School of Health Sciences graduates encouraged to ‘find your why’ in commencement ceremony

Students from the Nursing, Physician Assistant Studies and Physical Therapy programs within the school received their diplomas Friday, Dec. 8, during a commencement ceremony in Alumni Gym.

Elon University conferred over 93 degrees to future nurses, physician assistants and physical therapists during the 2023 School of Health Sciences Commencement Ceremony held in Alumni Gym on Friday, Dec. 8.

Elon University Health Sciences Commencement, December 8, 2023 in Alumni Gym.

“Graduates, know that you are needed,” said Maha Lund, dean of the School of Health Sciences. “Today, our communities face significant health care challenges and inequities. You have worked hard to develop your clinical and leadership skills so that you can help address these challenges and reduce health care inequities.

“Congratulations again on your accomplishments. We wish you continued success and happiness as you apply your learning to serve all those around you,” Lund added.

The joint ceremony of the School of Health Sciences recognized the 14 Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing candidates, 36 Master of Physician Assistant Studies candidates and 43 Doctor of Physical Therapy candidates graduating.

University Chaplain and Dean of Multifaith Engagement Rev. Kirstin Boswell delivered the invocation and blessing during the ceremony and Assistant Professor of Nursing Elizabeth Van Horn led the singing of the national anthem. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Rebecca Kohn joined with faculty members from the School of Health Sciences in presenting the new graduates with their diplomas.

Dr. Mary Jo Cagle, president and CEO of Cone Health, delivered the commencement address at the Elon University Health Sciences Commencement on December 8, 2023, in Alumni Gym.

In her address to the graduates, commencement speaker Dr. Mary Jo Cagle, president and CEO of Cone Health, detailed her onw journey into health care that began when she was just three years old.

Cagle’s mother was a church organist and her father a brick mason, and in her rural Alabama hometown, their family was often in church. One Sunday, there was a special speaker — Orpha Speicher, a doctor and missionary who was planning to build a hospital in India.

Cagle said she was spellbound by this small woman describing all the great work she was planning to do. Cagle said that she didn’t talk much about the significance of hearing Speicher speak but a few months later, she went to see her family physician, Dr. Carey Gwinn. She’s not sure what prompted her admission to Gwinn and her mother during the visit, but it was the first time that she said out loud she was going to become a doctor.

Elon University Health Sciences Commencement, December 8, 2023 in Alumni Gym.

“Dr. Gwinn did an amazing thing,” Cagle recalled. “He picked me up and he said, ‘Well that’s really interesting, Mary Jo. I want you to tell me more about that.'” That was the beginning of a life-long connection with Gwinn. When Cagle was named to the honor roll, Gwinn clipped the announcement from the newspaper and set it to her with a message — “You’re on the right track, Mary Jo.”

When she was named valedictorian of her high school, Gwinn did the same thing. When Cagle made it to the University of Alabama’s dean list, he sent a note to her house continuing to encourage her. One day, when she had graduated from Alabama with her medical degree and started her practice, she received a call from an 86-year-old Gwinn who congratulated her for staying on the right track.

“What does that little bit of my story [teach me]? What did I learn from that?” Cagle asked rhetorically. “It doesn’t matter your gender, your size, your race or where you come from. You can make a difference in the lives of other people whoever you are. What matters is your intention and your willingness to encourage people.”

Cagle also urged the 93 future health care professionals to discover their “why” during her address. Quoting the work of author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek, “finding your why” is about knowing the reason you get out of bed in the morning.

Your “why” is also your origin story, Cagle said, as most people are products of their upbringing. Cagle’s why and origin story was hearing the missionary speak about opening a church and most people looking to get into the health care profession are already well aware of their reason behind picking that profession.

Cagle told the graduates it will be important to remember their why when faced with the inevitable challenges that will arise.

“Your origin story has the ability to get you through hard times and to remind you that you have a purpose greater than yourself,” she said.

The Accelerated Bachelor of Nursing program (ABSN) at Elon is designed for those who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in any field and will have completed 18-24 hours of prerequisite coursework before admission. The program is an intensive, 16-month post-baccalaureate program that includes 65 credit hours and 540 clinical hours. The program’s curriculum focuses on community-based population health, the reduction of health disparities and the use of health informatics to optimize outcomes.

Elon University Health Sciences Commencement, December 8, 2023 in Alumni Gym.

Elon’s Physician Assistant Studies program is a 24-month, full-time program in which students immerse themselves in a curriculum structured around active learning strategies through collaborative work with Elon’s faculty, scholars and practitioners in the field.  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.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy program is a three-year program that emphasizes a patient-centered approach to the profession. The program immerses students in science and research while teaching them the value of respect and communication. Students spend the final 16 weeks of the program in clinical practicum at sites across the United States.

President Connie Ledoux Book during the Elon University Health Sciences Commencement, December 8, 2023 in Alumni Gym.

President Connie Ledoux Book charged each of the 93 graduates with the task of carrying on Elon’s values  — honesty, integrity, responsibility and respect. Elon is Hebrew for “oak” and the oak has become a symbol of the community’s strength which each graduate is now a part of.

Book said she hopes the graduates are reminded of the personal leadership developed during their studies at Elon each time they see an oak tree or an acorn.

“Today, as we envision each of you launching exciting careers, I charge you to carry Elon’s values of honesty, integrity, responsibility and respect with you, always,” Book said. “Use Elon’s values when you encounter the inevitable hard choices ahead. Lean on them and each other when you need to reason things out. Remember, we are forever bound together by these values — you, me, your classmates and the faculty.”

