The University of Kentucky College of Health Sciences Physician Assistant Studies (PAS) program’s graduating classes of 1975-77 recently held their first formal reunion via Zoom in November.
45 years ago, the class of 1975 became the first Kentucky-graduated Physician Assistants (PAs); so, this reunion was an exciting moment for this monumental group to reconnect.
However, as time has passed and technology continues to advance, the program has made many changes since its origination; including a high-touch curriculum plan on an academic medical center that combines education, research and clinical care across two different Kentucky campuses in Lexington and Morehead.
The inspiration for this reunion came when Allan Riggs, UK PAS Class of 1977, came across an email from the CHS Office of Alumni Relations this past summer. He reached out to express his interest in getting together with his former peers.
Soon after, the Office along with Riggs’ guidance, began compiling lists of phone numbers and email addresses from fellow members of the ’75-77 classes.
“We came from very different backgrounds. We learned from each other. And these pioneers in PA – the first graduates – went on to have very interesting, long careers,” he said.
With some who had already obtained a bachelor’s degrees prior to entering the UK PAS program (which was a two-year Clinical Associates degree at the time), others had received no formal educational background, but rather came straight from the military.
Lamont Coldiron, PAS class of 1975, had worked as a hospital corpsman in the US Navy prior to enrolling in the first class of the UK PAS program.
“I took care of the medical needs of a crew of about 200 men at sea. When we were at port, I would work in hospitals and learn from the doctors there.”
Jackie Cooke, PAS class of 1975, was well-versed in academics prior to her enrollment in the UK PAS program. While working in Lebanon to receive her PhD in Biblical Archaeology, Cooke’s education was suddenly put on pause after the United States government directed all students in the Middle East to leave.
Upon her return, she began working in the US Senate where she made several friends who were enrolling in PAS programs throughout the states; this is where she learned about the up-and-coming UK PAS program.
After applying, Cooke was told by an advisor that although she was capable of excelling academically, she needed to prove her dedication to the health care field. Following, she was admitted into the program and became a nursing aide.
With the program including both academically-versed students such as Cooke, along with some who possessed little-to-no formal education but had previous hands-on medical experience, Coldiron highlights that his cohort helped one another despite their backgrounds and this resulted in them growing close to one another.
“We hit it off immediately. The program was challenging academically, and we all came together to succeed,” said Cooke.
Although the class had not been in contact formally, some members stayed in touch over the years which is what allowed CHS to organize this reunion.
“I had not heard from or seen many of them in decades, so I very much enjoyed getting to speak with everyone again during the reunion,” said Coldiron.
The College of Health Sciences Office of Alumni Relations was thrilled to host these classes, and reunite our alumni. If you or your cohort are interested in organizing a reunion, please email Caroline Arthur, firstname.lastname@example.org, Director of Alumni Relations, and she can connect you with resources to contact your classmates.