Issue 2012-02 (February 15, 2012)



VIDEO: Bridging the Gap between Health Providers and Russian-speaking Patients

By Doug Nadvornick

Communication is an important part of any visit to a hospital or clinic. If a health care provider can't understand what a patient is saying—or vice versa—an appointment probably won't go well.

WWAMI clinical assistant professor Dan Topping is especially sensitive to that. The family practice physician—now a full-time instructor—speaks Russian and has cared for Russian-speaking patients for much of his clinical career.

When he moved from Pullman to Spokane in 2010, Topping learned that Spokane has a large Slavic population. Many of those people emigrated from countries that were part of the former Soviet Union; they speak little or no English. Their ability to communicate with their health care providers can sometimes be limited, even with English-speaking relatives as go-betweens.

Apart from the language barrier, there's also a cultural obstacle, says Topping.

"There are a lot of misconceptions about Russian-speaking people. Back in the '80s, we had these movies that portrayed them as evil communists. Now they're portrayed as Russian mafia, gangsters," said Topping, who served as an interpreter in the military and is married to a Russian woman. "It just seemed natural to me, when I came up here, to create something that would help bridge that gap between the health care campus that we have here and that community."

Topping is creating a one-credit elective class—scheduled to start next fall—for health sciences students on the Riverpoint Campus who want to learn how to communicate more effectively with their Russian-speaking patients. The course will include lessons about Slavic culture, as well as basic language instruction. Topping has created about a dozen short videos with the help of native Russian-speaking students who volunteered their time.

"I wrote these little scenarios that show a patient and provider discourse. They're kind of dramatic," said Topping. "I did that for two reasons: to make it interesting and to allow you to hear the questions a patient might be asked in a certain situation."

The dialogue in the videos in entirely in Russian, though Topping includes English subtitles.

Language competency can lead to healthier patients

Topping says his plan will not only improve communication between health care providers and their Slavic patients, it may also have health benefits.

"The evidence is out there that having the ability to speak the language of the patient and having some cultural competency improves patient adherence" with a provider's plan of care, he said.

WSU assistant professor of nursing Catherine Van Son is collaborating with Topping. She also works with Russian-speaking patients, especially older adults.

"In my experience, making the effort to say simple words in the patient's language, no matter how poorly they are said, facilitates trust," she said. "Saying 'hello', 'thank you', 'goodbye' in your patient's language takes no time or money. But I contend that this is one of the most effective interventions for providers to implement."

Those doctors and nurses who make the effort may find themselves rewarded with a steady stream of patients.

When Topping served as an obstetrics fellow in South Carolina early in his medical career, news spread that he spoke Russian.

"There was a pretty significant population of Ukrainian patients," he said. "Word got out and they gravitated toward me, and I had a pretty significant practice with Russian-speaking patients. I found it made a big difference. It put their minds at ease and made it easier to get things done and communicate with those patients."

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WSU Team Helps Support Parents through Home Visitation

By Judith Van Dongen

For every happy, healthy, thriving child there is another child who grows up in an environment that is not as conducive to healthy development. Issues that affect early childhood-such as neglect, violence, and poverty-have huge social and health consequences, says Chris Blodgett, director of the eastern Washington Area Health Education Center (AHEC) at WSU Extension.  

Blodgett and his team tackle a variety of research projects related to child and family well-being. Among those is a statewide effort to evaluate and implement an early intervention strategy known as home visitation. Home visitation programs target at-risk parents of babies and young children, as well as parents-to-be. These programs are often staffed by public health nurses who focus on prevention, education, and coordination of services.

"What we've found as part of our research is that many of these young parents have themselves grown up in situations of adversity," said Blodgett.  By reaching out to families, establishing relationships, and providing support, home visitation programs offer a way to break the cycle. Plus, they make economic sense as well.  

"There are some cost-benefit analyses that say if you make this investment early in the lives of children of first-time, low-income moms, you can return $17 of good for every dollar you invest in the program," Blodgett said.

Although home visitation has been around for several decades, it is only now starting to gain a steady foothold in the United States. In 2010, President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which provides $1.5 billion in grant funding for state-based visitation programs. Two years earlier, the Washington legislature committed to investing $1 million per year for five years to build out home visitation in the state.

