Board Candidate: President Elect
I respectfully declare my candidacy for the President-Elect position on the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) Board of Directors. I am currently an Associate Professor for the Physician Assistant Program at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center with prior experience at the PA programs at Midwestern University in Glendale, AZ, and Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science. I also had the distinct privilege of being the first PA educator on staff for PAEA which allowed me to gain an appreciation of PA education from another vantage point.
During my four years of service on the board, I have been actively engaged in the strategic work of the Association. Over the past two years I chaired the Optimal Team Practice Task Force that was charged to explore the potential implications that Optimal Team Practice (OTP) may have on PA education. That said, OTP is only one issue currently reshaping our profession. As we move forward, other key issues include demonstrating our commitment to diversity and inclusion for our students and faculty and the expansion of our ability to support the clinical phase of the curriculum.
As we consider the challenges associated with clinical site shortages, we need to explore innovative solutions to reduce the burden on programs and their clinical coordinators. The problems associated with recruiting and retaining clinical sites are not unique to PA education. Accordingly, our strategy should include a summit with other key stakeholders, to include our colleagues in medical education, administrators of hospital and clinic systems, third party payors, and government agencies to identify mutually beneficial solutions. Past President Stephane VanderMuelen challenged us to “be bold”; and the time has come for PAEA to lead the way in addressing this critical problem impacting the education of our students.
No doubt you’ve heard the expression “if you’ve seen one PA program, you’ve seen one PA program.” While this one statement has served as a badge of honor that has allowed us to embrace our uniqueness, now is the time to set aside that mindset as we examine ways to solve our common problems. In fact the more I talk with educators from across the country, I find that we share the same challenges of finding faculty, screening for the best PA student applicants, and promoting professionalism in the classroom. But, we also share common goals of identifying active learning strategies to engage our students, incorporating new assessment methods to ensure learning outcomes are met, and ensuring that our students are ready to successfully transition into clinical practice. The more we share resources and work collaboratively to solve the issues we all share, the stronger we make our programs and the higher we raise the bar for PA education.
Thank you for consideration of my candidacy. I would be honored to serve the Association and its members as the President-Elect of the PAEA Board of Directors.
1. What attributes characterize a high-performing Board member and which of them do you possess?
High-performing Board members have the ability to balance their fiduciary responsibilities for oversight of the association, strategic visioning to advance the work of the association, and generative thinking which consists of asking the right questions to thoroughly vet the issues that come before the board. Critical thinking skills guide informed decision making and establishment of priorities. Additionally, effective board members are open-minded to alternate viewpoints and solutions. Central to fostering effective discussions, board members need to be respectful of others, be a good team player, and be able to build consensus. Other key attributes for board members include being transparent, being a good communicator, and having the ability to scan the horizon for upcoming issues that may impact PA education.
For myself, as a clinician and long- time educator, I have sought to think critically throughout my career in order to guide decision-making impacting patients, students, and the program. I’ve often described myself as someone who is able to appreciate both sides of an issue, which has allowed me to balance the merits of alternate opinions with the opportunities to find common ground. Over time I have come to appreciate the importance of how we communicate so that our message isn’t lost in the delivery. In addition, my sense of dedication and attitude of being a servant leader who focuses on meeting the needs of others prepares me as a Board member to help meet the needs of our members, students, and the Association.
2. What do you believe will be PAEA’s biggest opportunity in the coming years given the ongoing changes in healthcare and higher education?
One of the biggest opportunities in PA education is finding tangible solutions to the challenges in clinical education. Solving the problems associated with the retention and recruitment of clinical preceptors is not just a clinical coordinator or program director responsibility. Given the systemic competition for clinical sites with other PA programs and medical schools, the challenges with clinical education are even bigger than the individual institution. PAEA has the opportunity to bring together stakeholders representing PA education, medical education, hospital and clinical systems and Area Health Education Coordinators to develop sustainable solutions to meet the needs of our programs as well as the needs of our clinical partners. A hard look at the structure and content of clinical education is one facet of identifying workable solutions to preserve the integrity of the educational process that allows our students to apply what they’ve learned in the didactic phase and prepare them to transition into clinical practice. Potential solutions include innovative ways of establishing new clinical partnerships, exploring alternate ways of compensating preceptors and health systems, incorporating interprofessional education with sharing of sites with other healthcare professions, and increasing utilization of simulation to enhance direct patient care experiences gained on clinical rotations. Additionally, examining the current structure of rotations dedicated to specific specialties will allow us to reimagine what the clinical year could look like.
3. In recent years, PAEA has advocated for a more outcomes-based approach to PA education and accreditation, including developing competencies for new graduates and working with the ARC-PA on outcomes-based accreditation. What do you see as the next steps in advancing this work?
Outcomes-based education is centered upon establishing the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that a student should be able to demonstrate prior to graduation. The skills will not only enable the new graduate to transition into clinical practice but also inform employers about the level of preparation achieved during their education. Outcomes-based education allows programs to align instructional methods, course content, and assessment methodologies which shape the curriculum and help programs meet accreditation Standards.
The Competencies for the New Graduate provide a framework for programs to ensure that their students are prepared for graduation. These Competencies are rooted in patient-centered practice knowledge, population health, health literacy and communication, interprofessional collaborative practice, professional and legal aspects of health care, and health care systems. These new graduate competencies can be used in conjunction with accreditation Standards to shape outcomes for students as well as PA programs. The next step in moving forward will be formal adoption of the Competencies for the New Graduate that can be used as a valuable tool for programs to further shape their instructional and assessment methodologies. A collaborative partnership between PAEA and ARC-PA can lead to the development of a crosswalk document between the Competencies and Standards which will provide another valuable tool for programs to enhance the curriculum to prepare their graduates and to also help programs with their ongoing self-assessment process for program accreditation.