‘Do Good Things’: JWU Graduates Fourth Class of Physician Assistants

Decorated mortarboards at 2019 JWU PA Studies Commencement.

As 35 new Physician Assistant Studies graduates prepared to receive their diplomas, JWU Providence Campus President Marie Bernardo-Sousa LP.D, ’92, praised their hard work, dedication and compassion: “As you graduate this morning, know that your degree comes with our trust and confidence that you will treat every patient with empathy and compassion. You will make a difference in their lives because the care you will provide will be guided by your heart.”

Humanistic, holistic care was a recurring theme of the PA Studies Commencement ceremony, which included emotional speeches from Alysse Pazienza ’19 M.S.P.A.S., a Rhode Island native who served as a mentor for the Brown University Pathways to Medicine Mentorship program, and Andrew Mayer, PA-C, ’18 M.S.P.A.S., who is currently part of the Pediatric Emergency Medicine Physician Extender Development program at Brown University.

"What an honor it is to help people maintain their health."

Pazienza’s speech examined the full-circle adventure that she and her peers had embarked upon — “celebrating the end and the beginning,” as she put it. She evoked the days spent in the anatomy lab, the hours of studying and learning together, the intensity of the clinical rotations. “We were witnesses to life-defining moments. Some of us witnessed a baby take its first breath, while others watched someone take their last. We were part of another beginning, the end, and all the moments in between. And what an honor it is to be a part of this ‘in between’ and to help people maintain health and grow old.”

Mayer’s speech served as a tribute to his family, each of whom impacted his ability to persevere as a PA. From his sister Ashley, he learned to meet challenges with fearless determination. His brother Joseph, a long-distance runner, taught him that “there’s always something left in the tank — you just have to be willing to push yourself far enough to reach it.” From little brother Philly, who endured countless hospital stays and surgeries due to Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), he learned that “the best way to endure those challenges was with a smile.” The lasting lesson from his mother, also a PA, could be summed up in 3 words: “Do good things.” Mayer concluded, “As you go out into the world to begin your career, I’ll tell you the same thing that my mom has told me every single day: ‘Do good things.’”

Provost Billye Auclair, Ph.D., and President Barnardo-Sousa then presented the candidates and conferred their Master of Sciences in Physician Assistant Studies degrees — at which point the university surpassed the milestone of graduating more than 100 students from the program.

In conclusion, Bernardo-Sousa told the new grads, “On behalf of all of us at Johnson & Wales University, congratulations! All the long hours and hard work you have put in over the past two years have brought you to this step in your career.” She paused. “Now, one more thing — continue to make [program director] Dr. Bottomley and all of us at JWU proud by passing your board exams!”

2019 PA commencement academic procession.

Alysse Pazienza at the ceremony.

Andrew Mayer during the ceremony.

Andrew Mayer during the ceremony.

Jubilation at commencement.