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Outstanding Alumni in Healthcare

October 28, 2020  | 24 min read

This year, in the midst of perhaps the biggest global health challenge people all over the world will experience in their lifetimes, we have collectively witnessed the countless contributions of healthcare professionals who not only care deeply about the health and well-being of their communities, but also dedicate their time and resources to ensure it. These individuals have sacrificed their safety for the greater good, demonstrated their dedication to supporting the most vulnerable, and used their skill to innovate in their fields long before today’s public health crisis became a global issue.

From physicians and first responders to nurses and caretakers to biotech leaders, public health advisors, and mental wellness warriors, inspiring Pepperdine alumni are imagining patient care beyond traditional methods, challenging industry norms, and shifting strategies in an industry that continues to evolve. Selected from a diverse group of Pepperdine healthcare professionals who were nominated by their friends, family, and peers, discover how these Waves approach the meaning of healthcare and the role they play in redefining how it will have an impact on generations to come.

Excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.


Ryan Arnold (’98) Ryan Arnold (’98) 

Emergency Medicine Physician
Cottage Health System

Ryan Arnold took a nontraditional path to medicine, transitioning during his junior year at Pepperdine from considering a future in marine biology to one focused on healthcare. After graduating from Pepperdine, Arnold completed a master’s program at Boston University and went on to receive his medical degree from Loma Linda University, completing his speciality training in emergency medicine at Cooper University Hospital. He continued to work in academic medicine and developed a clinical research program addressing the care of critically ill patients with sepsis in the emergency department. More than 10 years ago, Arnold developed the Resuscitation Science Internship program for premedical students at Pepperdine, incorporating students in ongoing clinical trial efforts within the emergency department and providing them with real-world exposure to clinical medicine in acute care settings.

Challenge to Lesson

I work in a field in which providers are unfortunately exposed to death on a regular basis, and I will never forget the first patient that I had who died despite our efforts to save them. While I was still in training and grappling with the science of the patient’s illness and death, my interaction and counseling of the patient’s family members after their loss showed me how important it was to be there for them at their worst hour and to never forget the lives that are touched, in so many ways, through our care.


Martha Molina Bernadett (MBA ’01, PKE 105)Martha Molina Bernadett (MBA ’01, PKE 105)

Chief Executive Officer and Board Chair
The Molina Foundation

Martha Molina Bernadett’s career has evolved from direct patient care as a family physician in a rural town to leading research, innovation, and digital transformation at a Fortune 500 health plan. The experience of caring directly for the poorest and most vulnerable patients and their families helped her to identify issues that needed to be addressed to improve the health of individuals and communities. Her work later as a health plan executive allowed her to address these issues on a policy level. That included work with major nonprofits and agencies, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Governors Association, and First5.

Along the way Bernadett became involved with philanthropic and humanitarian efforts focused on youth and families, including the founding of a national nonprofit dedicated to reducing disparities in access to education and health. Her professional work went hand in hand with efforts to address the root problems of illiteracy and lack of numeracy and basic math skills that prevent many people from understanding and following instructions necessary to care for themselves or their families. She has worked with Plain Language initiatives addressing doctor-patient communication in English and more than 20 languages and consulted for health systems, hospitals, and municipalities that struggled with the challenges of caring for limited-English speaking, economically diverse populations.


Steven C. Bilt (MBA ’01, PKE 106)Steven C. Bilt (MBA ’01, PKE 106)

Chief Executive Officer
Smile Brands, Inc.

What does this recognition mean to you?

Being recognized by Pepperdine, given its history of deep purpose, is truly touching. To me, the most important part of my role is creating access to care for people who otherwise may not or could not have it. I very much appreciate Pepperdine for taking note of our progress in that regard.

Success Story

I began on the financial side, but I was always in the healthcare arena. I had a chance to take over a small dental turnaround coming from the chief financial officer position just as I was beginning the Pepperdine PKE program. The timing was auspicious as the program gave me the opportunity and guidance to dig into every aspect of the business and effect change in its trajectory.

Challenge to Lesson

Our current COVID-19 crisis and social unrest have provided unlimited lessons. Chief among them are to always bring people along on the journey and to always continue moving forward no matter how difficult and halting the steps may become.


Jeffrey Brookman (’72)Jeffrey Brookman (’72)

Physician
Southern Nevada Veterans Administration Healthcare

Growing up in the row houses of South Philadelphia, Jeffrey Brookman lived in a close-knit community of Italian residents with sprinklings of Jewish families like his. At the age of 10, Brookman observed doctors making house calls to visit his ailing grandmother and was in awe of the comfort and reassurance they gave her beyond prescriptions and medical procedures.

