Health solutions grad goes from Ebola crisis to improving health care

May 6, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

When George Karway first came to ASU in 2014 as a Mastercard Scholar, a full scholarship for students who demonstrate exceptional potential yet face significant barriers to pursuing a degree, he planned to study education. The Ebola outbreak in his home nation of Liberia made him reconsider that plan. Portrait of ASU grad George Karway. Download Full Image

“Fear was so rampant and physicians so scarce when the crisis hit that even suspicion of Ebola infection would land a patient in quarantine,”  Karway said. “No one wanted to come close to you. No one wanted to test you if you had any symptoms. I talked to my parents every day, and they would tell me how even health care providers were getting sick and dying. Because people were being quarantined without testing, people who had escaped the virus initially caught it after all.”

At the same time the Ebola virus was spreading through Western Africa, Karway learned about the field of biomedical informatics, an interdisciplinary field that uses technology to improve health care. He found himself thinking, “What if we had a system to detect if patients had Ebola?” That, he said, is what prompted him to change his major and enter the College of Health Solutions.

Karway completed his Bachelor of Science in biomedical informatics in 2018 and a Master of Science in biomedical informatics in 2019, graduating with summa cum laude honors. Interested in becoming  a university professor, he continued on at the College of Health Solutions to earn his PhD in 2022.

During his doctoral studies, he earned the ASU University Graduate Research Fellowship twice in support of his innovative community-based research. Through this research, Karway has worked with 16 different health care organizations in the Phoenix area to examine how patients feel about sharing their health records between providers. Currently, in Arizona and in many other states, patients are given an all-or-nothing choice when it comes to having electronic health records passed from one care provider to another.

“One thing we are learning is that while patients want to share information, they don’t want to share all of their information,” Karway said. His research showed that out of 209 patients surveyed, 90% wanted to share some information, and none wanted to share all of it. Often, it’s the behavioral or psychological health care issues patients want to keep private because of stigma or fear of stigma, Karway said. “Giving patients a choice in sharing their information would improve integrated care,” he said.

Karway attracted recognition in scholarly circles outside of ASU as well. He is the first ASU graduate to be named student editor for the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, a top-tier journal in the field. His research has appeared in nine highly rated scientific publications so far, including in the Journal of Biomedical Informatics, which is ranked No. 3 out of 30 medical informatics journals.

“George’s trajectory at ASU is truly an example for other international students,” said Maria Adela Grando, an associate professor in biomedical informatics who nominated Karway as an outstanding graduate student. “He is a role model and inspiration for other students who dream to thrive at our university.”

Karway shared more about his experience at ASU and his plans to contribute to health care in the future.

Question: What are your plans after graduation? 

Answer: Eventually, I want to become a professor in clinical informatics, working specifically with patients and empowering patients to take care of themselves and their families. My immediate plan is to continue my education in a postdoctoral program for the next two years, and then pursue a faculty position.

Q: What made you choose ASU?

A: In high school, I knew I wanted to go to a university, and one of my teachers gave me a list of schools in the United States. When I started doing research, I found out that Arizona State University had a huge number of international students. I wanted to come to a place where I would be able to see other international students and interact with them.

Q: What is something you learned at ASU that changed your perspective?

A: I learned to accept feedback. I learned that when people give you feedback, it’s not to bring you down. It’s meant to build you up and give you a different way of looking at something.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: All of my professors taught me important lessons, but Grando taught me about hard work and organization. Organization was something that I was not really good at when I entered the program. 

Q: What’s the best advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Be passionate about what you are studying. Be determined, committed and collaborate with other people. Know that other people are in your life to help you grow and challenge yourself. Reach out for help if you need it.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would tackle health care disparities. When I was growing up, there was a huge gap between people living in rural communities and people living in urban areas. We did not have health care in my community. We used to walk for an entire day to go to the nearest health care facility. We had to spend the night and then walk back. There were no paved roads, and there were hills, mountains, a river – all those things. It was a road you can’t travel by car. If I had $40 million, I would like to spend it to make sure that health care is accessible to people living in rural communities.

