The annual PAEA Awards are a chance to honor both individuals and institutions and their contributions to the world of PA education. But more than that, we recognize that PA education as a whole is flourishing because of PA educators like these at programs across the country. They are a reminder that the work that PA educators do each day is incredibly important, not only for our students but, ultimately, for the patients they will care for.
Note: This year, our Honors & Awards Review Committee was unable to choose between two truly outstanding nominees for the Administrative Support Staff Award, so two recipients received this well-deserved award.
Here are the winners of the 2018 PAEA Awards — congratulations to all of you for your accomplishments!
Article of the Year
Salim Virani, MD, PhD
Baylor College of Medicine
This year’s article of the year is “Healthcare Resource Utilization for Outpatient Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes Care Delivery Among Advanced Practice Providers and Physician Providers in Primary Care,” published in the American Heart Journal.
By studying providers working for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, principal author Salim Virani and colleagues found that PAs and NPs can provide routine chronic disease management for the treatment of diabetes and cardiovascular disease that is not only comparable to that of a physician, but also does not use more health care resources or rely on a greater use of specialist providers. These findings are especially important in the face of an increasing primary care physician shortage and rising health care costs.
Roderick Hooker, retired professor of health policy, said, “Knowing PAs can effectively assume the role of chronic disease provider will help fill in the medical provider gaps.”
Eric Larson, PhD
Eric Larson brings a unique background to PA education and research. A medical geographer and rural health specialist, he uses his expertise to examine rural-urban health care disparities to inform health policy.
Across dozens of publications and presentations, he has shed light on key components of the PA profession, such as health care access, diversity, social justice, and the roles that PAs play in rural health care. His research has also been timely in responding to urgent health priorities; for example, he is currently examining the potential for PAs to treat opioid use disorder in rural areas.
As MEDEX Northwest developed its master’s PA program, Eric was instrumental in developing the research curriculum. He established and taught graduate-level courses and has advised many student on their capstone projects.
Colleague Davis Patterson said, “Eric is that rare researcher-educator with the ability to combine critical thinking and analysis with patient support and nurturing. He has created a legacy that will live on through the researchers and students that he has mentored.”
Excellence Through Diversity
Rutgers University PA Program
The Rutgers PA program uses the term “diversity” broadly and has recently increased its commitment to racial, ethnic, sexual, economic, and environmental diversity in its students and faculty.
The school’s Office for Diversity and Academic Success in the Sciences has helped encourage more diverse students to enter health professions, including as PA students — and their efforts are working. The representation of students of color has risen from 29 percent to 47 percent in the class of 2021.
The program also teaches all students the importance of tackling health disparities. Students participate in a free clinic for uninsured patients that treats largely Spanish-speaking clients and in rotations at some of the most diverse hospital and clinic settings in the country.
Students receive cultural competence training, including in racial and ethnic folk practices and the unique needs of the LGBTQ community. And they share their life experiences with classmates to enhance their collective knowledge of different cultures.
Program director Lori Palfreyman said, “Rutgers is one of the most diverse universities in the country, and we strive to match the university’s achievement.”
Connecticut Urban Service Track
Since 2007, the Connecticut Urban Service Track has worked to educate, train, and mentor next-generation health care professionals to work with urban underserved populations.
Comprised of an interprofessional group of Urban Health Scholars spanning pharmacy, nursing, medicine, dentistry, social work and — as of 2014, the Quinnipiac University PA program — these students attend and participate in retreats to learn about population health, health policy, advocacy, leadership, interprofessional health care teams, and quality improvement.
Students also participate in service activities including community health fairs and oral health and nutrition education programs for children. In 2017, the program provided health education and screening resources to over 3,000 patients, with over 1,800 hours of student service.
Returning participants focus on learning critical leadership skills, and say the program helps reinforce their clinical and interprofessional collaboration skills — staples of the PA profession.
Quinnipiac faculty Dennis Brown and Magdalena Lukaszewicz said, “The partnership has flourished into a unique experience for students and an invaluable resource for Connecticut’s underserved community.”
Heather Ashford, MPAS, PA-C
Courteous, insightful, compassionate — these are just a few of the ways colleagues describe Heather Ashford.
In addition to lectures, tutoring, and review sessions, Heather oversees nearly 1,000 student rotations per clinical year in more than 350 clinical sites across the state, plus one in Guatemala.
Heather expanded the program’s clinical sites in rural and underserved communities. She championed a system of competency-based education, outlining learning outcomes for 13 different rotations to ensure that all students learn the same skills regardless of the site. She helped create and implement simulation-based boot camps to build on the didactic curriculum and teach students hands-on skills necessary for successful rotations.
After Hurricane Harvey, more than 40 students were displaced from their home or rotation. Heather went above and beyond to ensure they were safe and placed with alternate sites or preceptors so they could still graduate on time.
Colleague Barbara Slusher said, “Heather has unbelievable energy and a can-do attitude that can break through any obstacle in her path.”
Administrative Support Staff
Haley Schomburg, MTS
Haley Schomburg is highly regarded by her colleagues for her forward-thinking efforts, collaborative nature on projects that benefit faculty and students alike, and excellence at problem-solving.
Haley learned audio and video editing and production in order to help build innovative curriculum. She built a mobile video production studio and trained faculty on how to use the new technology, which colleagues say has increased faculty and student engagement — as well as student learning and preparedness.
She manages the production of pre-recorded lectures and works with faculty to plan, design, and produce instructional course videos across the curriculum, including physical examination video resources, development of surgical training videos, clinical year elective experience videos, in-class activities, and much more.
Haley also helped ensure program-wide compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act throughout the program, including by ensuring closed captioning on video resources.
