On September 8, PAEA President William Kohlhepp, CEO Timi Agar Barwick, and the Government Relations team traveled to Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) headquarters in Rockville, Maryland, to meet with newly appointed administrator Dr. George Sigounas.

Throughout PAEA’s history, both leadership and staff have fostered a positive relationship with HRSA, the agency that administers PA education grants under Title VII of the Public Health Service Act and broadly works to ensure a sustainable, high-quality health care workforce. In the past, PAEA and HRSA have collaborated on joint initiatives to promote faculty development and to encourage diversity, among other endeavors.

The most recent meeting had three specific aims:

  • Introduce Administrator Sigounas to emerging issues in PA education
  • Emphasize the need for more timely and comprehensive outcomes data with respect to the Primary Care Training and Enhancement and Expansion of Physician Assistant Training programs
  • Ensure that PA educators have equitable access to the new opportunities presented by collaborative grants.

In addition to these priorities, we also engaged Dr. Sigounas and HRSA staff in a productive dialogue about the need for a unique student identifier, similar to those assigned to clinicians once they enter practice (National Provider Identifier [NPI] numbers). While both grant recipients and HRSA attempt to track the long-term outcomes for students who directly or indirectly benefit from HRSA grants, the development of a unique identifier for PA students would make that process much easier. The creation of unique identifiers linked to NPIs would allow for more precision in determining how many students serve in primary care capacities or rural/medically underserved areas following graduation. This data also would allow HRSA to tailor the administration of Title VII grant programs to ensure optimal outcomes — and PAEA would have the data necessary to justify to legislators the value of PA education.

Addressing the importance of the meeting, Barwick stated, “A collaborative and productive relationship with HRSA is crucial to PAEA’s mission of promoting excellence in PA education. Moving forward, we will continue to work with the Administrator and HRSA staff to ensure that we do everything in our power to create a well-equipped, diverse, and sustainable PA workforce to meet the nation’s health care needs.”