Get to Know Our Volunteers: Michele Toussaint
At PAEA, volunteers are the lynchpin that keeps the wheels of the Association in motion. Through national volunteer service, members play a critical role in helping advance strategic priorities for the organization while making lasting, valuable connections with colleagues across the country.
The PAEA volunteer application cycle is open until October 29, and we’re excited to take this time to introduce some of the extraordinary volunteers who have worked diligently to bring our members the resources they need and lead us into the future.
We recently spoke with Michele Toussaint, EdD, MS, PA-C, Director of Student Scholarship and Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Stanford School of Medicine Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies Program, about her experience serving as a Faculty Development Mission Advancement Commission member. Keep reading to learn how Michele has used her unique skills, created strong relationships, and served the PA profession in her role.
Tell us about your volunteer position at PAEA – how do you serve the Association and PA education in this role?
Since early 2019, I have been a member of the Faculty Development Mission Advancement Commission. The FDMAC is charged with identifying and supporting priorities and emerging needs in the faculty development space for the PA Education community. In my time with the group, we have collaborated on presentations at the Forum, engaged in webinars, curated educational content, and participated in academic research.
Why did you decide to become a PAEA volunteer?
I have been involved with national professional organizations through my clinical work and enjoyed collaborating with other providers from around the country. Once I transitioned to a primarily academic role, I hoped to continue volunteering within medical education in some way. Discussing opportunities at PAEA with colleagues who have volunteered in the past sealed the deal for me! I heard so many positive things about their experiences, and I knew I wanted to be a part of PAEA more substantively. The next question for me was identifying how and where my skills would fit best. The FDMAC was an excellent fit for me and aligned well with my skills and academic interests.
How have you had the opportunity to use your specific skills and passions in this volunteer role?
The volunteer call that I responded to spoke very specifically to my areas of expertise and interests regarding educational technology. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the crisis forced swift and sweeping changes to the way education was occurring, I contributed to support for educators through an FDMAC webinar. It was great to share what I knew about online education best practices and to recommend strategies to educators at a time of need.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your volunteer experience?
As a MAC member, I have attended PAEA leadership meetings and retreats where strategic initiatives and discussions about the future of the organization and the profession were explored. It was really inspiring to discuss a vision for the future with the leaders in our profession, and I feel like my voice as an educator was valued by the leadership team and board of directors. I am excited to see what comes next!
Have you formed meaningful relationships or valuable connections as a volunteer?
Engagement with committee members, the PAEA leadership team, and peers in PA education has been one of my favorite parts of the volunteer experience. Anyone who has attended the Forum will tell you that PA educators can be a pretty collegial bunch, but the ability to build more substantive, collaborative relationships with educators from other programs through the MAC has been invaluable. This volunteer experience has created opportunities for mentorship, research collaboration, and friendship with educators from across the country with who I may not have otherwise interacted.
What are your tips for submitting a successful volunteer application?
Be specific and be authentic. My successful application tied nearly every desired skill on the call for volunteers directly to my work or academic experiences. Being able to express specifically why I was an excellent fit for the group’s needs helped differentiate my application from the other qualified candidates. I would also encourage prospective applicants to speak with current and former volunteers to get a sense of the time commitment and expectations.
What would you say to a fellow member looking to get involved in national service with PAEA?
Don’t hesitate! Volunteering has been professionally rewarding, and a fantastic opportunity to network with colleagues and leadership. I have also had a lot of fun during my time with the group. The MAC has been a bright spot at a really challenging time as a PA educator and clinician, and I am so glad to have been a part of it.