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COVID-19: 2020-21 academic year plans and student resources ›

Scholarship Spotlight: Alne-Swensen Scholarship

Scholarship recipient Megan Knoll
Megan Knoll, `22

The Augsburg PA Program is proud to recognize four winners of this year’s Alne-Swensen Scholarship! Megan Knoll, Class of 2022, and Merari Morales Rosales, Nicholas Becker, and Taneasha Muonio, Class of 2021 all won awards. The scholarship fund was established in 1992 to encourage promising health care students and to honor the memory of Trine Swensen.

Megan Knoll, Class of 2022, came to Augsburg with prior healthcare experience in rural South Dakota, where she plans to work again after graduation. She attributes her drive to pursue a PA education in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic to her joy for medicine. “To say PA school is stressful is an understatement, but even on the toughest of weeks I can pull out my joy for medicine from the endless heap of lecture slides, exams, and student loans. I get to learn and grow and adapt every single day in a field that consistently advances for the good of humanity.” Thank you for sharing your joy Megan, and congratulations!

Scholarship recipient Merari Morales Rosales
Merari Morales Rosales `21

Meraro Morales Rosales, Class of 2021, immigrated to the US at 18 years old. The experience of adapting to a new country and culture – all on his own – fostered in Merari “the grit and discipline [to] succeed as a student.” This experience will surely inform Merari’s practice as a PA, and benefit his future patients. We are proud to recognize Merari with the Alne-Swensen Scholarship, and with the Dahlberg and Peterson Family Scholarship as well. Congratulations, Merari!

Scholarship recipient Nicholas Becker
Nicholas Becker, `21

Nicholas Becker, Class of 2021, is a first-generation college student nearing the end of his Physician Assistant studies. Through his health care career as a CNA, Nicholas has demonstrated his willingness to go above and beyond the expectations of his role, to ensure the residents of the nursing home he worked at received quality care. Nicholas is excited to work as a PA because of “the opportunity [PA’s have] to collaborate with both healthcare professionals and the patients themselves when it comes to making decisions about their health.” We want to congratulate Nicholas on receiving this award, and for nearing the end of PA graduate school as a first-generation college student!

Taneasha Muonio, `21

Taneasha Muonio, Class of 2021, completed her undergrad in Biopsychology at Augsburg before enrolling in the graduate PA program. She brings a wealth of vital social work experience to her health care studies. “Providing high quality health care to all is a part of our oath as PA’s. That means mastering the medical material we are learning, but also broadening our knowledge of diverse populations, cultures, and experiences.” Taneasha is passionate about lessening the documented disparities in treatment and outcomes for patients of color, and we are proud to celebrate her and her mission with this scholarship.

Thank you, family of Ernet and Helen Alne, for supporting our students and honoring the memory of Trine Swenson with this scholarship fund.




Scholarship Spotlight: Dr. Kristofer and Mrs. Bertha E. Hagen Scholarship

We wish to congratulate Drew McNamara, Class of 2022, for being awarded the Dr. Kristofer and Mrs. Bertha E. Hagen Scholarship! This award was established to support students who plan to volunteer or practice in medically underserved communities throughout the world and within the United States. Prior to starting at Augsburg, Drew had the opportunity to explore his passion for serving the underserved in Honduras and here in Minneapolis. His passion to help others led him to pursue a career as a Physician Assistant. Following graduation, Drew hopes to work at health professional shortage areas for the National Health Service Corps. Drew exemplifies the community service mission of the scholarship and of Augsburg University and the PA Program. Congratulations, Drew, and thank you, Dr. Kristofer and Mrs. Bertha E. Hagen!

Scholarship Spotlight: Dahlberg and Peterson Family Award

Congratulations to Merari Morales Rosales, Class of 2021, for winning the Dahlberg and Peterson Family Scholarship! The families established this scholarship to support a student in their final years of the Physician Assistant program, with special consideration given to students who plan to work with multicultural populations. Merari previously worked as a medical interpreter where he served as a culture broker and advocate between patients and providers. Merari was moved to pursue a career as a Physician Assistant because “every time I encounter someone from an underserved population in need of medical care, I see a reflection of my own family in them.” We are proud to have Merari in our 2021 cohort, and we appreciate the Dahlberg and Peterson families for offering this award to help support Merari in his studies! 

Students Get Hands-On Experience Through Ultrasound Seminar

Under the guidance of one of the guest lecturers, a student works on a simulated patient while their peers look on in staggered seating.

The Augsburg Physician Assistant students were able to engage in a Live Ultrasound Seminar for their History & Physical Exam course. An ultrasound scan is a medical test that utilizes high-frequency soundwaves to capture live images inside the human body, thus allowing medical professionals to observe tissues, organs, and vessels without making an incision.

