Professors in GWU Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Program Challenged Students to Keep Learning

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Caitlin Heredia ’16 Uses Critical-Thinking Skills as She Sees Patients in Family Practice      

photo of Caitlin Heredia with a patient“Work harder, study more and test better.” Caitlin Heredia heard this phrase often as a student in the Gardner-Webb Physician Assistant (PA) Studies Program. Heredia was a member of the program’s first graduating class in 2016. As she cares for her patients in a family practice in Hickory, N.C., Heredia has come to understand why her professor repeated this phrase over and over.

“When you get into practice, there is simply no way to remember every single class presentation, diagnostic tool, or treatment guideline for every condition that may present to your office,” Heredia observed. “I think that the most important thing my time at Gardner-Webb prepared me to do was to think critically and to know how and where to find the answers. I look back and can see even more clearly why it is so important to push ourselves to do our best. We now care for real people who deserve great care.”

Caitlin Heredia works in the lab with Dr. Nancy Winker
In this 2014 photo, Caitlin Heredia works in the lab with Dr. Nancy Winker, Assistant Professor and Director of Didactic Education in Gardner-Webb’s Physician Assistant Studies Program.

The Wilmington, N.C., native chose to continue her education in PA school at GWU, because of her undergrad experience there. A 2012 graduate with a Bachelor of Science in Biology, Heredia appreciated Gardner-Webb’s Christian values, service-oriented mindset, and community. “I valued the tight-knit group of students I had the opportunity to learn with and from,” she affirmed. “I also had the blessing of learning from some of the wisest, most genuine, and knowledgeable faculty. PA school was a time of rapid growth in my knowledge and professional maturity. Each professor has a special place in my heart and the wisdom they shared has gone with me into practice.”

Heredia was president of the 2016 cohort. As part of the University’s commitment to Christian service, the class established a health screening program for the underserved in the community. “It was incredibly rewarding to be able to use the skills my classmates and I were learning in class to provide a service to those who otherwise might not get it,” she elaborated.

Opportunities to serve the community, professors who are experienced and caring, and a small cohort of exceptional students are some reasons why Heredia would choose to attend PA school at GWU again. But the school’s reputation is another important advantage. “I always felt that as a PA student at Gardner-Webb, I was a receiving a high-quality education,” she assessed. “When I started clinical rotations, I heard time and again from clinical preceptors (supervisors) and through classmates’ preceptors that our class was incredibly well prepared and knowledgeable. I have a lot of pride in the fact that I received my PA degree from GWU.”