SAAAPA’s Assembly of Representatives annually elect and appoint PA student leaders who represent PA students around the country. The following individuals are the SAAAPA leadership through June 10, 2013.
The Student Academy’s leadership includes:
SAAAPA Board of Directors
Emilie Thornhill – President
Emilie grew up in the coastal town of Saint Marys, Ga. She earned her undergraduate degree from Mercer University in Atlanta and became interested in the physician assistant profession during her time there. Through her course work, she experienced a great deal of service learning that pushed her into various community projects both locally and internationally. It was these experiences that drew her attention to areas of community medicine. Eventually, she hopes to work in a family practice setting that will allow her to be an advocate for preventive medicine, provide patient education and continue to raise awareness for this profession. She is currently completing her second year at South University in Savannah, Ga., and has enjoyed the numerous learning experiences and pearls of wisdom during her clinical rotations. While in PA school, she was her class AAPA representative, sat on both the Assembly of Representatives and House of Delegates and worked on the Advocacy Ad Hoc committee. She looks forward to her term as SAAAPA president and is excited to see what the year will bring.
Nick Rossi– President-elect
Winter updates from the president-elect
Nick is originally from Connecticut but has spent most of his life in the Metro-Atlanta area. He earned his undergraduate degree in management from The Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta in 2007. While at Georgia Tech, Nick worked as a student athletic trainer for the football team and developed an interest in sports medicine and healthcare in general. This interest inspired him to complete two years of research in orthopaedics before entering the Mercer University PA program in Atlanta in January 2011. Nick is currently in his clinical year and will graduate in May 2013. His recent leadership roles include serving as his class president, student society president, and as a member of the National Leadership Task Force. When not studying, Nick enjoys playing soccer, mountain biking, and cooking and eating with his wife Adair. Nick is very passionate about the role that students can play within the PA profession and believes that they are best positioned to shape the future of the profession in a positive manner.
Kelsey Young- Chief Delegate
Kelsey grew up in a small town outside Tulsa, Okla. She attended college at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she earned a bachelor's degree in gerontology. Upon graduation, she moved to Washington, D.C., and took a position within the federal government as a special assistant to the deputy bureau director in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She is currently completing her third and final year as a dual-degree PA/MPH-health policy student at The George Washington University (GWU) in Washington, D.C. Kelsey has always had an interest in medicine and health policy and thus, this dual degree is a perfect fit. While at GWU, Kelsey has served as her student society’s House of Delegates representative and also served as the student representative for the Physician Assistants in Hospice and Palliative Medicine Specialty Organization within AAPA. Outside of school, she enjoys exercising, singing, traveling, and spending time with family and friends. Kelsey is looking forward to her term as chief delegate and is excited to see what the year will bring.
Victoria Wu - Director of Outreach
Victoria is a native Texan who grew up in Austin, Texas. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Texas and graduated with a degree in applied learning and development with a minor in educational developmental psychology. After graduating, she served as a corps member and later, as a program director for Teach For America in the Rio Grande Valley. It was there that she developed a true passion for working in an underserved region. During that period, she saw a direct correlation between healthcare and socioeconomic disparities. She became interested in the physician assistant profession because of her desire to help people in need. She hopes to use her experience and education to continue to serve those less fortunate and be amongst a team working to eliminate health inequalities. She believes that stronger interprofessional collaboration will be a means to do so. She is currently a second-year student at the University of Texas Pan-American and will be graduating in December 2013. At that time, she will serve as a lieutenant in the United States Air Force. She looks forward to her term as SAAAPA Director of Outreach and is excited to see what the year will bring.
Harrison Reed - Director of Student Communications
Harrison is a second-year PA student at Yale University. He was born and raised in Sanford, Fla., and received a bachelor’s degree in biomedical science from the University of South Florida (USF). In addition to medicine, Harrison’s professional interests include writing, mass communications and advocacy through social media. He served as an editor for USF’s daily newspaper, The Oracle, and for the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. He is the current editor of PA Professional magazine’s student section, First Rounds, and contributes to various publications and media outlets. His other interests include running, hip-hop music and Orlando Magic basketball.
