UAMS Presents White Coats to First Physician Assistant Students

By Nate Hinkel

The white coat ceremony was the first for the full-time, 28-month master’s degree program, which accepted its first students this year. Physician Assistants are licensed medical providers who work with the supervision of a physician.

They take patient medical histories, conduct physical exams, order diagnostic tests, diagnose medical conditions, write prescriptions and manage acute illness and chronic disease with the supervision of a physician. The UAMS program, in its College of Health Professions, is the first at a public university in Arkansas.

Each of the students donned a brand new white coat that they will wear during their clinical experiences in the program. The group then recited the Physician Assistant Professional Oath, which highlights their responsibility for professionalism, teamwork and providing the best possible care to patients.

“As the first group of physician assistant students at UAMS, you are trailblazers who will light the path for future classes to follow while at the same time preparing yourselves for careers to deliver patient- and family-centered care that will improve health and health care,” said UAMS Chancellor Dan Rahn, M.D. “In a time of great changes, our country’s health care system needs you more and more every day as demand for care is poised to increase significantly in the years ahead.”

The UAMS physician assistant program, established in 2011, received accreditation in March from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, the final approval needed before admitting its first class of students. Students began classes in May.

“Physician assistants will help Arkansas see significant progress in the health of our people. This new UAMS program is an exciting addition for educating generations of health care professionals who will help all of us get healthy and stay healthy,” said Vic Snyder, M.D., corporate medical director for external affairs for Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and former Arkansas congressman, delivered the ceremony’s keynote address before the students received their white coats.

The physician assistant students receiving their white coats for the Class of 2015 included:

Kara Baker
Caddo Gap

Eva Barlogie
Little Rock

Brittany Barnes

Taylor Caston

Ashley Fairchild
Depew, Okla.

Jessica Fite

Stefani Ford
North Little Rock

Bradley Griffin

Annaleigh Harper
Little Rock

Antonia Hudson
Little Rock

Alissa Huberty
North Little Rock

Joshua Johnson
Little Rock

Ashley Loftis

Jonathan McCrary
Hot Springs

Courtney Mosley

Mai Nguyen
Little Rock

Kumar Patel
Little Rock

Kayla Pipkins
Little Rock

Matthew Reynolds
Little Rock

Kathryn Schaiff

Letifeh Shafii
Little Rock

Drew Sibenmorgen
Little Rock

Christa Barlett

Samantha Strong
Dallas Texas

Michelle Bruzatori
North Little Rock

Veronica Sumner
Little Rock

“The students were excited to get to work,” said Patricia Kelly, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies. “Seeing classes begin last month was really rewarding and a testament to a lot of hard work by our faculty, college and UAMS in assembling the program from concept to execution.”

Renovations were recently completed on a 4,049-square-foot building, a part of the former state hospital complex that the UAMS College of Health Professions moved into in 2009. The building includes two laboratory spaces where physician assistant students will receive hands-on practice.

A physical exam lab will include 11 clinical exam tables where students will practice taking patient histories and learn skills for performing physical exams. Another lab will provide space for teaching procedures such as casting, suturing and lumbar puncture.

Arkansas ranks 49th in the nation for the number of practicing physician assistants. Kelly said that means the profession may be unfamiliar to some physicians in the state.

The UAMS program will work to raise awareness of the profession and its benefits among Arkansas physicians and help prepare physicians who supervise students while they gain further clinical experience, she said.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. Named best Little Rock metropolitan area hospital by U.S. News & World Report, it is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has more than 2,800 students and 775 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS regional centers throughout the state. Visit or