Congratulations Class of 2017!

Teamwork, Harmony, and Remembering to Take It “One Patient at a Time”

COM_PA commencement

Boston University School of Medicine conferred 32 students with Master of Science degrees on Thursday, Aug. 17, as part of its second class of Physician Assistants. Founding Program Director Mary L. Warner, MMSc, PA-C opened the commencement exercises in the 670 Albany St. auditorium, “Today we celebrate personal growth and accomplishment.”

The Class of 2017 will be joining the 115,000 practicing physician assistants across the US.

A brass quartet’s rendition of Pomp and Circumstance signaled the degree candidates to process in among 150 family and friends in attendance.  Connor Verbruggen, degree candidate and President of the Carl Toney Society, was called to the podium to introduce the commencement speaker Michael Milner, DHSc, DHL, PA-C, DFAAPA.

Milner, a retired Rear Admiral and Assistant Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service, has been a practicing PA for more than 20 years and was appointed to many leadership roles within the profession, including serving as the Regional Senior Health Administrator, the senior-ranking public health officer in the northeast.

COM_PA comm speaker MillnerMilner emphasized the theme of teamwork throughout his remarks. “We’re part of an interprofessional team. Take the opportunity to be a part of that bigger team. Volunteer when you can because it can help you grow as an individual.” He welcomed the class to the profession saying, “It is a helping and a healing profession but it is still one patient at a time.” Reflecting on his experience in the health service working with Native Americans, he advised, “You have to have harmony between what your head’s thinking, what your heart’s thinking, and what your mouth is saying … and if you don’t have that you have disease, distress and anxiety. Work toward that harmony.”

The graduation ceremony marks the end of students’ two-and-a-half year journey through an intensive course of study, including an integrated pathophysiology and pharmacology course alongside second-year medical students. Ryan Fox of Colorado was especially proud of making it through the first semester, “We start things off very quickly, getting thrown into the flames. There’s a lot of catching up to do to get on the same pace as the medical students so getting through that first semester was a very rewarding time.” He highlighted his fellow classmates as the major source of support and motivation and hopes to pursue a career in orthopedics.

In addition to classroom work, students also complete 14 months of clinical rotations as well as a thesis project. Kelsey Mazur reflected on the comradery shared among her fellow classmates, “Developing relationships with classmates and sharing funny stories both at work and outside of work was definitely my favorite experience.” As a former gymnast, she is excited to explore career opportunities in orthopedic surgery. On the PA program as a whole she said, “Being in rotations with other PA’s from different schools I feel like we were very well prepared. A unique thing about the BU program is being with the medical students during our first year. It was great to be with our fellow physicians who will be working with us in practice in several years.”

PA Students nominated the following people for awards:

  • Didactic Instructor of the Year: Stephanie Oberhaus, PhD
  • Clinical Site of the Year: Department of Internal Medicine, Cambridge Health Alliance
  • Carl M. Toney Student Society Award: Angela Reffel, MHP, PA-C

Student award winners included:

  • Outstanding Academic Achievement: Carolyn Kussmaul
  • Outstanding Clinical Achievement: Marion Tilearcio
  • Humanitarian Award: Danielle Murray

Oren Berkowitz, PhD, MSPH, PA-C led the students in reading the PA oath to close the ceremony.

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Submitted by Robert Martin, MD