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Teaching Assistant Program


Recruitment and retention of nurse anesthesia faculty has traditionally been a challenge. One of the methods to overcome recruiting difficulties is to identify truly talented nurse anesthesia trainees and develop their love for education at the time that they are residents. Many trainees have a genuine interest in teaching, and we can provide them with the tools to develop skills to become future anesthesia educators while they are still in training themselves. The Teaching Assistant Program has been created to nurture these future educators, while also addressing our own need for more instructors in the correlations lab.

Our curriculum is structured as a front-loaded program, where the first 18 months of training are spent in the classroom learning the principles and theory of anesthesia as well as advanced health assessment, advanced pharmacology, physiology and pathophysiology. To reinforce that content, trainees spend nine months in Clinical Correlations Lab turning those ideas they learned about in lecture into practice. Topics and skills taught in the simulated environment are carefully crafted to specifically demonstrate the topics just presented in class as a way to solidify the learning. Working in groups in the state of the art simulation lab is the closest thing to real life patient care to ensure that our residents understand the concepts and can put them into practice.

This tightly woven curriculum and correlations is one of the most unique and powerful aspects of the RFU Nurse Anesthesia program. Teaching Assistants are an integral part of the correlations experience.

CRNA residents are permitted to apply to the TA Program after the summer quarter of their second year, at which time they would have completed two of the three correlations courses themselves. Applications for these competitive positions will be reviewed during the fall quarter, and the selected TAs will be notified prior to the beginning of their clinical residency. Following completion of their first 4-month clinical residency in the winter quarter, TAs will return to campus to assist with Clinical Correlations, instructor guided skills practice, and provision of concept review/tutoring of individual students. This is a great opportunity for nurse anesthesia residents to become acquainted with the process of instructional planning and implementation. 

Teaching Assistants for 2024-2025

Adam Dryden, SRNA

Team 25 

Hello, my name is Adam Dryden. I am originally from Morton, Illinois which happens to be the pumpkin capital of the world! I obtained my BSN from St. Francis Medical Center, College of Nursing, where I then accepted a job in the surgical/trauma ICU. The travel bug bit me soon after that, and I briefly did some travel nursing before starting at RFU in May 2022 as member of Team 25. I really enjoy helping other students as part of their learning experience, which I believe enables me solidify ideas and concepts as well. I am looking forward to helping other anesthesia students at our new Colorado simulation location in the same way the Team 24 TA’s helped me! We are all in this together, and I fully expect to learn from those I aim to help as well.

Luke Ferencak, SRNA

Team 25 

Hello! My name is Luke Ferencak, and I’m originally from a small town called Oregon, Illinois. I went to Northern Illinois University for my BSN. During my undergraduate experience, I served as the lead tutor for the NIU nursing program. Following graduation, I worked in the ICU at UW Swedish American Hospital in Rockford and at Elmhurst Hospital. Education and teaching have always had significance in my life and in my career. It’s a great joy to impart knowledge on a subject one is deeply passionate about, especially when it’s anesthesia! It’s an honor to assist in the education of the following cohort, and I hope to teach for an anesthesia program soon after graduation.

Nancy Garcia, SRNA

Team 25

Hello, my name is Nancy Garcia. I was born and raised in the Humboldt Park area of Chicago and currently live in the same area of the city. I obtained my BSN from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2016. After graduation I started working in the MICU at Christ Medical Center, where I worked for two years and then transitioned to the MICU at the University of Chicago as it opened as a Level I trauma center. I worked there throughout the COVID pandemic, and then decided to travel locally to Cook County Hospital where I spent most of my time working in the CCU or cath lab. Throughout my career I have precepted nurses and enjoyed teaching. I love to learn! As I continue on this life-long journey of learning, I am excited to work with Team 26!