Health solutions grad will leverage the speech challenges she overcame to help others

May 6, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Kaley Matthews remembers how self-conscious she felt when reading aloud in class during elementary school. It is those memories, along with a shared understanding and a great deal of compassion, that Matthews will bring to the people she’ll be helping now that she is graduating with a degree in speech and hearing science from ASU’s College of Health Solutions. Kaley Matthews Download Full Image

“I received speech therapy from a speech-language pathologist (SLP) for three years,” Matthews said. “My SLP had a profound impact on my life and when I was deciding on my career path, I chose speech-language pathology because I wanted to help others with communication difficulties similar to mine.”

“Kaley is a wonderful example of a student who had a speech and language disorder as a child and navigated her way to becoming an outstanding student in every way,” said Juliet Weinhold, a clinical associate professor and degree director at the College of Health Solutions who nominated Matthews as an outstanding graduate. Weinhold should know. She saw Matthews rise to the top of all three classes that she taught her in, and said that the stellar student earned an A+ grade in at least 20 courses overall.

Weinhold also worked with Matthews on her research examining test instruments used for the diagnosis of orofacial myofunctional disorder (OMD), a condition of abnormal facial movements that can impact talking, swallowing and breathing. Matthews conducted research that demonstrated the validity of an ASU-designed test and identified an existing OMD diagnostic test that is optimal for speech and hearing science. She presented her findings at the 2021 Arizona Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) conference, as well as at the College of Health Solutions Student Research Symposium.

Matthews also has been investigating the correlation between OMD and speech errors in college students. Along with advancing the science of OMD, this research will help clarify whether speech sound disorders are related to functional motor disorders. Weinhold said she expects results from these studies to be presented at the ASHA meeting next fall. ASHA is the national credentialing association for the profession and holds the annual event at which the latest research to advance the field is shared. 

Beyond the classroom and lab, Matthews’ academic prowess earned her the Sid P. Bacon Memorial Scholarship twice as well as a place in Barrett, The Honors College at ASU. She also completed a second bachelor's degree in family and human development from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU at the same time she was earning her speech and hearing science degree. 

Despite the heavy academic load, Matthews was also involved in many extra curricular activities and leadership opportunities. She served as an undergraduate teaching assistant, taught first-year college students as a peer facilitator in the CHS 101 course and, for two summers, worked as a counselor for incoming students at Camp Barrett. She also supported Barrett as an Honor Devil tour guide, worked as a student ambassador and was recognized as Honor Devil Member of the Year in 2021. 

Matthews was also co-president for the ASU chapter of the National Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association and remains active on the board. To support her fellow speech and hearing students, she organized online study sessions for core undergraduate classes so that online students could also benefit and participate.

As she prepared to graduate, Matthews reflected on her time at ASU and shared advice for fellow Sun Devils.

Q. What’s something you learned while at ASU that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A. Someone once told me that, "Your profession is only a part of who you are and does not encompass all of who you are." This quote changed my perspective and made me realize that I can have a variety of interests and passions outside of my major or profession. I have met so many high-achieving students who have an array of talents, interests and knowledge outside of their major. These well-rounded individuals inspire me every day.

Q. Why did you choose ASU?

A. I chose ASU because of the immense support I received from ASU and Barrett, The Honors College, from day one. They were so welcoming and helpful through the college admissions process. I was looking for a school with fantastic opportunities and resources, but also was looking for a university that cared for their students. I found my home in Barrett and at ASU.

Q. Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A. Weinhold has been an influential professor and mentor to me throughout my college experience. She has taught me so much about speech and hearing science, but also guided me through two research projects. She has taught me so many valuable lessons that I will carry with me not only in my profession, but throughout my life.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A. One piece of advice that I would give undergraduate students is to be open to challenging yourself and following your dreams. I feel that in school, many can become comfortable with their schedules and routines. My advice is to join organizations, start a research project, take an elective that you are interested in and explore all the opportunities ASU provides. I believe being involved is the key to growing during one’s college experience.

Q. What was your favorite on-campus spot for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A. My favorite spot for studying was Hayden Library on the ASU Tempe campus. My friends and I would reserve a room for studying, and I have so many fond memories of studying with my friends in the library. My favorite spot to meet friends was at the Memorial Union Starbucks that is right in the middle of Tempe campus and is always a staple for coffee and socializing!