We Learned One Helluva Lot of Medicine

By:   September 12, 2017

It’s been a busy time all around for MEDEX Northwest. In late June, 130 new students convened on the UW campus for the start of their 2017 didactic year with MEDEX. Then during two weeks in mid and late August, the four MEDEX sites graduated a total of 113 new PA students in ceremonies across two states. And by mid-September, 131 second year students begin their clinical year placements through August 2018.

This is the cyclical nature of PA education at the University of Washington PA training program, culminating in the proud moment when the MEDEX students complete their two years of studies, graduate in a ceremony attended by family and friends, take the PANCE national certification test, and go on to assume their new careers. For MEDEX, each former student now occupies the valuable role of peer and alumni. Some will return to interview incoming students for the new admissions cycles, and some will volunteer their time as classroom proctors or clinical preceptors.

Founded by Dr. Richard A. Smith in 1969, the MEDEX Northwest PA program at UW is the nation’s second longest running physician assistant training program apart from Duke University. It remains the largest, having graduated over 2,200 PAs in 48 years across four current sites including Anchorage, Spokane, Tacoma and the main campus in Seattle. Yakima, WA served as the location for a fifth site that closed in 2014 after 19 years to coincide with the opening of the Tacoma, WA site.

Anchorage Class 7

On August 17th, fourteen students graduated from the MEDEX Anchorage Class 7 in a ceremony held at the Wendy Williamson Auditorium on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.

Shadia Tolliver, Angela Britt and Betsy Douds-Paczan
Carly Thomas and daughter
Christina Waters
Ksenia Sokolova
Rich Wehling started in MEDEX Class 7, but due to a medical leave now continues in MEDEX Class 8.
Shadia Tolliver
Rich Wehling, now in Class 8, reunites with his former cohort.
Shadia Tolliver and Meghan Lindquist chat with MEDEX Anchorage staff Tammy Anderson and Sandy Snethen.
Shadia Tolliver
Tara Wood
The graduates wait to be called into the auditorium.
The cohort files into the hall.
The graduates stand and face the audience to acknowledge them for their support over the past two years.
MEDEX faculty Gino Gianola, PA addresses the audience.
Class President Kathryn Albert was presented with the John Coombs Leadership Award.
Brian Pierce was the Anchorage 7 Class Speaker
The view from inside the UAA auditorium in Anchorage.
Ksenia Sokolova with her family
Class 7 graduate Stephanie Guzman poses with keynote speaker Ash Marquardt, MPAS, PA-C.
Jay Francis with his family
Angela Britt
Kathryn Albert
Tara Wood
Stephanie Guzman and Shadia Tolliver; At right is Leslie Tolliver, graduate of MEDEX Anchorage Class 6.

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“A little over two years ago, the individuals who are about to come across this stage were in the process of applying to the MEDEX program,” said Program Director Terry Scott, MPA, PA-C. “We felt there was a real strong mission fit between your values and ours. Today, you have the opportunity to graduate and fulfill those values. There are people in our community that need access to high-quality healthcare from individuals who care, who care enough to serve. So, while this is a wonderful and tremendous day for the graduates and their families, there are patients and individuals sitting in the community here in Alaska that can’t wait until you start providing that high-quality healthcare.”

One by one, the graduates were called to the stage by name to receive their UW diplomas. A few individuals were called out for outstanding achievements as determined by the MEDEX Anchorage faculty. Kathryn Albert of Wasilla, AK received the John Coombs Leadership Award. This award is presented to students who have become role models to their peers, have assumed some of the responsibilities of leadership during their training and have carried out those responsibilities with integrity, cooperation and understanding.

Angela Britt of Fairbanks, AK received the Alaska Underserved Award. Recipients of this award have demonstrated a strong dedication to ongoing service to underserved communities.

