Meet a few faces of the class of 2023
After spending three years as a speech pathologist at UF Health Shands Hospital, Emily Iler found herself drawn to medicine while working with colleagues in fields ranging from gastroenterology to pulmonology to neurology. Now, the PA student sees the next phase of her education as an opportunity to take what she has learned on the rehabilitative side of patient care and apply it to the diagnostic side. She said having a strong understanding of a patient’s journey outside of the clinic or hospital will help her facilitate their transition to the next level of care and better work with her rehabilitative, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech-language pathology colleagues in the future.
For Iler, the white coat ceremony means she is one step closer to her dream profession.
“The white coat is a symbol of everything we’ve put forth, not only in this past year academically but also all the training and work hours that went into getting into the program in general,” she said. “It’s accumulated to this point, and now I’m excited for the transition that it represents, going into the clinical year and being able to put everything into practice that we’ve been working on on paper. This past year was the hardest year but the best year, and I would do it all over again.”
Jonathan Ooten most looks forward to practicing as a PA in underserved communities to effect change in areas such as health care equity and access to fresh foods. As a student, he fulfills his mission of service as the diversity liaison for the class of 2023, where he educates his peers on DEI initiatives and ensures every member of the class feels comfortable and included.
Though he spent time as an AP biology and physics teacher before attending PA school, he said he has always known that being a PA was in his future. After graduating from UF in 2023, he will join the National Health Service Corps, a prestigious federal program that connects primary care providers to communities with limited access to care.
“Teaching was the best detour I could have ever taken, but PA school has always been in the cards for me — it was just a matter of when,” he said. “I grew up in a very underserved community without a lot of money, and I’m part of the LGBTQ+ community as well, so I just can’t wait to go out and give back to my community. The white coat is another reminder that I’m one step closer to my dream.”
Ann Monson Slagle
As a mother of two, Ann Monson Slagle hopes her professional and educational journey serves as a model for her young daughters. Whether the issue is keeping a tower of blocks standing or figuring out a new dinner plan when noodles get burnt, she encourages her children to brainstorm and find solutions they had not yet considered.
Hunting for solutions led her to leave a career as a mental health rehabilitation counselor, where she said she saw the critical need for better access to health care.
“It birthed inside of me this conviction to serve the population and figure out the most basic, foundational ways I can be the change I wish I could see in the world,” said Monson Slagle, who also teaches general psychology at Santa Fe College. “And I was like, ‘You know what, I can do this through medicine, and I can do it faster through a PA program.’ I want to get my feet on the ground; I want to get out there and start helping people, and this is the best way I can do it.”