The 41 members of the Master of Physician Assistant Studies Class of 2022 graduated on Dec. 9 at the Holly Auditorium.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which spanned much of the graduating class’ 30-month program that began in May 2020, was a frequent theme of commencement speakers’ remarks.
“The last two years have been tough. They have been filled with many challenges. The worldwide pandemic has impacted our educational programs, our clinical training, our rotations and our daily life,” said School of Health Professions Dean David Shelledy, PhD, RRT, FAARC, FASAHP. “Yet the Class of 2022 has persevered. You’ve demonstrated resilience, determination and excellence as you focused on successfully completing the Physician Assistant Studies program and worked hard to become the best new physician assistants you can be.”
Class vice president and student speaker Thanh Huy Nguyen, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and former fifth-grade teacher, thanked everyone — faculty, family, friends and many more — whose support helped the graduates achieve their goal. He also encouraged his classmates to prioritize their mental health and shared his experience with therapy. “If there’s one thing you remember from my speech tonight, it’s this: Your mental health is everything. It’s not a sign of weakness to ask for help.”
“For the honor of selecting me to speak tonight, you will never know how much this has meant to me,” Nguyen said. “I only hope you that all have gotten the same fulfilment and sense of satisfaction from our time here. So, from the inferior wall of my heart, thank you, thank you. I mean it when I say that I am excited to see where your careers take you. So please take care of yourselves, your patients and your pets.”
Department of Health Sciences chair and professor George Kudolo, PhD, CPC, FAIC, FAACC, delivered the commencement address, and vice president of academic, faculty and student affairs Jacqueline Mok, PhD, greeted the students and audience.
“Now more than ever, you are truly the front-line heroes providing primary care for those in need, for those who seek comfort, for those who seek care, for those who need medical advice, for those who just need someone to provide a sense of calm and solace in their moment of medical need,” Mok told the graduating students. “You have answered the calling, you have been educated and trained by amazing faculty members. This truly is your moment.”
Also at the ceremony, the School of Health Professions recognized graduate Caitlyn Swopes for being the first recipient of the school’s Distinction in Research Award.