The Billings Outpost

PA alumna tells students how it is


Rocky Mountain College

Stephanie (Ridgway) Hudson, who became a physician assistant in 2012 in the Rocky Mountain College Master of Physician Assistant Studies program, works in a general surgery practice as the first-ever PA among seven surgeons. Her coworkers say uniformly, “Why didn’t we do this before [have a PA]? It’s so much easier!” she said.

In June, she spoke to the class of 2015 before they begin their year of clinical rotations for their PA certification. “There are not enough primary care providers,” she said about the first years of her career. “More and more patients are coming in with the ACA [Affordable Care Act] – people who’d put off surgeries.”

She is in the operating room three days a week, usually for thoracic surgeries. “Wednesday is Whipple day,” she said, for the extensive surgeries that deal with cancers at the head of the pancreas. “What we can take apart and put together to create a functioning digestive system is just amazing.” Hudson is the first assistant and does teasing apart of blood vessels, cauterization and tying.

Being on call is the greatest opportunity, she said. “The first line is the PA. We decide ‘When does the doc need to be involved? Does the patient need to go to the OR now? What will they need, a central line?’”

“You guys are so much more prepared than the other guys out there,” she reiterated to the Rocky Mountain College students.

RMC President Bob Wilmouth taught Hudson when he directed the RMC MPAS program. He told the first-years, who head to rotations in August, “When you guys go out and knock it out, they see you guys and want a Rocky grad. It’s a pay-it-forward model, and it has worked here.”

Hudson and her husband, Jeff (’10 MPAS), found dual PA careers in Vancouver, Wash. He joined a private practice in orthopedic surgery and trauma after a one-year Chicago residency in which he worked 80 to 100 hours a week. A surgeon in his current practice had endured the same residency, so they hired him for a job he might not have otherwise qualified for.

Back in the RMC classroom, she did not hesitate to rapid-fire quiz current grad students. “What are the indications for a cholesystectomy [gall bladder removal]? What are the most common complications [of the surgery]? So what would you do in that case?” she asked.

Her questions all came from her experiences. Students’ faces brightened as they saw the parallel thought processes of their revered instructors and of an alumna. “Offer to take call on all your rotations,” she said, because RMC students learn as much as anyone can.

Hudson’s advice for clinical year? Without any notes, she rattled off “Always be early and always dress professionally, even before surgery. Prepare before exams. Always wear the white coat. Be willing to document fully. Enjoy the specialty. Find an answer before anyone asks you again. And don’t hesitate to share questions – they’re all waiting for you to ask.”

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 July 2014 10:34

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RiverStone accredited


RiverStone Health, Yellowstone County’s public health department, received accreditation notification from the Public Health Accreditation Board last month.

RiverStone Health is the first public health department in Eastern Montana to be nationally accredited and one of fewer than 50 health departments nationwide to earn PHAB accreditation. 

To receive accreditation, a news release said, a health department must undergo a rigorous, multi-faceted, peer-reviewed assessment process to ensure that it meets or exceeds a set of quality standards and measures.

There are more than 3,000 public health departments in the United States, and hundreds are seeking national accreditation. RiverStone Health and the Missoula City-County Health Department are the only two local health departments accredited in Montana, although several other local health departments in the state are working toward accreditation. 

The PHAB voluntary accreditation program works to improve and protect the health of the public by advancing the performance of the nation’s Tribal, state, local and territorial public health departments, the news release said. PHAB, which launched in 2011 after more than a decade of development, is jointly funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 July 2014 10:31

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‘Dire Wolf’ doesn’t work


“Dire Wolf,” by Eric Jubb. Self-published. Paperback, 493 pages.

By DAVID CRISP - The Billings Outpost

You really can’t judge a book by its cover. “Dire Wolf,” a new Montana-based novel by Eric Jubb, has a handsome cover with a wolf looking balefully at the reader. The back cover is a lovely shot of Flathead Lake.

It’s what’s in between those covers that causes problems. It’s a promising enough story about an ancient breed of canines that come back to haunt modern Montana and about a wounded veteran who is trying to stop the attacks. But the writing just doesn’t get the job done.

Mr. Jubb  relies heavily on dialogue for exposition, which would be tough to pull off even if the dialogue were better. But the dialogue is nowhere near enough to carry the story.

Much of it reads about like this:

“Thanks, Gavin, for the ice cream.”

“You’re welcome, Feather. I’ll see you in the next day or two.”