Leticia Gomez, SRNA

Team 25 

Hola, my name is Leticia Gomez, but people usually call me Lety. I was born in Mexico but grew up on the South Side of Chicago. I am a first-generation college graduate, receiving my undergraduate nursing degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Before anesthesia school, I worked at Christ Medical Center's Adult Surgical Heart Unit for over six years, where I served as a preceptor and chair of the education committee. My passion for education eventually led me to become the unit's interim nurse educator. I am grateful to be a part of the TA program and to have the opportunity to help educate future nurse anesthetists. My goal is to use my experiences and knowledge to create a positive learning environment for Team 26.

Kulule Kenea, SRNA

Team 25 

Hello! My name is Kulule. Prior to relocating to Illinois to start my DNP journey at RFU, I earned my bachelor’s degree at Oakwood University, a HBCU in Alabama. I later relocated to Minneapolis, a place I now call home. An interesting tidbit about me is that I spent my formative years growing up living in four different continents, including Asia, Africa, Oceania, and now North America! Prior to anesthesia training, I had five years of nursing experience in medical, surgical/trauma, and cardiovascular ICUs. This broad range of experience truly prepared me for training. I have compassion and empathy for new learners and hope to serve as a TA by making difficult concepts easy to understand and translating them in a way that makes it stick. I look forward to working with students to enhance learning, apply knowledge and prepare them for the clinical phase of their academic journey.

Oyetunji Okunola, SRNA

Team 25

Hi! My name is Oyetunji Okunola, and I go by Oye. I immigrated to the United States in 2015 from Lagos, Nigeria. I began my journey to CRNA that same year by attending City Colleges of Chicago- Malcolm X College, and graduated from nursing school in 2018. I started my career as an emergency room nurse in a small community hospital on the south side of Chicago. Later, I transferred to the medical intensive care unit at Mount Sinai Medical Center in Chicago, where I worked for three years before anesthesia school. I had the opportunity to benefit from the Rosalind Franklin University Teaching Assistant program even before I started anesthesia school! The CRNA I shadowed was a previous TA who had graduated from RFU. In addition, the TAs from Team 24 played a significant role in my preparation for clinical training through their guidance and teachings. Therefore, I understand the vital role of this position, and it is an honor to serve as a TA for Team 26.

Teaching Assistants for 2023-2024

Terence Fon, SRNA

Team 2024

Hello, my name is Terence Fon, and I was born and raised in Cameroon, Africa. I immigrated to the US after completing high school in 2009. I earned my BSN at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and started my nursing career on a Med-Surg unit at Christ Medical Center. After two years, I transitioned to the Medical ICU at Lutheran General Hospital, where I worked for four years before receiving admission into the DNP program at RFU. As a nurse, I enjoyed being a preceptor, and my favorite part was teaching hands-on skills. By joining the TA program, I will continue to have the opportunity to teach hands-on skills to future nurse anesthesiologists. In the past year, our TAs from Team 23 helped me understand many concepts while also playing a significant role in preparing me for clinicals. It is my turn to return the favor and pass that knowledge to the next generation of CRNAs. A fun fact about me is I'm fluent in French. I am excited to work with everyone in Team 25!

Leslie Loya, SRNA

Team 2024

My name is Leslie Loya. I have lived in multiple places, including Spain, Mexico, and the United States. I obtained my ADN at El Paso Community College in El Paso, Texas. After graduating, I started working in an ICU specializing in neuro, trauma, and medical. During that time, I completed my BSN online through Grand Canyon University. Throughout my years of school, I have met many instructors who have inspired and motivated me. Now I am looking forward to beginning my path in education in something that I love: anesthesia. My goal is to promote a positive, fun, and engaging learning environment.

Janellarose Manalang, SRNA

Team 2024

Hi! My name is Jay (Janella). All my life, I’ve either lived in Chicago or its nearby suburbs. In 2017, I graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and obtained my BSN. Prior to starting my journey at RFU, I worked as an ER and CVICU nurse. I’ve always had a passion for teaching and enjoyed training new hires on our unit. As a future CRNA, I hope to get involved in education and help train future SRNAs. Therefore, I’m excited and honored to serve as a TA for Team 25! Fun fact: I taught English in China!

