Partnerships

4 Reasons Why Partnering with AAMC Is Good for PAEA

By Timi Agar Barwick, MPMApril 2, 2015

AAMC and PAEA

AAMC and PAEA (Credit: Seán Stickle)

The time is right to start partnering with AAMC. We’re uniting our efforts to improve interprofessional education for physicians, PAs, and others.

Last year, we announced that PAEA would be partnering with AAMC. As part of this elevated relationship, we would — and have — moved our headquarters into their Washington, D.C., office building. Since that announcement, members and other stakeholders have asked for more information and insight about why this partnership makes sense.

 1. A strong partner will help us achieve our goals.

Relatively new to organized medicine, we are a smaller and younger profession. But our youthful and pioneering spirit — including a nearly 50-year history and more than 100,000 practicing PAs — brings some distinct advantages.

PA education is largely free from historical impediments such as bureaucracy and traditional practices, allowing our profession to be more nimble than most. Our generalist education allows us to be flexible as well as responsive to changing environments and shifting needs. After all, how many other professions can produce such a respected and in-demand medical professional in only 26 months?

Yet, our youthfulness has its disadvantages. We constantly have to explain the unique characteristics of the PA educational and practice models. This makes it harder for our message to be heard and our accomplishments to be seen. It leaves us susceptible to being outnumbered or overpowered during political and industry negotiations.

This is the core reason why this partnership is so important. It allows us to take advantage of the larger numbers and greater influence of the physician community to advance our agenda, bringing efficiency, understanding, and new knowledge for the benefit of patients.

2. AAMC is ready to build strategic partnerships.

I’ve been with the profession for more than 20 years. During that time, I have heard people say again and again: “The AAMC doesn’t need partners.” Even if that were true in the past, it isn’t true today.

The current political and clinical environments are demanding higher quality care, increased control over medical costs, and attention to the health of entire populations rather than isolated individuals. And if the Affordable Care Act accomplished nothing else, it sent a strong signal to all health professions to wake up, think about, and prioritize team-based, interprofessional care.

That doesn’t mean that an entrenched medical culture such as AAMC’s will change overnight. But these cultures will begin to evolve more rapidly than in the past, given the emerging and demanding conditions. AAMC is clearly responding by creating opportunities within their building for that to happen, by starting to work more closely with PAEA and the American Dental Education Association (ADEA).

3. We are coming to the partnership from a position of strength.

For decades, PAEA (previously the Association of Physician Assistant Programs) was housed in and managed by AAPA. We were dependent on AAPA for financing, staff, and overall management and leadership. We left their offices in 2006 and were able to establish and strengthen our own organizational identity. Today, we are in a stronger financial position than ever before, support a committed and growing membership, and have cultivated a network of partners and allies across numerous health care professions.

As a result, we can now enter into a partnership with AAMC on our terms, based on our priorities, advancing our goals. In a world where interprofessional education is currently a hot issue, PAEA brings a credible voice and a reliable record of achievement that others want to be associated with. We’re ready to build a cohesive and  interdependent relationship that will be sustainable into the future.

4. Modeling a healthy interprofessional relationship at the national organization level will create the best opportunity for local institutional reforms for our members.

This was the sentiment expressed by AAMC President Darrell Kirch, MD, early in the discussions between our two professions. Right now, collaboration between PA programs and medical schools is far from ideal, even when a PA program is located within a medical school. The reasons for this are numerous, but they all provide opportunities for improvement.

What should the collaboration between a PA program and a medical school look like? The answer is not yet entirely clear. What is clear is that this collaboration is important for the future of medicine.

Our partnership with the AAMC, if done right, will demonstrate how our two professions — both following the same medical education model — can collaborate successfully reaping benefits previously unattainable. This is our long-term goal.

Timi Agar Barwick
Timi Agar Barwick, MPM

Timi is the chief executive officer of the Physician Assistant Education Association. She represents PA education through several national appointments, including current service as the Vice President of the Federation of Associations of Schools of the Health Professions.