For the Live Ultrasound Seminar, students were broken up into small groups and rotated to various stations. A number of the stations had simulated patients and were proctored by two of the leading Ultra-Sound professionals in the state, Peter Lindbloom, PA-C and Tom Pahl, PA-C. (Be sure to check out an earlier blog post with alum Peter).

In one of the stations students worked with mannequins to familiarize themselves with utilizing the Transducer and monitoring the display.

Students were able to get hands-on experience while following social distancing protocols. The stations were broken up into two separate rooms including the 13-exam bay clinical skills lab which offered ample space for the student to engage with the stations safely.

Students and the preceptors also wore masks and face shields, gloves, and KN-95 masks that were provided for our live models. The faculty members who organized this seminar, Eric Van Hecke, PA-C and Ryane Lester, PA-C were engaged with students at their stations or working behind the scenes to make sure everything was going smoothly and the workshops stayed on schedule.

The experience was a resounding success which greatly benefits our student’s overall professional development while maintaining their safety. With the changing face of higher education, the faculty and staff at the Augsburg PA program adapt to continually provide students with an engaging learning environment.


Alumni Anniversary Series: Leading by Example

Meredith Wold headshotMeredith Wold is a 2007 graduate of the Augsburg PA Program. Since graduating, she has worked with the HealthPartners Hospital Medicine team at Regions Hospital.  While at Regions, Meredith co-founded the HealthPartners Hospital Medicine APC Fellowship program, co-chairs the Regions APC Committee, and serves on the Regions Medical Executive Committee. Additionally, she maintains an adjunct faculty role at Augsburg and is a past president of the Minnesota Academy of Physician Assistants. Last fall, Meredith was promoted to Central Director of APC Fellowships across the HealthPartners system. Shortly after this announcement, we met with Meredith to dive deeper into her experience as a PA.

She was drawn to hospital medicine due to a combination of experiences while on her clinical rotations as well as her desire to have a career that reflected the breadth of what she had learned in PA school. Meredith remembers a specific preceptor at Fairview University Hospital, Dr. Rod McFadden, who was “a wonderful, wonderful hospitalist.” She recalls that Dr. McFadden “not only showed me the fun that came with the diverse clinical conditions in hospitalized patients,” but also demonstrated the curiosity and commitment that is integral to life-long learning. Meredith recalls, “He would sit down with me every day and deliver bite-sized lectures over lunch. He said it kept him learning, too.” After 3 years of PA school and this intriguing inpatient internal medicine rotation, Meredith knew hospital medicine would be a good match for her. Continue reading “Alumni Anniversary Series: Leading by Example”

New Year, New Space

Although this August was the formal relocation period of the Augsburg PA Program, we are settling into our new space and have welcomed campus to check us out. Earlier this month, we hosted an open house for visitors to tour our space and speak with staff and faculty. Our new home is in Riverside Plaza with student space occupying the majority of the lower level and administrative offices located on the fifth floor. As a program, students have one central location in addition to staff and faculty being in the same shared space. We have a few spaces available for conferences including a large conference suite on the lower floor to host departmental meetings. Students have a dedicated lounge space equipped with lockers and an ancillary study room.

.Geometric triangle black and white wallpaper on left hand wall. Moveable desks line left wall. Student lounge with lockers on right wall. Lower and upper cabinets are in background.

Reception area featuring two lobby chairs against a maroon wall with Augsburg University metal artwork. Chairs are framed by floor lamps

The clinical skills lab expanded in size from 10 to 13 exam bays plus an 2 simulated hospital bays. This expanded footprint allows for easier noise and temperature control, especially when we have at times 45 individuals moving around. There is plenty of cabinet and storage space to keep lab supplies secure and accessible. Our History & Physical Exam course has integrated SonoSim ultrasound into the curriculum and will be implement live ultrasound instruction during the 2020 spring semester. Special thanks to Courtney Perry for her wonderful photography!

Clinical skills lab room showing two exam tables framed by two grey curtains Two hospital exam bays with two hospital beds

Students look onward as instructor demonstrates ENT exam classroom with long desks and desk chairs


Year in Review

academic lecture room with rectangular desks, two projection screens in background, couch in foregroundDuring the end of the year, and especially at the closing of a decade, the PA program looks back on 2019! One of the most significant changes occurred this past fall as the program relocated back to Augsburg main campus. A newly remodeled space in Riverside Plaza is the heart of the program. While faculty and administrative offices occupy the fifth floor, the lower level is home base for our students. The academic lecture hall was designed for our growing cohort size and the expanded footprint of the clinical skills lab now holds 15 exam bays, including 2 inpatient bays. groups of students sit working collaboratively around room

