Shared Content Block:
Meet our Students, Graduates, and Preceptors
Class of 2024 student, Selena Ramirez Ahilon, was awarded the National Health Service Corps Scholarship.
The National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program (NHSC SP) scholarship aims to expand access to health care for underserved and underrepresented communities by providing financial assistance to students committed to serving these communities. As a NHSC scholar, Selena will have the opportunity to work in one of the many Health Profession shortage areas, in particular being able to practice primary care, a field that she knew from the beginning of her healthcare journey that she wanted to be a part of.
Read more regarding Selena's experience as a CHA/PA student and her thoughts on the scholarship:
"I am a very fortunate first-generation student aspiring to be a Physician Assistant (PA). I chose the PA profession because of the opportunity to be at the forefront of increasing access to health care for many patients. In addition, I really value the lateral mobility of the PA profession and the ability to explore a variety of different opportunities in the future. Finally, being a PA means the ability to be part of a life-long learning career, one dedicated to increasing and sharing healthcare knowledge in many communities."
"The scholarship has really motivated me to move forward with my plans to work in primary care without having to worry about the financial burdens of loans. I really value the impact that being a primary care provider signifies and this is something my scholarship highly values as well. I find it very impactful to be one of the first providers to introduce and welcome patients into healthcare and to be able to advocate for my patients along the way, as primary care is really centered on continuity of care."
"I just wanted to share that I feel very lucky to be a part of the CHA/PA program because of the great opportunities to work and learn from faculty that value primary care and practicing patient-centered care. I also appreciate our curriculum and the opportunity to learn alongside amazing and caring classmates. I look forward to being a part of a very rewarding and impactful profession as a future PA."
Earlier in his career as an RN, Ed Medina found himself alone with a patient (the on-call PA showered first before coming in.) The patient began decompensating, but quickly following ACLS protocols, Ed stabilized the patient back in a normal rhythm. Once the on-call PA arrived, he asked Ed, “What do you need me for? You fixed him.” That’s the moment when Ed considered becoming a PA himself.
Today, Ed is a PA working four days a week in a rural Colorado clinic as a Primary Care Provider, one day a week in a walk-in Family Practice Clinic, and precepting our CHA/PA students! Ed hails from a family of health professionals – his aunt was the first Nurse Practitioner in the country!
With his passion to work with underserved populations, Ed and his family served a mission in Cameroon, Africa from 2001-2004. Ed worked in a sixty-bed women’s ward and went to three different “out-station” clinics in rural areas once a month. On top of that, he oversaw the hospital’s HIV/AID program his last six months.
At first, the physicians in the Cameroon hospital didn’t know what to do with him – they had never worked with a PA before. Initially, Ed worked as an RN, but after explaining his training, he was put to work in the role of a regular physician. Clinical medicine in the Cameroon hospital was key, as there were few lab tests. Electricity was erratic for x-ray and ultrasounds.
Ed was to make another trip to serve at a hospital in Uganda in 2020 for a two-year commitment, however due to COVID, the trip has been postponed. On top of serving in Cameroon, Ed has worked short trips in Honduras, Belize, and Ecuador.
Having the ability to listen and support individuals with their concerns and witnessing positive health outcomes gives Ed joy and satisfaction in his career. He thrives working with varied patients and experiencing unknown challenges. As a preceptor, he loves when aspects of the field click in students’ minds - when they “get it.” Ed encourages future PAs to work with underserved populations, to keep positive, and to remember to laugh.
Debbie Aragon (CHA/PA Class of 1982), recently reached out to the program to share some relevant experiences. She recently attended a 90th birthday tribute to Dr. Bonnie Camp led by Dr. Steve Berman on Zoom. Dr. Bonnie Camp is described as a trailblazer for her leadership roles in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. Debbie was the only identified member of the CHA/PA community at the event and shared her appreciation on behalf of alumni who benefited greatly from Dr. Camp’s work.
In addition, Debbie also shared with us that she recently reconnected with her first patient as a CHA/PA student in 1979. Debbie followed the progress of the patient’s mother’s pregnancy, attended the delivery, and provided Well Child Care for the infant when he was born. This experience is one of many that CHA/PA alums share with regard to the extra pediatric learning experience the program has historically included in the curriculum. As one of the oldest programs in existence, CHA/PA alumni are no strangers to generational connections within our local community, and we always love to hear about these reunions!
