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ATSU-ASHS celebrates Physician Assistant Studies program commencement

A.T. Still University-Arizona School of Health Sciences Physician Assistant Studies program graduates celebrate.

A.T. Still University’s Arizona School of Health Sciences (ATSU-ASHS) celebrated the graduation of 73 students from its Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies program on Sept. 16, 2022, in Mesa, Arizona. 

Ann Lee Burch, PT, EdD, MS, MPH, ATSU-ASHS dean and associate professor, told graduates to use their skills to make a difference in the lives of their patients, and find joy in their work. 

“Class of 2022, you will take your new knowledge, skills, critical inquiry, professionalism, and that steady commitment to compassion and integrity, and continue to make a difference in the lives of so many. Throughout your professional lives, keep listening to your patients, your mentors, professions outside of your own, your colleagues, your friends and family,” Dr. Burch said. 

“For those very challenging days, find your stride. Walk steady. And finally, stay curious, committed, true to who you are and where you have come from, and you will leap over any obstacles in your way and continue to find deep meaning and joy in the important work of bringing optimal health to individuals and communities.”

ATSU President Craig Phelps, DO, ’84, conferred an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree to commencement speaker Catherine Alicia Georges, EdD, RN, FAAN, professor and chair, Department of Nursing, Lehman College.

From 2018-20, Dr. Georges served as the national volunteer president of the American Association of Retired Persons, the largest consumer organization in the world. She served as the fifth president of the National Black Nurses Association. In addition, she is president of the National Black Nurses Foundation and a lifetime member of the National Black Nurses Association and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority. Her fellowships include the New York Academy of Medicine and American Academy of Nursing. She was named a Living Legend by the American Academy of Nursing (2019), Most Distinguished Alumna of Seton Hall University (2020), and the 2021 Lifetime Legacy Awardee by the American Academy of Nursing. Dr. Georges was elected chair of the national Easterseals Board of Directors in October 2021. She is the first Black female volunteer to serve in that role.

Dr. Georges told the class of 2022 their voices would be critical addressing healthcare inequities in a post-COVID-19 world. 

“In many parts of our country, your zip code becomes the manner in which you are treated. We call it health disparity by location, and in many instances, because of one’s race and ethnicity,” Dr. Georges said. “Making automatic assumptions about patients is antithetical to good healthcare. The scope of your contribution will reflect your capacity for recognizing the individuality of every patient, and truly listening; the tenets on which this curricula were built.

“I urge you in your careers to share your perspective, to look for opportunities for leadership, to find a place at the tables where policies are set. No seat? Bring your own chair. Door closed? Open it. I urge you to use your voice. You as physician assistants will be pivotal to creating a culture of health in our country. A culture that embraces prevention, as well as treatment. A culture that seeks to shed biases, and rid the country of the chronic disease of racism. You must create a culture that meets head-on the external factors that produce such inequitable outcomes.” 

Watch the full ceremony below…


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