A Grand Family tradition

Having multiple DMU grads in one’s family makes for a strong support network, a lot of shared pride and more than a few interesting dinner conversations.

Mitch Kuhl, D.O.’01, was just three weeks old when he began hanging out on DMU’s campus with his parents, Nancy and Gary Kuhl, D.O.’76. Less than 25 years later, he was back on campus with his wife, Traese Schulz Kuhl, D.O.’00, and their future sister-in-law, Jennifer Kiciak Kuhl, D.O.’03.

Rodion Herrera, D.O.’92, first spotted his future wife, DeAnna Hampton Herrera, PA-C’92, in the DMU Library and wooed her with a $1.25 wine cooler, all he could then afford. The couple married the day after graduation.

Glenn Bigsby IV, D.O.’94, was working as a waiter in Nashville when he picked up extra hours staffing a convention of the American Osteopathic Association. He encountered several osteopathic physicians who knew his father, Glenn Bigsby III, D.O.’67; his grandfather, Glenn Bigsby II, D.O.’35; or both. “They asked me, ‘What are you waiting for?’” he recalls. That gave him the nudge he needed to become a fifth-generation D.O.

The Kuhls, Herreras and Bigsbys are among the families DMU considers “Grand” – those with more than one University graduate.

“Our Grand Families demonstrate how inspirational careers of service – those in health care – can be from one generation to the next,” says Krystal Kruse, M.P.A., assistant director of alumni relations.

America’s osteopathic family: the Bigsbys

For the Bigsby family, the practice of osteopathic medicine seems as genetically inherited as eye color. In 1895, Edgar Bigsby graduated with the second-ever class at the nation’s founding college of osteopathic medicine, in Kirksville, MO. His son, Glenn Edgar Bigsby, graduated from the Kirksville school in 1918. The commitment to osteopathic practice persisted in his son, Glenn Edgar Jr., who earned his D.O. degree in 1935 from Still College of Osteopathy, now DMU. His family moved to Des Moines when Glenn Jr. became clinic director at DMU.

The family’s osteopathic legacy continued in his son, Glenn E. Bigsby III, D.O.’67, who was one of the first osteopathic physicians to serve in the military. Now retired in Orlando, FL, Glenn III built a diverse career in family practice and emergency medicine and trained hundreds of future health care providers in internship and residency programs around the country. He also served DMU as director of medical education and led efforts to open clinics in low-income neighborhoods in Des Moines, where both he and his father, Glenn Jr., saw patients.

Glenn E. Bigsby IV, D.O.’94, and Geneen Bigsby, D.O.’95

Representing the family’s fifth generation of osteopathic physicians are Glenn E. Bigsby IV, D.O.’94, a semi-retired gynecological oncologist in Colorado, and Geneen Bigsby, D.O.’95, a gynecologist and obstetrician at Valley Medical Center in Lewiston, ID. The siblings considered other careers and never felt pressured to become physicians, but growing up around the profession made its mark.

“When we lived in Colorado, Dad was a small-town family practice doctor. The phone would ring all the time. Honestly, I don’t know what it would have been like not growing up in a medical family,” Geneen says. She once considered pursuing a master’s degree in political science but also took the MCAT. DMU was the only medical school she applied to. “I thought if I got in, that’s what I was supposed to do,” she says.

Glenn IV says for a while he “ran away” from becoming a physician. But tagging along with his father as he saw patients and visiting his grandfather, Glenn Edgar Jr., at DMU’s southeast Des Moines clinic reinforced the osteopathic imprint.

“I only wanted to practice osteopathic medicine. I saw the holistic care my dad provided patients, and there was a different feel in medical school, more people-oriented,” he says. “Medical school gave me friends I still have to this day. I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

The Bigsbys’ remarkable 127 years of osteopathic medical practice might be further extended if Glenn IV’s son, Glenn Bigsby V, chooses it – under no family pressure, of course. As Geneen says, “You want to make sure you really have a passion for medicine.”

“You have to be driven,” she adds. “But I liked medical school more than any other educational aspect of my life. I was surrounded by people with the same focus. And it’s been wonderful to have family who do the same thing. You always have someone to bounce ideas off of.”

