“I know you want a history of me rather than that of the University,” said William Dyche, Ph.D., when DMU Magazine came knocking on his Ryan Hall office door, “but I find the two hard to separate.”
That statement aptly applies to this spring’s DMU retirees, a distinguished group of caring teachers, program pioneers and scholars. More accurately stated, DMU is what it is today thanks in large part to their contributions. View the University a la “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and imagine it without its physician assistant program, advanced cardiovascular life support training, simulation center, wellness center and its teaching kitchen.
Certainly with these legendary faculty, DMU has achieved higher quality and expanded academic offerings, and all the colleagues and students with whom they’ve interacted are the better for it.
DMU Magazine salutes these outstanding individuals in the order in which they joined the University faculty.
Called to duty, Dyche responds
In 1976, William Dyche, Ph.D., was eager to join the faculty of the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery even though his and his colleagues’ offices were former nuns’ “cells.” COMS had moved from downtown to St. Joseph’s Academy – a former Catholic girls’ school – just four years earlier.
“I came because I enjoyed teaching and considered it my strength over research,” says the professor emeritus of anatomy.
Like his fellow retirees, Dyche observed transformation of the institution’s facilities and names, from COMS to the University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences – “one of the most cumbersome of our names” – to finally Des Moines University. He played a major role in expanding its colleges and academic programs, from one of each to now three and nine, respectively. And if Oscars were given to faculty, he’d win Best Actor.
“I had many acting titles – acting anatomy chair, acting assistant dean of basic sciences, acting director of the health care administration program, acting director of the physician assistant program” – which he held for eight years – “and acting dean of the [former] College of Biological Sciences,” he chuckles. “As long as you had ‘acting’ in your title, you didn’t get the extra pay – one way administration saved money.”
Dyche says he’s proud about helping to introduce cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and advanced cardiovascular life support (ACLS) training to the curriculum. At the time, few medical schools required CPR, and fewer still offered ACLS. He received a grant in 1981 that equipped an ACLS practice lab on campus.
“Before, the University of Iowa came in once a year to give a wild, wooly weekend-long ACLS course,” he recalls. “A number of our faculty had to get certified as ACLS instructors. I think I was the first non-clinician in the state to get certified to do and to teach CPR and ACLS.”
Dyche says he also was proud to serve as assistant to the medical director for a visit to central Iowa’s Living History Farms by Pope John Paul II in 1979. An estimated 340,000 people attended the mass and homily, the largest gathering in the state’s history.
“We based our planning on published plans used for open-air rock concerts,” he says. “Many COMS physicians, nurses and support staff were present along with University-provided medical supplies.”
Dyche notes his legacy at DMU is the highly popular online medical terminology course he created with the help of the University’s website staff. The free course receives more than 200,000 webpage views per month from people around the world. He retired feeling his time at DMU “has been a good life.”
“I have not only fulfilled my professional goals in education and met new colleagues and made friends, but I also leave with a sense of contributing back to the University,” he says. “I have come to feel that DMU is my real alma mater.”
Meant to be at DMU
A series of uncanny coincidences led David Spreadbury, Ph.D., to DMU in 1977. As a researcher at the Rowett Research Institute, an affiliate of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, he met his future wife, Elizabeth, the institute’s shepherd and a native of Aberdeen, SD. Paging through an “odd journal” in the university’s library, he discovered a flyer describing an open faculty position at the College of Osteopathic Medicine and Surgery, now DMU, which he landed. And while the grant that funded his position was cut after a year, he says “someone in the office made a mistake” by putting him on a tenure track versus on contract.
“I didn’t come here with the intention of staying in Iowa, but it’s been a wonderful job,” says the professor emeritus and former chair of biochemistry and nutrition. “There was never a day in 37 years when I didn’t look forward to coming to work.”
In addition to teaching courses on nutrition, biochemistry and health promotion, Spreadbury was instrumental in the evolution of DMU’s wellness program from its infancy to its current status as the nation’s first and only university or college to earn platinum status, the highest recognition granted by the Wellness Councils of America. He was influential in recruiting the University’s first wellness program director, Joy Schiller, M.S., CHES; the two natural allies successfully campaigned for the new wellness center to include a teaching kitchen.
“You can teach nutrition on a molecular level, but it comes down to what you should put on your plate,” he says. DMU is one of a few medical schools that offer students a healthy cooking class, co-taught by Spreadbury and Schiller.
