Bay Path University Utilizes Forum for Professional Development & Team Building

The 2021 PAEA Education Forum is quickly approaching! To help our members learn more about the Forum, we spoke with long-time attendee Theresa Riethle, MS, PA-C, program director at Bay Path University, about the benefits of Forum, how to make the most of your conference experience, and more.

Theresa Riethle, MS, PA-C

Tell us about your history with the Forum:

The Forum has always been part of my career in PA education. I’ve been a PA educator for 19 years, and even at my previous institution, we always went to the Forum.

I’m now at a small institution, and sometimes all the things you really want to do – like mentoring and training – you really don’t have time to do. Between the Forum and PAEA workshops, that has been extremely beneficial, particularly for new faculty. It was never a question as to whether I would go or send my staff. We’ve really been fortunate to send not only all of the principal faculty, but our medical director and one of our admins who oversees our admissions. The Dean of our university has even attended Forum in the past, which was very impactful.

In your opinion, what is the biggest benefit of the Forum?

To me, networking is definitely the number one benefit. The connections made – whether friendship or professional collaboration – help you know you’re not alone. We often sit at our institutions and think, “this is so hard,” or, “there’s got to be a better way.” Having that network to then rely on or be able to contact is invaluable. You can’t replicate the networking.

Beyond that, the educational sessions are amazing as well. I’ve been to many professional conferences in my life, and I’m one of those people that goes for a half day and takes the rest of the day to do something else in whatever city I’m in. At the Forum, I go to sessions all day to soak in as much as possible.  

What’s your advice for someone who wants to make the most of their Forum experience?

During a virtual Forum, it’s important to schedule your time well since it’s easier to lose focus during virtual events than when you’re away. This year, I’ve asked our didactic director to schedule that week as if we’re not here. For me, declining certain meetings is important as well so I can be totally present.

Before the Forum, our faculty and staff members make a plan to divide and conquer. During a particular block, we all visit a different session and take notes. Once the week is over, we debrief. We have all noted 100 things that are important to remember, but we present on one or two things we really want to do at our program.

How would you describe the Forum to someone who has never attended?

The Forum feels a little bit like PA school. You’re getting a ton of information delivered very quickly, and you feel like you’re back in that setting of trying to absorb as much as possible and take away what you can. I think PAs are unique and PA educators are even more unique. To have hundreds of PA educators in one location is pretty special and pretty amazing. It’s the best-case scenario for getting information, learning, and collaborating. It feels like you’re back to being a student because you’re asking, “How can I remember it all? What do I need to write down? Who can send me the PowerPoint?”

How has the Forum changed since you first attended?

It’s bigger, of course, and has a lot more offerings. I always fill out my surveys, and it feels like PAEA is listening to what the surveys are reporting and offering more and more of what PA educators are looking for.  

I also love the meetings they have now with the “Big Four.” It’s incredibly helpful when all the organizations get together, talk, and update us on what’s going on. You can read and try to stay abreast of everything, but it is really challenging – so I love that the important items are highlighted for us at the Forum.

How has the Forum shaped you as an educator?

It has been very important and influential. Honestly, it feels like the foundation of everything I know. At every Forum or workshop, I take stock of the information and say, “What do I need to use now, and what do I want to put in my toolbox for later?” Earlier in my career, I recall thinking, “I’m a clinical coordinator, so these are the tools I need right at this point in my career.” But now, as a program director, I have all these resources I can go back to. It’s been really instrumental in helping me figure out what my role was, what kind of resources I need, and grow as a leader.