Board of Directors

Michael Skurja, Jr.

DPT, ECS (President)

Dr. Skurja is one of three co-founders of Wasatch Educational, and one of the three co-founders of Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMUoHP). He has served in numerous roles at RMUoHP, from which he retired in 2018 as Executive Vice President of Operations.  Dr. Skurja currently serves as Chair of the Board of Trustees for the University.

Dr. Skurja spent 23 years in the U.S. Navy and served as a physical therapist and administrator including positions in executive medicine. He was stationed at numerous Naval Hospitals throughout the United States, and he retired from the Navy in 1992 with the rank of Captain. From 1992 to 2005 he had a private practice in San Diego, California specializing in electroneuromyography.

Dr. Skurja graduated with a BS degree in Biological Science from Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado, a Certificate in Physical Therapy from the Mayo Foundation, School of Physical Therapy, Rochester, Minnesota, a MS Degree in Physical Therapy from The University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California, and a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, Provo, Utah. He is board certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties as an Electrophysiologic Clinical Specialist.

Richard P. Nielsen

PT, DHSc, ECS (Vice President)

Dr. Nielsen is one of the three co-founders of Wasatch Educational, and one of the three co-founders of Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMUoHP). He has served as the founding President of RMUoHP since 1998.

Dr. Nielsen obtained his BS degree in pre-physical therapy from Brigham Young University in 1973 and his BS degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Utah in 1975. He entered the United States Navy serving in various positions over 20 years. During Dr. Nielsen’s last tour of duty, he served as Chief Physical Therapist for the United States Navy and as Physical Therapy Consultant to the Surgeon General, The United States Supreme Court, Congress and White House. Following retirement, Dr. Nielsen co-founded and served as President of the Institute of Clinical Electrophysiology in Provo, Utah where he served until becoming President of Rocky Mountain University of Physical Therapy (the former name of Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions) in 1998. Dr. Nielsen graduated from the University of Washington with an MS degree in Neuro-kinesiology and from the University of St. Augustine in Florida with a Doctorate in Health Sciences with emphasis in Clinical Electrophysiology.

He is concurrently practicing as an electromyographer in Utah and is board certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties as an Electrophysiologic Clinical Specialist and has re-certified three times (1998, 2006, and 2016). He has authored chapters in textbooks and published in peer-reviewed journals in the specialty area of Clinical Electrophysiology. Dr. Nielsen received the 2015 Leader of the Year Award from the American Physical Therapy Association.

Dr. Nielsen and his wife Jodi and their oldest daughter, Kindee, have co-founded two charitable foundations as part of their work in Africa building schools for the under-served children in different African countries. For the past 29 years he has traveled to Africa where he and his teams provide resources for constructing primary and secondary schools. To date, his foundations have built two primary schools in Ghana, two primary schools in Uganda, one primary school in Zambia, three primary schools and one secondary school in Malawi, and ten primary schools and one secondary school in Kenya. His current foundation World of Difference (WoD) (www.makeaworldofdifference.org) in collaboration with Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions is also engaged in providing RMUoHP doctoral and physician assistant students with third-world clinical experiences concurrent with their opportunities of engaging in school construction projects. Dr. and Mrs. Nielsen received the American Red Cross International Hero of the Year Award in 2013 for their work with the children in Africa.

Paul V. Burgon

MBA

Mr. Burgon is currently the Senior Vice President of Mergers & Acquisitions for Steel Partners Holdings, a public holding company, where he runs mergers and acquisitions for Steel Partners and its affiliates and has completed over a dozen transactions with a value of approximately $800 million. From 2010 to 2012, Mr. Burgon was the interim Chief Financial Officer of SWK Holdings Corporation (OTCBB: SWKH), where he helped transform a public investment company into a specialty healthcare finance company. He was the Principal and CFO of NightWatch Capital Advisors LLC, a private investment firm, from 2005 to 2012. Mr. Burgon was a Manager and then Director of Corporate Development for Danaher Corporation (NYSE: DHR) from 1998 to 2005, where he completed approximately 50 transactions with a value of almost $2 billion. Mr. Burgon led corporate development at Fluke Corporation from 1997 to 1998 and worked at Coopers and Lybrand’s Acquisition Advisory Group from 1994 to 1997. Mr. Burgon holds a B.S.B.A. degree (cum laude) in Finance and International Business and an International Executive M.B.A. degree from the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University.

