Meet PAEA’s New President, Linda Sekhon
Linda Sekhon, DHSc, PA-C, is a veteran educator and a longtime PAEA volunteer. During her career, Sekhon has worn many hats ranging from Clinical Coordinator, Academic Coordinator, Assistant Program Director, Program Director, Department Chair, and Program Consultant. As she has advanced in her career, Sekhon has given back to the profession as a PAEA workshop facilitator and through two terms on the Board of Directors. While she is likely a familiar face to many members, we wanted to introduce the person who will guide PAEA’s work over the coming year.
Did you always know that you would enter PA education? If not, what inspired you to become an educator?
I became a PA in 1983, and I can’t say that I had any intention of becoming a PA educator. I loved clinical medicine and patient care. However, while enrolled in a Master of Medical Science program, I was intrigued by a new way of delivering medical content through Problem Based Learning (PBL). I visited a new PA program that was purely based in this learning style and they invited me to be involved in PBL training. Before I knew it, I was tapped on the shoulder to join the program. I quickly realized that I enjoyed PA education and could impact patient care through educating the next generation of PA providers.
I want to be a leader who always remembers that my year serving as PAEA President is not about me – it is about our members and the future of patient care.
Has running for PAEA President been a long-term goal or was it something that you decided to do more recently?
In my first PA education position, I was the Clinical Coordinator for Chatham University (then Chatham College). This was a new program, and I quickly became immersed in clinical program development and ARC-PA accreditation for the new program. Although both processes have changed greatly over time, my passion for developing PA programs has remained steady. Throughout my career, I have worked with three start-up programs, including High Point University where I was the Founding Department Chair/Program Director for the MPAS program.
Like my transition into academics, I discovered many of my passions through the eyes of others. I was approached by someone who recognized that I had the skillset to serve the organization in this capacity. I had a long history of leadership experience in other organizations and as a PAEA volunteer, and I felt ready to lead the Association at this important juncture in our history.
In thinking about the upcoming year, what aspects of your new role excite you?
Medicine, PA education, and life in general have changed greatly in the past few years. Late last year, PAEA conducted a Membership Market Survey to learn more about our members’ needs in the post-pandemic world. I look forward to diving into the results of that survey and identifying ways to meet programs “where they are.” I learned this concept at the 2022 Education Forum when Cassidy McCandless, 2022 Student Member at Large of the PAEA Board of Directors, urged faculty to recognize that each student arrives at their PA program with a unique set of challenges—meaning that educators must “meet them where they are.” I applied this lesson immediately and took time to listen to what faculty want for PA education in the years to come. Listening to and learning from our members is important to me. I want to be a leader who always remembers that my year serving as PAEA President is not about me – it is about our members and the future of patient care.
You have served two terms on the PAEA Board of Directors, which means you have had an opportunity to work with several previous presidents. What have you learned from past presidents that will help you in your new role?
PAEA has had amazing leaders. I have learned what true passion looks like and the importance of being true to yourself and to the organization. I have witnessed leaders who truly listen, focus on PAEA’s core values, and make decisions that align with our strategic plan. I am entering this position in the shadows of some of the most skilled leaders this organization has had.
What do you see as the most promising opportunity for PAEA over the next few years?
I am excited at the opportunity to build stronger ties with our membership. I believe we will do this by helping our members embrace innovation in their programs and in the broader medical education landscape. The strength of PAEA lies in our community – sharing best practices and learning from one another. This will also help us to establish common ground and consistency among PA programs. I also see opportunities for PAEA to connect with our sister organizations and to be a strong voice for our members.
What is the biggest challenge you anticipate the Association will face in the coming years?
I think that one of the biggest challenges lies in building consistency across programs in the areas of admission practices and developing solid pipelines to the PA profession. I also see challenges in providing helpful guidance for meeting ARC-PA standards and developing and maintaining quality clinical rotation experiences across programs. Finally, while we have made great inroads to advancing equity, diversity, inclusion, and justice within PA education, we cannot lose momentum or focus on how this impacts every aspect of what we do.
Is there something about you that people would be surprised to learn?
I don’t think I have many surprises that those around me don’t know. However, I have always stated that my superpower is that people tend to underestimate me when it comes to my tenacity with my passions and convictions.
Do you have a favorite quote or book that helps guide or inspire you?
I love Brené Brown and her book Dare to Lead – that has inspired me in my personal and professional life. Many of her quotes inspire me such as, “Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are.” And I absolutely love her insights on vulnerability.
What advice would you give to those who are considering volunteer leadership but aren’t sure they are ready to make the move?
The time is now. Don’t assume you have to “wait your turn.” Your turn may be now, and you just don’t realize it! Listen to your inner self and move forward bravely with passion and compassion. Don’t be afraid to let yourself be vulnerable.