School of Health Sciences graduates urged to show compassion in new careers in health care

Students from the Nursing, Physician Assistant Studies and Physical Therapy programs within the school received their diplomas Friday, Dec. 9, during a commencement ceremony in Alumni Gym.

Elon University helped welcome nurses, physician assistants and physical therapists to their new health care careers on Friday, Dec. 9, during the 2022 School of Health Sciences Commencement Ceremony held in Alumni Gym.

A member of the Doctor of Physical Therapy Class of 2022 receives a hood during the School of Health Sciences Commencement December 9, 2022, at Alumni Gym.

The joint graduation ceremony saw students in the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Physician Assistant Studies and Doctor of Physical Therapy programs cross the stage to receive their diplomas. They were met at the conclusion of their rigorous academic pursuits with the resounding applause and cheers of friends and family members gathered to celebrate their accomplishments and wish them well as they begin new career paths.

Friday’s ceremony saw Elon graduate its first future nurses, with 14 students in the 16-month Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program receiving the university’s first nursing degree diplomas. The program was launched in 2021 along with a traditional four-year bachelor of science in nursing program within the School of Health Sciences.

“As graduates, you could not have arrived at a better time,” Stephen Folger, interim dean of the School of Health Sciences, told the students. “The United States and global societies need Elon School of Health Sciences graduates and leaders to face the challenges of today and tomorrow as we strive to reduce health care inequities and optimize patient outcomes.”

Associate Dean for Student Affairs and Associate Professor of Medical Humanities at the Creighton University School of Medicine delivers the keynote address at the School of Health Sciences Commencement December 9, 2022, at Alumni Gym.

As they prepare to care for patients and assist them through difficult times, these Elon-educated health care professionals heard guidance from Nicole Piemonte, assistant dean for student affairs and associate professor of medical humanities at Creighton University School of Medicine, about how to tend to their professional duties while not losing the connection with and empathy for those under their care.

“Being a clinician requires both scientific knowledge and a different kind of knowing and learning, one that involves more than an acquisition of facts and skills from lectures and textbooks, one that is in touch with what it means to connect with other people, to see their pain, and to respond to it,” Piemonte told the graduates. “Being professional means seeing patients, it means being vulnerable enough to feel a bit of what they’re feeling. … It means you’re courageous enough to walk over thresholds and be fully present for patients, to recognize what it might be like to be a part of their world, a world that might be crumbling around them.”

A graduate makes a shoe change at the School of Health Sciences Commencement on December 9, 2022, at Alumni Gym.

Piemonte recounted being with her mother during her final days as she succumbed to ovarian cancer, and witnessing the tension many clinicians experience between checking items off of a “to-do” list as they treat patients and having the ability to connect with their patients and fully understand that what they are experiencing is not routine to them.

“All you need to do is recognize the incongruity between your day with its long to-do list, and the day of your patients, people who might be having the crisis of their lives,” Piemonte said. “All you have to do is recognize that incongruity. Compassion will take over from there.”

Engaging fully with patients offers the opportunity to better help them as well as to learn more about yourself, Piemonte said, by providing more insight into what it is to be human, with all the flaws, triumphs and disappointments that come with it. She urged them to remember as they leave for work that their day is going to be significantly different from the day their patients have before them. “You are the people who can help them feel less lonely, to help them feel seen, the people who can bring them hope, or help them navigate situations that feel hopeless,” she said. “I promise that spending time connecting to the people who need it most is something you will never regret.”

School of Health Sciences Commencement December 9, 2022, at Alumni Gym on the campus of Elon University.

Across the three undergraduate and graduate programs, students immersed themselves in the classroom, building a base of medical knowledge that will inform them as they determine the best care for their patients. They spent hours in the lab, learning the protocols, skills and procedures that they will rely on to have an impact on their patients’ lives. Out in the community in a wide range of clinical settings, they honed their ability to identify the best path of care, to listen to what patients were telling them and to work with colleagues to achieve the best results for their patients.

Folger offered an official welcome to the new graduates into the health care provider community. “We commend you on your outstanding accomplishments,” he said. “We wish you continued success.”

A new graduate shows off their diploma following the School of Health Sciences Commencement on Dec. 9, 2022, at Alumni Gym.

Elon’s ABSN program is designed for students who have already obtained a bachelor’s degree who want to enter the field of nursing. The program’s curriculum focuses on community-based population health, the reduction of health disparities and the use of health informatics to optimize outcomes. Students complete 65 credit hours of academic work along with at least 540 hours of clinical work and upon their graduation are prepared to sit for their nursing licensing exams.

Students in Elon’s Physician Assistant Studies program complete the full-time program in 24 months, with the first year focused on academic work in the classroom and lab and the second year spent learning in clinical environments including those focused on primary care, pediatrics, emergency medicine, inpatient medicine, surgery, women’s health and behavioral medicine. Students complete a master’s project that 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.

A new graduate poses for pictures following the School of Health Sciences Commencement December 9, 2022, at Alumni Gym.

The three-year Doctor of Physical Therapy program emphasizes a patient-centered approach to the profession with a curriculum that immerses students in science and research while teaching them the value of respect and communication. Students build upon the solid academic experience they obtain in the classroom with 40 weeks of hands-on clinical practicums, which is higher than the national average for similar programs. Students spend the final 16 weeks of the program in clinical practicum at sites across the United States.

In her charge to the new graduates, Elon President Connie Ledoux Book offered her congratulations and commended them on what they have accomplished by completing their programs. She noted that they have persevered through “collaborative and rigorous” programs that are focused on excellence and engaged experiences. She encouraged them to be “resilient and steadfast” like the oaks for which Elon University is named, with each new graduate receiving an oak sapling at the conclusion of the ceremony.