Sarah Assian - Northeast Regional Director
Sarah is currently a second-year student at Stony Brook University in New York, completing her clinical rotations in Manhattan, Queens and Long Island. Originally from the Chicago area, Sarah attended the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, majoring in molecular and cellular biology. There she participated in various healthcare-related extracurricular activities, worked with the Illini Mentor Program, and worked in a lab focused on the research of diabetes and obesity. After graduation Sarah was a Teach For America corps member in Chicago, teaching secondary science. As a National Health Service Corps scholar, Sarah is dedicated to continuing her work with underserved communities with a focus in adolescent health and preventive education. Before attending PA school Sarah traveled to Turkey as a Fulbright Program English teaching assistant and would love to continue her travels after graduating in 2013. While in PA school Sarah has been her program’s student representative in the AAPA Assembly of Representatives and a student board member of the Association of Family Practice Physician Assistants. Sarah looks forward to working with other PA students in the Northeastern region from various programs.
Melissa Ricker - Southeast Regional Director
Melissa's Regional Newsletter: January 2013
Melissa is a second-year student at East Carolina University (ECU) in Greenville, N.C. Throughout her undergraduate career, Melissa triaged for a rural emergency clinic, volunteered at the local hospital and conducted independent research at the National Institutes of Health. These roles fostered her passion for medicine, ultimately leading to her pursuit of the PA profession. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in biology from North Carolina State University in under four years, she spent the months leading up to PA school backpacking around the U.S., Canada and Europe. She was elected SAAAPA External Affairs Chair and Steering Committee member for ECU's Oncology Interest Group. This has allowed her to play an integral role in planning PA Week events, PA education seminars and volunteer opportunities. She has discovered her passion for serving rurally in primary care and looks forward to her international family practice rotation. During her free time, Melissa enjoys going to the beach, playing the piano for The American Cancer Society Hope Lodge residents, brewing beer and seeking outdoor adventures.
Will Kvasnicka - North Central Regional Director
William is a second-year student at Midwestern University in Downers Grove, Ill. Though he is unsure of where he would like to practice upon graduating in August 2013, he says that the favorite topics he studied in his didactic year were endocrinology and cardiology. William is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he majored in chemistry and Spanish. During his senior year is studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain, where he developed an interest in the local language, Catalán. Upon graduating, William was a chemist for a chemical manufacturer. He also spent two years working with Teach For America. He taught high school chemistry in South Los Angeles. This experience solidified his interest in working with Hispanic populations and advocating for the rights of those in underserved communities. In his free time he enjoys listening to Spanish music, working out and traveling.
Valerie DeGregorio - South Central Regional Director
After earning a bachelor's degree in art and art education from the University of Georgia, Valerie taught high school art for several years. During that time she served as the head of fine arts and coached sports and academic teams. Seeking to serve others in a capacity greater than teaching allowed, she returned to school with the hope of utilizing the practice of medicine as an opportunity to educate and enrich the lives of others. Currently she is completing her first year at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, where she served as an AAPA representative and participated in the Assembly of Representatives. She looks forward to upcoming learning experiences in clinical rotations and works hard to balance life as a PA student and mother.
Sarah Voye - West Region Regional Director
Sarah is a second-year student at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) in Portland, Ore. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh in rehabilitation science. During this time she began working as an emergency room tech at an inner-city hospital in Pittsburgh. After graduating she began working on a master's of public health in behavioral and community health science at the University of Pittsburgh. Here she studied community-based approaches to promoting health and managing disease. In 2010, she moved across the country to attend PA school at OHSU. She plans to practice in primary care after graduating in August 2012. In her free time, Sarah enjoys running, rock climbing and exploring the Pacific Northwest.
Jenny Yarbrough - PA Foundation Student Representative
Growing up an Army brat, Jenny lived all over the globe, enabling her to become acquainted with a myriad of cultures and perspectives on life. With her third and last high school being in Georgia, Jenny was able to find collegiate bliss at the University of Georgia. Between football games, a summer in Africa, several volunteer organizations and of course, classes, she earned a bachelor degree in May 2010. In January 2011, Jenny started PA school at Mercer University in Atlanta, where she is currently in her clinical year. In PA school, Jenny remains active in service projects – even clowning with Patch Adams, MD, himself. Whether it is playing her ukulele or wearing her favorite color of neon, she loves laughing and having fun while getting the job done. Through her enthusiastic and outgoing disposition, Jenny hopes to spread the contagion of philanthropy to all PA students.
Jenny Kluznik and Ashley Thrasher - PAEA Student Members at Large
Jenny is currently a student at the Augsburg College PA program in Minneapolis, Minn. and will graduate in May 2013. She holds a master’s degree in public health from The George Washington University with a focus in global health promotion, and a bachelor’s degree in biology and anthropology from Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minn. Prior to beginning PA school, she worked at the Minnesota Department of Health in the Refugee Health Program managing a project in infectious disease surveillance. She eventually hopes to work in a position educating future PAs. In her free time, Jenny enjoys biking, swimming, writing and traveling the globe with her husband.
