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SIU Physician Assistant Program Graduates 34

Published Date:

New students receive white coats; awards given


The Physician Assistant Program at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine graduated 34 physician assistants during a ceremony on August 1, 2015, 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 36 new physician assistant students.

A total of 106 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 Katrina Barger, Wyatt Baxter, Andrew Bryant, Julia Corwin, Hannah Cross, Morgan Echols, Allison Hindman, Chelsea Fella, Austin Fiedler, Josiah Hamilton, Rachel Henry, Sara Hoyle, Makinzee Kemp, Jameka McElroy, Quinn Golinske, Tracey May, Patricia Orozco, Mattison Perez, Rachel Phelps, Stacy Regnier, Sara Roper, Ruth Shilling, Stephanie Shirkey, Kathryn Skibinski, Haley Smith, Ashley Stephens, Nathan Caslow, Brendan McElligott, Kristina Wallace, Ethan Weshinskey, Alexa Whitehead, Lauquyta Wilmore, Megan Wise and Abby Wood.

Eleven central and southern Illinois doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners who mentored the students throughout the 26-month program were also honored at the ceremony. The Class of 2015 named 10 physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners "Preceptors of the Year." 

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: Rachel Phelps, Mattison Perez, Austin Fiedler, Allison Hindman; Faculty category: Sid Smith, MD, Kathryn Waldyke, MD, Rhonda Pulver, PA-C; Alumni category: Cari Fearday, PA-C, Chad Kovash, PA-C, Brad Albertini, PA-C, LeAnne Robinson, PA-C; Honorary Category: Jerry Goddard, MD.



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 in the United States. listed it as the number one most promising job of 2015.



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. Kyaw Naing, MD, PhD, 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 first time board pass rate of 99 percent.

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

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