Dream fulfilled

On Sunday we held a graduation celebration for our first class of students receiving the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies degree. This is the culmination of years of planning, development, engagement, and hard work by Vice Dean Pat Thomas and the program’s director Cindy Lord. The event included teaching awards, both individual and institutional. The day before, the student award ceremony was held, recognizing the special achievements of the members of this class.

Already our program is emerging as a national leader. CWRU students have been elected to the board of directors of the Student Academy of the American Academy of Physician Assistants, and one was awarded one of only 80 Physician Assistant Foundation Merit Scholarships nationwide. Our Learning Community, named for Charles L. Hudson, was selected by the Student Academy as Outstanding PA Student Society 2018, and we were a recipient of the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants’ Health Foundation Oral Health Outreach Grant. Not bad for a program just graduating its first class!

While shaking the hands of these accomplished students, my mind drifted back to my first encounter with PA students, at Duke, as a medical student, many years ago. There the legendary Dr. Eugene Stead founded the very first PA program in the country, and by the time I was assigned to the wards, they were working there as well. Most were ex-military corpsmen, and the great majority had served on the battlefields of Viet Nam. They were a bit older than the medical students, squared away, serious, and competent even as they entered training.

As a student, I was assigned to the emergency room with one of them. One evening, as our resident snuck away to find dinner, the PA student and I saw several ambulances with flashing lights careening down the access road. In those days, arriving with red lights on was a sign of serious injury or cardiac arrest. There had been a multi-car pileup and all of a sudden the two of us had six injured patients – and no resident.

Fortunately, we agreed upon the triage order for the patients. The PA student had two IV’s running before I had assembled my materials – he had learned to carry vital supplies in bulging pockets (mental note taken!). Putting out calls to neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, general surgery, and our resident whose dinner must have been done by then, we worked together. He was technically skilled, and I was book-smart. We were outnumbered by the wounded and could not argue. We formed an ad hoc team. The chief surgical resident arriving breathless, praised our “battlefield care”…. the PA student and I just nodded and kept working.

A few years later, as a resident, I frequently spoke to physicians in small towns in North Carolina who had referred patients to us. Several took the time to compliment Dr. Stead on his foresight in imagining and creating the PA program, and told me how wonderful it was to have hired a PA in their practice. Many said that the PAs just knew how to help out, amplifying the relationship between the patient and the doc, while forming new ones of their own.

So, I was thrilled to see a dream of mine fulfilled with our wonderful graduation celebration. I had wanted this program to serve as a tangible commitment to inter-professional education and a demonstration that we recognize the need for health care providers at many levels to address the burgeoning problems of health care today – the physician shortage, the need to retain and expand the personal touch, the necessity of each profession to be the very best it can. Today, my hopes have been fulfilled – and exceeded – with our outstanding Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies degree. Congratulations to all!


Pamela B. Davis, MD, PhD
Dean, School of Medicine
Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs, Case Western Reserve University
Arline and Curtis Garvin Research Professor
2109 Adelbert Road, BRB 113
Cleveland, OH 44106