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Elon's Physician Assistant Studies program graduates its newest class

Thirty-eight candidates in the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program received degrees Saturday in a Whitley Auditorium ceremony featuring remarks from Dr. Andrew Lamb, vice president of medical affairs for Cone Health Alamance Regional Medical Center and medical director for the Elon University Physician Assistant Studies program.

PHOTO GALLERY: Physician Assistant Studies Commencement, Class of 2018

Unlike broad panes of picture windows, stained glass windows are made of broken pieces of glass recombined into something wholly new and different.

Dr. Andy Lamb, a medical director for the Physician Assistant Studies program, delivers the Commencement address. 

And Dr. Andy Lamb, a medical director for the Elon University Physician Assistant Studies program, told the university's newest graduates that their hearts will break — like the glass that makes up stained glass windows — as they practice medicine. But they are called to practice medicine and equipped with the knowledge and experience to care for their patients, so those broken pieces will be "forged back together, only to be more stronger and more beautiful for having been broken."

Lamb delivered his remarks as the commencement speaker for the 38 members of Physician Assistant Studies program's Class of 2018, who Saturday gathered in Whitley Auditorium to celebrate the completion of the program and the launch of their new careers. 

"You are the 'heart' of medicine. You have selflessly and tirelessly prepared yourselves to care for those who are sick and suffering; afraid and vulnerable; uncertain and alone," said Lamb, vice president of medical affairs for Cone Health Alamance Regional Medical Center in Burlington. "You sit here today, surrounded by your “band of brothers and sisters”, and by family and friends who love you, willing to give of yourself but at a cost, the human cost of this “stained-glass window”. It is a heavy price to pay but you will be stronger and more beautiful for having done so."

As they prepared to receive their degrees, members of the program's Class of 2018 had filed into Whitley Auditorium on Saturday afternoon to be surrounded by friends, family, faculty, mentors and supporters of the program. Applause and cheers filled the auditorium as these new graduates dipped their heads to receive a hood, a piece of academic regalia that signifies their accomplishments, and walked across stage to receive a diploma marking their completion of a master's of science degree in physician assistant studies.

As he offered words to celebrate their accomplishments and to help guide them as they begin their professional careers in the field, Lamb focused on the role that the heart has played in getting them to this joyous commencement day. 

"It takes a special heart to get where you are today and to sustain you in the years ahead," Lamb said. "I call it a servant heart. It is a heart that has enabled you to persevere, to sacrifice, to pursue your dreams and overcome any obstacles to reach this moment. It is a heart of humility, obedience and love. It is a heart that puts the needs of others first, and does so with love, caring and compassion."

Commencement is the culmination of Elon University’s 27-month program that engages students through an innovative systems-organized curriculum that employs large and small group discussion, hands-on clinical skills labs, simulated patient experiences, lecture and patient scenario discussions. A Master’s Project supports and promotes professional development in the area of accessing, critically appraising and applying the best available evidence to address a research, patient care or policy question relevant to Physician Assistant practice or education.

The clinical education phase that follows a mid-program white coat ceremony consists of seven required rotations and two electives at clinical sites throughout the central area of North Carolina.

Lamb reminded them that they have a responsibility to those coming behind them — to mentor, to teach and to encourage. He challenged them to see the need in the world, to experience the hurting in the world to that it becomes personal, to have compassion, to be a giver of hope, to care for the whole person and to give of themselves. 

"Be willing to hold, to comfort, to cry with and to pray with your patients during their time of greatest need and sorry," Lamb said. "It is then you will forge a heart like a stained glass window."

Rebecca Neiduski, dean of the Elon University School of Health Sciences, offered a special thank you to President Leo M. Lambert, who will conclude his service as president on Thursday, March 1, after 19 years. In her remarks, Neiduski talked about Lambert's vision to create a School of Health Sciences and add a Department of Physician Assistant Studies at Elon.

