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Celebrate Health Professions through the eyes and whys of RMU faculty & students

Here at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMU), we are meeting healthcare needs and educating current and future healthcare professionals. Each student leaves RMU with the purpose of improving the human condition and the desire to love and lift those around them. 

Read on to meet the faculty and students at RMU who are the educators and future of healthcare!

Optometry: Spencer Johnson, OD, FAAO


Dr. Johnson is the lead instructor of the primary care/family practice courses in the Doctor of Optometry (OD) program here at RMU. 

Why did you choose the field of optometry? 

“I have always liked science, so to combine that with working directly with the public and enhancing their quality of life was a win-win.”

What brought you to RMU?

“The opportunity to develop a program from the ground up, with lessons learned from other institutions, and a top-notch team to work with.”

How do you hope to improve the human condition?

“I would love to see RMU Optometry be a leader, not only in the cutting-edge training we provide to our students but also in the delivery of world-class eye care to our patients in the RMU Eye Institute.”

Physician Assistant: John Baird, DMSc, PA-C, ATC


Dr. Baird is Instagram-famous. The opening of one of his lectures is the most viewed video on RMU’s social media, with 100,000 views and counting! When he’s not impressing social media viewers, he’s educating RMU’s Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAs) students.

Why did you choose the field of medicine as a Physician Assistant (PA)? 

“In 2003, I graduated from Brigham Young University in Sports Medicine and was certified as an Athletic Trainer. I really enjoyed taking care of patients in that capacity. But over time, I felt a need to both deepen and broaden my ability to practice, which led me back to PA school at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Montana, where I studied medicine and was certified as a Physician Assistant.”

What brought you to RMU? 

“When my former PA school faculty mentor, David Payne, was hired to start a PA program at RMU, he called me to see if I would be interested in joining his faculty. Years earlier, we had kicked around this very idea. The timing of his call worked out, so the decision was easy to make. I really enjoyed family medicine and Urgent Care and I have a deep desire and passion to educate others on quality medical practice. I felt like teaching would give me the greatest opportunity to “make a difference.” I’ve really enjoyed being an educator.”

How do you hope to improve the human condition?

“I hope that I can instill and emphasize the significance of healing. People come to us in their moments of fear and vulnerability, hoping, even praying, for help from someone. When that moment meets the RMU PA alumnus who is prepared, a miracle happens. People feel better, and hope is restored. In addition, my hope is that our graduates will be prepared not just to address the symptom(s) of the moment for the patient but to think about the patient holistically and those things which are not yet problems and to preserve their future health as well.”

Physical Therapy: Megan Gold


Megan is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) student at RMU. She also serves as the Student Senate Chair.

Why did you choose the field of physical therapy?

“I want to be a healthcare provider that provides life-changing care. Physical therapy is different from other medical professions because of the holistic approach that allows us to use our hands to provide treatment. Throughout life, I have been exposed to various situations of how the power of touch can be extremely healing. The hand, which is the chief organ of touch, allowed therapists to rehabilitate my mom after getting struck by lightning, increased my college basketball team’s chemistry, and my hands felt like a human brain containing someone’s memories and emotions. Through a handshake, a pat on the shoulder, or forms of soft tissue mobilization, the power of touch is an antidepressant, increases serotonin, and regulates dopamine to enhance memory. The healing abilities of touch potentiate the power of movement, and to rehabilitate people to move again is benevolent.” 

What brought you to RMU?

“I chose Rocky Mountain University because it is an organization that is built upon service, tenacity, the art of possibility, collaboration, and inclusivity. RMU provides opportunities for students to excel at a high level and create their own path to success, and supports you throughout your whole journey at the University.“

How do you hope to improve the human condition?

“The impact I want to make is to serve others with unconditional kindness. My role as a future physical therapist and the goal I want to accomplish every day is to live outside myself to create effective change in the world. I often find myself reflecting on the quote from former RMU President Dr. Richard P. Nielsen, ‘You do not have to go out of your way to serve somebody; you simply do it on your way.’”

