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Give to the Max 2022

A huge thank you to all those who donated to support the PA Program’s Give to the Max fundraiser!


We are continuing to raise funds to help support our graduate students as they become fellows and help the program with creating a more diverse learning environment.


As a program, we recognize the disparities of the learning environment and the lack of PAs of color and those from more underserved backgrounds serving as instructors within the field. The Augsburg PA Program’s fellowship aims to close the gap of PAs of color as higher education faculty, and encourage new graduates to pursue the path of educators.


We hope that more support from institutions like Augsburg University can bolster a new network of diversity-minded and diverse professionals who will better reflect the changing landscape of healthcare. More and more patients are people of color, people from rural and historically underserved communities, and we need an education system that reflects this changing population. We are preparing our students to gain experience in a more diverse professional setting with the help of our graduate fellows, who have already experienced these different work settings through their Clinical Phase rotations and Preceptorships.


Take a glimpse at how the fellowship has made an impact on our department, and learn more about Augsburg’s ongoing initiative with the video from our campaign.


To help fund this new part of our program, donate here and select the PA Program in the drop-down menu of options.

History of Our PA Program

“Education for Service.”


The Augsburg University PA Program is proud to have recently celebrated the 25th anniversary of our first graduating class this year. As we invite our alumni to come celebrate the achievements of our current standings, we also want to take a trip down memory lane to see how far Augsburg PA has come from our start.


photocopy of newspaper ad titled 'do you know where your physician assistant is' with answers below
Augsburg Echo ad about the newest PA program


In 1994, Augsburg University began the official setup of the Physician Assistant Program. Led by Program Director Dawn Ludwig, we were a 4-year post baccalaureate program that enabled students to receive their PA license and certification. Not only was it the first (and only) PA program in Minnesota at the time, it was also designed to follow Augsburg University’s guiding principles and mission. Dean Marie McNeff, vice president for academic affairs at that time, stated in an article of Augsburg Now that:


“The college is pleased to be able to offer the physician assistant program as an example of the college’s motto of ‘Education for Service.’ Our P.A. program will educate persons to be generalist physician assistants – professionals well-educated in current theory and practice, dedicated to excellence in performance with the highest standard of ethics and integrity, committed to lifelong personal and professional development, respectful and sensitive to persons of all cultures and background, and oriented toward service to underserved populations.”¹


The first class of 23 students were located in the basement of Anderson hall and had 12 months of coursework focused on human anatomy and physiology, medical ethics, pharmacology, and more; followed by 15 months of clinical rotations in various medical areas and a 12-week long preceptorship.


Three photos showing pyshician assistants at work
Brochure for the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Program


Over time our program itself has evolved from its original certification, and in 2002 we made the official switch to the Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies degree. Today, the program is 27 months long and has 15 months of coursework on human gross anatomy, clinical medicine, pharmacotherapy, research and professional issues in the didactic phase, followed by 12 months of clinical rotations, including an 8 week preceptorship. We are proud to partner with most major health systems as well small rural hospitals and clinics throughout Minnesota, the five state area, and beyond to provide our students with the experiences they need to provide the best care to underserved and rural populations.


The curriculum and education established in 1995 has evolved over the years yet the excellence of our PA graduates persists, with a strong presence in primary care, PANCE board pass rates well above the national average, and opportunities for our students to engage in the local and global community. Two hospital exam bays with two hospital beds


Coursework isn’t the only place where we made some changes and continue to grow. In 2015, the PA Program moved locations over to Luther Seminary, in St. Paul as part of a partnership with the university to help foster urban development spaces and encourage undergraduate and graduate studies to work in tandem.