MEDEX Anchorage Class 7
Kim Aikey
Kathryn Elizabeth Albert
Angela Britt
Betsy L. Douds-Paczan
Jay Dean Francis
Stephanie Marie Guzman
Megan Brown Kumm
Meghan D. Lindquist
Brian D. Pierce
Ksenia Yuryevna Sokolova
Carly Thomas
Shadia Sarah Tolliver
Christina Waters
Tara Wood

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The prestigious Spirit of MEDEX Award was presented to Brian Pierce of Anchorage, AK. This award recognizes students who have dedicated themselves to their goal of being a physician assistant, who have shown compassion and sensitivity to others and who have maintained their humor and perseverance in the face of adversity.  They have a positive attitude and are ambassadors for the program throughout their MEDEX training.

Tara Wood of Anchorage, AK received the Writing Award. This award is given to students who have combined creativity and unique approaches with exceptional writing skills in assigned papers.

Spokane Class 19

The following day, August 18, was the graduation of Spokane Class 19. The Lincoln Center Auditorium in Spokane was the site for twenty-eight graduates to walk the stage and receive their UW diplomas.

The twenty nine graduates of MEDEX Spokane Class 19 take to the stage of the Lincoln Center.
Lio Ryu
Casey Deal
Dustin Hurter with his family
Kristen Marti Senter
Isaac Cho with his family
Stacie Woods, Lena Dickerson and Stacia Reagan
Naomi Taylor with her family
Andrea Staley of Spokane Class 19 at left
Joseph Epperson and Naomi Taylor
Spokane faculty Pat Grimm, MPAS, PA-C prepares for the stage.
Former MEDEX Spokane site director Don Coerver, PhD, PA-C
Sara Degler
Lena Dickerson
Casey Deal with family members
The graduates seated at the Lincoln Center Auditorium
Dr. Paul James, chair of the UW Department of Family Medicine, addresses the graduating class.
The graduates listen attentively.
Darryl K. Potyk, MD, FACP speaks to the cohort.
Keynote speaker Matthew E. Layton, MD, PhD
Keynote speaker Matthew E. Layton, MD, PhD onstage at the Lincoln Center Auditorium.
Spokane 19 Class President Bill Mitchell
Isaac Cho served as the Spokane Class Speaker.
Isaac Cho speaks from the stage of the Lincoln Center.
Jeffrey Carroll and his family
Stacie Woods, Kristen Marti Senter and Lena Dickerson show off their University of Washington MEDEX Masters diplomas.
MEDEX Spokane site director Michael Smith, PA-C with Mary Bruen and a family member.
Stacia Reagan
Garrett Comfort and Chris Otto
Tyson Langeliers
Mike Perez
Isaac Cho and family members
Chris Otto, Tyson Langeliers and Sara Degler
Tyson Langeliers poses with his family members
Jessica Orsulak and her family
Isaac Cho and Lio Ryo
Stacia Reagan and Joe Kreilkamp
Bill Mitchell with Don Coerver, PhD, PA-C
Graduates Lena Dickerson and Stacie Woods
Tyler Little and his family
Chris Otto and Tyson Langeliers
Graduates Jeffrey Carroll and Mike Perez have their hands full.
Graduates Naomi Taylor (left) and Andrea Staley (right) pose with family.
Jessica Orsulak with family members
Michael Perez with his clan
Sara Steffen shares a close moment.

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Paul A. James, MD, Professor and Chair of the UW Department of Family Medicine, provided some perspective to the graduates. “The physician assistant profession is increasingly important,” he said. “It’s important because, in the house of medicine, we used to think it was how smart your doctor was. We now know that’s not the case. It’s really how good your team is, and who can assemble the best teams. I’m going to say as a physician that the physician assistant profession—PAs in the future—are going to be a critical element of delivering the highest quality of care for all of our patients. So the importance of the work that you, the graduates, are going to be doing I cannot emphasize enough.”

Key awards were given to a handful of individuals from the Spokane Class 19 cohort, including Naomi Taylor of Kalispell, MT who received the John Coombs Leadership Award. Dr. Coombs was the Associate Dean for Regional Affairs and Rural Health in the UW School of Medicine, and had a long record of promoting the PA profession.