Mr. Burgon has been a guest lecturer at Georgetown University, American University, and Brigham Young University, and has served on the Georgetown University alumni admissions committee for 15 years. He is an avid skier and cyclist, and is married with three children.

W. James Downs, Jr.

PT, DSc, ECS

Dr. Downs is president of Tidewater Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Associates, P.A., a 16 clinic “Medicare Certified Rehabilitation Agency” covering the Delmarva Peninsula that includes the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Southern Delaware, which he started in 1984. He is also President and Primary Electromyographer at Tidewater Electromyography that he started in 1980 and contracts with Tidewater PT.

After he was graduated from the Medical College of Virginia in 1970, he served 3 years in the U.S. Public Health Service in New Orleans, LA and Washington, DC with a Mentorship in clinical electromyography. He then, 1973-1975, attended the graduate PT program at Emory University where he worked in the Biofeedback Research Lab under the tutelage of John V. Basmajian, MD. Afterward, 1975-1976, he worked as a Research PT in the Kinesiology Research Lab of Mary Pat Murray PT, PhD at Wood VA Center in Milwaukee, WI, while attending graduate school at the Medical College of Wisconsin. After his daughter was born in 1976, he moved his family to their home area and became the Director of PT and hospital Electromyographer at Memorial Hospital in Easton, MD. In 1980 he entered private practice as an Electromyographer and also contracted EMG services with area hospitals. Four years later, he and three associates formed a private PT practice that has continued to expand with a unique ownership opportunity for physical therapists. In 1994, he and an associate also bought an ailing private practice in Burlington, VT that they expanded into a thriving four clinic practice and sold several years later. While continuing to practice full time, he attended RMUoHP, starting in 1999 and was graduated in 2006 with a Doctor of Science degree in Clinical Electrophysiologic Physical Therapy.

He has served in several offices of the Maryland Chapter of APTA, was on the EMG committee of the APTA’s Section on Clinical Electrophysiology for over 10 years, which culminated in having EMG as a recognized service for physical therapists by Medicare and was a member of the Maryland State Board of Physical Therapy Examiners for 8 years (1994-2002). He, with associates, has published in Physical Therapy and the American Journal of Physical Medicine in the field of Kinesiology. He has taught the Electromyography and Nerve Conduction Studies course at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore for over 20 years and has presented nationally at EMG Meetings. He currently resides in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware with his wife, Mary Lynn, who he married in 1969.

Sandra L. Pennington

PhD, RN

Dr. Sandra Pennington has been in executive leadership at Rocky Mountain University since 2006, first as Academic Dean (2006-2008, 2009-2012), as the Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs/Provost (2012-2015), and then as the Executive Vice President of Institutional Effectiveness and Strategic Initiatives (2015-2018). She now is the Chief of Staff, Office of the President. She also functions as RMUoHP’s Accreditation Liaison Officer to the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) and holds the rank of Professor.

Dr. Pennington has a forty-year career as a registered nurse where she served in diverse roles in the clinical and academic settings. She holds a PhD in Nursing and a Master’s of Science in Nursing from the University of Kentucky in Lexington, Kentucky. Her doctoral study explored symptom appraisal in women with coronary artery disease. Dr. Pennington had a distinguished career at Berea College (Kentucky) where she held an Endowed Chair in Nursing position. After 18 years of service, she was granted a Professor Emeritus title on her retirement.