In partnership with a consortium of state agencies, AHEC is now responsible for developing and testing the federally and state-funded home visitation programming in Washington—an investment of more than $2 million per year.

Blodgett and his team—which includes AHEC staffers Maya Houghten, Jeff Winikoff, Bonnie Wagner, and Shane Tuck—are developing a single evaluation system for all home visitation efforts, independent of its funding source. Through staff training and information systems support, they are helping the various agencies involved to adopt common measurement practices and integrate those into the care provided.

On a local level, AHEC has been involved in a federally funded project to implement and evaluate an enhanced version of a common visitation program model known as the Nurse Family Partnership. In collaboration with the Spokane Regional Health District, Summer's Project—named in memory of Spokane toddler Summer Phelps—expands this existing model focusing on mothers and children to also address issues related to fathers' involvement in the lives of children and the quality of relationships between fathers and mothers.

Preliminary results from Summer's Project show that engaging fathers in these types of family support services produces better outcomes for mother and child as well. Conversely, when fathers are struggling with major issues, this can negatively affect mothers' success at parenting. Blodgett said his group was one of the first to demonstrate this in a large research study. It has led to the realization that there is a need for support services targeted specifically to the barriers fathers are dealing with.  

"When you start to put data around an opinion, then it can become a tool toward taking action," said Blodgett.

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SLIDESHOW: All Aboard for Rural Health Care Access

By Becki Meehan 

This slideshow features the two concept options. Each illustrates a different approach to the flow and layout of the space. Both concepts address circulation and the patient experience while taking into account the multifunctionality and efficiency needed to make the space work. Option A includes bump-outs similar to those seen on mobile homes and has separate medical and dental areas and a completely separate space for staff. Option B groups the medical and dental work areas together and includes a separate entrance and exit for dental and medical visits, as well as a multifunctional waiting space that can transform into a conference room and sleeping space for staff.


Access to health care is a serious concern for many Washingtonians in rural areas. Lack of accessibility to cost effective resources is one reason many individuals and families do not get regular preventive care. It is also the reason Bob Scarfo, an associate professor at the WSU Spokane Interdisciplinary Design Institute, introduced the unique assignment of redesigning a railroad car to provide health care resources to rural communities.

"The idea was to redesign a rail car that will be transported to rural communities and left for periods of time to accommodate the medical and dental needs of residents in those communities," said Scarfo. "The rail car was considered to address the issue of reducing costs and time required when driving to an urban health center."

Senior interior design students Polina Brutskaya, Chloe Buerstatte, Courtney Dohnal, Kelly Escue, Julie Hoffman, Cora Houser, and Emily Joralemon tackled the redesign as part of their fall design studio. They used a Pullman railroad car as their model.

Knowing the interdisciplinary nature of the project, the students enlisted the expertise and guidance of faculty from the EWU dental hygiene program and the WSU College of Nursing. They also relied on feedback from rural community members to get a better picture of the wellness resources those communities are in need of.

Upon completing their research, the student design team introduced URIKA the Health Train. Given the rail car's area of service and its focus, the Native American name URIKA was chosen because of its meaning, "useful to all."

The team took many things into consideration in designing the rail car concepts. They made sure it could accommodate the high-tech equipment and infrastructure needed to support medical and dental services. The use of natural lighting throughout the rail car clinic addressed the narrow dimensions of the space, providing a more open, welcoming environment. Solar panels were used to incorporate sustainability. The students maximized every inch of the train to provide the necessities to run a facility like this, without overlooking the need for comfort and privacy for patients and their families.

"URIKA is about providing regular preventative care and maintenance-it's not a replacement for hospitals or emergency service," said Dohnal. "Because of health insurance issues and availability of services, people aren't going in for preventive care. URIKA could provide these services and health education on a regular basis."

If implemented, URIKA could make preventative health care with educational resources more of a reality in rural areas. This would help foster healthy citizens who are able to better support themselves and their communities.

The student assignment yielded two very workable design concepts of a mobile and sustainable medical/dental rail car.

"This project was really unique and interesting and provided us with a lot of challenges," said Buerstatte. "We're really proud of what we put together."

