[November 23, 2020 – Parker, CO] On Friday, November 13th, Rocky Vista University (RVU) celebrated its inaugural graduation of 31 physician assistant students. RVU hosted a virtual commencement ceremony during which a pre-recorded video was distributed to the graduates for them to share with friends and loved ones.
Graduation day was a milestone for the PA students in more ways than one: the PA Class of 2020 graduated from RVU as the inaugural class from a program that is the first of its kind in the nation. RVU’s PA program uses an innovative, competency-based medical education (CBME) model that takes learning from knowledge acquisition to application, allows for multiple measures of performance, and assesses performance against a fixed set of predetermined criteria.
During the virtual ceremony, Cathy Ruff, PA-C, Director of the PA Program, commended the class for being innovators at RVU. As the first class to graduate from RVU’s PA Program, Ms. Ruff remarked, these students did not have another class to lean on or seek advice. “[Like] all good trailblazers, [they] have left a legacy. [They] have developed a mentorship program for cohorts that follow, set high standards for professionalism, and supported one another through challenges.”
In addition to completing the intense coursework and clinical rotations, the PA Class of 2020 found time to volunteer, especially in the past several months during a pandemic. For example, graduates Jalaal Khan, MPAS ‘20, and Jeremy Petzold, MPAS ‘20, volunteered their time with 9News Health Fair, the largest volunteer-driven, nonprofit health wellness and prevention effort in the country. This volunteer experience will serve the graduates well as they now enter a workforce different than what they had expected. In her charge to the graduates, Ms. Ruff encouraged them “to remember your passion and your ability to persevere, even during uncertain time; trust in your ability to lead the way, and continue to take just a little bit of risk…These [attributes] will allow you to be prepared to meet whatever challenges may present in the future.”
Bonnie Randolph, MD, delivered the keynote address to the graduates, most of whom had rotated through her Family Medicine and Obstetrics clinic in Torrington, Wyoming, in their time at RVU. “[The] PA Class of 2020 has been resilient through all the rigors that have battered against [their] resolve to [now] become leaders in the physician assistant world,” she said during the virtual ceremony. “Through it all, you have prevailed. As iron sharpens iron, so you too have been honed into the outstanding providers that your family, friends, colleagues, and instructors can be very proud of.” As a preceptor, Dr. Randolph also provided exemplary learning opportunities for the class and shared her knowledge and experience in a variety of specialties. For Jordan Eatough, MPAS ‘20, he was able to culminate his clinical education with the delivery of his son at Dr. Randolph’s hospital.
Clinton E. Adams, DO, FACHE, President and CEO, also congratulated the graduates on the completion of their program. “We are proud of the stellar performance and eagerness of the PA Class of 2020 to launch into their professional roles as practicing Physician Assistants,” he said. “You came to RVU with a sense of purpose, a desire to make a difference, and today, I remind you that your journey is never complete. The faculty and staff have provided you with the tools for success and wish you every joy and happiness a life of service can bring.”
Towards the end of the ceremony, the graduates recited their Physician Assistant’s Oath, in which they pledge to hold as their “primary responsibility the health, safety, welfare and dignity of all human beings.” As lifelong learners, they will actively seek to expand their knowledge and use it to better their communities and the profession.
The next step for the PA Class of 2020 is to take a national certification examination administered by the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants in conjunction with the National Board of Medical Examiners. Graduation from an accredited physician assistant program and passage of the national certifying exam are required for state licensure and to begin practicing in a clinical setting.