Howl from the Heart: Dr. Patricia Flatt

Aerial view of campus. Todd Hall in the foreground.

Dr. Patricia Flatt, professor of chemistry. Howl from the Heart.

Giving Day 2021 is just around the corner (March 2!), and we’re hoping you’ll join us in supporting WOU students’ success. During 2020, each of us has adapted, adjusted and created new realities for ourselves; Western Oregon University was no different. As we plan for the future, we look to the Wolves family to help us get there.

To highlight where we have been this past year and learn about why you should give, we want you to meet a couple of students and an employee. Dr. Patricia Flatt is a professor in our Chemistry Department.


What was the toughest part of 2020 for you?

The toughest part of the last year has been the isolation. I deeply miss the ways that our society comes together and interacts, whether that is in the classroom learning about science or sharing a meal with friends and family. I miss the social connections.


What inspired you during this time?

Two things come to mind. First, when we heard from former students from the Forensic Emphasis Program and from the Medicinal Chemistry Program about the impact that our programs had on their lives and enabling their careers. It was incredibly inspiring to see the impact that we have had as teachers along their path and the love that they had for the programming at WOU that enabled them to reach their dreams.


The second example that jumps out is an advisee whom I recently spoke with who is a junior this year and an ASL major. She has decided that she wants to go to medical school to become a doctor and has now started her premed course work. That is what I was advising her on. She wants to become a doctor for two major reasons: one because she has been plagued with some chronic illnesses through her life. During that time, she has had some really good doctors and some really poor ones as well. She wants to become a doctor to become one of the good ones who is really engaged in helping people like herself – people who have a chronic condition that is not easily or readily cured. The second reason that she wants to become a doctor is because of the need for doctors to help treat COVID and infectious disease in general. To me, this is a very scary time, and to be willing to step up and put yourself at risk to help others is incredibly inspiring to me. I admire the path that my student has chosen to take. It is one of courage, empathy and generosity to people in need.


You teach chemistry. Describe a lab in the virtual world.

Some labs are very hard to teach in an online format because students cannot have the same hands-on experience learning how to use equipment and prepare reagents. However, some lab experiences can be deeper and touch on real world problems when they are in the online format. For example, Labster has developed some very in-depth biochemistry labs that allow students to conduct virtual experiments in biochemistry that are not possible for us to run in the lab. Students can learn how researchers study Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease by setting up and running specific genetic experiments. These types of experiments have added to the diversity of our normally on-site laboratories and will be new labs that I intend to keep, even when we return to our normal format. These types of experiences enhance overall student learning.  


What has strengthened your “heart” this past year?

Honestly, the spirit and resolve that I have seen in our medical community over the past year strengthens me. The nurses and doctors who are on the front lines every day treating COVID patients and caring for those who are dying and suffering. They wake up every day and put themselves and their families at risk to help others, to help strangers. And among these brave and caring souls stand our students, our students who have gone on to become those doctors and nurses. This strengthens my spirit and resolve to continue to help our WOU family of students reach their dreams.


Why should someone support WOU financially?

Coming from a modest background, I was able to go to college as a first-generation student due to the kindness of others, due to programs like the Pell Grant system and small grants from generous donors. I know, for me, college and my education changed my life in so many unexpected and beautiful ways. It opened up doors to a world that I couldn’t have even imagined. A world that has involved international travel, meeting people from different cultures, and building a career instead of merely holding down a job. This is why I became a teacher: to help other people like me reach their dreams.


What makes you excited about the future?

The joy, excitement and exuberance that I see in my students’ eyes. They are the promise and the hope of our future.


What is something fun about you?

I really love martial arts, especially Chen-style Taijiquan. I have my teaching credentials in this art and teach, as well as practice. It makes me feel very happy to share this interest with other people.

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