UNMC's Canadian connection
|Michael Huckabee, Ph.D., director of physician assistant education, and Maggie Winnicki, academic and student affairs coordinator in the School of Allied Health Professions, pose with Warrant Officer Yves Martin, center, PA program director for the Canadian Forces.|
Did you know that most military PAs get their master's degrees from UNMC, through the Interservice Physician Assistant Program?
So when the Canadian Forces were starting their own physician assistant program, they turned to UNMC. Canada reached out five years ago, and now representatives from the School of Allied Health Professions make an annual trip to Ontario to confer degrees.
Maggie Winnicki, academic and student affairs coordinator in the SAHP, and Michael Huckabee, Ph.D., director of physician assistant education, went this year. They were given seats of honor for the formal military parade. Dr. Huckabee was one of the keynote speakers at graduation, which saw the hooding of two Master's of Physician Assistant Studies graduates and the awarding of diplomas to the 17 this year who earned B.S. degrees. The event was standing-room only.
And then came the "mess dinner." We will let Dr. Huckabee take it from here:
"Unlike what the name implies, this is an honored tradition where everyone who attends is in formal dress (for civilians, evening gowns for the ladies, black bow ties for the men).
"After cocktails, everyone is seated except the head table. We are lined up outside and the bagpipes play to march us in to our table. It's a full five-course plated meal attended by about 200, honoring the graduates.
"A 20-member concert band plays throughout the evening (I recall renditions of 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' and the theme from the Muppets). I sat between the deputy surgeon general (who I now consider a friend) and the mayor of Barrie (the nearest city to Base Borden).
"The evening ends with port wine and a series of about 12-15 toasts, separately honoring the queen, the princess, the U.S. president (that's done because of UNMC), each branch of the military and the fallen soldier, among others. We stand for each toast, then sit again, then stand -- all very ceremoniously. Most of the toasts are accompanied by the band.
"The last toast is to civilians, specifically for Maggie and I, and we all sing 'Consider Yourself One of the Family' with the band during that one. It's quite the event."
Added Dr. Huckabee: "The Canadians go to great effort to honor us and they are so appreciative of UNMC and our relationship."
I've been on this campus for over 30 years and the one thing that seems to have been a constant is the quality of the PA program. They deserve all the praise they get and then some! Congratulations!
About Canadian Forces PAs
- Canadian Forces PA students are selected based on a decade or more of prior exemplary service as paramedics or other health care service in the military, Dr. Huckabee said. These outstanding career men and women are then trained as PAs to serve another 10-20 years.
- CF physician assistants are typically given high responsibilities after graduation, often in posts with doctors accessible only by phone. Examples include senior health care providers aboard ships, on remote bases or on the battlefield.
- Military PAs are still Canada’s primary model for the profession. Canadian universities have only recently initiated civilian PA programs.