2022 FGRG Awardee Investigates Patient Choice of a Primary Care Provider

Chris Gillette, PhD

PAEA is pleased to announce that Chris Gillette, PhD, associate professor and assistant director of scholarship and research in the Department of PA Studies at Wake Forest University, is the 2021–2022 PAEA Faculty-Generated Research Grant awardee. Dr. Gillette is receiving $49,769.00 over three years to study what characteristics are most important when a patient chooses their primary care provider (PCP) and how patients balance the trade-offs when selecting a provider.  

Previous research has found that provider characteristics are important factors that patients consider when they are choosing their PCP. However, Dr. Gillette and his team seek to identify the relative value that patients place on the level of training of PCPs, which has implications for the terminal degree debate currently taking place among the PA profession and PA educators. He hopes that this best-worst scaling experiment in the medical education literature will increase uptake of this important methodology that can inform education and clinical outcomes. 

“Receiving this grant will allow me and my research team to identify the most important skills and characteristics patients want in their PCP and study ways to include those skills and characteristics during PA training,” he said. 

Because most medical education does not involve patient input, even though health care is supposed to be patient-centered, the lack of patient input can influence what is included in the curriculum and how it is taught. Therefore, implementing a patient-centered medical training curriculum using patient perspective is vital to ensure that future PAs can provide quality care by: 

  • Ensuring that patients can choose a PCP that matches their preferences is essential for the provider-patient partnership 
  • Identifying patient preferences for their PCP 
  • Identifying the relative value that patients place on certain characteristics and skills will also improve medical training 

Dr. Gillette is passionate about enhancing the research skills of PAs and their ability to apply evidence to improve patient outcomes. Because PAs provide so much patient care, he contends that they are optimally positioned to study and disseminate methods to increase the uptake of evidence-based innovations into routine patient care. Since most innovations are never adopted, it is essential for those engaged in direct patient care, such as PAs, to be the main drivers of implementation science. 

If you are a PA educator interested in pursuing research, Dr. Gillette has the following advice: 

  • Find a mentor who complements your current expertise. Research is truly a team effort; one person does not have all the skills needed to develop a successful research project/proposal. 
  • Read the literature of other health professions, such as nursing and pharmacy, to give you a broader perspective and different approaches to research questions. 
  • Become a peer reviewer to stay updated on the research field and fine-tune your writing.  

The PAEA Research Team congratulates Dr. Gillette and his team on their successful proposal. We look forward to seeing their results and how they influence PA education and workforce development. 

We also appreciate the time and effort that the Grants & Scholarship Review Committee and its chair, Tamara Ritsema, Ph.D., MPH, MMSc, PA-C, committed to evaluating the proposals during the review and selection process. 

For more information about the PAEA Faculty-Generated Research Grant, visit the webpage or contact us at or 703-651-8540 to learn more about our other research resources and funding opportunities.