Q-and-A with IDC Chair Shani Fleming

Shani Fleming, MSHS, MPH, PA-C, is passionate about diversity within the PA profession. She got her start in PAEA leadership as chair of the Project Access subcommittee, and in January 2011, she became chair of the Inclusion & Diversity Council. (She’s also an NHSC ambassador.)

Fleming took time out of her teaching schedule at Barry University in St. Croix (jealous) to share her thoughts on leadership.

PAEA: Do you consider yourself a natural leader?
Shani Fleming: I do. I am definitely more of a leader versus project manager (although at times both are required). I focus on the big picture as well as detailed outcomes. I am extremely passionate about many topic areas and try to motivate and encourage my team to make meaningful change within the communities we serve.

PAEA: Being the chair of a council is a major commitment. Why did you decide to take it on?
SF: Inclusion and diversity is incredibly important, and I wanted to be a part of the solution. There is plenty of literature out there defining the problem. I would like to spearhead efforts that will make a big, visible difference. The truth is, my continued participation in PA education can be strongly attributed to my work with PAEA.

PAEA: If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself as you were entering into the role of IDC chair?
SF: I would tell myself not to get so overwhelmed with the gravity of these issues. There has been limited inclusion and diversity prior to me being chair, and the entire progress of this does not solely depend on you! I would also encourage myself in realizing that this is an area that all councils and committees need to focus on, which provides amazing opportunities for collaboration.

PAEA: Do you think your leadership style has evolved over time?
SF: Absolutely. The board-chair retreats offered by PAEA have definitely helped me build confidence and gain necessary skills to navigate leadership. The Minority Faculty Leadership training through AAMC was also invaluable in providing tools to help develop my leadership style.

PAEA: To date, what would you say has been your proudest achievement as IDC chair?
SF: So far it was the Minority Faculty Special Interest Group Breakfast held at the Forum [in Philadelphia]. We had standing-room only and provided the minority faculty community a safe space to share experiences and get support. It was amazing.

PAEA: What would you say to people who might feel intimidated to step into a leadership role?
SF: Just do it. Don’t wait until everything in your life is in its right place or things are removed from your plate. It will never really be a “perfect time.” Just do it. Find mentorship. Develop a good team of support.

PAEA: What’s next for you? Will we see you on PAEA’s Board of Directors some day?
SF: Absolutely! I am inspired by the work of PAEA, and I hope to continue to work with PAEA on future ventures.