In 2019 we made our return to the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood, across the street from Augsburg University, in the Riverside Plaza Medical Building. Students now have a state of the art lecture hall, small group classrooms, a dedicated lounge space, and study room. Additionally, we also have an expanded clinical skills lab with 10-fully equipped exam room bays and 2 simulated hospital bays with simulation mannequin. The clinical skills lab also supports our point of care/bedside ultrasound curriculum and use of 3 Butterfly bedside ultrasound units. Our faculty and staff are able to remain close in our 5th floor office suite in the same building.


augsburg pa program students outside of anishinabe waukiagun


Here at Augsburg, we are so excited to celebrate 25 years of learning, and we look forward to expanding our outreach. We are collaborating  with the Augsburg University Health Commons and the Nursing Program to provide care around the local communities, including  Central Lutheran Church, Cedar-Riverside Towers, and more. PA students are also learning in tandem with the Medical Music Therapy and the Master of Arts in Leadership programs through study abroad courses in Costa Rica, China, and South Africa. We look forward to more years of growth for our students and the areas they will serve throughout their careers as PAs. While we have seen many changes throughout the years, the Augsburg PA Program continues to carry forward our original guiding principles and mission.


Alumni Spotlight

Augsburg University PA Program wants to celebrate the successes of our alumni by checking back in a year after graduation. Our first alumnus is Tommie Lee James, a 2021 grad. We asked him a few questions about his experiences.


Tommie Lee James, PA-C

What type of setting do you work in? Why did you decide your chosen area?photo of tommie james in a whitecoat and smiling

Emergency PA Fellowship. I chose Emergency Medicine because it just made sense to me. I wanted to practice in an area that excited me, had a variety of pathologies, and served a diverse population and vulnerable communities. Knowing that the learning curve is steep in EM I opted for a post-graduate fellowship to augment my learning and experience.

What was the biggest transition between PA school and your first job?

For me it was the transition from “What would you do?” to “What am I going to do?”. The sense of taking full ownership of my patients and having confidence in my decisions is admittedly a transition that I am still working through.

Any tips for students applying and interviewing for their first job?

Try making connections with the places that you are applying to. As much as jobs are looking at “can you do the work?”, they are more so concerned with “will this person be good to work with?”.

Any favorite memories from Augsburg’s PA Program?

The potlucks. AU PA Class of 2021 did not mess around when it came to our potlucks!

If you were not a PA, what career could you see yourself doing?

Definitely a science teacher.

What activities do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Mostly spending time with my wife and dog. But I really enjoy traveling. Most recently Yucatan and Quintana Roo, states in Mexico.

Do you have anything else you want to share?

I would encourage students to prioritize balance and be present during their schooling. Make some time for your health, friends, and family, because time is a luxury you can never get back.


2022 Clinical Instructor of the Year

Each year, Augsburg University awards one of our preceptors with the Clinical Instructor of the Year. This award celebrates the positive impact a professional clinical preceptor has had on our students throughout the course of the clinical rotations. This year, our clinical instructor took multiple students and allowed them to perform the first of many procedures they would need to do throughout their careers as PAs. All of our clinical instructors are valuable for the rotations because it gives students a chance to get hands-on experience with patients that will give them the tools for future practice. Our preceptors follow the same approach as medical training, including the “see one, do one” approach for clinical procedures.


Augsburg University is proud to award the 2022 Clinical Instructor of the Year award to one of our 1999 alumni: Anthony Lesch.


Anthony LeschAnthony Lesch completed an undergraduate degree from St John’s University in Collegeville, MN where he also played football and baseball, and earned his Masters in Physician Assistant Studies from Augsburg University. While most of his employment history is with Stellis Health in Family Practice, he spent 2 years in Arizona while his wife worked in health care administration. While there, Tony worked in family practice on Luke Air Force base in the Emergency Department at Goodyear Hospital.

Currently, Tony is on the executive board at Stellis Health as a representative for the advanced practice practitioners. He also spent time in the CVOR and Cath Lab. Tony enjoys spending time with his family, including his four children, and dogs. He also enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, golfing and boating.


PA Fellowship of 2022 Awarded!

Augsburg University’s PA Program Proudly Adds 2 New Fellows to Our 2022-2023 Year


headshot of ashley schleh in a pa program white coat
Ashley Schleh

As a part of our Equity and Inclusion initiatives here at Augsburg University, we are proud to welcome two of our graduating students back as Fellows for the 2022-2023 year. Ashley Schleh and Katie Schmitz are awarded the opportunity to grow their skills as mentors and PAs in the time between graduation and clinical practice. This fellowship aims to address some of the inequities in the medical field and PA education by supporting diversity focused PA graduates to become mentors, preceptors and hopefully future faculty. It is an opportunity to help foster a culture that inspires diversity and inclusion of new and current students and to help them navigate their journey to become a PA.


