news-category: Graduate programs

Gardner-Webb Physician Assistant Students Selected for Highly Competitive Clinical Rotation

Two female PA students pose in a medical examing room.
Orian Bar, left, and Taylor Jernigan, Class of 2025, have been invited to train at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas.

Orian Bar and Taylor Jernigan, Class of 2025, Invited to Train at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Two students in the Gardner-Webb University Department of Physician Assistant (PA) Studies have been selected to participate in a fall elective clinical rotation at MD Anderson Cancer Center-Texas Medical Center, Houston. Through a highly-competitive process, Taylor Jernigan and Orian Bar, from the GWU Class of 2025, are among only 25 students from across the United States invited to train at this facility. Additionally, the Gardner-Webb students were offered a five-week clinical rotation instead of the usual three to four weeks.

According to its website, MD Anderson has affiliation agreements with nearly 90 PA schools across the country. Students are selected based on the competitiveness of their application and preceptor availability. The applications are evaluated in the areas of academic excellence, passion for oncology, volunteerism, interest in working at MD Anderson and interest in postgraduate training.

LaDonna Clark
Dr. LaDonna Clark

“MD Anderson is a renowned cancer institution known for its expertise in oncology, state-of-the-art facilities, and multidisciplinary approach to cancer care,” asserted Dr. LaDonna Clark, Gardner-Webb assistant professor and director of Clinical Education. “Our PA students stand out due to our rigorous curriculum, hands-on clinical experiences, and emphasis on patient-centered care, professional development, and underserved medicine.”

Bar, of Newton, N.C., applied for the clinical at MD Anderson, because of her passion for cancer care. “Ever since my grandmother in Brazil passed away from stage IV pancreatic cancer, my interest in oncology grew,” she shared. “Prior to applying, I kept hearing about this prestigious rotation opportunity and figured it wouldn’t hurt to try. Also, who wouldn’t want to rotate at the #1 ranked cancer care center in the nation? MD Anderson’s mission of integrating patient care, research, and prevention aligns with my goals of providing advocacy to young adult patients who may not be taken seriously by medical providers.”

Jernigan is from Greenville, N.C., and during her PA studies, she has also developed a strong interest in hematology and oncology. “I believe with this clinical rotation, I will develop a deeper understanding of the overall care and treatment of oncology patients,” she assessed. “MD Anderson is also home to the largest cancer clinical trials program. I look forward to learning about the advances currently being made in cancer treatment and research.”  

Bar has an undergraduate degree in biology, and Jernigan received a bachelor’s in public health with a concentration in pre-health professions. Both were drawn to Gardner-Webb’s PA program, because of the engaging and caring professors. Jernigan also liked the University’s Christian values. “I loved that Gardner-Webb puts an emphasis on serving underserved populations,” Jernigan observed. “I also liked the thought of being taught by professors who understand the importance of our mission as God’s people to provide care for others, physically and spiritually. I knew that Gardner-Webb’s PA program would challenge me and equip me to be a well-rounded Physician Assistant.”

Bar added, “The positive and welcoming energy from the faculty on day one gave me the reassurance and confidence to choose Gardner-Webb. Our PA program has amazing professors with clinical experience and knowledge. They have shared their personal experiences in different specialties all while teaching us the proper skills and medical knowledge needed to succeed. From written exams, patient scenarios/interactions, labs, simulations, and group work, I can confidently say that all the necessary resources were provided. To summarize, I’ve learned that showing up prepared and ready to learn will go a long way.”   

At MD Anderson, Jernigan and Bar can choose from rotations in various specialties, including medical, surgical and radiation oncology, as well as other disciplines involved in the care of cancer patients. “MD Anderson provides our students with exciting opportunities to learn from the leading experts and gain invaluable clinical experience in the fight against cancer,” Clark assessed. “Additionally, many of our students have received job offers from MD Anderson upon completion of their clinical rotations.”

Clark noted that GWU students complete a total of nine supervised clinical practice experiences. “Gardner-Webb’s PA program aims to produce compassionate and culturally competent PAs equipped with both medical knowledge and the critical thinking skills necessary to address complex medical problems and improve patient outcomes.”

She concluded, “I am tremendously proud of our department, our program, and our students. Since becoming the director of Clinical Education in November 2023, I have had the opportunity to work closely with an amazing clinical team that goes above and beyond to ensure our students are getting good quality clinical learning experiences. Stephanie Fraccola is the clinical scheduling manager; Missy Ware is the clinical administrative coordinator, and Dr. Trey Boyd, is associate director of Clinical Education.”

Students and Alumni at MD Anderson

Every year since 2021, a student from Gardner-Webb has been selected by MD Anderson. The previous students and alumni are:

  • Nathan McVey, 2024, currently at MD Anderson.
  • Milan Trisic, 2023, selected for rotation and works at Banner MD Anderson, Cancer Center in Gilbert, Ariz.
  • Julia Murtha Woody, 2022, selected for rotation and works at the Arizona location of MD Anderson.
  • Tiana Gomes, 2021, selected for rotation but because of COVID restrictions, she wasn’t allowed to complete.

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at Gardner-Webb.edu.

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