After years of successful medical practice, Brookman joined the United States Navy Reserve and was assigned to the Marine Corps. When the Marines were sent to Somalia for Operation Restore Hope, Brookman joined the humanitarian medical mission where he led teams of doctors, nurses, and corpsmen who had limited medical supplies to treat people ravaged by disease and starvation, most of whom had never seen a doctor in their lifetimes. Brookman also led the Marine Corps medical team in Iraq following the September 11 attacks.

“Today, when I have a difficult case to work with in my spinal cord clinic or when treating a difficult diagnosis, I thank God for the wherewithal we have in our country to treat patients and the amazing facilities we have to work in. I remind myself every day, sometimes every hour, that being a doctor for me is not a job or a career—it is a mission and a ministry.”


Thema Bryant-Davis (MDiv ’16)Thema Bryant-Davis (MDiv ’16)

Professor of Psychology
Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology

After completing her graduate degree in psychology at Duke University and master of divinity at Pepperdine, Bryant-Davis used her passion and expertise to serve as a bridge between communities of faith and mental health professionals. Throughout her career, she has represented the American Psychological Association to the United Nations, been honored by the California Psychological Association as Scholar of the Year, and been recognized by the Institute of Violence, Abuse, and Trauma for her work mentoring emerging trauma psychologists.

This summer Bryant-Davis was awarded the International Psychology Award for her contributions to the psychology of women across the globe, especially her work with women in Africa and the African diaspora. Bryant-Davis also launched the mental health podcast, Homecoming, which focuses on the healing journey back home to our authentic, sacred selves.


Katherine Niederer Cahill (’03)Katherine Niederer Cahill (’03)

Medical Director of Asthma Clinical Research and Assistant Professor of Medicine
Vanderbilt University Medical Center

During her fellowship in allergy and immunology, Katherine Cahill developed a research interest in adult-onset asthma, investigating the innate immune mechanisms that drive airway inflammation. Employing translational research techniques, she now investigates how a variety of drugs, repurposed for asthma care, reduce airway inflammation. After five years on the faculty at Harvard Medical School, Cahill was recruited to Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center as the medical director of clinical asthma research.

While in Boston, Cahill and her husband learned about medical mission trips to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the medical challenges the communities there face. The revelations laid the foundations for the Addis Clinic, now a 503c nonprofit that addresses healthcare inequity and the limited healthcare resources in the developing world with a focus on telemedicine and training healthcare workers to improve the quality of care for patients in low-resource settings around the world.

How has Pepperdine played a role in your success?

The research experience I gained in the laboratory of Jay Brewster and the resulting publication opened doors to medical school, residency, and even fellowship interviews. It was where I first experienced the joy and excitement of a novel research finding and honed a desire to perform patient-focused research.


Lori Cardle (MBA ’13)Lori Cardle (MBA ’13)

Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Valley Presbyterian Hospital

Success Story

My road to success was built on my willingness to move through doors that were opened through my curiosity and tenacity and supported by my bosses and mentors.

What was your first job?

I worked a newspaper route when I was nine.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I think and have been told I would make a good lawyer. I would also like to attempt something creative, like flower arranging.

What is your mantra or favorite quote?

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” —Will Durant

What is one of your favorite hobbies?

I enjoy being active outdoors and hanging out with my husband and dog.


William Dougherty (’92) William Dougherty (’92) 

Chief Information Security Officer
Omada Health, Inc.

Challenge to Lesson

I’ve worked for some great companies, but prior to Omada, none of them had a truly world-changing mission. Omada was founded to tackle one of the biggest challenges in healthcare: the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. It’s a population health problem that can only be addressed at scale by the types of digital health solutions we have built. Having a clear, meaningful mission and a strong, inclusive culture are core to our success and growth.

What’s next for you?

I intend to continue focusing on digital health, and specifically working with my company and our partners to fundamentally improve how health information is protected. Healthcare is the single-most breached industry, and those lapses in security create a significant barrier to people receiving the best care possible. I intend to be part of the solution.

What is your mantra or favorite quote?

“Aut inveniam viam aut faciam,” which translates to “I shall find a way or make one.”

What is one of your favorite hobbies?

Photography. At Pepperdine, I worked all four years on the Graphic.


Nicole Durden (MPP ’07)Nicole Durden (MPP ’07)

Chief Operating Officer
SonoSim, Inc.

