Leadership Blog

Meet PAEA’s New President, Nicole Burwell

PAEA’s new president, Nicole B. Burwell, PhD, PA-C, has been a clinically-practicing PA for 25 years in the primary care setting of private practice, federal government agencies, and employer-based clinics for corporate and technology companies.

Since March 2023, she has been the Department Chair and founding Program Director of the North Carolina Agricultural and Technology State University (North Carolina A&T) PA Program housed in the Hairston College of Health and Human Sciences.

Burwell completed her training at The George Washington University PA program in Washington, DC, and she received her PhD in Nutritional Science from Howard University. Burwell has served PAEA in several capacities, including as the Chair of the Doctoral Steering Committee which hosted a Doctoral Summit in March 2023 in Charlotte, NC, and as a Director at Large on the PAEA Board of Directors prior to her current term as president.

While she is likely a familiar face to many members, we wanted to introduce Burwell in her new role as the PA educator who will guide the Association’s work over the coming year.

What brought you into the field of PA education?

I come from a long lineage of educators. Despite humble beginnings, there was a commitment and collective effort toward ensuring that every family member had an opportunity to get an education. This emphasis on working together and the principles of cooperation have contributed to a sense of responsibility and shared community.

While I was introduced to the idea of a career in medicine at a young age, my inspiration and motivation for pursuing a career as a PA educator is steeped in a sense of purpose that extends beyond personal and professional aspirations, to nurturing the next generation.

I am a self-proclaimed lifelong learner. I have always looked at learning as an investment in my professional advancement and personal growth as an individual. I want to train and inspire the next generation of talented PAs and PA educators who align with the idea of giving back.

Why did you decide to run for the board? Was becoming president a long-term goal?

I have been a long-standing member and active participant in our professional organizations for more than two decades, which has been foundational to my development as a professional and the person that I am.

I am also honored to have served a previous term on the PAEA Board of Directors as a Director at Large. It has been an exciting time of growth, development, and innovation. I feel humbled and honored to be able to benefit from the knowledge of my predecessors. Having this window of opportunity to observe their dedication and leadership inspired me to think about ways to continue to contribute.

What are some of your interests as president of the PAEA Board of Directors? Do you have goals in mind for PAEA that you’re excited to pursue?

First, I want to acknowledge that our role as board members is to be fiduciaries. We are in the room to represent our members. This is an extremely important responsibility and one that is not to be taken lightly. 

Building on the wins and momentum from the 2023 Doctoral Summit and PAEA member survey, PAEA is committed to continuing to lead the exploration into how pathways to a doctoral degree can advance the profession’s goals.

As I think about the year ahead, I am excited about working with our incredibly talented Board to advance our mission of excellence in PA education through creating innovative solutions that meet some of the most challenging needs of our members.

One of the benefits members have expressed they value most is access to educational resources. I look forward to progressing our “learning for a lifetime” culture, providing our members with access to resources that will allow them to expand their abilities and acquire new skills throughout the continuum of their careers.

Is there anything you learned from previous Board members or PA education leaders that you think will help you in your presidency?

I have learned the importance of co-leadership, co-creating, and the idea that diverse teams produce better outcomes. We have tremendously talented and accomplished leaders on the Board, and I look forward to collaborating.

What do you see as the greatest challenges in the profession? Where are the greatest opportunities?

The integration of technology in medical education is one of the greatest challenges in the profession but also one of the greatest opportunities. Our ability to embrace and leverage technology is playing a pivotal role in disseminating medical knowledge to students and how we, as healthcare professionals, are trained. 

Also, despite our ongoing efforts and initiatives to recruit and retain individuals from diverse backgrounds, health disparities and inequities remain an ongoing challenge. Patient-provider concordance and the availability of culturally competent care have proven to lead to better health outcomes. Championing workforce diversity by expanding the number of PA programs at our Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) has the potential to play a critical role in helping our profession meet the evolving healthcare needs of our nation.

Is there a leader or a quote that has helped inspire or guide you?

There is lovely quote by civil rights activist, journalist, and teacher, Mary Church Terrell that says, “… lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go…” The idea of “lifting as we climb” embodies the spirit of teaching, mentorship, and community, emphasizing our collective journey toward progress and success. We must keep uplifting and inspiring each other, as we continue to climb onward and upward in our professional journey.

There are many who would like to give back to PAEA. As someone who is leading a developing program, you know how demanding it can be to take care of all your usual responsibilities plus volunteer to help with an Association like PAEA. What advice would you have for those who want to get involved?

There are many compelling reasons to consider volunteer engagement with PAEA. One of the greatest rewards and most impactful benefits associated with serving has been working alongside thought leaders nationwide and forging long-lasting friendships. There are various ways to get involved that don’t necessarily require a significant commitment. Consider the profound difference you can make by dedicating even a tiny fraction of your time.