AAPA-PAEA Research Fellows Focus on Improving PA Training and Patient Care

The PA Education Association (PAEA) and the American Academy of PAs (AAPA) are pleased to announce the selection of Marcia Bouton, DMSc, MHPE, PA-C, assistant professor at Midwestern University, Quinnette Jones, MSW, LCSW, MHS, PA-C, clinical coordinator/associate professor at Duke University, and Hayden Middleton, DMSc, PA-C, family medicine physician assistant/instructor at Mayo Clinic, as 2023-2024 AAPA-PAEA Research Fellows. We would like to thank the PAEA Research Mission Advancement Commission (RMAC) and our volunteer peer reviewers for their contributions to the rigorous, blinded application process.  

The AAPA-PAEA Research Fellowship develops the next generation of PA research leaders by offering them the opportunity to contribute to the PA literature, expand their knowledge of the medical research field, and grow their professional networks. This year, the fellows are investigating the impact of PA education and training on reducing disparities in the PA workforce and improving patient care.  

In “An Intersectional Approach to Understanding Mistreatment Among Diverse Physician Assistant Students,” Dr. Bouton is studying how the incidence of PA student mistreatment has changed over time, and how students with marginalized social identities are affected by this change. In addition, the project applies sophisticated research methods to discern the regional or PA program variation in risk for PA student mistreatment and evaluate the potential factors that may contribute to the risk of PA student mistreatment among socially marginalized identities.  

Recent research and considerable data show that patient outcomes are improved and barriers to healthcare are reduced when the health provider workforce reflects the diversity of the population it serves.

“To that end, we must ensure that we are providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone who is a PA and those who aspire to become PAs. Understanding and reducing mistreatment of PA students is an important part of this,” Bouton said. 

In that vein, Bouton seeks to identify trends in PA student mistreatment over time, which students are at greatest risk for mistreatment, and how their region or PA program might play a role in this risk. This data will help PA programs, state organizations, and national professional organizations, to refine their equity, diversity, and inclusion practices, increase awareness of student mistreatment, and promote policy changes to reduce the risk of learner mistreatment, particularly among vulnerable minoritized students. 

In line with Bouton’s focus on fostering inclusive learning environments, Jones is exploring differences in the implementation of sexual and gender minority (SGM) curricular content across PA education in her study, “Sexual and Gender Minority Content in PA Education.”  

“Through this research, I hope to gain insights that may help identify best practices in the delivery of SGM curriculum which ultimately translates to better patient care,” Jones said. 

Jones is continuing her previous research that she conducted through her 2020 STAR Program Award. She added questions on the Program Survey about how much content PA programs included in their curriculums, where in the curriculum it was taught, and barriers that programs experienced.  Her Fellowship project will dive deeper into the variations in content delivery by program location or institution type.  

The study is also identifying the factors that are associated with differences in the delivery of the content and exploring the experiences of programs that have been successful in integrating SGM curriculum, which is required by the ARC-PA.  In addition, the study outcomes will help prepare students for the Physician Assistant National Certification Examination (PANCE) and be able to provide high-quality care to their patients.  

Middleton is also focused on improving patient care by evaluating the use of dermoscopy and understanding the factors that influence the use of this diagnostic tool in the PA profession in his study, “Dermoscopy Use Amongst PAs in the United States.” The goal is to guide the future education of both PAs and PA students in dermoscopy and serve as the first step in identifying barriers to practice and determining how dermoscopy can be more widely adopted in PA practice. 

Middleton contends that PAs are well-positioned as general practitioners to provide access to high-quality medical care. This study will investigate how PAs can address the clinician shortage and determine how they can become proficient in dermoscopy to effectively treat patients. A small town may not have a dermatologist, but Middleton hypothesizes that a PA trained in dermoscopy can increase their diagnostic accuracy in practice, reduce unnecessary referrals to dermatology or unnecessary biopsies, and reduce overall healthcare costs. However, additional research will be necessary to determine how much training in PA school is needed to produce effective PA dermoscopists.  

PAEA congratulates the new fellows on joining the growing Fellowship cohort and looks forward to seeing their research findings. 

Meet the 2023-2024 AAPA-PAEA Research Fellows and reconnect with the 2022-2023 Fellows at the two AAPA-PAEA Research Fellowship sessions from 2:15 pm – 3:35 pm CT on October 12 and 13, at the 2023 PAEA Education Forum in New Orleans. At the second session, the outgoing 2022-2023 Fellowship cohort will discuss their research findings. 

If you are interested in other research funding, the Don Pedersen Research Grants Program and the Faculty Generated Research Grant are currently accepting applications. If you have questions about our research funding and support programs or are interested in mentorship, contact PAEA Research at or call 703-651-8540.