At Pelagique, a startup incubator initially focused on innovating military medical education, Nicole Durden and her team identified scalable ways to train military physicians on lessons learned from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. That led to the commercialization of the SonoSim Ultrasound Training Solution, a laptop-based integrated ultrasound training platform that aimed to provide an “anytime- anywhere” solution for comprehensive ultrasound training.

Now, after almost 10 years at SonoSim, Durden’s team creates educational opportunities for healthcare providers around the world, developing novel products that change the way physicians, residents, and students learn. SonoSim supports the healthcare community by providing ultrasound education and training, particularly as bedside ultrasound has proven to be an extremely useful tool in assessing clinical complications from COVID-19.

Challenge to Lesson

Becoming a chief operating officer at 36 years old is a journey that has taught me many valuable lessons, such as the importance of self-advocacy and of pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. To my female colleagues: don’t ever be afraid to be the only woman in the room.


Michael M. Edelstein (MBA ’88)Michael M. Edelstein (MBA ’88)

Retired Radiologist and Nuclear Medicine Physician

Michael Edelstein was the first interventional radiologist in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles and the first to perform many state-of-the- art noninvasive procedures. Edelstein is a fellow of the American College of Radiology and American College of Nuclear Medicine and has worked extensively with many professional organizations, including the Radiological Society of North America, California Medical Society, and California Radiological Society, among others.

As an educator, Edelstein has served as a faculty member at Hospital Universitario de Cartagena, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, and the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science. He has taught residents and fellows at Wadsworth Veterans Hospital, the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, and Olive View-UCLA Medical Center and lectured on the business of radiology at the UCLA Anderson School of Management. He has also mentored students at the Graziadio Business School for many years, served as a member of its board, and established and chaired the school’s Los Angeles alumni chapter following his graduation.

In 2015 Edelstein experienced a cerebrovascular accident, an event he is chronicling in his book, A Doctor’s Journey Through Strokeland.


 

Shawn Farrokhi (’00)Shawn Farrokhi (’00)

Facility Research Director
Department of Defense, Veterans Administration Extremity Trauma and Amputation Center of Excellence

Success Story

The direct link between success and education was instilled in me from an early age by my parents. Education helped me view the world differently and refined my values and goals for success, and it all started here at Pepperdine. With every educational opportunity (one undergraduate and three graduate degrees), a new door opened up for me and the path to success became clearer. The culmination of these experiences has led me to my current job as a clinical scientist dedicated to improving the quality of life for our service members and veterans with limb injury and amputation. For me, the job is a dream come true. There is no better feeling than helping those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the very freedom that we enjoy every day.

What’s next for you?

My goals for the future are to continue to lean in and lift up those around me so that we can continue to make a difference together. Moving forward, my goals also include training the next generation of physical therapists to become indispensable members of the healthcare community dedicated to helping others in need.


David Feinberg (MBA ’02, PKE 107)David Feinberg (MBA ’02, PKE 107)

Vice President
Google Health

Success Story

My path started at home with parents that instilled important values of learning, integrity, hard work, and having an open heart. I was drawn to medicine because it combined science and human connection. Ultimately, a career as a child and adolescent psychiatrist allowed me to help children and their families improve their trajectories when mental illness struck. As I transitioned to various leadership roles, I remained focused on making sure that those of us in healthcare explain things in ways that patients and families can understand. I have continued to work to make sure that the care that is delivered is safe, accessible, equitable, high quality, culturally sensitive, and most of all, compassionate. When people come to Google for information, our goal is to make sure they get authoritative information and are able to take the next needed step to improve their health and the health of their loved ones.

How has Pepperdine played a role in your success?

Pepperdine taught me how to be present. I learned that I needed to stop dreaming about the next job. I learned that my “dream job” was the one that I was doing.


Thomas A. Fessler (JD ’83)Thomas A. Fessler (JD ’83)

Chief Legal Officer and General Counsel
VSP Global

What does this recognition mean to you?

This recognition reinforces my decision to join VSP Global in 2006 and enter the healthcare industry for the first time in my professional career of more than 25 years.

Success Story

My road to success involved taking career risks, such as accepting a foreign assignment, learning a second language, pursuing a nonlegal business role, and working in a different industry. There is no substitute for experience.

Challenge to Lesson

Learn to be humble and act as a steward to the stakeholders you serve, represent, or lead.

What was your first job?

