Celebrating 50 Years: Stephane VanderMeulen Past President Snapshot

Stephane VanderMeulen, MPAS, PA-C
Associate Professor 
Chair, Department of Health Professions
Director, Physician Assistant Program 
Creighton University School of Medicine      

There was much change in during my time on the PAEA Board of Directors, spanning the years from 2010-2016. It was a period of rapid growth, with the number of programs growing from around 150 to more than 215 during that time. In that period, PAEA transformed from a small association largely dependent on volunteers to complete the operational work of the organization to a mature, well-staffed professional organization designed to support its members. It truly represented a ‘coming of age’ era for the association.

Early in my term as President, I addressed the Board of Directors and I challenged us collectively, on behalf of the association, to ‘Be bold.’ This was a call to arms for us as leaders to confidently advocate for our profession and to unashamedly promote PA students, educators, and practicing PAs. I asked the Board to assume a bold strategic approach in advancing our profession. This theme was reflected in the assertive strategic agenda for the year.

In 2015, during my year as PAEA President, PAEA’s focus was to elevate its national profile and to develop and strengthen collaborative relationships with key external partners. Advocacy was at the forefront of our strategic priorities. In partnership with Timi Agar Barwick, PAEA CEO, and other PAEA leaders, we worked to create opportunities to raise PAEA’s visibility on the national stage. I was pleased to be one of the first PAEA presidents to testify before a US Congressional subcommittee, voicing our support for Title VII funding. I was the first member of PAEA leadership invited to speak to the American Medical Association at its annual conference. The Government Relations team, worked with Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) to introduce some of the first PA modernization acts. Additionally, there were numerous opportunities to collaborate with external stakeholders at other professional organizations. PAEA’s partnership with the AAMC expanded with a joint publication in the Journal of PA Education emphasizing the importance of the physician-PA relationship and with the development of several cross-organization working groups, modeling interprofessional collaboration on a national level. The association’s commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice was elevated. Programs and services were implemented to provide resources for and to support diverse PA faculty. The Future Educator Fellowship was launched, and a new emphasis was placed on research, expanding the PAEA research staff, and introducing the Faculty & Directors research reports as a resource for programs. The Journal of PA Education transitioned to a new publisher and was included in the Ovid database, increasing its visibility in the medical literature sphere. The PAEA Presidents Commission was developed, capitalizing on the knowledge and expertise of past leaders to allow their ongoing contribution to the profession.

I frequently hear leaders reference my challenge to ‘Be Bold’ still today. While it’s a simple concept, I hope that those two little words remain a guiding principle for the leaders of our profession now and into the future.