This is not the sort of dialogue that leaves one hungering for more.

Mr. Jubb does have basic skills, and he seems to have a knack for original ideas. But he still has an apprenticeship to serve before turning out a novel that is worth your time.

Last Updated on Saturday, 19 July 2014 10:42

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Marketing expertise helps students, businesses


MSU Billings News Services

Business students in A.J. Otjen’s marketing communications courses at Montana State University Billings discover there’s more to creating a great marketing campaign than meets the eye.

“It’s more of a visual call to action,” senior marketing major Alissa Barth said. “All aspects of marketing are involved—from psychology to research, to analysis, communications and execution.”

Barth was one of 13 business students who were tasked over the past year with creating three 30-second commercial spots for the Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch as part of a two-semester long project focused on applying classroom theory into real-world practice.

The commercials began airing this month on Bresnan and Charter Communications stations.

Students enrolled in Dr. Otjen’s Integrated Marketing and Communications fall semester course and, subsequently, her spring semester Applied Marketing and Communications Undergraduate Research course, work with community businesses and nonprofit organizations who need help with brand identity and marketing strategies.

The project is an ongoing effort by Otjen, associate professor of marketing in the College of Business, who has over the past decade worked with clients such as the Salvation Army, Billings Depot and the Beartooth Nature Center. She and her students have garnered 11 American Advertising Awards — six of which are gold awards.

For students, Otjen said, the opportunity is a taste of how the professional world will be different from the learning environment of their classroom.

“The strategy and client set the pace and project deadlines,” Otjen said. “The coursework is designed to be as close to real life as possible so that the students have a clear understanding of the dynamic and sometimes messy experiences.”

This year’s class worked with Yellowstone Boys and Girls Ranch to help advance public awareness of its programs . Students researched best practices for the industry and worked closely with YBGR to develop the message.

“Youth suicide and mental health is a serious issue, and YBGR has many community-based services to help address these issues,” Barth said. “The messages we helped develop were clear — the whole community needs to be a part of the solution to teen suicide and other mental health issues youth experience. YBGR is here to help youth and their families whether it is in their home, school or life.”

Otjen and YBGR set parameters for the students on how to stay consistent with the organization’s brand identity and ensure copyright law and university policies weren’t violated. Outside of this, students were given creative freedom to script and direct the commercials.

Participating businesses and nonprofits provide the funding for research, production and design expenses. Often times, nonprofits are awarded grants and sponsorships to help cover the cost.

The class collaborates with Spotlight Productions, a Billings-based video and marketing company. The production company has sponsored a large portion of their services since 2005 for participating nonprofits.

Anne Gauer, one of two principals of the production company, said before video production begins in the spring semester, students verify every statistic and test each one of their concepts in the fall semester to see what marketing strategy will be most effective.

“These students are very busy, hardworking people and their efficiency always impresses me,” Gauer said.

Although the production is a team effort, each student was assigned roles such as script writing, talent casting, location scouting, costume and set design, and budget and time management.

Next year, Otjen and her students will work with Billings Clinic and a marketing campaign aimed at fighting childhood obesity.

“Service-learning helps students understand social responsibilities, which is essential to becoming a successful business person,” Otjen said. “Students are gaining such a valuable educational experience.”

Students are also making a positive impact on the Billings community, Barth said.

“The results of our efforts matter. It’s not just about getting a good grade, it’s truly about making a difference,” she said.

Those interested in working with the marketing class must be willing to spend time with the students and provide management, operations, marketing and financial information to the team. For more information on how to be a participating business or organization, contact Otjen at 657-4378 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 June 2014 21:51

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Local breweries win


More than a dozen Montana breweries won awards at the 2014 North American Beer Awards this month in Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Breweries from Belgrade, Bigfork, Billings, Hamilton, Lakeside, Missoula, Philipsburg and Whitefish all placed in their divisions.

Montana is home to 46 breweries that employ more than 500 Montanans, with at least six more expected to open later this year. Brewers use more than 6 million pounds of malted grain, much of which is grown in Montana. In 2013, craft beer production increased by 15 percent.

Below is a list of the Montana breweries that received recognition at this year’s competition:

Billings winners were:

Canyon Creek Brewing: Silver medal for One Night Stand.

Carter’s Brewing: Gold medals for Rob Moore Abbey Ale and The Golden Boy’ silver medal for Biere de Mars 2014; bronze medals for Switchyard Scottish Ale and Franbeaux.