Debbie’s passion for pediatrics and children has also led her to publish a book to assist children ages 2-12 in understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The book helps children work through the unfamiliar, unprecedented feelings and experiences they have likely been experiencing. If you are interested in receiving a copy for your practice or students, please contact us to connect you with Debbie.
Gyorkos is a 1989 CHA/PA alumni and seasoned preceptor. She has worked
primarily in pediatrics and over the last 27 years she has precepted
approximately 100 CHA/PA students in the clinic. Undeniably a powerhouse
of medical knowledge and experience for our students, she is an
essential member of the CHA/PA family.
Elizabeth’s journey to medicine began humbly at the age of 12 when she started babysitting for 25 cents an hour. This, she explains, is where she fell in love with babies and caregiving for children. Coupled with an existing love for sciences, this matured into her active preparation to attend medical school. While volunteering at People’s Clinic in Boulder, Elizabeth met her first PA, Kathie Dolce (CHA/PA class of 1981). At the clinic, Elizabeth had the opportunity to shadow Physicians, Nurse Practitioners, and Kathie. So impressed with Kathie’s knowledge and ability to care for patients and educate families, Elizabeth made the decision to switch her aspirations from medical school to PA school.
Describing her 3 years at CHA/PA as “wonderful, exciting, challenging” and feeling like a “second family,” Elizabeth looks back fondly at all the experiences in school that led to lifelong friends who are still active parts of her life today. After attending CHA/PA, she began her career in general pediatrics for 1 year and then moved out of state to work on a pulmonary team with Cystic Fibrosis patients at Duke University. Working there for 3 years, she describes learning how important a multidisciplinary team is for good patient outcomes, but she also grew homesick for Colorado. Deciding to return to the state, she accepted a position at National Jewish Health in the Pediatric Asthma & Allergy Day Program where she has worked for over 27 years.
At the Asthma & Allergy Day program, Elizabeth works closely with providers specializing in behavioral health, rehab, nutrition, respiratory, pulmonary, allergy, immunology, GI, ENT and many other consultants. The most rewarding part of her job as a PA in this setting is realizing the difference she and her team make in the lives of their patients and their families. Thank you Elizabeth for all you do for your patients, their families, and as a preceptor for other CHA/PA students- in turn touching the lives of their future patients as well.
Neill, CHA/PA Class of 2009, didn’t always want to be a PA or to work
in medicine at all. His first career was an 8 year path through the
corporate finance world. Like others we’ve encountered through our
program, Travis decided his life’s journey needed to take a
compassionate turn in caring for others. While working in finance,
Travis volunteered for the CASA
(Court Appointed Special Advocates) organization. The nationwide group
with local chapters matches trained volunteers to child abuse and
neglect cases with the purpose of advocating for and mentoring the
involved children. This experience helping others drew Travis to the
medical profession and led his decision to change careers. The choice to
pursue his education specifically as a PA was made because of the wide
range of opportunities it opened for him to be deeply involved in the
care of others.
Most recently, Travis has been working in Geriatrics and as an Assistant Medical Director for a corporation that owns over 30 nursing homes. With a Physician Medical Director, he floats to around 12 different facilities helping with medical oversight which includes chart reviews, antibiotic stewardship efforts, psychiatric medication reviews, and quality assurance projects. He holds board positions on both the Colorado and American Medical Director Associations. This leadership position is very meaningful to Travis because (in the spirit of a true trailblazer) it took years of hard work and a few rejections to convince someone to give him the opportunity. As a PA, he frequently works to counter views that director positions are only suited for physicians.
Travis looks back fondly at his time in the CHA/PA program. Meeting his wife of 11 years when he started the program in 2006, they now have an 8 year old daughter together. Halfway through PA school, Travis also injured his back in a ski accident and gratefully recalls how his classmates went above and beyond to assist him when he needed surgery. Whether it was moving couches into the classroom so he could lie down for exams or bringing food to him as he recovered, the spirit of family in the program truly showed up for him.
