From the Dean - Spring 2020

The year 1980 was a turbulent and eventful one. Americans were captivated by news of the Iranian hostage crisis, John Lennon’s murder, and the eruption of Mount St. Helens. The Rubik’s Cube was debuted at the International Toy Fair. And the Pac-Man video game was released.

The dynamic spirit of the year set the tone for the coming decade and fed the public’s fascination with Princess Diana, who encouraged diligence and humanity in making the world a better place. “I want to walk into a room, be it a hospital for the dying or a hospital for the sick children, and feel that I am needed,” Diana said. “I want to do, not just to be.”

Far above the clouds, in 1980, NASA’s Solar Maximum Mission was embarking on a flight to study the sun during the peak of the solar cycle. And below, the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine was graduating its charter class of 31 physicians. Built on a parcel of land not far from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, our medical school was one of five created by the Teague-Cranston Act to help medically underserved areas. Our mission today remains as community-focused as it was then—it has helped us graduate 3,534 alumni.

This issue of Vital Signs celebrates the 40th anniversary of the first class to graduate from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. There is much to celebrate. In just 40 years, this place and thousands of faculty, staff, and students who have labored and learned together have created something remarkable.

I first came here in 1982 as a faculty member in the Department of Surgery. Our school back then was known as the Wright State University School of Medicine, and it had a smaller footprint. Our offices were still housed in the Medical Sciences Building.

Today, we are the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. The Boonshoft gift made possible some of the tremendous growth we have enjoyed. You’ll read about that part of our history in this special edition. We celebrate other prominent figures, like the Kettering Family, who have helped our school over the years. We also note some of the important programs and milestones that show how special the Boonshoft School of Medicine really is.

We are so proud of all that has been accomplished, and yet we know that more work remains to be done. Our students both inspire and propel us, as they’re the reason we are here. It is a sentiment shared by Barrett Bolton, M.D., a professor emeritus of internal medicine and pharmacology and toxicology, who served on the admissions committee for nearly 30 years. He helped interview and select applicants dating back to the days when Wright State’s Dayton campus was mostly a corn field.

Today, like then, we are instituting innovative programs that drive student success and the improvement of health care in Dayton and beyond. We are launching a three-year M.D. program for high-achieving students interested in family medicine and pediatrics. Our efforts in rural health continue, as we have expanded the Wright Rural Medical Scholars program so that many medical students have the chance to experience rural rotations.

We’re delighted to celebrate other noteworthy milestones. We are so proud of the relationship we have enjoyed with the Veterans Affairs Medical Center over the decades. Our Anatomical Gift Program continues to serve as a vital connection with the local community. And the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences celebrates 15 years of achieving its mission.

The results of these and many other great accomplishments over the past 40 years include the best alumni a medical school could have. We feature several successful alumni in this edition, including one who is pioneering a practice in telemedicine while releasing a new book and another who is on the frontlines of the fight to cure sickle cell disease.

What we have done at the Boonshoft School of Medicine over the past 40 years is truly special. We continue to lead the way in improving health, both in our communities and beyond. Without the support of the Wright State family and our alumni and friends, none of this would have been possible.

Thank you for your continued devotion to our mission and for supporting the spirit that has made our medical school so great. It has been a distinct privilege and an honor to serve as your dean.


Margaret Dunn, M.D., M.B.A., FACS


Vital Signs » Spring 2020


Three years after the Ohio General Assembly officially charters Wright State University as an independent state university, university leaders ask for support for a new medical school. They present a feasibility study based upon what they call the "concept of community" and outline the broad base of support they have identified for developing such a school.


Vital Signs » Spring 2020

Dr. Barrett Bolton had a view of the history of the medical school at Wright State University. He remembers when the Dayton campus of Wright State University was just a corn field.

Around the time that the medical school was founded, he was working at Miami Valley Hospital as director of residency training for internal medicine. Before that, Dr. Bolton served in the U.S. Army. He was stationed in Puerto Rico. He completed residency training in Iowa City, Iowa, and completed a fellowship in cancer chemotherapy.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

No dean has known the medical school better than Dr. Margaret Dunn. With the end of her time as dean approaching, the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine will say goodbye to a leader whose wisdom has guided the school, in one form or fashion, for nearly four decades.

Dr. Dunn will return to a faculty position with the Department of Surgery after her service as dean is over. Many have had the good fortune of working with her over the years. Her leadership and service to the medical school will be dearly missed.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

In 1867, what would become the Dayton Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center was then known as the National Asylum for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, Central Branch. In Dayton, it was simply known as the “Soldiers’ Home.” At its peak in 1884, the Home provided all levels of care to over 7,000 veterans and, by 1910, over half a million Americans were visiting the Home each year.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine is embarking on a program in 2020 that will allow select students at the school to complete their Doctor of Medicine degrees in just three years. Students admitted to the three-year track will receive conditional admittance to a Wright State University residency program, starting with the Departments of Family Medicine and Pediatrics.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

In 2005, the Oscar Boonshoft family presented to the medical school the largest gift ever received by Wright State University. In gratitude, the school was renamed the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine.

