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Elon University graduates charter Physician Assistant Studies class

Thirty-seven candidates in the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program received degrees during a Sunday ceremony in Whitley Auditorium.

Thirty-seven candidates in the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program received degrees during a March 8 ceremony in Whitley Auditorium.

The anticipation was palpable as members of the inaugural class in the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program prepared to enter Whitley Auditorium Sunday afternoon to receive their degrees.

After 27 months of intense class work and clinical practice, they knew they were about to make Elon history. And they were ready for it.

“There is definitely pressure being the first class,” said Arezu Shekari as she reflected on the past two years. But, she added, “We’ve carried the weight and opened the door for future students. ... The long hours and stress of all the examinations, looking back, have been all worth it. We’re thankful and happy we all made it—all 37 of us.”

Fellow classmate Lindsay Collins ’08 agreed. “It’s very honoring and humbling” to be part of the first PA class, she said. “We have big shoes to wear; we’ve kind of set the precedent for the next class.”

The graduation ceremony celebrated the accomplishments of the 37 members of the charter class and marked the realization of a dream several years in the making, Provost Steven House said as he welcomed family and friends who came to support the graduates. “In 2008, Dean Elizabeth Rogers and I dreamed of creating a PA program,” he said. It took years of work by a lot of people but it eventually became a reality.

But while the program may be new, Dawn Morton-Rias, president and chief executive officer of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants who served as keynote speaker, reminded the class they are still a part of an institution with a long history of academic excellence and service to others. “You had over 190 PA programs to chose from but you took the bold step to pursue an inaugural program,” she said. “Yes, you’re Elon’s first PA and now are a part of Elon’s history. Wear that honor well.”

Dawn Morton-Rias, president and chief executive officer of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, served as keynote speaker.

As part of her remarks, she reminded the class there is high demand for their newly acquired skills. Recent graduates enjoy exceptional employment rates in a profession that grew 219 percent between 2003 and 2013 in the United States and continues to grow as demand from an increasingly aging population rises. While it’s clear the class will do well professionally, Morton-Rias asked them to look at the bigger picture—Will they do good? How will they contribute to a healthier society? Will they share their knowledge and skill without expecting compensation in return?

Making connections with and valuing patients as people first is as important as developing procedures and treatment. She reminded students that behind lab images and results are people, folks who before becoming patients were just regular people like the rest of us. She encouraged them to talk to patients, listen to them, look at them and smile at them. At the end of the day, she added, it’s how they make patients feel that matters. “It’s the care and the connection you provide that’s enduring,” she said.

She also challenged the class to uphold Elon’s values as well as the profession’s and to incorporate their professional oath in their everyday life. “When you are the first, you set the pace,” she said. “We all believe in you. You’ll make a huge difference.”

View a photo gallery of the Commencement activites.

As part of the ceremony, Assistant Professor Melissa Murfin recognized the partnership between the class and the Open Door Clinic, a free medical facility that offers health care and medications to qualified patients living in Alamance County. The clinic relies heavily on volunteer assistance from community practitioners, and the charter class Elon PA Student Society chose it as their designated philanthropic organization. Students in the charter class volunteered at the clinic and raised funds to support it, an example that is now being followed by the second and third PA classes.

In his charge, President Leo M. Lambert acknowledged the significance of what the class has already accomplished, describing it as the result of what can happen when engaged learning and compassionate care come together. He encouraged the class to remain engaged with Elon as alumni and to share their skills with the world in meaningful ways, telling them to hold their lamps high as they bring light to darkened places.

 “Elon is justly proud of the PA program and this historic charter class,” he said. “As a charter class, you’ve forged vital new ground for Elon.”

Candidates for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies:

Seth Alan Abel
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
M.A., Reformed Theological Seminary

Allison Kathleen Alexander
B.S., Wake Forest University

Whitney Claire Shoemaker Andrew
B.S., North Carolina State University

Corrina B. Baglia
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Jennifer Michelle Burnette
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Laura Alice Ciompi
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Lindsay Caroline Collins
B.S., Elon University

Tessa Nicole Conte
B.S., Elon University

Sara Ashley Dennin
B.S., Elon University

Michaela Nicole Fajardo
B.S., University of California at Riverside
M.S., New York Medical College

Mary Hannah Farish-Williford
B.S., Berry College

Lindsay Nicole Finch
B.S., University of Connecticut

Courtney Amanda Forcucci
B.S., University of South Carolina

Amanda Aydelette Futrell
B.S., North Carolina State University
M.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Emily Caitlin Godfrey
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Melissa Ann Holmes
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Daniel Alan Jacobs
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Brittany Lauren James
B.S, North Carolina State University

Allie Black Kelly
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Pembroke

Krista Meier Kroeger
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Jennifer Leigh Little
B.S., Winthrop University

Veronica Mary Machaj
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Sinead Meghan McFarlane
B.S., East Carolina University

Madeleine Malembe Mvula
B.S./B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Keri Nicole Buchanan Norris
B.S., Appalachian State University

Katie Ann O’Gara
B.S., University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Sahar Osman
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Darcy Paulus
B.S., Randolph-Macon College

Miranda Jalene Pool
B.S., M.A., Southwestern Assemblies of God University

Matthew Preston Rainbolt
B.S., Louisiana State University

Brittany Leigh Ramsey
B.S., University of South Carolina

Tyler Madison Roper
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Jamie Leiann Seals
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Arezu Shekari
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Jaclyn Jeanette Stevens
B.S., University of Florida

Kimberly Ann Trinh
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Caroline Abigail York
B.S., Elon University

Keren Rivas,
Staff
3/8/2015 4:55 PM