PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Although four Northern Maine Community College graduates will be dressed just like their peers at the commencement ceremony on May 16, the group will have the distinction of being the first representatives of the college’s medical assistants associate degree program.

They will be the program’s first graduates.

More than three years ago, officials from numerous health care provider organizations in Aroostook County approached NMCC about offering the program to train students to enter the work force and to boost health care in the region. The college organized the program in response to those requests.

NMCC’s commencement exercises are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 16, in the college gymnasium. Instructor Daniel Hotham, who began his employment with the school 35 years ago, will address the gathering. Also speaking will be NMCC’s Student of the Year, Charles Zappone of Woodland.

The U.S. Department of Labor has identified medical assisting as one of the fastest-growing professions. Medical assistants serve in administrative and clinical settings and juggle such tasks as keeping patient records and handling insurance arrangements, together with assisting in patient examinations and performing physical assessments.

As a testament to the need for the program, three of the four future graduates already are working in the field, according to NMCC officials.

“I am so proud of the students and the hard work they have put in to get where they are now,” Susan Dugal, program coordinator, said Tuesday.

She noted that 11 students are completing their first year of studies, and next fall’s entering class has a dozen confirmed students.

“There is a lack of medical assistants in this area, and we are helping to put more of them out there in the field,” she said.

Alan Punches, NMCC vice president and academic dean, also expressed pride in the students.

“Area hospital administrators, office managers, clinicians and physicians either came to the college individually or voiced the need through our advisory committees that they would benefit greatly by a program in medical assisting,” he said. “I am so pleased that we have been able to respond to this need and that area health care providers will soon employ graduates of our medical assisting associate degree program.”

The college will hold a pinning ceremony for its inaugural medical assisting program graduates at 2 p.m. Thursday, May 14, in the Edmunds Conference Center.