Elon PA Class of 2021 urged to focus on purpose and duty through changes in the world and medicine

The 38 new graduates in the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program's Class of 2021 participated in their Commencement ceremony in the Great Hall on Saturday, Feb. 27.

The newest graduates of Elon’s Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program on Saturday emerged from their studies and clinical rotations with a unique appreciation and perspective for what they will face in their medical careers.

Having navigated their clinical education during a global pandemic that disrupted their lives and their studies, these 38 new Elon graduates were reminded to remain focused on a sense of purpose and duty during their careers, even as the world and the medical field continue to change.

“Even though the world of medicine is changing, as it must and as is its nature, you must not forget your purpose, and to whom that purpose is due,” said Dr. Gary Smith with Maria Parham Health Duke LifePoint Healthcare. “That purpose is the care due to people — to patients — who you will be encountering and taking care of. That is your duty, and that should not change. That duty of passion and compassion, empathy and sympathy, care and concern for your patients should not change, cannot change, despite any changes or transformations going on around you.”

> Watch the full ceremony on YouTube

The 38 graduates were honored during a physically distanced ceremony held in the Great Hall in the Global Commons, with each graduate presented with academic hoods and diplomas from Dean of the School of Health Sciences Becky Neiduski and Elon President Connie Ledoux Book. Each hood donned the colors Kelly green, to represent the field of physician assistant studies, and maroon and gold, signifying an Elon education.

The Elon PA program, housed in the School of Health Sciences, is a two-year, full-time program that aims to prepare graduates to think critically and act skillfully to meet expanding health care needs in local and global communities. Elon’s PA curriculum is based on active learning strategies through collaborative work with Elon’s faculty, scholars and practitioners in the field. Students emerge from the program ready to employ the most current knowledge to care for patients’ physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs.

In his remarks to the Class of 2021, Smith explained that what patients will take away from their caregivers depends greatly on how much those caregivers are willing to give to the patients. “When you enter the medical world, your purpose of caring for your patient, your purpose of treating your patient, your purpose of teaching your patients is to leave a good, lasting and memorable impression on them,” said Smith, who serves as a clinical preceptor for Elon Physician Assistant Studies students. “Take the time to share and care for your patients. Medicine needs to be delivered with care and compassion.”

As they emerge as new graduates and physician assistants, Smith urged the members of the Class of 2021 to “go and make an impression on your communities. Go and make a lasting impression on your world.”

During the Commencement ceremony, six graduates – Deborah Joy Barnett, Celeste Craft Cantwell, Staci Lea Cohen, Claire Elizabeth Elenteny, Lindsey Jones and Cara Noelle Monforton  – were honored for their induction into the Pi Alpha Honor Society, the national honor society for the physician assistant profession. The Pi Alpha Honor Society recognizes students who have achieved a 3.5 GPA and possess a high standard of conduct and character. Only 15 percent of each graduating class is eligible for membership in the society. James McGee, a 2016 alumnus of the PA program, was recognized with an honorary membership in the society based on his service as an adjunct faculty member in the program.

The Class of 2021 made a contribution to the Open Door Clinic in Burlington, which offers free health care services with dignity, professionalism and concern to members of the community. Many members of the class volunteer at the clinic and raise donations for its mission. The annual contribution from the program’s graduating class is now named the Tracy Salisbury Award in memory of the late executive director of the clinic who passed away in late 2020.

After receiving their diplomas, these newest Elon graduates received a charge from President Connie Ledoux Book in which she celebrated their accomplishments and encouraged them to be resilient and steadfast as they begin and excel in their careers. She tasked them with carrying Elon and its values forward in their personal and professional lives.

Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies Class of 2021

Deborah Joy Barnett*
B.A., Taylor University

Catherine Joann Betack
B.S., Southern Methodist University

Elisabeth Rose Bristow
B.S., Eureka College

Celeste Craft Cantwell*
B.A., Miami University

Staci Lea Cohen*
B.S., University of Maryland School of Dentistry

Audrey De Los Reyes
B.S., University of California, Santa Barbara

Hannah Brooke Morris Denson
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Jessie Anacelia Ehrisman
B.A., Duke University

Hailey Rebecca Einck
B.S., Oregon State University

Claire Elizabeth Elenteny*
B.S., University of Dayton

William Joseph Faulkner
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Bethany Lagle Foster
B.S., University of South Carolina

Laura Elizabeth Graham
B.B.A., The College of William & Mary

Jenna Kristine Hatzenbuhler 
B.A., University of Wisconsin

Silvestre Jaimes
B.S.R.S., Adventist University of Health Sciences

Chelsea Kim Cyr Johnson
B.S., East Carolina University

Lindsey Jones*
B.S., Clemson University

Kunhee Lee
B.A., DePauw University

Monica Chen Li
B.A., University of California-San Diego

Julie Holman McCarter
B.S., Samford University
M.S., Appalachian State University

Larry Bauman McCauley III 
B.S., Elon University

Erin Elizabeth Mecum
B.S., Western Carolina University
M.H.S., Western Carolina University

Cara Noelle Monforton*
B.S., College of Charleston

Lizet Pacheco
B.S., Loyola Marymount University

Hannah Elizabeth Porter
B.S., Union University

Misha Raza
B.S., North Carolina Central University

Caitlin Jernigan Rodgers
B.A., B.S., Appalachian State University
M.S., University of South Florida

Maxwell Bentley Saranen
B.S., Michigan State University

Lucille Sepic
B.S., East Carolina University

Celeste Snediker
B.S.N., University of Massachusetts

Rebekah Ruth Sponseller
B.S., Taylor University

George Harper Stevenson
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Morgan Jeanette Stonewall
B.S., Iowa State University

Anna Nicole Powell Sullivan
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Mariah Teague
B.S., North Carolina State University

Elizabeth Thompson Smith
B.S., North Carolina State University

Jillian Herma Van Essendelft
B.S., Western Carolina University

Aaron Matthew Wyatt
B.A., Utah State University


* Pi Alpha Honor Society