Occupational Therapy: Matt Malcom, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA


Dr. Malcom is the Program Director and a Professor for the Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy program at RMU. In addition, he is the Associate Editor of the American Journal of Occupational Therapy. 

Why did you choose the field of occupational therapy? 

“I wanted to join a rehabilitation profession that had many varied opportunities.”

What brought you to RMU? 

“To be honest, I have been working towards leading an OT program for several years, and the opportunity to work at RMU as Program Director came at the perfect time. The people and the culture at RMU are striking to me. 

“I have enjoyed reading students’ life stories, which bear witness to the great efforts they made to get to your university and their impactful contributions as a RMU graduate.  Clearly, the faculty, staff, and administration are committed to the student experience as your graduates frequently celebrate the personalized attention and support they received during their education.  The faculty — across disciplines at RMU — are also quite impressive, serving as leaders within the state and nationally to advance policies, practice standards, and the evidence base.”

How do you hope to improve the human condition?

“Improve the effectiveness and quality of higher education in the United States.”

Counseling: Leonard Ah Mu


Leonard is a student in the Dual Master of Science in School Counseling and Clinical Mental Health Counseling at RMU. 

Why did you choose the field of counseling?

“I decided to pursue a career in counseling as it appeared to be the logical next step in light of my skills and extensive work experience. I have dedicated over 15 years to Human Services, with roles such as a psychiatric technician at the Utah State Hospital and a youth counselor/mentor in residential treatment settings. Currently, I am employed in the field of education at a charter school in Rose Park, where I interact with students from diverse backgrounds. It became evident that obtaining a master’s degree in counseling would enable me to enhance the support I provide to the individuals I work with.”

What brought you to RMU?

“For several years, I’ve had a close connection with the RMU family because my wife has been working there since we relocated from Hawaii to Utah. I made the decision to enroll at RMU because their counseling program appeared to meet the requirements for advancing my education and expertise. In addition to the program’s offerings, I have consistently observed the faculty and staff to be both knowledgeable and actively involved in their respective professions.”

How do you hope to improve the human condition?

“I am committed to the idea of continuing my work in assisting individuals who require support. Whether these individuals are students seeking guidance or clients in need of counseling, my overarching objective is to provide them with valuable assistance. I believe that by doing so, I can contribute to their well-being and personal growth, making a positive impact on their lives. This commitment is rooted in the belief that helping those in need can lead to personal and societal benefits, creating a ripple effect of positive change.”

Health Sciences: Erin M. Miller, PhD, LAT, ATC


Dr. Miller wears many hats at RMU. She currently serves as an Associate Professor, PhD in Health Sciences, a Concentration Track Director, Orthopedic Sport Sciences, and a Dissertation Process Administrator, PhD in Health Sciences. In addition, she is also a Certified Athletic Trainer! 

Why did you choose the field of health sciences?

I chose the field of health sciences because health science professionals have a unique opportunity to make a meaningful positive impact on people’s daily lives. When I was 13, I suffered a major ligament injury in my knee that required surgery and one year of intense physical therapy. It was an excruciating experience, and healthcare professionals were there for me and supported me physically, mentally, and emotionally when I felt at my worst and when I needed it the most. I pursued a career in the health sciences to pay it forward and get the opportunity to breathe support into others the way it was shown to me. Now, as a healthcare educator, clinician, and researcher, I get the chance every day to invest in others, help patients get from where they are to where they want to be, and empower students to help their patients achieve their healthiest, best lives.”

What brought you to RMU?

“Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions is one of the most unique health professions universities in the world. I chose to join the team at RMU as faculty of the PhD in Health Sciences program because the University authentically cares about its students. From the administrators to the faculty, every move that RMU makes is genuinely focused on improving the student’s learning experience. My teaching philosophy is student-centered, so I am thankful to have the opportunity to align myself with a University like RMU that shares the same vision for student-centered healthcare education.”