At age 14, I worked after school as a stock boy at a small shoe store in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


John Figueroa (MBA ’97)John Figueroa (MBA ’97)

Founder and Chief Executive Officer
Carepathrx

What does this recognition mean to you?

Serving in healthcare in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic forced our company to enhance our services to deliver critically needed medications to people outside of typical healthcare locations. We modified our technology, resources, and people to connect with patients directly and to provide healthcare services at their home or through telemedicine/telepharmacy. This honor really is recognition for the amazing job my team performed in this time of crisis.

Success Story

I have been in the healthcare industry for more than 30 years and began my journey to finding optimal and seamless avenues to improve patient outcomes despite the sometimes cumbersome business of healthcare. I recently started a new company, Carepathrx, focused on developing the first-ever end-to-end comprehensive pharmacy solution within the hospital and entire health system pharmacy supply chain. Our company empowers the hospital and health system to provide direct pharmacy needs in areas like specialty, infusion, and chronic illness medications directly to the patient’s home once they leave the hospital care setting. In our first year of operation, we have increased the quality of care for patients, reduced cost in the system, and improved the financial health of the hospital.

How has Pepperdine played a role in your success?

I have tremendous regard for the University and have continued my involvement through the years as a longtime board member of the Graziadio Business School, guest lecturer, and founder/moderator of the Future of Healthcare Symposium.


Paul Giboney (’92)Paul Giboney (’92)

Associate Chief Medical Officer
Los Angeles County Department of Health Services

What does this recognition mean to you?

Pepperdine has contributed to the growth of many amazing healthcare leaders over the years because the University emphasizes the importance of Christian service lived out in every aspect of our lives—in our careers, in our churches, in our families, and in our communities—both locally and globally. The field of healthcare in particular provides Pepperdine alumni the opportunity to serve in some of the most significant moments of people’s lives. That is our sacred duty and honor.

How has Pepperdine played a role in your success?

I benefited from the training and mentorship of some great Pepperdine professors like Dwayne Simmons (’80), Steve Davis, and Lee Kats, who invested in me both academically and personally. They, along with others, prepared me both intellectually and morally for the rigors of medical school and subsequent training.

What is your mantra or favorite quote?

“My concern is not whether God is on my side, but whether I am on God’s side, for God is always right.” —Abraham Lincoln


Jean Hartley (’16)Jean Hartley (’16)

Neonatal Intensive Care Nurse
The Johns Hopkins Hospital

Challenge to Lesson

In my two years as a neonatal intensive care unit nurse, I have witnessed much heartbreak and suffering through my patients and their families. Nurses are afforded the beautiful opportunity to meet families in the midst of what may be their darkest days. I think our human response is sometimes to refrain from fully exposing ourselves to the painful situations of other people, but, alongside caretakers everywhere, I’ve explored the alternative—jumping into the chaos and fear and doubt and horror of it all with people I’ve just met and trusting that God will meet us there.

What’s next for you?

I’d like to explore nursing abroad, mostly to see how other countries and cultures approach end-of-life care for neonates with terminal diagnoses. I want families who are faced with these impossible decisions to feel supported in every way, and I’ve got a lot to learn to get there. One day I’d like to be a palliative care advocate and speak to audiences about how we can improve these unique situations to provide the very best care to our youngest people in their final days and moments.


David Hebert (JD ’82)David Hebert (JD ’82)

Chief Executive Officer
American Association of Nurse Practitioners

Following his graduation from the Caruso School of Law, David Hebert found himself on Capitol Hill. Serving as a legislative director for a member of Congress, healthcare issues became part of his growing portfolio. Throughout his career, Hebert focused on the intersection of healthcare and policy as a healthcare lobbyist and, later, the director of government affairs for the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists and head of its Washington office.

Years later, Hebert became the chief of staff of House majority whip Roy Blunt, which gave him a front-row seat to the development of healthcare policy. Hebert was on the House floor during the early morning hours when Medicare Part D was passed by the House. He later worked as a healthcare lobbyist handling both legislative and regulatory issues as part of the firm’s healthcare practice, as senior vice president for government affairs at the American Health Care Association, and as CEO for the American College of Nurse Practitioners (ACNP). A few weeks into the job, the ACNP was approached by the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP) to merge. Several months later the merger was completed, and Hebert became the CEO of the new combined organization in 2013. Since then he has worked to expand the public persona of the nation’s largest organization representing America’s nurse practitioners and led the development of the new AANP headquarters in Austin, Texas.


