2019 PAEA Education Forum

Board Candidate: Director at Large

Candidate Statement

Nicole Burwell,

It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I express my interest in serving as the Director at Large for the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) Board of Directors. With more than 20 years of experience as a clinician and educator, I am extraordinarily committed to actualizing the mission of leadership, innovation, and excellence in PA education. Joining the Stanford University faculty in 2017, I am currently a Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at Stanford University. I am most recently a member of the Leadership Mission Advancement Commission (LMAC). I have had the pleasure of serving two consecutive terms on the PAEA Council on Diversity and Inclusion (CDI), and Chair of the CDI Retention and Support Sub-Committee. These are just a few examples of my internal governance experience and service to our profession. We spend the entirety of our careers as lifelong learners, seeking to improve the quality of care. Medicine is constantly evolving—and as educators and clinicians, so should we. Committed to innovative learning, I continued my leadership training in an immersive leadership program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) designed to produce impactful leaders helping to advance their organizations. Successful leadership means full engagement in the challenges of the Association, and I am eager to bring a novel perspective as we are entering this new era. I believe in the power of what collaboration and the networking of minds can unleash. The ability to harness the brain power of diverse perspectives will allow us to generate new ideas, build solutions, and achieve outcomes that would not otherwise be attainable. I would be honored to serve as Director at Large as we break barriers toward better health for all.

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PAEA Forum Motif


1. What attributes characterize a high-performing Board member and which of them do you possess?

Today’s challenging healthcare and education landscape makes it more imperative than ever to have a team of strategic thinkers who perform well together and deliver results. Self-awareness, perspective taking, being a skilled decision maker, and a masterful communicator are vital attributes of high performing board members and core competencies of a leader. Also, a high-performing board member should also value and possess humility, curiosity, and courage.

I recognize the awesome responsibility of this role and would be humbled to serve the membership and the greater purpose of the organization. My self-awareness allows me to understand what motivates me, so that I can inspire others. My curiosity drives generative thinking that is required to make sound decisions to meet the organization’s short-term and long-term strategic plan. My curiosity also demonstrates that I understand the importance of qualitative and quantitative data as key inputs to good decision making. Lastly, my courage drives innovation, which allows for a strategic approach to problem solving, and the ability to trust that it will advance the mission of the organization and lead to progress.

2. What do you believe will be PAEA’s biggest opportunity in the coming years given the ongoing changes in health care and higher education?

As clinicians and educators, we desire an educational system that produces a workforce capable of meeting the evolving health care needs of the public; a health care system that reflects the population it serves, is high quality, and committed to continually improving. The coming year is an opportunity for PAEA to be actively engaged with member programs to provide the resources needed to meet the growing demands of today’s society.

For example, we should continue building upon the success already achieved with the Medication Assisted Training-Waiver Training Initiative to meet the goal of graduating waiver-eligible students and the Student Educator Fellowships as a means of encouraging careers in education. Through the new Digital Learning Hub platform, professional learning communities, workshops, and other resources, PAEA can continue to offer a broad range of topics for faculty and leadership development to meet the challenges we face at our individual member institutions with confidence.

Moving forward, PAEA has an opportunity to support member efforts in achieving excellence through diversity with recruitment, retention and professional development resources and initiatives. In doing so, it will be imperative to continue strengthening the strategic partnerships with ARC-PA, AAPA, NCCPA and interprofessional relationships that will keep us at forefront of the health profession’s education community. Lastly, research is one of the most important investments that we can make in our future as physician assistants leading to new discovery and aligned with the vision of health care for all.

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?

In medical education, there has been a growing trend towards a competency-based framework with a focus on outcomes. Employers are also demanding that graduates have not only the knowledge, but the appropriate skills to be effective in the workplace. As such, PA education must evolve.

The new core competences for PA graduates allows for an outcomes-based approach to drive didactic curricular decisions. Entrustable Professional Activities (EPAs) provide the opportunity for programs to shape and define the clinical education of PA students. As a whole, assessing the quality of medical education by the quality of care that our graduates deliver will allow for more effective curricular design.

A necessary goal of each program is meeting the ARC-PA standards. Outcomes-based accreditation would provide assurances that our graduates possess basic competencies. As we envision the landscape, the next steps in advancing this work provokes the question of competencies for entering PA students.

The PA education and practice continuum begins with admissions, includes time spent in PA school, and spans graduate medical education and continuing medical education. A more comprehensive assessment of lifelong PA competencies will help ensure optimal patient outcomes and that our standard of care as PAs is continually improving.