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UPAP Celebrates Class 51 Graduation

Aug 05, 2022

On August 5 of this year, 63 students of the Utah Physician Assistant Program (UPAP) celebrated the culmination of 27 months of hard work and study in a graduation ceremony at This is the Place Monument in Salt Lake City.

The graduating cohort, the fifty-first graduating class of the UPAP program, did the majority of their training throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of their milestones occurred during social distancing. In his opening remarks, Program Director Jared Spackman, MPAS, PA-C noted the extra energy at the graduation and stressed the personal and professional advantages arising from the extra efforts physician assistant (PA) students had to make in order to learn and remain connected during the pandemic. The keynote speaker, retiring professor of the program Martin Gregory, MD, PhD, built on this theme by reviewing the history of UPAP, sharing personal anecdotes and observations of PAs past and present who built the program despite difficulties and setbacks. Leigh Elrod, MPAS, PA-C, Division Chief for the Division of Physician Assistant Studies, and Wayne Samuelson, MD, Dean of Medical Education at the University of Utah School of Medicine, also provided remarks encouraging the graduates at the beginning of their professional lives as PAs.

Numerous awards were given to students for demonstrating excellence during their PA training. Awards for students are listed below.

  • Community Service Award:  Jenna Whippen                                        
  • Jackie Erbin Leadership Award: Heidi Hanks
  • Activism and Social Service Award: Tyler Brown
  • Steven Halmstead Political Action Award: Denise Diaz & Heidi Hanks

Robert M Alston Commitment to Excellence Award: Aferdit Sadrija & Kimber Farnsworth

In addition to student awards, UPAP faculty also presented awards to PA preceptors. A preceptor is a practicing physician who gives personal instruction, training, and supervision to PA students, and as such are an essential part of a PA’s training. 2022 preceptor awards are listed below.

  • Directors Award               Martin Gregory, MD, PhD

Outstanding Preceptor Award

  • Primary Care PA of the Year         Tim McCreary, PA-C
  • Specialty Care PA of the Year      Joanna Lynch, PA-C and Patrick Thompson, PA-C
  • MD Preceptor of the Year             David Miner, MD
  • Friday Clinic Preceptor of the Year            Darin Ryujin, MS, MPAS, PA-C

The ceremony concluded with class presidents, Heidi Hanks from the Salt Lake City cohort and Katrien Jack Lane of St. George, who shared memories from their class’s experiences and encouraged the graduating PAs to maintain the focus and dedication they had shown in training as they start their careers. At the close of the ceremony, the graduates stood and recited the Physician Assistant Oath along with UPAP faculty.