Professor earns award

A Gannon University physician assistant professor has won Educator of the Year for 2013, given by the Pennsylvania Society of Physician Assistants.

Dr. Kimberly Cavanagh, associate professor/director in the physician assistant program, has been at Gannon since 2001.

“I must say that I have never done what I do to receive an award,” Cavanagh said. “But I am honored to have received an award for doing a job that I love.”

Prior to coming to Gannon, Cavanagh worked full time as a physician assistant with a cardiology practice – which she continued doing until a few years ago.

“I always had an interest in teaching,” Cavanagh said. “Growing up, I wanted to go into medicine or teaching and this career allowed me to do both.”

Michele Roth-Kauffman, professor and director in the physician assistant program, said she nominated Cavanagh for the award because she believes that Cavanagh is an excellent faculty member who always puts her students first.

“Dr. Cavanagh receives excellent student evaluations and students appreciate that fact that she is always willing to take time to explain concepts and answer questions that they have,” Kauffman said. “She is dedicated to the program and university and supports the mission of both.”

Stephany Wailgum, a graduate physician assistant major, said Cavanagh always makes time for her no matter what.

“She always has a smile on her face and is so willing to laugh and joke around,” Wailgum said. “She has always encouraged me through the easy times and tough times.”

Cavanagh is easy to listen to and learn from, Wailgum said. “She makes things simple and puts a lot of time into her teaching and it shows.

“Kim has always gone above and beyond what any other professor has – at least in my eyes. Teaching isn’t just a ‘job’ to Kim, it is her passion.”

Cavanagh’s mother – who is a faculty member at Gannon – sister and husband are all teachers who have influenced her interest in education, Cavanagh said.

In the classroom, Cavanagh is passionate for the material she instructs, as well as for the physician assistant occupation, Carly Gerba, a senior physician assistant major, said.

“Outside of the classroom Kim is approachable and personable,” Gerba said. “She truly wants her students to succeed and gives the advice you were hoping to receive.”

Cavanagh said she expects a lot from her students, but expects just as much, if not more, from herself.

“I absolutely set high standards for myself,” Cavanagh said. “As a physician assistant and healthcare provider I have a responsibility to stay current with the changing world of medicine.

“Additionally, I have an obligation to make sure that I pass along the most accurate, up-to-date information to my students.”

Healthcare workers she said will probably never  say learning EKGs are easy and fun, but Cavanagh’s teaching made them that way, Wailgum said.

Wailgum had Cavanagh as her adviser for her undergraduate years.

“There were one or two days where I completely fell apart while walking into her office,” Wailgum said. “She shut the door, handed me a box of tissues and said ‘what’s wrong?

“No other professor would have done that with such sincerity.”

Cavanagh said she looks to find new ways to reach the students when teaching.

“I try different activities, different approaches and new ways to convey information while trying to make class interesting and dare I say, enjoyable,” Cavanagh said.

It is a wonderful experience to watch students develop during their five years in the program, Cavanagh said.

“They grow in their knowledge, abilities and skills,” Cavanagh said. “I am proud to teach here at Gannon.”


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