AUGUSTA, Ga. – “The epitome of a leader.”
“More than deserving.”
“Possessing selfless compassion.”
All are sentiments used to describe this year’s winner of the John F. Beard Award for Compassionate Care, Georgia Regents University Physician Assistant Program graduate Elizabeth Prince-Coleman.
Prince-Coleman, a native of Carrollton, Ga., entered the PA program after earning her bachelor’s degree in religion and philosophy from Berry College in Rome. It didn’t take long for her to stand out, says one of her classmates, Jennifer Chapman.
“In the summer of 2011, (one of) our classmates suddenly became ill,” Chapman wrote in her nomination letter. “Elizabeth was there with him in the emergency department and visited often after he was admitted. She reached out to our class and organized bringing meals to his family who were visiting from out of town.”
But her empathy and compassion for others didn’t end – or begin – there, other nominators wrote.
“Elizabeth and I met at Berry College and she was the maid-of-honor in my wedding,” wrote her friend, Julia Anna Morris-Meeks. “Shortly after our wedding, we received the tragic news that my cousin’s baby had been diagnosed with a devastating genetic disorder that was likely to be fatal. When the baby was transferred to (a hospital) in Atlanta, his grandparents accompanied him from South Georgia and stayed for many weeks. I shared this story with Elizabeth, who was living in Atlanta at the time, and without me even asking her to do anything, she began to spend a few hours each evening at the hospital. That’s the type of person she is. When there’s a need, she doesn’t ask ‘Who’s going to help?’ she just springs into action.”
‘When she learned a patient was homeless and was going to be discharged, she spent her entire day making arrangements to house her in a shelter and even worked with the shelter manager to grant her an extended stay,” wrote Psychiatry Resident James A. Murphy.
She made an impression on her patients, too.
“I stayed at (Georgia Regents Medical Center) for more than six weeks in the hopes of my twins growing enough to be able to receive care in the neonatal intensive care unit. Unfortunately, despite all efforts, my health was deteriorating and our precious babies were not big enough to survive,” wrote a patient Prince-Coleman treated. “Her presence always seemed natural and reassuring. Mrs. Coleman filled a need I did not know was unmet until she came along.”
While serving as Class President Prince-Coleman, also helped organize a 5K Resolution Run, which raised over $2,500 for Christ Church Health Clinic, a PA student-run clinic that operates in two underserved Augusta neighborhoods.
The $25,000 annual Beard Award is endowed by William Porter “Billy” Payne and his wife, Martha, to a graduating GRU student who exemplifies caring and compassion in health care. Payne, Chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, established the award in 1998 in memory of his father-in-law, who died of cancer in 1997. The award honors GRU President Emeritus Francis J. Tedesco and Mr. Beard’s physician, Dr. Mark F. Williams, a 1988 GRU Medical College of Georgia graduate who treated Mr. Beard during his hospitalization at Georgia Regents Medical Center.
Prince-Coleman received the award at the College of Allied Health Sciences Hooding and Honors Ceremony May 9. She received her Physician Assistant degree at GRU Commencement May 10.