Physician Assistant Program Graduation 2018

OHSU P.A. Program sends graduates forth “to contribute to an improved community”

Aug. 7, 2018

P.A. graduate 2018

The OHSU School of Medicine celebrated the graduation of 41 students from the Physician Assistant Program Aug. 4, the 22nd P.A. class to graduate from this highly ranked, two-year master's degree program.

An audience teeming with family, friends and many babies and toddlers added to the joyous and touching ceremony led by Program Director Glenn Forister, Ph.D., P.A.-C., program administrators and many dedicated faculty members at the Robertson Collaborative Life Sciences building, named for outgoing OHSU President Joe Robertson.

"You are here today because you want to make a positive difference," School of Medicine Dean Sharon Anderson, the keynote speaker, told the soon-to-be graduates. "But altruism is not the only reason. You are here because you successfully competed for a spot in a program in which only about 3 percent of applicants are accepted. And you are here today because YOU DID IT! You have earned your Master of Physician Assistant Studies Degree. Congratulations!"

Read Dean Anderson's full address

P.A. history rooted in service and honoring veterans

The OHSU P.A. program is 26 months of intensive classroom and clinical training, after which graduates must pass a board exam in order to practice medicine under the supervision of a physician. Founded in 1995 under the leadership of Ted Ruback, M.S., P.A.-C., the OHSU program is now rated #5 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

Sharon Anderson speakingAs Dr. Anderson described, the physician assistant profession grew out of a physician shortage in the mid-1960s. Dr. Eugene Stead, chair of the department of medicine at Duke University at the time, launched the first class of P.A.s, breaking down barriers in medical education by thinking about interprofessional education far ahead of his time.

Dr. Stead based the curriculum on his knowledge of the fast-track training of doctors during World War II. Dr. Stead's first P.A. class consisted of four veterans who had served as medics in the Vietnam War. The first P.A. class graduated at Duke in 1967, and the profession has grown worldwide ever since. 

"The fact that many Vietnam war medics found meaning and well-being as P.A.s shows that your profession is rooted in honor, opportunity, compassion and service," Dr. Anderson said.

Dr. Anderson asked the two military veterans in the Class of 2018, Dr. Forister, who is also a veteran, and veterans in the audience to stand, evoking sustained applause.

In addition to military veterans, among the 41 members of the P.A. Class of 2018:
  • 73 percent are women
  • 22 percent are from rural areas
  • 17 percent are first-generation college students
  • 17 percent identify with a racial or ethnic minority group underrepresented in medicine

The presentation of degrees followed the keynote address; graduates were also presented with their long white coats, the length denoting that they have now earned their P.A. degrees.

PAs recite the oathFaculty and graduates then presented awards after joining together to recite the Physician Assistant Professional Oath. Matt Keesler, P.A. Class of 2018, presented the first award, recounting the virtues of the faculty recipient, Lisa Egan, in a song he wrote and performed on his guitar. Awards included:

Excellence in Academic Teaching:

  • Lisa Egan, P.A.-C., instructor of obstetrics and gynecology, OHSU Physician Assistant Program
  • Lillian Navarro-Reynolds, M.S., P.A.-C., assistant professor, OHSU Physician Assistant Program
  • Benjamin N. Schneider, M.D., assistant dean of student affairs for undergraduate medical education; assistant professor of family medicine, OHSU School of Medicine

James M. Ryan, M.D., Memorial Award for Excellence in Clinical Teaching:

  • Andre Mansoor, M.D., assistant professor of medicine, OHSU School of Medicine
  • Lea D.M. Vanlue, M.P.A.S., P.A.-C., Family Medical Group of Silverton and Molalla

Class of 2018 Academic Achievement:

  • Sarah Aker
  • Danielle Kraemer
  • Matt Wilhelm

Class of 2018 Excellence in the Clinical Year: Katie Schoblaske

Class of 2018 Professionalism: Lawrence Dimacali

Remarks included those of Lea Vanlue, who is among the many community physician assistants and physicians who serve as preceptors for P.A. students to give them the necessary clinical experience.

She said that when she began to feel discouraged by "the number of patients who didn't seem to care what I had to say or seemed to trust Dr. Google or daytime television more than my advice," she found rejuvenation in teaching.

"Your optimism, passion, and excitement for what's to come has reinforced my love of caring for and helping patients," Vanlue said.

Newly minted P.A. Thomas Martin concluded the ceremony with heartfelt remarks to family, faculty and fellow students.

"You believed in us," he said to faculty members and preceptors, "which allowed us to believe in us. You taught us the art and joy of medicine."

PA graduate with family

Photos, from top:

It takes a village: Adrienne Batla, P.A. Class of 2018, basks in the glow of the community that got her to this day. Photo by Aaron Bieleck.

Origin story: "I encourage you to keep pushing the envelope. Keep looking for more ways that you as P.A.s, we as physicians, and the other members of our interdisciplinary healthcare team can always do the best for patients," said OHSU School of Medicine Dean Sharon Anderson in her keynote address at the Physician Assistant Program Graduation Aug. 4. Photo by Aaron Bieleck.

Taking the oath: Ted Ruback, M.S., P.A.-C., founding director of the OHSU P.A. Program and associate professor emeritus, led the recitation of the Physician Assistant Professional Oath. It includes a commitment to effective patient care, continuous improvement, collaboration and equity, as well as using their knowledge and experience "to contribute to an improved community." Photo by Aaron Bieleck.

Looking forward to giving back: Makkedah Emanuel, P.A. Class of 2018, chose the program because of the flexibility and range of settings in which P.A.s can practice and the ability to shape a still-new and growing profession. "It's also important to me to give back to my community and that's been intertwined throughout my whole time here," said Emanuel, joined, from left, by her brother, Milton Emanuel; mother, La'Drina Sweeney; and uncle, Carlton Boddie. Photo by Erin Hoover Barnett.