PAEA Announces 2021 Award Winners

At the 2021 PAEA Education Forum, we had the honor of presenting this year’s PAEA Faculty and Staff Awards to an inspiring group of PA educators and institutions. PA education is made stronger because of educators and programs like these across the country. Their accomplishments remind us of our members’ lasting contributions to healthcare, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. We congratulate this year’s winners for their outstanding achievements and say “thank you” for their passion and dedication to the PA profession.

Meet our 2021 Award Recipients below and watch the entire Awards Ceremony here.

Meet the Recipients

2021 Award Recipients

Lifetime Achievement Award: Grace P. Landel, Professor Emeritus at Touro University’s Joint MSPAS/MPH Program

The Lifetime Achievement Award is PAEA’s most prestigious award. It honors an individual who has reached the pinnacle of their career.

Ms. Landel’s expansive PA education career began in 1990. Since that time, she has shepherded over 1,700 students into careers as a PA. Her first academic position was at MEDEX Northwest where she served as Director of Diversity, Didactic Coordinator, and Clinical Coordinator, and eventually became the associate program director. In 2010, she became the program director at the Touro University California Joint MSPAS/MPH program.

Throughout her career, Ms. Landel has demonstrated a commitment to volunteerism and access to healthcare, regularly overseeing student-led influenza vaccination clinics and screening events for diabetes and hypertension. She is active in organizing the campus’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic and serves on the campus task force for COVID-19 vaccination.

As Program Director at TUC, she implemented many important diversity, equity, and inclusion changes, including streamlining admissions requirements, adding consideration of first-generation and language status, and creating a Bridge Program to increase student success. Her commitment to educating students from disadvantaged backgrounds is displayed in her awarding of over three million dollars in grants during her time at TUC. These grants helped fund student stipends and create unique programs for preceptors to increase access to quality primary and mental health care.

Professor Landel’s history of distinguished service spans an entire career at every level. In addition to her transformational leadership at MEDEX and TUC, she has been involved in multiple special interest groups shaping the PA profession. Her leadership in PA education spans numerous committees in both the Physician Assistant Education Association and Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant.

Article of the Year Award: “Scholarly Productivity and Occupational Stress Among Physician Assistant Educators,” authored by Theresa E. Hegmann, Director of Curriculum and Evaluation at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine Department of Physician Assistant Studies

The Article of the Year Award recognizes a single, peer­-reviewed publication related to the training and educational direction of future generations of PAs.

Ms. Hegmann studied academic scholarship, which continues to challenge PA educators in the United States who typically enter academia with little experience in research or publication, and explored the relationships among publication success, gender, job stressors, program support, and intent to leave academia. The study showed that scholarship levels have dropped since 2010, likely related to the recent influx of junior faculty. Navigating the promotions process is a significant occupational stressor for PA educators and is associated with faculty intent to leave academia.

Excellence Through Diversity Award: The University of Utah Physician Assistant Program

The Excellence Through Diversity Award recognizes the outstanding commitments and achievements of a PAEA member program that has made noteworthy contributions to promoting diversity in all elements of PA education.

The University of Utah Physician Assistant Program has been a champion for increasing diversity in the PA profession. The program’s mission, “To serve the underserved,” is seen within the classroom, the clinic, and the community through community-engaged learning, rural rotations, a migrant farm workers program, and volunteer free clinics. The current PA student class is the most diverse in their Department of Family and Preventative Medicine’s history, with 52% Black, Indigenous, People of Color, and 29% Underrepresented in Medicine, which meets or exceeds the population parity for Utah.

Partnership Award: University Hospitals

The Partnership Award recognizes an individual or institution that has provided support to a PA program and made a noteworthy contribution to PA education.

University Hospitals has been a valuable partner for the Case Western Reserve University Physician Assistant Program since the program’s inception. In addition to playing a vital role in clinical education, University Hospitals was instrumental in securing a wide range of clinical rotation placements throughout the institution, spanning various medical specialties at hospitals and office locations. Since 2019, more than 100 PA students have participated in a collaborative student program with University Hospitals, including pre-clinical clerkship and Quality Improvement project student groups.

