Physician Assistant Studies celebrates 25th anniversary, recognizes program’s 1,000th graduate

By Sally Crocker

HSC PA Class of 2022

Anniversaries are a time for celebration, reflection, honoring the past and looking to the future. This spring, students, faculty and staff of HSC’s School of Health Professions Physician Assistant Studies (PA) program did just that as the Class of 2022 and the 1,000th graduate stepped forward to receive recognition and awards signifying their completion of the program. This year’s graduates also received a long white coat as part of the program’s silver jubilee and recognition of their entrance into the profession. The students will participate in HSC’s university commencement ceremony in May 2022.

2022 marked the first-time graduates completed PA’s new 30month program. The previous curriculum was set at 34 months. This year’s class was the first to receive the long white coat at curriculum completion, replacing the short coat they received on entering the program.

It all started as a bachelor’s degree in 1997, with the first graduating class of 11 students two years later. By 2000, PA Studies had become a master’s program – and now, about 75 students graduate each year.

Today the program is housed in the HSC School of Health Professions. US News & World Report magazine has ranked HSC’s program in the top 13th tier of graduate-level physician assistant programs in the nation. Physician assistants are in high demand, with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting that the need for PAs will continue growing at a fast rate over the next decade. The profession has been named as one of the Best Health Care Jobs for 2022.

“It’s amazing to think that HSC’s PA program has 1,000-plus alumni and those 1,000 individuals are representing our program and taking care of others. The number of patients and communities served by our program is exponential,” said Lauren Dobbs, MMS, PA-C, Department Chair and Program Director.

This year’s commencement banquet was held at the Fort Worth Club. The Dean’s Scholarly Excellence Awards for Academic Achievement and Excellence in Clinical Practice were presented, along with departmental awards, the student Perseverance Award and Preceptor Appreciation awards presented by the graduating student class. Other special honors were also noted. Ten graduates and one staff member were inducted into the Pi Alpha Honor Society, recognizing significant academic achievements and honoring individuals in the areas of leadership, research, community/professional service and other related activities.

In recognition of this special year, Dr. Glenn Forister, Dean of the School of Health Professions, said, “We are so proud of this milestone. Thirty-two percent of the 281 PA programs in the U.S. have been created in the last five years. Our consistent 25-year record of excellence is something to celebrate, along with our top 12% position nationally.”

The following 2022 Honor Graduates, among the top 15% by GPA, were presented with the regalia honor cord:

  • Blair Bokelman
  • Taylor Castleberry
  • Shirley Dixon
  • Rebecca Elwell
  • Andrew Garza
  • Callie Goff
  • Erika Graber
  • Carter Hanson
  • Michelle Hernandez
  • Maliwan MacMullen
  • Catherine Moffett
  • Natalie Nichols
  • Lauren Prader
  • Dustin Zimmerman

U.S. Army veteran Aaron Peterson was presented with the Veterans Regalia Stole. 

Active-duty Navy Ensign Ryan Guthrie and U.S. Air Force Reserve 2nd Lieutenant Abigail Till were presented with the Military Service Cord.

The following graduates were inducted into Pi Alpha Honor Society:

  • McKenzie Bartlett
  • Blair Bokelman
  • Haley Borthwick
  • Lauren Boyd
  • Rebecca Elwell
  • Andrew Garza
  • Carter Hanson
  • Brianna Koym
  • Lauren Mullins
  • Dustin Zimmerman

Honorary Pi Alpha membership was presented to PA Studies Administrative Coordinator Sandra Mann, who has been with the program since its beginning in 1997.

Rachel Diessner received the Department of Psychiatry Award, and Shannen Longridge was honored with the Department of Pediatrics Award.

Rebecca Elwell was recognized with PA’s Outstanding Achievement Award for demonstrated excellence in the program’s Didactic Phase.

Savannah Elkins received the Outstanding Achievement Award for demonstrated excellence in the program’s Clinical Phase. She was also honored with this year’s Diane L. Chew Perseverance Award, established in memory of the beloved staff member and friend who faithfully worked more than 15 years for the PA program.

The Dean’s Award for Scholarly Excellence in Academic Achievement was presented to Andrew Garza, and Catherine Moffett received the Dean’s Award for Scholarly Excellence in Clinical Practice.

As of this year, a total of 1,029 graduates have completed HSC’s program. Samantha Kubiak was recognized as being PA’s 1,000th graduate.

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