Ashley is a recent PA program graduate and practices emergency medicine at Wake Forest Baptist Health in North Carolina. Prior to starting PA school, she was a junior high and high school teacher, followed by a two-year stint as a dental surgical assistant and emergency room volunteer. In her free time, she enjoys figure skating and improv comedy. Thrasher's term as the Physician Assistant Education Association Student Member at Large runs through December 2012.
Bianca Belcher - Advocacy & Government Affairs Commission Student Representative
Bianca enjoys investigating the role of social media in medicine as well as the utilization of the shared decision-making model in the delivery of healthcare. She attended Colby College in Waterville, Maine, where she received her bachelor's degree in international studies and her master's degree in public health from the Dartmouth Institute of Health Policy and Clinical Practice. She is currently finishing her second year at Northeastern University and performed clinical rotations at various sites in the Boston area in September. She plans to graduate in August 2012 and work in surgery or emergency medicine. Eventually, she would like to advance to a leadership position in hospital administration where she can focus on better utilization of PAs. In her free time, Belcher enjoys photography, making short films, cooking and training mixed martial arts.
Ali Whitten- Federal Affairs Work Group Student Representative
Ali was born and raised in Spartanburg, S.C. She attended the College of Charleston where she received a bachelor’s degree in biology and minor in sociology. After working in the pharmaceutical industry for a few years, she decided to change to a career that was more patient-centered. She returned to her beloved Charleston to work as a patient care tech for two years while applying to PA school. She is now in her second year of the PA program at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Ali was elected the AAPA representative for her student society this past year. In her free time she enjoys running, gourmet cooking, and spending time with her two beagles.
Ashley Cole - Governance Commission Student Representative
Ashley is a second-year student at Mississippi College in Clinton Miss. Originally from Effie, La., Ashley earned her undergraduate degree in biology from Louisiana Tech University. She then spent three years teaching and coaching debate, where she found a way to combine her love of medicine with her interest in policy. After teaching, she returned to her medical goals by setting out on a journey with Mississippi College and their first year of Physician Assistant Education. Ashley is excited to work with both SAAAPA and AAPA members to form a student/professional bridge with the Governance Commission.
Desmond Watt - Health Disparities Work Group Student Representative
Desmond has always had an interest in medicine. As an undergraduate studying molecular and cellular biology at the University of Illinois, he was a member and leader in several health-related student organizations, and was active in both academic research and undergraduate tutoring. During his time as a high school biology teacher with Teach for America in Oakland, Calif., he discovered his true passion of working with underserved communities. In the long run, he hopes to combine his teaching and clinical experiences to engage urban youth in an effort to address existing health disparities. He is currently a third-year student at Midwestern University - Downers Grove, and is completing clinical rotations in the Chicago area. He graduated in August 2012 and hopes to begin work in primary care medicine. In his free time he enjoys running, biking, camping, going to concerts and spending time with his wife and 4-year-old black Labrador.
Catherine Landgraf- State Legislative Affairs Work Group Student Representative
Catherine is finishing her second year at Red Rocks Community College Physician Assistant Program in Lakewood, Colo. She will graduate in August 2012. She received her bachelor’s degree in animal science from Colorado State University in 2004. Landgraf worked as a medical assistant for an urgent care clinic in Kapolei, Hawaii, and for a dermatology clinic in Atlanta, Ga., before attending PA school. This is her second year participating with SAAAPA, last year as the South Central Regional Director. She has a real passion for the PA profession and has become involved in SAAAPA in order to promote PA advocacy and giving back to the community. Last year she co-chaired the PA Week and Advocacy Task Force. She is looking forward to this new appointed position and hopes that she can continue to be a strong student leader and PA advocate as she transitions from student to practicing PA. Outside of school and her profession, she stays busy raising her little boy and traveling any chance she gets.
Liz Hall- Quality Care Work Group Student Representative
Liz received her Bachelor of Science degree in biochemistry-medicinal concentration from Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe, Ariz.. She also founded and served as president of ASU’s pre-PA club. During her undergraduate studies, she worked as an emergency department patient care technician at Scottsdale Healthcare-Shea. She is currently finishing her clinical year at A.T. Still University in Mesa, Ariz. Outside of school, Liz enjoys marathon running. She enjoyed the Western Regional Director position having been born and raised in Arizona, and she looks forward to serving the Student Academy again in her current position.