One family, three DMU colleges: the Herreras

The Herrera family are proof one can find romance in medical school. Rodion Herrera, D.O.’92, and DeAnna Hampton Herrera, PA-C’92, married in a bilingual ceremony the day after they graduated. Their son, Estefan Herrera, D.P.M.’21, married Amanda Evens Herrera, PA-C’21, one week after they graduated.

Rodion is a radiologist with the Iowa Clinic; DeAnna, a former medic in the U.S. Air Force, provides family support. Estefan is the first DMU graduate in his demanding podiatric residency in Brooklyn, NY, while Amanda works at a tertiary hospital in the Bronx as a hospitalist – echoing her mother-in-law’s role at a hospital in Detroit while Rodion completed his residency there.

Rodion Herrera, D.O.’92, left, and DeAnna Hampton Herrera, PA-C’92, right, celebrate the wedding of their son, Estefan Herrera, D.P.M.’21, to Amanda Evens Herrera, PA-C’21.

Estafan and Amanda met as undergraduates at Simpson College, while he was working night shifts as an EMT. Although he “always wanted to do medicine,” DeAnna says, after a particularly difficult shift, he told his parents he couldn’t.

“Then the next week he shadowed a podiatric physician and saw an opportunity,” she recalls. “He wasn’t intimidated to talk to physicians, because he grew up talking to all our friends. Some people say, ‘I don’t want my kids to go into health care.’ But we thought if he wanted to do it, he should.”

Rodion, whose childhood took him from Cuba to Spain to Puerto Rico and then New Jersey, where he attended an “inner-city high school” and taught his parents to drive, shares his wife’s pride in their family as well as in his practice at the Iowa Clinic, the largest physician-owned multispecialty group in the community. It’s a family of sorts, too.

“We have that collegiality. Our culture and identity as a clinic are very strong,” he says.

A natural support network: the Kuhls

Gary Kuhl, D.O.’76, knew from a very young age he would be a physician. His son Mitch Kuhl never expressed interest in medicine growing up, however. That’s why he was surprised when Mitch, as a chemistry major at Washington University in St. Louis, told him he’d joined the pre-medicine club. “We talked about DMU and would visit,” Gary says, “but we didn’t encourage or discourage him to attend.”

Mitch did, enrolling in DMU’s D.O. program and completing a fifth year as an osteopathic manual medicine fellow in 2001. He met his wife, Traese Schulz Kuhl, D.O.’00, at the University. She practices in family medicine at CentraCare in Sartell, MN; Mitch is a general orthopedic and trauma surgeon at St. Cloud, MN, Orthopedics. Knowing of his father’s interest in orthopedics, he once invited Gary to observe him perform surgery.

Nancy and Gary Kuhl, D.O.’76, center, with Traese Schulz Kuhl, D.O.’00, and Mitch Kuhl, D.O.’01, back row, left, and Aaron and Jen Kiciak Kuhl, D.O.’03, back row, right, and their grandchildren

“It was like ‘take your dad to work day’ in the operative suite,” recalls Gary, who retired from practice in New Berlin, WI, four years ago. “It was very exciting, and I was so proud.”

Meanwhile, Mitch’s younger brother, Aaron, and his girlfriend, Jen Kiciak, had dated since high school. He attended Northwestern University and is now a chemical engineer; she was an exercise physiology major at the University of Iowa and then graduated from DMU’s D.O. program in 2003. The couple married during her second year of residency at Advocate Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL, but the Kuhls already felt like family to Jen. She says Gary and his wife, Nancy, who worked as a waitress at Pizza Hut while her husband was in medical school, influenced her decision “in a positive way” to attend DMU.

“They had such a positive experience there and made great friends. Gary has been a great role model and mentor for me,” says Jen, a family medicine physician at SSM Health Dean Medical Group in Madison, WI. “The gift I had from Gary and Nancy and Mitch and Traese, and even Aaron, was the perspective that medicine is hard, but once you get into it, it’s really a fulfilling career. Everyone in the family is very supportive of each other, and as a family we do a lot of laughing.”

While DMU has made its mark on the Kuhl family, they have returned the favor by making a collective gift to name a simulation room on DMU’s new campus in West Des Moines.

“Thinking about how much medical education and technology have changed, that felt like a good way to give back to the students,” Jen says.

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