Travis hopes his legacy in medicine as a PA is one that challenges the status quo for what “typical” PA roles look like. In the name of providing the best care for his patients, he is motivated to be a part of the solution to the challenges the medical community faces. In his words: “Now that I have been a physician assistant for 10 years, I can say unequivocally that my worst days as a PA are better than my best days working in finance.”
“You can’t change the whole world, but you can change the whole world for one person, and the next one and the next one.” Those are the words that have served to inspire the lifestyle and practice of CHA/PA Alum and Preceptor, Tracey Wall. The words were spoken to her by the Medical Director aboard a hospital ship off the coast of Africa through the Mercy Ships organization. After practicing in Family Medicine on dry land for 5 years, Tracey and her family made the decision to move aboard the ship together where they lived and worked for the next 4 ½ years. She describes the years she spent with colleagues on the ship as an amazing experience because they were able to help save the population who were dying from unmet surgical needs. Witnessing hope reinvigorate the hopeless highlighted the privilege she lived with and in turn led her to feel thanks for the opportunity to be a part of these patients’ lives.
After returning to the US, Tracey resumed her work in Family Medicine where she enjoyed her role but lacked the same sense of purpose she felt when working with Mercy Ships. Through speaking with her supervising physician who was the only X-waivered provider in the entire region, she decided to get her certification as-well and work to treat those struggling with addiction. Training to work with patients holding this burden reignited the flame of deeper purpose Tracey had been seeking. For the next 3 years she balanced work at a Suboxone clinic in addition to patients at the Family Medicine clinic. Last fall, a clinic called Providence Recovery specializing in addiction opened in her community and she was approached with the opportunity to provide Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) to patients at this clinic. Tracey decided to accept the offer and she has been working solely in addiction medicine since December of 2019.
Citing her mother who was a nurse as probable inspiration, Tracey has always wanted to work in medicine. In college she initially pursued her education in Physical Therapy but soon changed her mind after a visit to Mali in West Africa. The severe medical shortages she witnessed on her visit inspired her to change paths and pursue a career as a PA instead. The CHA/PA program, the medical community at large, and the countless patients she has helped are undeniably so grateful that she did.
As the 4th PA in Northern Colorado and an early CHA/PA grad (1984), Lorrie Kehmeier is no stranger to breaking new ground in the PA world. A current preceptor to our students at the Youth Clinic in Ft. Collins, Lorrie is a long-standing pillar in our students’ clinical education and a much appreciated ally to our program.
Starting as a fresh grad in a world where most physicians had never even heard of a PA, Lorrie found herself fortunate to have made connections during her clinical time as a student. Thrilled to have found a job at a time when they were scarce in the new profession, Lorrie joined the Youth Clinic team in Ft. Collins after graduating and has continued to work there since. From her humble beginnings as a fresh PA working in Northern Colorado, she also proudly witnessed and contributed to the incredible growth of the Youth Clinic. Starting out as a practice with one office and 5 providers, the clinic has grown to include 4 offices, an urgent care, and 21 providers. Lorrie describes the expansion as a good problem but also a challenge.
Continuing to pay it forward as a preceptor, Lorrie does not cease to inspire curiosity and foster learning in our students every day. She reflects fondly on her own time as a CHA/PA student on rotation at University Hospital where she did “well baby” rounds and had to learn to read a mercury thermometer from a mom of 3. CHA/PA is fortunate to partner with Lorrie as an educator and clinician and looks forward to witnessing her developing legacy in pediatrics!
Congratulations to Ann Davis, 1979 CHA/PA grad, on her retirement this year from her position as the AAPA (American Academy of Physician Assistants) Vice President of Constituent Organization Outreach and Advocacy. Preceding her 24 years at AAPA, Ann
also worked as a pediatric PA in California & Arizona, and spent time as a CHA/PA Faculty member.
Ann’s roots in her medical career began in a small northern Colorado town called Sterling where she was a full-time student at the local community college. In Sterling she worked as a nurse’s aide on medical/surgical services, in a level one nursery, and in post-partum service. Ann realized at that time that she did not come from a family of physicians and found it challenging to wrap her head around the financial and academic burdens that came with medical school. Describing the PA profession as being invented exactly for her, Ann found a home in the CHA program which enabled her to pursue the career she desired in Pediatrics.
