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Life West names new department chairs for technique, sciences

The Office of Academic Affairs recently announced the appointments of three of its four department chairs as of Fall 2019. Two of the four department chairs are new to the job, while a third has been acting as interim chair for the past few quarters already.

New department chairs are as follows:

  • Technique: Christian Labau, DC
  • Clinical Sciences: Jeana Edwards, DC
  • Basic Sciences: David Straub

Dr. Ankur Tayal will continue in his position as the Philosophy Department Chair.

Technique Department: Christian Labau, DC

Health Center mentor Dr. Christian Labau has been with Life West since March 2019, but this isn’t his first stint at the college. He also graduated from Life West in 2010 and practiced in Paris, France, and Sacramento before returning to the Hayward campus.

He’s starting his new position in an ideal place, he says. “The faculty is really good, and the foundation is already there.” His job, as he sees it, is to assess the department and then begin a conversation with the faculty about what the team can do to be more efficient and help students be the best chiropractors possible.

“When the team is really good, that’s a good start,” he said. “You have a lot of competency. After that, we see what we can change.”

Leading the Technique Department is a new challenge, but Dr. Labau admits he’s a little biased toward this part of the curriculum.

“As chiropractors, what we use every day is chiropractic technique,” he said, calling his new post a big challenge, but a very interesting and exciting one.

Moving forward, Dr. Labau said he will have an ongoing conversation with teachers about what they need and how Life West can update coursework. For example, new technology may give content delivery an upgrade by providing teachers with new tools.

One example might be interactive blackboards or whiteboards, which work like a giant tablet. Someone who is teaching students how to adjust extremities might show a 3D model on the screen, which allows them to zoom in and zoom out as well as move around to show where the contact should go and what structure to work on. A visual aid like that is going to be a valuable add-on to students in addition to a more traditional plastic model, Dr. Labau said. “If it works better for you, it works better for students too,” he added.

He’d also like to help with the student transition into clinic, figuring out how to identify earlier where a student might be struggling so that during each part of the program, their needs can be addressed. He said that will be part of the collaborative process of moving forward.

It’s important to Dr. Labau, he said, to make sure that students feel supported, like he did when he was attending classes at Life West. “There was always a surrounding cocoon effect, and help was here if you needed it,” he said. “I want students to feel like that. We are here for you. How can we make this a positive learning environment where people feel empowered and feel OK to ask questions? We are here for that.”

Pardeep Kullar, EdD, Vice President of Academic Affairs, said Dr. Labau’s background will help in his new role. “Having been exposed to the multitude of the techniques offered by the college when he was a student at Life West, Dr. Labau’s knowledge of the Health Center will help to unify the academic and clinical adjusting processes as he steps into the role as the new Chair of the Technique Department.”

Clinical Sciences Department: Jeana Edwards, DC

It’s been a bit of a whirlwind for Dr. Jeana Edwards. “From student to adjunct faculty and adding CIL to now department chair …” she wrote in an email. “It is a BIG change! I will be responsible for folks who trained me how to be a chiropractor.”

Dr. Edwards in recent months has been working on the curriculum and requirements for Life West’s Clinically Inspired Learning (CIL) program, which aims to bring students into the Health Clinic earlier in their journey so that they graduate with more experience and confidence. She also recently was named an Eden Area ROP Business Partner of the Year for a weekend program she runs in the Life West lab that shows high school students what it takes to work in the health care field.

Now she’s stepping into the Clinical Sciences Department Chair role, and don’t think she’s slowing down for a second.

“Our educators are incredible people and they deserve to be supported in their classrooms and labs,” she wrote. “I look forward to assisting in finding resources, cross-training educators for a more cohesive department, and raising the educational bar with the latest information available.”

She says being named chair has special meaning for her.

“It fits right into my goal-setting that I wrote when I sat my first class at Life West,” she wrote. “I’m occupying the very chair that my interviewing doctor sat in when she asked me where I wanted to be in 10 years’ time. It didn’t take me 10 years, but I think she would be proud of my accomplishments and the drive for excellence.”

She says she expects the new position will continue to shape her as she works with the team. “These docs give a vast amount of their free time to make sure we provide the best educational platform for our students,” she wrote about the faculty members in the Clinical Sciences Department. “The support from the department and from the institution should be an equal response to the ‘forces’ that flow through our walls.”

Dr. Kullar said Dr. Edwards’ continued practice outside of Life West will contribute to the role: “Using the skills learned from Life West and her own practice, and combining it with her teaching assignments from around the world and her role as the Clinically Inspired Learning Program Coordinator, Dr. Jeana Edwards will bridge the clinical aspects of academics with the in-practice application of the Health Center experience as the new Chair of the Clinical Sciences.”

Basic Sciences Department: David Straub

David Straub has been the interim chair for a couple of quarters now, he said, and before that he was managing the Life West lab, so not much is changing as he continues working with the basic sciences faculty as the department chair.

Basic sciences are what Straub calls the nuts and bolts of the sciences. Students are learning about different diseases, as well as pathology and terminology, and getting a foundation in anatomy and physiology.

“It’s my area because that’s what my degrees are in,” he said. He has a degree in molecular biology and is working on a graduate degree in education.

These are the kinds of classes he’s always taught at Life West – 22 years going on 23, he says – a wide variety courses throughout basic sciences.

“I’m familiar with the courses and the content,” he added. “The only thing new to some extent is managing the faculty.” He did manage the labs in the past, working with the faculty who used it and managing the budget. This post is similar in many ways, he said, just on a bigger scale.

Straub says he started with medical school when he was a student. “I had always been fascinated by sciences and originally was in college as a pre-med student,” he said, adding that he did attend medical school for a year before deciding he didn’t really care for the way medical schools functioned. He went on to earn a graduate degree in molecular biology instead, worked for the public health department for a while, and then came to Life West.

Any plans for changes in the Basic Sciences Department? Nope, Straub said.

“The department is filled with a number of very credible and highly respected faculty, and they all do a pretty good job,” he said, adding that it’s not broke, so he won’t try to fix it. But as things move forward, he said he will look into fine-tuning to adapt to the learning styles of generations coming through now, and making sure the department stays current.

“While keeping the labs in order as the former Lab Manager, and with more than 22 years of experience teaching Basic Sciences at Life West, Dave Straub will be a valuable asset in running Basic Sciences as the new department chair,” Dr. Kullar added.

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