In front of family, friends and faculty members, 68 physician assistant studies students from the East Falls and New Jersey Campuses at Jefferson (Philadelphia University + Thomas Jefferson University) celebrated their commencement Aug. 11, reciting an oath to carry out their responsibilities as health care providers with honesty and dedication.
This year marked several important milestones: the 20th anniversary of the first graduating class of physician assistants on the East Falls Campus, as well as the first combined graduating class with the New Jersey Campus students.
“Every one of you should be proud of your accomplishments,” said Jesse Coale, physician assistant studies program director, at the ceremony in the Gallagher Athletic, Recreation and Convocation Center. “The faculty of the physician assistant studies program acknowledges the work that you have done and the challenges that you have faced, and we applaud you.”
Jefferson Chancellor Stephen Spinelli Jr., Ph.D., said the ceremony celebrated “an amazing group” of new physician assistants, as well as the incredible growth of the program. He noted that graduates volunteered in communities both locally and abroad, applied for licensure in 16 states and have positions in almost every medical specialty. And, he reminded them, “You will always have a home here.”
Graduates have jobs in specialties including critical care, cardiology, hematology/oncology, emergency medicine, OB/GYN surgery, dermatology, neurosurgery, orthopedics, plastic surgery, psychiatry, cardiothoracic surgery, internal medicine and physical medicine and rehabilitation. They will be working at such top healthcare providers as the Rothman Institute at Jefferson, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Penn Medicine, Lankenau Medical Center and AtlantiCare.
During their time at the University, the class participated in numerous outreach efforts, including raising funds for the Mazzoni Center, volunteering at the Philadelphia Science Festival and participating in medical mission trips to Ghana and Nicaragua.
The ceremony was peppered with exuberant cheers for their faculty members and fellow physician assistant graduates, as class members donned their professional white coats and walked across the stage to accept their diplomas.
Awards presented at the ceremony included:
* Program Director’s Award for Clinical Excellence: Kelsey Marie Glidewell
* Dr. Edward E. Dowden Award for Academic Excellence: Angela Ferro
* Dr. Joel Chinitz Award for Community Service: Kaitlyn Alibrando, East Falls Campus, and Morgan Sartori, New Jersey Campus
* Class President’s Award for Student Service: Patrice Maro, East Falls Campus, and Yechiel Weiss, New Jersey Campus
* Clinical Preceptor of the Year for Outstanding Performance as Medical Educators and for Assisting in the Advancement of PA Education: Demetrios Menegos, DO
Matt Baker, the University’s senior vice provost for academic affairs, delivered the keynote address. Baker is a physician assistant with experience in healthcare administration, research, education and clinical medicine. More than 23 years ago, he started the physician assistant studies program at what was then the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science and served as its founding director. It was the first professional health program at the college and one of the first physician assistant programs in Pennsylvania.
When the program began, physician assistants couldn’t practice in New Jersey and Mississippi and could only prescribe medication in about half the states, Baker said. Now, physician assistants can practice and prescribe medicine in all states, and the profession is consistently listed as one of the fastest growing in the U.S.
“You are bright, you are energetic and you are well trained; you will be great,” Baker told the students. “Go out and save the world.”