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SLIDESHOW: Medical Students Reach Out to School Children

Story and photos by Doug Nadvornick

Though first-year medical students spend much of their waking time in classrooms or laboratories, they're also allowed several days each semester to do community service work.

In Spokane, medical students have a handful of community options.

Some work Saturday mornings at the House of Charity clinic for homeless men and women. They work with mentor physicians and other medical students to diagnose and treat people who have no health insurance.

Other students work with immigrant families to help their members get to and from medical appointments.

Many Spokane medical students do presentations in local public schools. In early February, 13 medical students carted microscopes, pig hearts and other equipment to Sheridan Elementary to work with sixth-grade students. They taught them about hearts and blood, about how to take blood pressure and measure pulse rates. They taught them about the importance of good nutrition and washing hands.

Above is a slideshow that features images from the medical students' visit to Sheridan.

Later this month, the students will take their road show to Shadle Park High School, where they'll do some hands-on work with science classes to teach them about brain anatomy and basic neurology.

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Celebrating Science and Community Involvement at Rogers

By Doug Nadvornick

Politano and Dewey-Buchanan conduct a science experiment at
Rogers High School (Photo by Doug Nadvornick)

In a laboratory at Spokane's Rogers High School, sophomores Sean Politano and Taylor Dewey-Buchanan are preparing a simple experiment to measure the number of calories in a small marshmallow.

Politano places one little white puff on a foil platform inside a pop can with a hole cut in the side. On top of the can, he sits another can partially filled with water. Dewey-Buchanan pokes a probe tethered to a laptop computer into the opening of the top can. Then Politano ignites the marshmallow. The flame warms the water, the probe measures the heat created by the steam, and a program in the computer calculates how many calories are burned.

As the students wait for the marshmallow to burn completely, they answer questions from adults who stop at their table. The students are part of a new biomedical class at Rogers, and this is an open house to celebrate it.

Private gift makes the class possible

The lesson plans were created by Project Lead the Way, a national organization whose goal is to introduce middle and high school students to engineering and biomedical careers. WSU Spokane trains teachers to teach the PLTW biomedical curriculum. Several Spokane area high schools offer the first year of that curriculum. A few also offer the second year. PLTW also makes a third and fourth year of instruction available.

Rogers' case is unique, said Joan Kingrey, associate professor of education at WSU Spokane. It's the only local high school program that has a partnership with a private business. In this case, the manufacturing company Jubilant HollisterStier has pledged about $40,000 over three years. At Rogers, the first installment paid for the computers and other technology the students use, said teacher Carol Kaplan.

Eighty Rogers freshmen and sophomores are taking the class, including Dewey-Buchanan, who says it's good preparation as she studies to become a forensic scientist.

Indeed, early in the class, students are asked to solve a mystery surrounding a fictitious woman's death. They do experiments to determine the factors involved and eventually hypothesize about what killed her.

That detective work intrigued sophomore Lacey Doering and she signed up for the class.

"Even if students have no intention of going into a medical field, it's good for them to try something different," said Doering. "I'm one of those kids who now sees the possibility of a career in a biomedical field."

Jubilant HollisterStier CEO Marcelo Morales says he's glad to see the biomedical program is popular at Rogers. He says the U.S. needs to train more scientists to follow the lead of countries like China and India.

"We're farther behind than you think," Morales told a group at the Rogers open house. "The challenge is how do you make what's happening in our industry relevant to 15-year-olds."

Perhaps the answer lies with more hands-on science.

Back up in the lab, Politano watches the fire go out on the charred marshmallow. He leans over to the computer screen and sees that 135 calories were burned. 

Next year, his teacher, Carol Kaplan, expects Rogers will add the second-year of the PLTW biomedical curriculum. Eventually, she hopes students will be able to take all four years of the sequence, earn college credit and move into college well prepared for continuing coursework and careers in the health sciences.

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SLIDESHOW: Foley Furniture on Display at Riverpoint Library

Story and photos by Judith Van Dongen

A little piece of the U.S. Capitol has made its way to the Riverpoint Campus. The third floor of the Riverpoint Library is now home to a special display about Thomas Foley, the 57th Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and a Spokane native. The display shows Foley's desk and a variety of memorabilia from his time as the Speaker of the House, from 1989 to 1995.

