As I reflect on my 27-year career as a clinician, educator, researcher, and administrator, I am struck by the fact that although much has changed in PA education, the PA profession, and the medical landscape, much has stayed the same. I started my career with a passion for delivering high-quality, individualized patient care, with an emphasis on patient education and health literacy. I transitioned into teaching students to do the same.
Today the decisions I make are grounded in serving faculty and staff so that, as a team, we can continue to provide students a quality education, grounded in IPE, that will produce patient-centered healthcare providers with a reverence for the human condition, empathy towards suffering, excellence in medical care, and humility. My patients taught me the human side of medicine, my students taught me how to teach and how to listen, and the many faculty, staff, and administrators I had the honor of working with, mentored me to become the leader I am to day.
As evidenced by my career track and service experience, I am dedicated to, and have a passion for, the PA profession and PA education. My previous experience as a PAEA board member lends me a firm understanding of the work the Board engages in, its challenges, importance, and impact. I am an authentic leader that doesn't shy away from conflict. But I strongly believe in the concept of team, focusing on collaboration, communication, commitment, and confidence.
The PA profession is facing many challenges––OTP and its impact on education and programs, clinical site availability, improved relationships with our partners, developing leaders for our profession, and certification alternatives. Still, PAEA and its members are dedicated, experienced, and talented individuals who have faced many challenges such as this in the past. Our fifty-year celebration is evidence of that fact. Despite the storms that have come and gone, we rise, we stand strong and proud.
For seventeen years, PAEA has been my village and playground, providing me with support, room to grow, great faculty development opportunities, and mentors. If given the opportunity, I would be honored to continue serving PAEA, as it has served me over the years, as Director at Large.
High-performing Board members should be critical thinkers who have a passion for, and dedication to, PA education and the PA profession. Board members must be knowledgeable about the topics affecting PA education and health education on the whole. They must be willing and able to communicate their thoughts in a collaborative and professional manner with their colleagues.
Board members should be able to represent PAEA and its members when called upon, speaking about the issues not necessarily from an individual prospective, but the prospective shared by the PAEA Board and the membership, as a collaborative unit.
Finally, a successful Board member should possess excellent time management skills and have a clear understanding of the role and responsibilities of being a Board member, its challenges and time commitments. Having served on the Board in the past, I understand the commitment and the culture. I am knowledgeable about the challenges PA education faces, and I am prepared to serve in a professional and collaborative manner.
Currently, new PA graduates are educated under a model that prepares them to practice in collaboration with physicians. OTP changes this dynamic significantly and thus the current model of PA education will be heavily impacted. In the white paper titled, Optimal Team Practice: the Right Prescription for All PAs?, published by the Physician Assistant Education Association, OTP Task Force in May 2017, program directors, past presidents, and medical directors were surveyed to gauge their opinions on the impact of OTP on curricula. Eighty-six percent of respondents indicated that their program curriculum did not currently prepare graduates to practice without a collaborating physician.
Similar to the respondents of the survey, I agree that curriculum will have to be expanded to prepare students to practice independently which will increase the duration and content of programs. Increased training in medicine, pharmacology, leadership, decision-making and delegation, reimbursement models, and critical thinking are just a few topics that will have to be expanded.
Many PA programs are facing a critical shortage in clinical sites, but OTP will lead to expansion of the clinical education curriculum. OTP would place remarkable pressure on an already strained clinical training arena. Expansion of clinical education may also have a negative impact on preceptors willing to precept students in this new model.
Student tuition would increase to cover the expansion of the program. Increasing tuition may have a negative impact on the diversity of applicants. Finally, it is likely that more programs would now explore awarding the clinical doctorate.
The challenges I have faced as a leader have less to do with work product and more on working with individuals with varied backgrounds and experiences, each with their own opinions, strengths, and challenges. The most significant challenge I have faced revolves around chronic abrasive workplace behavior by a seasoned faculty member that negatively impacted faculty, staff, and students.
Resolving the issue took a great deal of time, patience, commitment, and collaboration across departments. It included collaboration with upper administration, human resources, and the employee assistance program. I gained insight into the employee's behavior by speaking to the many people impacted, collecting stories and evidence, searching for themes. I intervened in a timely manner, using a calm and confident approach, keeping in mind the psychological forces that make intervention challenging, such as unconscious fears and defense mechanisms––denial, anger, withdrawal, and counterattack. Over time, I differentiated between acceptable conflict and unacceptable abrasive behavior. I created a foundation of behavioral expectations for respectful conduct at the workplace for all involved.