Charles Drew University Creates Program to Assist Black Men in Joining PA Field

Samuel Paik, MSPAS, PA-C

PAEA is excited to showcase the EDGE (Empowering Diversity, Growth, and Excellence) Physician Assistant Program at Charles Drew University in Los Angeles, California. This unique initiative recruits Black men who are on the precipice of acceptance into a PA program but just need that extra boost to get in. EDGE provides educational resources such as mentoring, mock interviews, CASPA application reviews, and more.

Our EDI team sat down with Samuel Paik, MSPAS, PA-C, associate clinical coordinator, assistant professor, and admissions chair, at CDU to learn more.  

Lucy Kibe, DrPH, PA-C, program director at Charles Drew University, came to Paik and started a conversation that, unbeknownst to them, would eventually result in the CDU EDGE PA Program. She remarked on the lack of Black men in the PA profession, and their obligation as a PA program at an HBCU to do something about it.

Through PAEA’s Don Pederson Research Grant, Paik and Kibe investigated race and ethnicity in PA program admissions in their project Black Males Applicants in PA Education: A Comparative Review of Applicant Parameters.  

They found that recent research elucidates the great disparity within the PA profession in terms of race and ethnicity, particularly Black men. This group of people is one of the most marginalized in society and it is reflected poignantly in our health care system as well as graduate level health programs.

“Representation and diversity are becoming buzz words but, in our profession, we are looking at just 2%,” said Paik. “2% of the entire PA workforce are Black men. It’s no wonder why Black men have one of the highest morbidity and mortality rates in this country.”  

Paik began by recruiting Black male PA program applicants who had barely missed the cut-off for acceptance into a PA program. Some of these men had applied to CDU while others were found through CDU’s alumni network, word of mouth, or targeted social media marketing.

He then developed a curriculum that touched on every aspect of the admissions process. This included an in-depth review of CASPA by Erika Brooks, CSPO, PAEA’s Manager of Application Services, essay writing workshops, interview coaching, one-on-one mentorship by a Black male PA, and more.

These meetings took place at least monthly over Zoom, with some of the program participants putting in dozens of hours that included shadowing, retaking courses, mock interviews, or conversations with Paik himself.  

Prepping the EDGE program’s participants for the admissions cycle was only half of the work. Paik himself spent countless hours cold emailing PA programs across the country, describing the scope of the project and pitching his participants. He sent lists of the participants to each PA program and asked the staff at those programs to guarantee an interview for EDGE participants who met all the minimum requirements. Paik found that many admissions departments were eager to participate and most agreed to offer an interview slot.  

In its first cycle, nine of 12 participants applied to and interviewed at different PA programs. Subsequently, seven were admitted to a PA program.

Paik was quick to mention that their work does not stop at admission. They want to see the EDGE participants succeed and graduate so they are maintaining relationships with the men in the program and maintaining an open-door policy to ensure success once admitted.

PAEA’s own Donna Murray, DMSc, MS, PA-C, Senior Director of Admissions, is assisting by routinely following up with the program’s participants to assess their needs.

The EDGE program recently opened their application for a new cohort and are looking to recruit between 10-20 Black men who “possess a passion for social justice, patient advocacy, and agency demonstrated by their community service, clinical and research experiences.”  

Paik remarked that this program is low cost, highly replicable, and can be tailored to any URiM population as long as there is sufficient faculty support. Paik specifically credits Dr. Kibe for trusting him with full creative control, and CDU’s administration for their overwhelming support. The EDGE Program’s kickoff event was attended by the dean, provost, and many more who made it clear that this work is a priority.

For more information on Charles Drew University’s EDGE PA Program, contact Sam Paik at