How do you hope to improve the human condition?

“I am passionate about evidence-based practice. I believe that healthcare professionals serve their patients best when cutting-edge evidence and research informs their clinical decisions. I will seek to make the biggest impact in the future by teaching healthcare professionals how to conduct, understand, and apply research in their respective fields. By training the next generation of caring, capable, and evidence-based clinicians, I hope to improve the quality and effectiveness of our healthcare system.”

Speech-Language Pathology: Shirnett Kerr, MA CCC-SLP


Shirnett, who was born and raised in Jamaica, is a Doctor of Speech-Language Pathology (SLPD) student at RMU. She also worked in public education for 21 years and as an adjunct professor at Rutgers University.

Why did you choose the field of speech-language pathology?

“Funny story. I used to be an occupational therapy major, so I have 96 credits of OT floating around in my head. But speech always pulled me. I always wanted to either be an occupational therapist or a speech pathologist, and I toyed with both ideas for a while. My senior year of college, after I got into the OT program, I was like, ‘No, I still really love speech and this is what I really want to do.’ So I switched majors, got into the (SLP) program and worked really, really hard to finish the major in record time. I love helping people communicate, and so that’s always been the pull to the program. I think everyone deserves a voice.”

What brought you to RMU?

“I worked in a pre-K through eighth-grade public school since my 21st year, and I always knew I wanted to go back for a clinical doctorate. For years, I’ve kind of waited for this program to be created, and I researched a lot of different universities. I think what set it (RMU) for me is I went to a question and answer session that Dr. Sandy (Sandra Shigetomi-Toyama) held, and it just felt so warm and personal. They were open to listen to all the questions we had and the email follow-up. That really intrigued me about (RMU).”

How do you hope to improve the human condition?

“The goal is to attain as much knowledge as I can about the field and evidence-based practices for the population that I work with. I started being an adjunct professor last semester, and I really like it. I have a passion for graduate students and mentoring the next set of graduate clinicians. As a result, I usually have graduate students that I’m working with, so that’s the next step. I would really like to get into higher academia and foster graduate externships for speech pathology.”

Kristi Hammersley, RN

Kristi is a specialty registered nurse (RN) who is also an RMU student working toward her Master of Science in Nursing- Family Nurse Practitioner / Emergency Nurse Practitioner.

Why did you choose the field of nursing?

As a dedicated follower of medicine and an empathetic individual, I have always been drawn towards the noble profession of nursing. The profound desire to make a positive impact on people’s lives, offer compassionate care, and provide comfort during their most vulnerable times is what sparked my journey to study nursing.” 

What brought you to RMU?

After extensive research and evaluation, I found that RMU’s MSN FNP/ENP dual program perfectly aligned with my goals, values, and aspirations in the field of healthcare. The faculty members at RMU are not only highly knowledgeable but also dedicated to providing top-notch education that prepares students like me to make a positive impact on patient care. The ENP program director, Dr. Kristina Davis, is dedicated to her craft, and the countless lives she has positively impacted truly make this program stand out. Dr. Davis’ passion for education is infectious, and she goes above and beyond to ensure that her students not only grasp the material but also grow as individuals. The knowledge and skills that she and the other faculty imparts leave a lasting impact, setting their students up for future success.

“Apart from the outstanding education, RMU fosters a close-knit community. I am eternally grateful for my time at RMU and the opportunities it has brought my way. I leave with not only an education but also a greater sense of purpose and determination to make a positive impact on the world.”

How do you hope to improve the human condition?

“I strongly believe that my role as a Nurse Practitioner extends far beyond the traditional medical tasks. I am committed to making a significant impact in my field by providing compassionate and comprehensive healthcare to my patients. Being on the frontlines of patient care, I strive to improve health outcomes and promote wellness through evidence-based practice, thorough assessments, and patient education. I hope to deliver the highest standard of care and drive positive change within the healthcare system.”