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Faculty & Staff

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Stephanie Storgion, MD, FAAP, FCCM
Department Chair, Professor

Dr. Storgion received her medical degree from the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo. She was a Resident and Chief Resident in Pediatrics at Medical College of Ohio and Affiliated Hospitals and completed her Pediatric Critical Care fellowship training in Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Dr. Storgion is board-certified Pediatrics and Pediatric Critical Care Medicine. She joined the faculty of University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Le Bonheur Children's Hospital in 1987. She currently serves as Medical Director of the Transitional Care Unit, which she developed in 1990. She has participated in many multicenter studies over the years and currently supervises data collection for the Virtual PICU database.


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Kristopher R. Maday, MS, PA-C
Program Director, Associate Professor

Kristopher Maday is an associate professor and current program director for the University of Tennessee Health Science Center Physician Assistant Program.  He has been a practicing PA since 2007 and has experience in trauma, surgery, critical care, emergency medicine, and nutritional support.  He has been a full-time academician since 2011 and has won several institutional and national awards for PA education and teaching. He has authored numerous peer reviewed articles and has presented many times at the national AAPA CME conferences. He serves nationally for the PAEA End of Rotation Exam Writing Committee and is a current member on the editorial board for the JPAE. He is a fervent advocate for incorporating social media into higher education, and hosts a podcast and blog for PA students, as well as contributes to the AAPA blog on his signature segment “Professor’s Corner”.


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Kara L. Caruthers, MSPAS, PA-C
Assistant Program Director, Associate Professor
Director of Community Engagement, Diversity, and Recruitment

Ms. Caruthers joined the UTHSC PA Program faculty in January 2018. She holds her MS in Physician Assistant Studies from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (2009) and a MS in molecular, cellular and systemic physiology with a Certificate in anatomy from Southern Illinois University Carbondale (2005).  Her career in academia started at SIUC as an anatomy instructor for the School of Medicine, but after earning her MSPAS, she served as PA faculty for approximately eight years at UAB, while working clinically in emergency medicine and in an urgent care clinic.  She also served as co-Program Director for an 11-month master’s level program, designed to better prepare students seeking entry into graduate health profession programs. Her passion to increase the representation of students who are from rural communities, from educationally and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, as well those historically not represented within the health professions is reflected in her local, state and national participation in health professions outreach activities. She currently serves on the PAEA Board, participates in Project Access at both the AAPA and PAEA national meetings, and has previously served in various roles for the Alabama PA society.   She is looking forward to serving in the local Memphis community as well as within the state.


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Thomas Spentzas, MD, MS, FAAP
Medical Director

Dr. Spentzas graduated from the School of Medicine in Athens, Greece. He received his Master of Epidemiology at the University of Tennessee. He completed his residency in Pediatrics and fellowship in Pediatric Critical Care at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NYC.  Subsequently, he served as an attending at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center — Babies and Children's Hospital of New York. Dr. Spentzas has served as Medical Director of PICU services at St Mary’s Hospital in Evansville IN, Swedish American Hospital in Rockford IL, and LeBonheur Children's  in Memphis, TN. He is board certified in both Pediatrics and Pediatric Critical Care. Dr. Spentzas has published many studies Critical Care, and Bench research. In parallel with his medical duties, he serves as a consultant in statistics and epidemiology and teaches graduate-level courses. Currently, he is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Tennessee.


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Joseph WIllmitch, MSPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA
Director of Clinical Education, Assistant Professor

Mr. Joseph G. Willmitch has been a certified Physician Assistant since his graduation in 1978. He has completed two postgraduate programs, one in surgery at Montefiore Hospital/Albert Einstein College of Medicine Hospital in New York City and he completed his Master of Physician Assistant Science (MPAS) with a specialization in Cardiology from the University of Nebraska Medical Center. He has worked in the field of Cardiothoracic/Vascular surgery from 1981-1991, and in the field of Cardiology from 1991-April 2016 in Miami, Florida. Mr. Willmitch was one of the first Physician Assistants in Miami-Dade County and was instrumental in introducing the concept of PA's there. He helped launch the Southeastern University PA Program (now Nova-Southeastern) and was on their initial Admissions, Advisory and Advancement Committees as well as their initial faculty. He was Chairman of Allied Health at Baptist and South Miami Hospitals from 1993-2010 and a member of a system-wide Council for Advanced Practice for Baptist Health of South Florida. He is a Distinguished Fellow in the AAPA and brings with him almost forty years of experience as a Physician Assistant to the University of Tennessee Physician Assistant Program.


