Alumni Spotlight: Chris Wolfinger ’15 Lands Head Athletic Trainer Position

deans_letter_chris_wolfing_hockey_webChris Wolfinger ’15 has come a long way from when he first played ice hockey at the age of five. He now holds the position of Head Athletic Trainer at the San Jose Barracuda Hockey Club, an AHL affiliate of the San Jose Sharks. For Wolfinger this is a dream come true. He explains, “It’s been a dream of mine to work in professional ice hockey. Now that I’m in the field, it’s been exciting having the opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge I’ve obtained to helping these professional athletes participate at their highest potential physically and mentally.” His interest in hockey has influenced his choices academically and now professionally. “Growing up playing ice hockey really molded my career aspirations. I knew I wanted to work in the medical field and knew that the athletic training/physical therapy route would be a good way to get there.”

Wolfinger knows from experience the value of internships and how they can lead to career opportunities. Describing his experience he said, “I would go in and shadow the San Jose Sharks medical staff whenever I had the opportunity. Each time I went in I would offer to help in any capacity. I demonstrated confidence in my skills and developed a good rapport with both the staff and players. These small opportunities eventually led to the opportunity to apply and eventually interview for the position I currently hold.”

Wolfinger was able to transfer many of the skill acquired during his time at Pacific into his role working with the players of the San Jose Barracudas. He explains, “I was able to develop high level manual therapy skills, as well as examination and evaluation of musculoskeletal injuries during my time at Pacific. The trend of professional sports seems to be going towards hiring a team PT. Having the DPT degree provided me with a high level of critical thinking skills as well as injury pattern recognition and quality treatment strategies.”

His advice for students pursuing internship opportunities is to “Be the hardest worker in the room, in whatever setting you go into.” To make the most of an internship, networking is key. When networking he recommends acting with professionalism in all interactions. He said, “Be professional when sending emails [and making] phone calls to potential employers.” He adds, “It doesn’t hurt to send a resume in your introduction email, that way the employer can start to get a feel for you who are.”

He again emphasized the importance of hard work and dedication. “It’s all about putting in the time and hard work, whether that’s in the world of academia or the professional world. Be confident with the skills and experience you obtained while in school.” Reflecting on his experiences, he expressed that he would “absolutely” facilitate an internship if he had the capacity to do so and he strongly encourages his fellow alumni to do so as well.

To learn about how your business or organization could host an internship please contact Casey Nesbit, PT, DPT, DSc, PCS, Director of Clinical Education, at 209.946.2399 or To hear about upcoming networking events follow us at


Faculty Spotlight: Melanie Felmlee, PhD

Felmlee resizedMelanie Felmlee, PhD, admits she teaches a class that isn’t a student favorite: Pharmacokinetics & Advanced Drug Delivery Systems. Yet, students’ initial thoughts don’t deter her. As an assistant professor of Pharmaceutics and Medicinal Chemistry, Dr. Felmlee chose the teaching profession because it is “flexible and fun.” She uses students’ perceptions to help her create a curriculum based on “active learning with ongoing conversations” that will encourage students to appreciate the subject and look at it from different perspectives. “Pharmacokinetics doesn’t appeal to everyone so I try to find interesting ways to teach students how to appreciate and utilize the content and formulas,” said Dr. Felmlee.

Dr. Felmlee received her bachelor of science in biomedical toxicology from University of Guelph, her master of science in pharmacy from University of Saskatchewan and her doctor of philosophy in pharmaceutical sciences from SUNY, University at Buffalo where she also completed a postdoctoral fellowship. Dr. Felmlee is the author of over 30 peer-reviewed publications and abstracts. She is a member of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS), the American Society of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics (ASPET) and the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP).

Her research interests are in the areas of drug transport, pharmacokinetics and pharmacogenomics, specifically looking at the role of transporter expression/regulation in modifying drug pharmacokinetics and toxicity.

Prior to coming to Pacific, Dr. Felmlee and her family lived in New York for 10 years. She describes Pacific as “family-like, comfortable and familiar.” In New York, she had an acre of land which she used to garden – a hobby that she loves. She also enjoys house renovations and construction work.


Faculty Spotlight: Gabriella Musacchia, PhD

Gabriella Musacchia resizedAs a professional trumpet player, Gabriella Musacchia, PhD, became interested in psychobiology of music which led her to study how live music changes the way people perceived a song. Recently, Dr. Musacchia joined the Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology as an assistant professor. She received her bachelor of arts in psychobiology from University of California, Santa Cruz and her doctor of philosophy in communication sciences and disorders from Northwestern University.

