Monday, July 31, 2006

Cathy Bill: Anatomy of a biologist

Diseases, dissections and bodily functions are what make Cathy Bill’s blood flow.

A veterinarian and adjunct faculty in Biological and Physical Sciences, Cathy believes students need a good foundation to reason, think and apply information learned in class to everyday life and their careers. Whether teaching physiology, pathophysiology or anatomy, this Distinguished Teacher doesn’t want her students to just memorize information, but rather to understand the way the body functions (physiology), how diseases affect the body (pathophysiology), and the structure of an organism (anatomy).

“She wants us to do more than just memorize the material for the test–she wants us to understand the information and brings in a variety of materials to assist us in gaining our new knowledge,” says student Christine Armbrust. “She makes us feel as if she is there cheering and celebrating our successes and assisting us when we do not meet our own expectations. 

Cathy explains concepts using a variety of examples and experiments. She says she often falls into a “veterinary technology frame of mind” on purpose since so many students have pets they can relate her examples to. She involves students by having them relate their own stories in order to see how what they are learning is relevant to their everyday lives.

Several of her students say Cathy “brings a deep enthusiasm for biological science to every class session” through “stories that illustrate objectives” and “real life information” that “make connections between their textbook and their lives.”

One example Cathy uses is to correlate how smell, associated with the limbic system, is also associated with emotions. She tells her students the story of a woman who had been married to an alcoholic who repeatedly beat her. To this day, even though her husband was killed and she is remarried to a caring man, anytime she passes a bar, she becomes fearful that the same scenario will happen.

Cathy also links smell to taste by having students chew a Starburst candy while holding their nose closed tightly. The experiment shows you can’t taste the candy until you open your nose, because taste is 80 percent smell.

Many of her students say that Cathy uses a variety of instructional methods and materials including lectures, laboratories, discussions, CD-rom exercises, and pictures to illustrate her points. She also uses experiments they can do on their own to bring home the point.

To help her students learn about digestions, for example, she has each student take a cracker and chew it without swallowing until it tastes sweet. Cathy uses this simple experiment as a way to demonstrate how digestion begins in the mouth and turns food into carbohydrates.

Human anatomy is Cathy’s “fun time.” “In class, we dissect a cat, and it really seems to affect the students, especially the males,” she says. While there’s one cat for every four students, she really understands students’ apprehension about making a mistake.

“In vet school, there were four of us assigned to dissect one dog,” says Cathy. During the course of the class, her three lab mates either dropped the class or quit coming. She was left to dissect the dog by herself and was quite nervous. For her the experience turned out to be very educational, as she says she “learned by doing and listening.”

The same seems to apply to her teaching style.

“Teaching is a gift,” says Cathy. “I never took a class on how to teach. I got a packet of objectives, answered each question, and went from there.”

“I like teaching at Columbus State as the students here have been through life. They are here because they want to be, are serious about their education, and have backgrounds that they can relate to the coursework,” says Cathy. “It’s nice being an adjunct. My employer is my students, and I treat them that way.”

Cathy enjoys teaching traditional classroom and lecture courses because she “likes to see student’s faces and their eyes to see if they are getting the information.”

Of her teaching style one student says, “Her enthusiasm and willingness to help are unlike any other college instructor I’ve experienced.”

“Her classes are always fun, even though she stays relentlessly on task to get us through all the objectives on schedule,” says former student John Bova. “Everything she does in class and in lab demonstrates the high quality of dedication required to become competent in the medical field. She has been a great model for us, and especially for me.”

So, how did she end up at Columbus State? “Growing up, I was a nurturing mother type, loved animals, and always wanted to be a vet,” says Cathy.

She earned her undergraduate degree in biology from Brooklyn College, The City University of New York, and graduated in 1989 with a master’s degree from The Ohio State University in veterinarian physiology and pharmacology.

As a sophomore in vet school she got married and was pregnant with her first child when she graduated. After vet school, she started work as a relief veterinarian filling in for veterinarians across the state of Ohio. Cathy says, “It was very rare for me to be in the same place two days in a row. I liked driving all over Ohio, but I couldn’t see how a dog or cat was doing after I treated it.”

Along the way, she decided she wanted to go to Ireland as a missionary and teach pharmacology. In order to do so, she knew she needed a Ph.D. Cathy began pursuing her Ph.D. while working as a relief vet and taking care of her six-month-old daughter. She then became pregnant with her first son and knew she needed to back off on something. When her Ph.D. advisor was off for back surgery, Cathy decided to quit pursuing her Ph.D. and never went back.

During this time, in 1991, Columbus State advertised for adjunct faculty in the Biological and Physical Sciences Department. Cathy applied and has been here ever since.

When not teaching students about the human anatomy, she works as a small animal veterinarian spaying and neutering cats at the Cozy Cat Cottage Cat Rescue and Adoption Center in Powell.

Cathy enjoys spending her leisure time with her husband Bob, a telecommunications technician supervisor for the state, and four children Victoria, 16, Jeremiah, 15, John, 6, and Joseph, 4. She spends time reading inspirational materials, going to Bible studies, taking care of their dog and cat, and raising chickens for brown and green eggs.

Fall "smart choice" advertising campaign kicks off today

Columbus State’s television and radio advertising campaign for fall quarter enrollment kicks off today, with advertisements appearing on 19 television networks, 11 radio stations, and a variety of newspapers in our four-county service district.

You can see and hear the advertisements and learn about the strategy behind them at a presentation by Will Kopp, vice president of Institutional Advancement, and Nancy Cleland, advertising coordinator, at noon Thursday, August 3 in Franklin Hall Room 110. 

The television spots tell the stories of three Columbus State graduates, and the radio ads feature a number of Columbus State students recorded at Spring Fling. All the ads support the new theme, “Smart people make smart choices; smart choices make smart people.”

Sailing with Theseus

From left, Roger Chase, Teresa Lister, site specialist for off- campus services, Janet Chase, Sandy Drakatos, assistant professor in Humanities, Wendy Hill, Michelle Bowman, Hobart Munsell, Bruce Hawkins, Julia McCann and Samuel Rose enjoy a few moments on the island of Santorini in the town of Oia. The group, there in June as part of the study abroad program to Greece, studied Ancient Greek history, art, philosophy and religion while visiting historic sites that shaped the course of western civilization.


Rieppel to retire

Karl Rieppel, faculty member in Computer Information Technology, will be retiring from the college effective September 1. In honor of his years of service, the Computer Information Technology Department will host a reception Wednesday, August 23 from noon–2 p.m. in Union Hall Room 138. All are welcome to wish him well in his new endeavors. For more information, contact Mary Insabella, assistant professor in CIT, at ext. 5207.