In the final weeks of summer, MEDEX Northwest graduated 128 physician assistant students across its four sites. After two years of study—one in the classroom, the last year in a variety of clinical settings—the graduates took their place in front of friends and family to walk the stage and receive their certificates. Notable accomplishments were acknowledged, and the toil of two long years was recounted.
MEDEX Program Director Terry Scott, MPA, PA-C, DFAAPA, kicked off all four ceremonies.
“This is a big day for everyone and a special moment for the graduates,” Scott said. “They’ve worked very hard, sacrificing time with family and friends to complete this journey. Today marks the end of your time with the MEDEX program and the beginning of your careers. We realize the challenges you’ve faced in meeting a goal of this magnitude. We recognize also that something of this magnitude is never accomplished without the support of family, friends, and others.”
Tacoma Class 4
Based on the University of Washington Tacoma campus, this is the newest site in the MEDEX family. With a strong military representation, MEDEX Tacoma 4 turned out 29 graduates in the 2018 class.
Upon taking the stage, MEDEX Tacoma site director Jennifer Erickson, MPH, PA-C, cited an influential speech by American college basketball player, coach, and broadcaster Jimmy V (Valvano) during his acceptance of the ESPY Author Ash Courage Award in 1993.
“In order to have a full day, you need three things,” Jennifer said.
“In order to have a full day, you need three things.”
“One: You need to laugh. You need to have a day where you find humor in what’s going on around you.”
“Two: You need to have the opportunity to think. Use your mind, expand your mind.”
“And third, you definitely need to have a shift of your emotions where you’re brought to tears at some point. Sometimes they’re tears of happiness, sometimes they’re tears of sadness.”
Jennifer continued. “When you’re a provider out there practicing, you’re going to have patients who give you a full day. Sometimes it’s not all on the same day, sometimes it’s not one patient who gives you all three things. But there are going to be patients who you’ll sit with, and you’re going to learn from them, laugh with them and meet their family. And you’re going to love laughing with them. And after they leave, you’re going to sit in your office and think about them. They’re going to make you use your brain. You’re going to think about their diagnosis, their signs, and symptoms, what you’re going to do about the test result that come in.
“Later, you’re going to see these test results and you’re going to see this patient back in the clinic. My hope is that you’ll share tears of happiness with them and tell them that everything is okay. But there are going to be patients that you’ll share tears of sadness with. Because you’re going to look at these test result and realize that medicine isn’t fair and it’s really tough. It’s okay for you to have a full day, and cry with your patients.”
“In fact, most of your days in clinic should be full days. And if you take the time to have a full day with your patients and really experience healthcare with them, make that approach where you want to be with them—you’re not there just for a paycheck—then you’ll become the wonderful, compassionate PAs that I’ll be proud to call my colleagues.”
Special honors were given to six students from Tacoma Class 4 including the following:
- The Tacoma Writing Award – Jaynesha Marie Williams
- The Spirit of MEDEX Award – Brianne Sheree Noel
- The John Coombs Leadership Award – John Reese Bradburn
- The Ellen Harder Award Underserved – Olivia LeAnn Price
- The Steven Turnipseed, PA-C Veterans Award — jointly shared by Lillooet Ann Bryner and Glenn Lamarr Sons, Jr
Congratulations to all 21 graduates of Tacoma Class 4! View the video of the Tacoma graduation ceremony here.
Seattle Class 50
This was a historic graduating class for MEDEX Northwest. Since 1969, the program has graduated fifty fulltime classes from the University of Washington Seattle site. At 52 students, Seattle Class 50 was one of the largest classes ever to come through MEDEX.
All 52 who entered the program in 2016 graduated on August 23rd, 2018. Perhaps class speaker Terry DuBravac summed up their two years together best.
Terry recalled being informed that “You will travel” for the clinical year at the start of the program.
“And that seemed like a perfectly fun idea,” he says. “Who wouldn’t want to travel? But what they might have said was, ‘I hope you have a big suitcase because you’re going to be living out of it for eleven months.’ I don’t know about you all, but I’m excited to have furniture again.”
Terry then waxed enthusiasm for his Class 50 cohorts and their future.
“Truly, I could not ask for a better group of people to learn alongside for these past two years.”
“I’ve had the chance to sit next to all of these amazingly talented people and hear their stories about their journey to PA school as nurses, paramedics, scribes, nursing assistants, researchers, laboratory staff and I’m sure there’s plenty more. It’s made me realize that, despite any differences between us, there is a common thread of compassion, joy, and humility that brings us to this place together. Truly, I could not ask for a better group of people to learn alongside for these past two years. I so excited to see what all you guys do next.”
