Research

Research Takes the Spotlight at the AAPA Conference

By Nikki FriasJune 5, 2019

Nikki Frias presents her ePoster at the 2019 AAPA Conference. Photo: PAEA

Recently, PAs, students, and researchers flocked to Denver to attend AAPA’s 2019 Conference.

At the national convention for PAs, conference-goers were given the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge developments in the field, discuss the latest PA research, revel in the achievements of the profession, and network with colleagues old and new.

Notably, the third and fourth days at the conference featured events highlighting research in the PA profession, during which PAEA was well-represented. Researchers from across the country presented fourteen unique “Research in Action” presentations related to themes such as PA value and impact, understanding the PA workforce, and the PA role and practice. During these sessions, Xin Yuen, MA, director of research and data analysis at PAEA, discussed the importance of program diversity to PA students with different demographic profiles during her presentation, “How important is diversity to students when choosing a physician assistant program?” Considering the need to increase diversity within the PA profession, the results of this research seek to inform efforts in the recruitment of diverse students.

Also representing PAEA was Denise Rizzolo, PhD, PA-C, assessment and evaluation specialist, in collaboration with Noël Smith, MA, and Tim McCall, PhD, of AAPA, whose research took a closer look at PAs’ capacities to diagnose Autism Spectrum Disorder. Their presentation, “Toward earlier identification: Clinicians’ perceptions of their ability to identify, diagnose, and refer patients with Autism Spectrum Disorder,” was well-received. Its accompanying ePoster was later featured in Clinical Advisor in part as press coverage for the conference.

Perri Morgan, PhD, MEd, PA-C, professor in Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at Duke University, presented “Onboarding programs for primary care physician assistants,” which recognized the lack of onboarding programs for PAs and shed light on the crucial elements necessary for the onboarding of PAs — especially those working in primary care in underserved areas. Dr. Morgan’s research was funded by the 2017 PAEA Faculty-Generated Research Grant.

Xin Yuen presents her ePoster at the 2019 AAPA Conference. Photo: PAEA

PA researchers and students presented a total of 74 ePosters. Among these was “Stress and belonging: Differences in educational experiences among diverse PA students,” a study conducted by our research team’s own Nikki Frias and Xin Yuen. This project explored how two key aspects of the PA student experience, stress and the feeling of belonging at their PA program, differ among students of various demographics. The results of the poster were also featured in Clinical Advisor. Additionally, Yuen also presented an ePoster of her Research in Action talk. Both posters elicited many attendee comments about the importance and challenges of fostering diversity in PA schools and the profession.

From left to right: Bettie Coplan, Ryan White, and Morgan Nowak. Photo: PAEA

During the last ePoster session of the afternoon, the current cohort of AAPA-PAEA Research Fellows, Bettie Coplan, MPAS, PA-C; Morgan Nowak, MS, PA-C; and Ryan White, MS, MPH, PA-C, were also engaged in conversation with fellow researchers and presenters. Nearing the mid-point of their fellowship, the three Fellows were available to meet and greet those interested in their projects, research agendas, or applying for the fellowship, an opportunity that is available now.

This year’s conference provided a lively and memorable space for PA researchers to convene and reflect on the ever-moving progress of the field, the gaps to fill, and where future research might take us. Thank you and congratulations to AAPA for another successful conference!

Nikki Frias

Dominique (Nikki) Frias is PAEA's research assistant. She graduated in 2016 from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in psychology.