The George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS) Physician Assistant (PA) program kicked off PA Week (Oct. 6–12) by honoring its best and brightest during its annual awards ceremony and reception, Oct. 5.
Marianne Vail, DHSc, PA-C, interim program director, and assistant professor of PA studies at SMHS, opened the event, which over the years has grown to feature eight endowed awards to honor GW’s PA community. In her welcome, Vail remarked that the evening offered the opportunity to shine “a well-deserved spotlight on the remarkable work here, and on the health impact on the lives of countless patients and their families. The contributions of PAs extend far beyond the walls of the clinic or the hospital.”
Robert H. Miller, PhD, vice dean for research and academic affairs, echoed Vail’s sentiments, telling the alumni, students, and faculty in attendance that, “PAs are a critical element in our health delivery system.” Miller added, the profession began in the 1960s in response to the need for hands on medical health delivery. “You are a tremendous asset. [PAs] are unique in that you are everything; you are educators, community workers, skilled physicians, you interact with all walks of life.”
Leading off the awards, Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology faculty members Melissa Carroll, PhD, MS; Nicole DeVaul, PhD, MA; and Jeff Rosenstein, PhD, presented this year’s Dr. Frank Slaby Physician Assistant Student Award. Named in honor of the former faculty member who helped shape the PA program’s anatomy curriculum, this year’s prize went to Rosie Salomon, member of the PA Class of 2025, for her patient and clinical approach to helping peers prepare for exams.
Michael Johnson, PA-C, assistant professor of physician assistant studies, presented both the Patrisha C. Creevy Scholarship and the Jonathan Earl Skillings Memorial Scholarship to a pair of members of the PA Class of 2024, David Klein and Haley Schomburg respectively.
Creevy, PA-C ’79, a long-time supporter of GW’s PA program, established a scholarship to recognize students who not only demonstrate academic excellence, but also service to the program. Klein, Johnson said, “embodies these qualities and is not only at the top of his class academically, to serve his cohort as a community service representative for the Tolton Society.”
This year’s Skillings award, named in honor of Jonathan Skillings, PA ’93, who developed a PA cardiology residency with GW and Johns Hopkins University, went to Schomburg for her “tremendous effort as a student in service of this program as the classroom education technology representative for the cohort.”
Presenting the Paul Marino Scholarship this year was Elizabeth Prevou, DMSc, MPH/PA-C ’15, assistant professor of PA studies, and her husband Karim Trad, MD, who established the award in honor of Paul Marino, PA ’79. “This scholarship is to reflect Paul’s strong record of kindness, thoughtfulness, and collaboration,” explained Prevou.
This year’s recipient was PA Class of 2025 member Eileen Deming, who has spent the past two semesters tutoring classmates. “She makes choices to really aid others in their success and she makes them feel heard, appreciated,” Prevou said.
Next, Vail invited John Colletta, PhD, to present the Terrence E. Barr Memorial Scholarship.
“Being a PA was more than an act of patience for Terry, or even a career; it was his calling, and he loved it, and he helped a lot of people,” said Colletta, Barr’s longtime partner. “He was empathetic, altruistic, very generous, and very smart, which you have to be to be a PA.”
Colletta presented this year’s Barr Scholarship to Fatima Elgarguri, a member of the PA Class of 2024.
Following the student awards, the program shifted to recognizing the clinical preceptors whose efforts make GW consistently one of the top-ranked PA programs in the country.
Susannah Jenkins, MPA, PA-C, presented the Distinguished Clinical Preceptor Recognition to pediatric specialists Markos Yibas, MD, and Mezgebe Haile, MD, for their passionate commitment to their students, for their enduring commitment as clinical mentors.
Nate’le’ge’ Wardlow, MPH, PA-C, director of clinical education for the PA program and assistant professor of PA studies, presented this year’s Dr. Jules Cahan Distinguished Teaching Award to Nathan McGwin, PA-C ’13, a clinical associate professor of PA studies. The award honors more than 30 years of unwavering support for GW’s PA students by Cahan, MD ’53, BA ’49.
Accepting his award, McGwin told the audience, “I am honored and humbled to be chosen to be in the company of such inspirational academic and former recipients, including some of my own mentors and preceptors.
“Being a clinical preceptor myself was one way I could give back to the program and be able to influence and mentor future teachers,” he added. “Hopefully I can serve as the same sort of inspiration.”
Finally, Joseph Hudson, MPH ’09, PA-C ’08, BS ’05, received the 2023 Lisa Mustone-Alexander Distinguished Public Service Award.
In her remarks Debra Herrmann, DHSc, MPH/PA-C ’01, assistant professor of PA studies, said Hudson, who is a board-certified PA with Braun Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center, received the award for living “the mission of the program, offering years of selfless, unflinching dedication to PAs.”
Hudson has held nearly every leadership position with District of Columbia Academy of Physician Assistants — legislative committee chair, director at large, treasurer, vice president, and president — where he has monitored the Washington, D.C., legislative landscape to help ensure PAs have a voice in those health care discussions. He also has served as a delegate to the American Academy of Physician Assistants House of Delegates.
This year’s PA Week activities — the nationwide celebration honoring PA profession founder Eugene A. Stead, MD — continued, with a series of activities including a mental health awareness meditation, an ice cream social, and capped the week with a PA student Q+A panel session. Throughout PA week, the program hosted a food drive benefitting Bread for the City.