“I chose to focus in audiology and communication sciences and disorders because I became fascinated not only with music, but with the physics of sound and speech, and how these signals are transposed from the pinna to the cortex,” said Dr. Musacchia.

Dr. Musacchia joined Pacific for its excellence in professional education and she is “impressed by the commitment of the department and school administration to further that goal.” She plans to use an individualized approach to curriculum and assessment to prepare future audiologists. Her approach incorporates classroom participation, demonstrations, group breakout sessions and “learning by doing.”

“Today’s audiologists need to be prepared to communicate professionally with patients, researchers, medical doctors and business professionals. Therefore, they not only need to be proficient in their skills but also have a working knowledge of research, physics and physicality of the hearing mechanism,” she said.

In her early professional career, she conducted research for the W.M. Keck Foundation Center for Integrative Neurosciences at University of California, San Francisco and Brain-Computer Interface Development at the N.A.S.A. Ames Research Center in Mountain View. Dr. Musacchia completed a post-doctoral fellowship sponsored by the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (F32) at the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research in Orangeburg, New York. Following this, she completed a second post-doctoral position in developmental neuroscience at the Infancy Studies Laboratory at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers University in Newark.

Her research interests revolve around the neuronal mechanisms of hearing. She is also active in foundations for early music education (e.g. VH1 Save the Music) and is the developer and president of Baby Rhythms®, a music program for infants and toddlers.

“My long-term goal is to generate research that is translatable to the classroom and clinic.”

A few interesting facts about Dr. Musacchia include: she is currently learning to speak Korean, she played trumpet in a 15-piece funk and disco band during her twenties, and she has a weakness for peanut butter and chocolate ice cream, but does not like chocolate.


Student Spotlight: April Nguyen ’16

April NguyenApril Nguyen ‘16 means business when it comes to her role as the 2014-2015 vice president of legislative affairs. Originally drawn to the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences for its accelerated program, Nguyen spent time considering other options but found the School to have the most efficient and challenging pharmacy program in California, as well as a focus on leadership, outreach and networking.

In her leadership capacity, she served as a state liaison representing the pharmacy student body and local pharmacist associations. During the first legislative week at University of the Pacific, Nguyen organized eight events, which promoted the potential impact student pharmacists can make on legislation. Her leadership in organizing the annual “Immunize the Mayor” event resulted in a City of Stockton proclamation that officially named October as American Pharmacists Month. Through her role, she also was able to collaborate with state and national associations to give pharmacy students and professionals a voice in the United States Congress.

“As student [pharmacists], we have the power to impact the patients we serve on a larger level, but students often feel too intimidated by the political implications to consider themselves an advocate. I wanted to take on this role to disseminate information to advance advocacy efforts and increase opportunities for students to become actively involved in the profession,” said Nguyen.

Nguyen is deeply involved in the community and strives to use her Vietnamese and English interpreting skills to benefit underserved populations. In the fall, she organized the American Pharmacist’s Association-Academy of Student Pharmacist’s (APhA-ASP) first health fair at the Midtown Farmers Market in Sacramento – which resulted in collaborations between several pharmacy schools. The event provided patient consultations to 400 community members in Hmong, Spanish, and Vietnamese.

In addition, she is currently on the books and electronic products editorial advisory board at the American Pharmacists Association. She provides the board with a student’s perspective when considering curriculum revisions and works in collaboration with the board at its annual meeting. The group analyzes and recommends new books and e-products that may be helpful to pharmacy students, professionals and technicians. In March, Nguyen was one of the first three students to be recognized nationally as an APhA-ASP trained advocate. The training series recognizes student pharmacists who have advocated extensively for the profession and inspired other students to become advocates.

After graduation, her goal is to work with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. She hopes to advance the pharmacy profession through regulatory and legislative affairs. Nguyen is passionate about educating the American public on drug safety and regulation as well as the role of pharmacists in health care.

“I hope to establish a tradition of collaboration and advocacy through initiatives such as legislative week or the APhA-ASP Health Fair at [the] Midtown Farmers Market to increase awareness of the services that pharmacists can provide to the community,” said Nguyen.

In her free time Nguyen enjoys traveling to exciting locales where she samples food and collects postcards. She also relishes spending time with her family and singing duets with her sister. Since her grandparents instilled a strong sense of her heritage, she is grateful to have the opportunity to practice her patient counseling skills in Vietnamese. Nguyen’s enduring role models have also been her parents who she sees as examples for success in life.


