Keiser University


Name Title Credentials
Lynn A. Lavia Program Director MA, PhD, PA-C
Thao Tran Medical Director M.D.
Sharon Best Academic Director MS, PA-C
Feroza Thompson Full Time Faculty MS, PA-C
Bernadette Evitt Full Time Faculty MCMS, PA-C
Christina Hejja Full Time Faculty PA-C
Annette Sophin Full Time Faculty MSMM, PA-C
Kara Ann Valentine Full Time Faculty MSPA, PA-C

Professor Christina Hejja, MS, PA-C

Professor Hejja is from Ft. Lauderdale, FL.  She attended Nova Southeastern University for her undergraduate work as well as Physician Assistant training.  She has a Master’s Degree in Public Health.  She has 4 years of experience in Urology, 3 years in Cosmetic medicine, and 3 years in Orthopedic Hand Surgery.  She has been an Instructor at Keiser University’s MSPA Program since March 2012.  She teaches Physical Diagnosis I and III, Introduction to the PA Profession, Medical & Legal Ethics.  Christina also teaches the Certification Review Course for the Seniors in preparation for the PANCE, and Clinical Medicine which includes areas such as: HEENT, Musculoskeletal, Geriatrics, and Surgery.


“Find your passion!  I was fortunate that I knew exactly what I wanted at a very early age.  I absolutely love medicine and have always been curious about the anatomy of the human body.  Once you find your passion, the course load, numerous of hours of work, dedication, and reading materials all become feasible.  I see PA school and my career as just an extension of what I’ve always been interested in, and it has easily become second nature to me.  Find what you are truly interested in studying, and you will truly enjoy it!”

Professor Kara Ann Valentine, MSPA, PA-C

Professor Valentine received her Master of Medical Science in Physician Assistant from Nova Southeastern University in 2008 and a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training from Barry University in 2004. She has practiced primarily in Nephrology for five years with some experience in Pulmonary, Critical Care, and Internal Medicine. During clinical practice in Nephrology, she precepted medical and physician assistant students.  She joined Keiser’s MSPA Program as Clinical Coordinator in April 2013.  Her responsibilities include student placement in clinical sites and assisting with the clinical year education. She is a member of Florida Academy of Physician Assistants.
“As educators, our role should be to prepare our student for the road, not the road for our student.”

Professor Annette Sophin MSMM, PA-C

Professor Sophin joined  the Keiser MSPA Program faculty as Clinical Director in Sept. 2013. She previously served as Assistant Professor and Academic Coordinator at Nova Southern University PA Program from 1995-2000. She served a Surgical Fellowship from Montefiore PA Surgical Training Program.  She has several years of clinical experience in New York and Florida. Through her work as a Clinical Specialist, Annette developed important relationships in the local medical community.  She is deeply committed to clinical site development and the education of PA students: “I genuinely feel fortunate to be able to combine my passion with my background and expertise.”

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” – Socrates

Lynn A. Lavia, MA, PhD, PA-C

Professor Lavia is the Chair and Program Director of the Physician Assistant Department at Keiser University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  He has a Master’s Degree in Biology and a PhD in Medical Sciences and spent 20 doing research in Cell Biology and teaching at Wichita State University and the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita.  He then got a Master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies and spent many years in Family Practice, Emergency Medicine and teaching before coming to Keiser University.

“Our students have committed themselves to two difficult years for a dream; a dream that will change their lives forever in their maturation as future health guardians.  I have committed myself to help, guide, and share with them the fruition of that dream.  Their efforts continue to amaze me and I feel both energized and humbled by their spirit.”

Bernadette Evitt, MS, PA-C

Professor Evitt is a physician assistant, who came to Keiser University in October, 2011.  She spent most of her previous eight year career in the field of neurosurgery.  She has authored articles published in The Pain Clinicand Surgical Physician Assistant.  Since she started her academic career at Keiser University Physician Assistant Program, she has managed eleven different courses that are offered and serves on the ethics committee, the advisory board, the admissions committee, and Keiser University Physician Assistant Student Association.  She offers a voluntary PANCE review once a week for several months during each year, and she offers a one-on-one suture workshop for students entering the surgical rotation during their second year.

“Watching and contributing to the students’ growth into mature, compassionate, highly qualified health care professionals are what makes me happy.  I am so grateful for the faculty who share this motivation with me.”

