UA Health Sciences Colleges Convocations 2018: Meet Some of the Graduates

The accomplishments of some of the UA Health Sciences’ inspiring graduates are highlighted.

UA College of Medicine – Phoenix Class of 2018:

Haig Aintablian (emergency medicine), Victor Arce (internal medicine) and Alex Geiger (internal medicine-pediatrics)

Media contact: Teresa Joseph, 602-827-2657, cell phone 503-467-8103,

Inspirational 2018 UA College of Medicine – Phoenix graduates include:

Haig Aintablian, who will pursue a residency in emergency medicine and continue his training in aerospace as a flight surgeon (

Victor Arce, who will pursue a residency in internal medicine at the University of Colorado (

Alex Geiger, who will pursue a residency in internal medicine–pediatrics at Indiana University (


UA College of Medicine – Tucson Class of 2018:

Cubby Michael Pierre (emergency medicine residency) and David Reyes (internal medicine residency)

Media contact: Nadia Whitehead, 520-626-9722, cell phone 915-276-6803,


Growing up on a Reservation Influenced his Desire to Become a Doctor

Cubby Michael Pierre, 27, was born and raised in Arlee, Mont., on the Flathead Indian Reservation. He is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Growing up on a reservation where health care is in short supply strongly influenced his desire to become a doctor, as well as his uncle who is a practicing orthopaedic surgeon.

Pierre’s high school focused on getting students to graduate, with less emphasis on going to college. Shortly after being accepted by the UA College of Medicine – Tucson in 2014, he said. “My first year of college was very challenging, but I made it through. Now, luckily, I am a medical student.”

Pierre will pursue residency training in emergency medicine in the UA College of Medicine – Tucson Graduate Medical Education Program. In the future, he hopes to work in rural Montana with Native Americans and other underserved communities.


From First-Generation College Graduate to Internal Medicine Physician Caring for the Underserved

Dave Reyes, 32, is a first-generation college graduate who earned a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences from the University of California, Davis. He is married and the father of two children.

While studying at the UA College of Medicine – Tucson, Reyes established the ”Wish Makers” CUP (Commitment to Underserved People) program, which helps medical students become Arizona wish granters for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Student members help grant wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses.

Reyes will pursue his residency training in internal medicine the UA College of Medicine – Tucson Graduate Medical Education Program. In the future, he hopes to provide care to underserved Spanish-speakers in the United States. He also is interested in providing free medical care to rural communities in Guatemala, where his family originally is from.


UA College of Medicine – Tucson Department of Physiology:

Maya Lowney (Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences degree with a major in physiology) and Christie Rosputni (Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences degree with a major in physiology)

Media contact: Jean Spinelli, 520-626-2531, cell phone 520-465-4193,


Honors Student’s Work Spans Science and Art

Originally from Hawaii, Maya Lowney majored in physiology and minored in dance and health and human values. She will graduate with honors in physiology.

During her time at the University of Arizona, Lowney’s work has spanned the arts and sciences.

Under the mentorship of Department of Physiology Lecturer Cindy Rankin, PhD, Lowney investigated the physiological and mental benefits of dance in rehabilitative therapy. She also choreographed and danced in two public performances: one celebrating women in the UA Women’s Plaza of Honors, the other celebrating freedom.

Lowney currently interns with Elder Rehab at the Jewish Community Center and serves as a dance teacher. She also is active with the Tucson Community Food Bank, the Dancer’s Consort and Cyclovia of Tucson.

Lowney was selected as the UA Honors Freshman of the Year in 2014-15 and is a recipient of this year’s Pillars of Excellence Award for Outstanding Honors students; only 10 students from across campus are awarded this honor each year.


Balancing Work, Family and Physiology

A senior from Tucson, Christie Rosputni majored in physiology with plans to become a pediatrician. At the UA College of Medicine – Tucson Department of Physiology convocation on May 11, she will graduate with honors in physiology.

She has balanced work as a certified medical assistant and operations manager at SPARCC Sports Medicine with a variety of activities, including shadowing a local pediatrician and spending time with her husband and two daughters.

Rosputni is senior chair of the Physiology Honors Academy and a recipient of this year’s Pillars of Excellence Award for Outstanding Honors students; only 10 students from across campus are awarded this honor each year. A recipient of the Laura and Arch Brown Scholarship for UA Honors College students, Rosputni has prior careers in technology and culinary arts. She also commits her time to serving as a parent volunteer.

