Faculty - Keiser University

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Name Title Credentials
Christine Kessler Program Director EdD, MMS, PA-C
Thao Tran Medical Director MD, MPH
Renee Levy-LeBeau Academic Director MMS, PA-C
Annette Sophin Clinical Director MSMM, PA-C
Kara Ann Valentine Clinical Coordinator MMS, PA-C
Avril Nimblett-Clarke Full Time Faculty MS, PA-C
Bernadette Evitt Full Time Faculty MCMS, PA-C
Christina Hejja Full Time Faculty MPH, PA-C
Danielle Marese Full Time Faculty MSPA, PA-C
James Hancock Adjunct Faculty MPH, PA-C
Maitee Urbieta Adjunct Faculty PhD
Maria Brooks Adjunct Faculty PsyD
Richard Finkel Adjunct Faculty PharmD
Thomas Panavelil Adjunct Faculty PhD
Nieves Garcia Administrative Assistant BA
Tiffany De Maria Data Manager N/A
Nikki Sawyer Admissions Manager MAHR

Renee Levy-LeBeau, MMS, PA-C

Professor Levy-LeBeau is the Assistant Program Director and Academic Director. Professor Levy-LeBeau joined Keiser University Physician Assistant Program in December 2014 as Principle faculty. In September 2015 she was appointed to Academic Director. In October 2017 she was appointed to Assistant Program Director. Raised in Davie, FL she attended Nova Southeastern University for her undergraduate work as well as Physician Assistant training. She has a Master’s Degree in Medical Science. Currently, she is pursuing her Doctorate of Health Science. She is a National Health Service Corp Scholar. She has practiced primarily in Correctional Medicine for six years with the Michigan Department of Correction. In addition, she has experience working in a Ryan White title III program at which time she held certification as a HIV Specialist with the American Academy of HIV Medicine. She has experience in Infectious Disease, Pediatrics and Pain Management.

Thao Tran, MD, MPH

Doctor Tran graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1995, interned at Santa Barbara Hospital at the University of Southern California, and did a residency at Baylor College of Medicine. She is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. She served as Section Chief and faculty of Weil Cornell University in the department of neurosurgery at The Methodist Hospital. Since her move to Florida, she has provided leadership and expertise in starting the Baptist Center for Spine Care. She is currently the Medical Director of the Keiser University Physician Assistant Program. Dr. Tran is also Clinical and Strategic Advisor for the Health Council of South Florida (HCSF).

“The Affordable Care Act has greatly impacted the U.S. healthcare delivery system. I strongly believed that we are moving towards a healthcare delivery model where Physician Assistants will play a critical role in providing quality and efficient services to meet the demand for the growing population.”

Annette Sophin, MSMM, PA-C

Professor Sophin joined the Keiser Physician Assistant Program as Clinical Director in September 2013. She previously served as Assistant Professor and Academic Coordinator at Nova Southeastern University PA Program from 1995-2000. She completed a Surgical Fellowship from Montefiore PA Surgical Training Program. Professor Sophin has several years of clinical experience in New York and in Florida. Through her work as a Clinical Specialist, she developed important relationships in the local medical community. She is deeply committed to clinical site development and the education of PA students.

“I genuinely feel fortunate to be able to combine my passion with my background and expertise.”

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” Socrates

Professor Kara Ann Valentine, MMS, PA-C

Professor Valentine received her Master of Medical Science Degree in Physician Assistant studies from Nova Southeastern University in 2008, and a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training from Barry University in 2004. She has practiced primarily in Nephrology for five years. She also has experience in Pulmonology, Internal Medicine, and Critical Care. During clinical practice in Nephrology, Professor Valentine precepted medical students and physician assistant students. She joined the Keiser University Physician Assistant Program as Clinical Coordinator in April 2013. Professor Valentine’s responsibilities include student placement in clinical sites and assisting with the clinical year education. She is a member of Florida Academy of Physician Assistants.

“As educators, our role should be to prepare our student for the road, not the road for our student.”

Avril Nimblett-Clarke, MS, PA-C    

Professor Nimblett-Clarke is a Certified Physician Assistant with more than 20 years of Pediatric clinical experience.  She holds a degree in Physician Assistant from Howard University and a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from A.T. Still University.

As a Physician Assistant she has practiced primarily in the District of Columbia and Maryland in General Pediatric, Pediatric Hematology and Adolescent medicine. Professor Nimblett-Clarke has had the opportunity to work with a diverse group of pediatric patients but personally demonstrates a passion for the Adolescent patients.

Prior to Keiser University, she serves as the Academic Coordinator at Howard University’s Physician Assistant program.  She brings to Keiser vast knowledge in the oversight, development and execution of program curriculum.  Her teaching philosophy is to facilitate knowledge and promote critical thinking in a student centered learning environment.

Bernadette Evitt, MCMS, PA-C

Professor Evitt is a physician assistant, who came to Keiser University in October 2011. She spent most of her previous eight year career in the field of neurosurgery. She has authored articles published in The Pain Clinic and Surgical Physician Assistant. Since she started her academic career at Keiser University Physician Assistant Program, she has managed eleven different courses that are offered. She serves on the ethics committee, the advisory board, the admissions committee, and with the Keiser University Physician Assistant Student Association. Professor Evitt offers a voluntary PANCE review once a week for several months during each year, and she offers a one-on-one suture workshop for students preparing to enter into their surgical rotation during their second year.

“Watching and contributing to the students’ growth into mature, compassionate, highly qualified health care professionals is what makes me happy. I am so grateful for the faculty who share this motivation with me.”