His views on diet were shaped in part by his childhood in World War II’s food-rationed London. He was 10 before he first saw candy and 12 when he ate his first banana. He recalls when he and his parents went to the local green grocer’s to see a pineapple displayed in the window.
“Food rationing continued years after the war. I remember vividly the day they lifted all restrictions on candy,” he says. “I still don’t like sweet things that much.”
In retirement, Spreadbury plans to continue gardening, although he may cut back on the 10,000 square feet he plants in vegetables every year. He enjoys bird-watching, cooking and the “therapeutic” aspect of bread-baking. He says he won’t miss the schedules and meetings of academic life, but he will miss colleagues and students.
“You were always mixing here with a very nice set of people who are very collegial and have a diversity of interests,” he says. “The students have changed to reflect the changes in education, but I’ve always enjoyed them, especially the ones I’ve gotten to know better. You like to think you’ve made some sort of impact.”
PA pioneer, simulation star
After practicing as a physician assistant in Minnesota and Iowa, William Case, PA-C, in 1981 brought his expertise, commitment and vision to DMU as a consultant for and eventually the first employee of its then-new physician assistant program, the first such program to be associated with an osteopathic medical institution. He returned to practice before rejoining the PA faculty as an instructor in 1993 and then assistant professor in 1997. He also served as program director in 2005.
Case filled other roles as needed by the institution. When DMU established its innovative Iowa Center for Patient Safety and Clinical Skills, which includes the simulation laboratory and the Standardized Patient Assessment Laboratory (SPAL), he took on key roles as clinical coordinator and simulation case developer.
“Bill’s clinical skills and expertise in clinical education that contributed to the successes in the PA program readily translated to the innovative nature of the new center, thus ensuring its early and continued successes in fostering an active and dynamic learning environment for all of our students enrolled in clinical programs,” says Craig Canby, Ph.D., professor of anatomy and director of the anatomy graduate program.
Now assistant professor emeritus, Case retired in 2013 but continued as a guest lecturer in the months that followed. Past president and board member of the Iowa Physician Assistant Society, he received its Physician Assistant of the Year Award in 1994.
“Brain guy” continues to ask questions
Edward “Pat” Finnerty, Ph.D., SC(ASCP), began his scientific career as a clinical laboratory technician before landing a fellowship at Indiana State University, where he gained teaching experience in anatomy, physiology, general biology and histology. That earned him one claim to fame.
“I taught Larry Bird what he knows about physiology,” Finnerty says of the Indiana State basketball superstar, Boston Celtics veteran and now president of the Indiana Pacers.
Named assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology at DMU in 1983, Finnerty has since taught generations of students a lot of what they know. He’s accumulated more claims to fame, too, including his latest in June: The International Association of Medical Science Educators – of which he is past president, among other roles – created the Edward “Pat” Finnerty Award to honor IAMSE members who have gone above and beyond in medical education and professional service. He was its first recipient.
While that IAMSE accolade speaks volumes about his contributions and service, Finnerty says it says a lot about DMU.
“One of the big things that drew me here was that the mission of the University was primarily one of education,” he says. “If you wanted to pursue any research, you were kind of on your own. That said, the nice thing about it was I could pursue research out of curiosity.”
He did so prolifically: The lists of his grants, published papers, published abstracts and presentations fill nine and a half single-spaced pages of his resumé; the research projects he’s advised students on cover another two. But he was also prolific in teaching, coordinating courses and serving on at least 30 committees, some multiple times. Beyond campus, he served more than 12 years on the Urbandale, IA, School Board, including as its president.
“When I was bemoaning the quality of schools generally, my wife said, ‘Why don’t you put up or shut up?’” he chuckles. “My father always said that if you want to change the world, do it one neighborhood at a time.”
Since 1984, Finnerty also has toted his “brain box” to almost all of central Iowa’s schools. When he attended local high school athletic events, “all these students would say, ‘There’s the brain guy,’” he says.
The “brain guy” will remain engaged in education. He recently was accepted for another five-year fellowship with the National Academy of Osteopathic Medical Educators of the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine. He’s on the faculty and an item writer for the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners. He’s associate editor and editorial board member of Medical Science Educator. In all his roles, Finnerty continues to ask a lot of questions about effective education.
“What are ways to integrate clinical and basic sciences? Do we build the curriculum around simulation activities, or vice versa? What is evidence?” he queries. “We do a really good job of teaching students what they need to know, but we need to come up with ways that develop the independent learning skills students need.”
