From struggling student to educator thanks to the RUC Doctor of Health Sciences program

Daniel Gochenour, D.H.Sc., RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, ’21

The academic career of Daniel Gochenour, D.H.Sc., RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, ’21, wasn’t always rosy. As an undergraduate student in the Radford University in the exercise, sport and health education program, Gochenour admits he was not the strongest student.

“At the time, I was not as focused on my academic goals as I should have been,” he recalled. “My GPA suffered greatly during that time, and I essentially hit academic rock bottom.”

He says that he was in danger of being dismissed from the university due to academic probation, felt embarrassed by his performance and questioned if he belonged at the college level. That all turned around, however, when he met David Sallee, Ph.D., M.S. ’97, from the College of Education and Human Development’s health and human performance department.

“Dr. Sallee has a true passion for teaching, and his passion helped drive my goal of turning my academic career around,” Gochenour said.

From that point on, Gochenour excelled in his academic pursuits. After completing his bachelor’s degree, he discovered respiratory therapy and enrolled in the program at what was then Jefferson College of Health Sciences, the pre-merger precursor to Radford University Carilion.

Respiratory therapy quickly became a passion for Gochenour, and he excelled in his classes, completing the program with academic honors. Following graduation, Gochenour went to work for the University of Virginia Health as a registered respiratory therapist. He spent his free time serving as president of the Virginia Society for Respiratory Care and on the Virginia Board of Medicine Advisory Board for Respiratory Care.

Gochenour also published research, worked as an educator and rose to leadership roles in his department. He did all of this while also earning his Master of Science degree in respiratory care leadership at Northeastern University through an online program.

“It was in that program that I recognized the value online education can provide, especially while being a working professional,” Gochenour said.

His desire to continue his education and continue advancing his career meant he would need an online program that would allow him to learn at his own pace while providing him with the flexibility to continue working while earning his degree. He would find that in the Doctor of Health Sciences (D.H.Sc.) program at Radford University Carilion (RUC).

“The D.H.Sc. program was interesting to me because of the online nature of the program and the focus on healthcare leadership,” Gochenour said. “At the time, I wanted to work toward becoming a hospital leader while also wanting to keep the door open for academia. The program helped me achieve my personal goal of obtaining a doctoral degree after struggling as an undergraduate student as well as opening up many professional opportunities.”

Gochenour said that becoming an educator was something he had been considering in the future but became a reality when he joined the D.H.Sc. program.

“In the program, I was able to serve as an adjunct faculty member while also working as a leader at UVA Health in the pulmonary diagnostics and respiratory therapy department,” Gochenour said. “Being an educator has always been an area of passion for me. When I heard about the opportunity to be an adjunct instructor, it gave me the opportunity to explore teaching even more.”

Gochenour completed his D.H.Sc. degree in May 2021, but has held onto his role as an adjunct faculty member for the public health and healthcare leadership department at RUC. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he also moved into a new role as a respiratory therapy manager at VCU Health in Richmond.

“This position provides leadership over the adult and diagnostic areas of VCU Health,” he said. “The diagnostics area includes bronchoscopy with interventional pulmonology along with pulmonary function testing for both adult and pediatric patients.”

Gochenour credits his D.H.Sc. degree with distinguishing him as a candidate when he applied for the position. He had focused his study in the program on healthcare administration, which gave him the experience he needed to be a leader in a large academic medical center. In addition, the healthcare administration D.H.Sc. student can also focus their studies in the program on community and public health or education and academics.

Now a long way from his days as a struggling undergrad, Gochenour said that if his experiences have taught him anything, it’s that healthcare is a team sport, and students need to be ready to share their knowledge with others in the classroom and beyond.

“Many people outside of the healthcare environment do not realize the many different professions it takes to provide excellent care to patients,” he said. “Leaders in public health are so desperately needed now to help disseminate evidence-based recommendations and talk to those who have questions. That’s why the D.H.Sc. program and the students in it are so valuable to the future of healthcare.”

May 2, 2022
Mark Lambert