Spring 2012
Healthy Times

PA program celebrates 40 years

Alumni who attended the 40th anniversary celebration of CHP’s Physician Assistant Program were as diverse as their practice settings but united in their desire to celebrate their education and the opportunities it has brought. The evening reception was held April 21 at the UDM School of Law Atrium.

Four women at reception
Four directors of the Physician Assistant program, from left: Agnes Bongero, Amy Dereczyk, Suzanne York, and founding director Harriet Gales.

The UDM PA program was established at Mercy College in 1972 by Founding Director Harriet Gales, who was presented with a plaque at the event honoring her dedication and leadership. Her passion for the profession, pride in the alumni and support of dedicated faculty shone through during her remarks.

A respected anatomy professor, the late Edward Tracy, was recalled with fondness in a short speech given by his daughter, Associate Professor of Biology Mary Tracy, who took the position after his retirement.

“My father taught three generations of PAs and was touched by the lives of all his students. It brought him great joy and inspiration to bring anatomy into the lives of many,” Tracy said. Of her tenure, she noted, “The spirit and drive of the students in this program is energizing. My students amaze me, challenge me and enlighten me.”

The event was coordinated by Amy Dereczyk, assistant professor and chair of the PA program, with support from PA faculty members Debra Knight and Suzanne York, also a former program director, and Sharon Malinowski. Agnes Bongero was among the four program directors in attendance along with Walid Harb, medical director of the program.

Group at reception
Attendees listen to speakers at the PA program's 40th anniversary reception, held in the UDM School of Law Atrium.

Dereczyk was pleased with the attendance of 181 people. “It was fun to see so many friends getting together. Alumni came from as far away as Alaska, the east coast and Colorado.”

Some of the alumni had also attended the program’s 25th anniversary celebration. Among them was Jan Prusinowski ’80, who works in dermatology at the Grekin Skin Institute in Wyandotte. He was pleased to meet with fellow alumni including Rick Neal, Cary Wisniewski and Beth Belesky as well as mentor and now personal friend Harriet Gales. Jan’s daughter, Lydia, graduated from the program in 2010, influenced by her father’s example and success.

“The degree offered a lot of options for practice,” said Prusinowski, who entered the program with a BSN degree. “I have always had a job; I’ve never been laid off.”

The diversity of practice settings is one of the big draws of the PA program. Graduates work in hospitals and clinics, teach, and have their own practices. Several went on to medical school and became physicians.

Former Clinical Coordinator Mary Urbanek ’96 liked the venue and the agenda, which addressed all the different phases and history of the PA program. “A lot of the older alums were very interested in reuniting with those from the program who graduated 30 and 40 years ago,” she noted.

Urbanek has worked in Internal Medicine at various hospitals. She started the hospitalist program at Seaway Hospital and most recently was in an outpatient practice. A former faculty member (2001), Urbanek keeps in touch with several classmates and current faculty. Amy Dereczyk was one of her students.

“As chair of the PA program, I wanted to reach out to more of our 1,100 alumni,” Dereczyk said. “This was our first major event that drew in PA alumni from both Mercy College and UDM. We want our alumni to feel like they are still connected to the University.”

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