Candidates for the Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree

Hyland Nachelle Alfonso
B.S., Ouachita Baptist University

Grace Carolina Auth
B.A., Austin College

Jasmine Sandrea Brumsey
B.S., Elizabeth City State University

Danielle Shay Cantrell
B.S., University of Kentucky

Michaela Ann Fraini
B.A., Dean College

Ruth Elizabeth George
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Christian K. Lindsay
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Taylor Leighanne Mellow
B.A., Sonoma State University

Katelyn Perez
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Joely Summey
B.A., East Carolina University

Ravyn Francis Turner
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Samantha Ileine Vaz
B.S., The University of Rhode Island

Camille Serena Weaver
B.A., Colorado College

Kendall Webb
B.S., Elon University

Candidates for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies Degree

David Abney
B.S., Auburn University

McLean Marie Achziger
B.S., Clemson University

Rachel Alexander
B.S., Loyola University Chicago

Emily Banks
B.S., The University of South Florida

Hannah Grace Beasley
B.S., Lenoir-Rhyne University

Dorreen Brune
B.S., Ithaca College
M.P.H., The University of New England

Benjamin Michael Carrion
B.S., Lenoir-Rhyne University
D.P.T., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Carolina Chong Liao
B.S., The University of Wyoming

Nicole Taylor Cort
B.S., East Carolina University

Frederick James Coyer, V
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Lauren Ashley Dougherty
B.S., The University of Michigan

Lauren Elizabeth Dyke
B.S., The University of Maryland

Ashley Cynthia Espinoza
B.S., George Mason University

Alexandra Evans
B.A., The University of North Texas

Sarah Haley-Louise Haley
B.A., Duke University
M.F.A., Pratt Institute

Sheng L. Haley
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Hannah Houston
B.S., Lenoir-Rhyne University

Caralyn Rebekah Hudson
B.S., Marshall University

Kyle Christopher Lambert
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Ryan Lu
B.S., University of California, Davis

Brian John Luteyn
B.S., St. Norbert College

Patricia Arielle Corpuz Manio
B.S., Indiana University

Caroline Susan Mea
B.S., The College of William & Mary

Olivia Paige Mitchell
B.S., The University of Puget Sound

Danielle Renee Novak
B.S., Liberty University

Mary Elizabeth O’Connell
B.A., Dartmouth College

Tate J. Phillips
B.A., B.S., Columbia International University

Joshua Edward Pugliese
B.S., B.A., Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Grace Elizabeth Reilly
B.S., Boston College

Christopher Clark Russell
B.S., The University of Charleston

Allison Sara Russo
B.S., Elon University

Hertej Kaur Sohi
B.A., Seattle Pacific University

Ellen Jordan Tuck
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Clara Amy Van Eck
B.A., Whitman College
M.A., Old Dominion University

Mauricio Vazquez
B.S., The University of Florida

Katie Elizabeth Zuech
B.S., The University of Oklahoma

Candidates for the Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree

Pablo Alejandro Almodovar
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Zain Joshua Bass
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Emily Marie Boger
B.S., High Point University

Tyler A. Carroll
B.S., Bryan College

Nicole Angeline Collins
B.S., University of Tennessee at Martin

Deanna Lee Inez DeMarco
B.S., Old Dominion University

Kelly Lynn Dempsey
B.S., The Ohio State University

Brynn Ellen Donnelly
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Lindsey Erin Garrett
B.S., Meredith College

Victoria Rae Garrison
B.S., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Annamarie Gluhosky
B.A., Coker University

Alexandra M. Granato
B.S., Elon University

Matthew Davis Hamlet
B.S., Campbell University

Ann Jeanette Heil
B.A., Saint Mary’s College of California

Allison Blythe Jackson
B.S., Guilford College

Grant D. Janicik
B.S., California University of Pennsylvania

Daniel Lawrence Janyska
B.S., Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania

Paige Marie Johnson
B.S., University of Maryland, College Park

Anne Keenan
B.S., Wilmington College

Allison M. Knuckles
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Bridgette Macapagal
B.S., North Carolina State University

Daniel David Manor
B.S., North Carolina State University

Megan Hope McCallister
B.S., Western Carolina Univerity

Lauren Marie McCaulley
B.S., Kennesaw State University

Albert A. Meyer, III
B. A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Anne Meiguo Edgar Michaelson
B.S., Elon University

Sara Elizabeth Milgrom
B.A., The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Emily Kathryn Morenz
B.S., University of New Hampshire

Makena Mueller
B.S., Springfield College

Zachary D. Ormond
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Stephen Jacob Parsons
B.S., Furman University

Dustin Lee Patrick
B.S., Western Kentucky University

Sarah Elizabeth Peavy
B.S., Auburn University

Jordan Scott
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Kaitlyn Nicole Smith
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Miranda Charlotte Grace Thompson
B.S., Elon University

Nathan A. Tometich
B.A., Grinnell College

Oliver Tuisa
B.S., University of North Florida

Brendal Jayme-Wynne Vargo
B.S., James Madison University

Jordan Christopher Waite
B.S., Towson University

Stacey Lynn Walton
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Ashley Lynn Marie Williams
B.S., The University of North Carolina at Charlotte

John Woodhouse
B.S., North Carolina State University