International student gets new lease on life

Rula Osta came to Kennesaw State University seeking an education. Today‚ thanks to Dr. Kevin Smith‚ Dr. Timothy Akers and others‚ the Lebanese biology major has a new lease on life.

Georgia (Oct 20, 2003) — Rula Osta came to Kennesaw State University seeking an education. Today‚ thanks to Dr. Kevin Smith‚ Dr. Timothy Akers and others‚ the Lebanese biology major has a new lease on life.

Osta tested positive for osteoporosis at a routine screening conducted by the KSU Health Clinic this summer. Since Osta is an international student with no insurance and limited financial resources at her disposal‚ that could have been the end of the story. Instead‚ a long line of KSU faculty members made sure that was not the case‚ starting with the volunteers at the screening‚ and proceeding all the way to Akers‚ a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) senior scientist who recently joined the faculty as assistant dean for research and graduate studies in the WellStar College of Health and Human Services.

“What I received was 100 percent‚ really‚” Osta said. “One hundred percent care‚ and genuine interest in helping me.”

Smith‚ who serves as medical director for the student health clinic‚ said the screening in which Osta took part involves an ultrasound scan of the patient’s heel. A positive result generally calls for a more comprehensive test to be conducted‚ but with no such equipment available on campus‚ that testing would have been cost−prohibitive for students like Osta‚ who has no insurance and limited financial means.

“That’s where the problem came in‚” explained Dean Richard Sowell. “We did the screening‚ she looked like she needed follow−up care‚ and there really wasn’t any place for Rula to go. That’s when they referred her to Dr. Akers to see if he could find some resources to help her.”

Although Akers’ work has more to do with writing research proposals‚ conducting research and working with faculty to strengthen their research skills than arranging follow−up care for participants in a health screening‚ he felt a moral responsibility to do all he could to make sure Osta got the help she needed.

“Rula is really a voice for a lot of students here‚” Akers said. “She came to us out of trust‚ and ethically‚ in my opinion‚ we have a sense of duty and responsibility to not just simply gloss over that request.”

Once he learned of Osta’s predicament‚ Akers put in a call to Smith‚ who conducted a more extensive exam at no cost and eventually found an outside provider — Dr. Rajiv Goswami at the Highfield Open MRI and Diagnostic Imaging Center — who agreed to do the $200 test‚ again at no charge to Osta. Combined‚ Smith’s services and the test could have cost her $600.

As it turned out‚ the full bone scan confirmed that she had osteopenia‚ the beginning stage of osteoporosis‚ but thanks to the follow−up care she has since received‚ Osta now knows how to manage her condition and improve her level of health.

“It’s had a very good outcome for her‚ and it’s what screening is all about‚” Smith said.

In the future‚ it is likely that students such as Osta won’t have to depend on the generosity of an outside source to have such advanced testing done. Akers was already looking into the possibility of acquiring a bone densiometer for KSU before learning of Osta’s plight; her story only steeled his resolve to secure funding for such a machine; a new one can cost as much as $80‚000.

“We really need that and want a bone densiometer for both clinical purposes for the college and the university‚ and for applied research‚” he said. “When Rula approached our office‚ it kind of reaffirmed the need for having such a tool on campus.”


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit