In support of more than 200 students, residents and fellows, the staff guide every aspect of admissions, financial aid, academic support, career advising, well-being and registrar activities.

“I am fortunate to work with an outstanding team in student affairs,” said Dr. Lori Hansen, dean of Medical Student Affairs. “These individuals are dedicated to student success and committed to supporting students from admission to medical school to graduation.”

We asked the staff about their day-to-day responsibilities and what they enjoy most about their job, and this is what they had to say. 

A headshot of Denae Clobes.Denae Clobes, Assistant Registrar

I take care of all things related to scheduling, grades, conferring degrees and degree verifications. I’m always looking at student schedules or creating the next semester course offerings.

It’s rewarding to make sure students have every course they need to graduate and to confer degrees, as well as to watch the students do what they love.

A headshot of Paula Hawks.Paula Hawks, Medical Education Learning Specialist

I work directly with medical students in an academic coaching role, helping them with learning strategies, test-taking, time management and accountability. I work with all levels, but primarily with first- and second-year students preparing for exams

Any time I see a student improving their techniques because of something we discussed, or a student improves their scores after implementing a strategy I helped them develop, I am super happy. Helping students find success is my passion.

A headshot of Teresa Hays.Teresa Hays, Student Support Services Specialist

I assist Pillar 3 students with away rotations, process applications for students who want to come to USD to complete visiting rotations, keep student records up to date, certify students for testing and professional licensure program and submit paperwork for residency applications.

Seeing the fourth-year medical students graduate is fulfilling to me. That is such a fun, happy event to see all the proud families celebrating their son/daughter’s dream of becoming a physician.

A headshot of Carol Hemmingson. Carol Hemmingson, Financial Aid Specialist

I have worked for USD for 35 years, 33 of those in the Medical Student Affairs office. I counsel medical students with regards to financial aid, loan repayment and financial literacy as well as work with health, disability and malpractice insurance.

It’s fulfilling to work with the students and see them complete their goals of becoming a physician. 

A headshot of Juliet Koppenhaver.Juliet Koppenhaver, Admissions Representative and Recruitment Specialist

I work with our student candidates from application to White Coat Ceremony to get them prepared for medical school. This includes scheduling interviews, hosting our interview day, official notices of admission and all the paperwork that students need before starting orientation.

I love talking to our applicants, and hearing their voices on the other side of the phone when you tell them they have been accepted to our school. The most rewarding is the reception following the White Coat ceremony seeing all the families excited for their students to start medical school.

A headshot of Amberly Makovika. Amberly Makovicka, Senior Secretary

My primary role is to help the Medical Student Affairs office with any tasks that may need to be done day to day. I do a lot with the admissions department within the Medical Student Affairs office. I also help in the Office of Diversity & Inclusion.

I love being able to talk to the students and hear their experiences as they are going through their first couple years of medical school.

A headshot of Alicia Paulson. Alicia Paulson, Office Manager

I assist Dr. Hansen, arrange travel for faculty and staff in the office and for medical students, and handle ledgers, invoices and ordering.

I’m fortunate to work with such great colleagues and students across the Sanford School of Medicine.


A headshot of Venkat Pratti.Venkat Pratti, Policy/Data Analyst

My days consist of visualizing data, creating reports and data entry and management. I retrieve student data and create surveys, as well as work through various data projects.

I enjoy the process of taking raw data that can sometimes be an eyesore and turning it into insightful reports that we can use to help our program. Every report is different, and this keeps my job interesting. Asking the right questions about the message we are trying to craft can be challenging, but it is a very important skill to have in this position.

A headshot of Cheryl Smoody. Cheryl Smoody, Financial Aid Assistant

My main responsibilities are student health insurance and thank you letters, as well as helping with reports and anything else that needs to be done. I find out what needs to be accomplished and make it happen.

I love helping people. I have organized some arts and crafts projects to give students some time to forget about tests and just have fun.

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