news-category: Graduate programs

Gardner-Webb Physician Assistant Studies Celebrates Two Milestones

PA studies class of 2024 poses for a photo after receiving their white coats
Photo by Rachel Bradley

Class of 2024 Graduates, and Class of 2025 Enters Clinical Phase

Department of Physician Assistant Studies
Program Director and Associate Professor,
Ashley B. Kernicky, right, celebrates with 2025 cohort
member, Jessica Alley. (Photos by Rachel Bradley)

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—The Gardner-Webb University Department of Physician Assistant (PA) Studies and its new Director, Associate Professor Ashley B. Kernicky, celebrated two milestones in May. The 29-member Class of 2024 graduated. After passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), they will serve in communities across the country. Then, the PA White Coat Ceremony recognized 32 members of the 2025 cohort, who are entering the clinical phase of the program.

“The White Coat Ceremony was incredibly special,” Kernicky shared. “I just pray that the ceremony empowered them and encouraged them to embark into the clinical phase of the program with confidence in their skills, compassion for their patients, and a commitment to deepen their knowledge of medicine.”

The symbolic ceremony acknowledges that the students have completed the didactic phase of the program, which is 16 months. “They are now ready to apply their theoretical knowledge in real-world healthcare settings under the supervision of experienced clinicians,” Kernicky explained. “They take patient histories, perform appropriate physical exams, collaborate with their preceptors to order appropriate diagnostic labs or imaging, and help in the development of treatment plans and patient education discussions. They also first-assist in surgical procedures.”

The 2025 cohort of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies takes the PA oath.

The students must complete nine, five-week, Supervised Clinical Practice Experiences (SCPEs) including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, women’s medicine, emergency medicine, surgical medicine, behavioral medicine, underserved medicine, and an elective block. The Gardner-Webb PA program has clinical sites across the United States, with the vast majority on the east coast — North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.

“This can be a daunting transition, but we are confident in their abilities,” Kernicky affirmed. “The professional and personal growth that happens over this next year is incredible! This is the year where they can’t hide behind books; it is a year of action.”

The 2025 Cohort of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies

  • Jessica Alley, Forest City, N.C.         
  • Haden Baker, Morganton, N.C.        
  • Orian Bar, Denver, N.C.        
  • Melinda Behney, Blythewood, S.C.  
  • Steven Dang, Greenville, S.C.
  • Ana Dorado, Fort Mill, S.C.   
  • Emily Drummond, Mooresboro, N.C.          
  • Zane Hogston, Shelby, N.C.  
  • Savannah Howard, Lattimore, N.C. 
  • Taylor Jernigan, Elizabeth City, N.C.
  • William Johnson, Hickory, N.C.       
  • Britney Landis, Statesville, N.C.      
  • Chloe Lissauer, Lutherville Timonium, Md.           
  • Logan Lovell, Fresno, Calif.  
  • Anna Macaluso, Charlotte, N.C.       
  • Hunter Morrison, Goode, Va.
  • Megan Murray, Charlotte, N.C.
  • Harrison Nobles, Wilmington, N.C.
  • Quinn Payne, Charlotte, N.C.
  • Melky Perez, Charlotte, N.C.
  • Grace Perkins, Wesley Chapel, N.C.
  • Caroline Robbins, Middleburg, Fla.
  • Gina Russo, Pinehurst, N.C.
  • Ireny Sharkawy, Youngsville, N.C.  
  • Melanie Stelling, Westminster, Colo.          
  • Brooke Strickland, Aiken, S.C.         
  • Brittany Taubman, Clover, S.C.
  • Jadyn Tavekelian, Plymouth, Mass.
  • Nia Walker, Atlanta, Ga.
  • Elizabeth Wilson, Vilas, N.C.
  • Janson Witcher, Valdese, N.C.
  • Taylor Yaw, Phoenix, Ariz.

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

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