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Inspired by kids, Kelly Colwell is first to earn master’s in respiratory care in Ohio

Kelly Colwell demonstrates the proper breathing technique for a test.

Kelly Colwell, right, demonstrates the proper breathing technique when using an inhaler.

Kelly Colwell works with children every day as a pediatric neonatal respiratory specialist at Akron Children’s Beeghly campus. But it was his own children who inspired him to achieve a new goal.

_MG_1364_1_1-3040186458-OOn Dec. 15, 2013, Colwell became the first person to graduate from Youngstown State University’s new online master’s program in respiratory care. He’s also the first in Ohio to earn this advanced degree online.

“I wanted to be a role model for my children and lead by example,” said Colwell, who has 3 kids in college and a fourth in high school.

One of a kind program

YSU’s online master of respiratory care program is the first of its kind in the state, and only the third in the nation.

”I chose the YSU program because it offered a specialized curriculum that focused on my profession,” Colwell said. “I also appreciated the flexibility of the online schedule and the affordability of the classes.”

He took advantage of Akron Children’s tuition assistance program, as well. Courses covered everything from research and statistics, grant writing and leadership development to technology applications for health and human services.

“It’s given me a better understanding of evidence-based clinical practices and the magnitude of the hospital’s processes,” Colwell said.

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Putting kids first

Colwell was also inspired by his desire to provide the best evidence-based medicine to children. “We all need to take the time to make a difference in the life of a child,” he said.

At Akron Children’s, Colwell helps coordinate the pulmonary diagnostic and stress-testing lab, and assists the pediatric pulmonologists and allergists in the clinic.

He’s involved with the diagnosis, treatment and education of patients with pulmonary diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, cystic fibrosis and other cardio-pulmonary diseases.

It’s a job that calls for skill, patience, expertise and compassion. And it’s a job he has done for more than 29 years, first at Tod Children’s Hospital in Youngstown, and now at Akron Children’s.

“Working with sick children and their anxious parents can be challenging, but it is always rewarding when you can find a way to help them,” he says. “I hope to ease their suffering and help them overcome their illness.”

Delivering the best possible care to kids, Colwell said, happens because of the collaborative multidisciplinary approach at Akron Children’s. “No one doctor, respiratory therapist or nurse has all the answers and the best patient outcomes are found with a team approach to care.”

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Education is key

Colwell considers education a vital aspect of his work. He received his bachelor’s degree in applied science with a major in respiratory care from YSU in 1993. His numerous certifications include Neonatal Pediatric Respiratory Specialist (NPS), Certified Pulmonary Function Technologist (CPFT) and Certified Asthma Educator (AE-C).

He is also helping train the next generation of respiratory therapists as a part-time faculty member at YSU. He has been honored with Adjunct of the Year Awards from YSU as well as Distinguished Teaching Awards for his work with the pediatric residency program service at Tod Children’s Hospital.

In other words, it’s not just his own kids for whom he’s a role model. Children and adults all around Youngstown have benefited from Colwell’s expertise and passion for his work.

And anxious parents have been breathing a lot easier with him around.

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