PAEA Convenes Eighth Cohort of Student Health Policy Fellows

From September 13-15, 20 PA students from around the country gathered via Zoom for PAEA’s eighth annual Student Health Policy Fellowship. By design, this three-day event immerses fellows in health and education policy, leadership development, networking, and advocacy with the goal of cultivating future champions for PA education and the profession.  

While this year’s Student Health Policy Fellowship honored many of the same traditions that have contributed to the program’s long-standing success, it has also distinguished itself by hosting the most diverse group of PA students in fellowship’s history. This increased diversity among future PA leaders is critical for promoting greater representation in healthcare and provides an invaluable perspective on PAEA’s legislative priorities.  

Each year, the Student Health Policy Fellowship features three educational components to equip students with the skills they need to be successful in the fellowship and beyond. These components are lectures from experts and leaders in advocacy and health policy, trainings on the mechanics of congressional meetings/calls and the policies that will be discussed, and group breakouts with other fellows to collaborate on fellowship project ideas and congressional meeting approaches. 

For the lecture component, fellows were given the opportunity to hear from a variety of speakers on issues pertinent to PA education and practice. These topics included PAEA and AAPA’s legislative priorities, advocacy opportunities with AAPA and best-practices for advocates covered by PAEA Government Relations Steering Committee Chair Michael DeRosa, PhD, MPH, PA-C; AAPA Vice President of State Advocacy and Outreach Lauren Bates-Rowe; AAPA Vice President of Federal Advocacy Tate Heuer; and AAPA Director of Grassroots and Political Advocacy Kristin Butterfield.  

Additionally, our returning Student Health Policy Fellow from the 2020-21 cohort, Erin Hillis, offered lessons learned for planning and executing a successful Student Health Policy Fellowship project. Fellows also heard from former Assistant Director for Public Health at the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Saibatu Mansaray, MS, PA-C and PAEA Chief Policy and Government Relations Officer Dave Keahey, MSPH, PA-C who became PA leaders within the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, Jack DiMatteo, MPP who works as a Legislative Assistant for Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-IL), and PAEA Chief Executive Officer Mary Jo Bondy, DHEd, MHS, PA-C who engaged the students in an open Q&A session.  

The PAEA Government Relations team and our colleagues with the Polsinelli law firm joined forces to facilitate the training component of the fellowship. PAEA’s training focused on providing fellows with an overview of the current issues that inform our legislative agenda in the areas of health and education, including the bills that fellows planned to discuss during their congressional meetings. Following this overview, the key details of each bill were explored in greater depth, and students were given guidance on how to effectively illustrate the impact the bills would have on a local level by sharing their personal experiences as PA students. Polsinelli then spoke about the current landscape in Washington and provided step-by-step instructions on how students should conduct their advocacy calls with their senators and representatives’ offices.  

Based on the lectures and training received, fellows were divided into smaller groups for brainstorming sessions. In addition to serving as a networking opportunity, these brainstorming sessions allowed students to begin thinking about their plans for conducting their community-based advocacy projects in the year following the fellowship workshop. This protected time dedicated to collaboration also helps fellows to strengthen and refine their congressional meeting approaches by asking questions and receiving unique insights from their peers.  

On the final day of the fellowship, using their newfound knowledge and skills, students conducted a total of 46 calls with the staff of their elected representatives to request their support of three PAEA endorsed bills: H.R. 3890 – the Physician Assistant Education Public Health Initiatives Act, H.R. 2274 – the Physician Assistant Higher Education Modernization Act, and S.287 – the Perinatal Workforce Act. These PAEA legislative priorities would improve student loan borrowing terms for PA students, fund infrastructure improvements for PA programs, and make critical investments in clinical sites, telehealth curricula development, and student diversity. 

PAEA’s Government Relations team would like to thank the 2021–22 Student Health Policy Fellowship cohort for their participation and engagement in this year’s virtual workshop. Students and faculty with questions about the Student Health Policy Fellowship are invited to contact Tyler Smith at