CHS Professors still hope to make Black Bag ceremony ‘something special’

By Ryan Clark
CHS Communications Director

These students are nothing bundt the best.

At least, that’s what the bundt cakes, which can be found in their sacks of goodies, tell the 52 Physician Assistant Studies students who will be receiving their official Black Bags Tuesday.

The message is scrawled in icing on each of the cakes — and it’s just one of the ways our PA professors are trying to make sure this abridged Black Bag Ceremony is still special for this group, who have gone through so many challenges during their academic careers.

“We’re going to try to make it as cool as possible for them,” said DeShana Collett, PhD, PA-C and professor in Physician Assistant Studies.

Because just as this class was unable to fully participate in their White Coat ceremony, the potential threat of a COVID-19 outbreak has sidelined them from their Black Bag ceremony, too.

“They’re resilient, they really are — but it makes them even more passionate,” Collett said. “It highlights their dedication to our mission and vision.”

Now, Collett said, the students will go to their lab classes Tuesday, and they will be greeted by balloons and snacks. The students will hear a speech from David Fahringer, MSPH, PA-C, and interim department chair for Physician Assistant Studies. Then they will watch a video featuring Sam Powdrill, MPhil, PA-C, who serves as an emeritus professor in PA studies. He will appear to explain the importance of the Black Bag — just as Powdrill has done for years and years.

Katie Koester is from Florence, Ky., and was a part of the Human Health Sciences program before joining PA on the Lexington campus.

“I wanted to be a PA to build relationships and trust with my patients,” she said. “I want to work in Kentucky and try to close some of the gaps so many of our fellow citizens see, and I think being a PA will allow me to be a bridge between Kentucky patients and accessing their healthcare.”

Grace Moses is from Corbin, Ky., and studies at the Morehead campus.

She always hoped she could find a career where her hard work and drive could make a tangible impact.

“I pride myself on giving 110 percent to everything I do, and as a PA, I know for sure that effort will not be in vain,” she said. “This job gives me the privilege of being able to touch lives every day.”

Collett said Tuesday will essentially be a similar ceremony, just condensed. The importance remains the same.

“I think this just solidifies their calling into helping to heal people,” Collett said of the group. “Now they’ve got the tools. They started with basic science, but now this is really where we step it up. Now they have everything in their black bag – the knowledge and their skills.

“It helps them remember that they’re health care providers – and that it’s a privilege to care for others,” she said.