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Faculty & Staff

Red Rocks is proud of its faculty team of experienced physicians, PAs, basic and behavioral medicine scientists, and other specialists in health care. More than seventy adjunct instructors from the health care community in Colorado assist the core faculty in both didactic and clinical instruction.

The core faculty includes:

Program Director
Debra F. Nickell, Ph.D., PA-C, joined the Red Rocks Community College Physician Assistant program in June 2008. She previously served as clinical coordinator on the faculty of the physician assistant program at the University of Kentucky. She currently practices in primary care. Her background includes management of health service organization and clinical research in the pharmaceutical industry. She holds two, bachelor's degrees, (agriculture and physician assistant studies) a master's degree in business administration, and a doctoral degree in health communication. Debra actively participates in health and development projects in developing countries such as Afghanistan.
Medical Director
Tana Smith, MD, is a Colorado native who completed her doctorate of medicine at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in 2001. She completed her training at St. Anthony's Family Medicine Residency in Denver, CO and is board certified in family practice. Dr. Smith’s interest include: teaching, women’s health and obstetrical care in addition to community service. Dr. Smith is active in teaching and program evaluation.
Associate Director
Christa Dobbs, MPAS, PA-C joined the RRCC PA Program in January 2009. She is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma Physician Associate Program and completed her master’s degree through the University of Nebraska. She is co-instructor for the History and Physical Exam courses and instructs in the Clinical Medicine courses. Her clinical experience includes family practice, internal medicine and occupational medicine.
Jeanne Bird, MPAS, PA-C joined RRCC PA Program January 2009. Ms. Bird graduated with her master’s degree in PA studies from the University of Nebraska Medical Center PA Program. She serves as the Clinical Coordinator and teaches the women’s health course. She has actively worked in women’s health for the last ten years. Her clinical interests include treating urinary incontinence.
Peter Titus, M.B.A., PA-C is a Colorado native and graduate of the Duke University Medical Center. He has been in clinical practice for over 30 years as well as spending several years in health care administration. Mr. Titus' duties include co-instructor for the History and Physical Exam course and assisting in Problem-Based Learning as one of the small group facilitators.
Dayna Bernstein, MSPAS, PA-C joined the RRCC PA Program in July 2013 and is a graduate of the St. Francis Physician Assistant program in Albuquerque, NM. She has worked clinically for the last 4 years in emergency medicine. As a new member of the full-time faculty, Dayna will be involved throughout the Clinical Medicine and History and Physical courses.
John Witwer, MD, is board certified in Radiology and has practiced medicine for over 30 years. He has also served for 7 years in the Colorado State Legislature and was Director for a large state computer system. He teaches diagnostic imaging, clinical anatomy and problem based learning.

Elizabeth Coppock, Ph.D., received her doctorate in Physiology from Colorado State University in 2001 where she examined the role of voltage-gated potassium channels in hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction. In addition to teaching Human Physiology for the Physician Assistant Program, she is currently teaching Pathophysiology for the Science Department at Front Range Community College.

Thomas French, Ph.D., has a degree in Pharmacology and is a registered pharmacist in the state of Colorado. He has worked in both hospital and retail settings. In addition to teaching responsibilities on behalf of the Red Rocks Physician Assistant Program. Dr. French’s primary appointment is in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. Dr. French teaches drug therapy courses during the spring and summer semesters of the didactic year.

Jennifer Harrell, Ph.D., joined RRCC PA program in August of 2010.  She received her doctorate in Pharmacology from the University of Michigan Medical School in the Spring of 2004 studying the intracellular movement of hormone receptors via dynein on the microtubules. In addition to teaching Biochemistry at RRCC she also teaches General Biology for majors and non-majors at the Community College of Aurora.

Heather Ross, MD is a Board Certified practicing Emergency Physician who graduated with honors from the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel-Aviv University. After residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, she taught as an attending physician at Stanford University prior to joining us as course director for our Emergency Medicine course.

Steven Russell, MD is Board Certified in Family Practice with CAQ in Sports Medicine. He is a former student at Red Rock Community College, attending from 1974-1977. He graduated from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in 1988 and completed his medical training with the US Navy serving as a Medical Officer until 1997. His interests and background include military medicine, undersea and diving Medicine, and wilderness medicine. Dr Russell has extensive experience in providing primary care for adults with developmental disabilities. He is currently the Health Services Director of the Wheat Ridge Regional Center in Wheat Ridge, Colorado and is also an Assistant Clinical Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the CU Medical School.

Kari Schoenwald MMS, MT (ASCP), PA-C received her undergraduate degree in medical technology from North Dakota State University. She is a graduate of the Red Rocks Community College Physician Assistant Program and received her Masters degree from St. Francis University.  Currently, she is a practicing physician assistant in Infectious Diseases in Longmont, Colorado. As a member of the part-time faculty, Kari teaches Introduction to Clinical Medicine.

Walter Schreibman, MS, is Professor of Behavioral Science at Red Rocks and a principal instructor in behavioral medicine for the Family Practice Residency Program at St. Joseph hospital in Denver. Prof. Schreibman has more than 30 years of experience in behavioral medicine. He teaches behavioral medicine to physician assistant students during the Spring semester of the didactic year.

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Interested in becoming a preceptor for RRCC's Physician Assistant Program?
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Preceptor Application

PA Info Sessions:
April 24, 2014 at 5:00pm in room 1529 (PA classroom)

May 15, 2014 at 5:30pm in room 1529 (PA classroom)

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