We’re proud of the ambitions and accomplishments of our students and alumni – learn some of their stories in our monthly feature:
Mike Phillips ’23
Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences program
As a second-generation respiratory therapist, Mike Phillips is following in his mother’s career footsteps. After earning his degree from Reading Area Community College, he began working in the field in 1999. Mike has also volunteered extensively with the American Red Cross Disaster Services, the Akron Volunteer Fire Company and the Ephrata Community Ambulance Association. Today, he is the Neonatal Pediatric Coordinator in the Respiratory Care Department of Penn Medicine Lancaster General Hospital, overseeing respiratory care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, as well as pediatric respiratory care throughout the health system. “I love being a respiratory therapist due to its ever-changing challenges, and I have a love for neonatal and pediatric care,” Mike shares.
To continue to grow within leadership and management, Mike enrolled in PA College’s Bachelor of Science in Health Sciences degree program and is also studying for a professional certificate in health care administration. He chose our program for its flexible learning approach, allowing a busy, working parent to earn a degree while meeting all of life’s responsibilities. “I am excited to see this journey’s final destination. I love to teach and educate and hope to impact new respiratory therapists just starting their careers,” adds Mike. In fact, he recently gave a presentation to current PA College Respiratory Care students about inhaled nitric oxide therapy in the NICU, a treatment for newborns with a condition called Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension, helping them to convert to living outside of the womb. Mike also spoke to the health care system impact of this expensive therapy.
Mike’s experiences as a respiratory therapist during the COVID-19 pandemic have been profound and he is immensely proud to be part of this field at this critical time. He notes that while the physical conditions for health care workers have been of course challenging, it has been the mental impact that he and many others feel most acutely. Over the past year, while battling an unknown virus, Mike has helped care for the sickest patients he’s ever seen. “During this pandemic, we have not been able to save everyone. We see many patients die, which has absolutely pulled at our hearts. Many patients were unable to have their family with them at the bedside as they were dying. The healthcare team – including the respiratory therapist – held their hand while they took their last breaths so they did not pass away alone. And yet, for the many who did survive, we have been celebrating every success along the way, and stand ready to care for our patients and community in any way we can,” shares Mike.
Along with his wonderful wife Jennifer and their four children, Mike’s family includes a “spoiled fur baby,” Bandit. He enjoys the outdoors – hunting and fishing, as well as camping with family and friends.
Megan Gillespie ’01, MBA, MSN, RN, NEA-BC
Chief Nurse Executive, Kaiser Permanente, Santa Clara Medical Center
“Getting started is often the most difficult step, however once you have a plan and are dedicated, anything is possible.” Megan Gillespie ‘01 has accomplished much in her career so far, but she hasn’t forgotten the obstacles she overcame early on. She enrolled in PA College’s then nursing diploma program when her son was only one year old, inspired by her Healthy Beginnings Plus nurse. Those days were difficult, but Megan points to the support of her family as well as clinical instructors Debra Leed and (now Dean of Nursing), Dr. Cheryl Grab who were “amazing, challenging, and inspired us to understand both the art and science of nursing.” She adds: “I credit PA College with the strong foundation in nursing which set me up for success. PA College also assisted me with grant and scholarship funds to continue my education, which was a challenge as a new mother.”
After graduation in 2001, Megan started out working in Labor and Delivery at Women & Babies Hospital. She also soon joined a nursing agency to ensure that she would be able to continue to expand her clinical skills across adult services. Megan earned her BSN from Immaculata University in 2005 and later returned to PA College as an adjunct clinical instructor, while also fulfilling her then Nurse Manager role. As Megan’s nursing career changed from a clinical focus to leadership, she discovered how much more she needed to learn. After earning her MSN, it became apparent that understanding the business aspect of healthcare was vital to address priority concerns facing our country including healthcare equity, cost of care delivery, patient safety and quality, and resilience of the healthcare team. Megan shares: “My journey through achieving my MBA, where I was the only nurse in my class, helped me understand how much we have to learn from business sectors outside of healthcare.”
Megan is currently the Chief Nurse Executive at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center; a major teaching, not for profit quaternary medical center and a regional Perinatal and Pediatrics center, and regional cardiac center comprising Kaiser Foundation Hospitals. This past year has been equally inspiring and challenging, shares Megan, as her Center was a hot spot for the COVID-19 pandemic. “We quickly become the ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) referral center for COVID patients meeting criteria that had exhausted all other treatment options. Our team rose to the occasion and was able to help patients with a second chance at life through this specialty care,” Megan explains. “This past Year of the Nurse highlighted the vital role nursing plays in population health and wellbeing. I am grateful to have had a team so dedicated to lean in and navigate the challenges through this historical time. It highlighted what we are capable of, and what we must ensure is not repeated.”
An invited national speaker on topics including high reliability, quality, leadership, and team culture, Megan is currently focusing on the science behind creating a healthy work environment by leveraging transformational leadership and high reliability in her executive leadership doctoral studies at the University of San Francisco. She has been nominated for the 2021 Tribute to Women Awards, honoring Silicon Valley’s women who have made significant contributions to the region in executive roles.
Megan lives Santa Clara County, California. She enjoy spending time with her five children, husband, and dog. Minutes from both the mountains and the coast, they enjoy hiking, spending time outdoors, and cooking. As the pandemic impact trends down, the family is looking forward to traveling back east to see family and friends. Megan’s nursing legacy is also evident close to home; her oldest son is currently completing his general education requirements for nursing and plans to enter his registered nurse program next year.
Seeking People of PA College
Do you know an exceptional current student or alumnus whose experiences and accomplishments would help tell the PA College story? Or someone who has overcome an obstacle or reached a challenging milestone during their PA College experience? Please email your suggested names (and identify them in one of these categories) to Karen Jenkins. Self-nominations are also welcome!