Sara Steffen of Ketchikan, AK was presented with the Barbara Gunter-Flynn Underserved Award in recognition of exceptional achievement for the care of, improved access and promotion of public awareness of the needs of the medically underserved. Casey Deal of Helena, MT received the Writing Award for Spokane Class 19. Joseph Epperson of Columbus, MT was recipient of the Spirit of MEDEX Award. Kellen Gumm of San Diego, CA was awarded the Steven Turnipseed Veterans Award, named after a member of MEDEX Class 1.

MEDEX Spokane Class 19
Mary Bruen
Grant Bursell
Jeffrey D.T. Carroll
Isaac K. Cho
Garrett Comfort
Casey L. Deal
Don Coerver, PA-C welcomes Sara Degler to the stage.
Sara Degler
Lena Dickerson
Joseph Epperson
Leigh Gilliver
Kellen R. Gumm
Dustin Hurter
Theresa D'Ambrosia Ineck
Spokane site director Michael Smith presents Joe Kreilkamp with his Masters hood.
Joseph P. Kreilkamp
Tyson Langeliers
Tyler Little
Steven Lorenzen
William Mitchell
Jessica Orsulak receives her Masters hood.
Jessica Louise Orsulak
Chris Otto
Michael John Perez II
Stacia Marie Reagan
Lio Ryu
Kristen Marti Senter
Andrea Staley
Sara Steffen
Naomi Taylor
Stacie Marie Woods

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Each student in pursuit of the Master Degree of Clinical Health Sciences must complete a Capstone Project. Two Spokane Class 19 students received awards for their Capstone efforts. Lena Dickerson of Victor, ID was honored with Best Capstone Oral Presentation, and Kristen Senter of Livingston, MT received Best Capstone Poster Presentation.

Seattle Class 49

The MEDEX Seattle Class 49 graduation ceremony occurred on August 24 at Kane Hall on the University of Washington campus in Seattle. Forty-five graduates, their families and friends packed the auditorium.

One of the three class speakers, Gwen Jackson of Panama, FL, addressed the crowd.

Eric Hoffman (in the blue tie) with family members.
Seattle MEDEX didactic faculty Anju Jain MS, ATC, PA-C with Stephanie Sam Harmon of Class 49.
James Chally, Mike Grennan and Sepideh Makouei
MEDEX Seattle didactic faculty DJ Smith MCHS, PA-C with Kate Earle
Rory Cavaille, Alexander Tabayoyon and Mark Barbin
Gwen Jackson with her family
Michael Koplowitz with his family
Class 49 graduate Lauren Maris with Lillian Bourret of newly started MEDEX Seattle Class 51.
Shelley Kemmerer, Sarah Heniges and Tim Quigley MPH, PA-C
Seattle didactic faculty Anju Jain, MS, ATC, PA-C; Christine Kempe, MS, ATC, PA-C and DJ Smith, MCHS, PA-C
John Alvitre, PA-C and Tim Quiqley, MPH, PA-C
Seattle MEDEX faculty on stage at Kane Hall.
Paul James, MD, Chair of the UW Department of Family Medicine, addresses the new graduates.
Dr. James speaks from the stage of Kane Hall in Seattle.
James Chally, Seattle Class 49 President, addresses the crowd.
Kate Earle was one of three class speakers at the ceremony.
Class speaker Gwen Jackson addresses the large crowd at Kane Hall.
Gwen Jackson of Seattle Class 49
Jon Skelton of Seattle Class 49 delivered a moving speech
Marc Hawkins, Associate Director of Clinical Affairs, speaks to the role of the military in the PA profession.
Military veterans among Class 49 are asked to stand and be recognized.
Kira Vader, MA, MHS, PA-C presents Gwen Jackson with the John Coombs Leadership Award
Gino Gianola, PA presents Stephanie Mac Harmon with the Richard Layton Underserved Award.
Keren Wick, PhD presents Sarah Heniges with the 2017 Writing Award
Keren Wick, PhD presents Amy Melville with an award for Best Capstone Poster Presentation for Seattle Class 49
Keren Wick, PhD presents Amber Huynh with an award for Best Capstone Presentation.
Keren Wick, Phd presents Nicholas Collins-Feay with an award for Best Overall Capstone Project.
Lois Thetford, PA-C presents Loann Tang with the Spirit of MEDEX Award.
Anju Jain MS, ATC, PA-C presents Alison Krueger with the Mary Reed Award for Academic Excellence
The Class 49 graduates take to the stage to celebrate the end of school.
Lamont Scott and his family
Katherine Bergart
Michael Koplowitz and family
Eric Hoffman
Sepideh Makouei
Josie Ryder and Heather Diane Larson
Sepideh Makouei with her children
Gwen Jackson, Lauren Maris and Young-Bin Song
James Chally and his family
Mark Barbin
Alison Krueger and Gwen Jackson
Lee'or Rutenberg with his wife and daughter
Lee'or Rutenberg with his extended family
Jonathan White with his family
Katherine Bergart with her family
Dennis Phrasavath with his parents
Loann Tang with her family
Amber Huynh with her child and parents
Sepideh Makouei (center)
Mike Grennan with MEDEX faculty Dale Robertson, MCHS, PA-C
Randy Kerlee and his family
Heather Diane Larson with her family
Mark Barbin and his family
Jonathan Skelton with his family
Sarah Heniges with her family
Rory Cavaille and his family
Alexander Tabayoyon and his family

