HOD Student Mentoring Program is Building the Next Generation of RT Leaders

 Published: January 8, 2019

By: Heather Willden


Photo of Kyro Davis at HOD meeting in Las Vegas
Kyro Davis at HOD meeting in Las Vegas.

Have you heard about the AARC House of Delegates (HOD) Student Mentoring Program?

Allison Toney heard about the program from the Missouri Society for Respiratory Care. “I decided to apply because I wanted to see how our national respiratory society operated,” she said. “Being a future respiratory therapist, this was important to me, and I wanted to know what was being done to improve my future career.”

Nadiya Deen found out about it from her respiratory therapy program director. “He was very helpful and explained what it was and what to expect,” she said. “With this knowledge, I knew that I would like to experience this and to see more of the respiratory field beside the hospital aspect.”

Mandy Giles learned about the program from an email that went out from the Colorado Society for Respiratory Care to all the RT programs in Colorado. “I wanted to apply because I knew that this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity as a student and I knew it would give me the knowledge on what the AARC was and the privilege to get an inside look on this developing field,” she said.

Kyro Davis heard about the program from her instructor. “I thought this would be a great opportunity to get involved and to see a different side of just the hospital setting of respiratory care,” she said. “And also get the chance to meet wonderful and amazing student therapists and respiratory therapists from around the country.”

All four of these students were selected for the program and got the chance to sit in on the HOD meeting that took place in Las Vegas just prior to AARC Congress 2018 this past November.

How it all began

Julie Jackson, BS, RRT, RRT-ACCS, who co-chairs the HOD Committee on Student Mentorship with Cheryl Skinner, MSc, RRT, CPFT, says the mentoring program started out as an informal process in 2000 when states like Hawaii began bringing students with them to the meeting.

An Ad Hoc Committee on Student Mentorship was formed under the direction of Speaker Bill Lamb, BS, RRT, FAARC, in 2010, and it became an official committee in 2012 under the leadership of then-speaker Karen Schell, DHSc, RRT-NPS, RRT-SDS, RPFT, RPSGT, AE-C, CTTS.

By 2014 the program had become competitive as more and more state societies jumped on board and got more and more students interested in applying.

Today students from all state societies, along with those from Puerto Rico, have the opportunity to apply.

“Students who are interested in attending must be currently enrolled in a respiratory care program, have a GPA of 2.5, and be a student member of the AARC, or be a graduate within the same year as the HOD meeting and sponsored by their state affiliate,” Skinner said.

Most state societies will offer to sponsor students for the program, and she urges interested students to reach out to their state societies to see if that’s the case where they live.

Added bonus

Students who attend the HOD meetings get the chance to see the House in action and they also spend valuable time networking with the delegates and the other students in attendance.

Those accepted for the meeting that occurs just prior to the AARC Congress receive the added bonus of complimentary registration to attend the Congress.

“The idea behind providing Congress registration was to provide the student with the entire respiratory experience of the winter meetings,” Jackson said. “We were hoping this would allow them to see how passionate other respiratory therapists were about the profession and provide them a firsthand experience of what the AARC can provide them as a respiratory therapist if they were to stay engaged as members of the profession.”

At the most recent HOD meeting, students also got the chance to be assigned a mentor from among the delegates, who will work with them over the next six months as they complete their educations and get ready to enter the workforce.

Positive feedback

The feedback from students has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Most of them tell us that they came away from the meeting seeing how passionate people from around the country are and that they learned what goes on behind the scenes to keep our profession moving forward,” Jackson said. “They often comment that they are excited to be a part of the respiratory community and look forward to staying active in their profession and their states for many years to come.”

Outcomes from the program suggest that is the case.

“Students who attend the AARC House of Delegates become our leaders of tomorrow,” Skinner said. “We have had multiple students who returned and became active and engaged members of their state affiliate.”

A few recent examples include Kayla Prario, RRT, a 2016 HOD student from Colorado who currently sits on the Colorado Society for Respiratory Care Board of Directors, and Vince Longbucco, RRT, RRT-ACCS, and Diamond Tildon, RRT, 2015 HOD students from Washington State who are serving as Respiratory Care Society of Washington chapter president and chair of the Student Engagement Committee, respectively.

Lessons learned

What did Toney, Davis, Deen, and Giles learn from their experiences last November? Here’s what they had to say, in their own words –

Allison Toney –
Photo of Allison Toney and fellow student at HOD meeting in Las Vegas
Allison Toney, left, enjoyed sitting in on the HOD meeting in Las Vegas along with fellow Missouri student Min Au Yong.

Attending the 2018 HOD winter meeting was one of the highlights of my educational career. It was a great opportunity to see the AARC in action. I was amazed to see so many people involved in improving our profession. There were so many passionate delegates and officials that inspired me to want to continue to be involved with my state’s society and the AARC after graduation.

From my experience, I learned that there are more people working behind the scenes to help improve the respiratory therapy field than I could have ever imagined. There were so many people that love respiratory therapy, and these people were working so hard to improve the profession for future generations. They showed me how important it is to be involved with the AARC.

