Today’s graduates, tomorrow’s problem-solvers in health care

As they accepted their diplomas May 18, Penn State College of Medicine graduates entered a rapidly changing world of health care challenges.

Many members of the Class of 2019 felt ready to take them on.

“I am confident,” said Jaqueline Morse, physician assistant student class representative, “with all we learned, we will make excellent providers.”

2019 Commencement -- Penn State College of Medicine

The College of Medicine presented degrees to 140 medical students, 86 graduate students and 27 physician assistants at its 49th annual commencement ceremony at Hershey Lodge.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, delivered the commencement address. Google Scholar ranked Fauci as the 26th most highly cited researcher of all time in a 2018 analysis. He has advised five presidents on HIV/AIDs and numerous other domestic and global health issues. Fauci  dedicated his career to problem solving in health care.

“There is nothing static about our shared profession,” Fauci said in his address. He advised the graduates of the endless opportunities in the ever-evolving field of health care and encouraged them to follow their instincts as their careers unfold.

Among the graduates:

Jessica Yingst, Doctor of Public Health

Jessica Yingst smiles wearing a suit jacket and a button-up shirt.

Dr. Jessica Yingst

Yingst is the first to graduate from Penn State College of Medicine with a Doctor of Public Health degree. Throughout her three years in the program, she investigated whether smokers find electronic cigarettes to be an acceptable replacement for smoking.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the United States spends nearly $170 billion on medical care each year to treat smoking-related disease in adults. Nearly half a million Americans die prematurely of smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke annually. Research by the College of Medicine’s first Doctor of Public Health graduate is investigating effective methods for quitting smoking.

“Some smokers continue to be unsuccessful in their attempts to quit using traditional methods,” Yingst said. “There is evidence to suggest that using e-cigarettes could be a more effective way to help smokers quit.”

Yingst plans to continue in her role as research project manager for the Penn State Tobacco Center of Regulatory Science where she manages several research studies on smoking cessation and tobacco regulatory science.

Caleb Shervinskie, Doctor of Medicine

Shervinskie and his colleagues wrote about their experiences as patient navigators during their first year of medical school in an article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine. Penn State College of Medicine requires first-year medical students to enroll in a nine-month health systems science course, which includes a patient navigator role at clinical sites.

Through patient navigation and three health systems courses at the College of Medicine, students begin to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to function effectively amid the complexities of an evolving health system.

“The key thing I learned from my time as a patient navigator is that medical students, and thus physicians, have the ability to change the system they work within if they take the initiative and have the confidence to do so,” Shervinskie said.

“Whether that change be at the individual patient level, the clinic or hospital level or the health system level, it is all important, and it can all be done.”

Shervinskie will begin an internal medicine residency at University of Virginia.

Oliver Mrowczynski, Doctor of Medicine

Mrowczynski began his studies at Penn State College of Medicine as an MD/PhD student but quickly realized during the graduate portion of his education that he had a passion for neurosurgical research.

With the support of faculty in the Department of Neurosurgery, he became one of the inaugural students of the neurosurgery accelerated pathway at the College of Medicine.

A head-and-shoulders professional photo of Oliver Mrowczynski

Dr. Oliver Mrowczynski

Demand for physicians continues to grow faster than supply, according to a report commissioned by the Association of American Medical Colleges. Accelerated pathways for medical students at the College of Medicine allow students to enter residency training faster than the traditional education.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity to continue doing research during residency,” Mrowczynski said. He is working in a lab that is searching for new ways to treat and diagnose deadly brain tumors.

Mrowczynski feels that the accelerated pathways not only have financial benefits, but educational benefits as well.

“The accelerated path elevates the curriculum based on your interest,” Mrowczynski said. “Students can do specialized rotations in areas like neurosurgery and ophthalmology. The faculty can tailor a student’s path through medical school for a more personalized, beneficial and educational experience.”

Mrowczynski will begin a neurological surgery residency at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

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