When John J. Fitzgerald III, DO, FACOG, associate director of the Physician Assistant (PA) Studies program at Salus University, received notice of being selected as a 2021 Presidential Medal of Honor recipient, it was a special moment filled with emotions.

“I was elated, very happy and overwhelmed a bit because I know some of the people who have received the award in the past and I am honored,” he said. 

Dr. Fitzgerald joined the University’s PA program in 2009. Throughout his stretch of service to the University, he has played many roles in advancing the clinical training of Salus PA students preparing to become frontline healthcare workers. For him, the award serves as a testament to his hard work. 

“I think it means that what I’ve been working toward for 12 years has been recognized,” he said. “I’ve been trying to do my best work and just do my job, to be honest. With the award I feel like it’s a recognition of a job well done.”

Headshot of Dr. John Fitzgerald wearing medal
For those efforts and more, James Konopack, PhD, dean of the University’s College of Health Sciences, Education and Rehabilitation (CHER), described Dr. Fitzgerald’s role at Salus as “vital” for the education of PA students in his nomination letter.

“A PCOM trained physician and Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Dr. Fitzgerald’s rapport with leaders in the healthcare community has directly resulted in Salus securing high-quality clinical rotations, including several recent pediatric placements, which – as anyone in PA education will attest – is exceedingly difficult of late,” Dr. Konopack wrote. “Without Dr. Fitzgerald’s efforts, we would be hard-pressed to provide the high-quality level of supervised clinical education that distinguishes our PA Program.”

Dr. Fitzgerald is also a part of the Crozier family legacy, which can be traced to the founding of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus. He is married to Georgia Crozier, OD ‘84, MS ‘87, the daughter of George H. Crozier, OD ‘49, and Gilda Coppola Crozier, OD ‘43, FAAO, and granddaughter to John E. Crozier, OD, FAAO, a founding member of PCO. George, Gilda and John were also recipients of the award during the 75th anniversary celebration of PCO/Salus.

“Because of my affiliation with the Crozier family, I knew what they had done for this institution, I knew about the lifeblood, professionalism and passion that they’ve put into it,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “I always said to myself I would like to end my career teaching somewhere like that. And, then I was finally able to be part of this PCO/Salus family, give back what I really wanted to and model myself after what I learned from the Croziers.”

Over the years, the Presidential Medal has been awarded to some of the University’s most outstanding educators. Dr. Fitzgerald’s deep commitment to raising the bar of quality of the clinical experiences for Salus PA students and his vision for the program embodies the spirit of the award. 

Considering the award’s history, Dr. Fitzgerald is honored to be among its recipients. But looking ahead, he’s moving ambitiously forward.

“Because of the amount of competition, we have to continue to build existing partnerships, foster new relationships, and find new options and areas of clinical rotations” he said. “I am hopeful, though, that as our program grows and our students enter their rotations with high-level training, we will demonstrate the value of the Salus PA program and the professionals it graduates into the field.”