Physician Assistant Students Win Challenge Bowl

March 29, 2012

COLUMBUS, Ohio — For the second year in a row, students in the University of Mount Union’s Physician Assistant Studies Program placed first in the Ohio Association of Physician Assistant’s (OAPA) Challenge Bowl, an academic challenge game held during OAPA’s third annual student conference in Columbus.

“As one of its outreach efforts to future physician assistants, the OAPA holds a state conference specifically for students to give them a way to understand the workings of the association and to give them real-life educational resources to help them,” said Sharon Luke, director of the Physician Assistant Studies Program and chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at Mount Union.

According to Luke, 52 Mount Union students attended the conference, which features seminars on topics related to the physician assistant profession. During the Challenge Bowl, teams of students are asked medically relevant questions.

This year’s team members included second year students Kaili Gehring of Mineral Ridge and Carla Rose of Uniontown and first year student Liza Strawn of Homeworth. Team coach was Erica DiFrangia, assistant professor and clinical coordinator of physician assistant studies. The team competed against five other colleges and universities and the team will receive a trophy to display on campus for one year.

In May, the Mount Union team will participate in a national bowl in Toronto, Canada. Alternate Jessica Spirl-Hooper of Belleville, Mich. will participate on the team as well.

“I try not to put too much emphasis on the Challenge Bowl as a win or loss situation — I try to make sure that it’s fun and that students have a good time and realize how much they know,” Luke said. “It’s a real honor to have won the Bowl for the second consecutive year because the competition was excellent. It’s good to see how many bright students from all over the State of Ohio are headed into the physician assistant profession.”

Additionally, each year the OAPA awards scholarships to one student from each physician assistant studies program in the state. This year’s scholarship winner was second year student Hayley Griswold of Akron, a 2009 graduate of Mount Union.

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 medical provider and advocate for the patient and to spend more time with the patient than the physician can in providing patient education. Physician assistants work to assist the physician in providing quality care, and are credited with often being able 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. For more information on the program at Mount Union, visit

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