Zachary Contreras ‘88, PharmD, Served as Keynote Speaker at Pacific’s Latino Graduation Ceremony

In March, Zachary Contreras ‘88, PharmD, took his son to Pacific for the annual summer soccer camp. Little did he know, it would land him the role as keynote speaker for the Pacific Latino Graduation Ceremony. The ceremony is an annual bilingual celebration that honors more than 100 Latino graduates and welcomes more than 200 family and friends.

“After meeting with Ines Ruiz-Huston, EdD, Latino community outreach program coordinator, and learning more about the program I knew I wanted to be involved in such a great initiative. I was honored and humbled to be asked to deliver a message to such a distinguished group of young men and women,” said Contreras.Latino grad picture 2015_resized

The Latino community outreach program serves as a bridge and hub for the local community and Latino-based community organizations. It has an average of 36 recruitment and pipeline programs and reaches over 6,000 students a year. Dr. Contreras grew up in the Latino community and although he admits he was a bit naïve, he also had great family support. In his keynote address, he reminded students to “remember the sacrifices they made, to always give back, and never forget where they came from.”

“Some of these young men and women have grown up in adverse situations. I feel it is important to work with the program to help ensure they are successful and given the best opportunity to succeed,” said Contreras.

“We were honored to have Dr. Contreras as our keynote speaker. He is an inspiration for us all. We are truly blessed to have him in our Pacific family,” said Dr. Ruiz-Huston.

Dr. Contreras earned his doctor of pharmacy degree from Pacific in 1988 and has worked in many pharmacy industries including retail, managed care, clinical practice management, health care business intelligence and pharmacy benefit management. Currently, he is the pharmacy benefits coordinator for Sutter Select, Sutter Health.

During his undergraduate years at Pacific, he played soccer and his passion for the sport continues. Dr. Contreras holds a United States Soccer Federation national “C” coaching license and coaches at various levels. He is married to his wife of 26 years, Suzette, and they have three sons, Zachary (25), Zane (20), and Jackson (17).

When asked about his mentors he said, “My boys remind me that no matter how funny or cool I try to be, I’ll always be ‘dad.’ Last but most importantly, my biggest mentor is my wife. She keeps me grounded, shows me how to be positive and helps me keep a balanced perspective on life.”


Faculty Spotlight: Kate O’Dell

Kate ODell_2_revisedKate O’Dell, PharmD, the new director of professional programs and vice chair of pharmacy practice, has many years working in experiential pharmacy education and has worked as a regional coordinator for the past 10 years. As a current preceptor, she prides herself in her ability to support students as they apply classroom knowledge to practical settings.

As the director of professional programs, Dr. O’Dell is tasked with supporting the integration of the Introductory Pharmacy Practice Experience (IPPE) and Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (APPE) Programs. She plans to work in partnership with experiential coordinators and staff in an endeavor to streamline operational functions of these programs. She hopes to continue to work with the large cohort of preceptors and decision makers to enhance experiential education to our students. She also plans to redefine some student activities and roles at host institutions as well as developing formal assessments for the Hospital IPPE course.

“Dr. O’Dell’s new role as director of professional programs is pivotal in integrating the Introductory and Advanced Pharmacy Practice Experience (IPPE and APPE) programs and bringing innovation to elevate the depth and scope so that our graduates are practice-ready,” said Allen Shek, PharmD, professor of pharmacy practice, associate dean for professional programs.

Dr. O’Dell will draw on her recent experience as the coordinator for the Stockton Region. “Being an experiential faculty from two regions (Stockton and Travis) gave me insight on effective methods to build on the interpersonal relationships with the large group of preceptors and decision makers,” said Dr. O’Dell. Prior to this role, she worked in Michigan before joining the School’s faculty as a regional coordinator at Travis Air Force Base.

Born into an immigrant family, Dr. O’Dell is the youngest of four siblings. She carries with her the spirit of her parents who developed her work ethic, humility and respect. “I strive to do my best and hope to teach my students the same,” said Dr. O’Dell.

In her free time Dr. O’Dell enjoys expanding her mind by studying music theory with her son. “Although my son is much better at piano than me, I am glad to be able to take on this new challenge, to be able to learn alongside him,” said Dr. O’Dell.


Student Spotlight: Seth Turner ’15

Turner and his wife, Katie.
Turner and his wife, Katie.

Seth Turner ‘15 put all his eggs in one basket when he applied solely to the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. He was so amazed by the School that he did not feel the need to apply anywhere else. Fortunately, he is now a second year speech-language pathology graduate student.

“[The] professors are deeply committed to the students and are at the top of their field,” said Turner. “The program has a small class size and offers tons of individual attention. Furthermore, I would bet that there isn’t a speech-language pathology program anywhere that is more hands-on than University of the Pacific.”

