New Physician Assistants Help Ease Health Care Provider Shortage in Rural Illinois

Published Date:

Thirty-five physician assistants officially completed the Physician Assistant Program at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine during a ceremony on Aug. 5, 2017, at SIU Carbondale. The class earned a Master’s 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 40 new physician assistant students.

The new physician assistants of the Class of 2017 and their hometowns include:

Lindsay Blakley of Rochester

Lauren Boente of Carlinville

Erin Browne of Naperville

Joe Bulinski of Rochester

Martha Curtin of Orland Hills and Carbondale

Joeli Diemer of Edmond, Okla.

Brooke Eaves of Jonesboro

Tommy Engle of Detroit, Mich.

Michelle Farazi of Chicago

Colleen Gibbons of Wheaton

Courtney Gregson of Red Bud

Anum Haq of Villa Park

Kalyn Harker of Lebanon, Ind.

Lindsay Helbach of Stevens Point, Wis.

Mallory Lindberg of Carbondale

Erin Miller of Mahomet

Stacy Miller of Jefferson, Wis.

Joe Mork of Yorkville

Philip Pifer of Warsaw, Ind.

Christine Potter of McHenry

Alex Powell of Cape Girardeau, Mo.

Stormi Raines of Brazil, Ind.

Morgan Rakers of New Baden

Maxx Ramirez of Belleville

Julia Sames of Springfield

Mitra Shultz of McLean, Va.

Whitney Stibb of Beaver Dam, Wis.

Jessica Tarragano of Buffalo Grove

Miranda (Teller) Long of Dixon

Elizabeth Vollmer of Libertyville

Morgan Wagner of Urbandale, Iowa

Anna Wheeler of Ramsey

Matthew Woodruff of Mattoon

Meredith Worrall or Charles City, Iowa

Amber Yaddof of Davenport, Iowa

A total of 110 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.

Eight 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 2017 named them “Preceptors of the Year.”


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 employ PAs to practice and prescribe medications. Ranked as the number one job in America by Forbes, USA Today, Glassdoor and the Young Invincibles in 2015, the demand for physician assistants has never been higher. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 30 percent increase in job growth by 2024, only eight years from now.


Established 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 three 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 100 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. 


Schedule an interview or request more information by contacting SIU Medicine's Office of Public Relations and Communications:

Karen Carlson


Lauren Murphy

More from SIU News

Morgan Suhre at luncheon

Medical school community displays creativity in 2024 Scope

SIU School of Medicine unveiled the 2024 edition of SCOPE at an awards reception April 12. The student-produced literary magazine contains short stories, poems and artwork from learners, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of the school.

Mental health first aid training

Empowering individuals to be a part of the solution Recently the Behavioral Health Workforce Center (BHWC) began offering Mental Health First Aid training to employees as part of its mission to bring

Plant one seed

5 questions with agricultural mental health specialist and podcaster Adrienne DeSutter Adrienne DeSutter is a farm wife and mother on her husband's fourth-generation farm in western Illinois. She