Our graduate fellow program allows recent grads the opportunity to learn about the principles of health professions education from the PA program’s faculty and staff directly. They will also assist the current cohorts through mentorship, lecturing, assisting in the skills lab, and facilitating discussion of case studies. They will also provide important feedback on how to make our program and curriculum more inclusive and supportive of all students and the diverse populations they will serve.


When expressing interest in the program and its goals, Ashley Schleh mentions:

” I recognize the importance of creating and maintaining a culture of inclusiveness collectively within our program. I truly believe that education and overall understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusion is vital to the creation of empathetic and culturally competent clinicians.”


headshot of katie schmitz in a white pa program coat
Katie Schmitz

Katie Schmitz states in her application that she would like to continue fostering diverse environments as she looks into her future of clinical practice, preceptorship, or even as a possible faculty member. She notes:

“…a genuine passion for medicine and learning coupled with sincere empathy is what transforms a strong student into an outstanding clinician. It has been a gift to receive the title of ‘lifelong learner’ and would be a privilege to leave behind a mark of gratitude through serving as an Augsburg PA Graduate Fellow while continuing my education.”

Augsburg University’s PA Program looks forward to having Ashley and Katie join our faculty and staff as they grow and work alongside the academic cohort.


Augsburg Faculty Article Publication

Vanessa BesterAugsburg University’s PA Program is proud to announce our Program Director, Dr. Vanessa Bester, has recently worked with co-author Dr. Carolyn Bradley-Guidry to publish a research article. The article, “Assessing Harmful Bias and Celebrating Strength Through the Narratives of Black/African American Physician Assistant Students” was published in the Journal of Physician Assistant Education in July, and covers the experiences of Black/African American PAs within the healthcare system.


The article opens up a discussion on ensuring that Black/African American PA students can get the proper support they need during studies, and opens the floor for bridging the racial disparity gap among students, and among caregivers and their patients.


Check out the article on the Journal of Physician Assistant Education’s site.


Dr. Bester has written a number of articles including “I Can’t Breathe—Courageous Conversations and Responses to Racism in Physician Assistant Education” and “Minority Physician Assistant Faculty: A Phenomenological Assessment of Factors Leading to Retention in the Faculty Role” among others.

Scholarship Spotlight: The Dawn Ludwig Legacy Scholarship

We are proud to announce our winner for the Dawn Ludwig Legacy Scholarship for 2022: Megan Knoll!

megan knoll dressed in an Ausgburg labelled whitecoat and smiling at the camera

The Dawn Ludwig Legacy Scholarship was established to honor the legacy of the first Augsburg PA Program Director, Dawn Ludwig. The intent of this scholarship is to recognize, encourage and provide financial support to a Physician Assistant student in their final year of study. The Dawn Ludwig Legacy Scholarship is awarded to students who show academic achievement and financial need, and who have exhibited the positive qualities and spirit that Dawn demonstrated and taught throughout her career, including professionalism, leadership, community engagement and service, commitment to family and faith, clinical aptitude, and a personal conviction to “do what’s right for its own sake”.

Megan has demonstrated great skill in the academic courses in her time here with Augsburg University, and she has an aptitude for putting her heart into all that she does. When looking into the scholarship she mentions the importance of doing what she can for the community, including setting up and leading free and educational health screening events. Megan goes on to say:


“I will not always be right, but I will “do what’s right for its own sake”. I accept that I will not always know every answer, but I know that I can seek the help and expertise from my team and use my skills in research to find the solution. The most exciting part of this field is the lifelong learning and discovery that comes with it. Once established in my practice, I plan to pass my knowledge and skills to students as a clinical preceptor and be a spokesperson for recruiting providers and nurses in underserved regions.”


