New faculty highlight Liberty’s commitment to excellence in academics

September 20, 2013

As Liberty University ramps up to the opening of the College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2014, the school is stockpiling talented professors and researchers in the health care field. This fall marks the beginning of a professional relationship between Liberty and some of its newly acquired academic all-stars.

Dr. Ron Godwin, senior vice president for Academic Affairs and provost, recognizes how new professors will profoundly impact the direction of the rapidly growing university.

“We have always been known, and have been proud to be known, as a teaching university,” Godwin said. “But we are also going to begin to carve out an identity as a research university.”

Several of Liberty’s recently hired faculty will immediately enhance Liberty’s research credentials by bringing expertise from projects widely respected in the medical field. Others are bringing ideas for community-based projects that will improve health care offerings in Central and Southside Virginia and reflect the university’s core Christian values.

Here are just some of Liberty’s new faculty for the 2013-14 academic year.

Dr. Ken Dormer
Chair, Patho-Physiology & Applied Pharmacology, College of Osteopathic Medicine

Dr. Ken DormerDr. Ken Dormer, who will head the physiology and pharmacology program at Liberty’s new medical school, brings with him a world-recognized background in hearing technology and cardiovascular research.

Dormer, 69, was recently employed at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center in Oklahoma City, where he had served for more than 30 years.

Dormer said he was attracted to Liberty’s Christian values.

“I have seen the value of Christian doctors who have care and compassion for their patients,” he said. “That’s the mission at Liberty because of the school’s spiritual component. That’s what I am all about.”

He said he is excited about helping Liberty launch its College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“The medical school has immeasurable potential for producing quality doctors who are going to be needed,” he said. “We will need doctors who will treat the whole person with primary medical care as well as those who are underserved, whether they are in the poor areas of this country or globally.”

Dormer was a marine biology undergraduate student at Cornell University before going on to receive his doctorate from UCLA. He became intrigued with the hearing mechanisms of humans after studying biosonar in dolphins and whales.

The research he has done in partnership with hearing specialists has resulted in implantable hearing devices now used by more than 200,000 patients worldwide.
Additionally, Dormer has been performing research on targeted drug delivery systems using magnetic nanoparticles (nanomedicine).

Together with colleagues in cardiology, electrophysiology, pathology, pharmacology, physics, and bioengineering, Dormer is using magnetic nanoparticles to target an area of the heart responsible for causing atrial fibrillation (AF).

AF is the most common arrhythmia in the world. It is physically debilitating and a common cause of strokes. Dormer’s method treats an area only the size of a quarter, without circulating medicines throughout the whole body. This method is safer, more effective, and less costly.

Dr. Joseph Brewer
Chair, Molecular and Cellular Sciences, College of Osteopathic Medicine

Dr. Joseph BrewerDr. Joseph Brewer will head the new College of Osteopathic Medicine’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Sciences.

He grew up in Alabama and received his undergraduate degree from Auburn University before completing his doctorate in immunology at Duke University in 1995.

He said the department’s primary mission will be teaching.

“We want to provide an outstanding learning experience that is Christian based,” Brewer said. “Eventually, we will build research programs that complement our teaching mission.”

Brewer, 45, served eight years on the faculty at Loyola University School of Medicine in Chicago before spending the past six years teaching at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine.

“When I learned about the project at Liberty, to build a Christian medical school from the ground up, I was very attracted to that,” he said. “My wife and I spent time thinking and praying about it, and we felt it was the right fit for us. We feel that God opened the door for us to be part of this special blessing.”

With research funding from the National Institutes of Health for the past 14 years, Brewer earned an international reputation for his studies of cellular responses to physiologic stress, including types of stress experienced by cancer cells.

Brewer said he expects research to become a viable part of the school’s educational offerings, particularly in a few years when the school is fully established and collaborative interactions have developed among faculty.

“Now is an exciting time of team building at the medical school,” Brewer said. “Together, we are doing the foundational work of developing a strong curriculum and excellent teaching programs.”

Dana Woody
Lead Assistant Professor of Nursing Pediatrics, School of Health Sciences

Dana WoodyDana Woody, 34, combines the perspective of a Central Virginia resident with a Christian ethic in her new role as a full-time nursing instructor at Liberty.

Woody, who grew up on a farm in Appomattox County, Virginia, embraces her role of training young nurses who may one day serve the underserved populations throughout the United States and abroad.

She was drawn to Liberty because it allows her to combine her Christian beliefs with the profession she loves.

“There is no better feeling for me than being at a place where I can let my spiritual light shine,” she said. “To me, nursing is not an occupation. Nursing is a passion where you can serve a risen savior. I love being able to plant those seeds in students, who then can take that message throughout the world.”

Woody has been a nurse for 14 years, working as a private practice pediatrics nurse and then for Centra, where she became the heart failure nurse coordinator. As part of her Centra résumé, she helped develop a community-based disease management program.(Centra is a regional nonprofit healthcare system based in Lynchburg,Va., serving more than 300,000 residents in 38 locations throughout Central and Southside Virginia.)

Woody graduated from Lynchburg College in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and received her master’s in nursing education from there in 2011. She will teach pediatrics and community health at Liberty and is also a nursing instructor with Liberty University Online.

In addition to her job at Liberty, Woody is helping start a congregational nurse program at Thomas Road Baptist Church. She also hopes to start a mobile health clinic for underserved communities in Central and Southside Virginia.

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