Professor Christina Hejja, MPH, PA-C

Professor Hejja is from Fort Lauderdale, FL. She attended Nova Southeastern University for her undergraduate work as well as Physician Assistant training. She has a Master’s Degree in Public Health. She has four years of experience working in Urology, three years working in Cosmetic Medicine, and three years working in Orthopedic Hand Surgery. Professor Hejja has been an Instructor at the Physician Assistant Program since March 2012. She teaches Physical Diagnosis I and III, Introduction to the PA Profession, and Medical & Legal Ethics. Professor Hejja also teaches the Certification Review Course for the second year students in preparation for the PANCE, and Clinical Medicine which includes areas such as: HEENT, Musculoskeletal, Geriatrics, and Surgery.

“Find your passion! I was fortunate that I knew exactly what I wanted at a very early age. I absolutely love medicine and have always been curious about the anatomy of the human body. Once you find your passion, the course load, numerous hours of work, dedication, and reading materials all become feasible. I see PA school and my career as just an extension of what I have always been interested in, and it has easily become second nature to me. Find what you are truly interested in studying, and you will truly enjoy it!”

Nikki Sawyer, MAHR

Ms. Sawyer has been employed with Keiser University since October 2008. She began as an Admissions Counselor for the Graduate School assisting prospective students interested in applying for various graduate programs. Additionally, in September 2009, she began working with the Physician Assistant program and helped develop the initial admissions process and procedures. Ms. Sawyer later began working exclusively with the Physician Assistant program as a Senior Admissions Counselor in March 2014 before assuming her current role as Admissions Manager in February 2015.


Mrs. Percy and Mr. Williams believed in me. They were more than instructors, they tried to get to know you as a person and tried to understand your goals so they could push you towards them. And Mrs. Crawford from student services helped me find a job before I even graduated. She was dedicated to my overall success.

Jessica Kircher

Going to Keiser University was one of the greatest experiences in my life. All of my deans, professors, and staff made me feel that I was a part of something very special, and I am. I would recommend for anyone to get their education at Keiser University.

Belinda Haney

The two instructors that have impacted my life are Mr. Williams and Mrs. Percy. Both of them believed in my ability to become a great graphic designer, regardless of how I felt about my skills. I appreciate their motivation to get me to where I am today.

Justin Pugh

Beyond the curriculum of the courses, the lessons the instructors have taught me have paid dividends in my real work experiences. How to respond to criticisms, project and time management, interview skills, the list goes on and on. At the end of the day, they not only showed me how to design, but they taught me how to be a professional.

Ryan Bushey

If not for my education at Keiser I probably would not be where I am today, in both life and career. It is because of going to Keiser and the instructors I had that I joined a club started by Mr. Williams, The Lakeland Shooters Photography Group, which allowed me to venture into an amazing and very creative field that I use to enhance all aspects of my life.

Anthony Sassano

The Design program at Keiser University was filled with real world learning and hands on instruction… Based on the portfolio I created while a student at Keiser University, I landed a job in Graphic Design for a major online retailer immediately after graduation.

Ty Fitzgerald

The year and a half I spent in the program better prepared me for attaining a job in the field…As a hands-on learner, the project-centered teaching was perfect for me.

Jackson Tejada

Keiser University has given me the opportunity to embrace a career change… It has opened the door for a timely graduation and quick return to the work force…

Dale Caverly

Without the education I received at Keiser University, I would not be where I am today!

Meisha Ebanks, R.N.

I not only received an excellent education but also encouragement and training that built my self-confidence every day.

Nidia Barrios

I realize the amount of knowledge I gained and feel that the educational experiences have developed me in to a person who can move higher up the career ladder.

Carlos Ramirez Flores

Keiser University’s MBA program has renewed my mind, changed the way I think, and given me a new sense of purpose.  The professors transformed my attitude and behavior, gave me the self-confidence I was lacking, and restored my energy.

Connie Sue Centrella

It has been great attending and graduating from Keiser University.  Because of the small class sizes, I was able to build good relationships with classmates and professors.  The PA professors care very much about the progress and success of the students and have been great advisors every step of the way through the program.

Annelise Merriner, PA-C

Attending Keiser University and getting my degree was the best decision I have ever made.  The small class sizes and personalized attention helped me get my degree quickly.  The hands-on experience and the education landed me a job at a neighboring law firm.

Dedrick Saxon

I chose Keiser because it had everything—small classes, caring professors, hands-on learning, and counselors that are really there for you.  I feel like I’m part of a family here, not just a number.

Natalie Dou

After being denied for several promotions at my current employer, I decided that I needed to further my education.  Since graduating from Keiser with my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, I have been promoted and I am able to obtain positions that weren’t available to me before.

Laurie Williams

Keiser helped change my life by getting my education at the right school! I had been going to another school before, I dropped out because I felt that I was not getting enough information. When I found out about Keiser, I was pleased because the instructors were great.

Nadege Dor

My decision to attend Keiser University has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. I chose to enroll in the Information Technology program… The one-class-a-month pace helped incredibly with my self-discipline.

Marla Hadley

The BA for Business Administration at Keiser has to be one of the best in the nation. Keiser takes the basics that are taught at the Associates level and uses them to strengthen your skills and knowledge.

Vivian R. Howard, BA in Business Administration Graduate

I found that Keiser University’s Nuclear Medicine program of advanced studies and small class size was a perfect fit. I never came across a faculty member who wasn’t truly interested.

Gustavo Gonzalez, Nuclear Medicine Technology Graduate