Like other early CHA grads, Ann is familiar with participating in many “firsts.” A couple examples are that she was the first PA in Flagstaff, Arizona and also the first woman to serve as President of the Arizona State Association of PAs. Ann hopes that the legacy she has left in her career prior to retirement had a positive impact on the state laws governing PA practice and consequently improving care for their patients.
An accomplished member of the PA community, Ted Ruback (CHA/PA class of 1979) has recently been selected as the recipient of the AAPA Eugene A. Stead Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award for 2019. Retired in 2016, Ted has had a long history in PA education
with achievements spanning from Founding Director of the first PA program in Oregon at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) PA program to PAEA advocacy, –including serving as President of the Board. He was also involved in the development
of CASPA & Chair of the CASPA advisory committee, Chair of AAPA’s Education Council, site visits for ARC-PA, Chair of the PA Committee of the Oregon Medical Board, and many other invaluable contributions to the profession.
Self-described as always having been interested in a medical career and specifically pediatrics, Ted’s extensive PA journey was established at a career fair in 1975 where he learned of the profession and the CHA/PA program specifically. Attending with a “junior partner” as his mentee through the “Partners” program, which connects Colorado youth to adult mentors, Ted unexpectedly discovered his own career match. After deciding CHA/PA aligned perfectly with his professional goals, he applied to the program and this year marks his 40th year as a Physician Assistant. Following his graduation in 1979, Ted’s career began by working for a pediatrician in a small rural Washington State multidisciplinary clinic. He then moved on to work at a large HMO in Atlanta, Georgia where he also started his academic ventures by guest lecturing for the Emory PA program.
As an integral part of the development of PA education with contributions spanning nationally, Ted describes his most gratifying moment to be his time as Founding Director of the OHSU PA Program. During his 22 year tenure at the school, he enriched the lives of 576 graduates and the OHSU PA Program was listed by US News & World Report as among the top 10 PA programs in the nation in its very first year of eligibility. Having touched the lives of so many providers himself, Ted reminisces on his own role models from his time in PA school: “Throughout my entire career I have benefited from the teachings of my early mentors and role models. I recall as if it were yesterday, sitting with my fellow classmates on the floor of Henry Silver’s office listening to his every word while he generously shared “pearls” of wisdom with us.”
Celebrating 50 years of caring for our communities this year, CHA/PA congratulates Ted on receiving this award from AAPA and thanks him for his contributions to our program legacy.
Linsey Weller is an alumni, preceptor, and well established ally to the CHA/PA Program. Involved in many areas including guest lecturing for our PA students, facilitating small group clinical discussions, and assisting in admissions interviews, she is a long-standing partner in cultivating the education of our students and shaping the future of the PA profession in Colorado. Currently serving as a Pediatric Hospitalist for Children’s Hospital Colorado, her work days are also a dynamic mix of responsibilities including caring for healthy newborns, complex medical inpatients, and most recently- coordinating PA students for the Yellow Team of the hospital medical wards.
Before taking the dive into PA school, Linsey worked as a research assistant in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati. It was here that she was co-author to a publication in the Arthritis and Rheumatism Journal of the American College of Rheumatology. It was also at this position that she learned of the PA profession and decided to return to Colorado upon acceptance to the CHA/PA Program. Linsey states “I knew that the PA profession was for me because I value the connection with people and every encounter is a valuable connection and a chance to educate another person to better themselves or their children.”
As a fresh CHA/PA graduate in 2005, her first position was working at Clinica Campesina in family medicine for 3 years, however she knew her heart was calling her to pediatrics. Following her first position, she moved to Advanced Pediatric Associates in Aurora, CO where she subsequently spent 9 years cultivating and developing her skills as a PA caring for infants, toddlers and adolescents. Linsey expresses that she hopes to be perceived by her patients as a friendly face, a close listener to their concerns, and an active participant in their medical decision-making processes.
As a self-described life-long learner, Linsey explains that she combats the inevitable plateaus reached in any career by challenging herself to “be more” and staying motivated to keep learning. This attitude of consistently challenging herself and breaking new ground is apparent in her current position where she was hired as the first PA in the Division of Hospital Medicine at Children’s Hospital Colorado. She hopes her legacy will leave a trail that makes hiring a PA a point of pride for the medical community as a whole.