Respiratory Care Students Win Sputum Bowl Trophy 5th Straight Year


Southeastern Community College (SCC) Respiratory Care students took first place at this year’s Sputum Bowl competition in Des Moines for the fifth year in a row.  SCC Respiratory Care team of students Cheryl Gries, Kelsey Brackelsberg and Madeline Helminiak won first place. Another SCC team comprised of fellow students Anthony Schulte, Jen Bowling and Tressa Harrison took third place.

 The Iowa Society for Respiratory Care’s annual Sputum Bowl is a knowledge competition similar to the game show, “Jeopardy.” Teams of students from participating colleges answer questions relating to the field of respiratory care.

SCC Clinical Coordinator, Suellen Carmody-Menzer, says even though SCC has a long history of winning the competition, it’s never a sure bet they’ll win.

“This year it came down to the last three seconds. We were tied with Kirkwood with a score of 11-11. Once we buzzed in, we had to give the right answer or we would have lost. Thankfully, the team had the right answer and we won. It was pretty intense.”

Carmody-Menzer continues that SCC had a strong showing overall.

“Not only did we win, our other team placed third. This is an amazing accomplishment for our students.”

Carmody-Menzer and SCC Respiratory Care Program Coordinator, Stacy Lewis-Sells are proud of how the students represented SCC during the competition.

Lewis-Sells says her students take the event seriously and teams log a lot of time preparing.

“There’s three people per team, so buzzing in quickly and cooperating to come up with an answer in 10 seconds needs a little rehearsal.”

Team member Kelsey Brackelsberg says SCC students consistently winning the contest shows how the program prepares graduates to hit the ground running once they’re in the field.

“Each student graduating this year has one or two job offers already. Employers really want SCC grads because they know we know our stuff.”

Lewis-Sells credits demand of program graduates to the breadth of their experience and how they perform well above national average on their board certification exam.

Most years, every single graduate secures employment before or shortly after completing the program.

“Our students are highly sought after by hospitals and health care facilities across the state. We get calls from facilities in Des Moines, Peoria and Iowa City. What makes that impressive is that each of these cities has a college with a respiratory care program yet they still call us looking for grads.”

Carmody-Menzer is confident that the first place team will represent Iowa well at the national competition in San Antonio in October.

“Now the students will get to represent not just SCC but the whole state at nationals this fall. If they compete the same way they did to win the state title, I know they’ll do well in San Antonio.”

For a photo of the winners, please click here.

Caption: (Left to right) SCC Respiratory Care students Madeline Helminiak, Cheryl Gries and Kelsey Brackelsberg hold the Sputum Bowl trophy. SCC has won the Iowa Society for Respiratory Care’s annual Sputum Bowl for five years running.

For more information about SCC’s Respiratory Care program, contact Program Coordinator Stacy Lewis-Sells at or (319) 208-5204.

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