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University of the Cumberlands hosts world-renowned pediatric heart surgeon William Fleming


Dr. William Fleming speaks to a group of Physician Assistant students at University of the Cumberlands on Friday, May 7. Fleming is a retired pediatric heart surgeon who is respected across the globe for his work in the field.

WILLIAMSBURG, Ky. – Dr. William H. Fleming is one of the most well-respected pediatric heart surgeons in the world. On Friday, May 6, he shared much of his knowledge with a small group of Physician Assistant students at University of the Cumberlands (UC).

Fleming has a lot of experience working with PAs. In the 70’s he initiated the writing of legislature for Physician Assistant laws in the state of Georgia, shortly after the PA program started growing (at the time, North Carolina and Florida were the only states to have legislature on PAs).

“Basically, we said they [PAs] could do anything a doctor could do, as long as it was with supervision,” said Fleming.

Through his early experience, Fleming learned the effectiveness of physician assistants in the workforce. He also helped the students understand the importance of working hard and that mistakes are inevitable. “If you never make a mistake you’re not doing anything,” said Fleming. He didn’t sugar-coat the job, however. “You’ll have to decide, will you work full-time or all-the-time,” he said, laughing.

The PA students were encouraged by Fleming’s discussion. “It is nice to get a physician’s aspect on how he feels about PA’s,” said Crystal McKiddy, PA student at UC and resident of Scott Co., Tenn. “It’s great to see someone of that stature that’s positive about the [PA] profession,” added Adam Adkins of Williamsburg.

While offering loads of practical and anecdotal advice, Fleming did not fail to discuss the wide range of career options PA students have—everything from working in ERs to working in specialized clinics. “I realized I can definitely accomplish more,” said Jared Nix of McKee, Ky.

Dr. Fleming was also awarded an honorary doctorate during UC’s 2011 Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 7, because of his pioneer work in PA education and his development of many techniques in pediatric cardiology.

Fleming worked for 20 years as the primary pediatric heart surgeon in Omaha, Nebraska. During this time he made significant contributions to the treatment and study of congenital heart disease through innovative surgical techniques. He also served in the United States Army at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and in Long Binh, Vietnam. He now focuses on board work with the Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Omaha Symphony.

The Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program at University of the Cumberlands is offered under a co-hort system with course work to be completed over 24 months. Of the 101 credit hours in the program, 61 hours are earned through Didactics coursework in a traditional classroom and laboratory setting. 54 of these hours are earned during the first year of the program, with the remainder part of a capstone sequence at the end of the program.

Course delivery includes formal lectures, computer-generated instruction, small group sessions and the use of simulated patients. All Didactics coursework takes place on the UC campus in the Forcht Medical Wing of the Correll Science Complex. The remaining 40 hours are earned during the second year in the program through eight supervised Clinical Rotations in the field.

Located in Williamsburg, Ky., University of the Cumberlands is an institution of regional distinction, which currently offers four undergraduate degrees more than 40 major fields of study; nine pre-professional programs; seven graduate degrees, including a doctorate and six master’s degrees; certifications in education; and online programs.