Rosputni has served as a volunteer note taker for the UA Disability Resource Center and has participated in two research groups, including a project in diabetes prevention. Working with Melanie Hingle, MPH, PhD, assistant professor in the UA Department of Nutritional Sciences, Rosputni investigated the effects of education and awareness on the incidence of type 2 diabetes in rural youth populations.


UA Graduate Interdisciplinary Programs and UA College of Medicine – Tucson Biomedical Sciences:

Alexander Davan Feldman (Professional Science Master’s in Applied Biosciences – Controlled Environment Agriculture Emphasis)

Media contact: Jean Spinelli, 520-626-2531, cell phone 520-465-4193,

Alex Feldman’s CEA (Controlled Environment Agriculture) Story

Unlike other students who pursue internships either in University of Arizona laboratories or with a Tucson biotech company, Feldman chose to do his internship in Japan, specifically at Chiba University. With no funds available at either the UA or Chiba University, he turned to social media, using a YouTube video of a “Japan Internship Crowdfunding Campaign” in his Facebook account. With this campaign, he was able to raise $2,642, only half of his $4,500 goal but enough to make his dream internship a reality. Feldman has made such great strides with his research and adding experience to his knowledge of vertical farming that after receiving his degree in December 2017, Feldman returned to Japan to work for Chiba University and Japan Plant Factory Association as a research assistant and technician. Feldman’s initiative and resourcefulness in pursuing an incredible internship in Japan truly are remarkable and his achievements serve as inspiration to other students.

Feldman shares his story at


UA College of Nursing Class of 2018:

Connie Tran (Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Honors Student)

Media contact: Will Holst, 520-626-2512, cell phone 520-822-6650,

From Childhood Dream to Nursing Research and Beyond

Connie Tran was drawn to the nursing field at a young age. After interning at a hospital during high school, she was impressed by the hard work and dedication she saw nurses exhibit on the job. “I wanted to become one of those people who support patients through the best and worst times of their lives,” she says.

With her future decided, the University of Arizona College of Nursing—with its high rankings and helpful financial incentives—was an obvious choice for her academic ambitions. Tran was in the first group of Arizona Nursing Inclusive Excellence (ANIE) scholars, a landmark program designed to attract and support the success of students from diverse settings and cultures that are underrepresented in health care.

Thanks to ANIE funding, Tran was able to participate in a community health clinic for low-income Spanish-speaking residents in South Tucson. “The ANIE grant is great because it’s really fostering the growth of a diversified group of nurses,” says Tran. “It also allows us to hone our strength as people who are minorities, who come from rural communities or are first generation college-goers.”

Tran’s academic and extracurricular life has been busy. She participated in the UA Campus Health Stressbusters program, which provides students with free 5-minute back rubs, and was active in the Asian/Pacific American Medical Student Association (APAMSA). Additionally, she worked as a patient care technician at Tucson Medical Center’s Cardiac Care Unit and interned in the UA College of Pharmacy’s Medication Management Center. In May, she was presented the Mary J. Jeffries Achievement Award, which helps BSN students committed to pursuing graduate study in nursing pursue their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

As a BSN honors student, Tran has proved herself to be adept at the rigors of research. With the support and guidance of her faculty mentors, Melissa Goldsmith, PhD, RNC, clinical associate professor, and Melanie Welch, RN, clinical instructor, she developed her thesis, “Experience of Fathers During Childbirth: Key Issues and Implications.” Her research examines interventions that hospitals and childbirth educators can implement to improve the experience of new fathers.

To students considering enrolling in the UA College of Nursing, Tran has nothing but encouragement. “It’s really tough at first and there’s a huge learning curve, but after that first semester everything will settle down,” she says. “The faculty here are really supportive and kind. Make sure you utilize them because they will be your biggest helpers, your biggest coaches and your biggest cheerleaders.”

The future looks bright for Tran after graduation. She has a job lined up in her home state of Texas and plans to continue her education in the fall. Thanks to the support of the Mary F. Jeffries Achievement Award, Tran plans to enroll in the UA College of Nursing’s DNP program’s Family Nurse Practitioner specialty.

“As a nurse, I want to make sure I’m using evidence-based care and practices when I’m caring for my patients,” she says. “I want to make sure I’m looking at the whole person, making sure I’m dealing with every aspect of their life, including emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.”