In accepting the extraordinary gift, the medical school leadership took very seriously Oscar Boonshoft’s charge to build on his family’s support in order to achieve even greater success as an institution and to assume a leadership role in advancing science, improving health care delivery, and expanding access to quality care.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

The Kettering Family Foundation was founded by Eugene W. Kettering, son of Charles F. Kettering, and his wife Virginia W. Kettering in 1956. Today, the Foundation supports a broad range of charitable activities of interest to the Board of Trustees, which is composed of members of the Kettering family.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

Dr. David Roer always knew he wanted to go into medicine. As a youngster, he watched his mother, a nurse, take care of patients. It seemed like medicine was the best career fit for him.

Roer grew up in Mountaindale, New York, in the Catskill Mountains of upstate New York. After graduating from the State University of New York with a biology degree, Roer attended The Ohio State University to study cytogenetics. The field involves testing samples of tissue, blood, or bone marrow to discern the changes that occur in chromosomes, among other things.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

Public health education continually evolves along with changing health challenges. The focus must shift because there are always new diseases and threats on the horizon. To compensate for the fluid nature of the field, many public health programs tend to specialize in certain areas of training.

The Department of Population and Public Health Sciences at Wright State sets itself apart with a different approach. It pioneered the first Master of Public Health program in Southwest Ohio. That advantage has helped it to grow its offerings extensively over the years.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

First called the Donated Body Program when it began in 1975, the Anatomical Gift Program at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine has seen a lot of growth in the intervening decades. All of them are marked by gratitude for the selfless gifts of those who have donated to the program.

The program was established two years after the medical school was founded. Its first director, and the first registered donor, was Antonio Zappala, M.D., Ph.D. He was the founding chair of the Department of Anatomy at the medical school.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

As an undergraduate majoring in environmental geology, Brian Merrill was studying fossils of tiny, prehistoric creatures called graptolites when he had a revelation – not about graptolites, but about himself.

“I just didn’t want to spend the rest of my life in a lab,” he said. “I wanted to be around people.”

That realization led Dr. Merrill on a path that took him first to medical school, then to the field of psychiatry and now to the front lines of the war on opioid addiction.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

Sahana Venkatesh, M.D., a first-year internal medicine resident at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, is leading research into the toxicity of chemotherapy treatments on military veterans. The results of the effort may one day help health care providers to better tailor chemotherapy treatments to veterans suffering from cancer.

Dr. Venkatesh, who grew up in Beavercreek, Ohio, attended Northeast Ohio Medical University. After completing her Doctor of Medicine degree, she matched at the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine. 

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

Jennifer Daniels named director of Clinical Trials Research Alliance

Jennifer Daniels, M.S., has been named director of the Wright State University and Premier Health Clinical Trials Research Alliance (CTRA).

CTRA conducts clinical trials throughout Southwest Ohio in a variety of health care areas. The public-private initiative was founded in 2012 by the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine, Wright State Research Institute and Premier Health.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

The Wright Rural Medical Scholars program continues its mission to develop and nurture physicians pursuing rural practice in Ohio by placing students from the Boonshoft School of Medicine into clinical rotations at health systems in rural West Central Ohio. While living and learning in rural communities near the Wright State University—Lake Campus in Celina, students gain knowledge of rural health, rural lifestyles, and help provide care to the area’s residents.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

Victor Sarabia, M.D., longtime friend of the medical school, passes at 91

The Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine mourns the passing of Victor Sarabia, M.D., FACS, a longtime friend of the medical school. Sarabia was a charter member of the Wright State University Academy of Medicine. He served as a clinical faculty member in the Department of Surgery from 1975 to 2006. Dr. Sarabia was 91 years old.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

Dr. Patricia Oneal, ’98, grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, and is a fan of Blues music. But her love for science led her to pursue chemistry in college. She may have wound up performing research in a lab if it weren’t for a friend.

While studying analytical chemistry at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Oneal met someone who was in the post-baccalaureate program for those interested in pursuing medical school. This friend convinced Oneal to go into the program and consider a future working in medicine.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Celeste Reese-Willis moved back to the state after completing her Doctor of Medicine degree at Wright State University. She was not a fan of Ohio’s cold winters. She also wanted to be closer to where she grew up.

For her undergraduate studies in biology, Reese-Willis attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She first heard about Wright State University through one of her aunts, who had a wonderful experience at Wright State. Reese-Willis applied on her aunt’s recommendation and found that the medical school was the perfect fit.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

We are proud of our alumni and graduates of our residency programs and want to spread the word about your achievements. If you have professional news or personal updates to share – or simply want to stay in touch – please contact the Office of Advancement at or 937.245.7634.



John T. Hanna, M.D., family medicine, has opened a primary care office in Ashland, Ohio.


Vital Signs » Spring 2020

Larry W. Lawhorne, M.D., retired from Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine after 13 years of service to the institution. He was a professor and founding chair of the Department of Geriatrics, and a staff physician with Wright State Physicians. A reception was held in his honor.

Vital Signs » Spring 2020

Robert Carlson, Ph.D., is retiring from the Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine after giving 31 years of service. He will be retiring as a professor of population and public health sciences and as the director of the Center for Interventions, Treatment, and Addictions Research (CITAR).