The multi-billion-dollar-grossing Swiss drug company Novartis has taken note of a Concordia University Wisconsin physician assistant alumna’s expertise in the field of rheumatologic disorders.

Brittney Ohlrogge (right) with Casey DeShambo, a current CUW PA student who participated in a rotation at Ohlrogge’s current place of employment, Rheumatology and Immunotherapy Center.

Earlier this year, Brittney Ohlrogge, a 2017 graduate, delivered a lecture in front of several dozen members of the Rheumatology Nurses Society at the annual Pacific Coast Rheumatology Forum during an evening symposium that was sponsored by Novartis.

Ohlrogge’s lecture provided insights on the complexities of psoriatic arthritis, and Ohlrogge shared several simple techniques for better assessment of patients.

“What often happens is clinicians will miss the subtle changes that occur in a patient or they don’t associate those changes with psoriatic arthritis,” Ohlrogge explains. “This can end up causing a lot of problems or disabilities long term.”

Those subtle changes can include inflammatory back pain, dactylitis (“sausage” fingers), and pitting or hyperkeratosis of fingernails—symptoms that physicians may not automatically link to a rheumatological disorder, explains Ohlrogge.

The February Rheumatology Forum wasn’t the first time Novartis reached out to Ohlrogge. She’s served on advisory boards and has been a part of think tanks for the company, and she says she plans to continue her work with the company in the future.

Ohlrogge credits her Concordia education for teaching her to discern beyond initial symptoms for the long-term betterment of the patient.

“We were continually encouraged to think about things like, ‘Yeah, your patient has high blood pressure, but why is that? What else could be causing it?” Ohlrogge says. “It wasn’t just rote memorization.”

The abundance of health care programs offered at Concordia also provided a built-in opportunity for practicing inter-professional education, something Ohlrogge continues to value at her current workplace, Rheumatology and Immunotherapy Center, in Franklin, Wisconsin, which was acquired this month by Aurora Health Care Medical Group.

Ohlrogge, a Manitowoc native, was originally drawn to Concordia because of its proximity to home and the personalized educational approach of the PA program’s instructors.

“Concordia built up a very strong, embracing, and nurturing environment,” Ohlrogge says. “What I gained from Concordia has significantly shaped my practice so far.”

Learn more about Concordia’s physician’s assistant program by clicking here.

— This story is written by Kali Thiel, director of university communications for Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor. She may be reached at or 262-243-2149.

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