University of South Florida

Morsani College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program welcomes classes of 2022 and 2023


USF Health assistant professor Jennifer Teeter (far left) puts a white coat on Sarah Eldin, class of 2022, during the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program’s Commitment to Professionalism Ceremony.

A year ago, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the members of the 2022 class of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine’s Physician Assistant Program had to miss their Commitment to Professionalism Ceremony—the traditional beginning of training when students first receive their white coats.

On Thursday, they joined with the Class of 2023 to make up for a lost time as the two student cohorts held a combined ceremony, allowing families, friends, staff and faculty to celebrate their new and ongoing educational journeys.

Physician Assistant Program Director Todd Wills, MD, gave the keynote address.

Todd Wills, MD, associate dean and program director, told the students that the 2021 installment of the annual white coats ceremony was “unlike any in our program’s history.”

“Each of our program’s faculty and staff have been eagerly awaiting this day when we could formally recognize the important professional commitment,” Dr. Wills said. “Today’s festivities are a celebration of the value of the generous support that has helped our students reach this first step in fulfilling their career aspirations.”

Charles Lockwood, MD, MHCM, USF Health senior vice president and Morsani College of Medicine dean, commended the students for their ability to quickly adapt to unique circumstances brought on by COVID-19, which significantly changed elements of their physician assistant education. For example, the class of 2022 had much of their first-year curriculum delivered remotely while the class of 2023 was the first to enroll via a 100% virtual interview process. All students had to adjust to rapidly changing protocols to evaluate symptoms before attending class or going into clinics.

Charles Lockwood, MD, USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Senior Vice President and Dean, gave an address during the ceremony.

“These superb students rose to the occasion, not only excelling in their training but also greatly contributing to USF Health’s pandemic response,” Dr. Lockwood said during the ceremony. “I’m very proud of your resilience and grit in adapting to the challenges posed by COVID-19, and I look forward to watching you grow during your time here.”

Before receiving their coats, the students paid tribute to Sonali Jariwala and Kai McCaslin, two class of 2022 students who died in separate car accidents. The families of Jariwala and McCaslin attended the ceremony to receive their white coats. Students wore in memoriam pins on their white coats in honor of the two.

“Their deaths reminded each of us how fragile we are and how it is the people around us who truly give our lives purpose and meaning,” Dr. Wills said. “I promise that none of us will forget them and that we will conduct ourselves professionally in a manner that honors their memory.“

The USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Physician Assistant Program’s Commitment to Professionalism Ceremony paid tribute to Sonali Jariwala and Kai McCaslin, two Class of 2022 students who died in separate car accidents.

Dr. Wills closed the ceremony by challenging the students to become great physician assistants and great people, which he described as, “a person who engages in routine self-reflection and one who goes out of your way to establish trust, respect and a sense of belonging here at USF and beyond.”

The Commitment to Professionalism Ceremony welcomed the class of 2022 and 2023 on Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021, at the USF School of Music’s Concert Hall.

Overview of the class of 2022 (50 students):

Florida residents: 48

Female: 45

Male: 5

Average age: 24.16

Underrepresented minority: 3

First-generation college graduate: 6

Physician assistant class of 2023 student John Duong, flashes the “Go Bulls” gesture after the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine Physician Assistant program’s Commitment to Professionalism Ceremony.

Overview of the class of 2023 (50 students):

Florida residents: 44

Female: 38

Male: 12

Average age: 24.54

Underrepresented minority: 4

First-generation college graduate: 7

Kristen Outlaw, class of 2023

“From my first conversation with the faculty at USF, I felt both warmth and a commitment to excellence that drew me to this program. The faculty members work so incredibly hard and are fully dedicated to growing us into competent, compassionate healthcare professionals. Taking an oath to my future patients means a great deal to me. There are few professions where we swear to provide a service under oath and I take that responsibility very seriously.  It is an immense honor to make this oath to my future patients at the white coat ceremony in front of all the family, friends, and faculty that have helped me get to this point. Go Bulls!”

Kasi White, class of 2023

“For the past five years, I’ve put everything into being able to stand where I am right now. Every single obstacle, every single moment where I lost belief in myself, and every single ‘no’ I received led me to be the strong, very capable and resilient woman standing here with her white coat on her shoulders. The very first white coat in the family. I made it.”

Physician assistant students posed for photos following the ceremony.

Photos by Allison Long, Article by Freddie Coleman and Allison Long




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