Before her full-time appointment at RMUoHP, she also established and served as the founding program director for the DSc in Nursing program and as founding co-director for the Doctor of Nursing Practice program. Dr. Pennington currently serves on the Physical Therapy Panel of the Commission on Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), and has acted as a CAPTE’s peer evaluator since 2013.  Dr. Pennington also has been a NWCCU peer evaluator since 2014. She has also served on many University committees including the Administrative Board, the Finance Committee, the Executive Council, Academic Leadership Council, University Council, and Institutional Review Board. At RMUoHP, she has been the recipient of the University’s Presidential Award (2017) and the Difference Maker Award (2015).

For the last five editions Dr. Pennington has been a principle co-author for the nursing pharmacology text, Abrams' Clinical Drug Therapy; she has also co-authored critical care and another pharmacology text, and an emergency nursing textbook for nursing students. She has authored articles in peer-reviewed journals and has written multiple book chapters. Additionally, she has served as clinical consultant for nursing texts related to assessment and to critical care, and as a reviewer of several texts dealing with critical care and nursing in contemporary society. In addition, Dr. Pennington has extensive experience as an expert nursing witness in malpractice cases. With her interest in patient safety and medical error, she participated as a Salzburg (Austria) seminar fellow as a Mellon Grant recipient.

Dr. Pennington has a passion for assessment and strategic planning and has focused much of her career on data-driven decision-making at the point-of-care and in navigating the future of the professoriate. She serves as a consultant to the proposed Noorda College of Osteopathic Medicine in the areas of project management, accreditation, policy development, and strategic planning. Through her work as Chief of Staff, she works closely with the RMUoHP management team and organization to formulate strategic initiatives and goals to facilitate sound decisions under critical timelines.

Rogan Taylor

PT, DPT

Dr. Taylor earned a Bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University. He graduated from the U.S. Army-Baylor University in 1982 with a Master’s degree in Physical Therapy and later graduated with his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in 2007.

He has been practicing physical therapy since 1982, and he is currently the owner of FYZKAL Therapy and Balance Centers in Provo, Utah. His training and experience while working as an Army Physical Therapist afforded him many opportunities to study at advanced continuing education courses and train in renowned medical facilities. His main expertise is the evaluation and treatment of spinal disorders and all orthopedic injuries. He has had the opportunity to work with and treat a wide variety of patients–athletes, children, geriatrics, worker comp, etc. since 1982. He finds great satisfaction and happiness in seeing his patients recover and regain their normal activities. He is ASTYM certified.

Dr. Taylor has a special interest in nutrition and wellness. His other interests include spending time with his family, traveling, skiing, cycling and a love for photography. Dr. Taylor currently serves as a member of the Wasatch Educational Board of Directors and on the Board of Trustees of Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions.

Matthew Wride

LLM, JD

Matthew Wride is a business executive that focuses on making the human resources department a strategic partner in organizations of all sizes and types.  He is a minority partner in DecisionWise, a boutique employee research and analytics firm headquartered in Springville, Utah.

As DecisionWise’s Chief Operating Officer, Matt oversees the company’s operations, as well as its finance, legal, technology, and administrative functions. Wride joined DecisionWise in 2015, after serving as the COO for a start-up incubator and family office. Prior to making the transition to business management, he was a corporate attorney in Salt Lake City, Utah. Wride’s practice ranged from advising start-ups to handling complex mergers and acquisitions.  Prior to practicing law, he was an accountant and consultant with Deloitte (formerly Deloitte & Touche) in Seattle, Washington and Salt Lake City, Utah.

Wride is co-author of the book, The Employee Experience: How to Attract Talent, Retain Top Performers, and Drive Results, published by Wiley & Sons.  He is also an adjunct professor of political science at Utah Valley University in Orem, Utah.  In 2018, Wride was recognized by Utah Business Magazine as a CXO of the year.

Besides his family, his true love is skiing Utah’s Rocky Mountains, where he is constantly in search of “champagne” powder and blue skies.

Wride received a JD from Willamette University College of Law, a Masters of Laws in Taxation (LLM) from the University of Washington, and a BS in Sociology from Brigham Young University.

Wride serves as a Lead Independent Investor at Wasatch Educational, Inc. and a member of the Executive Committee.