Reflections from RVU’s Newest Grads: The Inaugural PA Class of 2020

The PA Class of 2020 poses for a photo during their White Coat Ceremony in 2019.

After completing their studies in RVU’s PA Program, graduates from the Class of 2020 reflect on their time at RVU and share insights into what put them on the path to becoming physician assistants.

In addition to graduating from RVU’s PA Program, what else do you feel was an amazing feat?

Rana Colatriano, MPAS ’20

“I feel that having been an Emergency Medical Technician for ten years at Penrose Main Emergency Department (roughly 16,000 hours of patient care) prior to being accepted into RVU gave me an advantage all throughout school regarding bedside manner, triage, determining sick versus not sick, and IPE/hand-offs.”

Ashley Falcon, MPAS ’20

“In October 2020, I was camping on Barr Trail, a trail that leads to the top of Pikes Peak. The day we had planned to summit Pikes Peak from camp, we were told to evacuate due to a forest fire. The evacuation route required our party of five to hike down the tracks of the Cog Railway, which is currently being renovated. One woman from the party slipped on the tracks and suffered a head, ankle, and rib injury.

“At the time, she thought she had sprained her ankle, but we later found out she had sustained a fibular fracture. Being the only medical personnel in the party, I was able to take direction of the group, assess the patient, splint her leg, and keep her calm while search-and-rescue made their way up to us. I handed her off to search-and-rescue and [gave] them a good history and detailed report. We have kept in touch and she is recovering well from her injuries. I was grateful for my rotations and training that allowed me to take charge and intervene with confidence.” 

Ashley Falcon, MPAS ’20, assisting an injured hiker.

What is one of your favorite memories from your time at RVU?

Michelle Becker, MPAS ’20

“Winning the Colorado Academy of Physician Assistants (CAPA) Challenge Bowl and the lifelong friends that I have made.”

Rana Colatriano, MPAS ’20

“I will miss seeing Ben fall asleep – sometimes while even standing up – during lectures. I also think the whole weekend of CAPA during didactic year was memorable – from awesome conversations with all of us stuffed in a hot tub (pre-COVID), sombreros and pitchers of margaritas, and of course, WINNING THE [CAPA] CHALLENGE BOWL as an inaugural class.”

A fun outing after a long day of classes and studying.

Ashley Falcon, MPAS ’20

“One of my favorite memories was when our class won the 2019 CAPA Challenge Bowl. We were the new kids on the block and competed with more established PA programs, and won first place! The moment when the announcers declared us the winners was epic. We all ran up to cheer our classmates and the room was filled with a lot of cheering, hugs, and RVU people. I was really proud of our program and our class that day.”

Jordan Eatough, MPAS ’20

“I had the privilege of traveling to Ecuador during Spring Break 2019 to participate in a humanitarian medical mission trip. My wife was also able to go with us as a certified PA preceptor. We went with various RVUCOM students from the Global Medicine Track as well as healthcare professionals from the Hands for Health Foundation.

“We worked alongside Ecuadorian medical, dental, and optometry students in very rural towns throughout the region. I had the opportunity to better develop my clinical and medical skills, and to utilize my knowledge of Spanish to help translate for and treat the wonderful, humble people of Ecuador. I’m grateful for the many friendships created and the inter-professional collaboration experienced during this incredible service opportunity.”

Jordan Eatough, MPAS ’20, helps treat patients in Ecuador.

Benjamin Galloway, MPAS ’20

“All the late-night study sessions with chips and salsa and good friends in the library. Also, playing ping pong and spikeball in between classes. And singing to 90s hits in the anatomy lab.”

Amy Knackendoffel, MPAS ’20

“Throughout the didactic year, playing frisbee, football, and ping pong with classmates during breaks from class to lift our spirits.”

What inspired you to become a physician assistant?

Michelle Becker, MPAS ’20

“The diagnosis of a family friend with chronic myelogenous leukemia at a young age.”

Rana Colatriano, MPAS ’20

“It all began with the childhood story my mother loves to disclose, with the intention of embarrassing me, to all who will listen. Growing up with predatory felines, my cat caught a mouse and gifted it to me one afternoon. As a six-year-old child full of hope, I MacGyvered mouth-to-mouth using my aunt’s discarded cigarillo tip and the largest breaths I could muster. The mouse stood to be the first life I lost despite my gallant, futile efforts. 

“Later in life, working almost ten years in the emergency room has left me with countless lives lost, including my own father, despite my CPR blisters, sweat, and even occasional tears. These experiences ignited my avidity for more responsibility, knowledge, and hands-on experience with people. These things, along with the desire to make my father proud, made me realize I had to become a physician assistant.”

Jordan Eatough, MPAS ’20

“The many hardworking, dedicated, and down-to-earth Physician Assistant examples I’ve had in my life – friends from high school and college, my uncle, my wife, and now my brother, who is currently in PA school.

“The hope (and potential) to one day achieve a work-life balance to be able to spend time with the thing that matters most to me in life – my family.

“The opportunity for lateral mobility and career flexibility that exists among the PA profession, and the ability to change specialties and continue to develop new skills throughout my career.”

Ashley Falcon, MPAS ’20

“Being a PA means I am in a better position to advocate for those in need. I can spend more time with my patients and be a key player in bridging the communication gap we often see amongst specialties. This is also one of the few careers where you can become a truly well rounded medical provider by having the ability to work in different specialties in your career.”

What is something you learned at RVU that you will take with you for the rest of your career?

Rana Colatriano, MPAS ’20

“PA school is expensive and I will take my student loans with me the rest of my career…and also: If you ever question what you should do, ask your patient. Patient-centered care can help guide the way…if that fails, there’s always UpToDate.”

Jordan Eatough, MPAS ’20

“I will always remember the friendships made amongst the inaugural RVU PA Class of 2020. We have all become so close as we’ve helped establish the program and pave the way for future classes.

I will always remember the late-night study groups, post-exam gatherings, lunchtime spike ball, in-between class ping pong matches, and our recent Zoom study sessions. My classmates have become like family to me, and I am proud of everything that we have accomplished.”

Ashley Falcon, MPAS ’20

“I have learned to become more adaptable and resilient.”

Benjamin Galloway, MPAS ’20

“It’s good to be open-minded, as sometimes you will love something you didn’t think you’d enjoy or sometimes people will surprise you in ways you didn’t expect.”

The photos in this post were taken during the past two-and-a-half years. Most of the photos precede the coronavirus pandemic.

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