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“My brief words today are meant to be parting words to my class,” Gwen said. “The reality is that many of us will not see one another again. I want you to know what an absolute privilege and pleasure it has been. I’m so proud to be MEDEX Class 49. Our class includes some of the brightest and most determined individuals I’ve ever met. I urge all of you to never forget the long and often difficult path it took to get where we’re at today. Stay humble. It is true that patients don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. Give back to up and coming healthcare providers. We must also advocate for our chosen PA profession. But also for our diverse patient populations, and the communities in which we live and work.”

Gwen Jackson was then presented with the John Coombs Leadership Award by MEDEX faculty Kira Vader, MA, MHS, PA-C. The Richard Layton Underserved Award went to Stephanie “Sam” Harmon of Seattle, WA, and the Spirit of MEDEX Award to Loann Tang of Seattle, WA.

Mike Grennan of Poulsbo, WA was awarded the Steven Turnipseed Veteran Award, and Sarah Heniges of Seattle, WA was given the Seattle 49 Writing Award.

Alison Krueger of Redmond, WA distinguished herself among all 113 graduates as winner of the Mary Reed Award. This award goes to the one MEDEX student who has achieved the highest GPA among all the training sites during the didactic year.

MEDEX Seattle Class 49
The graduates wait to be called to the stage.
Penny Goudelock, formerly of MEDEX Seattle Class 38 from 2006, received her Extended Master of Clinical Health Services.
Mark Barbin
Katie Bergart
Mitchell Blume
Frank Boyd receives his hood from Keren Wick, PhD and Tim Evans, MD, PhD, FACP.
Frank Boyd
Rory Cavaille is hooded.
Rory Cavaille
James Chally receives his hood from Tim Evans, MD, PhD, FACP.
James Chally
Nicholas Collins-Feay receives his hood.
Nicholas Collins-Feay
Heidi Donaldson is hooded by Dr. Tim Evans.
Heidi Donaldson
Rachel Drayer
Kate Earle receives her Masters hood.
Kate Earle
Lindsey Ewick
Mike Grennan receives his Masters hood.
Mike Grennan
Char Hollowell
Stephanie Sam Harmon
Sarah Heniges
Eric Hoffman receives his Masters hood.
Eric Hoffman
Kari Hoover
Amber Huynh
Gwen Jackson receives her Masters hood.
Gwen Jackson
Shelley Kemmerer
Randy Kerlee
Mike Koplowitz
Alison Krueger
Heather Diane Larson
Sepideh Makouei receives her Masters hood.
Sepideh Makouei
Lauren Maris
Keren Wick, PhD and Tim Evans, MD, PhD, FACP present Amy Melville with her Masters hood.
Amy Melville
Ryan Minton
Colin O'Brien
Dennis Phrasavath is hooded by Dr. Tim Evans.
Dennis Phrasavath
Eric Ramos
Nate Russell
Lee'or Rutenberg
Josie Kohler
Jenny Schuberg
Lamont Scott receives his Masters hood.
Lamont Scott
Jonathan Skelton
Young-Bin Song
Stan Sukhotski
Alex Tabayoyon
Loann Tang
Brent Taylor
Jonathan White
Patricia Wredford-Brown