Nancy C. Hunter (MBA ’06)Nancy C. Hunter (MBA ’06)

Head of Commercial
Bluebird Bio GmbH

How has Pepperdine played a role in your success?

Pepperdine played a foundational role not only through the education itself, the experiences, inspiration, and values I took with me, but also through the alumni I count as close friends. I’ve been working in an international environment for nine years, with six of those years in Switzerland. Studying abroad in the United Kingdom and China gave me the opportunity to put my global MBA into practice. I remember a Pepperdine professor encouraging me to “actively choose the type of person you want to be in business” during a conversation about executive choices and behavior in high-pressure situations. Ultimately, leadership and living a life guided by your core values and ethics is both meaningful and fulfilling on a personal and professional level.

What’s next for you?

Challenges remain for women in business. The next generation needs access to tools and conversations earlier than they were made available to me. I recently started a scholarship for high school women going into STEM fields, with an added emphasis on women’s studies and women’s literature. It has been a great pleasure to recently award a young woman from my hometown in Montana with the first scholarship.


Timothy B. Jang (’95)Timothy B. Jang (’95)

Professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine
Harbor-UCLA Medical Center

Challenge to Lesson

I’ve learned that despite the advances of science and the best technology, people still need God and the sense of mystery that comes from being known by the one who made the world and sustains life through the chaos.

What’s next for you?

I’ve been working with the Christian Medical and Dental Association to create guidelines for churches during the current COVID-19 pandemic and am part of a multicenter study looking at COVID-19 in patients presenting to the emergency department. I hope to continue serving at the intersection of faith, science, and medicine to both serve God and mankind. I was going to serve Muslim refugees displaced by violence in the Middle East, but my trip got cancelled due to COVID-19, so I hope I can do that in 2021.

What historical or modern-day leader do you admire and why?

Kent Brantly. As a Christian doctor, he served ebola patients in West Africa. Then, when he contracted ebola, he refused treatment so that it could be given to others first. He reminds me of the best in Christianity and medicine because he knows how to serve others and didn’t allow fear or the temptation for self-protection to keep the treatment from going where it was needed the most.


Elan Javanfard (MA ’13)Elan Javanfard (MA ’13)

Division Director of Residential and Substance Use Services 
Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services

Challenge to Lesson

The most challenging time in my career is the present. With all the adjustments needed to provide clinical care during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are two lessons that I am continuing to learn: how to be flexible with change and resilient during difficult times. COVID-19 took away many of our natural coping skills. The only constant is change, and proactively responding to change will shape our future.

What’s next for you?

My continued goal is to reduce the stigma of mental illness, particularly within my personal cultural groups, Jewish and Iranian. Longer term, my goal is to support the creation of specialized clinics for these populations in ways that continue to reduce stigma and provide culturally competent care. Furthermore, because Los Angeles County suffers tremendously from a lack of residential mental health services for the most acute and chronic populations, I hope to continue to support the struggle of homelessness by advocating for more funding and parity for safe living treatment environments for everyone.


Joy Jones (MBA ’18, PKE 139)

Chief Executive Officer and Founder
Whole Village Health

What does this recognition mean to you?

My job as a physician has taken on new meaning in light of the current pandemic. I have realized the great honor, and risk, involved in this work. This year has been particularly harrowing as the vast majority of my patients reside on the fringes of society. They are those who are experiencing homelessness, ex-convicts, the mentally ill, the traumatized, and the chronically ill. The current destabilization we are all feeling seems to be more pronounced in these communities. Although it can be emotionally taxing work, there is nothing else I would rather do.

Who has helped you achieve success in your career?

When I consider the contributors to my success, I think of a medical school janitor who would allow me to work in the lab after closing hours. I think of my patients whose struggles with HIV and meth addiction remind me that we are all fighting unseen battles and to extend the grace to myself. I think of the many people that came before me, who looked just like me and had similar dreams, but were never allowed to manifest them. I am a composite of all of these individuals, and many more.

What’s next for you?

My focus is building Whole Village Health, a global wellness firm that uses technology, art, social media, and health education to address wellness and health-equity issues in vulnerable communities. I am currently broadening my reach by pivoting into more telemedicine and investing in cutting-edge methods that can be used to infuse healing into everyday life.


