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 Preston Hammock, president of Alamance Regional Medical Center and senior vice president at Cone Health.

PHOTO GALLERY: Physician Assistant Studies Commencement, Class of 2019

Elon's newest graduates were reminded Saturday that as they prepare to begin their careers as physician assistants, each interaction they have with a patient has the possibility of becoming a life-changing moment.

"Remember how important it is to ask questions, show compassion, and to listen to each patient to grasp their personal story because that is the gateway to truly seeing how important that day can be in their lives," said Preston Hammock, president of Alamance Regional Medical Center. "Each one of you will impact your patients in a way that, while rooted in clinical evaluation, concern and questions, will ultimately be remembered for how it resonated, connected and felt. Remember that each word can change the direction of the future for every patient you see on what could ultimately be one of the most important days of their lives."

Preston Hammock, president of Alamance Regional Medical Center and senior vice president with Cone Health, delivered the commencement address.
​Hammock delivered his remarks as the commencement speaker for the 38 members of Physician Assistant Studies program's Class of 2019, who gathered in Whitley Auditorium surrounded by friends, families and mentors to celebrate the completion of the program and the launch of their new careers. 

Hammock recounted an important day in his life — one that would inspire him to seek a career in health care. Diagnosed with a heart condition, he underwent open-heart surgery at the age of 13, and remembers how one provider connected with him as he recovered from surgery by seeking to understand who he was as a person, not just a patient. Along with providing a remedy to that heart condition, that experience immeasurably changed his life — because of the care he received, and because of the people who delivered it, Hammock said. 

"The real impact was on me as a person. I was now on an exploration to find out where I fit long term in the health care system," Hammock said. 

As a hospital administrator, he sees firsthand how excellent health care can transform the lives of so many. Regardless of changes in the health care industry, Hammock insisted there are elements that will remain constant. "There is one thing I know will not change, that will, in fact, grow stronger, because I believe it is the underpinning of the entire system," he said. "It is the desire to be right there alongside every patient you see. … I am excited when I think about the caliber of clinician you are, and what you are going to bring to the world of health care."

​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.

The Physician Assistant Studies program recognized six among the Class of 2019 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 Grace Carlisle Blackley, Rose Lauren Clousing, Douglas Lindley Edenburn, Laura Devereaux Gardner, Hajar Nomura Sakhi and Karen Elizabeth Seige. Also recognized as an honorary member of the society was Dr. Gary Smith, a local health care provider who has worked as a preceptor for students in the program.

​The program also honored Alamance Citizens for Education, a local organization that supports the education of community children, which is a population of special interest to the Class of 2019. In particular, the class paid tribute to the group's Classroom Closet initiative that supports public, charter and private schools in Alamance County by providing resources and supplies to teachers, who in turn support 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 Connie Ledoux Book, who also offered a charge to the Class of 2019. Becky Neiduski, dean of the School of Health Sciences, and Melissa Murfin, who is an associate professor, department chair and program director, presented each graduate with their hood.

Candidates for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies

Mark Edmund Benning
B.S., Western Illinois University

Anitha Bhuvaneswaran
B.S., Virginia Commonwealth University

Grace Carlisle Blackley*
B.A., B.S., North Carolina State University

Jenna Jing Castiglione
B.S., Northern Arizona University

Rose Lauren Clousing
B.A., Calvin College

Bethany Hunter Eaton
B.S., Salem College

Douglas Lindley Edenburn*
B.S., Western Carolina University

Kristie Langley Edmisten
B.S., Emory & Henry College

Shanda Nicole Felton
B.S., North Carolina Central University
M.S., North Carolina Central University

Laura Devereaux Gardner* 
B.S., University of North Carolina at Asheville

Brittany Hope Hall-Potvin
B.A., University of Vermont

Kristen Sessions Harper
B.S., Western Carolina University

Mary Kathryn Harper
B.S., Georgia Southern University

Jessie Marie Hemric
B.S., Liberty University

Christa Holland Hubert
B.S., University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Madeline Devine Jensen
B.S., University of Florida

Lauren Danielle Lover
B.S., University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Caleb Markusic
B.S., University of Phoenix

Brianna Victoria Marota
B.S., University of Massachusetts

Hillary Worthington McDonald
B.A., Wake Forest University 
M.A., Wake Forest University

Kristen Anne Moore
B.A., Otterbein University

Brandon Anthony Morelli
B.A., University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Dylan Thomas Plocki
B.S., Wheeling Jesuit University

Selby Gage Rouch
B.S., College of Charleston

Elissa C. Sachs
B.S., High Point University

Hajar Nomura Sakhi* 
B.A., Rhodes College

Zachary Robert Schulz
B.A., Olivet College

Rebecca Jo Scott
B.S., University of Kentucky

Karen Elizabeth Siege*
B.S., Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Lucy Elizabeth Skeen
B.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Rebecca Anne Spaeth
B.S., Wake Forest University

Brianna Collins Spahn
B.A., George Washington University

Nicole Lynn Stephens
B.S., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Madison Paige Tedrow
B.S., Appalachian State University

Jessica Thibault
B.S., University of Utah

Jacquelyn Diane Visser
B.A., Wake Forest University

Matthew Robert Wallman
B.S., Roanoke College
M.A. Ed., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Michael Thomas Whitehurst
B.S., Appalachian State University
M.S., Colorado State University