Q & A with New PAEA CEO Mary Jo Bondy

We asked her a few questions to help you get to know her better, as she plans to get to know all of our members. 

What made you want to take on the job of PAEA CEO? 

PAEA has been my professional development home since the early 2000s, when I moved into a full-time role in academia, and I remember being so welcomed and mentored and nurtured. So, in this new capacity, I hope to be able to do the same for others.  

And this is an exciting time in PA education! The maturation of the profession over 50 years has brought us to a point where PAs all over the country are making a crucial difference in the lives of patients. And yet there is still incredible potential for our programs and graduates to have an even greater impact on access to and quality of care. The PA profession is routinely in the top three best jobs, and our graduates are clearly needed. It’s an amazing moment in time. 

The organization is in a time of transformation as well. We have the new graduate competencies, which were just approved, as well as our competencies for PA educators, and we’re leading the revision of the professional competencies, too. We’ve seen significant growth in the number of programs, and PAEA has grown both in the number of staff and in the specialized skills those staff bring to the organization. For future PAs to be able to provide high-quality and improved access to care, we need a strong cadre of educators. And faculty development is what PAEA does really well. 

Most recently you’ve been very involved in PALLA, the Physician Assistant Leadership and Learning Academy. Can you tell us more about that and how it might apply to PAEA? 

PALLA was established at the University of Maryland Baltimore in 2019 with a mission to create an inclusive community to pursue excellence in education. PALLA came out of a recognized need for the development of a robust health care workforce in Maryland. In 1993, we had one accredited PA program in Maryland; in 2020, there are now three accredited programs and more in the provisional process. When we looked across all these programs, we saw some common needs — for infrastructure to develop a pipeline for faculty, for ongoing development, for thinking about how we use clinical sites individually and together. There are basically three buckets of needs — faculty development, clinical training optimization (simulation and assessment), and program evaluation and accreditation. For PAEA, there may be opportunities to create similar structures across our regions. PALLA is clearly focused on a particular region and its local needs.

What excites you most about what is happening in higher education at the moment? 

This is a time of tremendous change and flux. Higher education is experiencing increased scrutiny regarding the value add of education, the return education, the return on investment, and the financial sustainability of current models. That’s the environment we are working in. The good news is we have an incredible opportunity for innovation. I see PAEA having a real responsibility to prepare the next generation of faculty to move beyond what we are doing now. As PA faculty, and as an Association, we need to ask ourselves, “What else can we do to help the new learner navigate an increasingly complex health care system?”

And what about in health care? 

We have an aging population, with increasingly complex conditions, both medical and social. We have widening gaps and worsening health disparities. I’d like to see a move toward focusing less on disease, and more on health, on prevention, and on population health, as we tried to capture in our new graduate competencies. We need to look more holistically at the patient.

What do you see as the biggest opportunities and challenges for PAEA in the next few years? 

Growth is definitely an opportunity, and with it comes challenges — in preparing leaders, in creating strong pipelines, and in developing faculty. We’re going to see significant numbers of retirements of experience educators, too, which may leave a gap in knowledge and expertise. I think there is an opportunity to be more intentional about developing new faculty at the institutional level. PALLA, for example, has a scholar in residence — a person whose sole purpose is to mentor faculty and work with fellows in their transition to academe. We also have a place for faculty to learn how to use simulation to develop cases, how to integrate simulation into the curriculum and how to design assessments that follow best practices. PAEA has a clear opportunity to inform and shape clinical education for the future, influenced by scholarship and innovation.

How do you plan to spend your first few months on the job? 

My first priority will be to do a lot of listening and learning, with the Board, with PAEA volunteers and staff, and with our members. I know PAEA has done quite a few “listen and learns” in the past couple of years; I look forward to learning about the insights that have been gained and plan to continue doing those as much as possible. 

I also hope to really model what a learning organization looks like, how we make data-informed decisions, and how we measure our effectiveness in meeting the needs of our members and supporting them in their development. 

Outside of work, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 

I’m a beach girl at heart. I grew up in the Midwest, somewhat landlocked, in a small town in Iowa. After my undergraduate work at Marquette, I moved to North Carolina, and I have been a beach girl ever since.  

I’m also a huge advocate and supporter of the arts, especially live theater and music. My husband and I support and enjoy both our local and larger arts communities. 

Is there anything else you would like members to know about you? 

Yes, that PAEA is accessible. We want to hear about your successes and your challenges. We want you to get involved — join in on the Digital Learning Hub and participate on our committees and through other avenues for leadership. I was welcomed by PAEA as a new educator, and I want every educator to feel welcomed and nurtured and supported here. We want PAEA to be the membership that PA faculty cannot do without.