Harnessing Higher Education Analytics to Ignite Diversity Research

PAEA and other national PA organizations have identified diversity and inclusion as major priorities, as noted in their strategic plans and/or goals. Yet, little is known about the best practices and what works to achieve diversity efforts.

In March, our interprofessional group of educators was funded through the PAEA Faculty Generated Research Grant to examine what’s working to promote diversity in the PA workforce. Our project proposed to conduct a national assessment of best practices in diversifying the PA workforce. Specific research goals include determining which PA programs would be considered top performers in contributing graduate cohorts that were ethnically and racially diverse to the PA workforce in the U.S. from 2014 to 2018. Furthermore, we are interested in identifying what key characteristics and strategies successful PA programs have used in contributing to a diverse workforce.

Research Methods

Higher education databases offer a unique opportunity to analyze longitudinal diversity trends across various institutions and programs. Other than CASPA, one unique database is the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Hosted by the National Center of Education Statistics, the IPEDS database contains institutional-wide characteristics and student demographic information dating back to 1980. Our research team is mining the IPEDS database to benchmark diversity outcomes across PA programs over the last five years.

This retrospective study of secondary data on student demographics will provide evidence of those PA programs that are doing the most to produce ethnically and racially diverse groups of graduates into the PA workforce. Our research group is using a mixed methods approach starting with quantitative analysis of the IPEDS data followed by a qualitative data approach with individual PA programs. The qualitative data design includes semi-structured interviews with PA program personnel on their perception of what characteristics or strategies they attribute to success in contributing to a diverse PA workforce. 

Our findings from this research study will complement the various incentives in developing best practices for diversifying the PA profession. We are looking forward to working with our allies that are identified as top performers in PA workforce diversity and will be reaching out to obtain their perspectives in the upcoming weeks.

Our Multi-Institutional Research Team

Principal Investigator Carolyn Bradley-Guidry, DrPH, MPAS, PA-C, Associate Professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

Co-Principal Investigator Gerald Kayingo, Assistant Dean, Executive Director, and Professor at the Physician Assistant Leadership and Learning Academy at University of Maryland, Baltimore


  • Vanessa Bester, EdD, PA-C, Assistant Professor at Augsburg University and 2019–2020 AAPA-PAEA Research Fellow
  • Sumihiro Suzuki, PhD, MS, Associate Professor at University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Public Health
  • Ramona Dorough, MS, Assistant Professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center
  • Nicole Burwell PhD, MSHS, PA-C, Clinical Associate Professor at Stanford School of Medicine (volunteer effort)