Henry Oh to elevate health sciences at LCCC

Dr. Henry Oh teaches students.Dr. Henry Oh considers himself a natural-born teacher. 

“The moment I enter the classroom, it’s like a home to me,” he said. “And I know how to motivate the students to really participate in difficult, complicated lessons. That’s where my innovative creativity comes in.” 

Recently hired as Laramie County Community College’s associate dean of Health Professions, Oh, is already making it clear he intends to continue a career of extraordinary achievement and helping students succeed. Not long after coming to LCCC, it was announced Oh had been selected by the Board of Directors of the American Medical Technologists (AMT) for the AMT Pillar Award. It will be presented to Oh on July 9 during the AMT 2024 Annual Meeting in St. Louis, Missouri.

The date is interesting for Oh, because it’s not far from another significant date; July 19 is the birthday of his late mother, Vicenta Saavedra Oh, and the same day that the mayor of Pocatello, Idaho proclaimed it "Dr. Henry Oh Day." Oh grew up and lived in the Philippines and Canada, speaking a Spanish Creole. His parents, though loving and encouraging, couldn’t afford many of the opportunities other ambitious young people had. As a youngster, Oh wanted to learn piano, but his parents couldn’t afford the lessons, so he decided to teach himself. 

That lesson could be applied to Oh’s life more broadly as time went on. His parents never went to college, but they emphasized early on that they wanted to see their children attain degrees to help them succeed. 

“My parents always encouraged me to pursue education, because that’s the way to become successful in life,” he said. “They said, ‘We’re going to work hard.’ What they instilled in me is part of my motivation.” 

As a first-generation student with economic hurdles to overcome, Oh was nonetheless certain he could help people by harnessing his passion for education. With the ultimate goal of becoming a doctor, Oh encountered barriers that might have left others discouraged. Though he passed the medical college entrance exam more than once, he couldn’t afford the education he aspired to. Oh, however, wouldn’t let that hurdle prevent him from moving forward with a plan. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory Technology from the University of San Tomas (UST), and continued his education from there, eventually achieving the doctoral status he aspired to. 

Today, Oh is a certified medical laboratory scientist (MLS), a registered respiratory therapist (RRT), and a chartered biologist (CBiol). He is also an Honorary Professor of Health Sciences at Logos University International. As an educator and clinician, Oh holds a broad range of experiences and highly valued expertise. He is a leader among others in the profession. His areas of expertise include curriculum development, accreditation, innovative strategies in education, cultural diversity, faculty development, student development and other higher education work.

The Pillar Award recognizes a certified AMT member who has a track record of contributions to state societies, including state society offices held, state committees involved, lectures presented, articles published and other scholarly works and community service. One of the requirements for the Pillar Award is being a past recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award. 

Every distinction Oh has earned is significant to him, including the Pillar Award, he said. But that is just the latest in a career of accolades that are almost exhausting to list. 

Oh has garnered numerous awards, such as the U.S. Professor of the Year in Health Sciences in 2020 and the Master Teacher of Honor in 2013. Affiliated with prestigious institutions, he holds high-ranking certifications, including Chartered Biologist and Registered Respiratory Therapist.  Globally, his expertise has been shared through presentations at significant international conferences in South America, the Philippines and Brazil. His exceptional contributions to the field have not only earned him the title of "International Distinguished Scholar" but also five national and international recognitions as a teacher, marking him as a leader whose innovative strategies in clinical education and research in respiratory pathology inspire many in the scientific community.

Significantly influencing the professional journeys of numerous students and emerging experts, Oh has pioneered groundbreaking methodologies in health science teaching. This includes blending interdisciplinary clinical simulations with clinically focused anatomy and physiology education, as well as innovating curriculum design to foster student achievement and retention. A wide array of achievements, skills and expertise are showcased in his portfolio.

All the distinctions honoring Oh for his academic achievements, while exceptional, still fall short of recognizing the human element he brings to the educational journey for students. 

Oh has ideas for how to retain students and has proven successful in the area in the past. A big part of that is believing in a holistic approach to student development. It’s not just about lectures and exams; Oh said he believes he can help students be prepared academically by staying healthy and fit. It started when he was helping students prepare for a certification exam. While the students seemed to know the content of the course well, he found they’d get lost sometimes taking the exam. 

“They didn’t have the physical endurance,” he said. “They’re so nervous. So I started helping students prepare for having the ability to sit for long hours. I tell my students, ‘Please keep yourself fit and healthy. I'm not saying that you're going to go to the gym and build all those muscles. I'm just saying you're taking care of sick patients. If you are sick, how are you going to take care of that sick patient?’”

It’s important, Oh said, to give students regular feedback, highlighting what they’re doing well and where they need to improve. 

Helping students isn’t limited to instruction, Oh said. Through the years, Oh has had his phone with him 24/7, offering students the chance to reach out with whatever they’re struggling with. Whether students he’s taught have a question about their jobs or his current students see something on the way to their graduation, Oh is always eager to help. 

Students have come to Oh amid mental health crises, only to have him convince the students they will be OK. Some have come to Oh with challenges at home, whether their responsibilities with their children or jobs are hampering their abilities to complete coursework. No matter the case, Oh has a high level of empathy and understanding that allows him to guide students to overcome obstacles. 

“I had a student who was going to drop my course because she didn’t have a babysitter,” Oh recalled. “But there was another student of mine who said, ‘Henry, you’ve helped me a lot. I will volunteer to babysit her kids until the semester is over so she can finish her program.’” 

Sometimes, Oh said he thinks about teaching the same way he thinks about music. When he has an audience for his piano playing, Oh said he selects pieces he thinks the audience will enjoy. When he’s performing at a retirement community, Oh would play songs the residents will remember from their younger days. If it's a younger audience, he plays a jazzier, livelier tune. 

It applies to the college campus and how he approaches teaching, displaying his aptitude to understand what students need, which allows Oh to better help his students succeed. 

“It has helped me in other areas, such as creating curriculum,” he said. 

All the accolades are appreciated, and he’s proud of what he’s achieved, Oh said. But what makes the effort he puts in each day worthwhile is seeing his students improve their lives with the power of education. It’s significant in no small part for Oh because it reflects what he did as a first-generation college student determined to be the most he could be.  

“It tells me that I’m doing something for the community,” he said.