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Educating and Expanding

Retired, Munzer spent past 37 years helping grow allied health education at Washburn

By Angela Lutz

Pat MunzerIn her 37 years at Washburn University, Pat Munzer found a home in the School of Applied Studies, capping her long stint by serving as dean of SAS for the past eight years. A respiratory therapist by training, Munzer became acutely aware of the importance of allied health professionals while working with hospitals to prevent, diagnose and treat diseases and illnesses – in many cases, behind the scenes. The need for these types of professionals has only increased in recent years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“COVID-19 has put even more strain on the workforce. Physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists deal with COVID patients in the critical care units,” Munzer said. “We have health care workers taking other jobs or retiring, so we need replacements. Prior to the pandemic we already had an aging health care workforce – the average age was mid-50s to mid-60s, so nearing retirement.”

The demand for allied health professionals is nothing new. In collaboration with area hospitals, Munzer started Washburn’s respiratory therapy program in 1984, and in 1997 she became chair of the allied health department, which was primed for some serious growth.

“At the time I became chair, we had four associate degrees and two certificate programs,” she said.

Under her leadership, the allied health department expanded in partnership with the local health care community and now includes seven certificates plus five associate degrees, three baccalaureate degrees and one master’s degree program. These include career pathways in medical laboratory science, computed tomography, health services administration, magnetic resonance imaging, occupational therapy and more, allowing graduates to serve in leadership roles in the community.

The astounding growth of Washburn’s allied health programs under Munzer’s leadership has allowed the University to offer a broad range of essential education and training that benefits the school and the community. These programs have also given graduates the chance to fill open jobs within the area to better serve patients in need.

Munzer retired from Washburn in June after a long and distinguished career. She remains involved with the University as a member of Washburn’s Institutional Review Board, which reviews applications of faculty and students who want to do research. JuliAnn Mazachek, vice president for academic affairs, said Munzer’s guidance and expertise will be missed in the School of Applied Studies.

“Pat is well respected by faculty and staff,” Mazachek said. “Her leadership and dedication to Washburn University, its faculty, staff and students is evident in the accomplishments of the departments and programs. Dr. Munzer will be truly missed.”

“People say I’m a good leader, but it’s really the people you work with who make those ideas happen,” Munzer said. “When people brought ideas we sat down and figured out how we could get it done. Washburn is a great place to work. The people you work with want to be there – they want to be there for the students. Though I left this past June, I still feel Washburn is and always will be home.”

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