Additionally, during COVID-19, University Hospitals developed, initiated, and implemented a new path forward that allowed Case Western Reserve PA students to continue participating in clinical rotations and clinical experiences. Due to their dedication and diligence, no student was left unassigned to a clinical space, which was an enormous achievement during the pandemic.

Clinical Education Award: Mia Hyde, Director of Clinical Development at the Division of Physician Assistant Education at University of Nebraska Medical Center

The Clinical Education Award recognizes a program faculty or staff member with a minimum of three years of experience coordinating the clinical education of PA students.

Since 2016, Mia Hyde has served as Director of Clinical Development at the Division of Physician Assistant Education at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. Ms. Hyde leads a collaborative Clinical Education Team that identifies individual student interests, clinical rotation goals, and career aspirations. This is done through an initial presentation to students regarding rotation opportunities, followed by individual meetings which seek to identify students’ interest in rotation specialties and settings, identify locations with a support system for the student, and discuss potential challenges to clinical education. After these meetings are completed, Ms. Hyde works to provide students with a clinical education experience that best meets their needs.

Additionally, Ms. Hyde has worked diligently to assure all the program’s preceptors stay “in the know” on UNMC PA education by creating a preceptor newsletter and a preceptor website, both of which she maintains.

Administrative Support Staff Award: Kate Holeman, Clinical Program Coordinator at the Duke University Physician Assistant Program

The Administrative Support Staff Award recognizes a program staff member who has made extraordinary contributions to PA education.

Kate Holeman has served the Duke University community for 24 years and the Physician Assistant Program as a clinical program coordinator for four years, during which time she has worked closely with students, faculty, staff, and community partners to facilitate 900 clinical placements slots each year.

Ms. Holeman’s resourcefulness and ability to collaborate with administration, faculty, fellow staff, and students have been vital to the program’s success. Her work throughout the pandemic further demonstrated her dedication to Duke students and the community. She re-established clinical year placements after students were pulled off rotations due to Covid-19, engaged in advocacy to secure housing for away rotation sites, and created a personal protective equipment distribution process to ensure that students had needed items for didactic learning activities and patient care. Additionally, for her work and dedication, students in the Class of 2020 bestowed her with the Student Staff Appreciation Award.

New Faculty Award for Professional Excellence: Jensen T. Lewis, Director of Didactic Curriculum at Case Western Reserve University Physician Assistant Program

The New Faculty Award for Professional Excellence recognizes a program faculty member with three or fewer years of service who has made noteworthy contributions to PA education.

Hired in 2018 as full-time faculty at the Case Western Reserve University Physician Assistant Program, Jensen T. Lewis has made significant contributions in curriculum development, innovation in teaching, professional service, administration, and scholarship.

Since joining the program, Mr. Lewis has implemented new learning strategies and pedagogies throughout the didactic phase of the curriculum, including increased active learning styles. Mr. Lewis also implemented a number of curricular innovations and new teaching methodologies into the program.

Mr. Lewis was the recipient of the Cleveland Clinic PA Shining Star award in 2012 and again in 2013. The PA Shining Star is awarded annually to only 10 physician assistants out of the more than 600 throughout the Cleveland Clinic Hospital enterprise. Award recipients are determined by their peers as well as hospital staff who vote for outstanding and respected physician assistants in the Cleveland Clinic system.

Rising Star Award: Dr. Daytheon Sturges, Assistant Professor and Associate Program Director of Regional Affairs, Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the University of Washington – MEDEX Northwest Physician Assistant program

The Rising Star Award goes to a program faculty member with three to seven years of service who has made noteworthy contributions to PA education.

Dr. Sturges began his career in PA education in 2014. Since that time, he has gone to great lengths to ensure that all his students are in a safe and nurturing environment.

Dr. Sturges is a highly sought-after speaker and presenter. Within the MEDEX Program, he chairs several courses and presents regularly. He also is a well-recognized teacher outside MEDEX, presenting to the larger Department of Family Medicine and the School of Medicine on diversity and inclusion topics.

Dr. Sturges has focused his scholarship on health promotion and health education interventions, perceived burnout in underrepresented minority PA educators, imposter syndrome, and the intersection of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion within PA education.

