Interfaith Workgroup Extends PAEA’s EDI Work

In an effort to continue and expand our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion at PAEA, with the leadership of Immediate Past President Kara Caruthers, MSPAS, PA-C, and staff support from Emma Sellers, MS, Chief Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Officer, an Interfaith Work Group was commissioned.

This group will provide insight and education for PAEA members about some of the religious holidays and observances that their colleagues and students celebrate, helping to shed light on how these observances may impact the day-to-day life of peers during these times.

“As we continue to expand our programming under the EDI umbrella and provide learning opportunities, we can’t omit the role that faith and religion plays in the lives of our colleagues. This also includes our peers who do not participate in any faith-based or religious practices. Our beliefs can impact the way we see and interact with others. And for future practitioners, it’s also important to understand the role that faith and religion may play in patient care. Having these conversations, even if in small doses, is necessary for PA education and the profession,” Sellers said.

PAEA staff saw value in expanding that effort to look at other ways to be mindful and respectful to members of other cultures and faiths. One way to do that was to provide some guidance for ways a program and its leaders could accommodate others while continuing the important work of training future PAs.

The Interfaith Workgroup will meet quarterly. Members of the group include Samarpita Sengupta, PhD, UT Southwestern School of Medicine; Cassidy McCandless, MS, MPAS, PA-C, PAEA Board of Directors; Deborah Horwits, MS, PA-C, The University of Tennessee Health Science Center; and Susan LeLacheur, DrPH, George Washington University School of Medicine.

Programs are already encouraged by PAEA to approach EDI issues in multiple ways. We encourage programs to recruit students who are as diverse as the patients they will serve and to hire faculty who have lived experience from many different religions, national origins, educational backgrounds, political viewpoints, and geographic regions. In an effort to bring these lived experiences to light, educational features will highlight a variety of religious experiences and provide insight on how to support peers during these times.

It’s important to add that the best way to learn more about a person’s beliefs and how they approach them is by developing a relationship with a fellow human being when that approach is welcome and possible.

“The workgroup, once we met, there was a lot of synergy. In addition to highlighting religious observances that will help us better program around holidays with minimal interference, I think that we will also look at ways to have other educational opportunities on how religion and faith play a part in PA education and the profession at the student, faculty/staff, and professional level,” she said.