July 25, 2011 - The inaugural class of the Physician Assistant Program at Lincoln Memorial University-DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine (LMU-DCOM) will celebrate its commencement on Saturday, July 30, at 10 a.m. at the Sam and Sue Mars Performing Arts Center in the Duke Hall of Citizenship on the LMU main campus in Harrogate, Tenn. Dr. J. Dennis Blessing, associate dean for South Texas Programs and chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, will serve as the keynote speaker.

In 1976 Blessing earned his Bachelor of Health Science from the Physician Assistant Program at Duke University in Durham, N.C. Blessing pursued the physician assistant career after returning from service in the U.S. Army in Vietnam and became a physician assistant during the first 10 years of the profession’s existence in the United States. As a physician assistant Blessing has practiced in a rural practice, a rural health clinic, a Native American and indigent clinic and a county emergency room. He has a passion for primary care, health care teams and educational and faculty development opportunities. His many awards include being named Educator of the Year by the Texas Academy of Physician Assistants in 2005 and being named to the Physician Assistant Hall of Fame at Duke University in 2002. In 2001 he was the first recipient of the Outstanding Research Award from the Association of Physician Assistant Programs.

“The institution, faculty and I are very excited for and proud of our first graduating class,” said Rex Hobbs, assistant dean and program director of the Physician Assistant Program. “They have gone above and beyond in all areas of their training and exceeded our expectations. Many have already secured clinical positions and so will be immediately helping to serve the health care needs of the region. They will be valued clinicians, alumni and individuals. We all wish them the very best.”

The physician assistant profession is one of the fastest growing in the country and has been repeatedly named by Forbes magazine as the best master’s degree for jobs in the United States. A physician assistant is educated in the medical model. PAs are nationally certified and work side by side with both osteopathic and allopathic physicians in every medical specialty. PAs are licensed to diagnose illness, prescribe medications and assist in surgery. They conduct physical exams, order and interpret medical tests and provide counseling on preventive health care. A PA has at least six years of education: a four-year undergraduate degree and the physician assistant degree. PA students complete more than 2,400 hours of clinical rotations prior to graduation.

The DeBusk College of Osteopathic Medicine is located on the campus of Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee. LMU-DCOM is an integral part of LMU’s values-based learning community, and is dedicated to preparing the next generation of health care professionals to provide health care in the often underserved region of Appalachia and beyond. For more information about LMU-DCOM, call 1-800-325-0900, ext. 7082, email, or visit us online at

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