Prior to joining the School, Turner lived in Pasadena, Calif., where he studied theology. While at the seminary he met his wife, Katie, of two and a half years. He had hoped to finish his master’s degree and eventually become a professor of biblical theology and ancient languages, but after working in a local school district as an in-home instructor for special-needs students (who could not attend class because of medical or behavioral issues), he decided to change his career path. After graduation, Turner hopes to continue working with school children, while also working per-diem in a medical setting.

Turner has high opinions of all his professors but Turner’s favorite is Robert Hanyak ‘79, AuD, associate professor of audiology and department chair. Turner said his lectures are very practical and informative but also that he seems to truly care about every student. When asked to give prospective students advice, Turner suggested talking to the School’s professors.

“It is important to gain insight about the profession and what it takes to become a health care practitioner,” said Turner.

Turner was born and raised in Stockton, Calif. He leads a local group that meets monthly to read biblical passages in ancient Hebrew and Greek. In his free time he enjoys playing Frisbee golf with his wife. He also prides himself in his baking abilities, stating he makes a mean apple pie.

By: Matthew Muller ‘14

Student Spotlight: Sunny Nagra ’16

Sunny Nagra_resizedSunny Nagra ‘16 comes from a family of entrepreneurs and has successfully integrated his pharmacy knowledge and entrepreneurial prowess with the development of a mobile application (app) called ‘Immunizations – Find, record, and learn about your next vaccine.’ “The goal of the app is to help give Pacific’s Operation Immunization Committee the potential to impact more patients,” said Nagra. Thanks to Nagra, patients can search for the School’s immunization clinics, educational events and local immunizing pharmacies. Patients can even record their vaccination records electronically through the app.

Nagra is an integral member of the American Pharmacist Association-Academy of Student Pharmacists (APhA-ASP) and serves as co-chair of its Operation Immunization Committee. “I love working on this committee because the other co-chairs and project managers all work together in order to make sure that we always have successful events that positively impact patients’ lives,” said Nagra. He joins committee members, who provide services and education, at community clinics and health fairs. The joy and thankfulness of the patients is always very rewarding for him.

At the 2014 APhA-ASP midyear meeting, Nagra was honored with the APhA-ASP member recognition for the Pacific chapter. He received the award because of his steadfast involvement in the organization. He plans to continue in his dedication to the betterment of the pharmacy profession and patients’ lives. Since March Nagra has served on the APhA-ASP National Communications Standing Committee, which contributes to the association’s publication and various other electronic communications.

Nagra foresees rapid advancement in pharmacy practice and hopes to be a part of that progress. “The pharmacist can play a larger role in patient care with the introduction of [mobile] health, consumer wearable biometrics and other new technologies,” said Nagra.

Recently, Nagra created his second app, Provider Status, which allows users to find out if they live in a Medically Underserved Community, learn more about Provider Status and how pharmacist can help bridge the health care gap and find representatives in Washington, DC to advocate for pharmacists and Provider Status.

In addition to developing apps for iPhones, Nagra enjoys photography. In high school, he won the local Congressional Art Competition which earned him an exhibition spot in the U.S. Capitol for a year.


Alumni Spotlight: Mimi Tran ’04, ’05

Mimi Tran_resizedMimi Tran ‘04, ‘05 is a speech-language pathology clinical instructor at the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Her return to the classroom allows her to reconnect with faculty, serve as a mentor to students and hopefully make a positive impact on her students’ careers. In addition to teaching, her second semester, she is grateful for the opportunity to inspire determination and passion in students as they work with clients at the Speech and Hearing Clinic. “My teaching philosophy is that we not only need to challenge our students, but also ourselves as professionals. We all need to be reminded that we are in a helping profession. In order to help individuals in need, we need to continue to educate ourselves and maximize the full potential of our clients based on the knowledge and resources that we have,” said Tran.

Years of practical experience have taught Tran that conventional methods are not always effective for every client. Therefore, she encourages students to use their intuition in treatment techniques particularly in challenging cases. She loves hearing students report accomplishments, such as when they are finally able to hear their clients speak without difficulty.

Tran hopes to continue working as a clinical instructor as she builds a stronger relationship with the Pacific community. She also looks forward to keeping touch with her peers through the Speech-Language Pathology Alumni Association where she serves as board member. In the larger civic community, Tran plans to volunteer more of her time at the local women’s shelter and animal shelter. She also enjoys spending time with her dogs; a 6-year-old French Mastiff and 12-year-old Corgi. Her other hobbies include running and art; she enjoys sketching, oil painting, calligraphy, crocheting and origami.


