Physician Assistant Program to present new class with white coats

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News Article

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School of Medicine & Health Sciences


GRAND FORKS, N.D.—Thirty-three health professionals begin the clinical portion of their studies this week to earn the Master of Physician Assistant Studies degree at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

The White Coat Ceremony is at 2 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 15, in the Reed T. Keller Auditorium at the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Heidi Olson-Fitzgerald, PA-C, will present the keynote address, focusing on the role of the physician assistant in primary care. Olson-Fitzgerald, a UND PA alumna of the Class of 1997, is a practicing primary care physician assistant for Essentia Health in Moorhead, Minn. Welcome remarks will be given by SMHS Senior Associate Dean for Education Gwen W. Halaas, M.D., M.B.A.; SMHS Associate Dean for Health Sciences Tom Mohr, P.T., Ph.D.; and Interim Dean of the UND School of Graduate Studies Wayne Swisher, Ph.D. Closing remarks will be given by SMHS Associate Professor Eric Johnson, M.D., medical director for the SMHS Department of Physician Assistant Studies.

“The presentation of the white coat is symbolic of the new profession the students are entering,” said Department Chair Jeanie McHugo, Ph.D., PA-C. The coats will be worn by students through the clinical phase of their training and denote their involvement with the Physician Assistant Program at UND.

The individuals in this class come from a wide variety of professional health-care disciplines, which through class interaction will strengthen each student’s ability to return to his or her rural clinical site as a well-rounded primary care provider.

The PA Program admits health professionals who have years of experience working as nurses, respiratory therapists, radiology technologists, paramedics, military health-care providers and related professions. This group averages nine years of previous professional health-care experience upon matriculation into the program.

Enrolled students come from throughout the United States, from Utah to Virginia, but this particular class is very regional, with 61 percent of the students from the tristate area of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. Students range in age from 23 to 54 years, with an average age of 33; the class includes 11 men and 22 women.

Students have completed their first two semesters of basic sciences and now will spend their first four weeks in Grand Forks before returning to their home communities, where most of their training will take place under the supervision of physician and physician assistant preceptors. Over the next 18 months, they will return to UND for several weeks at different junctures for education and training.

Physician Assistant Class of 2017 Brian Adams , St. George, Utah Jessica Anderson , Fargo, North Dakota Vicki Andvik , Barnesville, Minnesota Benjamin Beuchler , Brooklyn Center, Minnesota Travis Booke , Dickinson, North Dakota Michael Butler , Cold Spring, Minnesota Togan Cottrell , Du Quoin, Illinois Alyson Dahl , Moorhead, Minnesota Boris Davydov , Minneapolis, Minnesota Kathryn Dietz , Moberly, Missouri Rebekah Dunn , West Branch, Michigan Pamela Flavin-Lee , Williamsburg, Virginia Leslee Graff , Bowdle, South Dakota Rebecca Hoistad , Oakes, North Dakota Annette Larson , Warroad, Minnesota Mitchel Leers , Beulah, North Dakota Nicole Lemieux , Rugby, North Dakota Katherine McFarland , Boonville, Missouri Katayoon Mohammadi , Garland, Texas Elizabeth Morton , Fairmont, Minnesota Tim Olsen , Sturgis, South Dakota Agatha Ottem , Cavalier, North Dakota Savannah Prodzinski , Jamestown, North Dakota Matthew Ryba , Menomonie, Wisconsin Angela Schuster , St. Cloud, Minnesota Brian Steen , Sweet Springs, Missouri Lisa Steers , Hugoton, Kansas Dennis Stewart , Slocomb, Alabama Brianna Strube , Oakes, North Dakota Emil Trutwin , St. Cloud, Minnesota Lindsay Venn , Idaho Falls, Idaho Rachel Watson , Sioux Falls, South Dakota Charlie Wood , Henderson, Texas