Behind the Scenes

Regrouping for Greater Growth at PAEA

By Timi Agar Barwick, MPMDecember 21, 2016

Credit: Shutterstock

Credit: Shutterstock

Our CEO, Timi Agar Barwick, weighs in on what you can expect from PAEA in the new year.

As we look ahead to 2017, I wanted to let you know of some changes at PAEA — changes we have been working on for a year or more and will be rolling out in January.

Along with the number of PA programs, and the profession itself, PAEA has grown rapidly in the last few years. Our national office staff now number more than 30, a meteoric increase from the half dozen we had only 10 years ago. And we have also considerably increased the number of volunteer councils and committees — the groups that channel the expertise of PA educators to help us think through issues and develop the right resources for our members. More than 250 members now sit on one of our more than 30 councils and committees.

This growth has enabled us to offer a host of new and enhanced services to help you and your PA faculty colleagues tackle your daily work. We have expanded opportunities for professional development, through enhancements to our PandoTM workshops and, most recently, through the development of an exciting new online learning management system — the first module is scheduled to be launched in just a few days. More than 800 people came to Minneapolis in October for the latest Education Forum, a meeting that offers more and more specialized content each year. We also have developed several new exam products, and more are on the way.

Organizational Realignment

Yes, growth is good. But growth also brings challenges and requires change. Systems and processes that work in a smaller organization do not always translate well to a larger one with a broader scope and more specialized staff. Earlier this year, we engaged a consulting firm, the Strategic Performance Group, to help us review our organizational model and consider how to improve our effectiveness. Wrapped into this work was our Partnership 20/20 initiative, designed to help us better align the work of our staff and volunteers. Also, the Board began a new round of strategic planning, including an environmental scan of threats as well as opportunities in health care and education.

In all of this, one clear theme emerged — there is more that we could do to meet our members’ needs and expectations than PAEA currently has the resources to effectively accomplish. It is, therefore, essential that we evaluate every proposed activity through the lens of our strategic goals — those few select goals that are truly central to our work of supporting PAEA member programs.

To this end, we have reorganized PAEA staff into two primary clusters, which we are calling Learning and Strategy.

The Learning cluster (the work of the organization), led by Vice President Sara Fletcher, PhD, will encompass assessment, faculty development, professional services, meetings, diversity, research, and advocacy. This group will focus on the question: What portfolio of programs and policies has the greatest value and impact for our members and for the PA education field as a whole?

The Strategy cluster (the organization of the work), led by Vice President Seán Stickle, will comprise communications, marketing, finance, member engagement, student recruitment, and software development. This group will focus on the question: What processes are needed for a world-class association, and what practices are required to enable us to achieve top performance?

New and Returning Staff

Our refined focus requires some new staff, with specific skills that we need. We have already brought on two people that will be familiar to many of you:

  • Dave Keahey, MSPH, PA-C, a longtime faculty member at the University of Utah PA program, is our new chief advocacy officer. A former chair of our Government Relations and External Affairs Council, Dave brings fresh expertise from his recent year as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Fellow to our advocacy and policy initiatives.
  • Steven Lane, MA, MPP, is back for his third stint at PAEA, as our senior director of communications. Steven will help us develop more outward-looking messaging as we seek to play a more visible role in the national conversations about health care and the roles our graduates can fill.

Looking ahead, we plan to hire a chief financial officer as well as staff with specific expertise in instructional technology and assessment.

The Board and staff will work closely together to move Learning and Strategy forward simultaneously, keeping the work of both aligned and integrated, and ensuring that we have clear goals and good metrics for measuring success. Our overall goal, as always, is to make the best use of PAEA’s resources and to deliver the services that are most needed to help our members do their jobs.

I wish you all the best for the holiday season and for a terrific 2017. Thank you for all you do for your students, programs, and colleagues. You are the backbone of our blossoming profession.

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.