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Paul “PJ” Koltnow, MS, MSPAS, PA-C
Director of Admissions, Assistant Professor

As one who truly appreciates the importance of being a "life-long learner" Mr. Koltnow brings to the program a varied background of health care and academic experience. After obtaining a Master's degree in Counseling Psychology from the University of Memphis, he began his health care career mainly treating at risk youth with substance abuse issues as well as serving the needs of adult psychiatric patients.

Having a strong interest and desire to pursue further medical training Mr. Koltnow graduated from Bethel College with his MSPAS. He spent 7 years in a private pediatric practice as well as practicing Internal Medicine for two years. 

In addition, Mr. Koltnow has a BA in Journalism from Memphis State University and a BS in Psychology from the University of Memphis. He will finish his EdD in Instructional Design and Technology this summer. 

He has proudly served on the board of the Tennessee Academy of Physician Assistants. He has also taught as adjunct faculty at the University of Memphis and occasionally will use his Journalism skills writing freelance articles for various local publications. Mr. Koltnow’s research interests include technology and pedagogy, particularly using non-traditional means, to enhance critical clinical decision making skills.


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Barbara Jerden
Admissions and Clinical Coordinator

Barbara’s career at UTHSC began in 1997 working in the Payroll Department. She later became the Department of Preventive Medicine Financial Specialist for eighteen years.

May 2017 she joined the Physician Assistant Program. In addition to her role as Admissions and Clinical Coordinator, her profession in accounting has provided business and financial guidance to the program.

She enjoys photography, travel, gardening and spending time with family.



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Leigh Anne Pickup, MMSc, PA-C, DFAAPA
Assistant Director of Clinical Education, Assistant Professor

Mrs. Pickup attended Brevard College as a Basketball Scholarship Athlete and graduated as the Valedictorian in 2001.  She then went to PA school at Emory University and graduated Summa Cum Laude with her Master’s Degree in 2003.   Her PA career began in General Surgery, but quickly transitioned to Emergency Medicine, where she has been since 2005. She joined the UTHSC PA Program in April of 2016 as the Nashville Clinical Coordinator and is now the Assistant Director of Clinical Education.

The excellent education of a PA, coupled with the flexibility and teamwork approach to medicine, is what drew Mrs. Pickup to a career as a PA. She is passionate about encouraging PA students to be lifelong learners, excellent communicators, and constant advocates for their patients.  

Mrs. Pickup has served on the board of the Tennessee Academy of Physician Assistants (TAPA), the Fellowship of Christian Physician Assistants (FCPA) and is currently a legal reviewer for the Committee on Physician Assistants (COPA) for the State of Tennessee.  She has served as adjunct clinical faculty in the PA Programs at The Medical University of SC, Lincoln Memorial University and Trevecca Nazarene University. 

In addition to the love of her career, Mrs. Pickup adores spending time with her husband, two boys and two huskies.  She also enjoys camping, gardening and running. 


Deborah Horwitz

Deborah J. K. Horwitz, MSPAS, PA-C
Assistant Professor 

Horwitz joined the UTHSC PA Program as an assistant professor in July 2019, after she served as the dermatology course instructor in 2018 and 2019. She has been a practicing dermatology PA since 2014, but has also worked in other specialties including family medicine, urgent care and clinical trials research. She graduated from Baylor College of Medicine’s Physician Assistant program in 2010, where she received a master’s degree.

Prior to becoming a PA, Horwitz  worked in health care public relations and was involved in politics on Capitol Hill. She maintains an interest in health care systems and policies. She received a bachelor’s degree in political communications from American University in Washington DC in 2005. She is certified by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants and is a member of the American Academy of Physician Assistants and the Society of Dermatology Physician Assistants. She has co-authored multiple peer reviewed articles and abstracts. 

Horwitz is not only passionate about the education of future PAs but also the mentorship of pre-PA students and other professionals exploring whether the PA profession is right for them. She founded and serves as the director of PreparedPA, a national pre-PA coaching service. 

Horwitz is originally from Austin, Texas but moved to Memphis after calling Houston home since 2008. She enjoys traveling, eating at good restaurants and spending time with her husband and daughter.  


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Cynthina Starke-Cordero
Administrative Support

Cynthina Starke-Cordero is a part of the Administrative coordination team for the department of Physician Assistant Studies, within the College of Medicine. A UTHSC employee since March, 2006, Cynthina has contributed in an administrative capacity. Building proficiency in the navigation of the federal grant process while working within the department of Preventive Medicine, prepared Cyndi for her next role in assisting students during their didactic year of PA school and preparing them for the clinical rotations in year 2.


Last Published: Jul 23, 2019