Montana Brewing Co.: Bronze medals for Whitetail Wheat and Beartooth Espresso Porter.

Uberbrew: Bronze medal for Black Hops Tactical IPA.


Last Updated on Thursday, 26 June 2014 21:50

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Employment up


HELENA – Montana’s unemployment rate dropped 0.2 percentage points over the month for a rate of 4.6 percent in May. The U.S. unemployment rate held steady at 6.3 percent.

Total employment, which includes payroll employment plus agricultural and self-employed workers, added 1,326 jobs in May. Montana has added over 10,000 jobs since the beginning of the year, and since May 2013 has had an annual growth rate of 2.1 percent. In comparison, Montana’s average growth rate is roughly 1 percent annually.The labor force increased by 341 workers.

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 June 2014 21:46

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New citizens sworn in

By STEPHEN DOW - The Billings Outpost

Thirty-three immigrants from 19 countries were sworn in as U.S. citizens during a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ceremony on Thursday, June 19, at the James F. Battin Federal Courthouse.

Nearly 100 people attended the event to support loved ones who had immigrated from Barbados, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, Guatemala, India, Italy, Japan, Mauritania, Mexico, Mongolia, Pakistan, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Thailand, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

Deputy Court Clerk Heather Mclean said, “We don’t usually have this many people who want to come to court proceedings … . This is about the only time that people are excited to come to court, and we’re OK with that.”

The hour-long ceremony was a joyous and often raucous occasion filled with clapping, hugging, smiling and shouting.

“Hooray for mommy!” a young boy shouted as his mother, Italian-born Veronica Rousseau, accepted her citizenship certificate.

“I did it!” exclaimed a Barbados native as she accepted her certificate and waved a small U.S. flag in the air.

“This is pretty exciting,” U.S. District Judge Susan Watters said near the beginning of the ceremony. “This is the first naturalization ceremony that I’ve presided over because I’ve only been a federal judge for six months.”

She added, “As you can imagine, a lot of what I do in this courtroom is not particularly joyful. When people leave, they are often crying, but not with the tears of joy that I see today. I want to congratulate you on behalf of the United States and the state of Montana.”

Everybody had a reason to celebrate. The ceremony marked the end of a long naturalization process that included filling out paperwork and taking a citizenship test.

The 33 Billings residents join 778,000 immigrants who have become naturalized U.S. citizens during fiscal year 2013.

Judge Watters commented that the long naturalization process helps these new citizens “appreciate being a United States citizen more than people who were born here. Many of us tend to take it for granted.”

Representatives of U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and John Walsh and U.S. Rep. Steve Daines were on hand to give their congratulations to the new citizens.

“Today represents many things,” said Tester’s representative, Rachel Court. “The United States of America is granting you the opportunity to participate in this country as a citizen. In turn, you are granting this country and its citizens the chance to know you and learn from you. As you leave today, know that we are very glad to have you.”

Near the end of the ceremony, Judge Watters reminded attendees of rights guaranteed to U.S. citizens in the Constitution and said, “We have all these rights that I know many of you did not have in your countries of origin, and rights that many natural-born U.S. citizens take for granted, but it’s days like today and ceremonies like this one that remind all of us how wonderful it is to live in the United States and how blessed we are to be United States citizens.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 26 June 2014 21:44

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Reenactments featured in Little Bighorn Days

Gen. George Armstrong Custer meets his fate once again in reenactments this weekend near the site of the original battle and near Hardin.
By STEPHEN DOW - The Billings Outpost

The Custer’s Last Stand Reenactment and the 21st annual Battle of the Little Big Horn Re-enactment will be featured during the Little Bighorn Days events being held from Wednesday, June 25, to Sunday, June 29.

Crow Native Days events will be held concurrently at the Crow Agency.

The Custer’s Last Stand Re-enactment will be held from 1-3 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, June 27-29. It is located just south of Crow Agency and six miles west of Hardin on Old U.S. 87. Tickets are $20 for adults, $8 for children ages 6-12, and free for children under six. To order tickets, visit

The Battle of the Little Bighorn Re-enactment started nearly 20 years ago, to share more of the Native American story of the Indian Wars and to have the reenactment on the ground where the teepees of the Indian Village were located, between Custer’s Last Stand Hill and Reno-Benteen Battlefield. It will be held at 1 p.m. on June 27-29.

