On May 16, 2020, a virtual graduation ceremony commemorated the 50th class to graduate from Wake PA. This outstanding and service-minded cohort exemplified an enduring spirit, perseverance and collective grace. These attributes carried the 86 graduates through a challenging finish to attain a hard-earned Masters in Medical Science degree.

A Class More than Prepared

Julie Ann Freischlag, MD, FACS, FRCSEDean of the Wake Forest School of Medicine and CEO of Wake Forest Baptist Health Julie Freischlag encouraged the graduates of this unique class with the following message:

“The class of 2020 is more than prepared to take the next step. I've seen it over the past few months as you have faced some of the hardest times in your training. In the midst of COVID-19, you've continued learning and caring for patients; quickly embracing new approaches while always keeping empathy and compassion at the center of your work,” Freischlag said. “You have bridged care through telemedicine, even though we've all missed the human connection that makes what we do so meaningful. As you move forward I'm certain there will be tremendous opportunities for building on these innovations in delivering care in new and thoughtful ways. It's exciting that you will get to be part of this. The healthcare world you're about to enter is ever-changing and complex and needs leaders like you.”

Demonstrating Leadership

Sue Reich, PA-C, MPASProgram Director Sue Reich, provided opening remarks for the virtual ceremony from an empty classroom on the Winston-Salem campus. She noted that in addition to being the program’s first class to train during a global pandemic, they also achieved a few other notable firsts. They were the first to start a clinical skills club, the Ultrasound Club. This club went on to participate in two competitions, taking second place in a national competition and first place in a regional one. The class of 2020 was also the first to have members earn special certificates, including both the Global Health and the Medical Educators certificates. Reich offered her congratulations and appreciation by saying, “Thank you to those who took a leap of faith, added a little persistence and perseverance and a pioneering spirit to be adventurous and get these programs off the ground.”

Reflecting on the Path

L. Gail Curtis, PA-C, MPASDepartment Chair Gail Curtis spoke from her home office and provided an encouraging message. “As you reflect back over those early days in PA school, you must now be able to appreciate how much you have learned and how far you have traveled to arrive here. Your faculty, friends and family recognize your hard work and we are so very, very proud of you today.” 

Despite not having an in-person graduation, the graduates took creative videos of being hooded by family members, loved ones and friends to commemorate the momentous occasion.

Grit, Patience, Stamina, Grace

Many Wake PA graduates embody these essential traits often used to characterize the most effective PAs. The Class of 2020 had the opportunity to bring these qualities to life in the final stretch of their training. In addition to persisting through the rigorous coursework required to become successful PAs, when the global pandemic hit, they demonstrated a tremendous amount of tenacity and determination.  This character-building experience will serve them well as they embark on a promising and challenging career path.