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Meshanko named 2017 Graduate Commencement speaker

April 20, 2017 Tags: Academics , Alumni , Health Sciences and Education

Julie M. Meshanko, ’00, M.O.T., ‘01, has been selected as the speaker for the 2017 Graduate Commencement ceremony on May 7.

About Ms. Meshanko

Meshanko Portrait SFU Graduate Speaker 2017Taking risks, living on the edge, having faith—these topics pepper any conversation with Julie Meshanko about her life and work.

She is a staff therapist at the second largest, and second ranked, burn center in the United States.  The Arizona Burn Center is part of the Maricopa Integrated Health Center (MIHS) in Phoenix.  She says she enjoys her work because “you never really know what you’re walking into.”

She became interested in burn therapy while still a student at Saint Francis.  She even wrote her master’s thesis on the topic.  Meshanko continued to explore that field following graduation while working at The Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh for nine years.

Burn therapy, explains Meshanko, is a difficult field to enter.

“You have to live on the edge, take a leap of faith and hope that everything you have done to this point . . . suits the purpose, suits what everybody feels like they need,” she says.  

A “leap of faith” is exactly what Meshanko and her ___ classmates took in 1996 when they entered Saint Francis University as the inaugural class of occupational therapy students.  Accreditation of the new program was not guaranteed.

While Meshanko admits to “ups and downs” with being part of the first class of OT students, she says that her professors were key to making the program a success.

“It felt like we [faculty and students] were doing it together,” says Meshanko.

“I’m the type of person that lives a little bit on the edge,” she continues, “and I like to make sure that I’m pushing myself, knowing that I have to be on my best game.  So not always knowing where we were going and what we were doing made it a bit more interesting.”

She says the burn therapy field in which she now works parallels that “being on the edge” concept. 

“We’re pretty complicated here,” says Meshanko about MIHS.    She adds that she does not have a standard OT role at the burn center, but feels comfortable in that role because the OT program at Saint Francis prepared her to think outside the box.

“’Outside the box’ is what burn therapy is,” she adds.

Since MIHS is a government funded hospital, it treats allpatients regardless of insurance or ability to pay. 

“Everybody needs us,” says Meshanko, so the hospital treats everyone and treats everyone the same.  She finds the blanket approval of serving all a welcome difference to the rules she faced in Pennsylvania hospitals about treating only patients with the means to pay.

“Burns are something that need to be treated correctly the first time so there are no problems in the long run,” explains Meshanko.

Meshanko continues her affiliation with Saint Francis by serving as a guest instructor in the occupational therapy program and by arranging fieldwork experiences for SFU students in Phoenix.

She is kept busy outside of work by her two dogs, Apollo and Rumour.  She loves to read and to travel and has visited numerous European cities, including Assisi in Italy.

And, she says, the great weather makes it easy to entice her family to visit her often in Phoenix.

Learn more about SFU Occupational Therapy