The Primary Care Physician Assistant Program Class of 2017 poses with their diplomas after the commencement ceremony on May 12.

On May 12, the Primary Care Physician Assistant Program at the Keck School of Medicine of USC held a satellite commencement ceremony on the southwest lawn of the Allan Hancock Foundation Building on University Park Campus. There were 58 graduates from the program this year.

PA Program faculty member Mitzi D’Aquila, MACM, PA-C, instructor of clinical family medicine, led the ceremony this year beginning with the achievements of the Class of 2017, particularly those students who participated in the Interprofessional Geriatric Curriculum, the selected individuals to be inducted into Pi Alpha Honor Society — the national honor society for physician assistants — and those who were active in leadership during their time at USC.

Keynote speaker Ruth Ballweg, MPA, PA-C Emeritus, well-known for her leadership within the profession, spoke to graduates about the history of PAs and advice for the future.

“Don’t plan too much,” Ballweg advised. “The older you get, the more we know that planning is ridiculous and we know that the best things in our lives often emerge from our willingness to be open. And if there is a profession that is truer to this than any, it is the PA profession.”

Lastly, program director Kevin Lohenry, PhD, PA-C, assistant professor of clinical family medicine, closed the ceremony with an analogy to climbing Mount Everest, just as one graduate, Vanessa Blasic, accomplished during her second year of the program. He noted that it takes a team to achieve success and that even through challenges, the Class of 2017 worked hard and accomplished greatness together.

By Claire Norman