In 2019, we launched two new blog series to shine a light on the great work our alumni do. We celebrated anniversaries of being in the PA profession: Omar Fernandes’ one-year, Joy Adams’ and Kelsey McFarlane’s five years, Miranda Schoenecker’s ten-year and Peter Lindbloom’s twenty-two-years. Scroll through the blog feed and look for the “Alumni Anniversary Series” heading in order to read more. More recently, we started the “Living the Mission” series that highlights alumni working to provide medical care to underserved populations.

group of five students with Sandy who is holding a cakeIn November, we celebrated Sandy Fevig’s fifteen plus years of service to Augsburg. Sandy always looked after the students’ every need and was a friendly face to all department guests. We wish her well in her future endeavors! November also marked the program’s 23rd commencement for the Class of 2019. Clinical preceptor Vinh Dang, PA-C delivered the keynote speaker address, Nathan Kleppe gave the Student Commencement Speaker and Dr. Farhiyo Abdulle was honored as the Clinical Preceptor of the Year.

At the beginning of December, the program welcomed two new staff members: Emily Gomez and Sherrie Luetgers. Emily will lead the administrative team and work with department leadership as the program manager. She has a history of working in program management in several healthcare realms including hospice, epilepsy and oral health. Sherrie joins the team as another administrative assistant. She is no stranger to the world of healthcare after working for 18 years in roles as an HUC, EKG tech, and ER Tech. Ryane Lester comes to the PA department as another faculty member. Ryane practices clinically at Twin Cities Orthopedics. She is looking forward to contributing to the excellence of the Augsburg PA program and its students to help them gain a foundation to become confident clinicians.

Head shot of Emily  Headshot of Sherrie Luetgers  head shot of Ryane wearing blouse

Several of our students were recognized with scholarships of their own. For the second year running, an Augsburg PA student was selected as part of the Health Professional Scholarship Program through Veterans Affairs. Brandon Cottrell knew about the scholarship prior to PA school admission from his medical professional acquaintances while in the army. After graduating from Augsburg, he will work for at least 2 years at a VA healthcare center. The CVS Health Foundation Advance Practice Nurse and Physician Assistant Scholarship Program selected Augsburg as one of its grant recipients. The Augsburg PA Program was then able to award Miranda Lacroix, PA-S1, Taneasha Muonio, PA-S1, and Kamini bose Sundar bose, PA-S2, with $1,000.00 scholarships.

This past spring, the Augsburg PA Program was awarded a Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) grant. Through the grant, our program is committed to expanding rural and urban underserved primary care clinical education sites, partnering with clinics like the People’s Center Clinics and Services, who focus on team-based practice and community health care. Through this grant, our students will also receive substance use and opiate addiction training, through a ground-breaking program with CHI-St. Gabriel/Little Falls, MN tele-ECHO program. This training prepares Augsburg PA students for medication-assisted treatment (MAT) certification waiver through the DEA, making Augsburg PA students even more practice-ready upon graduation. We are excited that MDH has funded our efforts to continuously develop clinical education partnerships and improve PA training throughout Minnesota.

We look forward to the New Year and the next decade!

Alumni Anniversary Series: 5 Years

Joy Adams, PA-C and Kelsey McFarlane, PA-C outside on patio Joy Adams, PA-C, and Kelsey McFarlane, PA-C are both 2014 graduates of the Augsburg PA program. After graduation, they found themselves at Bluestone Physician Services. Bluestone is onsite integrated primary care for individuals with disabilities living in assisted living and group homes. Before applying to PA school, both alumni worked as direct support professionals at group homes at ACR Homes, so this was a perfect fit for their passion. In the Bluestone model, our alumni travel to the resident to provide care on a monthly or quarterly visit schedule. The patient’s care team is able to communicate with their providers on a 24/7 basis via an online platform. The practice employs patient care coordinators who are able to share resources with patients to manage care.

Joy and Kelsey each have their own patient panel ranging between 150 to 200 patients. At the first meeting, Joy shares that as a provider she needs to be vulnerable and open with the patient. Through relationship development, the PA is able to know every in and out of their patient. When a patient care coordinator receives a message about an issue, the provider is able to determine if it is an episode or ongoing issue versus an emergent problem. Because the providers are so in tune with the patients, it reduces the overutilization of emergency departments.

Two of the most challenging aspects of being in practice are navigating insurance and the patient’s social and emotional needs. Joy acknowledges, “The patients we manage are very sick and it is challenging to manage multiple conditions.” Because of the nature of their disability, each patient is so different and unique that they may present differently than others. Due to the diversity of patient conditions, the profession really does involve lifelong learning. A provider can make a recommendation, but the patient needs to be ready to try it. If a patient is not ready, Joy and Kelsey can only encourage and wait until they are ready. Kelsey shares that she herself becomes excited when a patient is motivated to take control of their health and shares the progress they’ve made.

