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Physician assistant program welcomes new class

Story Date: Thu, 12 Jan 2012 10:43:00 EST

Sixty-eight new Master of Physician Assistant (MPA) students donned white coats for the first time Friday, signaling their entry as junior colleagues into the medical profession.

The annual White Coat Ceremony is a rite of passage for incoming physician assistant and medical students at EVMS. By putting on the coat and taking the oaths of their professions, the students agree to hold themselves to the high standards of ethics, compassion and care throughout their careers.

"Over time, the white coat has become the most recognizable symbol of medicine," said physician assistant Jason A. Grahame, MPA, an assistant professor with the program and its director of admissions.

The coat is "a key to open the door of opportunity to interact with a patient who will and should be the beneficiary of your care," Mr. Grahame said. "My hope is that, with each time you wear this coat, starting now until you retire, you will train yourself to think about its significance for you and your patients."

The 68 new students make up the largest class ever to matriculate into the program — up from 55 last year — thanks to growth made possible by the opening last summer of the Education and Research Building. The class will expand again to 80 next year as EVMS strives to meet the health-care workforce demands of the future.

In 2011, physician assistants in the U.S. provided more than 300 million patients visits, and the profession ranks as one of the most satisfying careers in the nation. A survey of EVMS MPA graduates showed that 99 percent of them would choose the same career path again if given the chance.

"The PA program will be a challenge to most of you," said Thomas G. Parish, DHSc, director of the MPA program and a physician assistant, "but in May of 2014, you will have earned a rewarding career and a new way of life for yourself and your family. The ceremony today marks a transition to that new career."