June 20, 2022 — With friends and family in attendance, 58 members of the UF School of PA Studies received their diplomas Saturday as they crossed the stage, ready to begin their careers in health care.
“There is no better word to describe the class of 2022 than resilient,” said Nina Multak, Ph.D., MPAS, PA-C, associate dean and Randolph B. Mahoney Director of the UF School of PA Studies. “You have had to pivot from learning in person to online and a hybrid of the two, and I want to commend you all for your flexibility and resiliency.”
During the ceremony, Multak also said the class of 2022 has the characteristics needed to serve as excellent PAs, from confidence and competence to making connections with colleagues and patients.
Class president Caroline Echevarria, MPAS, also spoke, acknowledging the role support systems like family members play in helping the students stay on track during two busy years of studying and learning in clinical settings.
Echevarria also said she is proud of her classmates for continuing to stand up as PAs — not just as physician assistants or as physician associates, as they will soon be known, but also as patient advocates.
“My peers don’t settle and they’re stubborn,” she said. “The word ‘stubborn’ often has a negative connotation, but what it means here is that we have an unwavering commitment to stand up for what we believe in.”
Guest speaker Folusho Ogunfiditimi, D.M., M.P.H., PA-C, president-elect for the American Academy of Physician Associates, shared the story of his own experience receiving care for typhoid fever as a child in Nigeria. It made him understand the importance of having a quality caregiver.
“You will be faced with decisions that will change the lives of individuals as PAs,” he said. “Our role is unique in that we have flexibility to practice medicine in a variety of specialties while delivering quality care. You have to remember to be there for your practice, your patients and your profession.”
Members from the class of 2022 who crossed the stage included Rachel Knauf, a second-generation Gator whose late mother, the namesake of the Jodi Jones Knauf Scholarship, received a degree from the UF School of PA Studies in 1992. Stephen Senderoff, MPAS ’22, was announced as the recipient of the Steven Kraft, M.D., and Randy Kraft Award, given to one graduate each spring to recognize excellence and a commitment to the PA-patient relationship. Herbert “Bert” Knauf, M.D. ’92, along with Steven Kraft, P.A. ’76, M.D. ’81, and his wife, Randy, attended the event to support the new graduates.
Priscilla Medehue, MPAS, the class of 2022 diversity liaison, attended the ceremony with her large extended family, who cheered as she received her diploma.
“I made amazing friends during my time in the PA school and our faculty go above and beyond to prepare us for our careers in health care,” she said. “Graduating is definitely a salad bowl of emotions. It’s scary to actually be starting our careers as health care professionals, but it’s also exciting since the program did a great job of setting us up for success.”
She said she looks forward to moving to Houston to begin her career as a specialist in otolaryngology this summer.
Stephen Senderoff, MPAS, was awarded the PA class of 2022 Steven Kraft, M.D., and Randy Kraft Award, during Saturday’s ceremony. The award acknowledges a graduating PA student who demonstrates academic excellence as well as a commitment to service. Senderoff has joined the Health Services Collegiate Program and will soon begin his PA career as an enlisted officer with the U.S. Navy, stationed near San Diego. He plans to serve in emergency medicine or pediatrics.
“I will miss everyone here, but I know we’re all also excited to go out into the world and start putting what we’ve learned into practice,” he said.