Saturday, April 8th was a beautiful day with a Carolina blue sky, a nice breeze, and a lovely 65 degrees. Over 80 individuals gathered at the Stead Center in Durham to rededicate the John McElligott Veterans Memorial Garden. NCAPA President Truett Smith, PA-C, welcomed guests and the PA History Society’s Historian Emeritus, Reginald Carter, Ph.D., PA, described briefly how the garden has evolved over the past 10 years into a place of remembrance for Veteran PAs, as well as PAs currently serving in the Uniformed Services of the USA. Carter read remarks from Don Pedersen, PhD, PA, who had the combat medic statue, that was originally placed on the University of Utah campus in 2003, recast and placed on the Stead Center’s grounds in 2007. The sculptor, John Prazen, was a former US Navy Corpsman during the Korean War who, at one time, considered becoming a physician assistant himself. Pederson wrote, “My thanks to you all for providing such a magnificent setting for the sculpture, which I believe captures the caring and compassion of our military forbearers and provides a lasting reminder of our noble profession’s unique history.”
Carter then explained how and why the garden had been named in honor of John McElligott, PA, MD, and introduced McElligott who praised the sacrifices and risk taken by the medics and corpsmen who pioneered the PA profession. Michael- Milner, DHsc, PA-C, RADM, USPH (Retired) spoke on behalf of the AAPA Veteran Caucus, remembering many of the veteran PAs who have passed away and how the garden honored them for their contributions to the PA profession.
- The garden’s design architect, Julie Sherk, RLA, ASLA, provided a brief overview of how her NC State University landscaping students took on the project as a community activity and how much they had learned in the process of submitting designs for consideration. This project was especially dear to her heart because her dad was a veteran of WWII and because she had also been the landscaping design architect for the formal gardens at the Stead Center when originally constructed.
- The PA History Society’s President, Karen Mulitalo, MPAS, PA-C, recognized the donors, contributors and honored guests, including Ken Ferrell, one of the first three Duke PA graduates, George McCullough and Jimmy Keller, two of the first PAs assigned to the medical staff of the White House and Drs. Harvey Estes, Jr. and Alfred Sadler, Jr., two pioneering physicians who helped develop model legislation for the PA profession. Joseph Kelly, Chief Operations Officer for the NC Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, spoke of his personal experience of being cared by Air Force PAs and expressed his appreciation for a garden honoring veteran PAs. Representatives of the four national PA organizations provided concluding remarks and expressed their appreciation of having the opportunity to support the construction of the garden. These individuals included NCCPA President/CEO, Dawn Morton-Rias, Ed.D., PA-C, ARC-PA Board Member, Patti Ragan, Ph.D., PA-C, PAEA President, William C. Kohlhepp, DHSc, PA-C and AAPA Immediate Past President Jeffrey Katz, PA-C. The Womack Army Medical Center Color Guard and a Bugler from Fort Bragg participated in the ceremony, presenting and retiring colors and playing taps. What better way to begin celebrating the PA profession’s 50th Anniversary than to honor pioneering PAs, most of whom were veterans.