I also got to learn more about the AARC during this process. I knew the AARC offered career tips, discounts, job lists, educational opportunities, and other benefits for respiratory therapists, but after attending the HOD meeting, I realized that the AARC plays a huge role on how the field of respiratory therapy has grown over the years. They advocate for respiratory therapists, and if we did not have this group of inspiring individuals, then we may not have much of a future in respiratory therapy. Continuously promoting and advancing our field of study is what keeps us competitive and competent with other health care professionals. My experience at the HOD meeting has shown me the importance of being involved with the AARC, and I will remember that after graduation.

Kyro Davis –

When I got my acceptance email, I was literally jumping for joy and so overwhelmed with excitement! I was so happy and grateful for being one of the chosen students to get selected. To attend the HOD meeting was a very great experience. I got to see how the meeting is run, I got to hear about new policies that may start to take place, I got to hear a professional debate, and I got to hear wonderful advice from many knowledgeable therapists.

Students are the future of respiratory care and we have big shoes to fill and to do that you have to make sure to obtain as much as you can to make the AARC proud. I will make sure I share the knowledge and advice that I received, not only with my classmates but with therapists at local hospitals, explaining how important getting and staying involved is and always finding ways to not only improve yourself but the respiratory community. I am so grateful to be a part of this experience and I will never forget it, I can’t wait to become an RT and do great things for my state and for the respiratory community.

Photo of Kyro Davis (far right) at HOD meeting in Las Vegas
Kyro Davis, far right, joins two other RTs in a “selfie” with 2015-2016 AARC President Frank Salvatore.
Nadiya Deen –

It was a truly wonderful, enlightening experience. I felt humbled to be chosen as a recipient of the award. The meeting allowed me to see the driving force of respiratory care as well as our future in the profession. The resolutions process was phenomenal to experience firsthand, to see how everyone contributed in discussions to find a resolution to issues. This showed what great leadership and teamwork can accomplish.

Prior to this experience, I felt after completing my bachelor’s degree that I would not want to continue my education. However, after meeting the amazing, ambitious people at the conference I want to continue my education and find out what kind of difference I can make. As a student, I feel as though we are so fixed on learning the hospital side, we neglect what comes after the boards. This experience has truly expanded my thinking of pushing forward and to not just settle. There is more to respiratory therapy than a hospital setting and to see the direct transition from the hospital setting to behind the scenes shows the expanded field of respiratory care.

Photo of Nadiya Deen at HOD meeting in Las Vegas
Nadiya Deen, right, takes part in the Georgia photo op.
Mandy Giles –

I felt honored to be selected for the 2018 program. It was eye-opening to see how laws are brought into action and passed. In school, one of the projects that I had to conduct was to research the importance of the House of Delegates, Board of Directors, and AARC. I never fully grasped the importance of these committees until I was fortunate enough to experience them in action.

It was outstanding to see how the House of Delegates operates. I was able to encounter firsthand how ideas come about and how they are brought up to the Board of Directors to be passed as laws. This was a thrilling process to perceive and it made me eager to join the Colorado Society for Respiratory Care as soon as I become a respiratory therapist. I’ve witnessed the confused look on an individual’s face when I tell them that I’m going to school to be a respiratory therapist and then the long conversation that it revolves into describing to them what this profession is. I had the opportunity to be able to sit in on the Scope of Practice Committee and hear respiratory therapists deliberate on how the scope of practice can be broadened.

During one of the open microphones, it was fascinating to hear how each state’s society is playing a crucial role in advancing state laws that benefit the evolution of respiratory therapy. It was invigorating to learn that AARC sponsors international fellows, and to hear about their role in starting respiratory therapy schools in their countries and others. With the help from my classmates and school, I and other students can be involved in the evolution of respiratory therapy by going to high school career days and captivating high school students on becoming a respiratory therapist. This experience made me, even more, exhilarated that I chose this profession as my career.

Photo of Mandy Giles at HOD meeting in Las Vegas
Mandy Giles, second from the left, represented Colorado well at the HOD meeting.

Allison Toney, who already has a BS in exercise science, plans to graduate from the RT program at the Cape Girardeau Career & Technology Center in Cape Girardeau, MO, in May of 2019.

Kyro Davis plans to graduate from the program at Trident Technical College in South Carolina in May of 2019.

Nadiya Deen plans to graduate from the program at Georgia Southern University-Armstrong Campus, in Savanah, GA, in May of 2019.

Mandy Giles plans to graduate from the program at Pickens Technical College in Aurora, CO, in May of 2020.

Email newsroom@aarc.org with questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Heather Willden

Heather Willden is the Director of Governance and Strategic Initiatives for the AARC where she works with state affiliates as the HOD liaison. She also manages DEI efforts and strategic initiatives. Connect with her about these topics by email, AARConnect or LinkedIn. When she's not working, you can find her podcasting with her husband, exploring new hiking trails, photographing, and spending time with her family.

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