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Published November 11, 2022
The University of Wyoming College of Health Sciences honored six of its alumni during UW’s recent Homecoming.
Joan Anderson, Mary Gitau, Paul Johnson, Carl Maresh, Holly Miller and Marisa Yagi were honored for their accomplished careers in the fields of communication disorders, kinesiology and health, medical education, nursing, pharmacy and social work.
Distinguished alumni from the College of Health Sciences are recognized for their outstanding professional accomplishments and contributions to excellence in education related to their professions. They also demonstrate continued support for their social and professional communities.
This year’s honorees are:
Joan Anderson -- UW School of Pharmacy
Anderson, of Cheyenne, earned her bachelor’s degree in pharmacy, with honors, from the UW College of Pharmacy (now the School of Pharmacy) in 1959. As the only female graduate from the pharmacy college that year, she went on to become a Fulbright Scholar, studying at the Pharmacology Institute at the University of Oslo in Norway from 1959-1960. She also completed one of the first American Society of Health-System Pharmacists-accredited pharmacy practice residencies at Jefferson Medical College Hospital from 1963-64.
She then earned her master’s degree in pharmacy from the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science in 1964, and she received a master’s degree in education from Temple University College of Education in 1978.
She practiced acute care pharmacy and served in administrative positions at Memorial Hospital of Laramie County (now Cheyenne Regional Medical Center) in Cheyenne; West Nebraska General Hospital (now Regional West Medical Center) in Scottsbluff, Neb.; and Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. She was on faculty at the first pharmacy school in the U.S., the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Science, from 1981-2004, serving in leadership roles as vice chair, interim chair and assistant dean of student affairs. After retiring, she joined the faculty of the UW School of Pharmacy as the continuing education coordinator.
Anderson has been active in state, regional, national and international organizations, including the American Association of Higher Education, the American Pharmacists Association, the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, the International Pharmaceutical Federation and the Fulbright Alumni Association. She has given numerous presentations and served as faculty adviser to student pharmacy organizations.
Mary Gitau -- Division of Social Work
Gitau, an associate professor of social work at Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, is the recipient of three degrees from UW. She earned her M.A. in communication in 2007; a Master of Social Work in 2012; and a Ph.D. in adult learning and postsecondary education in 2011. She received her B.S. in organizational communication from Ithaca College in 2004.
Gitau integrates social work, communication and nursing into her teaching, scholarship and research. As an international scholar, she conducts research in both the U.S. and Kenya on immigration, women, social justice and human rights. In 2018, Gitau was awarded the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship hosted at Kisii University in Kenya. While there, she initiated the establishment of the Center for Peace, Social Justice, Equality and Security.
Her community service includes founding the Iowa nonprofit organization Gazelle Impact on Women & Youth in Kenya Inc., whose mission is to empower women and youth in rural Kenya. Working to foster intercultural competency, she has conducted numerous trainings in Iowa for both community agencies and the university.
Paul Johnson -- Wyoming WWAMI Medical Education Program
Johnson grew up in Laramie and graduated from Laramie High School in 1995. He earned his undergraduate degree in biology from Baylor University before entering UW’s third class of the Wyoming WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho) Medical Education Program in association with the University of Washington School of Medicine (UWSOM). After graduating from UWSOM in 2003, he completed his otolaryngology residency at Columbia University.
Johnson returned to the Cowboy State after completing his medical training. He lives in Cheyenne and practices there and in Laramie. An active member of the Wyoming Medical Society, he was the first Wyoming WWAMI graduate to serve as president. He is a regular contributor to classroom and clinical teaching in the Wyoming WWAMI Medical Education Program, and he serves as a member of the program’s advisory council. Additionally, Johnson has served on the UW College of Health Sciences Advisory Board.
Carl Maresh -- Division of Kinesiology and Health
Maresh earned his Ph.D. in zoology and physiology from UW in 1981. He received his B.S. in health and physical education in 1971 and his M.S. in health and exercise science in 1973, both from California State University-Fullerton.
He is a professor of kinesiology in the Department of Human Sciences at Ohio State University (OSU) in Columbus, where he also serves as director of the exercise science program and director of the exercise science research laboratories.
His first professional appointment was director of the Health Institute at Saint Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. He was then recruited to the Midwest Research Institute (now MRIGlobal) in Kansas City, where he served as a senior research scientist in the departments of Bio-Organic Chemistry and Bio-Behavioral Sciences. Before he began his position at OSU in 2014, Maresh was a Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor of Kinesiology at the University of Connecticut (UConn), where he held joint appointments in the departments of Physiology and Neurobiology, Nutritional Sciences, Physical Therapy and the School of Medicine.
As director of the Human Performance Laboratory at UConn from 1984-2014 and department head of kinesiology from 1998-2012, he was credited with bringing together a renowned group of scientists. As a result of focused teamwork, his department was ranked over a 10-year period (2005-2015) as the No. 1 kinesiology doctoral program and the most research productive kinesiology department in the U.S.
Holly Miller -- Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing
Miller was raised on a ranch in central South Dakota. She earned her A.A. degree in nursing from the University of South Dakota (USD) in 1974. She went on to earn two degrees from UW: a BSN in 1980 and an M.S. in nursing education in 1996.
Miller’s first nursing position was as a staff nurse at Sioux Valley Hospital (now Sanford USD Medical Center) in Sioux Falls, S.D., from 1974-78. She married her husband and moved to Laramie in 1978 so he could finish graduate school. From 1978-1988, she worked at Ivinson Memorial Hospital in the Intensive Care Unit.
In 1988, she started in the UW Fay W. Whitney School of Nursing as the coordinator of the Learning Resource Center. When the school moved to the remodeled current building in 2005, the Learning Resource Center was renamed the Clinical Simulation Center (CSC). Miller was responsible for designing the CSC and furnishing the different areas with equipment and high-fidelity simulators. In 2012, she became the Basic BSN Program director, followed by the BRAND Program director in 2017.
Additionally, she served as a clinical instructor in the hospital setting, and she has been an American Heart Association CPR instructor for 33 years.
After practicing nursing for 44 years, including 30 years with the School of Nursing, she retired in 2018. She continues to live in Laramie.
Marisa Yagi -- Division of Communication Disorders
Yagi is a Japanese American “third-culture kid.” She grew up in Egypt, Kenya and Japan, and she spoke no English until she was in junior high school. Her first experience of living in the U.S. was at UW, where she earned three degrees. She received her B.A. in visual arts in 2015; her B.S. in communication disorders in 2015; and her M.S. in speech-language pathology in 2017.
After becoming a certified speech-language pathologist, she started Yagi Speech LLC to provide accessible and affordable online and in-person speech-language services focused on the international, multicultural and multilingual communities. At 27, Yagi established a business unit in Okinawa, Japan, called ShisaCare, which, for the first time, enabled U.S. military service members and their families in Japan to receive speech-related services covered by TRICARE.
About the College of Health Sciences
UW’s College of Health Sciences trains health and wellness professionals and researchers in a wide variety of disciplines, including medicine, nursing, pharmacy, communication disorders, social work, kinesiology, community and public health, and disability studies.
The college also oversees residency and fellowship programs in Casper and Cheyenne, as well as operating primary care and speech/hearing clinics in Laramie, Casper and Cheyenne. With more than 1,600 undergraduate, graduate and professional students, the college is dedicated to training the health and wellness workforce of Wyoming and conducting high-quality research and community engagement, with a particular focus on rural and frontier populations.