This year marks the 138th anniversary of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, which was fought by 600 U.S. cavalry men and more than 1,800 warriors of the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe nations on June 25th, 1876.

The re-enactment is just one of many events that are a part of the Little Bighorn Days.

The events begin on Wednesday with a Quilt Show from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the  Big Horn County Library.

The main event of Thursday’s festivities is the Grand Ball March starting at 7:30 p.m. and featuring all participants in 1876 attire. The march will end at the Big Horn County fairgrounds where the Grand Ball will take place until 10 p.m. Participants in the Grand Ball must pay $20 in advance. A light dinner is included during the ball.

Special events on Friday include an Old West Youth Parade starting at Hardin’s downtown center at 11 a.m. From 5-7 p.m. , there will be a pork dinner benefit for the Hardin AAU Wrestling Club. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children under the age of six. The location for the dinner will be announced at a later date. There will also be a talent show at 6 p.m. at the Hardin High School Auditorium. Tickets are $6 at the door.

Events on Saturday begin with the Patriots Cancer Challenge 5K Walk. Registration for the event begins at 6 a.m. at the Hardin High School Track. The walk begins at 7 a.m. and the registration fee is $20. The Custer Historic Field Trip takes place from 8 a.m. - 5 p.m. Cost for the event is $55. Call Ted Heath at 329-1315 for more information.

The Little Big Horn Days parade begins at 10 a.m. on Center Avenue. The John Harder Memorial Firemen’s Fun Day, featuring many family games and free food, will take place from 12 -3 p.m. at Wilson Park. A demolition derby will take place at the fairgrounds at 1 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-12, and free for children under 6. A Family Fun Night will take place at the 300 block of Center Avenue from 4-6 p.m. It will be followed by a street dance at 8 p.m.  Bucky Beaver and the Ground Grippers will provide music. Tickets are $5.

Sunday will feature a non-denominational church service at Hardin’s First Congregation Church at 11 a.m.

An Arts and Crafts Fair, a Historic Book Fair, and a Quilt Show will be held throughout the Little Bighorn Days.

Crow Native Days will also be taking place from June 25-29. A powwow celebration will take place at 7 p.m. June 26-28. More than $10,000 in prize money will be split between the best singers and dancers in various categories. Darrin Old Coyote and Corky Old Horn will be the masters of ceremonies for the events.

The 2014 Crow Native Days Parade will take place at 10 a.m. Friday, June 27. The parade will begin at Gas Cap Hill in Crow Agency. More than $4,000 in prize money will be split between participants with the best costumes and floats in the parade. Call parade manager Destiny Bear Claw at 679-0743 for information.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 11:13

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Students replicate old Fort Custer for museum

Photo by Thomas McNab - Steven Levesque, an MSU architecture student from Fountain Valley, Calif., was one of 10 students from the MSU School of Architecture Community Design Center who built accurate model of historic Fort Custer.

BOZEMAN – Using cutting-edge technology and old-fashioned detective work, a group of Montana State University architecture students has replicated a historic Montana fort that disappeared more than a century ago.

MSU School of Architecture Community Design Center students, under the direction of Thomas McNab, researched historic photographs, drawings, maps and written descriptions, then translated the information to develop 3-D computer building models and a site model which were sent to a 3-D Printer and CNC fabricating machine to accurately create the physical 6-by-9 foot model of historic Fort Custer. The model is among several displays created by the students for the new Centennial Gallery of the Big Horn County Historical Museum and Visitors Center in Hardin, which opened last year during Hardin’s 100th anniversary celebration.

The Centennial Gallery, which tells the stories of the various cultures which meld in the Hardin area, is at  the heart of the new museum and visitors center that was built last year, according to Diana Scheidt, museum director.  Scheidt praised the MSU students for bringing fresh vision and technology to the display areas of the historical center.

“It was awesome to see Fort Custer come to life through the students’ work,” Scheidt said. “In fact, through the whole project, it was great to see the museum through young eyes.”

McNab, a teaching professor who is the director of the School of Architecture’s CDC, worked for more than a year with MSU students to develop the model of Fort Custer. The students also hand built a traditional wooden model of the hospital at Fort Custer, and designed other display  concepts and logos for the Hardin museum.

In its 38th year, the MSU Community Design Center provides visioning, planning, and conceptual

design to non-profit organizations and government agencies. McNab first heard of the Hardin project several years ago while talking to the architect who designed the new museum building. The museum had few funds left over for design consultation or display development, so McNab, who has family roots in the area, approached the museum about using students for the project’s design needs.

