The first cohort of Lynchburg College’s Doctor of Medical Science program graduated in Commencement 2018.
The DMSc provides a doctoral-level education for physician assistants. Through advanced clinical expertise and education in leadership, law, and health care issues, PAs become prepared to take more leadership roles in medicine. The Lynchburg DMSc is one of the first in the nation to offer doctoral education to PAs.
More than 50 students received diplomas during the Commencement weekend, while more than 30 are expected to complete the program this summer. A hooding ceremony in Snidow Chapel on Friday celebrated the graduates’ journey.
The graduation was more than a decade in the making, said founding director Dr. Jeremy Welsh, associate dean of the School of Graduate Health Sciences. He shared a brief history of the program, from the first idea when he was earning his doctorate to the time he brought up the idea early in his tenure at Lynchburg College.
“I share (the story) as I truly feel it is important to know where you came from and what it took to build and sustain something you are passionate about,” he told the graduates. “Passion scares some people, but it also moves people ahead. Hold onto your passion even when people question it.”
He said the history of the PA profession includes many examples of leaders who stood up for the ability of PAs to improve patient care, access to health care, and affordability. “Thousands of committees and late nights and weekends at conferences (were spent) working and fighting to improve the profession for those who would come after, and for our patients,” he said. “All of this work and sacrifice and struggle has led our amazing profession here to this day in 2018… .
“Each of you will now be those committed to help lead the next movement for change. Sitting here are many of the leaders that are needed by the PA profession for a successful future.”
The graduates’ advanced education gives them the responsibility to do more to serve patients and the PA profession, Dr. Welsh said. “I ask you to develop your mindset, to get involved, and contribute. Show up. Stand up. Be accountable to each other, your profession and your patients. This is what I personally ask of you. Be proud to represent our profession as a PA that has successfully obtain what very few have even attempted; that is a doctorate degree coupled with being a PA. And in my opinion this an unstoppable combination.”