The exhibit was made possible by the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service at WSU. It honors Foley's legacy of 30 years of representing Washington's 5th congressional district as a Democratic member, from 1965 to 1995.

"The furniture is on permanent loan from Congress, and it is part of the agreement and endowment that established the Foley Insitute," said Cornell Clayton, director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute.

Although Foley was a Gonzaga University graduate, WSU was given the honor of receiving the Foley collection, which also includes his congressional papers. Following his service in D.C., Foley has served as a distinguished professor of government and public policy at the Foley Institute since its founding in 1995. Speaker Foley has continuously donated the funds that support that professorship to provide undergraduate scholarships for Foley interns.

After years of sitting in storage, the furniture was moved to the Riverpoint Campus earlier this month in consultation with the WSU Spokane administration and with assistance from the Facilities Operations office.  

"We felt it would be appropriate for these items to be displayed in Foley's hometown," said Clayton. "A priority of the institute has been to increase its visibility and programming in Spokane now that the Riverpoint Campus is well established."

The institute's mission is to foster civic education and public affairs programming, promote public service, and support public policy research in a nonpartisan, cross-disciplinary setting.

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Stier Memorial Lecture to Focus on Healthy Community Design

By Judith Van Dongen

The way a community is designed can have huge consequences for the health of its inhabitants. Dr. Karen K. Lee, MD, will explore this topic as part of this year's WSU Spokane Robert F.E. Stier Memorial Lecture in Medicine, "Cured by Design: Built Environment Interventions as a Response to Epidemics." This free public lecture will be Thursday, February 23, 2012, from 4 to 5 p.m. in the Academic Center Auditorium (Room 20).

In her lecture, Dr. Lee will discuss the obesity epidemic and how communities can address this problem through the built environment. She will talk about her work to create active design guidelines for communities that promote physical activity and health and will highlight strategies for success.

Dr. Lee leads the Built Environment & Active Design Program for New York City's Health Department. Prior to her work in New York City, she also worked for the Epidemic Intelligence Service at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Her CDC team was awarded the U.S. Public Health Service Unit Commendation Award for outstanding contributions for their investigation of obesity-related environmental factors in West Virginia. In 2011, Dr. Lee and her New York City Active Design Team received the Active Living Research: Translating Research to Policy Award.

Dr. Lee is also an adjunct professor at the Schools of Public Health at the University of Toronto and the University of Alberta (a World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Non-Communicable Disease Policy).

Those planning to attend the free lecture should RSVP online  or at 509-358-7640 or

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Inland Northwest Research Symposium to Foster Scholarship and Discovery

By Becki Meehan

The Inland Northwest Research Symposium is on the horizon, and you are invited to join us to celebrate the advances in interdisciplinary and interprofessional research. The annual affair is slated for Friday, March 2 on the Riverpoint Campus at the South Campus Facility Court.

Connect with faculty and developing scholars from a variety of disciplines during poster presentations, and learn from experienced scholars during the thought-provoking presentations.

Featured speaker Chris Blodgett, associate scientist, research associate, and director of the Eastern Washington Area Health Education Center, will present "Adverse Childhood Experiences, Complex Trauma, and Public Health Responses" at 2:30 p.m.

Following the keynote address, at 3:15 p.m., a facilitated panel will discuss the impact of poverty on children. This is a special highlight thanks to the efforts of the Riverpoint Campus Diversity Events Subcommittee. The panel of experts includes Patrick Jones, executive director for the Eastern Washington University Institute for Public Policy and Economic Analysis; Linda Stone, Eastern Washington director for the Children's Alliance; Jennifer Sherman, assistant professor of sociology at WSU Tri-Cities; Julie Postma, assistant professor of nursing at the WSU College of Nursing; and Tom Salsbury, assistant professor of literacy at the WSU College of Education.

For more information, go to the Inland Northwest Research Symposium Web site.

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New Cougar Crimson Vehicle Plates on Sale

The newly designed, all-crimson, Washington State University vehicle license plate is now available for sale from the state Department of Licensing.