Bounmany Kyle Keojampa (’01)Bounmany Kyle Keojampa (’01)

Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon
Keojampa MD Facial Plastic Surgery

After the completion of his surgical training in otolaryngology, head and neck surgery, and facial plastic surgery at Boston University School of Medicine, Bounmany Kyle Keojampa served as a clinical instructor at Harvard Medical School and clinical assistant professor of surgery at Boston University School of Medicine for five years. He also served as the surgical team leader on an annual international humanitarian medical mission with the Lao Rehabilitation Foundation to provide surgical care and training for cleft lip and palate and facial reconstructive surgery in rural Laos. Keojampa’s current practice focus is craniofacial plastic surgery, treating patients with facial deformities, facial gender surgery, and reconstructive surgery after facial trauma.

How has Pepperdine played a role in your success?

My experience with Pepperdine’s international program in Catacamas, Honduras, helped to foster my career in medicine. I experienced firsthand a humanitarian medical mission. I was able to study medical Spanish and volunteered at medical clinics to provide healthcare to the local population. My experience in Honduras has stuck with me and is one of the reasons for my continued involvement with international humanitarian medical missions today.


Anahita Kia (JD ’02, MA ’12)Anahita Kia (JD ’02, MA ’12)

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Clinical Supervisor, Adjunct Professor of Psychology 
Private Practice of Anahita Kia and Pepperdine University

Anahita Kia began her professional career as an attorney, practicing law for eight years in the areas of criminal law, litigation, and entertainment. Having grown up in a creative and musical family, she stayed connected to her artistic roots and spent much of her time painting and writing songs and, later, selling her artwork, publishing albums, and licensing her songs for television and film. Even while in law school, Kia knew that she was deeply interested in studying psychology and, after years in the legal field, ultimately decided to pursue a new career. Nine years later, Kia is a practicing licensed marriage and family therapist and continues to create art and produce music.

Harnessing both her legal and creative backgrounds, she treats attorneys, medical professionals, and business professionals, as well as artists, musicians, and innovators experiencing such issues as anxiety, panic, addiction, depression, trauma, and work-specific problems, such as burnout, bullying, and sexual harassment. Because of her interest in working with trauma survivors, she became a certified counselor for survivors of domestic violence, as well as a certified counselor for survivors of sexual assault.


Brandon Lee (’09)Brandon Lee (’09)

Chief of Emergency Medicine/ Emergency Physician
United States Army and Southern California Permanente Medical Group

Brandon Lee enlisted in the United States army in 2006 and as a combat medic during Operation Iraqi Freedom from 2006 to 2007. In Iraq, Lee discovered his passion for emergency medicine and started working toward his dream of becoming an emergency physician. He resumed his education at Pepperdine at the conclusion of his deployment and completed his medical degree in New York and residency through the Army in Tacoma, Washington, and Augusta, Georgia, in 2018. He currently serves in the army as the chief of emergency medicine at Weed Army Community Hospital in Fort Irwin, California. His most recent deployment was as an emergency physician for the Army Field Hospital and Special Forces Ground Surgical Team in Syria, Jordan, and Iraq in 2019.

How has Pepperdine played a role in your success?

Pepperdine provided me with a high-quality education and instilled in me a passion to serve the community through programs such as Project Serve where I participated in the Guatemala medical mission trip. This trip also fostered my passion to pursue medicine as a career.


Beth Lopez (MBA ’13)Beth Lopez (MBA ’13)

Director of Ambulatory Care Services
Kaiser Permanente

Success Story

I started my nursing career as a new graduate in an adult oncology unit where cancer patients receive diagnostics and treatment. I learned how difficult it is to lose a loved one. I mastered the ability to give a meaningful hug and learned the importance of listening. I moved to gastroenterology, a specialty devoted to diagnosing and treating disorders affecting the digestive system. I saw firsthand the importance of colon cancer screening and how a 30-minute colonoscopy saves lives by identifying and removing polyps before they become cancerous. I moved to a level-1 trauma center and cared for those who sustained injuries in car accidents, gunshot wounds, and multiple stab wounds. I was in awe of the powerful bond police officers have with their partners, seeing their dedication when they wake up from an unconscious state and ask before anything else, “Is my partner okay?” Most importantly, I discovered unquestionable teamwork during acute lifesaving measures. Eventually, I went into management where I have been able to share my experiences with others. I enjoy teaching and mentoring and watching staff grow in their competence and confidence.

How has Pepperdine played a role in your success?

Pepperdine’s executive MBA program exposed me to real entrepreneurs who, like me, did not work in the corporate world. I had exceptional professors who taught me a new way of thinking, outside the sometimes algorithmic healthcare field box. The program gave me the skill set to invent and patent (currently patent pending) a microbe scanning device that will scan hands and, in some cases, auto-open doors once hands are deemed clean.


