PAEA Testimony at ACTPCMD Hearing Helps Guide Next Report

PAEA was well represented at yesterday’s online meeting of the Advisory Committee on Training in Primary Care Medicine and Dentistry (ACTPCMD) — a meeting that brought together health care leaders from medicine, rural health, oral health, and other disciplines, to address the topic of “Primary Care Workforce and Training to Address Changing Health Care Needs in Rural Populations.” The committee has an important role in advising the federal government on Title VII and other funding accessible to PA programs.

Chief Policy and Research Officer Dave Keahey, MSPH, PA-C, (filling in for President Howard Straker, EdD, MPH, PA-C, whose travel was derailed by the tropical storm) gave the 17 committee members a brief but intensive overview of PA education, with a special focus on the ability of new graduate PAs to help solve the health care access issues that many rural areas of the country face. He reported that nearly a quarter (22.1%) of PA programs have a rural mission and noted the rural roots of many of the nation’s oldest programs.

Keahey particularly called out the strong focus in PA curricula on both oral health and substance use disorder, both key issues in rural health care. PAEA’s advocacy of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) training in PA programs has allowed thousands of students and faculty to complete the 24 hours of training needed to prescribe buprenorphine for opioid use disorder, and this number will soon grow rapidly.

“Since 2018, the percentage of PA programs requiring or offering X-waiver training to students has risen from 3 percent to nearly 70 percent, well in excess of our original goal of 30 percent by 2020,” Keahey said. “This has the potential to have a profound impact on the availability of MAT in rural underserved areas.”

On the oral health front, Keahey noted that PA students receive an average of seven hours of oral health training, the highest number of hours of 12 professions surveyed in 2017, and also the highest percentage of programs — 96 percent — according to a recent JPAE article. Oral health will be a major focus of the committee’s 18th report, which Keahey’s and other invited speakers’ talks will help inform.

Recognizing the work of ACTPCMD chair Anita Glicken, MSW, a former president of PAEA, Keahey noted that “The PA profession is a leader in oral health education thanks in no small part to this committee’s chair, who is singularly responsible for our profession’s success in expanding oral health curriculum.”

Glicken in turn acknowledged PAEA’s valuable input to the committee’s work. “Your comments were helpful and to-the-point,” she said. “The committee will continue to work on the 18th report, now better informed about the PA profession, which was my goal. This sets the stage for the next three years since we have a lot of new members on the committee.”

Keahey also seized the opportunity to share some data from PAEA’s just-published Rapid Response Report 2, part of a series of reports on how programs are adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic. One “silver lining,” he said, is the increased exposure of students to telemedicine, which has been a significant factor in improving access to care in rural areas in recent years. “Provided that adequate funding and third-party reimbursement keeps pace with the demand,” Keahey said, “this could well be a watershed moment for rural health and telemedicine. Certainly, PA students moving forward will be much better trained in its use.”

Note: If you are interested in this kind of work, the committee has a rolling nomination process.