Physician Assistant Class of 2026 Dons White Coats

By Ben Boulden

The ceremony represents a rite of passage as students enter the 28-month master’s degree physician assistant program that will prepare them to care for patients. The Class of 2026 will be the program’s 13th graduating class.

Edward Williams, DMSc, MPAS, PA-C, chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies and program director, opened the ceremony and introduced UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA.

“We’ve created the physician assistant program at UAMS to improve access to health care in Arkansas by expanding our ability to produce health professionals who can see and treat patients,” Patterson said. “PAs play a critical role in delivering and improving health care. And I know that firsthand because I married one.”

Physician assistants are licensed medical providers who work in collaboration with a supervising physician. They take patient medical histories, conduct physical exams, order diagnostic tests, diagnose medical conditions, write prescriptions, and manage acute illness and chronic disease. The UAMS program, established in 2011, is the first at a public university in Arkansas.

Friends and family in the audience applaud the Class of 2026.

Friends and family in the audience applaud the Class of 2026.Image by Evan Lewis

“You’ve almost completed a month already. And think about it, 310 PA graduates have come before you,” College of Health Professions Dean Susan Long, Ed.D., said. “And soon in just a couple months, there’ll be 348 PA graduates that have come before you when the class of 2024 graduates. They sat in this exact auditorium. Use those 348 PA graduates from the College of Health Professions as your encouragement. Just as they were, you are meant to be here in this program and to be a PA.”

Williams said the white coat also identifies them as medical professional students who are training and working to better their communities. The UAMS and PA program patch on the coat recognizes the university and the department but also signifies that the students are representing the college and UAMS.

“And the last thing is: They just really look good in them,” Williams said. “It’s nice when they’re brand new, and they’re nice and ironed with starch. They walk into that clinic or that hospital, and they look just fantastic. So, we’re excited to see them on that first day in those white coats, and the first experience they have with patients.”

Parker Work, president of the physician assistant Class of 2024, congratulated the white coat recipients on becoming students in the program and gave them some advice, too.

“Remember, you are not alone in this journey. Look around you. Those 39 people at your sides will become your family over the next coming months,” Work said. “Lean on them, cry with them, laugh with them. Your families will be supportive, of course. But even they may not understand what you were going through, but those beside you will.”

Hundreds of family members, friends, faculty and staff in the audience watched as each of the 40 students in turn walked on to the auditorium stage and put on their white coat with the assistance of Williams and Hillary Mayberry, MPAS, PA-C, an assistant professor in the department and director of clinical education.

Just before the conclusion of the ceremony, Nadja Vawryk Button, MHS, PA-C, led students in a recitation of the Professional Oath.


The students in the physician assistant Class of 2026 and their hometowns and states, if out of Arkansas, are:

  • Holly Allen – Cabot
  • Kinlee Baker – Monticello
  • Brooklyn Barton – Greenwood
  • Piper Combs — Malvern
  • Jace Couch – Monette
  • Grace Ann Dickey – Little Rock
  • Rylie Discenza – Benton
  • Sara Duffy – Jonesboro
  • Lauren Flohr – Bentonville
  • Alexandra Ganderton – Tampa, Florida
  • Maggie Grappa – North Little Rock
  • Paige Green – Alma
  • Payton Grice – Maumelle
  • Reese Guerra – Texarkana
  • Alexia Hernandez – Bentonville
  • Emmanual Hervey – Little Rock
  • Sara Hilman – Greenbrier
  • Caroline Johnson – Little Rock
  • Brianna Jones – Eros, Louisiana
  • Nour Kattoum – Jackson, Tennessee
  • Riley Klober – Magnolia
  • Jada Mack – Fort Smith
  • Eduardo Montes – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
  • Haley Montgomery – Mena
  • Jonathon Morrison – North Little Rock
  • Allison Park – League City, Texas
  • Priya Patel – White Hall
  • Braxton Peel – Little Rock
  • Ashlynn Robinson – Bentonville
  • William Romero – Fort Smith
  • Riley Rush – Crossett
  • Paiton Scrivner – Bismarck
  • Kristen Sharp – Van Buren
  • Catherine Sink – Little Rock
  • Emma Skinner – Cabot
  • Mikayla Skinner – Bald Knob
  • Carlie Sudteigte – Houston, Texas
  • Swan Swindle – Hot Springs
  • Syan Taylor – Holly Grove
  • Iman Zainuba – Fort Smith
The Class of 2026 take the Physician Assistant Professional Oath at the conclusion of the White Coat Ceremony.

The Class of 2026 take the Physician Assistant Professional Oath at the conclusion of the White Coat Ceremony.Image by Evan Lewis