Dr. Sturges serves as the Associate Program Director (APD) of Regional Affairs and Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) for the MEDEX Northwest program and was elected to the Faculty Senate by his departmental peers after only 18 months at the University of Washington. He serves the PA profession as a Peer Reviewer for the Journal of Physician Assistant Education. He continues to build his expertise in justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion as the journal’s Feature Editor on this topic.

Master Faculty Award: Melissa Murfin, Director of Educational Strategies at the Elon University School of Health Sciences

The Master Faculty Award recognizes a program faculty member with a minimum of seven years of service who has made noteworthy contributions to PA education.

Melissa Murfin has been a full-time PA educator at Elon University for over nine years, demonstrating outstanding contributions in teaching, administration, scholarship, and service. Her energy in teaching foundational content led to her finding new and exciting ways to help students master difficult concepts. Tasked with the intensive pharmacology sequence in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies curriculum, Melissa reached out to colleagues across campus in the Center for Advancement of Teaching and Learning and the Teaching and Learning Technologies department to explore innovative pedagogy. These collaborations have led to marked success in the classroom through gaming and augmented reality and have afforded her a reputation as a great communicator and partner across campus.

Ms. Murfin’s superior attention to detail and curiosity towards data analysis afforded her the role of academic coordinator within two years of her arrival at Elon. Her affinity towards program evaluation made her a natural leader within the Department of Physician Assistant Studies and helped the department achieve Accreditation-Continued status in 2016.

Leadership Development Award: Dr. Jacqueline S. Barnett, Program Director of the Duke University Medical Center Physician Assistant Program

Dr. Jacqueline Barnett, Program Director of the Duke University PA Program, has held numerous leadership positions over her 25-year career, serving in over 15 professional organization leadership and service roles and investing in countless individuals as a mentor, coach, and leader.

An area of mentorship that sets Dr. Barnett apart is her equitable and inclusive approach to leadership. She is a staunch advocate to support professional development in all Duke PA program community members, including faculty, staff, and students alike. Dr. Barnett maintains a strategic approach to assigning work tasks and professional development opportunities that align with an individual’s interests and desired areas for growth.

Perhaps most inspiring to those who know Dr. Barnett is her unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion, the PA profession, and service to others. She is known for elevating others, celebrating accomplishments, and honoring diversity within the community. Since she joined the Duke PA program family, she has attended every student service opportunity. She is a known leader within the institution, raising awareness for PAs and serving as a voice for students across all health professions programs. Dr. Barnett leads by example, regularly modeling how to constructively challenge a fixed mindset to foster the growth of perspective among her colleagues and students.

Past President Award: Dr. Howard Straker, Director of the Physician Assistant/MPH Program at the George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences

The Past President Award is presented each year to the outgoing president of PAEA after their third and final year in the president rotation role for their valuable time and leadership of the Association.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and the entire Association, Dr. Howard Straker was presented the Past President Award for his tremendous leadership and service at this year’s Awards Ceremony. Under Dr. Straker’s leadership, the organization and our member programs pursued diversity, equity, and inclusion in new and impactful ways. We thank Dr. Straker for his leadership and service on the PAEA Board of Directors as a director-at-large, secretary, president, and immediate past president.

Outstanding Service Award: Dr. David Asprey, JPAE Editor in Chief, Professor and Chair of the Department of Physician Assistant Studies & Services, Associate Dean of Medical Education & Professional Programs at the Carver College of Medicine, University of Iowa

This year, Dr. David Asprey, who has served as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Physician Assistant Education for nearly nine years, was presented with the outstanding service award for his leadership and service to the Journal. Under his leadership, the JPAE editorial team doubled the number of submitted articles, resulting in our current robust pipeline, and moved to Wolters Kluwer as our publisher, which expanded the journal’s reach to a broader audience. Watch a brief video to learn more about Dr. Asprey’s service over the years here.


We would also like to recognize the members of the PAEA Awards & Honors Review Committee: 

  • Quincy Jones, Chair  
  • Paul Bradford 
  • Melissa Dorr 
  • Shelby Edwards 
  • Harold Felton 
  • Lori Palfreyman 
  • Jennifer Zorn 

Thank you for all your hard work and dedication this year.