Student Spotlight: Rebecca DeCarlo ’16

Rebecca DeCarlo_resizedRebecca DeCarlo ‘16 studied linguistics at University of California, Berkeley but it was an internship working with an aphasia support group at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Martinez that solidified her passion for speech-language pathology. She chose Pacific because of the School’s outstanding faculty and students and family-friendly environment. “Every time I visited [everyone]…seemed so happy and proud to be there,” said DeCarlo. She also was impressed by the opportunities for clinical experiences.

She has high hopes for her future career. “I plan to make aphasia awareness a personal mission and hope to start a group for patients and their families,” said DeCarlo. She would like to contribute to the well-being of her community through organizations like the Veterans Affairs Hospital.

Originally from Bakersfield, Calif., DeCarlo tried several career paths before deciding to become a speech-language pathologist. She worked in a New York City diner, managed a men’s salon at Saks Fifth Avenue and worked as a personal assistant and then as an esthetician. DeCarlo loves to travel and in her free time, enjoys cooking her favorite Italian dessert, panna cotta, for friends and family. She also is a collector of vintage, foreign language grammar books. One of her prized possessions is a 1938 Latin text book she found in New Orleans.


Student Spotlight: Shivani Bhakta ‘15

Shivani Bhakta_resizedShivani Bhakta ‘15 began her fascination with speech-language pathology when her cousin received speech therapy for a cochlear implant. While studying linguistics at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) she volunteered at the Speech and Audiology Clinic in its early childhood intervention program.

Bhakta chose Pacific for its small class size. She also was impressed with the School’s outstanding faculty, accelerated program and experiential learning requirement. “I appreciated how the graduate program coordinated and provided all types of clinical experiences for the students,” said Bhakta. She is a student clinician at University of the Pacific’s Speech, Language and Hearing Clinic. Bhakta and the other student clinicians facilitate weekly meetings and guide discussions for Pacific’s aphasia community group which is led by Larry Boles, PhD, CCC-SLP, professor of speech-language pathology. The group provides a forum for clients who suffered from strokes and strives to help them regain communication skills through interactions with family and friends. Learn more about Dr. Boles and the aphasia group here.

In the future, Bhakta hopes to contribute to her profession through research; and providing clinical opportunities for future speech-language pathology students. She also plans to volunteer her time at community outreach events. Last year she participated in the “Night at the Ball Park” which was organized by alumnus Benjamin Reece ‘01, ‘08. The event gives families with disabilities the chance to attend a baseball game free of charge. “It was nice to bring together families and give them opportunities to share similar experiences. Overall, a goal of mine is to be involved with or create a group that provides events like this to clients and their families,” said Bhakta.

Although her family emigrated from Africa, Bhakta is ethnically Indian and was born in the U.S. An experienced dancer, she participated in competitive hip-hop from seventh grade through her sophomore year at UCLA. During her junior year at UCLA, Bhakta also competed with the cultural Indian dance team.


Student Spotlight: Kayla Villalpando ’13, ’14

Kayla at the 2013 Commencement Ceremony.
Kayla at the 2013 Commencement Ceremony.

Kayla Villalpando ’13, ’14 graduated in December from the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences with a master’s in speech-language pathology (SLP). Villalpando originally came to University of the Pacific as a Division I soccer player where she also received her bachelor of science in speech-language pathology. She loved Pacific so much that she decided to apply to the 15-month SLP master’s program.

“The professors really made my experience at Pacific extra special.” Villalpando said “I also enjoyed the family feel of the speech-language pathology department.”

Villalpando was inspired to study SLP because of experiences with her niece’s speech therapists. Born with a rare chromosome disorder, she received care from a variety of therapists. Villalpando marveled at the therapists’ positive impact on her family’s life. She witnessed firsthand the difference speech therapists can make on their patients’ lives. Villalpando strives to have the same impact in the community as she begins her career. She recently accepted a position in Stockton where she will be working in early intervention in a hospital setting.

“SLP is the most rewarding decision I’ve ever made,” she said. “I’d recommend studying SLP at Pacific because of the professors and the clinical experience the program provides.”

Villalpando has exciting plans for the near future. Her professional goals include earning her Certificate of Clinical Competence, transitioning into acute impatient SLP care and continuing to learn and grow as a speech-language pathologist. She also hopes to get married, start a family and run a marathon. Originally from San Jose, Calif., Villalpando comes from a large and boisterous family with five nieces and nephews. She can often be seen walking her dog Coco, as she takes her everywhere.