Scheidt said the students worked for a year to research the museum’s needs and came up with several innovative ideas that the museum used to adapt to its needs and budget. Those ideas included museum branding, exterior and interior mural design, graphic materials and a unique idea to cross reference the historic buildings located on museum grounds to the display areas inside the buildings.

Scheidt notes that more than 26 historic buildings have been relocated to museum grounds from throughout Big Horn County.

“The students inspired us to do so many things,” Scheidt said. “It was a great relationship working with them.”

But, central to the project was research and construction of a model of a historic fort that no one had seen in more than 100 years.

Fort Custer was built in 1877 on a bluff at the confluence of the Big Horn and Little Big Horn rivers to house members of the U.S. Cavalry. It was closed just 21 years later.

“Fort Custer was known, in its time, as the most luxurious fort in the west,” McNab said. “It was the Riviera of Indian forts.”

Among the fort’s residents were one of the famous Buffalo Soldier platoons made up of African-American soldiers. However, Native American tribes were already on reservations when the fort opened, and it was officially closed in 1898, with most of the buildings moved throughout the region.

 and repurposed, Scheidt said.  “Now, there is nothing there.”

Starting in the spring of 2012, McNab and his MSU architecture students embarked on painstaking detective work to learn what the fort looked like 100 years ago. While beautiful black-and-white period photographs of the fort exist, information on the layout of the fort was scant until students uncovered mid 20th century aerial photographs showing soil disturbances that marked the exact locations of the fort’s original buildings. They also discovered an original U.S. Army ordnance survey drawing in the MSU Library Special Collections that identified and located every building on the original fort grounds.

The students developed 3-D computer models of the buildings from historic photographs, drawings, maps, and contemporary written descriptions of the fort. The information was sent to a 3-D printer that accurately created physical models of each of the over 100 buildings of historic Fort Custer.

The contour model of the site that the fort sat on was developed by combining topographic data from a number of sources, since no accurate mapping was available for the site. Through a series of computer overlays the CDC students were able to create a “data point cloud” that was converted to a “contour mesh.” The mesh was then manipulated in the computer and compared with photographs taken at the site to accurately portray the bluffs along the Bighorn River. This computer model was sent to a CNC (computer numeral control) machine that cut the physical site model from layers of medium density fiber board.

MSU architectural graduate student Steven Levesque of Fountain Valley, Calif., who worked on the project beginning last summer until it was installed last month, said the project was rewarding and eye-opening. Originally drawn to the project because of his love of model making, he also enjoyed his first experience working with a client. He believes the experience will make him a better architect.

“I really enjoyed seeing a whole different way to look at architecture,” Levesque said. “I think many of us think that architecture is only making buildings. That’s not true. We have a wide skill set, and a variety of projects that we can do, as shown in this project.”

Scheidt and Levesque both said it was a near magical experience to see the fort come to life before their eyes.

“Even people who have lived here their entire lives were surprised to see that there were so many buildings on the fort’s grounds,” said Scheidt, adding that many have asked the museum to re-create the original fort, which would be completely infeasible economically. “But, now we can see what it really looked like. That’s pretty cool.”

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 11:09

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Gladstone on ‘last best place’

By Deborah Courson Smith - Big Sky Connection

GREAT FALLS – A troubadour of Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Nation, Jack Gladstone, will be at the University Theater in Great Falls on Tuesday with a presentation incorporating storytelling, lyric poetry, and music to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the 1964 Wilderness Act.

The event is just one stop in a series of appearances Gladstone is making around the state to share Native American traditions.

He says this is a year of reflection on a common heritage and connections to wilderness. “The stories within our cultural traditions,” says Gladstone, “the creation stories - Old Man Napi the trickster, Scarface, Morning Star. All these characters are embodied in the landscape.”

Gladstone says Americans are taking advantage of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act to reaffirm the importance of wilderness to the revitalization of the human spirit. “There’s a sacred geography in the landscape. There is a saying in our tribe that the land will tell you who you are.”

More than three million acres in Montana have been designated by Congress as Wilderness since the National Wilderness Preservation System was signed into law in 1964.

The anniversary events are supported by the U.S. Forest Service, Montana Wilderness Association and The Wilderness Society. Gladstone will also be appearing at the summer solstice celebration of the “longest day” at Lindley Park Pavilion in Bozeman, on Saturday, June 21st.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 11:02

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