More often than not, a visit is much more than medicine. Kelsey and Joy could spend their whole visit conversing about the patient’s psychosocial needs. Because the Bluestone model focuses on the frequency of visits and openness of communication, both Kelsey and Joy have learned “if you do not make any changes in a visit it is considered a win because the patient’s care is managed well overall.” The most fulfilling part of the work they say “is making a connection with the person in front of you.” The patient is appreciative every time they show up.

Alumni Anniversary Series: Serving Veterans in the Twin Ports

Miranda Schoenecker in an exam roomMiranda knew during freshman year of college that she wanted to pursue a career in healthcare. Although registered as pre-med, she was unsure of which profession. For a while, she thought physical therapy but it didn’t seem to be the right fit. During this time of indecision, her uncle was being cared for at the Fargo VA for esophageal cancer.  He asked her what she wanted to do and Miranda mentioned she had not yet decided. He said, “Be a PA! They treat me better than any of the physicians here.” Her immediate response was, “What is a PA?” After returning home, she researched the profession and realized “this is it, this is what I want to do.”

After deciding that PA school was the next step, she needed to prepare her application. Fortunately, she had been accruing patient care hours as a certified nursing assistant for quite some time. During high school, the local nursing home was desperate for help so she received a crash course from a family friend. When she turned sixteen years old, she signed up for the exam, passed and began working immediately.  By the time she applied, Miranda had six years’ worth of experience. Her degree in cell biology was a testament to her academic readiness.

Miranda applied to about 8 schools across the country, but Augsburg was her first choice. She was thrilled when she was accepted as she wanted to remain close to family. During her second rotation, she was placed at the Twin Ports VA Clinic in Superior. Even though this was only the beginning of her clinical education, her preceptor encouraged her to reach out if she was interested in a job. Throughout the clinical phase, Miranda constantly compared other rotations to her experience at the VA.

At the time of her PA graduation, the 2008 economy had crashed leaving few options for employment. Miranda wanted to return to the Northland but jobs were limited there as well due to the local health system laying off employees. Her options were a posting at a convenience care clinic and one at the Twin Ports VA.  Miranda was hopeful she could return to the VA and serve the patient population she fell in love with.

Even after ten years in the same clinic, Miranda finds joy in being a PA serving veterans. Working with this population inspires her and gives her a purpose to serve patients who Miranda says have all been brave enough to do something she couldn’t. She appreciates the real sacrifice her patients have made so that she can live her life in the United States. Every day she is able to establish rapport, gain trust and surprise people. She loves when a new patient is referred to her and they decide to transfer their care.

Veteran medicine is challenging, but it is so rewarding. She believes she is able to practice medicine in the most ideal way. Patients do not need to worry about prior authorization which translates into patients receiving prescriptions, surgeries and referral services.  Miranda is able to control her schedule and has incorporated telephone clinics, secure messaging, group visits along with various patient panel management tools. She can pull specific lists based on patient populations such as diabetics with an A1c greater than 9 and then implement ways to improve their overall health. In October, COPD patients attend an annual group appointment and Miranda can do the same for patients diagnosed with hypertension, DMII, or prediabetes. The Twin Ports VA Clinic has integrated mental health within the primary care setting as well as operates a “medical home” model that is called Patient Aligned Care Teams (PACTs). All of these capabilities lead to nearly 100% continuity of care.

Throughout her tenure she has seen great strides in the roles PAs occupy including a clinic director, as well as in upper management and administration. Miranda was promoted to chief status in the fall of 2018 and she appreciates the recognition that her clinical skills have grown and the administration noticed.

When asked what advice she would give current students, Miranda says, “Know that it is okay not to know everything.” When a patient comes in with a question, concern or new condition she is honest and says “I don’t know, let’s look it up together.” This helps to establish rapport with a patient and the relationship-building can begin.


2019 Health Professional Scholarship Program Recipient

For the second year in a row, Augsburg PA is proud to share another student has received the Health Professional Scholarship Program (HPSP) from Veterans Affairs. The goal of the scholarship program is to increase the supply of PAs within the VA but also for the nation.Brandon in a light blue shirt, grey suit coat and matching plaid tie

Brandon Cottrell served in the United States Army from 2010 to 2016 with a deployment to Afghanistan. After his six years of service, he pursued a bachelor’s degree from Augsburg. Prior to being accepted into PA school, Brandon worked as a radiology technician. Now in his second year in the Physician Assistant Studies program, he is rotating through clinical experiences.

While Brandon was working in radiology, Brandon realized that he wanted to do more; understanding that he had medical capabilities that would be useful beyond his current license. Through researching advanced positions, the PA profession seemed a good fit. Even before admission into PA school, Brandon knew about the scholarship. Several of his medical professional acquaintances had received financial assistance in exchange for service. Continue reading “2019 Health Professional Scholarship Program Recipient”