New Initiative Helps PA Profession in Time of Rapid Expansion

PA education has experienced exponential growth over the last 30 years. In 1993, 54 programs were accredited nationally; today, there are 250 accredited programs — and it is projected that by 2023 there will be more than 300. In Maryland in 1993, only one PA program was in existence — at the Community College of Baltimore County; today, there are three accredited programs and another entering the provisional pathway. To ensure quality and sustainability, PA leaders and faculty are crucial, and they are in high demand nationally. Unfortunately, few PA faculty have formal training in education. Typically, they enter academe directly from clinical practice. PA faculty also are generally not research-focused and may be unprepared to meet the expanding expectations of the professoriate at the time of accepting a PA faculty role.

The Physician Assistant Leadership and Learning Academy (PALLA), founded in July 2019, is a state-funded, state-wide initiative led by the University of Maryland Baltimore Graduate School. PALLA is developing a PA faculty development program, increasing capacity to educate the next generation of PA students, and advancing PA education, research, and policy. The PALLA leadership team has a vision to create an inclusive community to foster educational excellence. PALLA aims to create a faculty pipeline through the development of a fellowship program, faculty workshops, seminars, and outreach. We are working with our Maryland state PA programs and the program directors, who serve as advisors to PALLA. In the last year through outreach and collaboration, directors have helped PALLA to identify four fellows to join our inaugural cohort, as well as didactic and clinical curricular opportunities for collaboration, and to develop capacity related to ongoing program evaluation and maintenance of accreditation.

Under the executive leadership of Karen Gordes, DScPT, PhD; Shani Fleming, MPH, PA-C; and myself, the program has been making steady progress on the faculty fellowship and has worked with program directors across the state to identify potential curricular projects such as Telehealth and the use of simulation to improve education. The academy intends to work closely with the newly formed and MHEC-approved Health Profession Education (HPE) PhD, led by Christina Cestone, PhD, from the University of Maryland Baltimore Graduate School, to develop and disseminate scholarly research. We also see the HPE PhD as a potential terminal degree option for PA faculty who are interested in careers in academe. So far, PA faculty in Maryland have shown significant interest.

To date, PALLA has established a faculty fellowship that began in September, provided outreach in support of our state programs through faculty development focused on crucial conversation training, offered a sponsored board preparation course, sponsored graduates to attend state meetings to present their work and scholarship, and has supported faculty of PALLA to share their work regionally and nationally.   

We are looking forward to offering additional ways that we can help Maryland PA programs, faculty, and students achieve their full potential.