Health Professions

PA Studies holds first virtual commencement

PA Commencement

By Kate Hunger 

When the Department of Physician Assistant Studies held its first virtual commencement via Zoom on Dec. 4, the audience logged in from around the country and the world. 

About 200 of Kavita Jaiswal’s friends and family—many of whom live in India—were able to share her special moment.

“I am the first person to graduate in medicine in my family and extended family,” she said. “They are so proud of me.”

Jaiswal was one of 44 graduates who watched from screens as their degrees were conferred remotely and speakers, including university President William L. Henrich, MD, MACP, and Dean David C. Shelledy, Ph.D., RRT, FAARC, FASAHP, delivered remarks.

In his address as commencement speaker, Paul B. Allen Sr., DSc, MPAS, PA-C, FAAPA, associate professor, program director, and department chair, encouraged students to persevere and be resilient. 

“This pandemic brings into sharp focus the stark reality of humanity’s constant struggle with the disease, disability, and death,” he said. “Health care providers are the first line of defense in this ever-present battle. As you embark on your career practicing medicine, you have declared that you are willing to be the watchers on the wall, guarding the health and safety of humankind. This is both a singular and essential calling that you have chosen.”
Joining the profession during a pandemic is both sobering and exhilarating, Class President Caitlin Schwein said.

“It’s definitely scary to be starting our careers at this time but exciting to know we will be able to make a difference,” she said.

The graduating class helped with pandemic-related needs such as conducting on-campus health screenings and calling non-hospitalized COVID-positive patients to monitor their symptoms, said Tammy Harris, DMSc, MPAS, PA-C, assistant professor/clinical and class of 2020 faculty sponsor.

“I think COVID showed everybody just how resilient our students are,” she said. “They understand the challenges that COVID holds, and they are better prepared to meet that challenge because of what they had to go through.”

Following commencement, graduates took the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) in mid-December.

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