Dr. Kelly L. Colwell Leads Next Generation of Respiratory Care Professionals

Dr. Kelly L. Colwell scored a hat trick with three degrees from Youngstown State University – a bachelor’s and master’s, both in respiratory care, followed by a doctorate in educational leadership.

As the director for respiratory care programs at YSU, Dr. Colwell goes by the leadership and research fundamentals he picked up as a student in the university’s Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership program.

Graduating with his doctorate in 2017 culminated a process that began years earlier when he was working as a paramedic and still formulating a direction for his life.

“I knew I wanted to go further into healthcare, and I noticed early on that healthcare education was lacking,” he said. “There weren’t so many well-developed programs. I enjoyed teaching, and I enjoyed working with people who wanted to learn.”

After pursuing general studies as an undergrad at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, he earned an associate degree in respiratory care from Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania.

Achieving Excellence

As graduate and undergraduate program director, Dr. Colwell plays an instrumental role in designing an educational foundation for respiratory care students. His position affords opportunities for him to incorporate his own key takeaways from the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership curriculum.

“The Ed.D. program helped me to understand how to develop research protocols and qualitative or quantitative studies,” he said. “It gave me the confidence to help students develop their own research protocols and investigations.”

Dr. Colwell believes that holding an advanced degree in one’s profession is an important precursor to additional higher education for leadership roles.

“You need to have that respiratory foundation before you become an educator or begin conducting research. It was a blessing because I was able to finish my master’s degree in respiratory therapy and also achieve my educational status through the doctoral program,” he said.

Increasing Access to Care

The research Dr. Colwell conducted for his capstone project in the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program at YSU has had a positive impact on his field. His project focused on children with asthma to help decrease no-show appointment rates through age- and disease-specific education, with the published work being presented at the American Thoracic Society.

“If somebody schedules an appointment and then doesn’t show up, that is blocking access to care. But, you can educate the child on how to recognize their symptoms and educate the parents on the need for follow-ups. As you put those pieces together, it improves how patients recognize their symptoms, allowing physicians to start treating them earlier,” Dr. Colwell said.

His research on education as a doctoral student primed him for the role of program director — he gained the know-how to run the educational process on a larger scale and provide high-level leadership for a successful program.

“I am in charge of curriculum review. I also have to abide by a national accreditation that sets the high standards for the program. Our courses have to be adjusted and developed to meet the educational requirements for respiratory therapists at a national level.”

Dedicated Professional

As a student, Dr. Colwell was able to work two jobs while completing the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program at Youngstown State University: one as an educator and the other as a clinician.

“I worked full time, so the program was very flexible for me. It was somewhat due to the agile hybrid coursework that we did,” he said. “We only met at certain times. So, if it hadn’t been for that and the ability to upload assignments and work online, I would have never achieved my academic goals.”

The results of his hard work have inspired his own children to reach for their goals. His son works as a health and wellness coordinator for a multi-facility healthcare system, one daughter is a K-12 educator pursuing her master’s degree in public health, one is an esthetician and the other, a banker.

“They saw me working and going to school and making it through the process, and they’ve done that themselves because a couple of them are still in school while working,” he said. “They do have a strong work ethic and believe they can achieve if they just try. I’ve always tried to instill that in my kids as well.”

Dr. Colwell would give similar advice to anyone interested in the field of health education, particularly those eyeing the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program at YSU.

“Don’t give up on your goals. You want to make sure that this is what you want to do, and you move forward with it and find the tools you need to meet your academic goals. The program opened a lot of doors for me after I graduated. And for that I am ever grateful.”

Learn more about YSU’s Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership online program.

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