UAMS Celebrates Achievements of Graduating Physician Assistants

By Yavonda Chase

For the Class of 2018, it required more than 58 exams (not including quizzes), more than 2,240 hours of patient care on clinical rotations, 48 hours of labs, at least 30 hours of service learning, 30 hours of interprofessional education at the 12th Street Health & Wellness Center, a capstone project and more —as they earned 128 credit hours in just 28 months.

Edward Williams, M.P.A.S., P.A.-C, chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, praised the PA Class of 2018 for their dedication during the Aug. 24 Valediction Ceremony.

Edward Williams, M.P.A.S., P.A.-C, chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, praised the PA Class of 2018 for their dedication during the Aug. 24 Valediction Ceremony.

“They met all of those challenges, and they met them with professionalism and drive,” said Edward Williams, M.P.A.S., P.A.-C, chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies in the College of Health Professions and director of the PA program, as he kicked off the Aug. 24 Valediction Ceremony at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre in Little Rock.

For the 36 students in the Class of 2018, the ceremony was the final piece of their education. After that, they are eligible to sit for their national board exams and find jobs as physician assistants. But for one final moment, the classmates were together to celebrate their academic achievements.

Susan Long, Ed.D., dean of the College of Health Professions, reminded the graduates that as physician assistants, they are also allied health professionals who are joining a workforce 5 million strong.

“Allied health professionals are important to health care because of demand and cost,” said Long. “We can provide MORE care at a lower cost. For every physician in the United States, we need about eight allied health workers to provide care to patients.”

Class President Ada Sochanska urged her classmates to make the world better.

“People assume to make a difference in the world, you need to impact millions,” she said. “But that’s not true. You only have to reach out to one to make this place brighter.”

The 36 graduates of the PA Class of 2018 are now eligible to sit for their national board exams.

The 36 graduates of the PA Class of 2018 are now eligible to sit for their national board exams.

The graduates selected Kumar Patel, M.P.A.S, P.A.-C, a member of the UAMS PA Class of 2015, as their keynote speaker. He shared examples from his first days on the job to remind them to have reasonable expectations when they start their clinical careers.

“You won’t necessarily be the best clinician coming out of PA school on your first day, your first week or the first months you’ll be working. But eventually, you’ll have that deep sigh, and you’ll say to yourself, ‘I think I’ve got this.’”

Following Patel’s speech, Tiffany Huitt, Ph.D., associate program director and director of research, presented the graduates. Williams and Amber Teigen, M.M.Sc., P.A.-C, director of didactic education, helped each graduate into a long white coat, symbolizing the start of the clinical careers.

Several students and faculty members were also honored during the ceremony. Melissa Clark, Pharm.D., M.P.H. presented student awards to four graduates.

They were:

  • Academic Excellence — Tyler Childs
  • Humanitarian Spirit — Carson York
  • Broad Spectrum — Seth Eiland
  • Faculty Gold Key — Ada Sochanska

Then it was the students turn to recognize their educators. Christina Haigwood, Tien Nguyen and Eiland recognized the following faculty members:

  • Didactic Instructor of the Year — Chris Davis, P.A.-C
  • Clinical Instructor of the Year — Alicia Leverette, P.A.-C
  • Faculty Teacher of the Year — Tiffany Huitt, Ph.D.