Nikki Merrell

Ms. Merrell has been  employed at Keiser University for 7 years.  She began working at Keiser in the Community Outreach Department , assisting potential students who were interested in applying for Keiser programs. In 2009 she began working with the Physician Assistant program helping with the program in the beginning stages. She is now the administrative assistant for the PA program.

Sharon Best, MS, PA-C

Professor Best graduated from the Drexel University Physician Assistant Program in Philadelphia with honors in 2003. She has worked in a variety of settings. In her most recent position she designed and   opened a new free-standing Ob/Gyn clinic to serve the indigent population. She has been on three medical mission trips to Nicaragua. Most of her PA-service was in Internal Medicine/ Family Medicine/Urgent care, and she has had additional training in Dermatology.   She worked in a Level II Trauma Center for three years and in a step-down facility for ventilator dependent pediatric patients for one year.  Professor Best teaches several blocks in the Clinical Medicine and Surgery courses, Basic Interpretation to ECGs, Clinical Laboratory Medicine, and she assists in administrative duties within the program.

“First and foremost, know that your patients most often remember the little acts of kindness you showed towards them, rather than the intelligent decisions you made on their behalf.”

Thao Tran, MD, MPH

Doctor Tran graduated from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1995, Interned at Santa Barbara Hospital at the University of Southern California, and did a residency at Baylor College of Medicine.  She is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.  She served as Section Chief and faculty of Weil Cornell University in the department of neurosurgery at The Methodist Hospital.  Since her move to Florida, she provided leadership and expertise in starting the Baptist Center for Spine Care. She is currently the Medical Director of the Keiser University Physician Assistant Program and  Clinical and Strategic Advisor for the Health Council of South Florida (HCSF).

“The Affordable Care Act greatly impacted the U.S. healthcare delivery system.  I strongly believed that we are moving towards a healthcare delivery model where Physician Assistants will play a critical role in providing quality and efficient services to meet the demand for the growing population.”


Keiser University has given me the opportunity to embrace a career change… It has opened the door for a timely graduation and quick return to the work force…

Dale Caverly, Occupational Therapy Assistant Graduate

Without the education I received at Keiser University, I would not be where I am today!

Meisha Ebanks, R.N., Nursing Graduate

I not only received an excellent education but also encouragement and training that built my self-confidence every day.

Nidia Barrios, Medical Assisting Graduate

I realize the amount of knowledge I gained and feel that the educational experiences have developed me in to a person who can move higher up the career ladder.

Carlos Ramirez Flores, BA in Accounting Graduate

Keiser University’s MBA program has renewed my mind, changed the way I think, and given me a new sense of purpose.  The professors transformed my attitude and behavior, gave me the self-confidence I was lacking, and restored my energy.

Connie Sue Centrella, MBA Graduate

It has been great attending and graduating from Keiser University.  Because of the small class sizes, I was able to build good relationships with classmates and professors.  The PA professors care very much about the progress and success of the students and have been great advisors every step of the way through the program.

Annelise Merriner, PA-C, MS in Physician Assistant Graduate

Attending Keiser University and getting my degree was the best decision I have ever made.  The small class sizes and personalized attention helped me get my degree quickly.  The hands-on experience and the education landed me a job at a neighboring law firm.

Dedrick Saxon, Criminal Justice Graduate

I chose Keiser because it had everything—small classes, caring professors, hands-on learning, and counselors that are really there for you.  I feel like I’m part of a family here, not just a number.

Natalie Dou, Histotechnology Graduate

After being denied for several promotions at my current employer, I decided that I needed to further my education.  Since graduating from Keiser with my bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, I have been promoted and I am able to obtain positions that weren’t available to me before.

Laurie Williams, BA in Business Administration Graduate

Keiser helped change my life by getting my education at the right school! I have been going to another school before, dropped out because I felt that I was not getting enough information that I need. When I found out about Keiser, I was pleased because the instructors were great.

Nadege Dor, Medical Assisting Graduate

My decision to attend Keiser University has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. I chose to enroll in the Information Technology program… The one-class-a-month pace helped incredibly with my self-discipline.

Marla Hadley, Information Technology Graduate

The BA for Business Administration at Keiser has to be one of the best in the nation. Keiser takes the basics that are taught at the Associates level and uses them to strengthen your skills and knowledge.

Vivian R. Howard, BA in Business Administration Graduate

I found that Keiser University’s Nuclear Medicine program of advanced studies and small class size was a perfect fit. I never came across a faculty member who wasn’t truly interested.

Gustavo Gonzalez, Nuclear Medicine Technology Graduate