Nick Gibson - Student Veteran Representative
Nick is originally from Gulf Breeze, Fla., but recently moved to Atlanta from Alaska. He attended the University of Florida, where he was on the swim team, and Central Washington University for his undergraduate degree in geology and volcanology. After graduating, he enlisted into the U.S. Air Force, where he became a pararescueman, or PJ. He has now served over eight years as a PJ, taking him from active duty to the Alaska Air National Guard and now finally to the Air Force Reserve. He is in his first year of the dual-degree PA/MPH program at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga. Nick was elected as the Assembly of Representatives representative for his class and is now serving as the first AAPA student representative to the Veterans Caucus. He enjoys photography, climbing, swimming, scuba diving, sky diving, and Gator sports. He will represent the military and the PA career field as the team medic and climber on an expedition to Mount Everest in the spring of 2013. Nick is passionate about helping raise awareness and bridge the gaps for veteran students and the health issues veterans are facing today.
Rosemary Bloom - Leadership Development Work Group Student Representative
Rosemary grew up in the town of Mililani, Hawaii. She received her bachelor's degree in Kinesiology and a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology from San Jose State University. In 2010, she also received her Master of Science in Biomedical Science from Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz. Rosemary is fascinated with the human body and is passionate about serving others. As a part of her interest in medicine, she has dedicated a significant portion of her time to medical research. She has published twice and is the first author on her most recent publication. She currently attends Mercer University’s PA program in Atlanta, Ga., where she serves as the programs first female class president. Her primary interest is in preventive medicine and she looks forward to entering her clinical year in 2013. Outside of school, she loves cycling, bikram yoga, traveling and running marathons.
Sameelah Reed - Constituent Relations Work Group Student Representative
Sameelah was born in Southern California. She has a bachelor's degree from Clark Atlanta University and a master's degree in education from Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, Calif. She is currently a first-year student and AOR representative for the class of 2014 at Mercer University. Sameelah is living her dream as she pursues a career as a physician assistant. She taught sciences for six years in Compton, Calif. and Atlanta, Ga., and strategically made her transition back to school as a full-time student. She credits her best friend and identical twin sister, Sameerah, for pushing her through and keeping her encouraged along her journey. Sameelah pulls her motivation from her twin who is within one year of completing her doctorate of pharmacology. Together, they are first-generation college graduates and continue to strive for the highest of heights professionally. Sameelah is delighted to serve SAAAPA in her appointed leadership position.
Trish Leibfarth - Membership Commission Student Representative
A South Dakota native, Trish has been fascinated with medicine since a young age. While graduating from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in psychology, she worked in an emergency department for three years. Immediately after graduation, she made the move to Chicago to begin PA school at Midwestern University, where she was soon elected vice president of her class. She is currently starting her second year and hopes to work in pediatrics upon graduating in 2013. In her free time, Trish enjoys riding her bike, playing soccer, cooking, and spending time with her family and friends.
AAPA Graduate Advisor - Rachel Carlson, PA-C, MSBS
Rachel currently works full time at the Shenandoah University PA program in Winchester, Va. There she serves as the associate director and associate professor. She is beginning her 10 year as a PA educator and also works part time in an employee-based medical clinic staffed by PAs. She is completing her doctorate in higher education through Nova Southeastern University. She is originally from Ithaca, N.Y., received her bachelor's degree from The Pennsylvania State University, and her master's degree from the University of Toledo as a physician assistant. She is an editor and author of the Lange Q & A Physician Assistant Examination, sixth edition. She is passionate about access to affordable medicine, educating future PAs, and her research area is adult learning styles. She has two children and a husband that keep her life very busy, including coaching her daughter’s basketball team.
PAEA Graduate Advisor - Curt Stilp M.S., PA-C
Curt is an assistant professor and clinical coordinator at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) PA Program in Portland, Ore. He also practices part time at HOPE Orthopedics of Oregon in Salem, Ore. Curt received a master's degree from Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago, Ill., in 2001. Since that time he has worked primarily in the area of orthopedics. Prior to PA school, he was a registered nurse in a general medical/surgical floor of a community hospital. He has been an active member of Physician Assistant Education Association, serving on the finance committee. His leadership positions have included Rosalind Franklin University PA Class of 2001 president, student society faculty advisor for Rosalind Franklin PA Program and now for the OHSU PA Program. Curt’s professional interests include student leadership development, admissions, clinical education and teaching various skills-based courses in the OHSU PA Program.