Engaging Future PA Educators and Leaders

It’s an amazing time to be a PA student. They’re training to enter one of the most sought after careers in the country, with great expectations for job growth and increased scope of practice. Currently, there are 199 accredited PA programs in the United States, graduating more than 7,500 PAs each year.

With the rapid growth in the profession, new leaders are needed to sustain the progress made over the past 49 years. Fortunately, PA schools offer a variety of engaging leadership opportunities for students, including the Student Academy of AAPA (SAAAPA) and constituent organizations. Yet few opportunities exist for PA students interested in serving in academic roles. Recognizing this niche and the need, PAEA created the Student Advisory Task Force (SATF) in July 2014 to study and benchmark initiatives for students interested in PA education careers.

The SATF is comprised of three recent PA graduates:

  • Emily Fenton, MPAS, PA-C (University of Iowa)
  • Stephanie Neary, MPA, PA-C (Midwestern University)
  • Richard Bottner, MHS, PA-C (Quinnipiac University)

as well as

  • Cody Sasek, MPAS, PA-C (PAEA Graduate Liaison to SAAAPA)
  • John Ramos, PA-S (Chair and Student Member at Large, PAEA Board of Directors)
  • Janie McDaniel, MS, MLS(ASCP)SC (Director at Large, PAEA Board of Directors)

The task force plays a unique role as the only group within PAEA representing the voice of students in the PA education community, generating student initiatives to inform, mentor, and motivate PA students with strong leadership skills and aspirations of a career in PA education.

SATF group

SATF members share some laughs while making plans for the 2016 Future Educator Fellowship in Minneapolis. Photo © PAEA/Danielle Di Silvestro

In 2015, SATF offered several opportunities for engaging students.

AAPA 2015 Conference Activities

At the 2015 AAPA conference in San Francisco, the task force had the privilege of delivering two SPARK (Student PAs Rock) sessions. During “Beyond the Clinic: An Exploration into PA Education,” students were introduced to a variety of opportunities in PA education through a panel discussion with three PA educators, including Carl Garrubba (Chatham University Physician Assistant Program director), Jennifer Williams (Mayo Clinic Arizona Post-Graduate Physician Assistant Fellowship in Hospital Medicine administrative program director), and Liz Buno (2014 Preceptor of the Year award winner).

The second SPARK session, “Maximizing the Patient Encounter: Strategies to Provide Excellent Patient Education,” used audience interaction to emphasize best practices in patient education for students entering clinical rotations.

In addition, the SATF hosted an event at the conference to give students a chance to network with task force members and other PA educators. Students were eager to learn about the opportunities available through PAEA and how they could get involved.

Future Educator Fellowship

The task force developed the Future Educator Fellowship (FEF) to introduce students to the world of PA education — a behind the scenes look at the policy, research, and academic activities of PA educators. Twenty-five fellows from 17 schools were selected for the inaugural FEF, a two-day fellow-specific education track that commenced at the Education Forum in November 2015.

Fellows attended sessions and workshops designed to increase their awareness of pathways into PA education and help them build a foundation of teaching and curricular development skills. They also participated in Capitol Hill visits to their representatives and networked with PA educators during the Forum.

All of the fellows agreed that they returned to their schools inspired and motivated to contribute to the profession as future PA educators.

Student Posters at the 2015 Education Forum

The SATF reviewed student poster submissions to the 2015 Education Forum, a unique opportunity for students to share their contributions in education innovation or original research in PA education. Two student works were accepted for the Education Forum poster sessions: Khadija Hussein from Nova Southeastern University presented “Assessment of PA Students’ Knowledge, Experiences, and Attitudes of Muslims” and Tamara Ostin from Eastern Michigan University presented “Decreasing Anxiety and Improving Self-Efficacy in PA Medical Education Simulations.”

What’s Next?

The SATF looks forward to continuing to offer student engagement opportunities in the coming year and beyond. The task force will present two SPARK sessions at the 2016 AAPA conference in San Antonio in May, including a panel discussion with PA educators and an interactive presentation on the hottest apps for PA students.

Applications for the second Future Educator Fellowship will open in May with selected applicants meeting for the fellowship from October 15–16 at the Education Forum in Minneapolis. The task force is also developing a Future Educator Fellowship newsletter to highlight the accomplishments of fellows and provide resources for PA students pursuing faculty careers. As the PA profession expands, the SATF plans to continue fostering the interest and needs of PA students who will rise to the challenge of educating future PA students.