“Congratulations, Class of 2022, and long live Elon,” Book said.

Candidates for the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree

Alyssa Taylor Baskette-Stokes
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Carly Alison Carbone
B.A., North Carolina State University

Genisis Iris Dancer
B.S., University of Washington
M.S., Washington State University

Ashley Sarah Duggan
B.S., Elon University

Alivia Riann Gilbert
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Amanda Leigh Lester
B.S., Liberty University

Jessica Lauren Lloyd
B.S., East Carolina University

Lauren Winstead Myers
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Sabrina Noel Palmieri
M.P.H., Slippery Rock University

Jessica Lauren Renaud
B.S., University of Pittsburgh

Sarah Rose Trexler
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Joseph William Tynan
B.S., Skidmore College

Debryah Renee’ Washington
B.S., East Carolina University

Brian Wayne Williamson
B.S., Campbell University
PharmD, Campbell University

Candidates for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies Degree

Sarah Angelina Akihary
B.S., Western Kentucky University

Samantha Jo Bauman
B.S., Whitworth University

Anna Christine Bilse
B.S., Saint Mary’s College

Mackenzie Bonner
B.S., University of Massachusetts

Michaela Kennedy Brown
B.S., Clemson University

Isabella Rose Calabrese
B.S., Saint Michael’s College

Claire Louise Campbell
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Cassondra Elizabeth Chaput
B.S., Austin Peay State University

Natalie Logan Cox
B.S., Roanoke College

Morgan Lee Darrow
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Johanna K. Dauray
B.S., University of Rhode Island

Amy Patricia Davis
B.F.A., University of Georgia

Eric Gillespie
B.A., Concordia University
M.Sc., University of Glasgow

Emily Allison Griffith
B.S., B.A., Butler University

Matthew Hansen
B.S., Weber State University

Benjamin Ho
B.A., Carthage College

Neve Marie Jansen
B.S., University of Maryland, College Park

Krista Jean Johnson
B.S., Northern Arizona University

Summer Elizabeth Lackey
B.S., Lenoir-Rhyne University

Beverly Ann Lloyd
B.M., Appalachian State University

Ryan Fitzpatrick Loll
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Asheville

Katie Love
B.S., University of Massachusetts
M.S., Boston College

Christy Jean Mattern
B.S., University of Wisconsin-Madison

Michael Joseph McCann
B.S., North Carolina State University

Erin C. McKenna
B.S., Villanova University

Megan Christina Polak
B.S., Lehigh University

Meghan E. Richards
B.S., University of Florida

Rebecca Rising
B.S., Syracuse University

McKenzi Loring Schuh
B.S., North Carolina State University

Kyndall Blake Scott
B.S., University of Georgia

Matthew Segal
B.S., California State University, Fullerton

Courtney Elizabeth Stover
B.A., Florida State University

Niamh Elizabeth Sutherburg
B.S., University of Richmond

Rebecca Anne Swanburg
B.A., Messiah College

Evan Nathaniel Williams
B.S., Duke University

Natalie Elizabeth Wood
B.S., Palm Beach Atlantic University

Candidates for the Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree

Georgina Azzam
B.S., Oakland University

Sarah Nicole Bailey
B.S., Appalachian State University

Kathryn Frances Balardi
B.S., Wake Forest University

Benjamin Aaron Bell
B.S., Gardner-Webb University

Ian Padraic Brady
B.S., East Carolina University

Brenna Anne Buckley
B.S., East Carolina University

Camille Elise Burkhardt
B.S., Liberty University

Hannah Montgomery Cook
B.S., Appalachian State University

Mary Michelle Corcoran
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Andi Marie Crosby
B.S., Christopher Newport University

Amethyst Rose DeNeal
B.S., University of Kentucky

Tyanna S. Eaddy-Harris
B.S., Allegheny College

Michael Brandon Falls
B.S., Western Carolina University

Lucas Cristopher Friess
B.S., University of Toledo

Jennifer Nicole Gehrin
B.S., Elon University

Kylah Moshae George
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Savannah Henry
B.S., Western Carolina University

Kaitlyn Marie Hickman
B.S., Calvin College

Daniel Hines
B.S., North Carolina State University
M.S., North Carolina State University

Michael Johnson
B.S., Anderson University

Kayla Jackson Karr
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Elizabeth Kincaid
B.A., Coker University

McKayla Ann Kraft
B.S., East Carolina University

Elizabeth Allyson Landers
B.S., George Mason University

Nicholas Andrew Messina
B.S., Towson University

Nichole Elena Montour
B.S., The College of William and Mary

Austin Taylor Moore
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Kimberly Rachel Newland
B.S., The Master’s University

Erica Novak
B.S., Adelphi University

Jordan Jamaal Patterson
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Sara Ann Perkins
B.S., High Point University

Jaclyn Brooke Ross
B.S., The University of Georgia

Jennifer Megan Schneible
B.S., University of Tampa

Durand Samuel Shoup
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Alyssa Christine Shupe
B.S., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Shane Scott Sullivan
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Jessica Meghan Terrell
B.S., Berry College

Alexandra Jane Vitale
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Luguang Wei
B.S., Arizona State University

Danielle Wild
B.S., Iowa State University

Maryanne Wilson
B.S., California State University East Bay

Brandi Melissa Wiltshire
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Yuan Zhuang
B.S., The State University of New York at Buffalo