Carl McKnight (PsyD ’00)Carl McKnight (PsyD ’00)

Clinical Psychologist
United States Department of Veterans Affairs

What does this recognition mean to you?

It is an unexpected honor that acknowledges the many individuals and institutions who have helped me along the way. It is also an affirmation of never giving up and following your destiny, no matter where it leads.

Who has helped you achieve success in your career?

My dissertation advisor, David Foy, was instrumental. As an expert in the field of traumatic stress and one of the original authors of the PTSD diagnosis, his mentorship provided the groundwork for successfully working with a variety of underserved populations experiencing trauma.

What is your mantra or favorite quote?

“Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.” —Gabriel Marcel


Kati Morton (’06, MA ’09)Kati Morton (’06, MA ’09)

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and YouTube Creator 
Happyable Inc.

Success Story

While earning my master’s degree at Pepperdine, I worked at a local eating disorder clinic and realized just how misunderstood mental illnesses were. I decided to use YouTube to share my knowledge about eating disorders and their treatment with the world so that more people could understand it. The video content I created expanded as my audience grew. For the past eight years, I have dedicated my time and education to helping break down the stigma associated with mental illness and encouraging those suffering to reach out and get help. Our community grows every day, and we recently surpassed one million subscribers.

What historical or modern-day leader do you admire and why?

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, an Irish astrophysicist who discovered the pulsar star. Even though she didn’t receive the credit at the time, she kept doing what she loved.


Kati Morton (’06, MA ’09)Kori D. Novak (MBA ’00)

Chief Executive Officer
Toiyabe Indian Health Project

Following a stint in the field of health insurance, which informed her sense of how and why things work on the payor side of healthcare, Kori Novak worked with elders and in hospice, caring for both the living and the dying. After completing her PhD, where she concentrated on aging and dying in prison, she focused her advocacy on prison hospice programs. During her postdoctoral work at the Stanford School of Medicine, she focused on ethno-geriatrics in the prison population for many years until she returned home to care for her own dying mother. 

After her mother’s passing, Novak continued her advocacy for underserved groups as the CEO of health and human services for the Karuk Tribe in Northern California. She later moved into her current role to serve as the CEO for the Toiyabe Indian Health Project in Eastern California to enhance healthcare delivery to indigenous populations.

What’s next for you?

I would like to do more speaking on the power of hospice and how we can overcome the fear of dying through empathy. I am working on books around those subjects, and I want to start a national conversation about aging and dying. But, most of all, I want to fulfill what God has planned for me.


Dee Anna Smith (’86)Dee Anna Smith (’86)

Chief Executive Officer
Sarah Cannon

Dee Anna Smith is the CEO of Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare. Since 2006 she has been unifying a workforce of specialists across the US and UK who are actively changing the way cancer care is delivered to hundreds of thousands of patients annually. By focusing on advancing cancer treatments, Smith’s organization has contributed to the research efforts of more than 80 percent of the approved cancer therapies over the past 10 years.

Guided by her faith, Smith has always had a passion for helping those in need. In 2017 she was recognized by Nashville-based Operation Andrew as a Rodgers Award recipient for her commitment to creating connections and removing barriers within faith communities. In 2013 she was named a Health Care Hero by the Nashville Business Journal and received the Heroes of Business Award from Lipscomb University. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and American Society of Clinical Oncology, serves on the Nashville Health Care Council, and is board chair of the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. In August 2019 Smith became the first Pepperdine graduate and woman to be named chair of the Pepperdine Board of Regents.


Ben Texter (’06)Ben Texter (’06)

Cofounder
Digital Health Strategies

Success Story

I started my career working for a startup that imported electric cars from China. We were the first company to import a street- legal Chinese vehicle that was allowed on US roads. While that path didn’t ultimately work out for me, I learned that I love working in complex, highly regulated industries. I also learned to love taking risks and embraced my own entrepreneurial spirit during my days working at the electric car company. Resilience and optimism are critical traits for navigating the bumpy road to success.

Challenge to Lesson

When my dad was in his final days, I learned that humor can get me through the toughest and most challenging times. I now use humor intentionally to get me through hard times, both professionally and personally.

Who has helped you achieve success in your career?

My mom and dad have been so supportive of all of the risks I’ve taken. My uncle has also had a big impact on my life. He started one of the largest publicly traded hospital corporations in America without a college degree.


Amy Towner (MBA ’18, PKE 139)Amy Towner (MBA ’18, PKE 139)

Chief Executive Officer
Health Care Foundation for Ventura County

What does this recognition mean to you?

