June 21, 2017 — For Nhi Ma Do, a UF School of Physician Assistant Studies 2017 graduate, receiving a physician assistant certificate means she’s one step closer to realizing her hopes and dreams.
The native of My Hoa Hung, Vietnam, smiled widely and hugged faculty members as she walked across the University Auditorium stage Saturday afternoon. Six members of her family cheered her on as she grasped her certificate tightly to her chest.
“I’m ecstatic,” Do said. “This ceremony was phenomenal. The speakers made me reflect on the time we have here. There are only 24 hours in a day, and I have to make the best of it.”
Ralph Rice, PA ’91, DHSc, PA-C, associate dean and director of the UF School of Physician Assistant Studies, congratulated the 59 members of the class of 2017 and implored the graduates to maintain proper work-life balance.
“Become involved in professional organizations. Contribute to humanity and give to others,” he said. “And don’t forget to read, dance, meditate, sing and laugh.”
Rice will retire as associate dean and director after a new director is appointed. Assistant professor Petar A. Breitinger, MPAS, PA-C, presented Rice with a plaque commemorating his six years as director of the school.
“He created a sense of camaraderie, and he brought this program to the next level,” Breitinger said.
Do said her education at the UF School of Physician Assistant Studies helped put her future in focus. Interested in health care since high school, Do was unsure what specialty to pursue until she learned about the field of non-operative orthopaedics, or physical medicine and rehabilitation. She plans to work in an underserved area in this specialty.
“This was always meant to be the field for me,’’ she said. “I just didn’t know it existed before PA school.”
Do’s family hails from an island in southern Vietnam, four hours from Ho Chi Minh City. She moved to Florida with her parents and became a U.S. citizen in 2011. When her grandfather had a stroke in 2013, his dreams of traveling to the U.S. to be reunited with his children and grandchildren were put on hold. Do returned to Vietnam to aid in his recovery, and after entering PA school in 2015, she video chatted with her family to share what she’d learned.
“Every time I learn something new, I think, how could I apply this to helping my grandfather recover?” she said. “PA school was the best way I could become a helping hand for not only my family but for families like mine who needed more.”
Do said though Saturday’s ceremony marked her graduation, it’s not the end of the road for this lifelong learner.
“My parents gave up everything they had in Vietnam, so my sister and I could get the best education and be a help to society. My mother encouraged me to pursue my dreams, and I did,” she said. “Now I will have the chance to use what I’ve learned. I’m excited to get out into the world and make a contribution.”