PA Students Transition to Clinical Phase

July 19, 2013

ALLIANCE, Ohio – More than 250 people were in attendance on Thursday, July 18 to celebrate and congratulate University of Mount Union students as they transitioned from classroom learning to the clinical phase of their physician assistant studies graduate education during the fourth annual White Coat Ceremony.

Sharon Luke, who serves as the program director of Mount Union’s Physician Assistant Studies Program as well as associate professor and chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies, welcomed everyone for attending the special occasion and explained to the audience the true meaning of the White Coat Ceremony. For 15 consecutive months, students in the program have been challenged in the classroom to learn from textbooks, instructors and case studies. Now, students will soon begin a year of clinical rotations at hospitals, physicians’ offices and clinics where they will put their knowledge and expertise into practice.

Dr. Patricia Draves, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the University, also congratulated students for reaching this exceptional milestone in their educational career and thanked faculty members for moving the Physician Assistant Studies Program forward.

“I commend you for your pursuit of a demanding, yet rewarding, career. It is a pleasure this evening to witness this meaningful transition in your graduate education, and it’s hard to believe that in less than a year, we will watch you walk across the stage at Commencement in culmination of your studies,” said Draves. “Professor Luke, you continue to develop a program that truly meets the surrounding community’s need for qualified healthcare providers, and I commend you and your colleagues for your dedication and commitment to our campus, this program and your students. You have much of which to be proud.”

Dr. Paul Lecat, inventor of the ventriloscope and professor of internal medicine at Akron General Hospital, served as the keynote speaker for the ceremony.

“Despite wonderful advances in technology, like MRIs and new genetic and stem cell therapies, there is no replacement for caring in medicine,” said Lecat as he explained that serving as a physician assistant is both a valuable and important profession and also one that can’t be replaced by technology. “The secret to caring for the patient is caring for the patient.”

He also encouraged the white coat candidates to think about what it would be like to receive care from someone who had medical knowledge but did not care about them as a person.

 “No other career allows you to share with your patients things they will not share with their parents, spouses and children,” he said. “There are few professions indeed where people have as much trust and expectation placed on them.”

Lecat explained that this chosen path will require long hours of study and even longer hours of caring for patients, and the challenge is to maintain this dedicated and personable interest in others while finding balance in their own lives.

“We are your faculty, family, significant others and a host of others here at Mount Union, and we’re standing by, dedicated to making sure you have what you need to become the best caring physician assistants you can all be,” concluded Lecat. “We are proud to stand with you today and look forward to supporting each of you on your journey forward.”

Lecat graduated from Tulane University with a Bachelor of Science degree with honors in biology in 1985. Following graduation, he attended the State University of New York at Buffalo Medical School and was the salutatorian of his class in 1989.

He moved to Akron, OH for a combined internal medicine/pediatrics residency between Akron Children’s Hospital and Akron General Medical Center. After graduating in 1993, he was selected as chief pediatric resident and finished in 1994. He received an invitation four years later to return to Akron General and Akron Children’s to teach in the internal medicine and pediatrics programs and has remained in the Akron area since 1998.

Lecat was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society and was a nominee from NEOMED for the Gold Humanism Honor society. He was elected by the students to lead the graduation procession four times. His teaching interests include teaching in clinical settings, medical simulation and physical diagnosis. Five years ago, he set out to develop a device to augment the standardized patient actors, frequently used to interact with and teach students at NEOMED by placing abnormal sounds for the students to recognize on normal, healthy actors. After several years of development and patents, his Ventriloscope device is now in more than 10 countries and 200 schools. It is also piloted currently by the National Board of Medical Examiners, which certifies all M.D. graduates.

Following the keynote address, each student received his or her white coat from their academic advisor. After receiving their coats, the students, in unison, took the physician assistant oath, a pledge of professionalism.

The Physician Assistant Studies Program at Mount Union is the University’s first master’s level program in nearly a century. The program, which began in May of 2009, offers a curriculum rich in biomedical and clinical preparatory sciences and develops the medical decision-making and problem-solving skills that may be applied to patient situations encountered in clinical practice. The role of a physician assistant in medical practice is to be a caring, compassionate advocate for the patient and to spend more time with the patient than the physician can in providing patient education. Students within the program will earn a master of science degree after successful completion of 27 months of coursework and clinicals.

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