Many notable things happened 20 years ago. The Grateful Dead played their last concert, Operation Desert Storm officially ended, and the powerhouse auction site eBay went live.

Rounding out that list, ASHS – initially named the Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine Southwest Center for Osteopathic Medical Education and Health Sciences (KCOMSWC) – opened its doors and began educating compassionate, community-minded healthcare professionals.

A celebration

On Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015, close to 250 friends of ATSU including board members, alumni, faculty, staff, and students helped mark the milestone at a celebration months in the making. On the Mesa, Ariz., campus guests enjoyed a lively atmosphere and were treated to family activities, music, bounce houses, and a visit from Bucky.

ATSU student ambassadors conducted campus tours, and Museum of Osteopathic Medicine Director Jason Haxton, MA, was in town with his “123 Years of Healthcare” exhibit in the library. Attendees also had the opportunity to win a commemorative coin by completing ASHS trivia.

ATSU’s state-of-the-art technology was on display as Jay Crutchfield, MD, chair, anatomy, SOMA, offered up a virtual anatomy presentation, while ASHS faculty members Jim Burkett, MS, PA-C, and Gerry Keenan, MMS, PA-C, conducted human patient simulator demonstrations.

Alumni, faculty, staff, and students join together to mark a major milestone in ASHS' history.

Alumni, faculty, staff, and students join together to mark a major milestone in ASHS’ history.

Grills sizzled on the back porch where families were treated to burgers, hot dogs, and a healthy dose of Arizona sunshine. Following lunch, guests retreated to the Saguaro classrooms for an hour-long presentation led by ASHS Dean Randy Danielsen, PhD, PA-C.

Also in attendance was ASHS Alumni Association President Geoffrey Hoffa, DHSc, ’14, MS, PA-C, ’00, DFAAPA. He discussed the growing network created by ASHS graduates and the impact that network can have on the School’s evolution into a preeminent institution in the United States.

The last 20 years

On Sept. 9, 1995, KCOMSWC opened its doors with programs in Physician Assistant Studies, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, and Sports Health Care. In 1997, the name of the School was officially changed to ASHS, and in 2001, ASHS moved to the Mesa campus it now calls home.

According to Dr. Danielsen, there were no Arizona-based programs in physician assistant studies or occupational therapy 20 years ago. KCOM had third- and fourth-year medical students completing clinical rotations in the Arizona region for many years and recognized an immediate need within the state for allied health professionals. Then, through a partnership with Grand Canyon University that provided land for the KCOMSWC building in Phoenix, ASHS was born.

The future

On ASHS’ horizon, Dr. Danielsen believes the School has to find a way to continue to position its disciplines to meet the needs of patients and find new and innovative ways to educate its students.

“We want to continue focusing on the ATSU mission to serve the underserved,” he said. “Our disciplines are primed to do that.”

Dr. Danielsen also believes there’s going to be a huge change in how health professions are taught, especially with advancements in technology. Therefore, he plans to identify other disciplines that are needed or even explore expansion of current programs.

“The biggest challenge we’re facing now in all of our programs is finding supervised clinical and fieldwork sites for our students,” Dr. Danielsen said. “I’m hoping this reconnection will help everyone see what our vision is – and want to be a part of it.”