Special honors were given to thirteen students from Seattle Class 50 including the following:
- The Seattle Writing Award – Matthew Robert McGady
- The Spirit of MEDEX Award – Tenesha McFadden
- The John Coombs Leadership Award – Douglas Harvey Stroop
- The Richard Layton Underserved Award – Christopher Pitre
- The Steven Turnipseed, PA-C Veterans Award — Brendan Joseph Finn and Ryan Patrick Kraeger
- The Mary Reed Award for Academic Excellence– Paul Robert Hughes
- Best Overall Capstone Project — Matthew McGady
- Best Oral Presentation – Christopher Pitre
- Best Poster Presentation – Terry DuBravac
- Best Global Health Project – Andrea Smith
- Best Public Health Project – Sarah McDougal
- Best Rural & Underserved Project – Julianne Krause
Congratulations to all 52 graduates of Seattle Class 50! View the video of the Seattle graduation ceremony here.
Anchorage Class 8
The need for PAs across Alaska is great, especially among remote areas. The 29 graduates of MEDEX Anchorage Class 8 will do much to fill those needs.
Didactic faculty member Gino Gianola, MA, PA, DFAAPA spent the past two years in Anchorage with Class 8 as the interim Site Director. During the graduation ceremony, he spoke to the graduates’ future impact on Alaskan patients and the community.
“Each of you has learned the science of medicine,” Gianola said. “However, the practice of medicine is an art. And like many artists, it may take a lifetime to perfect it. But in your lifetime, you will become part of a patient’s life story. You have learned what medications to prescribe for specific conditions. You have learned new critical thinking skills to assist you in your ability to diagnose many conditions, and you now process information way different than when you were in the selection process.”
“The most important tool you have when you practice the art of medicine is your words.”
“But the most important tool you have when you practice the art of medicine is your words. The majority of the time your words may well change a person’s life story. They will not forget the words you use, and you may never take them back. You may diagnose hypertension three or four times a week, but for the patient, it’s the very first time they hear those words. They may have to change their lives, their behaviors. So, choose your words carefully, and give the patients strength as you work with them. Be well, and enjoy the rest of your life as a PA. The effect you have on the people you serve will be immeasurable.”
Special honors were given to five students from Anchorage Class 8 including the following:
- The Anchorage Writing Award – Sara BreAnn Langford
- The Spirit of MEDEX Award – Benjamin Douglas Johnson
- The John Coombs Leadership Award – Dayna Maria Daku
- The Alaska Underserved Service Award – Pearl Margaret Churchill
- The Steven Turnipseed, PA-C Veterans Award — Ashley Ann Ajoah Boge
Congratulations to all 29 graduates of Anchorage Class 8! View the video segments from the Anchorage graduation ceremony here.
Spokane Class 20
Housed on the Gonzaga University campus through a special regional health partnership with UW Medicine, MEDEX Northwest graduated 26 students through Spokane Class 22. This Eastern Washington site reaches across the WWAMI Region to include Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.
Darry K. Potyk, MD, FACP, Chief of Medical Education, UW/Gonzaga Regional Health Partnership, addressed the new graduates.
“Yesterday, you were a student. And today you enter the medical profession. Yet you are still a student—a professional student.”
“Yesterday, you were a student,” he said. “And today you enter the medical profession. Yet you are still a student—a professional student. From here some of you will go on to primary care, others will spend time in the operating room, others will enter specialized fields. Whatever your path in the next phase of your career, you’ll enter practices with lots still to learn.”
“You’ll learn a lot about the field of medicine. You’ll learn from your physicians. It will be an exciting time to put to good use all the things you’ve been learning for the last couple of years.”
Dr. Potyk warned against a time when the graduate gets comfortable.
“There will be a tendency to become complacent about what you know, and this just becomes a job. Don’t let that happen. You’re entering a profession, and you’ll be lifelong students. Follow the latest developments and the best evidence and practices that relate to patient care.”
Dr. Potyk continued. “People come to us when they’re at their most vulnerable. They’re sick, they’re not feeling well, and they’re looking to you and trusting in you. Before you stands an opportunity, but also a responsibility to ensure that our profession is seen in the best possible light. It doesn’t take much, just remembering the things you’ve learned over the past couple of years. Give patients the time they need. Treat them with respect and dignity. And offer them the best possible care.”
“Through these simple actions and your individual and collective integrity you’ll assure that the medical profession, of which you are now a member, will be held in the highest esteem.”
Special honors were given to six students from Spokane Class 22 including the following:
- The Spokane Writing Award – Emily Ann Looze
- The Spirit of MEDEX Award – Noah James Chutz
- The John Coombs Leadership Award – Cody Robert Solders
- The Barbara Gunter-Flynn Underserved Award – Michaela Sarah Whitmore
- Best Oral Presentation – Emily Looze
- Best Poster Presentation – Noah Chutz
Congratulations to all 26 graduates of Spokane Class 22! View the video segments from the Spokane graduation ceremony here.