Charter class of Physician Assistant students celebrate during graduation banquet

The 30 students of the charter class of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program before their graduation banquet Wednesday evening.

On the evening before graduation, the charter class of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program gathered at the USF Research and Innovation galleria room to celebrate the two-year journey from applicant to physician assistant.

Charles J. Lockwood, MD, MHCM, USF Health Senior Vice President and Morsani College of Medicine Dean.

USF Health Senior Vice President and Morsani College of Medicine Dean Charles J. Lockwood, MD, MHCM, told the group how proud and excited he is for the graduating class.

“Tonight’s commencement dinner represents the culmination of hard work and dedication, the realization of a dream over the past two years and the beginning of a successful career,” Dr. Lockwood said. “You are pursuing one of the fastest growing careers in the medical field and you are going to play an indispensable role in delivering excellent, cost-effective care.”

Todd Wills, MD, assistant dean and program director.

Todd Wills, MD, assistant dean and program director reflected on the path these inaugural students have taken to get where they are.

“It was just two short years ago when we welcomed 30 students to the USF Health Rotunda before the start of orientation,” Dr. Wills said. “As you each begin your careers in health care over the next weeks and months, remember that the confidence our program has in you is more than justified and we can’t wait to see what comes next.”

A highlight of the evening came when select students and staff received several awards based on academic excellence, clinical performance.  Additionally, four students were inducted into MCOM’s chapter of the the Association of Physician Assistant Programs Pi Alpha National Honor Society.  Those selected showed significant academic achievement, leadership, research, community service and a high standard of character and conduct among PA students and graduates.

First student inductees:

– Kathryn Rudibaugh, MPAS

– Shannon Aurelius, MPAS

– Brittany Bianchi, MPAS

– Mollie Pleasenton, MPAS

(L-R) Shannon Aurelius, MPAS, Brittany Bianchi, MPAS, Larry Collins, MPAS, PA-C, ATC, Kathryn Rudibaugh, MPAS, Mollie Pleasenton, MPAS.

After the student inductions, Larry Collins, MPAS, PA-C, ATC, associate professor and associate program director, became the first faculty member to be inducted into the honor society.

Other award recipients:

Highest Didactic Year GPA: Brittany Bianchi, MPAS

Highest Clinical Year GPA: Shannon Aurelius, MPAS

Outstanding Pre-clinical Instructor, selected by the students as the most positive impact on their pre-clinical education: Dr. Todd Wills.

Outstanding Clinical Preceptor, selected by the students for having the most positive impact on their clinical education: Meredith Plant, MD

The PA’s PA, given to the student chosen as best exemplifying the characteristics of a PA they would choose to care for them and their family: Katie Lucas, MPAS

Katie Lucas, MPAS, center, received the PA’s PA awarded to the student chosen as best exemplifying the charastics of a PA they would choose to care for them and their family.

Following the presentations, Kevin Allison, MPAS, and Elisabeth “Libby” Kusiak, MPAS, delivered a heartfelt charge to their classmates.

Class co-presidents Elisabeth “Libby” Kusiak and Kevin Allison.

“We hope you can all reflect and think about how this program and your classmates have changed you and shaped you into the person you are today and into the provider you want to be. This is not goodbye, but hello to new beginnings,” said Kusiak. “It has been an honor to serve as your class co-president and I can honestly say I know we are all going to make outstanding providers.”

To conclude the event, Larry Collins announced the start of a scholarship foundation to help future MCOM PA students and contributed $1,000 to the foundation.

“Think about all of the future PAs and be sure to pay it forward,” he said.

The 30 charter PA students will graduate May 2 during the USF Health graduation at the Yuengling Center.