Like his fellow retirees, Finnerty cherishes his DMU friendships.
“The faculty in the department were a very cohesive group. We were collegial, fun and we were together,” he says. “We hardly agreed on anything, but we had fun disagreeing in a friendly, enjoyable discourse. We’d play pranks on each other. And we were really engaged with the students.”
DMU’s past, people foster optimism
Kendall Reed, D.O., FACOS, FACS, has held several leadership positions at DMU, including serving as both interim dean and dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine. But he’s quick to point out that the University’s and college’s stellar reputations reflect the work of many.
“The thing that makes a good medical school is not technology and not bricks and mortar, although DMU is fortunate to have those elements in place,” says the professor of surgery, who retired May 31. “Good students and good faculty are the heart and soul. At the end of the day, you want students to be grateful as they walk across the [Commencement] stage for the faculty who have taught them.”
Reed, who practiced as a surgical oncologist for 30 years, will continue teaching students as part of his clinical activities at Broadlawns Medical Center and Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines. “It’s a good opportunity for me. I want to keep my clinical skills up, but without the 100-hour weeks I was doing as a surgeon,” he notes.
A hospital orderly in high school and scrub technician as an undergraduate, Reed joined the U.S. Army and completed his surgery residency at Brooke Army Medical Center. A DMU faculty member since 1986, he is an advocate for military medical training and the students who pursue it.
“The single best decision I made in medicine was to join the military. It offers some of the best graduate medical training in the world,” he says. “At DMU’s annual military commissioning ceremony, I’m so proud of those kids.”
Those “kids” include several students Reed had at DMU who now impress him as practicing physicians. “You see them as first-year students, and then they grow up to take care of you,” he says. “That’s pretty humbling.”
While he says retiring after 28 years with COM is “bittersweet,” Reed says he has “great confidence in the future of this institution.”
“I’ve seen the University evolve over the years into one we can all be proud of,” he adds. “I think we’ve become a premier medical school – not just among osteopathic schools, but among all medical schools.”
Prof turns a (musical) page in life
Barry Fish’s journey to his 30-year career at DMU wasn’t direct, but it had a soundtrack.
Growing up in Minnesota, he says he was a “jock” who sang and played guitar in several bands. He didn’t think college was in his cards and eventually decided that a big-time music career wasn’t, either. He worked as a cheese maker until a fall off a ladder injured his leg and provided him with worker’s compensation. He used the money to pay for college.
Inspired by his maternal grandfather’s unrealized dream of becoming a doctor and his own reading of medical texts on the way to band gigs, Fish earned his physician assistant (PA) degree at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and then practiced for seven years.
“As a physician assistant, I loved that I could spend more time with patients, educating them,” he says. He turned that focus to students as an instructor at Nebraska and then, beginning in 1994, as academic coordinator, assistant professor and clinician in DMU’s physician assistant program. For years, his grandfather’s poster from the early 1900s, “Chart of the Muscular System” by Gustave Michel, M.D., hung in his DMU office.
Fish, who holds a master of arts degree in education, also served the PA program, the College of Health Sciences and the University as a member of dozens of committees with tasks ranging from curriculum to accreditation.
“What I value most about my colleagues is their friendship, plus their intelligence and the fact the faculty here had practiced,” he says. “And while they can sometimes get on your nerves, the most fun are the students.”
Fish admits the thought of retiring is “scary.” He inherited his work ethic, first flexed as a nine-year-old paperboy, from his parents, whom he calls his “heroes.” But retirement also will give him more time to enjoy his lifelong love of music. He has a studio in his home and two CDs, “It’s a Storm” and “Chill,” on iTunes under the name TBaer, for which he wrote the lyrics and provided all the vocals, electronic drums, keyboard and guitars. He’s contemplating teaching young people how to play the guitar as well as how to navigate the music business.
“Paul McCartney and the Beatles got me into music. I’ve been playing guitar since I was 12,” he says. “I do everything right-handed except I play guitar left-handed, like Paul does.”
On to new adventures
In addition to the individuals profiled here, DMU retirees this spring included the following:
- Mary Mincer Hansen, Ph.D., R.N., program director/chair of the master of public health program and associate professor; she joined the University in 2007.
- Lynn Martin, Ph.D., director of educational support services; she joined the DMU student counseling staff in 1997.