Former PAEA President Goldgar Retires

Connie Goldgar, a past PAEA president and longtime member of the University of Utah PA Program (UPAP) faculty retired this month after nearly 40 years as a PA and more than 20 in PA education. Goldgar was feted by past and present UPAP colleagues and by various invited PAEA past presidents and other associates during a two-hour online Zoom “roast” last week. Former UPAP Program Director and PAEA President Don Pedersen recalled her dedication to students, her good humor, as well as her grace in pushing forward a rival for a teaching position upon her return to UPAP after living in France. (The program found the money to hire both of them.)  

Goldgar joined the PAEA Board in 2008, after service as PAEA liaison to the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine and to the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics (NCHPEG). She recalls former PAEA President Paul Lombardo encouraging her to run for the Board, after inviting her to teach UPAP’s evidence-based medicine curriculum to his Stony Brook faculty and later to work on an national NCCPA-sponsored project creating scenarios to train PA students in professional ethics. Believing that she did not have the requisite PAEA service to qualify, she ran for the Board to “humor” Lombardo, only to find that her liaison experience counted and she was duly elected.  

She enjoyed the variety of projects during her tenure on the Board, at a time when the Association was growing rapidly and hiring new professional staff. A major focus area was tackling the then-developing clinical sites crisis, especially focusing on factors that contribute to PAs precepting students, which led to some of the changes in CME allowance and other incentives in place today. She also continued her work in genomics, working with former PA program director Michael “Rocky” Rackover, who did a sabbatical at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) under the leadership of NHGRI Director Francis Collins, MD, now the director of the National Institutes of Health. Collins was a big advocate of PA involvement in genomic medicine, and his work with Rackover and Goldgar resulted in a high-level “PA Genomics Summit” attended by all four PA organizations and senior NHGRI staff, including Collins, Alan Guttmacher and former acting Surgeon General Kenneth Moritsugu. 

In her year as president, in 2013, Goldgar recalls traveling a great deal to represent the Association — to the extent that a flight attendant on the Salt Lake City-Washington route, noticing her frequent travel and upgraded status, asked if she was a high-powered Washington lobbyist. She also got to participate in Michelle Obama’s Veterans initiative, where the historic pathway of veterans to the PA profession could possibly be replicated differently.  That same year she was also invited to speak at the Institute of Medicine on continuing genomics work. 

Goldgar was a founding member of the PAEA Presidents Commission, set up in 2016 to harness the skills and experiences of the five most recent past presidents, with the furthest from office serving as chair. She chaired the commission in 2018, when the group addressed the topic of “Using the Core Competencies for New Physician Assistant Graduates to Prioritize Admission Criteria for PA Practice in 2025.”

In her retirement she plans to refocus on her art, and divide time between Salt Lake City, where her children live, and travel with her husband, once that is again possible.  Her advice for PA educators considering Board service or other roles in the Association? “Say yes. Do the work. Then narrow your projects to those that resonate most. You can only do one or two things really well.”