Jan 11, 2019 | By Susan Anderson
Photography by Liam McGurl, '17, '19
Shannon Keller will tell you she is blessed to be a student at St. Bonaventure University.
A senior biology and health science double major with a biomedical concentration, Keller aspires to become a physician assistant. She credits the unwavering support of her parents and family and “awesome” mentors for helping her become a first generation medical student.
One of those mentors was Dr. John Stubenbord of her hometown of East Aurora, N.Y. Stubenbord served the community for more than three decades as an internal and family medicine physician and before that served in the U.S. Air Force.
Keller worked with him for five years as a medical assistant, loving the family-like atmosphere of his office and his compassion with patients. But in the fall of her junior year, she received the devastating news that he had unexpectedly passed away.
“That was a very hard thing for me to get over,” she said. "He wanted to see me reach my dreams of being a neurologist or surgeon."
Keller's interests lean toward neurology and mental health.
“For the future of healthcare, I would like to see more attentiveness to mental issues as well as physical issues. I think mental health is overlooked in this country,” she said. “I’ve been raised to treat everybody as an individual. I’ve always been very, very passionate about treating everybody from the spiritual, emotional, mental and physical aspects because I think there are that many parts to a person.”
St. Bonaventure’s Franciscan tenets of building loving relationships and helping improve humanity are important to Keller, so she appreciates when her instructors bring that to life in a scientific sense.
“My brain works mathematically, so letting me express creativity in my papers is a crucial part of my education here,” she said. She especially enjoyed the Franciscan-Catholic heritage class taught by Fr. Ross Chamberland, O.F.M., as well as the Intellectual Journey course with Fr. Kyle Haden, O.F.M.
She works with Dr. Sean Ryan in his Zebrafish lab in De La Roche Hall as an undergraduate research assistant, studying how certain chemicals affect this freshwater fish species, and also helping to ensure that the lab runs efficiently.
“The great thing about Shannon is that she comes in willing to learn,” said Ryan, an assistant professor of biology who began establishing the lab three years ago when he joined Bona’s faculty. “Shannon is good at applying knowledge in a hands-on situation. I depend on her to show other students what to do as she has more experience in the lab.”
On average, Keller spends about 100 hours per semester in the lab — this is on top of the 21 credit hours of classes this semester.
“What students eventually learn is that science doesn’t happen in a block of time,” said Dr. Ryan. “They must take it from start to finish.”
Additionally, Keller attended three conferences under Dr. Ryan’s tutelage. They traveled to St. John Fisher College for the Rochester Academy of Sciences conference last fall, and prior to that Keller presented research posters during conferences at SUNY Upstate Medical University and Syracuse University.
Zebrafish researchers from across New York state and Toronto attended the latter conference.
“Students find it enriching,” said Dr. Ryan. “They have a chance to network and see a broader scope of research and techniques.”
Keller is also involved with the Olean General Hospital Experience in Clinical Medicine program, where she rotates through various departments of the hospital every Tuesday.
“It’s been a great opportunity,” she said. “Just this morning I was in the operating room with an Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon, and before that watched several cataract surgeries being performed by an ophthalmologist.”
On a day-to-day basis, though, it is Dr. Stubenbord who is with her every time she steps into the lab or shadows a physician on rounds at the hospital. And it is he who will be with her in spirit as she walks across the stage in the Reilly Center this May to accept her degrees and prepare for graduate work in physician assistant studies.
“He’s my motivation for realizing my dreams,” Keller said. “He’s my guardian angel.”
About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, we believe in the goodness of every person and in the ability of every person to do extraordinary things. St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. Named the #1 regional university value in New York and #2 in the North by U.S. News and World Report, we are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition.