Veteran Faculty Continue Service In The Classroom
Nov. 12, 2020
SHSU Media Contact: Hannah Haney
This November, as Sam Houston State University observes Veterans Day, meet the College of Health Sciences faculty that have exemplified the motto, “The measure of a Life is its Service,” in our Salute to Service Series
By Karen Leonhart
When you learn the stories of the veteran faculty that teach within the College of Health Sciences (COHS) at Sam Houston State University, you hear them echo not only the university motto, “The measure of a Life is its Service,” but also the college’s vision; “empower society to cultivate the enduring health of individuals and communities.” From transporting the people and tools needed for our service members to be successful in the field, to the planning of massive overseas medical operations, the COHS veteran faculty have incorporated close to 100 years of combined military service, and the experiences that come with it into their classrooms, continue the tradition.
Athletic training lab coordinator for the Kinesiology Department, Dr. Robinetta Hudson, knew the military was her path while still in high school. At the age of 17, with the permission of her mother, she enlisted in the U.S. Air Force as a delayed entry reservist so that she could remove the financial burden of going to college off of her family. Her original plan quickly changed with the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“It worked out to be an amazing opportunity for me because I had exposure to so many things in my deployment. It was part of my journey and helped put things into focus. You gain an amazing amount of discipline and this is helpful in athletic training because it's an ‘on the field’ mentality and you have to be able to command emergency situations,” Dr. Hudson, a combat veteran, said. “In the military you have to operate within the designated parameters of the mission, or someone could get killed. In the academic world and in athletic training though, there can be more than one solution to the problem and being a lifelong learner, that is exciting. I have a passion for education and at Sam Houston State, the student really is my mission.”
Dr. James Mobley, a Population Health adjunct instructor, has a very popular lecture on biological warfare.
“It's not an out of the book lecture when you include real war stories and can speak firsthand on nuclear, chemical and biological warfare. It’s not as dry as maybe a normal Epidemiology lecture might be,” he said.
Dr. Mobley retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of Brigadier General after 38 years of service and was commanding general of the 807th Medical Command. He is currently the Health Authority for San Patricio County, Texas.
“My missions in the U.S. Army always had a medical focus,” said Colonel Robert Harmon, clinical assistant professor in the School of Nursing. “It is something inexplainable when you're in the middle of the night by yourself and you're under pressure dealing with combat trauma running the show, this comes across in my teaching style. I use military storytelling and formative learning techniques because it's a mentorship program.”
Col. Harmon teaches Pharmacology and Pathophysiology courses.
“They are difficult classes because it's coaching and training in critical thinking. There can be two right answers instead of just one way to do it. It's their first experience with situational exercises, almost a basic training. It's about discipline, set the bar high, push them, be straight forward and teach them the thick skin that they need in the medical industry.”
“Honestly, I thought I was going to study biology when my company commander convinced me to go reserves and to go to college instead of an upcoming peacekeeping mission to Egypt,” Col. Harmon said. “Shortly after starting classes, my unit was lost in one of the largest air crashes in United States history, killing over 250 service members. This was a defining moment for me, and I decided on nursing and healthcare over biology and that I wanted to go back in as a trauma anesthetist because they deploy with special forces. When I commissioned back in army, I went to the 86th Combat Support Hospital.”
Col. Harmon retired from the Army and was recently honored by the Texas House of Representatives for his years of service and his work with the Montgomery County Veterans Court and Mighty Oaks Foundation.
When asked how military services impacts how he teaches, U.S. Navy veteran, Dr. Ray Newman answered that “it reinforces the need for thorough preparation, understanding the objective as well as the opposition, anticipating problems, and lots of training.”
Dr. Newman is a Professor and Chair of the Population Health Department which has recently launched two new master’s degrees, the Master’s of Public Health (MPH) and the Master’s of Science in Health Care Quality and Safety.
“My military service motivated my pursuit of higher education and directly impacted my career choices and most definitely my teaching style,” said Dr. Jack Runyan, faculty in the Department of Population Health. “I was a Navy Corpsman during the Vietnam conflict and in the late 1960's, Navy Corpsmen became the catalyst for development of the Physician Assistant profession. In the early 1970's only retired Corpsman were accepted into the programs. I was actually one of those original ex-Corpsman students, graduating from the second PA class at UTMB in Galveston in 1976. During Vietnam, Corpsmen were trained in 16 weeks to the equivalent of a two-year EMT training program. The style the military uses in ‘flash-training’ medics to be combat-ready has been my inspiration to teach in an approach that is somewhat unconventional or, at least, different.”
According to Harmon, the most important information that vet students need access to are the financial resources available, and SHSU does a good job of getting them that information.
“Veterans are nontraditional students, many of them dealing with life experiences that come with deployments, and having local resources such as counseling services to help with the transition process into a classroom is imperative,” Col. Robert Harmon said. “Sometimes they don't feel they fit in because they are older and, in many cases, more mature than some of the other students sitting in class around them. They used to be in a battle buddy mentality when they were in the service and then they get out and that’s gone, so sometimes they tend to isolate. Luckily, the local military population is one of the greatest and largest in the country. There's a huge military community in the area that offers support, resources and recognition to our local veterans.”
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