Inspired by the design of WSU's "Ol' Crimson" flag, the new plate features silvery-white WSU Cougar logo and lettering on a solid crimson plate. It is available at an initial cost of $40, plus regular vehicle registration fees, and will cost an additional $30 annually thereafter. Check your local DOL office for exact fees.

A full $28 of each Cougar plate fee is returned to the university each year as a tax-deductible donation to the WSU scholarship fund. In 2011, such personalized plate sales generated approximately $350,000 to fund student scholarships for WSU students. There are already more than 13,000 vehicles in the state sporting the previous version of the special design WSU plate, which is more than the combined number of special design plates issued on behalf of all of our other public universities in Washington.

Vehicle owners do not have to wait until their license comes up for renewal before ordering the new WSU plate, which is also available for motorcycles. The Cougar license plate application can be downloaded from the Department of Licensing website at The completed application can then be mailed or faxed back to the department or simply taken directly to a local vehicle licensing office. Personalized WSU logo plates are also available through the DOL website at

Drivers who wish to receive gift credit from the University for their plate donation can visit for details about how to send their information to the WSU Foundation.

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In the News

  • Associate professor of interior design Janetta McCoy and her students were highlighted in a Spokesman-Review article on an economic development project in the town of Ritzville. Read it here (subscription may be required to see full text).
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  • Meehan (left) and Rudd
    Becki Meehan and Jane Rudd were selected to receive WSU Spokane's 2011 Employee Excellence Awards. The communications and events manager for the Office of Communications, Meehan is known as the "go-to" events person and was praised by her nominators for her organizational skills and ability to plan for every contingency. Rudd is a program coordinator for Student Affairs and handles facilities scheduling for the campus. She was noted for going the extra mile to serve the entire campus community, including EWU students, faculty, and staff. The two received their awards at the WSU Spokane Spring Kickoff in January.
  • Becki Meehan is one of five staff members who will receive a 2011-12 President's Employee Excellence Awards during Washington State University's annual Showcase celebration of excellence on March 30. She was cited for her work quality, productivity, work relations and community service for setting a standard of excellence, creativity and professionalism in her work coordinating events on the WSU Spokane campus. 
  • A grant-funded research project being conducted by professor of psychology Maureen Schmitter-Edgecombe (principal investigator) and professor of psychology in neurosciences Dennis Dyck (co-principal investigator) was selected as the 2010 International Research Grant awardee for sponsorship by the Alzheimer's Association Research Roundtable (AARR). The AARR is a membership consortium of pharmaceutical, biotechnology, diagnostics, imaging, and cognitive testing industries who convene two times annually with senior staff from the Alzheimer's Association to discuss issues pertinent to the pre-competitive space of Alzheimer's disease clinical trails. The consortium selects an Alzheimer's Association funded project for sponsorship each year. As part of the award, Schmitter-Edgecombe wil have the opportunity to present a project update at the Fall 2012 AARR meeting in Washington, DC.

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Community Connections

  • Thursday, Feb. 16 - Documentary Film: What Poor Child is This? 
    Come enjoy this full-length feature documentary at Whitworth University in the Robinson Teaching Theatre at Weyerhaeuser Hall at 7:00 p.m. This documentary focuses on the potentially devastating impact of poverty on early childhood development, specifically in children from birth to five years old. Noted scholars, advocates, and public policymakers detail the ways in which the lack of economic resources limits children's cognitive, language, social, emotional and health outcomes, putting these children at considerable risk for later educational and employment-related difficulties. The determinants of child poverty and their links to children's development are explained, and potential policy solutions are discussed. For m ore information call 509-777-3449 or visit
  • Wednesday, Feb. 22 - Lecture/Luncheon:  Current Trends in Health & Nutrition 
    Come meet Cheryl Kramsky at the Red Lion River Inn, 700 N Division, as she speaks about nutrition related medical problems as part of a lecture sponsored by the Spokane College Women's Association. Cheryl has been a personal trainer, nutritionist, and educator for more than twenty years. She has had tremendous success with the improvement or reversal of hypertension, high cholesterol, type I & II diabetes, GERD, gout, celiac, allergies, obesity, IBS, sleep apnea, ADHD, and other conditions. Admission is $16.50 and includes lunch. Reservations are required. RSVP by Sunday, February 19 by calling 509-368-0695. 
  • Saturday, Mar. 3 - KPBX Kids' Concert: Funky Town
    Join the high energy, 9-piece soul and groove band, Soul Proprietor, on Saturday, March 3 at 1:00 pm at the Spokane Masconic Center Auditorium (1107 W. Main Ave.). Soul Proprietor specializes in the music of legendary R&B horn bands such as Tower of Power, Chicago, Blood Sweat and Tears, Earth Wind and Fire, Kool and the Gang, and the Average White Band, as well as classics by Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Peter Gabriel, Seal, Al Jarreau and many more.  Come dressed up ready to hit the dance floor and learn some new dance moves by The Silver Spurs.  For more information, go to the KPBX event page.

