When Pam Vayda was teaching science at Meridian Community College, she decided it was time to do something she'd always wanted to do: work in the medical field.
“It’s exciting to see a change in course, deciding to move into a different realm and to pursue a long time dream,” said the Collinsville resident, one of 20 students in the inaugural cohort of Mississippi State University’s new Master of Physician Assistant Studies program.
The students have been in orientation for the past week at MSU-Meridian’s Riley Campus and will begin their classes next week. They are among over 250 applicants and 50 finalists who vied for limited slots in the state’s only publicly-funded PA program, according to a media release.
In October 2020, the program achieved Accreditation-Provisional status, the initial phase of accreditation for all new programs granted by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant, or ARC-PA.
Physician assistants are nationally-certified and state-licensed professionals who practice medicine on teams with physicians and other providers. They perform a broad range of diagnostic, therapeutic, preventative, and health maintenance services.
“When I heard that this program was coming to Meridian, I was very excited and humbled to apply for it,” Vayda said. “I wanted to be in healthcare and in a healthcare setting for a while.”
Vayda, who is married with a family, said she was attracted to the program for many reasons. She hopes the program will allow her to work in various healthcare settings.
“I've quit my job and focused only on school,” she said. “I hope that I will be able to practice here in Meridian and to work with some of the doctors, nurses, and nurse practitioners who are already here."
A good opportunity
Meridian High School graduate Katie Bruister always wanted to work in the medical field, because she grew up in a home with a mother who is diabetic.
After earning a degree in biomedical engineering, Bruister worked as an emergency room scribe and in retail before applying for the program at MSU-Meridian.
“I was already interested in the PA profession and I was already into helping people,” she said. “I thought that this would be a good opportunity to build up our community and be able to stay here and make it a better place.”
Bruister hopes that becoming a physician assistant will allow her to work more closely with patients and be more hands-on. She wants to either work in emergency medicine or in labor and delivery.
“I'm really excited to expand this field because we really don’t have many PA’s, so it’s going to be a great thing to get that word out in the community,” she said. “So they know to trust PA’s, go to PA’s and that we make this a better place.”
In addition to Vayda and Bruister, the inaugural class includes Kelly Edmonds of Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Madison Reese of Birmingham, Alabama; Kaitlin White of Brandon; Megan Wade of Broomfield,Colorado; Wesley Wilson of Cassleberry, Florida; Sahar Eilami of Delray Beach, Florida; Taylor Rawls of Ellisville; Frank Anin of Hattiesburg; Megan McCormick of Houma, Louisiana; Cody Guidry of Larose Louisiana; Karen Keith of Lumberton; Jennifer Madden of Metairie, Louisiana; Kaiman Parker of Petal; Kallie Belcher of Quitman; Madison Whitehead of San Jose, California; Jacie McKenzie of Sandy Hook; Krishna Patel of Seymour, Indiana and Cerina Jame of York, Alabama.