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Several Seattle 49 students received awards for their Capstone Projects:

Nicholas Collin-Feay of Seattle, WA was awarded Best Overall Capstone Project. Amy Melville of Seattle, WA earned Best Capstone Poster Presentation. Class president James Chally of Dupont, WA received the Best Capstone Oral Presentation Award.

Alison Krueger of Redmond, WA was awarded Best Capstone Presentation for the Course: Academic Medicine and Specialty. Stephanie “Sam” Harmon of Seattle, WA earned Best Capstone Presentation for the Course: Global Health. Amber Huynh of JBLM, WA received the Best Capstone Presentation for the Course: Public Health and Preventive Medicine. Jonathan White of Seattle, WA won the Best Capstone Presentation for the Course: Healthcare for Rural and Medically Underserved Populations.

Tacoma Class 3

August 25 marked the graduation ceremony for MEDEX Tacoma Class 3, a cohort of twenty-five. The event was held at the William Phillip Hall on the UW Tacoma campus.

Class speaker David Johnson recounted some highlights of his time at MEDEX.

Michael Hallstrom of MEDEX Tacoma Class 3
Amy Phillips (far left) with family and supporters.
Former Tacoma site director Vanessa Bester, PA-C, MPAS with faculty Hana Cha, PA-C, MPAS and Laura Crabill, PA-C.
Aaron Waddell (left) and Emily Clayton (right) of Tacoma Class 3.
Jason Mateo and Miguel Escalera of Tacoma Class 3 with Mike Carter, PA-C of Tacoma Class 1.
Amy Phillips of Tacoma Class 3.
MEDEX faculty John Alvitre, PA-C and Henry Stoll, PA.
Vanessa Bester, PA-C, MPAS with Tim Evans, MD, PhD, FACP and Keren Wick, PhD.
Prior to the start of the graduation ceremony, Tacoma site director Jennifer Erickson quizzes the graduates on their medical knowledge, offering their first dollar for medical advice.
Jason Mateo and Heather Gutierrez show off their first dollar as a PA.
The Tacoma 3 graduates show off their first dollar earned as PAs.
Aaron Waddell, Miguel Escalera and Sung Lee.
Missy Griffith and Amanda Brown
Michael Hallstrom
Terry Scott, MPA, PA-C, MEDEX NW Program Director opens the Tacoma Class 3 graduation ceremony.
Dr. Paul James, Chair of the UW Department of Family Medicine, offers encouraging words to the new graduates.
Miguel Escalera, Aimee Edmunds and Matthew Hassen listen attentively to the presenters.
Garrett Mondini, Mitchell Mears and Jason Mateo
Tacoma Class 3 president Emily Clayton addresses the cohort.
David Johnson was appointed as Class Speaker.
MEDEX TAcoma faculty member Jonathan Maher, PA-C, BCHS recognizes those among Class 3 who served in the military.
The US Military Veterans in Class 3 are asked to stand.
Dr. Tim Evans awards Mike Carter, PA-C a MEDEX Golden Apple for his lectures at the Tacoma campus.
Dr. Tim Evans awards Andrea Corona, PharmD a MEDEX Golden Apple. Students from the Tacoma campus help determine the winners.
Betty Stewart, PA-C presents Jason Shepherd with the 2017 John Coombs Leadership Award.
Laura Craybill, PA-C presents David Johnson with the 2017 Ellen Harder Underserved Award.
Keren Wick, PhD presents Jennifer Moore with the Writing Award.
Al Noriega hugs Garrett Mondini as he is called to the stage.
Tacoma Site Director Jennifer Erickson, BCHS, PA-C presents Al Noriega with the 2017 Spirit of MEDEX Award.
Hana Cha, PA-C, MPAS presents Sung Lee with the 2017 Steven Turnipseed, PA-C Veterans Award.
Frantz Alphonse flanked by his children.
Al Noriega and Jennifer Moore
Doug Aguirre, Amanda Brown and Al Noriega
Emily Clayton (center)
Michael Hallstrom with his clan
Jason Mateo with his family
Nicholas Carpenter with his family and supporters
Al Noriega with Sung Lee
Amy Phillips, left, gets in on a selfie with friends.
Justin Dudley with family and friends
Matthew Hassen poses with his family.
Miguel Escalera with his family
Henry Stoll, PA; Wendy Hamai, PA; Terry Scott, MPA, PA-C; and Tim Quigley, MPH, PA-C.
Missy Griffith and Mike Carter
Mitchell Mears (center)
Mitchell Mears poses outside the graduation hall with family.
Mitchell Mears
Brenton Dulak with family members.
David Johnson (in the Hawaiian shirt) poses with family and friends.
Aimee Edmunds with her in-laws.
Aimee Edmunds with her husband and children
Tacoma 3 graduate Amanda Brown
Amanda Brown with her family and friends
Aleks Boldyrev and his family
Jennifer Moore poses with her family
Jennifer Moore and Emily Clayton with Emily's father
Al Noriega with his family
Jay O'Neill of MEDEX Seattle Class 32 came to the Tacoma 3 ceremony to support the new graduates.
Mitchell Mears gets a thumbs up from Jay O'Neill, PA-C.

