Lauren Voss, Ashley Phillips, Liz HazelhurstRight side of screen: Lauren Voss, Ashley Phillips, Liz HazelhurstThe Physician Assistant program in the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Health Professions is competitive. It is competitive to get in. It is competitive once you are in. And it is competitive outside as well.

After all, this is the program that won the annual UAB Gurney Derby at Homecoming AND the UAB Intramural Volleyball Championship in 2013.

So it’s only natural that they would compete in the National Medical Challenge Bowl which bills itself as “a friendly competition” at the annual American Academy of Physician Assistants conference in Boston.

This year’s UAB PA team consisted of three second-year students: Liz Hazelhurst, of Forsyth, Illinois; Ashley Phillips, of Campbellsville, Kentucky; and Lauren Voss of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. To prepare themselves, they created their own Challenge Bowl and recruited some of UAB’s first-year PA students.

Team "two blondes & a cheerleader doesn't sound like a challenge"Team "two blondes & a cheerleader doesn't sound like a challenge"One of the first-year students took a look at the trio – Voss and Hazelhurst are each blonde, and Phillips is a former college cheerleader – and decided to make a joke. He told them, “Two blondes and a cheerleader doesn’t sound like a challenge.”

Voss said that after they stopped laughing (and after repeatedly beating both first-year student teams) they thought that was perfect. The joke jokingly became their motivation and their mantra with “Two Blondes and a Cheerleader” becoming their unofficial team name for the weekend.

But, what is no joke – is this UAB PA trio laughed their way into the Top 36 – advancing further than more than half the participants from across the country.

“We were disappointed we didn’t advance even farther, but regardless, it was a wonderful experience and we know after three months of studying like crazy we are going to do awesome on our board exams,” said Voss, who was a member of the championship volleyball and Gurney Derby teams.

Voss, Phillips, Hazelhurst, Amy McDonaldVoss, Phillips, Hazelhurst, Amy McDonald in BostonNow it is time for the real challenge. Voss says there are 185 days until graduation (not that she’s counting). And their attention turns toward graduating, passing boards and finding a job. But just like in the immortal words of their first-year PA student motivator: it doesn’t sound like a challenge. Or at least it doesn’t sound as scary of a challenge as before.

“UAB’s PA program stresses preparation for graduation,” said Voss. “They work with us early on to prepare for certification exams, cover letters, resumes and interviews so we are ready to enter the workforce when we finish in December.”

The UAB PA program’s five year NCCPA certification pass rate is a staggering 99 percent. Every UAB PA student has passed the exam on their first attempt in four of the past five years. The national average for first time takers during that same stretch is only 92.8 percent.

To find out more about the UAB Physician Assistant program in our Department of Clinical and Diagnostic Sciences visit or email