We are proud to have Megan in our class of 2022 and can’t wait to see what she will accomplish as she carries out the legacy of Dawn Ludwig in her time as a PA student and as a future PA in rural regions. Congratulations, Megan!

Scholarship Spotlight: Alne-Swensen Scholarship

The Augsburg PA Program is proud to recognize four winners of this year’s Alne-Swensen Scholarship! Shamso Jama, Class of 2022, and Ethan Dekam, Emma Delaney, and Kelsey Reineke, Class of 2023 all won awards. The scholarship fund was established in 1992 to encourage promising health care students and to honor the memory of Trine Swensen.

Shamso Jama, Class of 2022, was born in Somalia but emigrated to the US as a child.  She received her BA in Biology from the University of MN and has made significant research contributions focused on mental health and substance abuse with a goal of improving outcomes for vulnerable populations.

I intend to continue pursuing research interests that focus on improving outcomes for vulnerable populations. The award of this scholarship will ensure that I expand my research interests in the future and promote evidence-based interventions for underserved communities.”

Ethan Dekam, Class of 2023, received his BA in Biology with a minor in Psychology from St John’s University.  Ethan credits his drive to be successful in PA school to a passion for lifelong learning and selfless service that he learned from his family. Ethan hopes to honor the memory of his father through his determination to give back to the community as a PA.

“PA school can be overwhelming at times so it is important for me to keep my sights set on my “why” for going to PA school when things get difficult.”

Emma Delaney, Class of 2023, earned her BA in Biology with a minor in Theology from University of St Thomas and worked as a CNA prior to starting PA school. She is excited to begin the clinical phase of the program and have an impact on her patients.

“Building patient relationships was so special to me. I feel as a PA I will still be able to make those close connections while being able to do more procedural medicine which really interests me.”

Kelsey Reineke, Class of 2023, has a BS in Respiratory Therapy from North Dakota State University and worked as a respiratory therapist and Children’s Hospital Minnesota prior to starting PA school. She has a passion for patient education and says as a respiratory therapist she found the greatest reward for herself and for patients and their families was through education.

“I believe I made a difference in many lives by presenting information that was concise, effective, and understandable to a wide variety of education levels… I want to bring my passion for education to the community where I will work and help people live their best and healthiest lives.”

The Augsburg PA Program is proud of all of these students’ accomplishments.  They exemplify the program’s mission to educate empathic, community-minded, and forward-thinking health care leaders to practice in primary care with a focus on underserved, underrepresented, and marginalized communities.  Congratulations to them all.

Scholarship Spotlight: Dahlberg and Peterson Family Award

Nguyen “Rosie” VuCongratulations to Nguyen “Rosie” Vu, Class of 2022, 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.

Rosie is originally from Vietnam where she earned her Doctor of Medicine degree. After moving to the US with her parents, she worked as a medical scribe before entering the PA Program.  Rosie hopes to continue to fulfill her mission to serve multicultural communities and to contribute to the diversity of our country.

“I understand that medical providers must understand how each patient’s sociocultural background affects their health maintenance behaviors and medical outcomes. In addition, medical providers should not assume that all patients could obtain, process, and understand the basic health information needed to make appropriate health decisions or to follow treatment plans, especially for minority communities.”

We are proud to have Rosie in our 2022 cohort, and appreciate the Dahlberg and Peterson families for offering this award to help support her studies.

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

 Ronald ToledoWe wish to congratulate Ronald Toledo, Class of 2023, 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.

Ronald was born and raised in Cuba where he experienced the lack of access and resources to meet basic healthcare needs.  He moved to the US nine years ago for better opportunities for his family.  Ronald is dedicated to giving back to Hispanic and other underserved communities as a PA.

“There is a significant healthcare gap in access to healthcare, leading to poor health outcomes for the Hispanic population. I aspire to be an advocate for future patients from underserved populations to ensure they receive the healthcare they need and deserve, ultimately being a PA that contributes to decreasing long-standing gaps for social determinants of health.”

Ronald embodies the mission of the Augsburg PA Program so we are proud to award him this scholarship.