2016 has been a year of growth for the PA education community. We’ve welcomed 20 new programs into the fold — with more on the horizon. We believe that each of these new programs has valuable insights to offer other programs across the country. To help them share their ideas and successes, we’re starting a new Q&A PA Program Profile series. Here is the first installment — hope you enjoy it!
The first PA program we’ll be featuring is Charles R. Drew University (CDU) in Los Angeles. More than 2,700 applicants applied for the inaugural class and only 24 outstanding students were selected for the 27-month program, which began in August. Founding Program Director Katayoun Moini, MHS, PA-C, was kind enough to answer some questions for us.
Tell me a little bit about how this program came about.
CDU has a long history of training PAs. As one of the very first MEDEX programs in California in the 1970s, the university trained more than 1,200 PAs prior to completing its bachelor program’s teach-out phase — a period of time when current students finish a program, but no new students are accepted, in order to phase out a program of study — in 2011. In March 2016, ARC-PA granted provisional accreditation status to the new Master of Health Science PA Program, which officially launched on August 8.
It’s been an incredible two-year journey to re-establish the CDU PA program. But this is no typical PA program. CDU brings its reputation of innovation, creativity, and excellence to full effect for the benefit of its patients, students, and the community they will ultimately serve. Our pioneering educational environment, activities, curriculum, faculty, staff, and students make us unique and able to provide “The CDU Advantage.”
Speaking of re-establishing the program, I hear your kick-off was quite an event! How did it go?
The academic year kicked off with the Community Engaged in Learning Life Sciences (CELLS) Seeking Justice precision medicine symposium, featuring an engaging exploration of HeLa cells with Rebecca Skloot, the author of the NPR Best of the Bestsellers book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. (Editor’s note: HeLa cells are the world’s first immortal human cells, taken from Lacks before her death from cervical cancer in 1951. They have since become invaluable for medical research.) The symposium also featured several members of the Lacks family who, along with Skloot, introduced CDU students, faculty, and community members to the woman behind HeLa cells and her children. Together, the group discussed the intersection of race, poverty, and scientific ethics surrounding one of the most important medical discoveries of the last century. (Editor’s note: You can watch the video of part of the symposium on YouTube.)
Following the CELLS symposium, students attended Straight Outta Drew — a panel discussion that introduced a comprehensive historical understanding of the community surrounding CDU and the critical role of health care providers. The speakers talked about the social and economic challenges of providing health care to the surrounding community and the key indicators of health in Service Planning Area 6 — one of eight geographic sections of Los Angeles, designated by the county’s Community Health Department, which helps the organization target public health efforts to an area’s specific needs. Among the panelists was Sylvia Drew Ivie, JD, daughter of Dr. Charles R. Drew.
To round out the ground-breaking beginning to the semester, PA students and faculty embraced their community and embarked on a four-hour bicycle tour of the Watts-Willowbrook section of south Los Angeles. With Fresh Prince’s “Summertime” flowing from the speakers, LA Cycle Tours guide extraordinaire, Art, provided an overview of several key historical community landmarks and events including the site of the Watts civil unrest of 1965, the Watts towers, beautiful parks, recreation centers, and graffiti murals. We also visited local businesses — including LocoL and Watts Coffee House — for snacks, hoops, and photo ops as part of the edu-fun!
How does your program work to encourage and strengthen inclusiveness and diversity both in its admissions process and in the curriculum?
The PA program at CDU is designed to create a diverse group of highly qualified, well-rounded, community-oriented, and compassionate PAs who distinguish themselves through providing excellence in patient care as members of the health care team.
Our curriculum provides training in medical nutrition therapy and social medicine in addition to core medicine courses. Our location allows for an unique education on the social determinants of disease and the implications of health care disparities on the local community.
If you could give developing programs one piece of advice, what would it be?
One of my favorite quotes by Will Smith is, “Reality is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity.” In other words, never compromise excellence! Our global community deserves excellent medical providers, and although there will be times when it might be easier to be less than excellent, we can never compromise — as this will ultimately affect the care we will provide to our patients.