UA College of Pharmacy Class of 2018:

Xu Zhou (PhD)

Media contact: Alli Benjamin, 520-626-3389, cell phone 509-230-3520,

An ‘Underappreciated Gene’ Leads to a Ground-breaking Discovery

It would have been easier for doctor of philosophy student Xu Zhou to quit her research in understanding the development of rhinovirus, the most common cause of the common cold, after several failures during her scientific quest. But she already had come so far—literally and figuratively.

In 2014, Zhou came to the UA College of Pharmacy from China as the only international student in the Pharmacology and Toxicology program. Even with the challenging cultural and language barriers, she successfully managed to navigate the program with an exceptional grade-point average, authoring/co-authoring five articles and presenting five research posters at prestigious national scientific conferences.

These achievements underscored her full potential as a rising star in the field of pulmonary research. During her time at the college, Zhou made a ground-breaking discovery that may potentially change the standard of care for rhinoviruses in the near future.

In her search for understanding how rhinoviruses propagate, Zhou discovered the underappreciated role of macrophages, a type of white blood cell in the immune system, which, once activated by an epithelial protein, can harbor deadly viruses and carry them from the nose to the lower respiratory tract. This occurrence can lead to severe illness, particularly for individuals with asthma.

Her discovery was published in the American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology, an official journal of the American Thoracic Society, and has been widely praised in the pulmonary field for providing novel insights into rhinovirus‐induced asthma exacerbations.

Zhou and her faculty mentors now are seeking a patent protection for her finding. Further intrigued by its medical potential, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease recently gave a top rating to a recently submitted proposal that primarily is based on Zhou’s study.

“Xu has demonstrated exemplary characteristics of many accomplished scientists including curiosity, logic, creativity and, most importantly, persistence,” said Yin Chen, PhD, associate professor and Zhou’s adviser. “She represents her class—a talented and tenacious group of young scientists—who are prepared to surpass their mentors and contribute to the greater good of this society.”


UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health Class of 2018:

Dametreea Carr (Master of Public Health in One Health)

Media contact: Gerri Kelly, 520-626-9669, cell phone 312-437-7007,

Native Tucsonan Finds Epidemiology is Her Passion

Dametreea Carr, 29, is a Tucson native and Paul D. Coverdell Peace Corps Fellow who spent two years in Rwanda as a Peace Corps volunteer before pursuing a master’s degree at the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. One of two students to receive a master of public health (MPH) degree with a concentration in the new One Health program, after graduation she will begin work as an infectious disease epidemiologist with the Pinal County Public Health Department in Florence.

Carr was elected to the Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health. She has a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the UA College of Science.

Carr discovered her interest in epidemiology through a combination of experiences while a student, including the class, “Student Aid for Field Epidemiology Response (SAFER),” and an internship in the Bureau of Epidemiology and Disease Control at the Arizona Department of Health Services in Phoenix. Volunteering helped seal the deal.

The SAFER class trains graduate students to work with state and county public health practitioners on outbreak investigations such as foodborne illnesses and infectious diseases.

“After taking the SAFER class I continued as a volunteer with the program. Doing the work, investigating outbreaks and being the boots on the ground made me realize that I want to do this for the rest of my life,” said Carr. “After my internship, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.”

Carr said it was her mentor Kristen Pogreba-Brown, PhD, assistant professor of epidemiology and director of the SAFER program, who encouraged her to apply for the position with the Pinal County Public Health Department.

“I had a really good experience at the College of Public Health. I participated and volunteered for so many different projects.”

Like the time Carr spent a summer as a volunteer for the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever Awareness campaign on the White Mountain Apache Reservation in Pinetop, Ariz.

“It’s a life-threatening, tick-borne disease. We went door to door educating residents and checking their pets for ticks.”

Carr’s advice for other job hunters: “Volunteer for as many projects as you can. If someone was doing research, I would volunteer to help. My experience helped me build my resume and CV. It makes you more impressive as a candidate to potential employers.”

The UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health is home to 20 percent of the UA’s Peace Corps Fellows.

The MPH in One Health is an interdisciplinary concentration within the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the UA Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. The One Health program recognizes that multi-disciplinary efforts are needed at the intersection between humans, animals and the environment to solve complex diseases and public health concerns. Students are trained in the theory and application of utilizing One Health approaches to address complex public health challenges.