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Stakeholder Summit: The First Domino

By Marsea NelsonMarch 9, 2016

Standing and smiling

(L to R) James Sutton, Kristen Will, and Blair Sadler during a breakout discussion at the Stakeholder Summit. (Photo © PAEA/Seán Stickle)

For two days participants came together to generate forward-thinking ideas, helping set the stage for the next chapter in PA education.

When we first dreamed up the concept of a Stakeholder Summit, we didn’t much question whether it was a good idea or whether the timing was right (the answer to both questions, we felt, was a resounding yes). Rather, could we pull it off? Could we bring some 60 thought leaders together to discuss the future of PA education?

Earlier this week, we got our answer. Our expectations? Blown out of the water.

Sitting at table, looking up at someone off camera
(L to R) Kenneth Moritsugu, Heidi Felix, and Cyndy Flores during a breakout session. (Photo © PAEA/Seán Stickle)

For two days, representatives from across the spectrum of the health care world put their heads together in Washington, D.C., to begin figuring out what new PA graduates need to be successful. They brought with them backgrounds in education, practice, public interest, research, credentialing, administration, military, government, business, advocacy, and policy. (You can find participant bios here.)

To make the event happen, we teamed up with the other “4 Orgs,” who offered financial support — along with their expertise and contacts.

The questions surrounding the future of PA education are complex, and during the summit we went at them from a few different angles. We challenged assumptions; we imagined it was 2026 and discussed our many accomplishments over the previous decade; and we brainstormed the first steps to take toward that future we had envisioned.

Sitting at table, Susan speaking, Melinda taking notes
(L to R) Susan Salahshor and Melinda Thomas take turns interviewing each other. (Photo © PAEA/Seán Stickle)

“I was motivated by the thoughtfulness, passion and honesty of all those in the room,” said Cynthia Lord, MHS, PA-C, the PA program director at Case Western Reserve University. “PA pride was balanced by our need to adapt and transform so that we remain relevant in the health care arena and so that PA graduates are prepared to practice medicine.”

We can’t yet offer you any official products as a result of the summit — we’ve got heaps of notes to go through and many discussions still to have. But we can share a few common themes that kept bubbling up to the surface.

  • It’s important that the PA profession be defined so that others aren’t defining it for us.
  • For new PA graduates, there’s a significant onboarding process that occurs when they begin their first jobs. How can we best support that transition so that these PAs aren’t overwhelmed and can become a valuable part of their health care teams as soon as possible?
    Paul presenting a flip chart
    “I feel like I’m at the PA education Grammys,” student Paul Gonzales said as he introduced himself to the room. (Photo © PAEA/Seán Stickle)

  • People skills and emotional intelligence are essential to a PA’s success. How do we cultivate these?
  • There’s no way to teach PA students absolutely everything they need to know by the time they graduate. Therefore, how do we instill in them an appreciation for lifelong learning? How do we ensure their critical thinking skills are robust?

The breadth of knowledge, the combined years of experience, and the varied points of view that came together in one room this week was, quite simply, astounding. We heard from the doctor and nursing attendees who said, “I don’t know if our associations could come together to do something like this.”

Bob laughing hysterically, Sara smiling
Bob McNellis and Sara Fletcher during a candid moment. (Photo © PAEA/Seán Stickle)

But we also heard sentiments such as, “I’ve been to brainstorming events like this before, and nothing ever comes of them.”

We have no intention of allowing that to happen.

This fall we’ll release a report — essentially a roadmap toward the future — as the primary publication resulting from the summit. But forthcoming articles, Board discussion, and meetings will come before and after that, too.

We want to thank all of the Stakeholder Summit participants who gave generously of their time, enthusiasm, and knowledge. We give special thanks to

  • AAPA CEO Jenna Dorn, MPA
  • AAPA President & Chair Jeffrey Katz, PA-C
  • ARC-PA Executive Director John McCarty, MPAS, PA
  • NCCPA President & CEO Dawn Morton-Rias, EdD, PA-C
  • NCCPA Chair Denni Woodmansee, MS, PA-C
  • Dawn Ludwig, PhD, PA-C
  • Sharon Luke, MSHS, PA-C
Marsea Nelson
Marsea Nelson

Marsea serves as public affairs manager at the Physician Assistant Education Association. She helps write and edit the Association's external communications.