North Carolina Academy of PAs Hosted its Inaugural HBCU Pre-PA Fair 

On Saturday, April 15, 2023, the North Carolina Academy of Physician Assistants (NCAPA) made history with its Inaugural Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Pre-PA Fair for North Carolina HBCU students.

Chileatha Wynn, DMSc, MPAS, PA-C, assistant professor at UNC-Chapel Hill PA Studies Program and current DEI Committee Co-Chair said the event was “amazing.”

“I am beyond proud to be a part of this group and you should all be very proud of the work that is being done. You are making history and continuing to move the profession forward in ways that will hopefully inspire others to do the same,” she said.

Hosted at the Stead Center in Durham, North Carolina, and planned by the NCAPA DEI Committee and the HBCU Outreach Subcommittee, the fair provided dedicated time and space for HBCU students to learn about the pathway to the PA profession. The PAEA Admissions/ CASPA Team served as a collaborating partner for the event.

“I must say that I am proud, and my heart is full. To see the HBCU Pre-PA fair come to fruition after witnessing firsthand the planning and hard work of the committee over the last eight months brings me so much joy and gives me the recharge, I didn’t even know I needed.  I was truly honored to be in a room full of so many engaged and enthusiastic PA leaders and prospective PA students, all of whom understand the importance of improving diversity within the PA profession,” said LaDonna Clark, DMSc, PA-C, Assistant Professor at the Gardner-Webb PA Studies Program, and former co-chair of the NCAPA DEI committee.

The theme for the day was #LikeMe which allowed the students who were present to feel a sense of belonging during each session and each encounter with the practicing PAs and leaders in the PA profession.  

The Stead Center was buzzing and action-packed from 8:30 am until 3 pm with information sessions that included an overview of the PA profession, the CASPA application, and application tips, as well as a panel discussion and Q&A with practicing PAs and current PA students. During the lunch break, there was an opportunity for the HBCU students to network with practicing PAs, PA educators, and the NCAPA staff.

Twelve PA programs were represented and each of the students had an opportunity to engage staff and faculty from each program to learn about the program’s mission and vision as well as admissions requirements.

North Carolina Central University Senior Janna Campbell expressed her gratitude to all who planned and participated in the event.

“Thank you to everyone who shared their insight and advice. The information was extremely valuable, and I look forward to continuing a mentorship relationship as a result of this experience,” she said.

Many of the NCAPA DEI Committee members and others present attended HBCUs as undergraduate students. Overwhelmingly many of them shared that they wish they had known about the PA profession while they were in college and had the opportunity to participate in an event such as this one.

Domonique Koomson, PA-C, Chair of the NCAPA HBCU Outreach Committee and a graduate of Winston-Salem State University, which is an HBCU, recalled “feeling a bit lost as graduation approached.”  She knew she wanted to be in health care but could not quite figure out what felt like the right fit. 

Koomson recognizes the need for diversity in health care and the dire need for more minority providers.

“It is my personal goal to establish a link between the evidence that confirms the need for minority providers and the action taken to produce them,” Koomson said. “We planned the HBCU Pre-PA Fair with the hopes of providing information and resources to students from North Carolina HBCUs about the profession, the application process, and PA education. The day went far beyond what we could have ever imagined! The students were engaged, passionate, and eager to learn. I’m absolutely thrilled that we were able to shine light on our beautiful profession and inspire the PAs of our future.” 

The NCAPA DEI committee is dedicated to increasing the number of minority/underrepresented in medicine students in PA programs. Representation matters and as we increase the number of underrepresented students, we increase the number of providers who will care for members of minoritized communities. 

The History of HBCUs  

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) were first established in the United States in the early 19th century to provide undergraduate and graduate level education to people of African descent who were prevented from attending other colleges and universities due to racial discrimination. Many of these early institutions provided basic education and training enabling individuals to become teachers or tradesmen.

The very first HBCU was established in 1837 as the Institute for Colored Youth. Today it is known as Cheyney University.

There are currently 107 HBCUs serving more than 200,000 students across the United States. These institutions are havens of tradition, culture, and pride for students and provide a place of belonging while providing quality education preparing students for careers in medicine, engineering, law, and the arts.

Several of PAEA’s member programs are housed in HBCUs. These programs are:

  • Charles Drew (Lucy Kibe, Program Director)
  • Meharry Medical College (Michelle Drumgold, Program Director)
  • Howard University (Dionne Marie Soares, Program Director)
  • Morehouse (Pangela Dawson, Program Director)
  • University of Maryland Eastern Shore (Tiffany Maxwell, Program Director)
  • Xavier University (Varsha Gusman, Program Director)
  • North Carolina A&T (Developing – Nicole Burwell, Program Director)

As part of its commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, PAEA is working to support members by offering programming and workshops. The Admissions/CASPA Team has developed intentional recruitment and outreach initiatives specifically to target those who are underrepresented in medicine and in the PA profession.

“The Bridge to the PA Profession,” an initiative introduced in January 2022, is designed to create intentional collaborative relationships resulting in Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) between PA programs and HBCUs. These agreements “bridge” students from the HBCUs to the partnering PA program if the student meets the admissions requirements of the PA program.

To learn more about the recruitment and outreach efforts of the PAEA Admissions/CASPA Team, including the Bridge to the PA Profession Initiative, email us at