Fortenberry speaks at Union College Physician Assistant Hooding Ceremony

Congressman Jeff Fortenberry delivered the keynote address as the Physician Assistant Program of Union College's Division of Health Sciences began a new tradition: graduate hooding. This is the second year since the program finished transitioning from offering a baccalaureate degree to conferring a Master of Physician Assistant Studies and the first year it has held a hooding ceremony.

The ceremony took place on Friday, May 9, in the Ridnour Room of The Apothecary in Lincoln's Haymarket from 4:30 to 7 p.m.

"We are glad Congressman Fortenberry agreed to deliver the keynote," said Jeff Joiner, chair of the Division of Health Sciences. "Health care and politics are increasingly intertwined, and professionals and policy makers should take every opportunity to understand each other."

During the ceremony, established members of the profession gave the 22 students hoods to be worn as part of their regalia. "Hooding is a common tradition in health science graduate programs," said Joiner. "It's a great opportunity for us to say 'goodbye' to our students and welcome them as colleagues."

"Colleagues" is a particularly apt term for this class. According to Mike Huckabee, physician assistant program director, a higher number of students have firm offers of post-graduation employment than ever before.

"We're seeing unprecedented demand for our graduates," said Huckabee. It's no wonder, considering the physician assistant profession was rated in the April issue of Money Magazine as number five of the top ten best careers during an economic downturn.

The hooding also celebrated the end of the program's ninth year of existence and marked the beginning of a decade of service. "We have a lot to be thankful for this year," Huckabee said. "We're particularly grateful for grants from the Nebraska Academy of Physician Assistants and the National Physician Assistant Foundation that have allowed Union's PA and nursing programs to continue providing free foot care to the homeless of Lincoln."

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