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“Across about 30 months, my 24 classmates and I have had about 22,000 unique cumulative days of PA school,” he said. “Despite a shared curriculum and tight friendships, we each gleaned different things from these days. Some of us have learned to deal with a scary diagnosis, or how to stand on our own when we lost something that we depended on for support. We improved our study tricks and time management and even people skills, and learned one helluva lot of medicine.”

David continued: “Here at MEDEX we got good at reflection, and I reflected on bigger lessons among thousands of smaller ones that I’ll carry forward with me. The first lesson was trust—trust in the process of MEDEX and PA school. There were days when I couldn’t possibly imagine why we were doing the things we were doing. But as time went on the value of each of these little things compounded, and we’ve turned out 25 knockout PAs.”

David Johnson of Olympia, WA then went on to accept the Ellen Harder Underserved Award. Jason Shepherd of Yelm, WA was awarded with the John Coombs Leadership Award.

MEDEX Tacoma Class 3
Douglas E. Aguirre
Frantz Alphonse
Aleks Boldyrev
Amanda Brown
Nick Carpenter
Emily H. Clayton
Justin Dudley
Brenton Lee Dulak
Aimee Edmunds
Miguel A. Escalera
Missy Griffith
Heather Nicole Gutierrez
Kevan Haack
Michael Hallstrom
Matthew Hassen
David M. Johnson
Sung Don Lee
Jason Satore Mateo
Mitchell Corbin Mears
Garrett Mondini
Jennifer Moore
Alfred Noriega
Amy Marie Phillips
Jason Nathaniel Shepherd
Aaron G. Waddell

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The Spirit of MEDEX Award went to Alfred Noriega of Seattle, WA. Jennifer Moore of Buckley, WA received kudos with the Writing Award. And the Steven Turnipseed Veterans Award was presented to Sung Don Lee of Tacoma, WA.

MEDEX Northwest extends heartfelt congratulations to all 113 new graduates.

The cycle of students is ongoing. From September through January, MEDEX faculty are in the process of interviewing applicants for the upcoming 2018 classes. Seattle has been an all Masters site, Tacoma has admitted Bachelor students, while Anchorage and Spokane are hybrid sites offering both Bachelor and Master degrees. For 2018, Tacoma will become a hybrid site as well, with Spokane converting to Masters only. By 2019 all MEDEX Northwest sites will move to Masters only in compliance with the national accreditation deadline.

James Wehmeyer, PhD is the Video/Photo Producer for MEDEX Northwest in Seattle, Washington. He can be reached at medexcom@uw.edu.

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