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Personnel and Staffing Changes    


  • Maria Pyankov, Instruction/Classroom Support Technician 1, Spokane County Extension, effective January 17, 2012
  • Emily Cox, Research Intern, Nutrition & Exercise Physiology - College of Pharmacy, effective February 1, 2012
  • Rita Delgado, Office Assistant 2 (50%), Student Affairs/ASWSUS, effective February 6, 2012
  • Clark Kogan, Research Intern, Sleep and Performance Lab, effective February 9, 2012
  • Coral Van Dyne, Research Study Coordinator 1, Pharmacotherapy-College of Pharmacy, effective February 13, 2012  


  • Matthew Blythe, from Media Tech Senior to Electronic Media Producer, College of Nursing, effective November 1, 2011


  • Amy Knizek, Learning Design Consultant, WIMHRT, effective February 1, 2012
  • Christopher Casey Jackson, Assistant Director, WIMHRT, effective February 3, 2012
  • Donna Hutchinson, Program Assistant (50%), Student Affairs/Upward Bound, effective February 9, 2012
  • Kris Pitcher, Development Director, College of Nursing, effective February 10, 2012

Recruitments & Searches:

  • Associate Dean for Academic Programs, College of Nursing, open until filled, currently interviewing applicants
  • Assistant or Associate Professor, College of Nursing, open until filled, currently interviewing applicants
  • Associate Professor/Director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program Vancouver, open until filled, currently interviewing applicants
  • Development Director, College of Nursing, application deadline extended to February 19, 2012
  • Program Assistant, Parking, Facilities Operations, position closed January 30, 2012, screening applications
  • Transfer and RN to BSN Advisor, College of Nursing, position closed February 5, 2012, applications currently under review

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Way to Go!

The Riverpoint Diversity Events Subcommittee wants to thank the following members for their outstanding contributions: Megan Jarrad for her work on getting together the Diversity Bulletin Board in the Academic Center; Judith Van Dongen for the wonderful flyers and posters she has generated, from the holiday stamp posters to the posters highlighting African American women (which are currently on display); Leslie Hall for the excellent resources she has been sharing with us and her suggestion for an event on poverty which has now become the Inland NW Research Symposium on March 2; EWU representative Ann Wentworth, who informs us of what is taking place at EWU at Riverpoint and for her work in adding to the symposium; Judy Zeiger for the additional diversity events that come through Student Affairs; ASWSUS representative Diana Singh, who keeps us informed as to ASWSUS events; and Chris Messenger from the student Diversity Club, who also keeps us informed on his club's events.
(from Yvonne C. Montoya Zamora and Diane Wick)

Here's where you make someone's day a little brighter by extending your thanks for a job well done. Send your "Way to Go!" comments to Judith Van Dongen and watch for your thanks to be published in an upcoming issue of the Campus Bulletin!

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The Bulletin is a monthly publication that is usually published on the second Wednesday of each month. The exact publication date may shift due to holidays. If you have an item that you'd like us to include, send it to us by Friday in the week before publication.

The Bulletin covers news of interest to the faculty, staff, and friends of Washington State University Spokane, and associates on other WSU campuses and on the Riverpoint Campus.

Regular columns cover professional accomplishments, opportunities for involvement in the campus community and the Spokane community, notices of new developments on campus, upcoming events, personnel changes, and other news.

The Bulletin also serves as a source of information for external communications directed to alumni, future and current students, and friends of Washington State University Spokane. You'll read it here first!

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