Colleague Jacqueline Barnett said, “She is an extraordinary person who exemplifies excellence in everything that she does.”
Administrative Support Staff
Michelle Ostmoe, BS
University of Wisconsin – Madison
Michelle Ostmoe’s contributions to the University of Wisconsin-Madison PA program over the last 16 years have been crucial to the program’s success.
She leads the program’s curriculum and instructional design and champions technology enhancements. Most importantly, she ensures that distance and remote campus students have similar learning experiences and outcomes as on-campus students.
Michelle coordinates digital curriculum content creation, and developed an effective distance learning resources website — all while ensuring accessibility for students with disabilities. She has also worked with other departments to create an interactive public health course specifically for PA students and a blended interprofessional public health leadership course.
Originally hired through a HRSA grant, Michelle now volunteers to be on the grant team to “give back.” She frequently introduces grant, publication, and presentation opportunities to faculty and helps them through the entire process.
Colleague Jeff Korab said, “She recognizes the ways in which medical education is crucial to addressing our state’s health care needs and works hard behind the scenes to do the essential tasks that enable our faculty to provide the highest quality education.”
New Faculty Award for Professional Excellence
Hilary Petersen, MPAS, PA-C
Case Western Reserve University
Hilary began her career as a full-time PA educator in 2015 as a founding faculty member of the Case Western Reserve University PA program, after serving as a preceptor for several years. Almost immediately, she took on the responsibility of developing a 15-month didactic curriculum. She mapped out the semesters, decided on course content, and recruited the necessary instructional faculty — a daunting task.
Hilary worked to ensure the curriculum included active learning styles, case-based scenarios, medical games, simulations, and team-based learning strategies. She also added courses when the need arose, such as a clinical correlations course to support anatomy coursework.
Not only does Hilary create opportunities for students to better understand their learning styles, she also encourages other educators to think imaginatively about how best to impact their audience.
Colleague David Shafran said, “Hilary is a born medical provider who takes great care of her patients and applies that same degree of compassion and attention to her work, colleagues, and students.”
Rebecca Rebman, PhD, PA-C
When Rebecca Rebman joined the Indiana University PA program faculty in 2013, she quickly proved her proficiency in curriculum development and was appointed academic coordinator. She developed the 15-month didactic curriculum for the charter class — an enormous task for a new program.
Soon after, she was appointed interim program director, just in time to prepare for an ARC-PA provisional accreditation site visit, resulting in successful accreditation. Though she hadn’t intended to make this a permanent role, her skills and experience made her the best candidate.
Always an innovator, Rebecca was one of the first faculty to utilize a flipped classroom approach. She’s also working to build the PA student pipeline through a $1.9 million HRSA grant to help high school students, non-traditional adult learners, and undergraduates from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds be successful in the health professions.
Colleagues appreciate her investment in the growth of each faculty member and her ability to recognize unique skill-sets and match them to program needs. It’s not hard to see why colleague Michele Shultz called her “a force to be reckoned with.”
Susan LeLacheur, DrPH
The George Washington University
In her nearly 23 years with The George Washington University PA program, Susan LeLacheur has revolutionized their curriculum. She has developed courses in health behaviors, cultural competence, genetics, health disparities, and evidence-based practice. She also helped integrate patient simulation and problem-based learning into the curriculum.
Susan spends much of her time advising students, developing remediation plans, and ensuring that students with special needs are accommodated. She’s a valuable resource for new faculty, volunteering to review syllabi and identify student engagement and active learning opportunities.
Susan often challenges student and faculty assumptions on unconscious biases and their impact on care. She is a staunch advocate for improving the lives of those living with HIV, including working as a volunteer preceptor in a clinic serving uninsured patients and as a volunteer clinician providing primary and HIV care — and she encourages students to do the same.
Former student Danica Fascella said, “She constantly pushes her students to develop into critical thinkers and is an excellent role model for everyone she teaches.”
Michael Huckabee, PhD, MPAS, PA-C
Michael Huckabee has been described by colleagues as a pioneer in advancing the leadership roles of PAs and NPs.
While serving as program director at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, he created and taught two graduate-level courses on leadership, one for PAs and one for interprofessional health students, including physicians and health care administrators. Currently, he is developing a new PA program at the Mayo Clinic.
Michael has also written extensively about the topic, including a textbook on clinical leadership for PAs and NPs and his doctoral dissertation on the well-being of servant leaders.
Colleagues and students credit him with encouraging critical thinking and instilling the importance and value of hearing all sides of a situation before making a decision. One student said, “Dr. Huckabee is a treasure to the profession. His ability to guide, counsel, and mentor students and peers alike, and his commitment to leading by example, truly sets him apart from the rest.”
Carl Fasser, PA
Baylor College of Medicine
After serving as a medic in the U.S. Air Force, Carl Fasser graduated with the third cohort of the Duke University School of Medicine PA program. In the ensuing 49 years, he has led a robust career of academic leadership, beginning as Duke’s academic program coordinator. Throughout his career, he has tirelessly promoted curriculum design for primary care, critical thinking through team-based learning, and informed consent through shared decision-making.
In 1971, Carl founded the Baylor College of Medicine’s PA program, creating the curriculum, gaining accreditation, and transitioning the program from certificate to baccalaureate to becoming one of the first to confer a master’s degree. He placed PA students in clinical roles previously reserved for only medical students and residents.
Instrumental in organizing the fledgling profession in its early days, he served as one of PAEA’s first presidents.
Colleague Reginald Carter said, “Carl is one of our ‘pioneering PAs’ who helped pave the way for our profession’s development and growth.” Jennifer Eames added, “He is a true paragon and trailblazer for students and educators alike.”