strongly believe that the program will fulfill my desire to care for people and provide me with perfect work-life balance.