"We Formed a Family of Our Own"

Physician Assistants Celebrate Their Graduation

May 23, 2017

It was a bittersweet moment for Stephanie Perlman as she donned her white coat at the graduation ceremony of the Touro College School of Health Sciences (SHS) Physician Assistants (PA) Manhattan program. On the one hand, an almost unlimited amount of medical career options beckoned her, on the other, she was leaving her friends behind.

“It’s sad, but exciting” explained Perlman. “We’ve been with the same people for the last three years and I’ll miss them.”

Perlman was one of the 42 members of the Manhattan campus PA program who celebrated their graduation on May 11 with a white coat ceremony at the New York Academy of Medicine in Manhattan. 

“We formed a family of our own,” said Enida Zekovic during her student leadership address at the ceremony. “No one understood us better than those beside us.”

Zekovic noted that during the three-year program, several students married, others had children and “there are still six PA babies on the way.”

The celebration also noted that this was the 50th anniversary of the PA profession. As SHS Assistant Dean and Chair of the PA programs, Dr. Joseph Tommasino noted, fifty years ago there were no PAs, now “your potential is unlimited. Enjoy what you’re going into: a wonderful profession.”

The graduation program also said goodbye to interim program director Harold Felton who was praised by both staff members and students.

“Even though you have graduated, your learning never ends,” Director Felton advised. “You will make us proud for the next fifty years.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Roy Constantine, MPH, PA-C, exhorted the students to be adamant about safety in their professional careers.

“Everyone has the right to speak up,” he said.  “Miscommunication is the leading cause of harm. Be passionate about safety.”

At the reception that followed, the newly minted PAs spoke about their plans for the future and posed for photographs.

“It was a very long journey,” said Natalie Furmaniak, who intends to work in emergency medicine. “Lots of sleepless nights.”

Sylvia Grabicki, who will be a member of a transplant team at New York Presbyterian described her experience as “hard, but rewarding.”

Dalia Klausner, who attended the PA program after graduating from Boston University with a degree in Women’s Health, described the personal lesson she took from the program.
“Be confident in what you know, but don’t be afraid to ask questions.”

Frederick Wong said he was debating about specializing in a cardiothoracic practice or orthopedics.  

“It’s not like other professions,” he said about being a PA. “You have so many options.”