SIU Program Graduates 29 Physician Assistants, Present Awards


August 5, 2014

SIU Program Graduates 29 Physician Assistants, Present Awards

The Physician Assistant Program at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine graduated 29 physician assistants during a ceremony on August 2, 2014, at SIU Carbondale. The class earned a Masters of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPA).

At the ceremony, the graduating class received their long white coats and certificates signifying completion of the 26-month program. The new physician assistants then gave short white coats to the 39 new physician assistant students.

A total of 73 students are currently enrolled in the 26-month program, which takes place on the SIU Carbondale campus. The students gain clinical experiences in Olney, Mattoon, Decatur, Springfield, Quincy, Peoria, Belleville, Champaign and Carbondale.

The new physician assistants are Justin R. Allphin, Allysen P. Arbelaez, Riley J. Blythe, Matthew A. Bohren, Katie L. Brightwell, Marissa Lynn Butcher, Ismat J. Cheema, Anna Alyse Curry, Allison N. Fitzgerald, Kristi A. Gonzales, Nathaniel S. Gregoire, Caitlin M. Griffin, Margaret Helf, Lauren M. Himpelmann, Amy L. Kosich, Lauren L. Lemenager, Haley N. Luedloff, Sabrina Ashley Miller, Will D. Miller, Derek N. Morrow, Michael P. Murray, Janelle Elizabeth Olson, Cory M. Sharp, Alyssa J. Surber, Chelsea Treece, Patrick M. Tullis, Alyssa S. Turner, Danielle J. Wisnasky, and Stephanie L. Zuber.

Several awards were also presented at the graduation. Preceptor awards were presented to doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners who mentor the students. Students voted for the preceptor that they learned the most from during their clinical rotations. Recipients were Michelle VanDorn, DO, Belleville; Kent Arnold, MD, Carbondale; Laurie Lee, PA-C, Decatur; Joseph So, MD, Mattoon; Luis De Venecia, MD, Olney; Volkan Sumer, DO, Peoria; Crystal Perry, MD, Quincy; Kari McClernon, PA-C, Springfield; Scott Joyner, DO, Marion.

Inductees into the Pi Alpha National Honor Society for Physician Assistants received certificates, cords and pins. The faculty nominated the following inductees for membership: Student category: Caitlin Griffin, Amy Kosich, Anna Alyse Curry, Lauren Lemenager; Faculty category: Tony Grasch and Becky Hanna, who are PA Program hubsite faculty; PA Program alumnus/alumna: Micah Oakley and Dale McKinney; and Honorary membership was awarded to Mike Staff, PA-C, who is a preceptor for the program.

Class president Allysen Arbelaez received the Director’s Award for meritorious service to and on behalf of the Physician Assistant Program and the profession.


Physician assistants (PAs) work under the supervision of physicians in all areas of medicine to perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes. All 50 states and the District of Columbia allow PAs to practice and prescribe medications. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 83,600 physician assistants were employed in 2010. It predicts a 30 percent increase in job growth by 2020.

Physician Assistant studies has been listed as one of the fastest-growing fields for the last two years, and last year, listed it as the number one field of study.


Since it began in 1997, the SIU program uses small-group, problem-based learning, teaching and assessment using simulated patients, much like the medical school. Clinical rotations in the second year prepare students in a medical setting in clinical sites around Illinois, particularly in the south and central areas of the state.

The SIU School of Medicine Physician Assistant Program ( grew from the initial 18 students per cohort in 1997 to 40 students per cohort in the last two years. Don Diemer, DHSc., PA-C is the program director. Dr. Kyaw Naing, associate director of Outreach Services at the SIU Carbondale Family Medicine Residency Program is the medical director. The SIU program has a five-year average certification rate of 98 percent.

The program, formerly a collaborative program of the SIUC College of Applied Sciences and Arts and the School of Medicine, became a division of the Department of Family & Community Medicine at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in 2012. It has graduated 363 students since 1997. In 2010, the program earned the maximum seven-year accreditation by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, Inc.

The mission of the PA Program is to prepare health-care professionals to provide primary healthcare to underserved populations in rural and health professional shortage areas and enhance this healthcare by preparing graduates who are interdependent medical providers, dedicated to both community and the profession.

Media Contacts

Karen Carlson,
SIU, 217-545-3854

Lauren Murphy,
SIU, 217-545-2819


Phone 217-545-8000
P.O. Box 19620
Springfield, IL 62794-9620
The mission of the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine is to assist the people of central and southern Illinois in meeting their health care needs through education, patient care, research, and service to the community.


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