For most Floridians, June 21 came and went as just another sunny Saturday — but for soon-to-be physician assistants of the class of 2014, it marked a milestone.
At 3:30 p.m., about 500 people packed the University Auditorium on the University of Florida campus to watch 55 of the 59 graduating students take their first steps as professionals during the UF College of Medicine School of Physician Assistant Studies commencement ceremony.
“Today is an important day; it is your day,” said guest speaker Rick Morales, BHS, PA-C, a 1984 graduate of the PA program and past president of the Florida Academy of Physician Assistants.
He congratulated the graduates for earning a degree from what he considers to be the flagship PA program in the state and implored them to become the best practitioners and healers possible — to know their limitations and to find balance and happiness in their careers and lives.
“To be truly happy, you have to have purpose,” he said, “and this profession will provide that.”
The commencement ceremony also included remarks from Michael L. Good, M.D., dean of the UF College of Medicine, and Ralph W. Rice, DHSc, PA-C, associate dean and director of the School of PA Studies, who acknowledged the faculty and staff who helped the students reach their milestone. He also gave special recognition to the families of this year’s graduates for their support and encouragement.
One of those families included that of Stephanie DeFreitas, whose passion for medicine is genetic. After all, her grandfather was a physician, her mother is a nurse and her sister is also pursuing a career in the health care field.
“We’re very proud of her and very excited that she has achieved a dream, a goal,” said her father, Brian DeFreitas, as he held a bouquet of flowers in one hand and an event program in the other.
A series of accolades during the event recognized exceptional performance. Benjamin Kravitz received the Outstanding Academic Student Award, while Michelle Williams and Stefan McFarland took home the Outstanding Clinical Student Awards.
Robert Bobilin, MPAS, PA-C, received the Outstanding Academic Year Instructor Award; Chad Edwards, M.D., earned the Outstanding Clinical Year Instructor Award; and Gene Hemp, Ph.D., and Wayne Bottom, PA-C, M.P.H., were honored for their contributions to PA education.
Class president John Krogh III, who earned the Kenneth R. Lewis Jr. M.D., Leadership and Humanitarian Award, acknowledged his fellow classmates for their perseverance and urged them to “place a mental bookmark” on this significant day.
“Take a step back and savor this moment — we made it,” Krogh said. “We stand at the verge of a new dawn in our lives.”