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NMCCL Stories

News | March 1, 2024

NMCCL graduates and commissions eight physician assistants

By Riley Eversull

Eight new physician assistants will soon arrive at their next duty station ready to provide care for Marines and Sailors. Naval Medical Center Camp Lejeune graduated its third class from the Interservice Physician Assistant Program (IPAP) on Mar. 1, 2024, during a commencement ceremony at Marston Pavilion on Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

Phase I of the program is completed at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Houston; Phase II is conducted at NMCCL. This graduation marks the third year for the program at NMCCL.

“With three successful iterations of students having come through, and everyone has passed their board certification, so far, the expectation for success is now widely understood,” said Navy Cdr. Dave Bennett, Phase II site director and clinical coordinator. “Through deliberate faculty development courses and collaborative curriculum development, we have grown this program into a sustainable learning environment that actively manages resources with other learners.”

Throughout the past year, “Class 21-3” logged more than 1,200 patient encounters and approximately 180 clinical procedures throughout family medicine, general surgery, and other departments at the Medical Center.

Lt. j.g. Brandon Elrod, a prior Navy corpsman with more than 15 years of military service, logged the highest number of patient encounters and procedures. Elrod’s next duty assignment as a newly designated physician assistant will be with 2nd Marine Division at Camp Lejeune.

“It was probably the most stressful phase of my career…in the end, you look back and see what you accomplished, and it is worth it,” Elrod said.

IPAP Class 21-3 capped off their journey with a 100% pass rate on exams, and each graduate received their Master of Physician Assistant Studies through the University of Nebraska. Top academic honors were a narrow split between Lt. j.g. Eric Weber and Lt. j.g. Kristyn Rhode; Weber took the top spot by .48.

Following receipt of their diplomas, each physician assistant commissioned as a United States Naval officer.

“Being sworn in as an officer is a major milestone in one’s career,” Elrod said. “The amount of time and energy required to meet commissioning requirements is oftentimes overwhelming and has an impact on loved ones. Being sworn in is not just a day for your own success, but for those who supported you along the way.”

As Bennett points out, IPAP students are unique in that each is prior-enlisted military. Cumulatively, the program has graduated and commissioned 25 physician assistants into the Navy officer ranks.

“Their greatest but intangible value added is their presence in the fleet, and their leadership capacity," Bennett said. “Drawing on years of experience, many of these IPAP students launch immediately into leadership roles within their gaining units. Units that deploy. Units preparing to do our country’s bidding.”

Next stops for the IPAP graduates include medical service at various Navy and Marine Corps units around the world to include Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Commands Guam and Yuma and 2d Marine Logistics Group.
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