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Published October 13, 2020
Two University of Wyoming College of Health Sciences educators have been honored as 2020 Wyoming Women of Influence by the Wyoming Business Report.
Dr. Beth Robitaille, a physician and chief medical officer with the Educational Health Center of Wyoming (EHCW), and Laura Capasso, a behavioral scientist and an assistant lecturer in the Family Medicine Residency Program in Cheyenne, were among nominees in 15 separate categories selected by the publication, which has honored influential women across Wyoming since 2013.
Robitaille received her award in the health care category and Capasso in education.
Two other UW faculty members also were nominated: Merav Ben-David, a zoology and physiology professor, in the education category; and Linda Thunstrom, an economics associate professor, in the government and economic development category.
The John P. Ellbogen Foundation sponsors the Women of Influence award. Robitaille, who is Ellbogen’s niece, says she will “always remember him for his fierce support for education,” because his mother was a teacher.
“Now, when I look back, I realize that he also always supported women and admired strong, intelligent and capable women -- so it makes sense that his foundation is behind this award,” Robitaille says.
Robitaille has been a family medicine physician for more than 20 years. She adds that the medical field has changed a lot since she went to medical school.
“Nowadays, medical school classes are at least half women, if not more. Women bring unique skills to the profession: intelligence, compassion, work ethic and tenacity,” Robitaille adds.
Jaime Hornecker, an assistant professor with the Casper residency program, nominated Robitaille for her award.
“I can't think of anyone who represents the specialty of family medicine and health care in Wyoming better than Dr. Robitaille,” Hornecker says. “She has made a tremendous impact on the lives of her patients and her colleagues, and has been a visionary at improving access to care as a leader within the EHCW. She epitomizes a woman of influence, regardless of category.”
Capasso provides psychotherapy as an integrated treatment option for patients, with an increased focus on underserved populations. She also leads physician residents and faculty in the exploration of individual and organizational implicit biases and potential barriers to providing the highest quality care to all patients, most notably from oppressed populations.
“This recognition is an honor that I am admittedly surprised by,” Capasso says. “The caliber of excellence, skill and heart of my fellow nominees is astounding to me. Women as a whole, and the work they are doing across our state and nation, are dear to me. So, I feel grateful and proud to be among them.”
Capasso is finishing her doctoral degree in counselor education and supervision. She says her goals are to provide education for women, whether they are patients or learners. She hopes to continue growing alongside the women she works with and cares for, helping them to use their voices in medicine and in life.
“I hope to continue to learn from their voices and experiences, too,” Capasso says. “It is women throughout my journey who have provided some of the most powerful learning, and I feel like working hard for this community is one way I can give back.”
Capasso’s older sister, Amber Barnhart, nominated her for the award.
“She has a passion for teaching and works to develop a broader strategy to bring mental health into the mainstream of health care quality improvement,” Barnhart says. “Laura empowers people by ensuring they feel seen and heard, and it is an honor to see her recognized as a leader within her field.”
For a list of nominees and recipients of the Wyoming Women of Influence award, visit www.wyomingbusinessreport.com/womenofinfluence/2020.