AAPA-PAEA Research Fellowship Was ‘Worth It and More’ Says Previous Winner

Adrian Banning

The 2020-2021 PAEA Research Fellowship was much more than I expected. One of the key things I learned is there is more than one way to be a PA!

Each PA researcher can make a lasting contribution. We can and should hold all the roles that our physician and nursing colleagues weave into their identities: leaders, academics, researchers, advocates, legal consultants, directors, and benefactors.

Innovation and progress start with curiosity and are fueled with knowledge acquisition, eventually translating to wisdom, and even policy change. To flourish as a profession, I believe that PA education needs more curious, well-trained PA researchers who can ask essential questions and generate meaningful data to inform how we teach and advocate for ourselves.

From my personal experience, I hope the following will be helpful as you consider applying for the Fellowship: 

  1. The AAPA-PAEA Research Fellowship is worth it and more. If you have any interest, I encourage you to apply. Fellows connect with a world of rich resources, for example, leaders and researchers at PAEA, the American Academy of PAs (AAPA), National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), previous fellows, leaders in PA research, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the National Center for Education Statistics, the Robert Graham Center, the National Academy of Medicine, and many others. I have a better understanding of the data that PAEA, AAPA, and NCCPA collect and a refined sense of the support that these organizations’ research teams can offer.  
  • Pay careful attention to the application instructions and deadlines. In 2018, I rushed my Fellowship application on a topic that I was not passionate about and was not successful. However, when I applied in 2020 with a stronger proposal, I was accepted. Even if you are not accepted in this cycle, you can still learn and grow from the process and feedback and try again.  
  • Your research question, mentor, and methodology are the most important factors to your successful application and project. Choose a mentor carefully. You will work closely with your mentor during the application process and after. They can help you to ensure that the methodology you propose is relevant and valid.  
  • Ask a research question that will make a meaningful difference to PAs if answered but be realistic and design a manageable project. Research is challenging and demanding, and a strong support system is needed to be successful. 
  • Do you need/have biostatistical support? Your choice of a statistician is also very important. Keep in mind that you may require funding for the statistician. 
  • The interview process is straightforward and organized. After applying, PAEA notified me that I was a finalist and arranged for an interview with several PAEA and AAPA leaders. Before the interview, I reviewed my proposal carefully. PAEA was approachable, transparent, and open to questions throughout the process.  

As a PA faculty member interested in gaining more research and scholarship training and experience, I had been aware of the opportunity to apply to the Fellowship for many years. In 2018, I learned a little too late that I was eligible to apply and rushed the application. Previously, I thought only PhD students or those with a PhD could apply.

While a PhD is not a requirement, my Doctor of Health Sciences (DHSc) training proved to be beneficial.

My project examined associations between PA program curricula and student-reported well-being. The subsequent manuscript entitled, “Teaching provider wellness and PA student well-being” has been accepted for publication in the Journal of PA Education. I hope that our study results will improve our understanding of PA students’ well-being and the extent to which existing curricula can be effective in supporting student well-being.

I expect to continue my scholarship from this work and feel this will positively influence my research career. The Fellowship has afforded me more growth, inspiration, support, and connections than I could have imagined and I am grateful for it.