"President Lambert has been described as believing that the best education is relationship-rich, a set of human interactions," Neiduski said. "This belief has shaped the culture of this institution and set the expectation that we are an Elon family who take the time to care for and nurture one another academically and personally. Based on the interactions I see in our hallways every day, I know that each of you sitting here today can look around at your classmates, faculty, and staff and affirm the relationship-rich culture here at Elon."

Tracey Thurnes, assistant professor and assistant director of clinical education, presented a donation on behalf of the Class of 2018 to Hillside Health Care International, a faith-inspired nonprofit health care provider in Belize that delivers health care to the community there for free. Nearly half of this graduating class spent time in clinical service at Hillside, which also focuses on disease prevention and health education. 

The program recognized six among the Class of 2018 as inductees into Pi Alpha, the national honor society for the physician assistant profession that honors those who exhibit significant academic success while also serving the profession, offering leadership and engaging in research. Those inducted Saturday were Graham Cameron Brown, Sophia Grace Caccavale, Michael Marconi Maczis, Anna Frances Parr, Rheadon Lee Remy and Sarah Danielle Sperry. The program also honored Dr. Shanker Ghimire, an internist with Cone Health, with an honorary induction into Pi Alpha for his work with students. 

Elon Physician Assistant Studies Program leaders also recognized the contributions of community partners that make it possible for students to take part in clinical rotations, with a particular thanks to Alamance Regional Medical Center and its parent system, Cone Health.

Degrees were conferred at the Commencement program by Elon University President Leo M. Lambert, who also offered a charge to the Class of 2018. Neiduski and Melissa Murfin, who is an assistant professor, department chair and program director, presented each graduate with their hood.

Candidates for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

Jamie Hannah Rose Aldridge
B.S., High Point University Ph.D., Wake Forest University

Hannah Bradley Billings
B.S., The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Anne Elizabeth Booke
B.S., Sewanee: The University of the South

Graham Cameron Brown*
B.S., East Carolina University

Sarah Chelsea Brown
B.S., James Madison University

Sophia Grace Caccavale* 
B.S., Emory University

Jessica Kristine Clark
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Rebeka Lyn Coleman
B.S., The University of Utah

Katelyn Elizabeth DeRosa
B.S., North Central College

Sarah Ashlyn Djali
B.S., North Carolina State University

Amanda Assunta Ferri
B.S., Southeastern Louisiana University

Amy Elizabeth Finan
B.S., University of Georgia

Jarred Fisher
B.A., Brevard College

Kaylie Nicole Gonze
B.S., The College of William and Mary

Puja Gunvantpuri Gosai
B.S., Appalachian State University

Paige Florence Horcher
B.S., University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Mary Elizabeth Hunter
A.B., Elon University

Brittany Ann Jenkins
B.S., Lincoln Memorial University

Caroline Cloud Gamble Jones
B.F.A., Guilford College

Ashley Lauren Kohler
B.A., Jacksonville University

Steven Kyle Lewis
B.S., East Tennessee State University

Michael Marconi Maczis* 
B.S., Salisbury University

Paige Elizabeth Owczarczak
B.S., University of South Carolina

Anna Frances Parr* 
B.S., Clemson University

Morgan Holland Payne
B.S., High Point University

Lindsay Paige Penninger
B.S., Coastal Carolina University

William Morgan Phillips
B.S., Clemson University

Stephanie Lynn Racz
B.S., University of Albany, SUNY

Kelly Ann Rayburn
B.S., University of South Carolina

Caroline Mary Reilly
B.S., University of South Carolina

Rheadon Lee Remy* 
B.S., The Ohio State University

Alexis Marie Sampson
B.S., Illinois Wesleyan University

Logan Wayne Scherer
B.S., Oregon State University

Sarah Danielle Sperry* 
B.S., Brigham Young University

Krista Ann Ulrich
B.A., Wake Forest University

Jason Hestle Whitaker
B.S., Adventist University of Health Sciences

Emily Antoinette Williams
B.S., University of Michigan

Amy Valerie Yu
B.S., George Mason University

* Pi Alpha Honor Society


Owen Covington,
2/23/2018 3:55 PM