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Elcee Conner

Elcee Conner

Despite 36 hours on airplanes traveling back from India, Elcee Conner, an associate professor in respiratory therapy and director of clinical education at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park, remains enthusiastic about her work helping the world breathe easier.

While in New Delhi, she taught an intense eight-hour course called “Managing a Medical Crisis through Simulations” to doctors attending the International Criticare Congress recently.

Always bubbly and energetic, Conner is committed to making a difference, helping to change respiratory care around the globe. Her efforts have earned her international recognition.

Teaching at the Forest Park campus for 27 years, she is the founder and president of the Asia-Pacific Association for Respiratory Care, and works with the World Health Organization’s Global Alliance Against Chronic Respiratory Diseases. In late March, she will be a force at the World Congress in Brussels, Belgium.

“There is a great need worldwide for respiratory education, with pollution and disease so prevalent,” she said.

Respiratory therapy treats chronic diseases that affect a person’s airways and lungs, such as asthma, chronic obstruction pulmonary disease (COPD) and allergies.

Born in the Philippines, she moved to the United States at age 14. Conner majored in pre-med at University of Oklahoma, and moved here when her husband, David, a psychiatrist, did his residency at Barnes Hospital. They live in Fairview Heights, Ill., and have a grown son.

In addition to her work helping needy get better medical care, she is passionate about training students for in-demand health care fields.

“I can influence a new generation,” she said. “I want to break new ground. I think it’s important to see what the needs are in our field, for everything’s changing. But the basic need for education still persists.” 

Last year, she was awarded the Forest Park campus Innovation of the Year for establishing a respiratory care program at Beaumont High School’s Academy of Medicine and Science, the first of its kind in St. Louis and perhaps the nation. The grassroots program, which introduces students to adult, pediatric and infant respiratory care, also takes advantage of field trips, classroom instruction distance learning and new technology.

As part of her goal to change in the world, Conner's family volunteers for mission work. In the past, she has helped build a shelter for the Aetas, aborigine people in the Philippines, when their living quarters were destroyed by a volcano at Mt. Pinatuba, and also assisted at a leper colony with seven other relatives. Her father is a retired pediatrician.

Conner also is active planning International Week on campus in the fall, organizing a fashion show to display customs and traditions of other cultures.

By: Lynn Venhaus