Katie Martzke, SRNA

Team 2024

Hello! My name is Katie Martzke, and I am from Hortonville, WI. I went to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for my BSN. After undergrad, I worked at the UW Hospital in Madison, WI, for 3 years in the Cardiac / Medical ICU. I enjoyed working at a teaching hospital, practicing on an inter-professional team, and providing individualized care to patients. I owe much of my success as a nurse to my teachers who taught me the importance of being a lifelong learner. The faculty and TAs at RFU have challenged me, helped me develop my clinical skills, and have demonstrated their own passion for lifelong learning. I am so excited to work with members of Team 25 to pay it forward and help apply their didactic knowledge in the clinical simulation environment!

Katie Rapachietta, SRNA

Team 2024

Hi! My name is Katie Rapacchietta, and I am originally from Detroit, Michigan. I obtained my BSN from Michigan State University in 2016, and began my nursing career at a hospital in Detroit. After about a year, I move to Chicago, where I accepted a position in the Surgical Trauma ICU at Northwestern Memorial. The variety of critically ill and complex surgical patients I took care of ultimately sparked my interest in pursuing anesthesia. Through my years as a charge nurse and preceptor, I have developed a passion for facilitating growth and learning for those entering the healthcare field. I am looking forward to helping new anesthesia students grow in this wonderful profession.

Teaching Assistants for 2022-2023

Amber Neil, SRNA

Team 2023

Hi! My name is Amber Neil, and I am from Bear, Delaware. I completed my BSN at Delaware State University and my MSN at Wilmington University in nursing leadership. Prior to starting my DNP at Rosalind Franklin University, I had 8 years of nursing experience in a variety of different critical care areas. My ICU experience consisted of caring for surgical, trauma, neuro, and open heart patients. During my years as an ICU nurse, I also became an adjunct nursing instructor for Dominican University. During this time as a clinical instructor of senior nursing students on their critical care rotations, I developed a true passion for teaching. The TA program at Rosalind Franklin helped me tremendously during the didactic portion of the program. I want to extend the same guidance and support to the upcoming class of nurse anesthesia residents. I am very excited for this opportunity!

Lisa Smith, SRNA

Team 2023

Hello, my name is Lisa Smith. A fun fact about myself is that I am fluent in Japanese! I was raised in a military household; and as a result, I have lived in several places. I was born in Okinawa, Japan, grew up in Guam and spent most of my time living in the Lake County, IL area. For nursing school, I attended the University of Illinois at Chicago. Then, I worked as a float-pool Med-Surg RN for 1 year before moving to the neuro-ICU at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago. After 5 years in that role, I was accepted to the DNP program at RFU. I thoroughly enjoyed working in a large teaching hospital and being a preceptor. I would not be where I am today without the guidance of passionate nurses and doctors. I am eager to assume my new role as a TA and help future nurse anesthesia residents translate and apply the knowledge gained in didactic into a more practical environment.

Kelley McCarthy, SRNA

Team 2023

My name is Kelley McCarthy, and I'm from Wisconsin, where I attended UW - Milwaukee for my BSN. I stayed in Milwaukee after graduation where I worked in the cardiovascular ICU at Froedtert Hospital for three years prior to starting at RFU. During my time as a nurse, I always enjoyed precepting because it challenged me to teach concepts or tasks to others in a way that matched their learning style. I am excited to serve as a TA for Team 24 and hope to help guide the application of didactic concepts in the simulation center in a way that further instills students' passion for anesthesia.

Avery Smith, SRNA

Team 2023

My name is Avery Smith, and I am originally from the Chicagoland area. I received my ADN from Oakton Community College and spent the majority of my 9-year nursing career at Lurie Children’s Hospital in the pediatric cardiac ICU. During my time at Lurie Children’s, I completed my BSN at Northern Illinois University and spent one year working on the critical care transport team. I love providing hands on care to patients and am passionate about learning how to deliver the best care possible. The amazing teaching assistants here at Rosalind Franklin University greatly enhanced my learning during our didactic training. I am excited to pay that forward by working with the next class to pass on any knowledge and experience that can help them along the way!

Teaching Assistants for 2021-22

Sawyer Henderson, SRNA

Team 2022

My name is Sawyer Henderson. I am originally from Iowa, where I also attended the University of Iowa for my BSN. I stayed at the university hospital after graduating, where I worked in the surgical and neuroscience ICU for 1.5 years, before moving to Chicago and working in the MICU at Rush University. Having worked in academic teaching hospitals has allowed to observe many different teaching styles in medicine. I am looking forward to using what I have learned about educating healthcare providers and putting it to work with this opportunity to educate the next class of Nurse Anesthetists!

Sarah Hoffman, SRNA

Team 2022

Hi! My name is Sarah Hoffman and I am originally from Grand Junction, CO. I relocated to Chicago, Illinois to pursue my career in nursing, which started at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in their surgical trauma ICU. I was a nurse there for 4 years prior to starting my DNP at Rosalind Franklin. During the 4 years as a critical care nurse, I spent part of my time teaching 4th year medical students clinical and technical skills. Though this opportunity I developed a passion for teaching and working with others to build interprofessional relationships. I look forward to continuing my passion and helping other students learn and grow into their new profession as anesthesia providers.

Eduardo Ornelas, SRNA

Team 2022

My name is Eduardo Ornelas, and I am from the southwest suburbs of Chicago. During my senior year in nursing at Illinois State University, I had a nursing internship at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago on an orthopedic surgery unit, which then turned into my first nursing job. From there, I went on to work in their surgical trauma ICU prior to starting at Rosalind Franklin University. During my senior year at Illinois State, I also worked as a teaching assistant in the nursing simulation lab, which solidified my interest in teaching. It is my hope that by serving as a TA I can help enhance the learning of future anesthesia providers through simulation experiences that tie together both the theory and the practical knowledge of nurse anesthesia.

Peter Ferszt, SRNA

Team 2021

My name is Peter Ferszt, and I am originally from the Metro Detroit area. I completed my BSN at a Michigan State University where I became passionate about nursing, medical anthropology, and public health. While in my senior year, I did a nursing internship at Northwestern in their surgical trauma ICU, where I later accepted my first job and continued to work as a critical care nurse until starting my DNP at Rosalind Franklin. Progressing through clinicals, I have developed an interest in regional, pediatric, and trauma anesthesia. I am very passionate about anesthesia and educating future anesthesia providers. I look forward to working with nurse anesthesia students and serving as a bridge between the theoretical and practical knowledge of nurse anesthesia.

Vanessa King, SRNA

Team 2021

My name is Vanessa King and I am a current nurse anesthesia student. My background before starting school included working in a CV-ICU in Milwaukee, WI, and a Surgical Trauma ICU in Denver, CO. I have been a nurse for 6 years. Becoming a CRNA and eventually teaching has always been a dream of mine. Didactic learning was always harder for me than hands on clinical training as I know I learn better by doing. It has been my hope to bridge the gap for others when it comes to learning something in a book and being able to apply it in clinical practice. I know that being a teacher doesn’t require a title as much as it requires the willingness to help other learn and be patient as they navigate new skills. So, I hope that through being a TA I am able to learn new ways of communicating and leading that I can carry onward into my professional years.

Ashley Small, SRNA

Team 2021

Hello! My name is Ashley Small, SRNA in Team 21. I have 9 years of RN experience, 7 of which were in critical care. I came to Rosalind Franklin from Seattle, WA where I worked in the Cardio-Thoracic ICU at University of Washington Medical Center. Before that, I served in the Army with a deployment to Baghdad, Iraq in 2005-2006. It was during my time in the military that I was drawn to the medical field, and came home to start my journey towards becoming a CRNA. This year I am excited to be the IANA student representative for Rosalind Franklin. One of my favorite parts of anesthesia is practicing regional anesthesia techniques. I am looking forward to helping teach hands on skills to team 22 to help prepare them for clinical.