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 Sunday in a Whitley Auditorium ceremony featuring remarks from Reginald Carter, Duke University professor emeritus and historian emeritus of the Society for the Preservation of Physician Assistant History. 

Elon University President Leo M. Lambert hands a diploma to a member of the Physician Assistant Studies Program's Class of 2017 at Commencement on Feb. 26, 2017.

PHOTO GALLERY: Physician Assistant Studies Commencement, Class of 2017

Drawing from more than four decades of experience working with those in the field, Reginald Carter on Sunday implored Elon’s newest class of physician assistants to remember the history of their profession while looking ahead to the role they can play in the future of modern medicine.

Reginald Carter, co-founder and historian emeritus of the Society for the Preservation of Physician Assistant History and professor emeritus at Duke University, offered the Commencement address. 
“Indeed our profession stands on the shoulders of giants,” said Carter, a professor emeritus at Duke University who co-founded the Society for the Preservation of Physician Assistant History and is its historian emeritus. “Learn from the past, become an active participant in the profession and help shape its future.”

In his Feb. 26 Commencement address, Carter offered a sense of history and a dose of wisdom to Elon University’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies Class of 2017. After filing into Whitley Auditorium where they were surrounded by friends, family and supporters, this group of 38 became the university’s newest graduates. 

Carter recounted the progress that physician assistants have made since the profession was founded a little more than 50 years ago. Carter himself began educating physician assistant students in 1972 at Duke University, which just seven years before had launched the country’s first program to train physician assistants. Physician assistants now have “a seat at the table” in the discussion of how health care should progress, he said. 

“Over the past 45 years, I have witnessed the steady growth and acceptance of PAs as vital members of the health care team,” Carter said. “Now it has not been easy. … It was been heartening to see the scope of practice expanded over time so that today PAs diagnose and prescribe. But much still needs to be done.” 

Elon University’s 27-month physician assistant studies program 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.

Members of the Class of 2017 file into Whitley Auditorium for Commencement. 
​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.

Drawing on wisdom of Dr. Eugene Stead, the former head of the Department of Medicine at Duke University who had founded the PA program there, Carter emphasized that as healers, they should identify with the patient first and foremost rather than the disease. He recounted lessons learned from a former neighbor who had urged him to keep “God, family, friends and memories” as the top priorities in life. Carter, a North Carolina native, urged them to embrace the differences the encounter in life and among the people they will treat. 

“Now as you approach your professional life, be aware of your own different cultural values, but also of those cultural differences in others,” Carter said. “That’s the fun of being a health care provider — it’s the patients. It’s the differences in the people you will treat.”

A member of the Class of 2017 celebrates her graduation from Elon University's Physician Assistant Studies Program. 
​The program recognized six among the Class of 2017 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 Sunday were Joseph Zachary Dedden, Peter Frederick Guertin, Ashley Laurel Meyer, Mackenzie Cashman Precht, Eric Katherine Raspet and Katherine Suzanne Vornheder. 

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 2017.  Patricia Ragan, the department chair and program director, and Melissa Murfin, assistant professor and academic coordinator for the program, presented each graduate with their hood, a piece of academic regalia that signifies their accomplishments.

Candidates for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

Alexander James Axtell
B.A., Wittenberg University

Cassandra Lea Bogdan
B.S., The Ohio State University

Lindsey Marie Bradshaw
B.S., Appalachian State University

Alyssa Jordan Cady 
B.S., Central Michigan University

Danielle Ann Carter
B.A., Calvin College

Amanda Lee Chaffo
B.S., Duquesne University

Kayla Ann Checkovich
B.S., University of South Carolina

Joseph Zachary Dedden
B.S., Eastern Kentucky University
M.S., Boston University

Stephanie J. Dyck
B.S., The Ohio State University

George Emory Edwards III
B.S., Francis Marion University

Brandi Lynne Forbes
B.S., Syracuse University
M.S., The State University of New York at Potsdam
M.Ed., St. Lawrence University

Kimberly Marie Gebhart
B.A./B.S., Virginia Tech

Jonathan William Gross
B.S., East Carolina University

Peter Frederick Guertin
B.S., Springfield College

Ariel Marie Hilsinger
B.S., High Point University

Shana Ann Hornbeck
B.S., Purdue University

Caroline Elizabeth Howell-Methvin
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Bree Johnson
B.S., Rochester Institute of Technology

Elena Marie Klaus
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Rachel Elizabeth Lane 
B.A., University of Missouri-Kansas City

Elizabeth Grace Carmen Lee MacArthur
B.A., Duke University

Ashton Coffey MacDonald
B.A., Wake Forest University
M.Div., Princeton Theological Seminary

Ann Spotswood Boyd Malphrus
B.A., University of Virginia

Elizabeth Whitney McVey
B.A., The University of Utah

Ashley Laurel Meyer
B.A., University of the Pacific
M.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Lisa Rose Nichols
B.S., Winthrop University

Mackenzie Cashman Precht
B.A., University of Florida

Stephanie Rose Puma
B.S., Northeastern University

Amber Dean Race
B.S., Appalachian State University

Erin Katherine Raspet
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Elizabeth Strickland Simaan
B.S., Appalachian State University

Margery Scott Springer
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Nicole Marie Trittschuh
B.S., The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Katherine Suzanne Vornheder
B.S., Western Carolina University

Brittany Dawn Wiseman
B.S./M.S., University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Michelle Lynn Worley
B.S., Davidson College

Kathryn Elizabeth Young
B.S., University of Florida

Micayla Jo Lynn Zeltman
B.S., Mount Vernon Nazarene University