I am fortunate to have cofounded a public benefit nonprofit corporation that leverages public and private investments to enhance and augment the public safety net healthcare system. This recognition means that I am simply reflecting the amazing people around me—county employees and leadership, my board of directors, our community, the Larraine Segil Exceptional Women Awardees, and the members of my Pepperdine family who embody mission-centered servant leadership.

How has Pepperdine played a role in your success?

Education is a gift that can never be taken away from you. A Pepperdine education is delivered by accomplished businesspeople who foster building Best for the World leaders. My education has provided me with a board of directors for life—a network of Pepperdine brothers and sisters in education who support, nurture, and cultivate positive growth in the world.


Andrew Weathers (‘98, MPP ’00)Andrew Weathers (‘98, MPP ’00)

Contracts Management Unit Chief, World Trade Center Health Program
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What does this recognition mean to you?

This honor goes to all of the individuals in healthcare who work tirelessly to assure frontline healthcare workers have what they need to provide the best care to every individual. It is for the people I work with in the World Trade Center Health Program who serve the 100,000 individuals who live with the physical and mental health effects of 9/11 every day. It is for my fellow Pepperdine graduates who are instrumental in creating innovative ways of doing healthcare in a COVID-19 world.

Challenge to Lesson

In 2011 I traveled several times to different regions of Africa as well as Central and South America. My wife, Helen, spent most of that year in Afghanistan as a forensic science officer for the US military. We were blessed to have family and friends help with our children while we were both away, but a looming health problem and the logistics of arranging care became more burdensome than I could bear. I needed to change the direction I was going and leave something I truly loved or risk my long-term health and ability to support my family. It was only through the grace of God that I found an email sitting in front of me one morning about a position with the World Trade Center Health Program. It was a chance for me to join a small group of people to serve a population very near to my heart. I had to learn that sometimes you have to step away from things you really love for your own well- being. If you place your trust in God, those next steps for you can be even more rewarding.


Jerrod D. Writt (’01)Jerrod D. Writt (’01)

Family Medicine Physician
The Permanente Medical Group

Success Story

I spent my time after graduation working in a hospital lab as well as a local pharmacy as I prepared to apply to medical school. Like I did while I was at Pepperdine, I did my best to serve the underserved during that time. These experiences allowed me to get into the PRIME-LC program at the University of California, Irvine School of Medicine and subsequently the Paul Merage School of Business. Throughout my graduate education, I tried to make service the foundation of everything I did. I was lucky enough to train in East Los Angeles at White Memorial Medical Center where I continued to work with the underserved Latino community. I now work for the Permanente Medical Group as a family medicine physician in the Salud en Español clinic in downtown Sacramento. I work as an outpatient clinic physician, as a hospitalist, and as an adjunct clinical professor for the Greater Sacramento Valley Family Medicine Residency.

Who has helped you achieve success in your career?

Michael Feltner was the first professor at Pepperdine that made me think that I could do whatever I wanted to. He congratulated my successes and challenged me to do better. Laurie Nelson was also very supportive and instrumental in my admission into medical school. More than anything, the support of my mom and dad and my two brothers has been pivotal in my success. The lessons I learned at home set me on the path for success, and Pepperdine helped me continue down that road.


Lance L. Yuen (MBA ’87)Lance L. Yuen (MBA ’87)

Asia-Pacific President, Bayer Consumer Health
Bayer Healthcare LLC

What does this recognition mean to you?

The campaign is a great way to highlight how important good health is to our lives and how people can make a difference in a variety of ways. Being an honoree recognizes not only myself but everyone who is passionate about contributing to better healthcare. I’m proud as an honoree to represent my colleagues and partners who work hard every day striving to make the vision of a healthy world for all a reality.

Challenge to Lesson

That persistence can overcome challenges is something I learned while transitioning from Pepperdine into my professional career. As graduation approached I tried repeatedly to get interviewed by a well-respected company. I wrote and called them over many months but received only rejection letters. Finally, a new counselor to Pepperdine (who had experience working with this company’s recruiters) helped me contact someone at the company who was impressed by my determination and included me in their recruiting process at a nearby school. This was the break I needed, and starting my career with this company opened up many professional opportunities.

What is one of your favorite hobbies?

I like to golf. I enjoy being outside in nature and appreciate the exercise of playing the game. Golf also encourages me to try new things to keep learning and improving. Most of all, playing with my friends and family makes the time special and the stories priceless.